The fight or flight mode has a huge impact on hormones. You produce more cortisol, which is the body’s main stress hormone. This creates an adrenaline high, which many people thrive on, but then leads to a crash. You feel fatigued and tired, no matter how much sleep you get. Your body may feel puffy and inflamed, your clothes fit tighter, and you gain stubborn weight around your stomach. Often people end up craving sugar, carbs or salt.

Breath is the most powerful mindfulness tool we have. With deep breathing, try to identify any negative emotion that you are feeling, and then identify the positive opposite you want. For example, if you are feeling fear, pick trust or peace. Then, on the inhale, breathe in the positive emotion and breathe out the negative one.

As a part of my series about “How to Slow Down To Do More” I had the pleasure to interview Amber Romaniuk, CEO of Amber Approved. Amber is an Emotional Eating, Digestive and Hormone Expert who helps professional women achieve optimal health through mindful eating, self-care and overcoming self-sabotage with food. Her podcast “The No Sugarcoating Podcast” has over 275,000 downloads and she has appeared on local TV 40 times in the last three years alone.

Amber overcame her own emotional eating after gaining and losing more than 1,000 lbs, spending over $50,000 on binge foods and taking five years to balance her hormones and digestion. Now she helps others achieve Body Freedom™ so they have the confidence and health to create amazing lives.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to this specific career path?

Thanks for having me! Yes, I struggled with stress, poor body image and food addiction for a good chunk of my teenage years and early twenties. Whenever I got triggered, I’d numb myself and check out of my reality with food. I’d binge on bread, ice cream, chocolate bars, chips, cookies and anything sweet. This didn’t solve my stress and would often pile on more. I felt awful.

My low point came when I found myself digging through the kitchen garbage to binge and eat leftover food. I collapsed to the floor crying. This food addiction had taken over my life. I was alone, in pain and isolated. I was hating my body and shaming myself for allowing this to happen.

That kitchen floor was a defining moment. It inspired me to figure out how to gain freedom over my self-sabotaging behavior. I began realizing that I ate to cope with life and stress. If my schedule was overbooked and I took on too many things, I would get overwhelmed and binge. I had to teach myself how to slow down and feel my emotions without needing to check out. And this meant redefining my go-go nature and creating space in my weekly schedule for me. 

It took me 5 years to balance my hormones and digestion. Today I now guide other women to overcome emotional eating and gain their own Body Freedom and optimal health. It’s rewarding and life-changing.

According to a 2006 Pew Research Report report, 26% of women and 21% of men feel that they are “always rushed”. Has it always been this way? Can you give a few reasons regarding what you think causes this prevalent feeling of being rushed?

I think it’s become a society norm for people to rush around. Technology seems to have sped up the pace and create more distractions. You talk to someone and ask, “How are you?” They respond, “Busy, you?”

Many people define themselves by how busy they are. Yet, what’s below the busy-ness is often insecurity. The need to people-please and be ‘perfect’ is so common and creates a lot of self-sabotage. This mentality stems from wanting to receive validation from others. We are looking outside ourselves to mask underlying feelings of insecurity and low self-worth. To avoid being judged, people continue to add more to their calendar and say yes when they really want to say no.

I also notice people-pleasers struggle to ask for help. They play multiple roles (e.g. mother, wife, professional, friend, etc.) with little time for their own health and passions. Add low energy, brain fog, poor nourishment and disorganization, and a person can feel like they are always behind — hence having to rush.

Based on your experience or research can you explain why being rushed can harm our productivity, health, and happiness?

Being rushed negatively impacts stress levels. The more stressed you are, the more your body lives in fight or flight mode. This revs up your nervous system and suppresses your immune system. So you may catch colds and flus more often and have trouble getting rid of them.

Also, the fight or flight mode has a huge impact on hormones. You produce more cortisol, which is the body’s main stress hormone. This creates an adrenaline high, which many people thrive on, but then leads to a crash. You feel fatigued and tired, no matter how much sleep you get. Your body may feel puffy and inflamed, your clothes fit tighter, and you gain stubborn weight around your stomach. Often people end up craving sugar, carbs or salt. 

Higher stress and cortisol can also make people feel off. They are more easily irritable, angry, sad or frustrated, which can lead to feeling more insecure with their weight and body image. This has them dieting and restricting themselves, but then losing control with binging and emotional eating. It’s a vicious circle that touches EVERY area of life. 

I’ve seen people’s health, business and personal life be highly impacted by rushing and not taking the time to honor health and stressors. It can cost people tens of thousands of dollars to try to fix their health. It can cost business opportunities, abundance, and relationships. It even determines whether a person goes on a trip for fear of having to expose their body on a beach. It’s sad to watch how people limit their lives when they are in this kind of vicious cycle. I know; I’ve been there. This goes very deep.

On the flip side, can you give examples of how we can do more, and how our lives would improve if we could slow down?

At first, slowing down may feel unproductive… even lazy or wrong. But as we unwind patterns of busy-ness, we realize how delicious it is. 

First, I always encourage people to look at their schedule. Do you see any white space? Or is it crammed with zero time for yourself so that you want to cry and eat a pint of ice cream? (This is seriously how some people feel.)

Next, be a self-care warrior. Start blocking off time for yourself. Say no to things, people and opportunities that feel like no’s, so you can give more time to your yes’s. This is about claiming your best life, and it’s time we did that. The more you gift yourself nourishment, sleep, hydration and self-care, the less likely you will end up in self-sabotaging behaviors like emotional eating, shopping or drinking. Your mood improves, you have more energy, your mind is clearer, and your hormones stabilize. These all help you to feel grounded, at peace and focused.

From this state, I believe we can create what we desire. For example, my business has soared the more self-care I’ve done. The fascinating thing is that slowing down is essential for natural weight-loss. Most people are doing the opposite — more diets, more cardio, more to-do’s. Your body won’t shed pounds if it’s under stress. We must realize that this go-go pace is actually fighting the body’s natural ability to function, release weight and be happy.

We all live in a world with many deadlines and incessant demands for our time and attention. That inevitably makes us feel rushed. Can you share with our readers 6 strategies that you use to “slow down to do more”? Can you please give a story or example for each?

Absolutely. Here are 6 simple, yet powerful strategies to support the body’s optimal functioning.

  1. Drink enough water. Did you know that your body is made up of 60% water and that when you feel hungry, you may actually be dehydrated? Hydration supports energy levels, mental clarity and mood. You can drink water plain or infuse it with lemon, cucumber, mint or berries.
  2. Take your lunch break and eat mindfully. Many people eat on the go or in front of technology. I suggest you take an official lunch break and focus specifically on eating your food, chewing properly and putting your fork down between each bite.
  3. Schedule small self-care check-ins. Throughout the day, pause and ask yourself, “What do I need?” You may need a snack or to refill your water bottle. You may also discover a negative emotion putting a damper on your day. Being able to identify overwhelm, worry, frustration or anger helps you take action to feel it and shift to a more grounded place. As you do, you may notice you can let go of resistance to finishing a project, having a difficult conversation with a co-worker or applying for that promotion or speaking gig you’ve always wanted.
  4. Prioritize sleep. The majority of adults are sleep-deprived. Yet our bodies need a proper 8 hours of sleep to support hormone rest and repair, optimal energy levels, mental clarity, blood sugars, appetite levels and more. Did you know that appetite levels often increase when you are tired? With proper rest, you can avoid poor “I don’t care because I’m too tired” choices surrounding food, your family, work or how you react to life.
  5. Schedule morning or evening self-care. Start and end your day focused on YOU. Declare to yourself: “I am a valuable priority in my life.” As you take time to de-stress, go inside and check-in on your emotions, you build body awareness. Once you are aware of how you “feel” physically and emotionally, you can give yourself anything you need. By feeling instead of suppressing with food, television or other sabotaging behaviors, you can choose other healthier means like meditation, gentle movement or talking to a friend.
  6. Address self-sabotaging behaviors like emotional eating. So much energy and focus can go into obsessing over food, weight, calories and how poorly you feel after emotional eating. Think of what is possible with all that mental clutter freed up to be more present in all areas of your life. When my clients overcome emotional eating, they often feel re-born with so much energy to focus on enjoying life. This creates new abundance, healthy loving relationships and a feeling of being unstoppable.

How do you define “mindfulness”? Can you give an example or story?

Mindfulness is about slowing down so that you can become aware of the thoughts, emotions and physical cues your body gives you. Mindfulness allows you to have a deeper experience of every moment.

Let’s take eating. When you sit down, shut of technology and become present with your food, you enjoy it more. You invite in calmness, and your body shifts into rest and digest mode. As you allow yourself to enjoy the smell, texture, color and flavor of your food, your senses come alive. You become grateful for this nourishment. With each bite, you begin to feel more energized and satiated. You prevent bloating, pain and digestive discomforts and absorb your nutrients more efficiently. You then feel more connected to your body and appreciate this distraction-free luxury. You feel more valued by yourself, and because of that, you notice you are happier and lighter.
One change — mindful eating — can profoundly impact so many things. 

Can you give examples of how people can integrate mindfulness into their everyday lives?

Yes, these are three simple mindfulness practices my clients love.

Be aware of your body. Your body is constantly speaking to you. Tune in. Are you letting yourself get too hungry? Does that headache mean you are dehydrated? Are you understanding your hunger cues? For example, one of my clients kept telling me she was always hungry. As she tuned in, she realized she was actually emotionally starved.

Pick a positive keyword for your day — peace, love, fun, confidence, etc. Write it on a sticky note and place it on your mirror, computer or the steering wheel of your car. Throughout your day, connect to the feeling of bringing more of this word into your world.

Set boundaries with technology. We don’t always need to be ‘on’. Gift yourself technology-free time for the first 15–30 minutes upon waking and 15–30 minutes prior to bedtime to help calm your mind and nervous system. Many of my clients find that shutting off technology to unwind before bed helps them fall asleep and stay asleep more regularly.

Do you have any mindfulness tools that you find most helpful at work?

Breath is the most powerful mindfulness tool we have. With deep breathing, I love to identify any negative emotion that I am feeling, and then identify the positive opposite I want. For example, if I’m feeling fear, I pick trust or peace. Then, on my inhale, I breathe in the positive emotion and breathe out the negative. It’s extremely energizing and calming. Other mindfulness tools are Emotional Freedom Technique Tapping, journaling, calming music or connecting with things that make you simply laugh.

What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to use mindfulness tools or practices?

I have many favorites. Louise L. Hay, in her book “You Can Heal Your Life” talks about how your cells and body respond to your thoughts. Bob Proctor, Wayne Dyer and Eckhart Tolle are some of my favorite mindfulness and mindset influencers. They talk about the ego, which is the self-sabotaging mindset. As we build awareness, we can shift out of ego-based thinking more quickly and back into our power. I also love Oprah’s Super Soul Podcast and the meditations with Oprah and Deepak Chopra. They help you to connect with your intuition, to the universe and to a bigger picture of life.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.”

I kept focusing on dieting and being the perfect weight to get validation from others. I also suppressed and numbed my emotions with food. The same results kept happening — more diets, more failing, more binging and more ups and downs with my weight. That is how I gained and lost over 1000 lbs. When I chose to take a different approach to overcome the vicious cycle, the insanity stopped and the freedom began. This changed every area of my life, created my business success, attracted a loving relationship and helped me truly love myself.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I want to inspire a movement that empowers people to ditch the diets and quick fix mentalities and take the time to overcome self-sabotaging behaviors like emotional eating and negative self-talk. I want to inspire people to do the deeper work so they can experience a life full of freedom and feeling completely worthy of success and love.

What if slowing down and listening to your body allowed you to take back your power and build the most loving relationship with yourself? What would be possible for you then?

Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!

About the Author:

After 15 years working in Commercial Real Estate in New York City, Ashley Graber changed the coast she lived on and the direction of her life from Real Estate to the worlds of Psychology and Meditation & Mindfulness. Ashley came to these practices after getting sober and in the decade plus since, she now runs a busy mindfulness based psychotherapy practice in Santa Monica, CA where she see adults and young children. Ashley unique combination of psychotherapy, trauma reprocessing and meditation and mindfulness practices makes her a sought after educator and speaker. She educates teachers and administrators in schools and presents in businesses on the benefits of meditation and mindfulness practices

Ashley is also an Owner and Director of Curriculum for the next generation meditation app & mindfulness company ‘Evenflow’ and launched the company’s one to one online mindfulness mentoring program.

Ashley was trained in Meditation and Mindfulness practices by prominent teachers; Elisha Goldstein, Richard Burr and Guiding teacher at Against the Stream Boston, Chris Crotty. Her Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) certification was done through The Center for Mindfulness at UC San Diego. Additionally, Ashley is trained by Mindful Schools to teach Meditation and Mindfulness practices to children and families. Ashley’s passion for the benefits of mindfulness practices as well as her enthusiasm for helping young kids and adults is the drive to teach these very necessary, life long skills and why she wrote and runs the Mindfulness for Families program at The Center for Mindful Living. This is where she teaches groups of families with children ages 6–12.

Ashley was featured on Good Morning LaLa Land, presented on Resilience at the renowned Wisdom. 2.0 Mindfulness & Technology conference, and presented at the TED Woman conference offering an in-depth look at the profound psychological and physiological consequences of chronic stress, and how meditation and mindfulness practices can alleviate these effects. Ashley is also a syndicated columnist for Thrive Global and Medium Magazines.

If you’d like to book Ashley for an inspiring speaking engagement, please click here.