As it turns out, we are more likely to carry fat - especially around the midsection - when life demands a little more out of us. Are we wired this way for a reason?
Possibly. Current research tells us that extra body fat may be to our benefit.
Studies have found that slightly extra body fat may protect us during physical trauma. This is when the body responds to injury or infection. Our metabolism speeds up, we burn through fuel reserves at a faster rate, and tissue can quickly break down.
One study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association this past January, made headlines as researchers found that while obesity is clearly associated with a greater risk of disease, being slightly overweight could in some cases protect the body during illness or during recovery from a physical injury.
Fat may not only protect the body from physical trauma. Fat can protect the body against emotional trauma as well.
We know that emotional trauma can turn on inflammatory signaling and throw the immune system out of balance. When it comes to our fears, worry, and grief - no physical injury or illness is needed to provoke the body into an inflammatory (and sick) state.
One of best ways to explain this is with Chinese medicine, which uses the natural world and its elements to understand health and disease. These are elements like wind, fire, cold, and dampness. Body fat and fatty foods generate dampness in the body. According to Chinese medicine, dampness slows things down. It feels heavy. It also protects the nervous system and buffers emotion.
Dampness - or weight gain - can develop when you feel that you need to protect your emotional well-being. During stressful life events, the body craves dampness. This craving is easily satisfied with food.
Sugar is one food that can easily muffle our feelings. This is because the nature of sugar is damp and expansive. When we eat too much sugar, we are often looking for a distraction or some subtle "high". Sugar binges take us further from our emotions. After the high, these binges often end in sleep.
When we are authentic with ourselves, we can release foods, habits, and thoughts that dampen our own relationship with our body. This means all of the physical and emotional comforts that slow us down and prevent growth.
Instead of rejecting stress and running away from it, we can manage our stress.
The greatest benefit of cleansing, fasts, detoxes, and rigorous physical activity is the opportunity to become more authentic. We get to speak to that part that says, “I can’t.”
Whether we are pushing through cravings, experiencing detox die-off, or sweating through one last set of cardio - we get to be real with ourselves about what we feel, what we see, and (best of all) what we are really capable of.
What about you? Have you ever used food to dampen stress? Or to escape a difficult emotion? I would love to hear your thoughts!
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