Stress and Your Health

Since February is American Heart Month, I thought it might be a good idea to focus on some of the factors that affect our heart health. Stress is certainly at the top of that list. God designed our bodies to protect us from perceived threats by making our adrenal glands produce the hormones adrenaline and cortisol. This is known as the fight or flight stress response. We have all felt this when we have almost had an accident while driving. In the split second that we see that accident about to happen the adrenals spring into action. The adrenaline increases our heart rate, breathing rate and blood pressure. The cortisol increases glucose, enhances brain use of glucose and curbs nonessential body functions. We may feel so shaken that we pull over to calm down once disaster is averted. Fortunately this stress response is self-limited and our heart rate, respirations and blood pressure return to normal.

What if the stressors in our lives happen too frequently or last too long or when the stressors are always present? Chronic stress occurs when the stress response stays turned on all the time. This chronic stress leads to prolonged exposure to stress hormones and can have adverse effects on almost every system in our bodies placing us at increased risk for multiple medical problems, including heart disease.

There are numerous sources of chronic stress in our daily lives. Examples of such stress include:

  • Stress related to the pressures of the demands of work, school, finances and other daily responsibilities.
  • Stress brought on by a negative life change like losing a loved one, a divorce, losing a job or being diagnosed with a life threatening illness.
  • Stress related to a traumatic experience like a major accident, assault, war or a natural disaster.

Some of the many health effects of chronic stress are outlined in this illustration. The same stress response that might be life saving in a crisis, can suppress our immune, digestive, sleep and reproductive systems when it persists over time.  In addition to medical problems, chronic stress can also lead to mental health problems like depression, anxiety, and panic disorders.


We are all different in how we respond to stress. Some of us, myself included, experience gastrointestinal problems when stressed. Others experience headaches, sleeplessness, sadness anger or irritability. Still others turn to food for comfort and subsequently put on excess weight.

When the stress is routine like job stress, it might go unnoticed as just a way of life. Over time, the continued strain on our bodies leads to serious conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity.  If you want to see an outstanding depiction of what chronic job stress can do, watch the recent episode of Grey’s Anatomy in which high-powered surgeon Miranda Bailey suffers a heart attack (Season 14, Episode 11). The combination of a stressful job, poor lifestyle choices and a genetic predisposition form the perfect storm for the development of heart disease. As an African American woman over 60 who has high blood pressure and a family history of heart disease, stroke and diabetes, I so related to the truth of this storyline.

Ways to Reduce Stress

The good news in all of this is that there are ways to manage chronic stress to reduce or prevent these adverse effects.

  1. Learn to recognize the signs of stress in your own body. Difficulty sleeping, increased alcohol use, being easily angered, having a lack of energy or feeling depressed might all be signs that you are stressed.
  2. Set goals and priorities by deciding what can be done and what can wait in any given day. Make getting a good night’s sleep a priority over “doing it all.” If you are feeling overwhelmed on your job, seek out ways to reduce your workload.
  3. Get regular exercise!!! I cannot emphasize this point enough. A mere 30 minutes a day of exercise can have a profound impact on your mood and reduce stress.
  4. Find something that relaxes you and make it a regular part of your life. It might be prayer and meditation, yoga, tai chi or a massage. Take time for hobbies, reading a good book, or listening to music.
  5. Learn how to enjoy a good laugh. Laughter really is good medicine.
  6. Stay connected with family members and friends who can provide emotional support. There is strength and healing in community!

Be Blessed,

Yvonne Moore

“Dear friend, I hope all is well with you and that you are as healthy in body as you are strong in spirit.”  3 John 1:2 (NLT)


February is American Heart Month sponsored by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. This year’s campaign, #MoveWithHeart, encourages us to pledge 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week (150 minutes per week) to physical activity that “gets your heart pumping and leaves you a little breathless.” Take the pledge, your heart will love you for it! #Ymoore4Health

Junk Food Challenge Update for February

Today marks 3 weeks since I first posted the “Junk Food Challenge.” How is everyone doing? Since today starts a new month, I am inviting others to join in and take it to the next level by avoiding the processed “white carbs” altogether (white rice, pasta, potatoes, etc.) as well as CORNBREAD! These foods just turn to sugar once you eat them! Who is with me?


Sleep and Your Health

One of the most important aspects of healthy living that is often overlooked is the significance of getting an adequate amount of sleep. When the good Lord made our bodies to require that we spend almost one third of our lives doing one thing, you know it must be important. Having spent most of my adult life in a career that has often left me sleep deprived, I have personally seen the adverse impact it has had on my overall health. For those of us striving to achieve a healthy weight and an overall healthy life, getting the right amount of sleep is crucial to those efforts. Here are some of the many ways that not getting sufficient sleep can impact our lives and our health.

Brain Function

Sleeping less than the recommended 7-9 hours per night can lead us to have trouble with thinking, concentration, memory and can even impact our mood. During sleep the brain forms new neural connections that help us to process information and to remember new things we have learned. Sleep deprivation can lead to impairment of all of our mental functions, including delaying our reaction times and putting us at an increased risk for accidents. In addition, being tired and sleepy contribute to poor decision making when it comes to selecting healthy foods to fuel our bodies.

Cardiovascular System

Not getting enough sleep has been linked to increased blood pressure. It also leads to higher levels of chemicals that cause inflammation in the body.  Both high blood pressure and inflammation are risk factors for heart disease. Research has shown there to be a link between insomnia and an increased risk of heart attack and stroke.

Immune System

While we are sleeping, our bodies produce cytokines which help us to fight off infection. If we do not get enough sleep, our levels of these chemicals will be impaired leading to a decreased ability to fight off illnesses, particularly viral and bacterial infections. Not only that, but this impaired immunity can make it take longer to recover from illnesses.

Weight Management and Hormones

Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight is not simply a matter of calories in versus calories out. We now know that sleep deprivation is a major risk factor for becoming overweight and for obesity. Two hormones that control hunger and and fullness, leptin and ghrelin are directly affected by the amount of sleep we get. Leptin tells our brains to stop eating when we are full and ghrelin is an appetite stimulant. With sleep deprivation, we produce less leptin and more ghrelin. The imbalance in these hormones is thought to be responsible for late night snacking. The longer we are awake into the night, the more opportunities we have to overeat. An additional effect that poor sleep has on our weight loss efforts is to make it us too tired to exercise.

Another substance that is adversely affected by sleep deprivation is the stress hormone cortisol. Heightened cortisol levels prompt the body to store more fat (especially in our middle section) and to use muscle as an energy source. Cortisol can have the effect of increasing blood sugar levels which causes increased insulin production which in turn increases our cravings. This effect has been linked not only to obesity but an increased risk of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.

Here are a few tips for improving your sleep which will lead to improvements in your health:

1. Sleep in complete darkness with no television, night lights or LED lights in the room.

2. Try to go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day.

3. Decrease or eliminate caffeine and alcohol late in the day.

4. GO TO BED early enough to insure that you can get 7-9 hours of sleep.

Be Blessed,

Yvonne Moore

“Dear friend, I hope all is well with you and that you are as healthy in body as you are strong in spirit.” 3 John‬ ‭1:2‬ ‭NLT‬‬

The Skinny on Exercise for Weight Loss

Make no mistake about it, regular exercise offers many benefits. Here are just a few of those benefits:

1. Regular exercise helps in the prevention and management if many diseases including hypertension, type 2 diabetes, stroke, depression, some types of cancer and joint problems. As little as 30 minutes of brisk walking most days of the week goes a long way toward keeping us healthy.

2. Exercise lifts mood. Ever heard of runner’s high? Believe me, it is real!

3. Exercise improves your energy level, promotes better sleep and improves your overall sense of well being.

4. Exercise can be a great tool to help prevent regaining weight after weight loss.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that exercise ALONE is not a very good weight loss tool. I cannot tell you how many patients over the years have come in requesting to have their thyroid function tested because they have been diligently exercising but unable to see the numbers on the scale go down. I have even had this happen to fitness instructors! As I shared in a previous blog, I managed to gain weight while training for and run/walking a half marathon a month over the last couple of years. The truth of the matter is that you cannot outrun your fork with exercise alone.

Here is the skinny on exercising for weight loss.

Let’s say you burn 700 calories in a 1 hour spin class. Later that day you go out with your girls to a birthday celebration. Surely it should be ok to have a margarita or two after that hard workout, right? As this illustration shows, those two drinks alone will replace those calories before you even order dinner. It will be as if you never worked out at all.

Here’s another illustration for my running friends:

If a picture is worth a thousand words, this one speaks volumes. In reality, exercise only accounts for about 10 to 30 percent of our energy expediture in a given day. If the workout has been particularly strenuous, it is likely to decrease our activity for the rest of the day because we are so tired. The other factor that makes strenuous exercise ineffective for weight loss is that it makes us hungrier!!! We are notoriously bad at over estimating how much more we should eat after exercise. In addition, our bodies adapt to our level of physical activity through metabolic compensation and the same amount of effort causes you to burn fewer calories over time.

It is well documented that those 10% of people who have lost weight and kept it off for at least a year did so by initially restricting their caloric intake and exercising moderately and that they continued to do both over the long run. We have to keep in mind that as we get smaller, our Basic Metabolic Rate (the calories we burn at rest) decreases by at least 100 calories for every 10 pounds we lose. That means that if you lost down from 200 lbs to 150, you cannot go back to eating the number of calories it took to keep you at 200! This is key to weight regain. This is where continuing to exercise once we have lost weight becomes important. If we return to our pre-weight loss eating habits and stop exercising, we are destined to regain the weight and may even gain more!

Successful lifetime weight management is not one size fits all. Those who are successful at keeping weight off long term have found a way to limit their caloric intake in a way that allows them to enjoy healthy foods over the highly processed, high carbohydrate, high fat and salty foods that make us overweight in the first place. They also continue to exercise at least moderately most days of the week. It is those who are willing to adopt this as a forever lifestyle who ultimately win in the struggle to maintain a healthy weight.

Be Blessed,

Yvonne Moore

“Dear friend, I hope all is well with you and that you are as healthy in body as you are strong in spirit.” 3 John‬ ‭1:2‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Emotional Eating

I was channel surfing the other day and came across an episode of Meet the Browns. In this episode Cora, a plus sized character, wanted to fit into a particular dress so she started power walking and restricting what she ate. After a few days she tried on the dress and found that it was still too small and became infuriated that all of her “hard work was for nothing.” She then proceeded to scarf down an entire box of candy! The portrayal really touched me because it reminded me of the many times I have turned to food to soothe an emotion. I, like millions of others who struggle with their weight, am an emotional eater.

Although we often are not conscious of it, emotional eating is very common. We eat when we are lonely or bored, we eat when we are frustrated, we eat when we are stressed, we eat when we are sad, we eat when we are angry – the list goes on and on. Emotional eating is not just about eating when we are down.  We also eat when we are happy or have something to celebrate. By definition, anytime we eat for any reason other than true physiological hunger we are probably eating in response to an emotion.

I have been an emotional eater since childhood. I I was an only child my grandmother, who was my guardian, worked the night shift. I did not recognize it then, but food became my best friend when I was lonely and bored. I taught myself how to cook and became quite fond of my own cooking. I got into the habit of eating alone and as my weight ballooned I starting eating in secret – one of the most common attributes of the emotional eater. When you give in to getting that candy bar in the grocery checkout line and eat it in the car before you get home – you too might be an emotional eater.

If we are ever to overcome emotional eating, we must seek to understand why we have this love affair with food. It is a love affair with a lover who not only does not love us back but abuses our bodies. There is a reason why certain foods are referred to as comfort foods. Foods high in fat, sugar or salt activate the brain’s reward system. We actually get an increased sense of well being when we eat certain foods. Chocolate, for example, has a strong effect on mood by increasing pleasant feelings and reducing tension. If the food makes us feel better then the next time we have an intense emotion, we are more likely to turn to food again. The reality of course is that the fix is only temporary and that the guilt and the weight gain give us more problems to stress over which leads to more overeating. We need to find ways to break that cycle if we are ever to be in control of our eating in our pursuit of our healthiest selves.

One of the best ways to overcome emotional eating is to get re-acquainted with true physiological hunger and make that the only reason to eat. Observe the average 2 year old. Most of them will let you know when they are hungry and often eat a very small amount and tell you that they are full. We get disconnected from that God given mechanism of hunger and fullness when our well meaning parents demand that we “clean our plates.” Each time that we have the urge to eat we need to pause and ask ourselves if we are truly stomach growling hungry or do we just want to eat for some other reason. If we determine that we are not physically hungry, we need to find other ways to satisfy the urge to use food to handle our emotions. This concept is known as mindful or intuitive eating. When you eat mindfully you only eat when physically hungry and you do not continue to eat once you are physically full. Mindful eating takes practice but over time it can help tremendously in our weight loss efforts. Eating should not be a recreational activity. It should be a means to get fuel for the body.

Be Blessed,

Yvonne Moore

“Dear friend, I hope all is well with you and that you are as healthy in body as you are strong in spirit.” 3 John‬ ‭1:2‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Take the Challenge

Nothing like a diagnosis of prediabetes and gaining weight while wogging half marathons to straighten a sister right up. This is basically what has become my lifestyle since November 1st. I purposely did it through the holidays! I am down 13.5 lbs, my sugar cravings are GONE and I did not die. Take the challenge! #locarblife #eatrealfood #moreveggies #ymoore4health

My Story

I have struggled with my weight my entire life. I was raised by a single grandmother who was a great cook. Weekend breakfasts often included homemade biscuits with ham and red eye gravy and rice. That has to be at least a zillion carbs! I was a book worm from an early age so the only exercise I got was in gym class. One of the more painful memories of my childhood was of having to order special gym clothes because I was too big for the standard sizes.

By the time I was 14 I tipped the scales at 185 lbs and wore a women’s size 18-20! By then my mother had moved to the DC area to escape an abusive relationship and met the man who was soon to become my stepfather. I rarely saw my biological father and really wanted my mother to get married to someone nice. They told me that if I lost 20 lbs, they would get married. They may have been just teasing me but I took the notion seriously. That was the moment when I went on the first of many diets.

That diet was self made and simple: no breakfast, a green salad and a diet soda for lunch and a single serving of whatever we had for dinner (as opposed to the seconds and thirds I usually had). I don’t remember how long it took but I lost that 20 pounds and got myself a new stepfather in the bargain! I was down to a junior size 15 and my grandmother no longer had to struggle to find age appropriate clothes for me.

The summer before I was to enter 10th grade in a new school, I spent in DC with my mom and stepfather. I experimented with different diets and exercise regimens and lost another 20lbs. By the time school started I was a size 10/12 and many of my friends did not recognize me! What a great feeling that was! In the process of losing the weight, however, I had become a diet junkie. You name the diet and I have done it all out of fear of going back to being that 185 pound girl again.

People in my life who have only know me as an adult think that I have always been the size that I am now. Few know of the many many diets and exercise programs or how many times I have gained and lost the same 15 pounds. All through high school, college, medical training, two pregnancies and raising my children I was either on a diet or putting on the weight that made me need the next one. I am the queen of the yo yo dieters.

In the early nineties I became a facilitator for a popular Faith based weight loss plan and taught weekly classes on the use of its methods. I had lost weight by learning to eat tiny amounts of food only when I was physically hungry and stopping when I was full and wanted to share that message with others. I loved it because you could eat whatever you wanted! You see I really LOVE food! I learned over time that, while I could keep my weight down with these strategies (basically portion control), I have not been blessed with genes that will allow me to ignore the content of my food. So at the age of 57 and after hundreds of diets I found myself with the diagnoses of not only hypertension but pre-diabetes as well.

In an effort to “run” from the diseases that were chasing me, I joined a local fitness group, Sisters in Motion, and started walking and running on a regular basis. I became more conscious about what I ate and continued to practice portion control but the more I exercised, the bigger the portions got. I started doing races and fell in love with the half marathon distance and started doing several of them a year as an interval walker/jogger (which I call wogging). Training to do all those races and averaging one half marathon a month emboldened me to eat foods that had forbidden myself in my less active years. So even with all that activity I started gaining weight again! At the same time I had family members and patients looking to me as a role model. Some role model!

I started this blog to share my current journey of seeking to find my way toward the healthiest me I can be, for the rest of my life. I desire that not only for myself but for those of you who choose to come along. I will seek to share healthy lifestyle tips not only about achieving a healthy weight but about all of the aspects of healthy living. In this blog I am not offering medical advice so much as offering information, encouragement and coaching to those of you are seeking to be healthy in body, mind and spirit. I am looking for partners in the struggle.

Yvonne Moore


“Dear friend, I hope all is well with you and that you are as healthy in body as you are strong in spirit.” 3 John‬ ‭1:2‬ ‭NLT‬‬