STRESS – WEIGHT GAIN & MORE

Stress often contributes to weight gain through emotional eating and the production of hormones associated with weight gain. Excessive weight is associated with many unwelcome and avoidable health issues.

STRESS AS A NATURAL OCCURRENCE

Our bodies are designed to handle variations from diet, exercise, stress and weight.  It regularly produces various hormones for a period of time to take care of these situations.  All this is a normal cycle for the body.

STRESS & HORMONES

The challenge is when that stressor continues for a prolonged period of time.  This causes the body to overproduce hormones thus stressing the entire system; breaking down cells, tissues, and organs.

When our body undergoes a stress, the adrenal glands produce adrenaline aka epinephrine.  This hormone stimulates the heart muscle, alters the rate of blood flow, and raises basal metabolic rate.  This is known as the fight or flight syndrome.  Epinephrine also prompts the secretion of glucagon by the pancreas, causing the release of nutrients from storage.  The steroid hormone cortisol is also produced.  It enhances protein degradation, which raises amino acid levels in the blood so that they become available for conversion of glucose.  The two other hormones induced by stress, aldosterone and antidiuretic hormone both help to maintain blood volume.[1]

Epinephrine does not stick around very long in the body however, when stress is prolonged, cortisol does.  This hormone will affect the body in detrimental many ways.  [2]Excess cortisol will:

  • Decrease metabolism by inhibiting thyroid function
  • Depletes protein in the muscles, bones, connective tissue and skin which can cause fatigue, weakness, thinning of the bones, and bruising
  • Decreases the production of androgens and growth hormones which build muscles
  • Can cause insulin resistance[3]
  • Increase fat accumulation, especially in the belly
  • Increase appetite and carbohydrate cravings
  • Will cause depression, anxiety, and mood swings
  • Is cortisol related to abdominal obesity?
    “Yes. There is a link between high cortisol levels and storage of body fat, particularly “visceral” abdominal body fat (also known as intra-abdominal fat). Visceral fat is stored deeper in the abdominal cavity and around the internal organs, whereas “regular” fat is stored below the skin (known as subcutaneous fat). Visceral fat is particularly unhealthy because it is a risk factor for heart disease and diabetes.”[4]

The challenge with cortisol and weight is this.  First, when you are stressed you produce more cortisol which will lead to weight gain.  When you are overweight the adrenal glands produce more cortisol so it is a viscous cycle.

ADDITIONAL AFFECTS FROM STRESS

Free radical production

THE NEGATIVE ROLE OF CERTAIN FOODS & DRINKS

Food can play an important role in both exacerbating the problem and relieving the problem.

The following list will cause the adrenal glands to produce adrenaline and cortisol.  Over the long term this will eventually exhaust the adrenals:

  • Caffeine, especially beyond one or two cups a day on a regular basis will actually act like long term stress in the body
  • Chocolate in excess as it will act as a stimulant
  • Soda will affect blood sugar levels as well increase production of stress hormones
  • Heavy alcohol consumption will cause the adrenals to overreact
  • Refined foods and sugar will affect insulin production and consequently blood sugar spikes and falls
  • Refined foods will deplete the body of essential vitamins and minerals thus stressing the entire system
  • Refined salt is chemically cleaned and devoid of all minerals and will increase blood pressure
  • Can create a more acid pH in the body, which allows for disease to develop

THE ROLE OF HEALTHY FOODS

The following is a list of vitamins and minerals that will support the body during stressful times and therefore should be included in your daily meals:

  • B Complex is necessary for the production of all neurotransmitters including Seratonin, which is a calming neurotransmitter, and it is vital for the functioning of the adrenal glands. Foods high in the B vitamins include:  dark leafy green vegetables, wheat germ, brewer’s yeast, most grains
  • Vitamin C is depleted with prolonged bouts of stress and is also required for normal functioning of the adrenal glands. Sources include:  fruits especially citrus and berries, tomatoes and green vegetables
  • Vitamin A is an antioxidant thus maintaining the health of the cells. Foods rich in A include:  milk, eggs, butter, and fruit
  • Vitamin E is also an antioxidant. Foods rich in E include:  nuts, germ oils and green leafy vegetables
  • Minerals, especially magnesium which relaxes muscles. Sources of magnesium include:  leafy green vegetables, beans and legumes, vegetables, seaweed, nuts (almonds, cashews and filberts especially) and seeds (especially sesame)
  • Omega 3 fatty acids have a positive effect on moods. Sources include:  salmon, tuna, sardines, flax seed oil, pumpkin oil, dark green vegetables
  • Night shade vegetables as they have an expansive effect and therefore might be beneficial for someone tense from work, stress or activity which takes great concentration.[5] Nightshade include;  all peppers, tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant

WHAT YOUR DIET SHOULD INCLUDE

  1. Salmon
  2. Eggs
  3. Lots of leafy and dark green vegetables
  4. Night shade vegetables, if you can handle them
  5. Almonds, cashews, filberts and sesame seeds
  6. Beans and legumes
  7. Citrus fruits and berries

OTHER THINGS TO LOOK AT TO REDUCE THE AFFECTS OF STRESS

EXERCISE

  • Moderate levels are best with a duration lasting less than one hour
  • Critical to maintain optimal cortisol levels and hormone balance
  • Helps handle stress by improving cardiovascular and musculoskeletal systems
  • Improves insulin resistance (studies have shown that as little as 3 weeks of regular exercise can lessen insulin resistance[6])

LAUGHTER

  • Using a similar protocol, the current research found that the same anticipation of laughter also reduced the levels of three stress hormones. Cortisol (termed “the stress hormone”), epinephrine (also known as adrenaline) and dopac, a dopamine catabolite (brain chemical which helps produce epinephrine), were reduced 39, 70 and 38 percent, respectively (statistically significant compared to the control group).  Chronically released high stress hormone levels can weaken the immune system. [7]

MEDITATION

  • The study, done in China, randomly assigned college undergraduate students to 40-person experimental or control groups. The experimental group received five days of meditation training using a technique called the integrative body-mind training (IBMT). The control group got five days of relaxation training. Before and after training both groups took tests involving attention and reaction to mental stress.
  • The experimental group showed greater improvement than the control in an attention test designed to measure the subjects’ abilities to resolve conflict among stimuli. Stress was induced by mental arithmetic. Both groups initially showed elevated release of the stress hormone cortisol following the math task, but after training the experimental group showed less cortisol release, indicating a greater improvement stress regulation. The experimental group also showed lower levels of anxiety, depression, anger and fatigue than was the case in the control group.
  • “This study improves the prospect for examining brain mechanisms involved in the changes in attention and self-regulation that occur following meditation training,” said co-author Michael I. Posner, professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Oregon. “The study took only five days, so it was possible to randomly assign the subjects and do a thorough before-and-after analysis of the training effects.”[8]

YOGA[9]

  • Asana are the physical postures that help with muscle relaxation
  • Savasana is usually at the end of a class and it is a pose for complete relaxation
  • Pranayama breathing practice

BREATHING

  • Pranayama / Yogic techniques[10]
  • Paradoxical

IN CONCLUSION

Stress is naturally occurring in our daily lives and has positive benefits.  Long term stress however can play havoc on our system resulting in poor health and unnecessary diseases.  We all need to take a closer look at how to reduce or eliminate chronic stressors in order to have a longer healthier life.

I hope this information has given you some thoughts about changes you can make to reduce chronic stress!

 

In health,

Julie

[1] Understanding Normal and Clinical Nutrition, 7th Edition

[2] Hormone Balance, Scott Isaacs

[3] A reduced sensitivity to insulin in muscle, adipose, and liver cells, Understanding Normal and Clinical Nutrition, 7th Edition

[4] Tom Venuto is a certified personal trainer, natural bodybuilder and author of the #1 best selling diet e-book, “Burn the Fat, Feed The Muscle

[5] Healing with Whole Foods by Paul Pitchford

[6] Per Hormone Balance, by Scott Isaacs

[7] The research is entitled Cortisol and Catecholamine Stress Hormone Decrease Is Associated with the Behavior of Perceptual Anticipation of Mirthful Laughter. It was conducted by Lee Berk with Stanley A. Tan, both of the Oak Crest Health Research Institute, Loma Linda, CA; and Dottie Berk, Loma Linda University Health Care, Loma Linda.

[8] http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/10/071008193437.htm

[9] Yoga can reduce cortisol levels, a finding which was documented in the October 2004 issue of the journal, Annals of Behavioral Science.

[10] http://www.kundaliniyoga.org/pranayam.html

Cooking as Meditation

How many of you cook on a regular basis anymore?  Do you find it easier to grab a meal on the run?  How do you feel after eating this way?  Are you satisfied?  Do you feel good?

As a society we have lost the desire and art of cooking.  Somehow our world has become one where fast food and fast eating is the norm.  There is a misconception that it is cheaper to eat fast food than preparing a meal at home and that it is equally healthy.  Both of these are inaccurate.

For me cooking is relaxing; a sort of meditation if you will.  At the end of a busy day I get home and look forward to spending time in the kitchen slicing vegetables, creating delicious sauces, grilling or baking.  It provides a great sense of accomplishment and keeps me in the moment while I am preparing.  Plus I know exactly everything that goes into what I am eating.  In fact most (if not all) of the ingredients don’t have labels.  They come exactly as they are grown.  The result is delicious, satisfying food both in my body and for my soul.  The additional reward is sitting down with family or friends to relax and enjoy this meal.  The conversation that goes along with relaxing at home rather than being rushed to eat out is an even greater reward.

Think about it.  It is great way to enjoy family time.   Pull out all the ingredients and give everyone a part in creating the dinner.  Talk about your day together.  Chopping, stirring, and creating.   Talking will come more naturally when you are moving than sitting on the couch staring at each other.  Make it a time for even exchange of conversation between all of you.  Laugh, be silly and be creative.  After the meal is made sit down and enjoy the fruits of your labor together.

The need for this type of eating and connecting is that much more important in our fast paced life than ever.  In America our population as a whole is 65% obese or overweight and much of this comes from what we eat, how it is made, where we eat it and how unconscious we are when we eat it.

The recognition of this has gone beyond the health conscious population in our country.  Even our doctors know very little about nutrition and how to prepare healthy meals, yet these are some of the people we rely upon to give us advice.  This is changing as is indicated by The Tulane University of Medicine, one of 16 medical schools with a licensed chef as one of their instructors.  In an effort to educate future doctors, medical schools are adopting a designated program to teach not only nutrition but how to cook.

Here are a couple of great excerpts from an article on Tulane University of Medicine:

Dr. Timothy Harlan, known in the food media world as Dr. Gourmet, is also executive director at the Goldring Center for Culinary Medicine at Tulane. Harlan says the program isn’t just about helping students understand nutrition. The focus is on practical talk about food. Harlan wants Tulane-educated doctors to be able to teach their patients everyday skills in how to cook, what to cook and why…

“We know from the literature that when people go home and start cooking from real ingredients for themselves that their health improves,” Harlan says.

Isn’t it time to start cooking yourself?  The meals don’t need to be complicated or take hours.  These are more misconceptions.  I have prepared a delicious meal in no time at all and the process of preparing it has calmed me, brought me more into the moment and prepared my body to get out of the fast pace of the day to one that can relax and fully enjoy the delicious meal.

If you are interested in a few easy meals, simply look through my ‘Recipe of the Month’ section of my blog.

To your health,

Julie

Miraculous Magnesium

swiss chard 1.11.16

As I was harvesting some Swiss chard from my winter garden this morning, it reminded me of how often overlooked and yet valuable the mineral magnesium is.  I realize this isn’t something we think about on a regular basis yet it is not only an essential mineral in our diet but we often tend to be deficient in it.

Magnesium is such a major player in our health.  It is the single most important mineral for maintaining proper electrical balance and is needed for more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body.

It is estimated that 60%-80% of Americans aren’t getting enough magnesium in their diet due to lack of vegetables, poor food choices and farming practices.  Supplementation is definitely something to consider and yet the first step really should come from our diet.  Amongst the best sources of magnesium are leafy green vegetables, seeds, nuts and legumes.  Here are some of the top foods:

  • Spinach
  • Swiss Chard
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Sesame seeds
  • Cashews
  • Summer squash like zucchini or crookneck
  • Avocados
  • Black beans

As for the benefits of magnesium, there are plenty:

  • Creates and maintains bone health
    • 50%-60% of magnesium is stored in the bone and consequently plays a significant role in bone metabolism
    • Adequate magnesium in your diet improves bone mineral density
  • Enables energy production as it is a vital component in the production of ATP, a high energy molecule found in every cell
    • Low levels of magnesium can be one of the factors in low energy or fatigue
  • Maintains a healthy nervous system by working with calcium in forming an electrical current
    • Low levels can result in anxiety, irritability, agitation, insomnia and confusion
  • It is a vital nutrient in the prevention of chronic inflammation as it modulates cellular events involved in inflammation
    • Studies indicate that low levels of chronic inflammation are the cause of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma and more
  • Enhances control of blood sugars
    • Magnesium is a co-factor in over 100 enzymes involved in controlling blood sugar and glucose metabolism

Magnesium is becoming more and more recognized as a vital macro nutrient that we just don’t get enough of.  Even medical researchers are recommending increasing the RDA to almost double current amounts.

To start you in the direction of adding magnesium to your diet, here is an easy and delicious salad that will give you lots of magnesium.  Quantities are not listed as they will vary based on the number of people enjoying this delicious salad.

Dressing:

  • 3 parts Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 part Champagne Vinegar or high quality, aged Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1 tsp or more Fish Sauce*
  • Fresh ground black pepper

Place above ingredients in a jar with fitted lid.  Shake thoroughly.

Salad:

  • Swiss chard, ribs removed
  • Kale, ribs removed
  • Parsley leaves
  • Spinach
  • Pumpkin seeds, toasted
  • Avocado, sliced
  • Red bell pepper, cut to desired shape
  • Zucchini, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
  • Dried apricots cut into long strips

Clean and tear into bite size pieces the first 4 greens and place in salad bowl.  Drizzle salad dressing on, mix and set aside for at least 30 minutes.  Note:  Since these leafy greens are a bit tougher than regular lettuce, this will allow them time to soften and get sweeter.

After 30 minutes add the balance of the ingredients and toss salad.  Serve and enjoy!

*Fish sauce is found in most markets in the Asian section and provides the dressing with umami, a savory taste.  You don’t need to use a lot.  It will have no ‘fish’ taste and yet will give the dressing a more rounded, pleasant taste.  Try it, you‘ll love it!

This is just one way to add some wonderful healthy food sources of magnesium into your daily routine.  Be creative and see how you can start adding more to make 2016 be even a healthier year!

In health,

Julie

 

 

 

It’s the little things that can have a lasting effect…

Often at the beginning of a new year we set health goals.  As we start to make those changes to enhance our current state of health, the list can be overwhelming of all the things to be addressed.  For me it is always easier to add small, reasonable changes into my current lifestyle that I can easily adopt and can have a long term impact on my health.

The first of those I would like to talk about is the benefits of using a tongue scraper.  For many this is a foreign thought.  In fact many people don’t even know what it is!  Let’s start with some of the main benefits of using one daily:

  • Removes waste products or toxins that have built up on the tongue from the continuous digestion process that occurs throughout the night
  • Decreases halitosis or bad breath
  • Increases the sense of taste thus enhancing the flavors in food and potentially reducing cravings such as sugar
  • Enhances digestion and boosts the immune system
  • Provides insight as to your state of health

Using a tongue scraper takes less than a minute.  It is best to use it first thing in the morning after you have gotten out of bed before eating or drinking anything.  Gently scrape the entire surface of the tongue 7 to 14 times, cleaning the scraper with fresh water in between each stroke.  Rinse your mouth with water after you are finished and that’s it, you are done and ready to start your day!

There are many types of scrapers on the market.   I think the ideal are ones made of stainless steel rather than plastic.  They should be large enough to cover your entire tongue with each stroke, such as this one:

tongue scraper

Tongue scrapers cost about $8.00.  Banyan Botanicals makes one and has a short video of how to use it.  They are also available at Amazon.

The other benefit to this daily ritual is becoming more aware of your current state of health.  As mentioned our tongue is an indicator of what is happening inside our body, especially related to digestion.  Here are just a few examples:

  • A tongue that has a white coating tends to show too much mucous in the diet, often meaning too much dairy is being consumed
  • A tongue with cracks, especially down the middle, can show digestive and malabsorption issues
  • A red tongue can be an indication of vitamin deficiencies

As you start to use the scraper daily, note how your tongue is looking.  It will remind you of how you feel, when you tend to overeat certain foods (such as dairy products), and encourage you to take steps towards being healthier.

Tongue diagnosis is an integral part of assessing an individuals’ health practiced both in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and in Ayurvedic medicine.  If you would like to learn more, there are several websites that discuss this in detail or you can always consult a practitioner in your area to learn more about your overall health as indicated by the health of your tongue.

So give the tongue scraper a try for several months.  See if you don’t find subtle health benefits coming your way!

To your health in 2016!

Julie

 

 

Getting back to my passion

Life changes and along with it can come a change in type of work.  For me it took me away from a lifelong passion to educate people about health and healthy lifestyles.  I learned many things along the way including how much I value health and that it will always be a major factor in my life. I also learned that work is just work unless you have a true passion for what you are doing and consequently I am moving back towards my path of teaching.

It also taught me how stressful situations constantly challenge the innate desire to be healthy.  I am often stuck by the busy-ness of everyone’s life and the compromises of health that come with it – poor eating habits, less exercise, no quiet time, and more.

As I looked at my own life getting busier and busier, I found some things I refused to give up at any cost.  These choices have enabled me to keep feeling healthy even in the craziest of times.  There are several things that I refuse to give up for the sake of busy-ness.  In order, here are my top three priorities:

Always eat a healthy breakfast

For me this means cooking up a bunch of vegetables and having some form of protein be it eggs, chicken or fish.  It is actually super easy to do and requires little time.  I realize this seems like a horrible thought to many people but the advantage is huge!  Here are just a few benefits:

  1. Improved concentration and mental performance
  2. Stabilizing blood sugar levels resulting in less cravings and better food choices throughout the balance of the day
  3. Better physical conditioning
  4. A tendency to maintain weight easier or even assist with weight loss

Drink enough water

I am continually amazed at how few people actually consume water throughout the day.  Although we get some water from our foods, many things can take water away such as coffee, caffeinated tea, soda, exercise and dry climate.  Making sure you have enough is vital.  I feel that getting ½ my body weight in ounces daily is still best and consequently carry a 20+ ounce BPA free refillable bottle of water with me wherever I go, making sure to drink at least 3 full bottles per day.  Here are just a few benefits:

  1. Lubricating joints
  2. Metabolism of fats and maintaining muscle tone
  3. Aids in digestion and transportation of nutrients to the cells
  4. Maintains health of every cell in the body

Exercise

Stress is a major factor in life anymore and one of the best ways to reduce stress is through regular exercise.  I know when I get a healthy workout in at least 4-5 times per week I feel so much better!  The key is finding your rhythm and not compromising.  For me this means first thing in the morning as I know myself well enough that if I don’t get out and do it then, I will come up with every excuse under the sun as to why I can’t fit it in later that day.  The list of benefits is endless.  Here are a few key ones:

  1. Improves mood
  2. Boosts energy
  3. Controls weight
  4. Reduces chance for cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, autoimmune diseases and many more!

As mentioned, these are the top three items that never get compromised regardless of my schedule.

What are your top three?

In health,

Julie

Live inspired: Be radically alive

Ali Schultz Butterfly Collage

I have the fortune of coming across many amazing people in my life.  These connections remind me that health, as we all know, come from many avenues and only creates a complete model of health from the combination thereof.  On a recent occasion I have had the pleasure of working with an amazing woman who has inspired me and offered me a perspective on health that I forget about and yet it is a part of me and most likely you. 

 I wanted to share her perspective and ideas as a means of adding to the many ways in which health comes to us.

 Enjoy!

 Julie

Live inspired: Be radically alive

by Allison Schultz

As beings in constant communion with the world, all we need is to let our experience rush in and fill us up – to live richly in all the details and textures. The innate joy in the fullness of your presence is there, waiting for you to feel it. When you live in touch with the deep wellspring of lifeforce pulsing within and align with your soul purpose, you glow from the inside out. This is what it means to live an inspired life.  

When what you do aligns with what you want and where you’re going, good things happen, as if the universe opens up to you. But all too often, I find people stuck in a fog of unknowing, often with ideas that need a place to land – or a plan for success.

“You always go for what you want. You’re so clear,” my mom would always say to me. “How do you know?” she would ask.

“I just know,” I would reply with little explanation, a shrug and a smile. The clarity was a full-bodied knowing – and a sense of the pull coming from where I was headed, bodying forth into a future that was calling me into it – even if I didn’t have a mental understanding of what that notion was.

Any artist will tell you that the impetus for creation comes from an ambiguous place and unfolds before them in the process – but it’s about trusting that first core gut intuition that creates space for great art. But you have to be listening and ready for the messages.

Knowing what you want requires clarity of thought and the ability to sit with yourself, to know yourself in a way that your heart’s song sings loud and clear, and you can trust your inner compass. It starts with getting in touch with everything in life that lights you up and turns you on and makes you come ALIVE.

Whenever I feel stuck or lackluster in the ‘zest for life’ department, I spruce things up with a subversively simple exercise of fearless creative play to let my whole self love what it loves by making a collage or vision board.  When I look back through the big vision boards that I’ve made, I see notable themes – no matter what magazines are at my disposal. Each time, there is more refinement and more of a reflection of where I’m currently at – and what my hopes for the future are at that moment in time and space.

Since 2009, I’ve been keeping a manifest journal – starting with a black hardcover book with blank pages – and pouring into it all my thoughts, visions, dreams, fragments from the day, inspirations, to-do lists and mini-collages.  This process has its own sort of magic that lends itself to the personal process of transformation – and the planting bed for grounding ideas in the world. In this way, the whole book (or set of books) becomes one continuous manifesting exercise.

The vision board process is nothing new. It is, however, a wonderfully accessible medium for fearless play in the creative space that can reconnect you to all that you love in the world. And if the intentions behind the experience are set, the process is fuel for igniting positive change. As a montage of clippings from magazines of images that grab your attention and text that speaks to you, vision boards can be a reminder of what lights your fire, can make you smile and light you up from the inside out.

Whenever I need to create something, to shift energy or get out of my headspace I always turn to the stack of magazines until I have collected enough images to make play in the pages of my journal. I’m always amazed at what happens just by giving myself time to listen to that inner voice. When I look back over the seemingly random collage of text and image fragments, I read it like a soul map with a regained sense of affirmation and clarity – and most often new insights that create a positive shift towards what I want or where I want to be.

Like life itself, the process of creating is what is important and can be used to facilitate a myriad of results.

–       a space for creative play
–       to shift or spark creative energies
–       to create space for focusing on intentions
–       to realign with what lights your fire
–       as an exercise in starting and finishing a creative project, fearlessly
–       to see just what the soul has to say in the space between…

There is much magic in that space of play and creativity if you allow your self to bask in that space often and give yourself the time to feel what makes you come alive as you tune into the rhythm of your own heart. As Howard Thurman said: “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

Your best life ever is waiting for you to step into it, to be filled with it and to dare to be radically alive. What are you waiting for? I put together The Inspiration Book to jump-start the process. You can download it here

Happy Manifesting.

One More Thought on Jack LaLanne…

As I was speaking with one of my long time clients and friend, I realized that not everyone really knows about all the amazing things that Jack LaLanne brought to the world of health and fitness.  He, my client, still runs about 5 days a week for an hour plus and just celebrated his 68th birthday.  He too is a picture of fitness.

I told him about some of the amazing feats Jack did for his birthdays and he was astounded to learn that at the age of 70, Jack:

  • Handcuffed, shackled and fighting strong winds and currents, towed 70 boats with 70 people from the Queen’s Way Bridge in the Long Beach Harbor to the Queen Mary, 1 ½ miles.

This was just one of many!

In an attempt to inspire you yet again, I am offering you the following video:

Last, if you would like to see the list of feats Jack LaLanne accomplished, GO TO HIS WEBSITE NOW!!

To your health and happiness!

Julie