Andrew Huberman – Dr. Elissa Epel: Control Stress For Healthy Eating, Metabolism & Aging Podcast Summary

Dr. Elissa Epel: Control Stress for Healthy Eating, Metabolism & Aging | Free Podcast Summary

Andrew Huberman – Dr. Elissa Epel: Control Stress For Healthy Eating, Metabolism & Aging

Elissa Epel, Ph.D. (@TelomereEffect), professor and vice chair of the department of psychiatry at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) and the author of a new book entitled The Stress Prescription. Her research focuses on how psychosocial and behavioral factors, such as meditation and positive stress, can slow aging.

Andrew Huberman and Elissa Epel discuss how stress impacts mood, eating, mental and physical health, and aging. They also dive into stress interventions to optimize health, breathwork, positive and negative sides of stress, and much more.

All about stress

  • Stress and your perception of stress impact your brain and body
  • Managing stress is about finding the ‘stress shields’ that fit them, feel right, and they believe – for example, breathwork, reminding yourself of past successes, distance from stress, calling on confidant, etc.
  • Stress can lead to obesity and insulin resistance: there’s a tendency to a greater reward response from food – the more insulin resistant you are, the more your reward center lights up during stress
  • Cravings hijack the prefrontal cortex – body scan draws attention inward toward interoception and away from external stimulus
  • At our core, we want to know with certainty what’s going to happen and control our future – being comfortable with uncertainty is a huge stress resilience factor

Being aware of stress

  • Stress can be beneficial and problematic depending on the type, context, etc.
  • Stress is broadly defined as anytime the demands are too much for our resources
  • We will never get rid of stress but we can control how we respond

We need awareness of how our mind works – the majority of people feel overwhelmed by stress

  • Young adults feel stress more than people 65+
  • Recognize how you hold stress in your body – for example, do you clench your fists? Tense your shoulders?

Our thoughts are the most common forms of stress.

The mind doesn’t change the body, the body changes the mind.

Different forms of stress

  • Our body is vigilant in scanning for stress cues – the stress response is exhausting to the body because we have to mount a big response but we aren’t good at turning it off without intervention
  • Acute stress response: every cell and hormone is undergoing a stress response to allow us to increase capacity and focus
  • Moderately stressful events take days or months – here it’s important to notice whether you are coping acutely with something or whether you can take time to restore
  • Chronic stressful situations go on for years and maybe can’t be changed, such as caregiving – here we want to use radical acceptance strategies to live well again without toll on the body
  • Tip: at any moment we can take control of our breathing.

Ageing and the shifting mentality towards stress

  • Toxic, chronically, unmitigated stress will accelerate aging – but – a life with no stress will also induce rapid aging and reduced cognitive health (because of lack of stimulation)
  • Having no stress means we’re not really engaging in life
  • Physical stressors (like exercise) promote aerobic fitness and stress fitness; people who exercise feel less rumination, less depression, less anxiety
  • Psychological stressors can also build stress resilience – you can tilt your body towards a “challenge-response” where you are in an excited but calmer state as opposed to a “threat response”
  • Trauma sensitizes emotional stress response
  • Remind yourself that stress response is empowering, the body is doing just what it should

We override effects of any drug with our diet.

Stress and pregnancy

  • When you start pregnancy with excess weight, you’re particularly vulnerable to gaining much more
  • Stress reduction training during pregnancy helped women improve insulin sensitivity during pregnancy and for years following
  • As a result, babies came out with less obesity, less illness in the first year, and improved stress response over the first year
  • Elements of mindfulness intervention: close eyes, feel body and label emotion, breathe, move the body, put hands on the belly to feel breathing
  • A body scan removed the stress, anxiety, and food cravings
  • Cravings hijack the prefrontal cortex – body scan draws attention inward toward interoception and away from external stimulus

Radical acceptance strategies for mitigating non-negotiable stressors:

  • Mindset – ask yourself how much time you spend wishing things were different and recognize it won’t go away, releasing the space it’s taking
  • Measure where your mind is at night – ask yourself, (1) how many times you’ve wished things were different in the last five minutes; (2) how much have you been engaged and focused in what you’re doing?
  • Wishing things were different shortens telomeres
  • Tell yourself to drop the rope: instead of tugging on a rope attached to a brick wall you want to move and chafing your hands, just drop the rope and accept the wall won’t move
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