If you haven't read my article on "The Toxic Age And How Your Doctor Is Making You Sicker" then I stongly recommend you do so first before reading this
Weight loss and regaining health isn't rocket science is it?
You just eat less, exercise more and the rest will take care of itself right? It's frustrating when people can't seem to grasp this concept isn't it, especially when the equation is pretty straight forward:
Get exercising and stop eating crap = better health and weight loss
Most personal trainers and boot camp coaches will usually put this lack of results down to a "lack of will power" for the reason why their clients aren't getting into great shape labelling them with "the wrong mind-set”, and Id agree with this up to a point.
However there is something that's often HUGELY overlooked when it comes to weight loss yet is vital to restoring health and wearing the body of your dreams.
Let me put this another way,
You've started exercising and eating healthy, you've started to make better food choices and your results have been AMAZING in the first couple of months.
You can fit back into those jeans, your energy levels have increased and you’re the fittest that you have been since you can remember but lately the results have started to plateau somewhat and your still struggling with some stubborn body fat that won't seem to shift no matter what you try.
It's frustrating isn't it?
You've lost the initial weight and all you want to do is just target that stubborn belly fat so you do more crunches but still no joy.
You just want to lose abet more around your legs and bum so you tidy up your diet and do more butt exercises in the gym but still no results.
You also notice that you’re not losing any fat from the back of your arm so you start doing tricep kickbacks in the gym but nothing again. Your arms still look the same.
This is so frustrating isn't it, especially when you work hard and you eat well, and I guess you just put this down to genetics right?. "My mum had a fat bum so unfortunately i will get one as well," is a comment that I hear on a regular basis.
Well, unfortunately all these stubborn body fat areas have absolutely NOTHING to do with a lack of exercise or poor nutrition but more to do with what's going on with your
Your stubborn body fat is not because you have poor will power but more because of your hormonal imbalances in your body and will continue to be there until you address what's going on.
So how do we do this?
The first thing you'll need to address is how much STRESS is in your life right now.
Whether it be physical stress, emotional stress, environmental stress, mental stress or nutritional stress, the body will deal with it in EXACTLY the same way.
physical stress is the WRONG type of exercise for you.
You maybe training too much without structuring in any regeneration workouts or rest weeks. Endurance athletes like runners or triathletes tend to suffer from this. Gym members who do classes on a day to day basis, sometimes back to back, will also be prime candidates for having too much physical stress in their life.
People that think that "exercise is their stress outlet" are also high candidates here as well.
Emotional stress could be unresolved issues in a person’s life. Maybe it's being in the wrong relationship for whatever reason or perhaps it’s dealing with a loved one that's passed away recently. All of this contributes to emotional stress. Some people don't even know they are suffering from emotional stress
Weird right? You wouldn't think that the environment around you would contribute to your stress level but it does. If you live in a town then the air that you breathe will be more polluted than in the countryside. Certain jobs that require you to deal with chemicals would also fit here. Even plastics used in furniture can give off gases that will contribute to our stress levels. Have a look around you now. Your table, your sofa, your carpet, even your computer are all giving off gases that you'll be inhaling on a daily basis.
Artificial light can elevate stress levels as well, so if you’re spending a lot of time watching TV in the evening or working on the lap top late at night then your body still thinks it’s day light and will want to keep you awake.
This is probably the most common form that everyone associates stress with.
Mental stress could be relationship issues. Being in the wrong relationship, maybe you’re sad because you don't feel like your kids are listening to you, your friends are just energy sucking vampires that actually just piss you off rather than understand you. Maybe people are asking too much of you and you're spreading yourself too thin.
It could be financial worries or simply just being in a job that you hate doing. Maybe you just feel like you’re working ALL the time and not having any fun in your life.
All of this would contribute to mental stress.
Consuming a diet that's highly toxic in nature and allergenic to the body will contribute to your stress levels. Any chemicals or toxins coming into your system along with wheat, gluten, sugar, some dairy and alcohol that will stress the liver out will also trigger a huge stress response in your body.
Medicine from your doctor, despite good intent and temporarily getting rid of pain and symptoms is STILL toxic to the liver and stressful to your system.
If you're in the wrong posture, have pain or injury anywhere in the body then this will trigger a stress response. Sitting for long periods of time during the day and not addressing a nagging injury will also stress the system out.
The problem with our body is that it sees ALL of the above as just one thing.
Yep, you guessed it!
It doesn't know the difference between financial worries and a crappy diet.
It won’t see exercise and relationship problems as different.
It will see mental and physical stress as the same and will deal with it in exactly the same way...
By releasing the stress hormone cortisol.
Every time we get stressed, the stress hormone cortisol is released because it thinks our body is in danger.
But cortisol isn't bad though!
Cortisol is an amazing hormone that's designed to help us out when were in trouble.
Millions of years ago when we were cave men and woman, our bodies were designed to cope with danger. If a sabre tooth tiger was chasing us or if we were fighting with another "early man spear thrower" then we needed to react quickly to these situations. When the brain thinks you're under danger it triggers your adrenal glands (which sit on top of your kidneys) to release adrenaline and cortisol.
So due to modern day stress, your body ALWAYS thinks it’s under attack so it will ALWAYS be releasing adrenaline and cortisol to help cope with the perceived danger.
Adrenaline helps with mental alertness and cortisol's job is to increase levels of fat and sugar in the bloodstream to help with physical exertion. However, unless you're doing something physical then all that extra sugar and fat that’s been released into your blood stream has nowhere to go and has no option other than to be stored as fat.
After a stressful event, your adrenaline will come down very quickly although your cortisol will remain high for quite some time after the event, usually up to 2-3 days. This is because your body thinks you should be refuelling after your fighting or fleeing so your appetite will typically increase.
This is fine if you've been running for your life or scrapping with fellow spear throwers, your body will clearly need to refuel after this but if you're sat at a desk making stressful phone calls all day then continuous refuelling is hardly appropriate or deserved is it!
So because your body "thinks" that you need to refuel after your stressful event then you will typically crave more carbohydrates and fats which will of course lead to increased body fat levels, particularly around the belly ad waist.
But here's the thing though:
Here's what happens to ALL your hormones when just your cortisol goes up:
If your stress hormone cortisol goes up, then growth hormone and testosterone goes down. If growth hormone and testosterone go down then estrogen goes up. If estrogen goes up then thyroid goes down.
If you change one hormone then your ENTIRE hormonal cascade changes:
Let me put it another way for you,
If cortisol is up then you will always be holding onto fat, particularly fat around the middle because it’s closer to the liver where it can quickly and more easily be converted back into energy if needed.
If growth hormone and testosterone is low then you will find it hard to put on lean muscle tissue. Muscle tissue is the only tissue in the body that burns fat so you definitely need it, woman even more so!
If estrogen is high then this can cause you to store more fat in the leg, bum and arm area.
And if thyroid levels are low then this will affect your thermogenesis (heat) in the body which means you won't burn so many calories throughout the day.
So can you see that IF your stress hormone cortisol is constantly being driven up then this will have a knock on affect with all the other hormones and doing MORE exercise won't make a blind bit of difference and in most cases is the last thing a person needs?
Warning signs of too much stress in your life.
Extreme sweet cravings
Tired but wired!
Low immune system
Low blood pressure
...are just a few health disorders that will occur if you leave stress unchecked.
Here's a better way of understanding stress a bit better:
Imagine you have a stress bucket.
In that bucket you have all your different types of stress going in there.
You may have more of one stressor over the other but it doesn't matter, it all amalgamates as the same.
Most people's stress buckets are full up to the brim these days. The average person is stressed out at work, has financial problems, eating a toxic diet, is dehydrated and has really poor sleep and doing the wrong exercise. The bucket is already full up but the tap is still left on.
The stress keeps coming in and when that bucket starts to over flow then that first drip is what we call "breakdown" and this is when problems start occurring.
The body starts breaking down.
How does it do this?
When I say breakdown I mean our health is compromised.
Whether it be digestive health, immune system health, liver health or cardiovascular health, problems will start to occur.
What can we take out of the stress bucket?
Ok, now that we understand a little bit more about stress and how it can dramatically t affect weight management and overall health let’s talk about how we can go about emptying that bucket:
By taking action with just one of the points below will seriously see your stress levels drop massively but by applying all 7 points together will see unbelievable results:
Breathing helps to oxygenise the blood which in turn will help calm cortisol down. Practise breathing techniques. If you can get to a yoga or tai chi class then great but if you can't then it’s still ok, just start off with 10 deep diaphragmatic breaths twice a day and then build up.
You'll be amazed at what affect breathing has on alleviating stress!
2) Get a better job
Most people that I talk to HATE their job and can't wait for the weekend to start.
If you hate your job and its sucking the life force out of you then forgive me for asking but why are you still doing it?
Remember, we need to try and empty that bucket as much as we can.
Now I'm not saying for one minute that we should all just give up our jobs for the sake of lowering cortisol, I'm just merely pointing out that you need to find a job that you ENJOY doing and stop making out that you "you have no control over your job, I HAVE to work!"
You have COMPLETE control over this part of your life. Don't make excuses for your stressful job and find a job that you’re passionate about.
3) Remove toxins
Toxins from our food and food that is allergenic will stress the liver out which mean it won't work as it should. All of this will cause cortisol to elevate which in turn will make it hard to body fat.
Remove wheat, dairy, gluten, sugar and processed food for the next week and let your liver get back to working as it should. Focus on lean proteins like turkey, chicken, beef and seafood and plenty of crucifers us vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, murky kale, watercress etc. and you will feel a thousand times better and will look better than ever before!
If you'd like to know more about the harmful impact that toxins have on liver health then go here.
4) Stay hydrated
How freely your hormones move around your blood is related to the viscous of your blood. The more dehydrated you are the thicker your blood will be which means your hormones will find it harder to move around.
If hormones are finding it hard to move around, then it's likely that the nutrients from your food won't be extracted properly.
Drinking plenty of water will keep things moving along nicely.
Shoot for a litre of water per pound of bodyweight and put a pinch of sea salt in your water to help your body retain it.
5) Off the laptop by 7pm.
Remember we need to calm cortisol down in the hours before bed. When your body sees light, it wants to keep you up so it will secrete some more cortisol for you.
Avoid artificial light 3 hours before bed. Stay off the lap top, avoid watching late night TV and dim your lights. Have an evening ritual. You do this for your kids so why do adults have to be any different.
Read a book before bed and be in bed before 1030.
Try it for a couple of nights to start off with and I guarantee you your sleep will be a thousand times better.
6)Stop beasting yourself in the gym
Keep your workouts really short but work hard!!! Have regular recovery weeks where you stop exercising completely to give the body a rest. Your body does most of its repair work when you’re at rest so aim to have a rest from training every 4-6 weeks.
7)Apply the 12 week rule
Not having a break from the norm is a one way ticket to becoming stressed. Aim to have a break or a holiday every 12 weeks so that you have something to look forward to.
Ok, and that's it!
I hope you found this article helpful and has given you a bit more of an insight into hormones.
Peace out and remember:
CHILL OUT!!! ;-)
Turn that tap off and Start emptying that stress bucket!