Weekly Health Tip: Please eat breakfast.

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. How many times have you heard that catch phrase? Well then why are you sitting here reading this knowing full well that all you ate this morning was a cup of coffee and spoonful of peanut butter?

Studies show that food deprivation can regulate certain neurotransmitter hormones that actually inhibit metabolism. In plain old English that means that not eating can slow your metabolism. As we'll explore below, our body is no fan of such tinkering. So do yourself a favor and get up right now, grab that bagel with fat free cream cheese and thank yourself!

15 minute meals

Some of you might have caught us at Whole Foods where we held a class called Attack of the 2000 Calorie Burrito. The space was not able to accommodate everyone and others were turned away. Never fear.

We plan on doing it again in the fall. Until then we are offering a little sample of some of the recipes we went over in the class. Okay, so there is a little catch. You have to take a survey first. But the survey has a lot of fun Star Wars references, it doesn't take that long and once you are done - VIOLA! free healthy recipes to keep you from bingeing on cookies after work.

We're letting you do the bragging

Of course we love to brag. Who doesn't? But our high opinion of ourselves is hardly unbiased. So if you feel like us tooting our own horn lacks credibility then check our Web site each month to see what some of our customers have to say about us:

"Working with Recess has contributed to changing my view on how exercise and fitness can be a more fun experience - mixing different activities up together - also the personal attention to detail in the exercises, such as the abdominal crunches to really exercise the targeted muscles.

The outcome of working together has been a noticeable increase in my fitness, plus an awareness that I can do more than I thought was possible - my trainer has a knack for taking it that little bit further than I think I can go!

Ultimately, I know it's successful because I feel like I want to do more of it."

- Jon W. in Portland, OR

Healthy lifestyle D.I.Y. - Stop stress snack attacks!

Does stress send you into a feeding frenzy?

Many people report eating like a horse when under stress, or, not being able to eat at all. Neither is particularly good from your body's perspective. Eating too little depletes our energy and decreases our mental acuity. The effects of eating too much need little explanation.

How stress relates to hunger

Of course, there are those among us who enjoy the exciting life, but with or against our wishes, our body is always trying to maintain balance (a.k.a homeostasis). Our bodies' intergenerational quest for homeostasis created an entire set of interactions among glands, hormones and parts of the brain that help us adapt to what happens in and outside of our bodies.

As you might recall from an earlier newsletter, acute and chronic stress trigger a cascade of hormones that, from a biological and evolutionary standpoint, help protect us from the source of our stress.

Epinephrine, or, adrenaline produces short term effects of stress. In normal release it helps focus your concentration, speed your reaction time, and increase your strength and agility. It shuts certain systems down and helps mobilize carbohydrates and fat in the body to ensure that you have enough energy for fight or flight.

Another stress hormone, cortisol, produces longer term effects whose purpose during normal release appears to be to help the body recover from stress, moving it closer to homeostasis. Cortisol helps stimulate appetite, increase fat deposition, increase glucose (blood sugar) formation and slow other biological processes that might otherwise consume large amounts of energy.

From an evolutionary perspective this makes perfect sense. If we expend energy and use up fats and carbohydrates while responding to stress (we are fighting or fleeing, no?) then once the source of the stress is gone, our body will want to replenish the spent energy and macronutrients to get us back to normal.

In the meantime, complex systems interact in the body and brain to help calm our nerves, change our perception of stress and slow the release of more stress hormones. Recess nutritionist, Claudia Sage has this to say,

"The brain requires more serotonin in order to take the edge of off stress and allow the body to relax. Serotonin is created after consuming carbs. Endorphins cravings, the body's natural pain killer, often kick in. Endorphins, which are healthily produced by exercise and laughter, are also created by fatty food consumption."

Okay so let's review.

We feel stress. Our body preps us to deal with it. Once the dealing is done our body tries to bring us back to equilibrium. For obvious reasons, deleting those hundreds of annoying, stressful emails doesn't require quite the same amount of effort as: escaping a flood or an enemy, enduring starvation or drought. Nonetheless our body still hasn't figured out the whole information superhighway concept and is helping us respond to very dissimilar stressors in similar ways.

From an evolutionary perspective a quick fix like fatty, sugary foods might be the perfect tool in helping the body respond to impacts of acute stress; however, the stresses of modern life are metabolically less demanding. It is up to each of us to understand why our body reacts the way it does and to respond to it in ways that makes sense for our lifestyle.

Claudia remarks, "Chocolate makes endorphins within 3 seconds of touching the tongue but disappears almost as quickly. The perfect storm of carb cravings, the drive for increased fatty foods and the body's hormonal shift to creating more fat can sink anyone's plan for a healthy lifestyle. Exercise or meditation are our only effective tools to break the cycle and calm the stress storm."

Stopping the snack attacks

So how do you keep from reaching for the quick fix (ahhhh, that bowl of office candy) when you are glued to your desk? How you cope is ultimately up to you. There are many ways to reduce stress and fight urges. If you are hitting a blank then try a couple of these suggestions the next time you crave or shun food while under stress:

Step away from your desk for five minutes. Stretch. Walk around the block and focus on inhaling and exhaling deeply.

If you feel a craving or are putting off eating, try doing the opposite of what you are inclined for just a moment. For cravings, wait 15 minutes and see if it passes. For lack of appetite, try a small, healthy snack like low fat popcorn and see if it stimulates your hunger.

Drink water or tea instead of that 8th cup of coffee for the day. Caffeine is a stimulant. Drinking too much can create more anxiety.

Don't let happy hour make you miserable. Do you cope with stress by bingeing on alcohol and fatty, salty foods at the end of the day? For foods, try to make healthy choices where available. Try to limit yourself to one drink. Research demonstrates that alcohol actually induces the stress response by stimulating hormone release by the hypothalamus, pituitary, and adrenal glands. In addition to stimulating the hormonal stress response, chronic exposure to alcohol also results in an increase in adrenaline. While it might feel good at the time, using alcohol to cope with stress is not a long-term solution.

If you have a health topic that interests you and you would like to see it in the next DIY Healthy Lifestyle then write to recess@recessfitness.com with your request.