Stop Eating Due To Stress: Tips From Holly Mosier
Losing weight isn't just about eating right, and exercising. There's also a mind-body component. Holly Mosier (author, speaker, and former actress) knows all about this. She wrote a book called Stress Less, Eat Less, which introduces readers to practical stress-relieving tools, and techniques for finding mental peace. We caught up with her to learn more about her philosophy, as well as specific recommendations she has for losing weight. Here is our interview.
SlimKicker: Tell us about your book Stress Less, Weight Less, particularly why you decided to write it, and your core message.
Holly: I frequently say that Stress Less, Weigh Less is the book I wish had been available when I turned 40 eleven years ago and hit my wall.
I was gaining weight and losing energy to the point where I needed a nap every day, and even then the fatigue did not leave me. I was doing 90-minute workouts at the gym almost daily, yet still my weight was going up a couple of pounds a year.
I had been married to my new husband Rob, for two years, and we were having a very difficult time trying to "blend" our family (we each had two children from our previous marriages). I was stressed and miserable.
Like most of us, I had tried many of the well-known diets and weight loss gimmicks. And I did lose weight with most of them. But I felt lousy; I was hungry all the time, I had food cravings every day of my life, and I was still so fatigued. And I was still stressed and unhappy.
I was determined to find a way to live and eat that would bring back my vitality and happiness, allow me to enjoy the foods I loved, and yet still give me the body I wanted.
But I was discouraged because the books and diet plans that were available advocated deprivation. I had to give up things I love, like coffee, wine, cheese â€¦ I was determined to find a way to get off the diet rollercoaster for good that did not require me to relinquish things I loved. Because I knew if I felt deprived, any results I got wouldn't be permanent, anyway.
I was a medical malpractice attorney, so I know how to research medical studies. I learned that overabundant stress hormones create real physiological cravings for high fat, high sugar and high sodium foods. It wasn't my imagination or lack of willpower. These stress hormones also cause lethargy and fatigue.
So I decided to address my problem at its root. I went to work on developing practical stress reduction techniques that would easily fit into my typical busy Western lifestyle.
And I discovered, very quickly, that a big part of my stress was caused by my crazy, busy schedule. Between work, my home, my husband, and our children's schedules and needs, I barely had time to take a breath. It was this unrelenting frenetic activity, that our culture encourages, that not only caused my unrelenting food cravings, it also robbed me of peace.
What did I do? I opted out of the craziness. I started saying no to some activities, events and demands so I could have some buffers of peace in my day, every day. I was no longer willing to run on that treadmill of insane scheduling that left me stressed, depleted and battling an appetite brought on by overabundant stress hormones.
And it was like magic. With some reasonable space in my day, I was able to consistently use my little stress reduction tools that I had developed, like my Four-Count Breath and 10-Minute yoga sequences. Simple, quick, easy tools that fit into my life, which, although no longer overwhelming, was still very busy.
Within days, I noticed I wasn't so tired. My energy was restoring. My food cravings were dissipating. My stress was diminishing, and my happiness was returning. It turns out we have to make space for happiness. Who would have known? This isn't taught. It should be.
And the scale started to move down for the first time in many years. I easily lost a pound or two a week until I reached my goal of 107 pounds (I am 5'2" and small boned). That was six years ago. My weight has never varied since.
And now, here I am at age 51, firmly rooted in perimenopause and having no problem at all maintaining my weight. And this is with eating normal, everyday foods and enjoying a glass of wine with dinner and a bite of dessert. I don't miss anything.
So why did I write the book? I found the magic formula to easy and fun weight loss and maintenance. I found that same magic formula brought me the vigor and vitality I had as a kid, reformed my relationships, gifted me with a deeper sense of spirituality â€¦ and renewed my life in every aspect. I didn't know life could be so good. My approach is so easy, and it will work for everyone. I felt compelled to share it.
SlimKicker: What are some basic unfulfilling activities you recommend people opt out of in order to decrease stress?
Holly: This varies from person to person, but we can all relate to our unconscious, knee-jerk agreement to demands, requests, invitations and activities that are really not meaningful to us and just deplete us.
For example, we'll agree to throw the soccer team party for our child's team, even when we are in the middle of a demanding work week. Who hasn't attended two or three parties in one day during the holidays, and then just been exhausted and finding we didn't enjoy it because it was too much?
We'll agree to meet co-workers for a drink on nights when we are really too tired to do anything but have a cup of tea and go to bed early. I say, be mindful. Carefully pick and choose those things you are going to commit to, then show up rested, calm and happy.
You may feel guilty and selfish at first for guarding your down-time, but you'll soon find that you are a much nicer, more present, more productive person in each instance where you choose to commit and say yes. You'll bring a greater benefit to yourself and others when you are not constantly operating from a sense of depletion.
Here are a few more things I regularly opt out of so I can maintain my serenity and enjoy a peaceful life:
Cooking huge meals: Premade meals are a great option for a more relaxed and enjoyable event, especially for the hosts. Sometimes I will cook, other times not. And sometimes I'll cook a few dishes and order in the rest. It is fantastic.
Celebrating the holiday on the actual "day": My family has been doing this for years. We have a blended family, and holiday stress was increased ten-fold by trying to negotiate time with our children on Easter, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day. This affects intact families too, once the kids are grown and have families and in-laws of their own.
One year, I finally decided to just choose a different day on which to celebrate. What a relief! No more haggling trying to split the days with the exes (or other family members). We thoroughly enjoyed our holiday for the first time in years.
Now, even though the kids are grown, we just choose our day to celebrate which accommodates everyone. Sometimes it is the actual holiday, but many times it's not. But it's always a peaceful pleasure, and there is no better gift than the gift of peace with your family.
Washing dishes: You can use disposable dishware and utensils. I used to spend hours cleaning up after our big family meals. Sometimes we'll still bring out the china, but if the schedule is tight, or we just want to relax, we'll use disposal plates and utensils. This cuts clean up time down from hours to minutes. There are environmentally-friendly versions available now, so there is no waste.
Social Media: Opt out of social media for a day â€¦ or more. Facebook can consume a huge amount of time. I started opting out of being a regular user several years ago, and boy, what an improvement in my quality of life!
Now I just check in a couple of days a week. I find I enjoy it more, and it is no longer one of those daily "obligations" that it seemed to be.
You do what is right for you. What is right for you is unique. My point is, is that we are so overwrought with so much activity, we don't even know what is right for us. So we plug along, year after year, mechanically performing the same obligations and building tension and resentment. I opted out of that. I only wish I had done it sooner.
SlimKicker: Can you give us an example or 2 of useful tactics people can use to decrease stress in a stressful situation? For instance, being stuck in a traffic jam, or being yelled at by your boss.
Holly: I'll give you my quickest and most potent tool for reducing stress: The Four-Count Breath. You can do it anytime, anywhere, and it never fails to restore calm and equanimity.
Here's how it is done: Breathe in through your nose while slowly counting to four, and then exhale through your nose to the count of four. Focus on the breath with your mind. Listen to the sound of it. If possible, close your eyes. Repeat this pattern for at least five breaths.
That's all there is to it. I do this throughout the day, every day, and it keeps me in a calm and serene state of mind. If you train yourself to make it a habit, whenever anything stressful happens, instead of blindly reacting, you'll go to your breath. From that calm place, you'll assess situations more accurately, make better decisions, and be able to take more effective action. And you'll maintain your peace.
I think meditation is a prime tool to decrease stress. Medical studies have confirmed this time and again. So I meditate daily. The effects of it build up over time, so you can develop a reservoir of peace to draw from during stressful times during the day.
I have found that whatever I do first thing in the morning determines the whole quality of my day, so I meditate every morning. I think many people forgo meditation, even though its benefits are well known, because they mistakenly believe a regular mediation practice is very time consuming. It does not have to be.
After decades of meditating and studying it with various meditation groups and individual teachers and teachings, I have found that it is the consistency of my practice of meditation, rather than any specific technique or the length of time I spend in meditation, that bestows the core value.
I meditate very simply. I start with my Four-Count Breath, and simply listen to it. This single-point focus is the beginning of meditation. The thoughts begin to slow, and a soothing, peaceful space opens up internally. Once you experience that, you'll be hooked. It's the best high ever. And it's legal. There is no downside.
All you need to do is commit to taking a few moments in your day â€“ every day â€“ to sit quietly and find a single-point focus. Just as regular exercise is necessary to tone your muscles, it's necessary that you make your meditation practice a regular part of your day to gain the benefit of permanently reduced stress and lower levels of stress hormones, and to increase the joyful quality of your life. I know it worked for me.
SlimKicker: I know you recommend yoga and meditation as some basic ways to relieve stress. I know for most people, meditation can get very boring. What advice would you give to make it more interesting?
Holly: Meditating is always boring at first because we are so accustomed to our minds racing. Slowing that down feels like driving 65 miles per hour, then entering a traffic jam where you putt for a bit. It is in the slowing down of the thoughts, however, that space for bliss opens up. It turns out we have to create space for happiness.
Here's what I suggest to soften this process. When you first start meditating, play some soft music that you like, or do a guided meditation (there are a multitude of guided meditation cd's out there).
These will give the mind something to focus on as you grow used to the thoughts slowing and stillness arriving. Once you enter that state of stillness and feel the serenity and peace that always comes with it, I promise you will not find meditation boring anymore. You'll be like I am now â€“ it is the first thing I do in the morning, and I am excited to wake up each morning so I can have my meditation.
SlimKicker: One of the key tenets you keep mentioning is the importance of peace of mind. I know this is extremely tough for people wanting to lose weight. Our visitors tell us they get demoralized easily when they stick to a routine for weeks, and see little to no results. What advice would you give to these people? How do you cultivate peace of mind when we want to lose weight so badly?
Holly: I was one of those people who felt demoralized by exerting extreme efforts and depriving myself for weeks on end, only to find the scale going up! But what I ended up discovering was that until my mind was calm and balanced, my body was never going to be in balance.
The body reflects the state of mind. That is the secret. Once I learned that, patience came easier. You can't rush tranquility. And I found a tranquil state of mind, at least for part of my days, was necessary to get the permanent results I wanted.
My advice is to follow what I did, because a quick fix is never permanent. It's too abrupt of a change on the mind and body, so we snap back to old habits. If you want to get off that diet rollercoaster for good â€“ once and for all - the first step is to reduce your stress. There is a direct connection between what is going on in our minds, and what is going on in our bodies. Our bodies reflect our state of mind.
We want to create a healthy mind, a healthy body and a healthy life. It comes in that order. A healthy mind creates a healthy, fit body, and healthy fit minds and bodies create healthy, balanced lives.
SlimKicker: Do you recommend a specific eating/meal plan to people, or are there basic universal nutritional guidelines that are applicable to most people?
Holly: I have both in my book. We start with basic universal nutritional guidelines that are applicable to most people (and promoted by the medical community).
For example, I teach you how to balance the carbohydrates, proteins and fats in every meal. This is important to keep you satiated and your energy levels high. Low glycemic foods (those that have a low starch/sugar content) comprise a core part of our eating plan.
These lower-sugar foods (such as fresh fruits, veggies and lean proteins), also help to keep you full, and keep your blood sugar levels steady, helping you to avoid that shaky, famished feeling we sometimes get.
Another basic guideline is don't skip meals in an effort to speed weight loss. Studies have found (and most of us will not be surprised by this) that it almost always leads to binge eating.
All of my guidelines are easy to follow, and can be applied anywhere â€“ at a restaurant, while traveling, etc.
I also give a 31-day program that you can just follow (if you prefer) that incorporates all three components of my approach: the stress reduction tools, daily menus of my 5-ingredients-or-less recipes (that meet all of my nutritional guidelines), and daily exercise.
SlimKicker: Do you have any new books or DVDs in plans for the future you would like to tell our visitors about?
Holly: Stress Less, Weigh Less has more than 50 of my 5-ingredients-or-less recipes that have been very popular with readers. I have another 75 of these recipes that I plan to use for a follow up book. To get an idea of how quick, easy and tasty these recipes are, go to my YouTube channel and click on the "Holly's Recipes" section. www.Youtube.com/hollymosier. You'll see me demonstrate some of my favorites.