In the realm of weight loss solutions and healthy eating, you hear a lot about counting calories, the next magic diet combo, or this week’s superfood. However, with the holidays upon us, we think it’s the perfect time to talk about an important, non-diet factor that can greatly impact your healthfulness, and even your weight: Gratitude.
In short, gratitude is the appreciation of what is valuable and meaningful to you. It can be a momentary state of being, or a permanent characteristic of your personality. Being grateful on a daily basis can actually help you become a healthier person and make weight loss an easier and more pleasant journey. Here’s why…and how!
Gratitude can actually change your body chemistry: Practicing gratitude helps your body produce feel good hormones. These feel good hormones are the same ones that increase when you eat what we typically think of as comfort foods, such as chocolate, sugary snacks, and carbohydrates. When you naturally have this rush of feel good hormones from thinking about something wonderful in your life, or how grateful you are for the help that your colleague just gave you, you’re not as likely to reach for food to help you feel good.
Gratitude can help reduce stress (and stress can lead to weight gain): When a stressful situation or life event occurs, placing your focus on what IS going well instead of what isn’t, can help take attention away from the problem or stressor. This can help decrease stress over time. Professor Robert Emmons of the University of California Davis cites research showing that practicing gratitude on a daily basis reduces stress hormones by 23%. Chronic stress produces hormonal and immune factors that are contributors to being overweight. These biochemicals can also affect appetite and eating behaviors that can lead to emotional eating and even binge eating.
Gratitude has a positive affect on all areas of your life (and that can help reduce emotional eating): How you’re doing at work, in your relationships, and in your pursuit of health are all factors that can impact your happiness and stress levels. Effectively managing these factors can help you control emotional eating (i.e. eating too much or eating because you’re sad, stressed, anxious, etc.), simply because the reasons for emotional eating may be reduced. When you are less stressed, less anxious, and feel more confident in your relationships, emotional eating is greatly reduced.
Gratitude teaches you to appreciate your body: Take a minute each day to appreciate everything your body allows you to do – To enjoy a walk outside, to see a beautiful sight, or hug a close friend or family member. Be grateful for the health that you do have and it will be an easier choice to naturally want to fuel that body with healthful foods and exercise.
Gratitude gives you a sense of control over food choices: When you frame your food choices with a sense of gratitude, it becomes easier to see the benefit of making smart food choices over unhealthy ones. For instance, thinking about how a meal choice benefits your body and mind versus focusing on how you wish you could eat a bowl of ice cream instead helps make that health choice one that you truly prefer making.
How to practice Gratitude? We’ll stop writing and leave that to an expert! This article, 10 Ways to Become More Grateful, was written by Professor Robert Emmons of the University of California Davis. He’s a leading researcher and expert on gratitude and his article provides a great start to practicing daily gratitude.
Do you practice gratitude on a daily basis? Have you thought about how gratitude affects your daily choices when it comes to health, or in other areas of your life?
Sansone, R, MD and Sansone, L, MD (2010) Psychiatry. Gratitude and Well Being: The benefits of Appreciation: Retrieved from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3010965/
Robert Emmons, November 2010. 10 Ways to Become More Grateful. Retrieved from University of California Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center website: http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/author/Robert_Emmons
Sojcher R, Gould Fogerite S, Perlman A.The Journal of Science and Healing.Evidence and potential mechanisms for mindfulness practices and energy psychology for obesity and binge-eating disorder. http://www.explorejournal.com/article/S1550-8307(12)00128-0/abstract
Gratitude at Work: 30 Day Gratitude Challenge website: Accessed 12/10/13. Retrieved from: http://www.30daygratitudechallenge.com/why-gratitude