Landi F. Lowell, MD, FAAP, FACP is a physician board certified in both Adult Internal Medicine and Pediatrics. Dr. Lowell (formerly Halloran) grew up in rural Michigan and graduated salutatorian of her class in 1991. She attended Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo on full academic scholarship, graduating cum laude... more
One of the most common things I discuss with my patients is stress and being overweight.
I implore my patients to try to reduce the number of things they are trying to cram into their days. They are bombarded on all fronts: work, kids, volunteering, church, kids' sports, school PTA, and family commitments. Yet, they still think they will somehow have time to eat healthy, exercise, get adequate rest, AND be present for their spouse/significant other and their kids.
I am trying to find the proper balance myself and it's tough. I find I'm saying "no" more and more often because being the first to volunteer to make the cookies, run a meeting, or plan the family get-together means I have sacrificed the few moments I may have had that should have been spent doing more healthful things, namely sleeping, exercising, or preparing healthy meals.
In our society, most of us have to work (a lot!) to make ends meet. This leaves little time for everything else. Yet, if you've ever followed social media or opened a glossy magazine with smiling attractive people on the cover, you'll find that it seems like "everyone" is jogging, going vegan, or meditating, in addition to being a super spouse, employee of the month, and the world's best parent. It's all too much.
I tell my patients the same thing a cardiologist told me when I saw him for chest pain. Then, I was a young doctor in my early 30s and mother of two young children, running my first primary care office practice in the middle of cold and flu season. The cardiologist said, "You must prioritize your own health if you want to be around to do anything else in life."
The statement hit me pretty hard. My first thought was, "It's cold and flu season! That's like tax season for accountants! I cannot possibly work less." But I did think about it, and I ended up quitting my job. Instead, I chose one with fewer hours. It was a major change, but one of the first changes I made that prioritized me.
For my patients, they see weight gain in their middle (mainly around the stomach), hair loss or thinning, and the scale going up, not down. They get very discouraged. They get angry and ask how I could burden them with one more thing—weight loss.
But I try to restructure it for them. I try to point out that it's small changes that make big differences. Like for instance, go to sleep! Set your bedtime to resemble the number of hours you would sleep on a vacation or weekend and stick to it every day of the week. Add a daily walk to start. A short walk (6-10 minutes) is better than no walk. Eat more plants (fruits, vegetables) and say "no" to things that add stress and no self-fulfillment. There are never enough people on the PTA—it's OK.
By doing these things, you decrease the stress hormone, cortisol, which promotes muscle loss, fat gain, hair thinning, and pre-mature aging by increasing blood pressure, blood sugar, and weight.
Join me in saying no to distractions and saying yes instead to things that fill your cup mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. We can do this together!