“I don’t have time for this – there is so much I have to do and I can start my diet tomorrow”
I stopped counting after I hit 20kgs of being overweight and the scales kept going up. Now I am more focused on getting my body healthy, it only took a trip to the hospital, weekly Vitamin injections and an inability to get up in the morning and want to do anything – although I always did and push, push, push.
I think back to times when I was in a great place – long, lean, gorgeous and 17% body fat. Where life seemed to flow, but that was before my divorce and before my life being turned upside down Its funny, I remember how amazing I felt and how clean and light I felt within when I was long, lean and gorgeous and I’m ready to go back there.
I have always known for me weight loss isn’t just down to what I’m eating or how much I’m exercising. It has always been about my level of stress and how ‘vibrant’ my soul felt.
WHAT IS GETTING IN THE WAY OF MY SOUL BEING VIBRANT
Two hormones, cortisol and epinephrine, both of which play havoc with the way our body is responding to stress. Both these hormones, if out of balance are responsible for for why we are fat, angry and sexless. So what exactly is cortisol and epinephrine?
Cortisol: Cortisol is created by the adrenal glands in response to stress. You could almost call it your own in built alarm system. Cortisol in itself is not a problem, its the imbalance of cortisol that causes problems. The purpose of cortisol is to get your body in flight or fight response to address the current stressful need. Once the threat is resolved, cortisol levels go back to normal and the body continues to function. The only problem with the way we live, eat and all the demands we have placed on us the ‘alarm system never gets to turn off’ and this is where the issues begin.
Epinephrine: Also known as Adrenalin is released during acute stress (or perceived acute stress).
HOW DOES THIS ALL WORK?
Just say your stressed about something, it doesn’t matter what it is. It could be the morning traffic, a fight with a loved one or just not getting enough sleep. A little part in your brain called the Amygdala (two almond shaped neurons located in the mid section of the brain which is responsible for identifying fear) sends a ‘fear cry’ to the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus (known as the command center of the brain ) determines if we need to unleash our inner Lorraine Broughton and fight like a crazy woman (fight) or get the heck out of there (flight). Once activated the adrenal glands decide to come to the party and releases epinephrine (adrenaline), which then releases the hormone cortisol. This is all great until the stress is prolonged.
WHY CORTISOL MAKES YOU FAT
The role of cortisol is to promote the release of glucose (sugars) and lipids (fats) into the blood to be utilised during fight or flight. The only problem is our lifestyle is mostly ‘sit on your ass’ sedentary which means all of these sugars and fats get stored on our body.
This is why nutrition and exercise is not the only answer. If you want to maximise your efforts at the gym and in the kitchen then you need to look at reducing cortisol levels. But how do you know if your cortisol is too high?
WHAT ARE THE SIGNS YOUR CORTISOL IS TOO HIGH
According to Lisa Rankin there are some obvious signs if your cortisol levels are too high. These seven points are based on her blog around cortisol
1. Sheep aren’t working and you cant get your beauty sleep
We all know why sleep is good for you. Cortisol stimulates the body and at nighttime, your levels are supposed to drop. This allows your body to chill, recharge and rejuvenate. However, if at nigh time your cortisol levels remain too high you will likely notice that even if you’ve been exhausted all day you just cant get to sleep. It’s like you have a second wind right before your head hits the pillow, or even worse, you feel tired and wired all at the same time. This is a viscous cycle and what most people do is believe it has something to do with sleep when in actual fact the real cause is too much cortisol.
2. You wake up feeling tired
The problem with ongoing or chronic high levels of cortisol is that eventually your adrenal glands get depleted (which can lead to Chronic Fatigue). The number one sign of this is if you wake up and still feel tired. I know when I had chronic fatigue (something you never really get rid of), I would wake up after 12 hours of sleep and find it difficult to even open my eyes. The only way to resolve this was not to get more sleep, but look at balancing my nervous system and reducing stress in my life.
3. Jelly belly fat butter ball
Ever heard the term ‘Chunky Fat Aerobics Instructor’ (thanks Mr Poloquin) , this was a result of a bunch of Aerobic instructors getting chunky due to the levels of stress their body was going through due to the amount of exercise they were doing. You see, high levels of Cortisol tends to make you thick around the middle, even when you’re doing everything “right.”
4. Someone sneezes and you have the flu
Having high levels of Cortisol suppresses your natural self-repair mechanisms – aka immune system. This means you’re vulnerable to every bug going around. Reduce your stress so you can boost your metabolism
5. Junk food junkie
According to Lisa Rankin “Cortisol raises your blood sugar, putting you at risk of diabetes. High glucose levels then bump up your insulin levels, which then drop your blood sugar – and all of a sudden – yes, you guessed it – you’re struck with wild cravings for Twinkies”. No wonder you get fat…
6. Back pain, headaches and more – Oh My.
As your adrenal glands start to fatigue you level of prolactin increases. As a result your body’s sensitivity to pain increases.
7. Libido loser
High levels of Cortisol sucks!! Not only does it make you fat it also kills your sex drive. When stress hormones are maximised, libido-inducing hormones like testosterone drop and boom…. nothing!
8. Trust your gut.
According to Donna Gates, author of the Body Ecology Diet, stress before eating is one of the worst things you can do. Your gastrointestinal system is very sensitive to stress hormones like cortisol and we know it not what you eat, but what you digest that matters. If you want to reap the benefits of all that nutritious goodness you’re eating then its best to ensure you minimize stress before and during eating.
9. Jitter bug.
I remember when I was going through adrenal fatigue I couldn’t get over how jumpy I was. I remember feeling bombarded even when the smallest of things would happen. Someone would clap and my body would spring to action. High levels of Cortisol and epinephrine result in jitters, nervous stomach, feelings of panic and even even paranoia.
10. Just cant get happy.
High levels of cortisol suppress production of the feel good hormone, serotonin which makes it very hard to be happy.
HOW CAN YOU REDUCE YOUR CORTISOL LEVELS?
Reducing cortisol isn’t difficult, it just requires a little discipline and a lot of self love.
1. It’s time to chillax
There are so many ways to relax, grab a book and head to the beach for an afternoon of chilling, practice deep breathing, have a massage, go sweat it out at a hot yoga class or simply sit your butt on a cushion and meditate. Learning how to relax and doing relaxing things is one of the best ways to reduce cortisol. Melissa Ambrosini, author of Mastering Your Mean Girl has a great strategy when it comes to relaxing. She talks about having a self care menu filled with all the things, big and small, you love to do in order to relax. My self care menu includes
- Enjoy sipping a Golden Turmeric Chai
- Doing a meditation from Omvana
- Taking 10 deep breaths when waiting
- Going for a slow coastal walk
- Yoga and One Hot Yoga
- Relaxing in an Infrared Sauna
2. Have a Sleep Ritual
Timing, length and quality of sleep all influence cortisol and each of us have our own individual needs. Finding out what you need when it comes to sleep takes time and a lot of reflecting. Habits to get into to find out how to have quality sleep
- go to bed 3 hours before midnight
- wake up at the same time every morning
- reduce screen time 4 hours before bed
- finish your last meal and drink 4 hours before bed
- exercise early in the day
- hydrate throughout the day
- ensure your room is not too cold and not too hot
- have a sleep ritual e.g. defuse lavendar oil, meditate
- fall asleep thinking of all the things you are grateful for
- Avoid caffeine, alcohol and other stimulants
- Go to bed! Get your ass into bed!
3. Move – Do exercise, but only exercise you love
When you exercise, you get a slight increase in cortisol immediately after but over all it helps to drop cortisol. However, doing exercise you hate is not a smart move. One of the many things I love about the Tone it Up girls is they show variety in exercise and love of movement is key if you not only want to reduce cortisol, but have a hot, gorgeous, long, lean body.
4. Get rid of stinking thinking
Kelly Mcgonigal wrote a really interesting thesis on stress. According to her study, its not stress that causes the problem, but our thoughts and response to stress. Much of what we stress about doesn’t actually ever happen, but it does between our ears.
Mindfulness-based stress reduction is a method that involves becoming more self-aware of stinking thinking and replacing them with more loving and kind thoughts that produce feel good emotions.
Another strategy is to rep out positive affirmations much the same way you would weights in a gym. Louise Hay in her book ‘You Can Heal Your Life’ has some great affirmations / incantations you can use. One of my favorites ones is ‘I love and accept myself deeply and completing as I am’
5. Have fun
When studying at IIN, a story I remember hearing was of a organic eating Vegan who couldn’t work out why they were always sick when their pizza eating, soda guzzling bestie was always fighting fit. The answer – three little letters. F.U.N
Laughing, having fun and enjoying yourself is one of the best and fastest ways to reduce cortisol. However, when choosing what fun things to do, pick ones that you’re not going to regret after (AKA a big night out drinking copious amounts of al-ca-ma-hole)
6. Eat a healthy diet
Healthy diet… what does that mean? Vegan, Paleo….? I am a firm believer in bioindividuality and finding the right diet for you comes down to trial and error but there are a few things you can do in terms of nutrition to reduce cortisol
- eat more plants – eating a diet high in live, nutrient rich plants are great at alkalising the body and reducing cortisol
- Reduce stimulants such as caffeine, sugar and stimulants
- Avoid eating anything that is not a food – get rid of the chemical s*&t storm and eat more wholefoods
- enjoy small amounts of raw dark chocolate
- hydrate with water
7. Get your spiritual on in love
Having a spiritual practice or a purpose bigger than yourself is a great way to reduce cortisol. Not only does it put life in perspective, it also gives you something positive to focus on.
I would love to know your thoughts and if you have any tips on how to reduce cortisol levels?
Love SuKi xoxo