Stressing over being fat is unhealthier than being fat

Stressing over being fat is unhealthier than being fat

The stress of fat shaming is more toxic than actually being fat.

The only way to make weight stop being a problem, is to stop making weight a problem–stop judging ourselves and others by our size. Linda Bacon, PhD in Nutrition Science

According to the American Psychological Association stress is linked to SIX of the leading causes of death in the United States: heart disease, cancer, lung ailments, accidents, liver cirrhosis, and SUICIDE. [source] But, did you know that it’s also one of the leading causes of diabetes? [source]

What does this have to do with fat shaming, you ask?   

Fat shaming is one of the leading causes of stress in American society. Not only is it a cause of stress for people who are overweight, but it’s also a major source of stress for people of normal weight!   People in our nation are so worried about being fat shamed that they are worrying themselves sick about it. Why is fat shaming so pervasive in our society?  First and foremost, because it’s tolerated.

  • We see magazine covers touting celebrities, “ASTONISHING WEIGHT GAIN!”  As if it’s the worst thing that could ever happen to them.
  • We have extremely popular TV shows – The Biggest Loser – that chronical the extreme exercise and dieting of contestants to lose big weight, only to gain it back again after the show. [source

Biggest loser contestants must brutally exercise to keep the weight off, study shows. The Los Angeles Times

  • We see supposedly legitimate news sources discussing whatever the latest fad diet is. Watch Good Morning America or The Today Show almost any week and they will be talking about ways to lose weight
  • We have an American Diet Industrial Complex worth over $60 BILLION annually! They are heavily invested in telling us that being fat is bad, to keep us spending that $60 billion so that we can be healthy, look good and, according to them, feel good! [source– “The Heavy Price of Losing Weight”]
  • We have a medical community that largely ignores many of the underlying causes of weight gain–stress being one of the most prominent–and cashes in on diabetes & weight loss pharmaceuticals, bariatric surgeries, and research that is funded by the pharmaceutical and diet industrial complex.

The Obesity Paradox

Obese patients with disease live longer than those of normal weight.

  • And, of course more recently, we have a president who fat shames indiscriminately.  

If I were running the view, I’d fire Rosie [O’Donnell]. I’d look her right in that fat, ugly, face of hers and say, ‘Rosie, you’re fired.'” Donald Trump to Entertainment Tonight

So there’s the catch…

Common knowledge says that if we just eat less and exercise more we will lose weight!   And this is true, to a certain extent for VERY FEW PEOPLE! Most people either can’t lose the weight without starving themselves and/or over-exercising.  97% of those who do lose weight, gain it back and then some!


My Insulin Story


I was a skinny kid. And I was actually a skinny teenager and a skinny college girl. What’s so funny though, is that I thought I was fat! When I was in college I went on Jenny Craig even though I was a women’s size 0! I thought I was fat because I couldn’t fit into the juniors/ misses sizes around my hips very well anymore (it was really just that my body was maturing around the hips as women’s bodies do…)    I didn’t know that because I paid attention to what popular culture was telling me about my body.  Anybody remember Tamilee Webb and Buns of Steel?


Except, here’s what was going on behind the scenes in my body:


I wasn’t processing the stress of my upbringing or the stress of my current situation well. I was drinking too much alcohol, sleeping too little, and worrying all the time.



The stress was starting to have an effect on my brain chemistry.


I was cycling through episodes of severe anxiety and depression. Much of the time I felt fine, but as time went on the anxiety and depression came around more often and the “feeling fine” time was harder to achieve.  



Little did I know, the stress was starting to affect my pancreas and my insulin levels were starting to ratchet up.


When I graduated from college and decided to go to graduate school, the pace and workload (on top the fact that I still was not coping with my stress appropriately) led to bouts of months-long insomnia, occasional panic attacks and the dreaded weight gain! During my master’s program I gained 20 pounds – in only a year-and-a-half! During the first year of my doctoral program I gained another whopping 20 pounds!!!



Then, I had the opportunity to go to Europe for two months.


 I climbed to the top of every cathedral I could find. I walked and walked and walked… and I ate the amazing fresh food that Europeans are lucky enough to eat every day! I lost 20 pounds!



It was great! Or so I thought…


The problem was that it was the beginning of a cycle of stress-induced weight gain and physical activity + a more relaxed lifestyle weight loss. I wasn’t yoyo dieting – I was yoyo stressing!


Fast Forward to 2016


I just turned 46 and was feeling horrible! I was at my highest weight yet, but I also was in a constant brain fog. I couldn’t remember words, I would show-up for appointments at the wrong time, I was lethargic and constantly battling depression.





I would say to myself with exasperation! What’s going on… why are my awesome mindfulness techniques not working to help me feel better???



I sought out medical reasons for why I felt so bad.


Low-and- behold, after a year of seeing different doctors and having A LOT of blood drawn, it turned out that my pancreas was producing so much insulin that if it kept going at that pace it would likely shut down very soon. When the endocrinology nurse practitioner told me this news the first thing out of my mouth was,


but, I’ve tried so hard to lose weight! I only eat an average of 1600 calories a day, I power walk 3 to 4 days-a-week and I do yoga 3 times a week!


Her response was to look at me seriously and state, “


This is not your fault. You are not insulin resistant because of your weight; you are having trouble losing weight because you are insulin resistant.


It turns out that, according to Allison the NP, the only connections that research has found between causes and insulin resistance are heredity and STRESS.


Here are some facts:


  1. People with overproduction of insulin may be genetically prone to the condition. There is a hereditary effect, but it’s not necessarily the case for everyone. There is a high correlation.
  2. People with insulin overproduction do not usually have what is normally considered to be high blood sugar. For example, my A1C (fasting blood sugar average) ranges between 5.5 and 5.8 – that is well within normal range. In other words, they are not on the typical path toward Type 2 Diabetes which can be detected through rising blood sugar levels.
  3. People with insulin overproduction may be overweight in spite of diet and exercise efforts that would produce weight loss in other people. This is true of children as well, many of whom have been put on calorie restrictive diets by pediatricians who don’t bother to check their insulin.
  4. People who have insulin overproduction are often overweight because of their insulin – NOT the other way around!
  5. A history of high stress is strongly correlated with insulin overproduction.


My endocrine NP’s exact words were:


This is not your fault.  This is not about our weight. Your insulin is so high that it seems like it has been climbing for decades. You may be able to control this to a certain extent through diet–A Low Glycemic Diet. But, most likely you will not be able to fully control it through diet.


Here’s the long-and-the-short of it…  


  • My lack of knowledge about how to control my stress early on most likely led to this condition.
  • Was some of my stress due to my socially constructed ideas about my weight and body proportion? Absolutely!
  • Have I been fat shamed? Absolutely!
  • Do I let it stress me out now? Absolutely NOT!


What’s the Take-Home here?


First, don’t fat shame, or even judge the bodies of, others. You have no idea what is going on with their weight.   Insulin resistance is only one of many underlying medical conditions that affect weight. The stress you cause by judging others size is more harmful than their size actually is. AND don’t fat shame yourself! Accept yourself for who you are and what your body looks like! Definitely get yourself to the doctor if you have unexplained weight gain. Be kind, loving, and accepting of yourself. There is a lot of medical and epidemiological research on your side if you are overweight. That is, there is a lot of medical and epidemiological research that says that if you are “overweight” you are perfectly healthy and thus not “over” anything!



Aaannndddd… Let the comments begin!


Namaste Y’all!, Jen

Resilience and the healing power of music.

Resilience and the healing power of music.

It’s been a tough couple of months. My peaceful living has really been put to the test. I’ve had to make sure that I take extra-special care of myself in order to stay strong under the pressure of stressful times!

In recent Vlogs & Blogs I talked about how to stay strong in the face of bullying and how to bounce back after a particularly hectic time.

Both of those topics underlay this week’s topic of resiliency.

For today, I want to just give a little lead-up to Wednesday’s “Wellness Wednesday” Facebook Live VLOG by talking about MUSIC!

So when my going gets tough & I need to build my resiliency, I turn on some empowerment music and dance and sing!

Here are my Top 20 “Girl Power” songs! (in no particular order, I love them all!)

My Most Recent Favs:

1. Taylor Swift – Shake it Off!
2. Kelly Clarkson – Stronger
3. Kelly Clarkson – Whole Lotta Woman
4. Meghan Trainor – All About That Bass
5. Meghan Trainor – Better When I’m Dancing
6. Alicia Keys – Girl On Fire

The Classics:

7. Helen Reddy – I am Woman
8. Gloria Gaynor – I will Survive

The Country Girls:

9. Dixie Chicks – Wide Open Spaces
10. Dixie Chicks – Not Ready To Make Nice
11. Kaycee Musgraves – Follow Your Arrow
12. Shania Twain – Man! I Feel Like A Woman!

All Time Favs:

13. Christina Aguilera – Beautiful
14. Katy Perry – Firework
15. P!nk – So What!
16. P!nk – F***ing Perfect
17. Demi Lovato – Confident
18. Beyonce – Run The World (Girls)
19. David Guetta & Sia – Titanium
20. Sheryl Crow – Winding Road

What are your FAV pick-me- up & make me STRONG songs? Let’s keep adding to the play list!


Are The Holidays Stressing You Out?

Are The Holidays Stressing You Out?

There came a time in my life, somewhere between my kids being babies and teens, that I started to dread the months of October through December – that’s A QUARTER of the year! YIKES!

I’m not sure when I moved emotionally from being excited about the holidays, to being filled with dread and overwhelm.

Maybe it creeped up? Maybe it happened some years and not others?

What I did figure out a few years ago was that it seemed to be a permanent fixture!

It goes something like this:


School is back in session and I’m breathing a sigh of relief that I can get back to working without the constant interruptions and trying to find ways to entertain the kids.

But… OMG… the stores are starting to put out Halloween items! What the heck??? I can’t start thinking about decorating for Halloween, costumes, parties, band concerts….. Oh yeah, and my son’s birthday!!!!


And then I metaphorically bury my head in the sand until…


“Oh crap, the neighbors are starting to put up their Halloween decorations… I better get to it…”

“Hmmm, I wonder what AJ wants to do for his birthday?”

October continued:

“WHAT?! It’s the third week of October???”

“Oh crap, I better get the Halloween decorations up…

“Oh shoot, I forgot to ask AJ what he wants to do for his birthday!

October 18th :


“UGH… I forgot about the Halloween decorations! Boy my neighbors are organized! Why does everyone, but me have their Halloween decorations up???”

“Oh geez, I suck.”

And it goes on and on…

Where are we having Thanksgiving? Do we have to drive up to dad and step moms? Mom will be upset. Maybe they’ll invite her too?? Oh wait, what about sister and her son? Oh why does my family have to be so complicated?

What? It’s December already??? I haven’t bought any presents!! Mom wants me to cook a big dinner for everyone at her house again…


There’s a better way

Honestly y’all, that is no way to go through the three month American holiday

A few years ago, as I was implementing my Peaceful Living techniques into my life, I started to try a different way of thinking about the holidays.

I follow FOUR main principals:

1. Don’t worry about perfection

I used to be that person who had to have a beautifully decorated house for all

Truthfully, before I had kids it was something that brought me a lot of joy. It was fun and creative for me. I also really like to entertain.

It was fun to have lovely decorations for not only my holiday parties, but Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners.

However, life changed!

I had two kids. I was highly involved in their lives, driving them to and watching all of their activities, volunteering in their schools and organizations. AND, I was either working in my job teaching at a university (which included a major commute) or building a side business!

Not to mention that I’m getting older and have much less energy!

All of that decorating and entertaining became a drag. It was no longer fun. It was something I was too busy to remember and then became completely overwhelmed by (see internal dialogue above).

I decided to cut back.

I no longer hosted every party and dinner from Halloween through New Year’s Eve. We moved into a very small house when we were still in California, so I cut way back on the decorating.

I started to put up some boundaries with my parents about who we would spend each holiday with.

I also stopped accepting every invitation that came our way!

Sometimes we have to pick and choose which parties we are going to attend. Your friends will understand if you skip their party this year. But, try make sure that you go the following year and skip someone else’s.

It all worked out!

I was no longer overwhelmed. I still had fun doing a little bit of decorating and planning one party during the season. My family was open and even invited each other to celebrate all together – negative feelings towards some being set aside for that day.

Action Step:

Decide what you can cut back on.

Is it decorating to perfection? Is it too much entertaining? Is it accepting too many party invitations?

Who do you need to set boundaries with?

Make a list and write-out possible ways to approach the subject from a kind and loving place.

2. Ask for help

I have friends and clients who think that having a pot-luck for the holidays is a disgrace.

I’m here to tell you that it’s not!

My mom and I spent many a holiday cooking big meals and doing all of the cleanup. We would exhaust ourselves and feel very taken advantage of by our family members who did not offer any assistance with either the cooking or the cleaning. That was a recipe for resentment!

Having a calm and cheerful conversation with your family members (and friends if you celebrate with friends) about how you love your Aunt Mary’s green bean casserole and your sister Haley Grace’s sweet potato pie  (okay, I do live in South Carolina, so I had to go there) and would they be willing to bring their delicious dish to Thanksgiving dinner will most often bring about a nice result.

Your relatives will feel complimented and you will have your pot-luck!

The same thing goes with asking for help with the cleanup. I know that Uncle Bill and neighbor Todd like to watch football and let their dinners digest.

However, a gentle question asking them to help with the dishes goes a long way – especially if they can see the TV from the sink! And if they can’t, all the better for you, because you can turn on the Hallmark Channel’s Christmas romance movie marathon! – (and yes, I know I’m being sexist 😉 And truthfully, I tend more towards the football myself )

Action Step:

Figure out who you can ask for help! Make a list of who you can ask and for what.

3. Find time for self nurture

This can truly be the hardest part of the fourth quarter sprint that is the holiday season!

I find that using my “success schedule” – a weekly color-blocked calendar of my days– is very important here. If I color block my Google calendar to specify what I am doing throughout the days of the week, I can see how much time I’m spending on self-nurture vs. how much time I’m spending on everything else.

My “personal” time color on Google is “flamingo pink.” If I look at my weekly calendar and there are not at least three to five flamingo pink blocks on there, I move other things around to get them in. This is something I do on a regular basis throughout the year. I have 30 minutes in the morning and an hour at bedtime that are dedicated to quiet mindfulness/ meditation every day.

During the holiday season I also make sure to schedule in pedicures, massages and nature time. Again, these are things that I do for myself on a regular basis. But, if I get busy for a time I will let them go (but, just for a short time).

During the holiday rush it’s particularly important that I take this time out. If I don’t, I will be burnt out and stressed by the time Thanksgiving or Christmas roll around. Even though it’s a busy time of year, I may let other things go (like volunteering at every one of the kids school parties, band concerts, etc.) to take care of myself during this time when everything is extra busy!

Action Step:

Create your success schedule! Use an online or a printable weekly calendar. You can either color block your entire schedule like I do, or just jot down what you will do for yourself to give yourself a mindfulness or self-nurture break every day.

4. Love before money

We made the mistake early on of having “Super Christmas!” for our kiddos. Remember my intro about how I used to love to…

Well, one of those things my husband and I both used to love to do was have a TON of presents under the tree for our kids! It was definitely fun to see their faces with the surprise. But, it was also complete mayhem!

Now that my kids are 11 and 14, I look back on that and feel like we really did them a disservice. Now they expect a TON of gifts.

It’s not as much fun for us as it used to be, buying them toys, and it’s much more expensive now because the things they want cost a lot more than the little kids toys did.

It is really hard as parents to keep up with what so many other parents are buying for their kids. When we moved to South Carolina from Southern California it was to save money! Part of that is re-educating our children about the amount of STUFF they need verses want.

We are also re-educating our children about our values.

We want them to understand that material things do not equal love. We are helping them to understand that spending time together doing things we enjoy is more important than things.

This re-education process can often be more difficult with extended family. I find myself not only buying expensive gifts for my family back in California, but also spending a ton on shipping. I would rather spend money to help them fly out here to visit (or for us to fly out to visit them) than on material gifts.

In some families they use a “Secret Santa” system. They make a point to spend the holidays together, but instead of everyone buying everyone else a gift, they pick names and only give one gift to the person whose name they picked. The families I know who do this also put a monetary limit that can be spent on the gift. This allows them to spend money on traveling to be together (or hosting many people), instead of on things that while they may be appreciated, are not as appreciated as the time spent together.

Action Step:

What can you do to create a love over money environment for your family this holiday season? Can you brainstorm with some of your family members about how you can spend quality time together?

Your stress-free holiday

So there you go! Four ways to cut down on the stress of the holiday season. Take on the action steps. See what you can come up with for yourself and your family!

I would love to hear from you! Post your comments about how you did with the action steps OR your tips for cutting down on holiday stress!


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