Living Well: How to release weight during stressful times

Kate McKay

The first day of summer has just passed, and it’s that time of year to break out your summer clothes and celebrate the warmer weather and perhaps even venture out into the neighborhood (with safety precautions, of course).

Unfortunately, for many of us, this particular summer ritual may feel more like a mixed blessing. As our spirits lift with the longer and warmer days and the freedom to finally be able to go out and enjoy some of our old activities, we also feel stressed over the weight we may have gained over the last few months in addition to an increase in overall stress and anxiety.

As a result of this increased anxiety, many of my friends and clients are reaching out seeking help to get back on track with their wellness. So needless to say, you are not alone! The good news is that we can choose to not let the weight gain and increased anxiety derail our previous hard work and positive lifestyle changes.

Here are five steps you can take to not only lose the extra weight, but to also reduce anxiety and feel more confident while enjoying this beautiful time of year.

1. Perfect your posture: Remember the skeletal model hanging from a hook that they used in science class when you were a child? Imagine that you are being hung from that same hook, and feel how your whole spine lifts up long and lean. Feel your shoulders roll back in proper position and your abdomen lifting. Now, look at yourself in the mirror and smile. Correcting your posture not only reduces pain due to body misalignment, but also activates the core muscles, giving you a leaner and stronger middle section. Notice how you feel when you stand tall. Do you feel your mood shift? Do you notice your breathing improving? Practice this several times a day until standing and moving in perfect posture becomes second nature. Notice how different you feel as you move through the day.

2. Visualize yourself lean: Exercise your core muscles by visualizing a greater distance between your pelvis and your rib cage. Shimmy your hips back and forth as if you are trying to get out of a too-tight shirt, and then reach your arms up overhead, to increase that sense of length. Stretch from one tip of the finger on one hand to the sky slowly side to side 10 times, feeling the stretch through your entire waistline. As your arms gently float down to your side, hold the additional waist space in your body and mind. Revisit this simple stretch and visualization throughout the day for a longer, leaner look and feel. How you feel on the inside is often reflected on the outside. Let your beauty and strength shine through.

3. Try yoga: Yoga is a great way to lengthen and stretch your body from the inside out, producing a leaner look and a more peaceful state of mind. Most yoga teachers I know went online during the pandemic, so we now have oodles of options to find a yoga class that works for us. Want a great exercise to support your perfect posture? Try the yoga plank pose. Start by getting into the pushup position (you can also rest on your forearms, hands flat, fingers spread), and engage the core muscles. Hold the position starting for just 10 seconds, eventually working up to 60 seconds. Repeat this exercise three times a day for best results. Being strong is such a confidence booster. Go ahead and try it!

4. Watch your diet: Do you know what foods make you bloat or drag you down? Too much fruit, dairy, alcohol, diet drinks — these are bathing suit busters and mood sinkers. Removing them from your home is the quickest way to make bold changes to make your health a priority. Today, commit to making the steps necessary to eating a healthier diet. One small shift can make a big difference, both physically and emotionally. You are worth it!

5. Hydrate: Drink up your water! A minimum of 64 ounces of the clear stuff a day flushes your body of toxins and keeps the cells of your body healthy. Water also reduces belly bloat by helping the digestive system stay on track. Often, when we are feeling fatigue or hunger, we are actually dehydrated. The next time you sense exhaustion or hunger, reach for a big glass of water (I like mine with a few drops of lemon oil). You can also take a small walk or do a short stretch, and make note how you feel. Don’t be surprised if you feel more energetic and that hunger pangs have gone away. No matter what the season, hydration is essential. Please drink up for your health and well-being.

Today is your day to start living your life as you define it, with less bloat, more energy and a greater sense of self-confidence, knowing that you can make the changes to live your best life now, even amid these uncertain times.

Start by eliminating or minimizing one or all of your culprits. Make the change today because the smallest change can eventually lead to the most powerful shifts in our lives.

Make it a great day, and be safe out there! 

Kate McKay, an American Council on Exercise-certified personal trainer, motivational speaker, author and business consultant, resides in Newburyport. Contact her at kate@kate-mckay.com, and check out her new podcast at https://bit.ly/katemckay.

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