Cravings for sugar and junk food don’t stop. You have every intention of eating healthy, but feel absolutely helpless in front of a chocolate cookie. Could it be hormones? “It must be my hormones.”
Feeling bloated all the time and can’t seem to shake off the weight no matter how hard you work. It only reinforces what you think is happening. “My hormones must be out of wack.”
Then some driver cuts you off while you’re in a hurry to go pick up the kids and you can’t help but honk the living hell at him. So unlike you. “See. My hormones are making me crazy.”
Obviously, aging and life events like childbirth, menopause, and PMS are all occurrences where hormones naturally change. This is in alignment with our natural rhythm.
What is shifting our natural rhythm out of alignment here? Where we feel unlike ourselves?
Stress ….may lead to weight gain through stress-induced hormonal and metabolic changes as well as unhealthful eating behaviors and physical inactivity (Adam & Epel, 2007; Stults-Kolehmainen & Sinha, 2014; Torres & Nowson, 2007; Tomiyama et al., 2011).
The natural relationship between humans and stress was once harmonious. Our early ancestors sensed danger while hunting in the wild for food. Stress fires up hormones like adrenaline and Cortisol that created a surge of energy to “fight or flight.” It stimulates the sympathetic nervous system increasing heart rate and blood flow to the body’s extremities, away from the digestive tract (digestion slows or stops), so we can react quickly. These hormones are necessary for survival.
Stress as a stimulus is integral to dynamic homeostatic functioning. However, evidence of its potentially deleterious effects on health is mounting. (King SL, 2010) These same hormones fire up the same way today with “perceived” threat, fear, or stress. Like, fears we have around job security. The anxiety around feeling “bad” about “cheating” on a diet. The fear around starting your own business. The frustration of not feeling a sense of purpose?
In addition, we are inundated with information, over stimulation, and distraction. It’s easy to lose ourselves. How often do we lose track of time on Facebook? Get sucked into a television binge? Oh, and while we’re there sit on the couch with a bag of chips? We may not be happy about it but we do it anyway. This is all stimulates more stress. Chronic stress.
Where it begins to affect our hormones is the amount of Cortisol. When Coritsol is released it floods the body at one time and it remains in the body until it is depleted. The issue is that with chronic stress, Cortisol remains in the body because we keep releasing it. This puts us in a chronic flight or fight response repressing our digestion which leads to weight gain, overeating, IBS, heart burn, gas, and bloating.
Chronic stress,…, promotes the accumulation of visceral fat (belly fat). Reciprocally, obesity promotes a systemic low-grade inflammation state, mediated by increased adipokine secretion, which can chronically stimulate and disturb stress system. This vicious cycle, probably initiated by visceral adipose tissue dysfunction, might be the trigger for the development of metabolic syndrome. (Paredes, 2014)
Periods when our hormones naturally change already causes minor stress to the body. When we add chronic stress to the equation, we completely through the body off it’s natural rhythm. Our cravings become stronger, our patience gets thinner, and our energy levels are all over the place. Chronic life stress seems to be associated with a greater preference for energy- and nutrient-dense foods, namely those that are high in sugar and fat. (Torres, 2007)
The good news is that lifestyle enhancements can get your hormones back into their natural rhythm.
Here are 5 areas that could be causing chronic stress in your lifestyle and tips to get back into alignment.
- Poor Quality Food
- Chronic Stress – Lack of organic vegetables, superfoods, and balanced nutrients can leave our bodies cravings more. Most likely we have busy dynamic lives filled with travel, work, raising a family. Having access to these foods or the time to prepare meals may not always be available. Frozen meals and take out have a ton of sodium.
- Enhancement – Buy organic whenever possible. Choose foods that are in season as they contain the highest amount of nutrition. Always keep fresh chopped vegetables in the fridge ready to snack on or make a quick salad with. Add in a high density whole foods nutrition supplement like Shakeology.
- Restrictive Diets
- Chronic Stress – The body needs carbs and fats keep our hormones balances. When we restrict these foods, we are restricting our body from it’s natural rhythm. It fights back with intense cravings for these foods. These foods promote dopamine and serotonin which helps us feel good during natural hormonal imbalances. In addition, restricting calories increased the total output of cortisol, and monitoring calories increased perceived stress. (J. Tomiyamo, et al, 2014)
- Enhancement – Incorporate healthy fats and carbs into your diet. Consider more of a sustainable lifestyle food plan that allows you to enjoy the foods you love. Connect with a Coach (like myself) that can help you design the right approach to food for your life.
- Chronic Stress – We spend most of our time working. Feeling unappreciated at work? Frustrated with people at work? Not feeling fulfilled or like your work is alignment with your passion? This is all adding stress. A recent study showed that higher cortisol concentration was positively correlated with the scores of emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and job burnout. (Liu LL, 2016)
- Enhancement – Dive into some personal development. Read books or listen to podcasts. If we want to change our work environment, we need to change ourselves first. Consider also working with a Coach (such as myself, wink wink) to help you navigate alignment between your work and passion.
- Chronic Stress – Exercise puts stress on the body, but it’s good stress so long as it doesn’t remain at a high intensity for extended periods of time. I remember the days of teaching 2-4 Zumba classes a day. I wondered why I was still soft, overweight, and fatigued. I was overexercising, specifically doing too much cardio. After about 45 minutes of intense cardio (which my Zumba classes are), the body starts to increase Cortisol!
- Enhancement – Diversify your workouts to include strength training and stretching. Include an extended cool down after a high intensity workout. Many times we rush out of our cardio workouts and dive right into another task giving no time for the mind/body to return to homeostasis. Give yourself an extra 5-10 minutes AFTER class to stretch and breath deeply.
- Chronic Stress – Doing just about anything fast will spark some adrenaline and Cortisol. On top of that our thoughts tend to run a mile a minute causing even more stress dwelling about the past or worrying about the future. This buzz or speed works for an early morning workout, but stinks if you’re trying to digest a meal. A behavior like eating fast actually shuts down your digestion leaving you feel unsatisfied thereby promoting overeating.
- Enhancement – Slow down and be present. Serve yourself on a plate, sit down, and enjoy your meal. Be present with it by engaging all your senses. This stimulates the cephalic system that accounts for 30% of your digestion. When we smell and look at our food it starts to create more saliva which helps us break down our food. Chew slower and savor your meal. You’ll eat less.
Would you like support from someone who can help you navigate these common challenges? How about joining a team for a 21 Day Program to Reset and Reboot your hormones with high density nutrition, balanced workouts, daily stress management techniques, and lifestyle coaching from ME! In this group coaching format, you’ll receive the best price possible!
Program starts April 25th! Registration end April 18th! To sign up visit: http://vimify.com/ibdri