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

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

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

In Honor of Jack LaLanne

I was first introduced to health and exercise when I joined a Jack LaLanne Health Spa at 16 years old.  In looking back I really don’t know what made me do that but it did start me on the path to health I have been on every since. 

Over the years I would reflect on Jack and his teachings.  As I have gotten older I have tried to motivate other people in considering to choose health as an alternative way of living.  I had dreams of teaching health in corporations in hopes that people would see that eating well really isn’t that difficult and yet the rewards are great.  I even emailed Jack LaLanne last year to see how he inspires others.  I was told to just keep on the path.

I was struck, in going to his website at that time, by how he essentially was preaching the same basic nutrition advice 50 years ago that is still true today – eat real food and exercise regularly.  Times really haven’t changed in what is healthy for us and yes it does take discipline but is so worth it!

So in honor of Jack and a life filled with the desire to motivate others to live a healthy full life, I salute him.  Here are just two videos showing just how amazing he really was…

Using Food to Normalize Weight

By Dan Butterfield

This is not about a diet to lose weight, then go back to your regular diet.  This is about a relationship to food that we can be faithful to for life, that will keep us healthy and help maintain a normal weight.

What helps most to lose weight?  Diet or exercise?  Diet is the most important piece of the weight loss picture.  Exercise, while important for health, is less important for weight loss.  In other words, you can be inactive and lose weight.  But if you don’t have food working for you, it takes a lot of exercise to lose weight, and depending on how you exercise, it may actually cause you to lose more lean body mass than fat.  When we lose weight, we want that weight loss to be fat, not lean body mass.

Why are we fatter?  Not just Americans, but worldwide obesity is rampant.  There are a number of reasons; we eat too much; don’t exercise enough, our foods are denatured from industrial farming and food processing, our metabolisms are stressed and we’re too toxic to lose weight.

For now, I’m going to focus on one thing, the hormone insulin.  Our DNA, our anatomy, our physiology and our nutritional needs are virtually unchanged in the past 40,000 years.  If you compressed all of human history into one year, we’ve only been farming and eating grains for the past day.  We’ve only been eating vegetables oils for the past ten minutes.  We’ve not yet adapted to these foods.

Humans evolved in a carbohydrate poor environment.  The hormone insulin is designed to maximize the effects of the few carbohydrates that were available to enable us to survive.  Insulin helps us store excess energy as fat.  Now that we live in a carbohydrate rich environment, eating far more carbohydrates than were ever available to humans before, insulin still maximizes the effects of abundant carbs into abundant stored energy in the form of body fat.

There is only one teaspoon of sugar in our entire blood supply.  Our bodies maintain tight control over blood sugar, as a little too much or too little blood sugar and we will pass out and die.  So the pancreas secretes two hormones, insulin and glucagon, which have opposite effects, ideally balancing our blood sugar.

So when we have a breakfast of cornflakes with some sugar, two pieces of toast with jam, a big glass of orange juice and 3 cups of coffee or tea with a spoonful of sugar in each one, if those 20 teaspoons of sugar went right into our blood stream we’d drop into a diabetic coma then die.  But the pancreas secretes insulin to first carry glucose into any cells that need energy then converts any of the excess to storage as fat.

Most cells in our body have thousands of insulin receptors, in which a molecule of insulin is required to bring a molecule of glucose into the cell.  When there is a chronically high intake of carbohydrates, specifically sugars and starches, which turn into sugar very rapidly, insulin levels stay elevated, eventually causing insulin receptors to shut down, making it more difficult for the body to dispose of extra glucose.  This is called insulin resistance causing more bodyfat, and sooner or later high blood sugar, leading to diabetes, heart disease, cancer and other inflammatory disorders.

This is known as metabolic syndrome or insulin resistance.  Insulin resistance is one of the main reasons that as we age, it becomes more difficult to lose weight.  Our cell walls are damaged.  Out metabolisms are damaged.

So what do we do to repair our cell walls and our metabolism?  As Michael Pollan says “Eat real food.”  But more specifically, eat foods that don’t stimulate the secretion of insulin.

A low fat diet really means a high carbohydrate diet, an insulin stimulating diet, putting our metabolism into fat storage mode.  The low fat fad of the past 20-25 years has stimulated the tide of obesity and diabetes.

Dietary fat does not cause an insulin response.  Protein causes insulin release, but a corresponding release of glucagon, insulin’s partner, which tells the body to burn fat.  Sugars and starches however do cause insulin release, and no glucagon release.  Dietary fat does not make you fat.  Carbs do.  To heal our cell membranes, our metabolisms, our organs, our bodies and minds, we need to give them the foods that our bodies evolved on.  That means moving in the direction of our ancestral diets, sometimes called the Paleolithic diet or Paleo diet for short, for the time in human evolution when carbs were scarce, or infrequent, keeping in mind that our nutritional needs are unchanged in 40,000 years.

So what does a paleo breakfast look like? 

First of all, if you don’t eat breakfast, or mostly carbs, you end up eating yourself for breakfast, especially your muscles and bones – also called lean body mass.  We all wish that we’d burn bodyfat if we skip a meal, but what we burn is lean body mass.  And to make it worse, the next meal we have after a skipped meal, the body doubles the insulin release, increasing energy storage, because skipping meals, especially breakfast, tells the body that food is scarce, better store more fat.

A paleo breakfast is protein and fat abundant, carbohydrate poor.  Eggs, sausage, bacon, free range of course, or grass fed beef, bison or lamb.  Fresh fish for breakfast.  This is the most important meal to have protein.  Fat and protein will elevate our metabolism and keep insulin low and hunger at bay.  If you are hungry between meals, that means your insulin is elevated.  Fat and protein for breakfast gives us more long lasting energy and stable blood sugar the rest of the day.  When we have a carbohydrate breakfast, or no breakfast, our blood sugar is on a roller coaster all day, and we are trying to medicate it with coffee or sugar and other carbs.

We do want some carbohydrates at breakfast and every other meal as well.  We want low glycemic carbohydrates.  These are the above-ground vegetables.  Especially dark green leafy vegetables, such as kale, broccoli, chard, spinach and collards. 

What did I have for breakfast?  Two eggs, local pork sausage and kale, stir fried in coconut oil.   When we sit down to a paleomeal, our plate should be 3/4 produce, and 3/4 of that should be above ground vegetables, the rest root crops and fruits, but fruit must be restricted because of the sugar content, and most of our fruits should be berries.

The other 1/4 of our plate is protein, preferably animal protein such as grass fed meats, wild caught fish, and high omega 3 eggs.

How do we apportion our calories between fat, protein and carbs?  Just as this varied in the thousands of different paleo diets that human evolved on, depending where on the planet they lived, it will vary with each of us as well, depending on where we live and our individual needs.  But, if you need some numbers, 40-60% of our calories should come from fat, 20-35% from protein, and 10-20% from carbohydrates, as vegetables and fruit. 

This way of eating, reduces insulin secretion, and fat storage.  It encourages the body to use fat as fuel.

All of our foods should be nutrient dense.  That means more nutrients per calorie.  Above ground vegetables and animal and seafoods and fats are the most nutrient dense.  Brown rice? whole wheat? quinoa? Lots of calories as starches, few as protein or fat or other nutrients.

Here are some basic guidelines to use food to lose weight and maintain a normal weight:

Eat breakfast.  Eat protein for breakfast.  Eat three meals daily.  Have protein and fat at every meal.  Eat a high produce diet, mostly above ground vegetables.  Eat a low glycemic diet, avoiding sugars, starches and grains.  Don’t snack between meals.  If you are hungry between meals, you might not have had enough protein or fat, or you had carbs the previous meal, or as I said earlier, you are hungry because you are insulin resistant.  So if you become hungry between meals, first drink one or two glasses of water.  If you must eat between meals, make it protein and fat, such as a hard boiled egg, jerky, or nuts.  Avoid fruit juices and dried fruit as they are high in sugar.  And lastly, don’t eat before bed.

Let me make a few comments about fruit.  Fruit is high in sugar, especially fruit juice and dried fruits.  Fructose is readily converted to fat.  If you are trying to reach a normal weight, avoid fruit.  Keep it to one serving daily, and make that one fruit serving berries, especially blueberries, raspberries and blackberries.  These still have some sugar, but are more nutrient dense than other fruits.  So keep this formula in mind – fruits equal sugar which equals stored body fat.

Here’s another formula to keep in mind – starches equal sugar which equals stored bodyfat.  So, chips, crackers, pasta, breads, cookies and grains of all forms, including whole grains, all turn into sugar, much of which becomes stored bodyfat.  Every farmer knows that if you want to fatten an animal, give it grains.

Fat and protein produce the most satiety, the absence of hunger, we feel like we’ve had enough to eat.  Carbs do not produce satiety.  That’s why it’s so easy to eat that whole bag of chips or cookies.  They never truly satisfy.

For most people, it is easier to make dietary changes gradually.  Begin by removing processed and packaged foods.  Day by day, reduce sugars, starches, dried fruits, fruit juices and grains replace these things with leafy greens.  Slowly increase protein and healthy fats.  Above all, enjoy shopping, cooking and eating.

Dan Butterfield is a regular contributor to the Health and Nutrition Experts blog.  To learn more about Dan VISIT HIS WEBSITE.  

This lecture was also recorded with additional questions regarding Glycemic Index / Glycemic Load and questions for the vegetarian.  I am hoping the podcast will be up here soon!  Come back and check. 

For more information on the Glycemic Index, check out THIS SITE.

Why Healthy Posture is So Important!

Regaining Good Posture

Posture.  Just mention the word and we tend to sit up straighter.  We think of our mothers harping on us as children, ‘sit up, don’t slouch!’  Yet do we really understand the consequences of both good posture and poor posture?  Can we imagine how the world would treat us if our posture were different?  No matter what your posture looks like, you are subconsciously being assessed.  Not to mention the role posture plays on the health of your joints, muscles, energy and more.

Let us look at this in greater depth.  The body is designed to work at an optimal level within gravity.  Joints, bones and ligaments are stacked in such a way to use the least amount of energy to hold us upright, to be able to stand or sit effortlessly.

Have you ever watched a young child sit?  Do you notice they don’t typically lean back in the chair but rather naturally sit quite straight with no effort?  What happens as we go through life that we start to rely on that chair back to hold us up?  Or that we stand in such a way as to put more pressure on our entire being?  These are some of the questions that started to arise as I became professionally involved in health. 

I have been a Certified Massage Therapist for 19 years and involved in health education in various ways for 30 plus years.  I came from an allopathic family.  Although I respect this school of thought, I found myself looking for an alternative way to address health.  With an analytical mind, I approached massage from a therapeutic place.  I started teaching treatment oriented massage shortly after graduating.   My practice brought many clients with various pain complaints.  I started really looking at the whole person in regards to their pain and often found that there were physical issues that often played into all or a portion of their complaints.  This brought me deeper into functional and structural assessment.  I was amazed at what I found.

To begin, posture plays a large role in how we approach life.  If we are hunched over or in pain from poor posture, it shows.  We give off signs of lack of self confidence, lack of intelligence, being overly tired, shyness, and more.  In addition, if our posture isn’t optimal, the amount of energy it takes to go through daily life increases exponentially.  No longer can we rely on the structural body to hold us up but rather our muscles now must be recruited to fight gravity, causing us to expend a great deal of energy.  Our entire being is compromised and energy that should be used to enjoy life is used just to hold us up, literally.

So what really happens?  To start, we have become a sedentary society.  No longer do most of us make our living by working in the fields, walking long distances, carrying packages, and so forth.  Instead we spend long periods of time sitting at a desk followed all too often by sitting in front of the computer or television when we get home.  Our bodies have become lazy.  Some muscles hardly have to work much at all in these situations.  Not only do they not have to engage but, allow them to be in a shortened position for a long enough period of time and they will stay shorten indefinitely.  Other muscles, at the same time, will be in an elongated position with some working overtime and others just becoming weaker.  All this results in our muscles being imbalanced and our joints compromised.  Along with these changes, we can experience pain, burning, numbness, weakness, tingling and more.  Depending on the situation, nerves can be compressed and lead to syndromes such as Thoracic Outlet Syndrome and Carpal Tunnel.   Low back pain, which is all too common, is often a result of poor posture and muscular imbalance.   Consequently the typical answer to these complaints, often result in surgery or pain medications.  Although this might be necessary under certain circumstances, they should never be the first choice of treatment.

Let’s start with looking at the head and neck.  Under normal circumstances, the head should sit right on top of the shoulders, with the correct position being the ear vertically in alignment with the shoulder joint.  Unfortunately all too often the head starts to jut forward.  Some of the common reasons for this are from slouching, trying to read something that is too small (so you lean forward to read it), lack of lumbar support while sitting or from improper positioning of a computer screen.  Our head typically weighs between 12 – 15 pounds; a lot of weight when you think about it and yet if sitting as it should, effortless for the muscles.  Take it out of that ideal position however and multiple problems can arise.  Dr. Rene Cailliet says that for every inch the head is forward of its’ ideal position adds 30 pounds of pressure onto the posterior neck muscles!  In addition, this position can result in:

  • Added pressure to the facet joints of the vertebrae which have a great deal of pain receptors, thus causing pain perception to increase
  • Constriction of blood flow to the muscles, resulting in unhealthy muscles that become prone to injury
  • Tight muscles that tend to refer pain to the head, resulting in headaches
  • The health of the temporomandibular joint causing TMJ dysfunction
  • Carpal tunnel symptoms

Learn stretches to keep your neck healthy!

Let us move on to the shoulders.  Typically the upper back has a slight convex curve.  When in this position, the vertebrae are stacked properly and the ligaments on either side of the vertebrae maintain this position.  As we start to slouch forward, the shoulders tend to round inward.  The muscles in the upper back are in an overstretched position and are now having to work hard to keep you from falling over forward.  The muscles in the front of the chest are becoming shorter with the potential to compress the nerves that innervate the arms.  One of the most common results is known as Thoracic Outlet Syndrome.  In addition, the following complaints can arise:

  • Burning between the shoulder blades
  • Chest pain
  • Shoulder pain
  • Carpal Tunnel syndrome
  • Arm pain
  • Inability to take a full deep breath

Learn how to stretch and strengthen the shoulder muscles!

Next is one of the most common areas of complaint – the lower back.  A great deal of work has been missed in our country from low back pain and much of it can be avoided.  To begin, we will look at the role sitting plays.  When sitting for a long period of time, the muscles in the front of the hips, known as the hip flexors, are in a very short position.  They are used a great deal during walking so they do not tend to get weak, as the upper back muscles, but they do become very short.  This results in changing the normal position of the pelvis and creating what is known as an anterior pelvic tilt.  A small degree of anterior pelvic positioning is normal for women whereas men’s pelvis should stay neutral.  The issues arise when this position is exaggerated.  The pressure tends to be moved posterior to the discs, putting a great deal of pressure on the facet joints.  Remember as mentioned earlier, facet joints are loaded with pain receptors. 

In addition to sitting, the pelvis can end up in an anterior position due to being overweight, especially when we carry our fat in our bellies.  Belly fat puts a great deal of added weight in front of the body.  The only way to compensate for this added weight is to shift the positioning of the pelvis into that exaggerated anterior pelvic position, once again causing an increase in low back pain.

Along with general pain complaints from the low back, the following issues can arise:

  • Hip pain
  • Sciatica
  • Neurological complaints in the legs

Learn to keep your back healthy and strong!

So what do we do about all this?  It would be great if we could move away from sitting for extended periods of time but this is unlikely.  Rather we need to work within the parameters of our society.  The following is a list of ideas that can have a positive impact on our posture thus decreasing or eliminating the negative results of poor posture:

  • Movement or regular exercise:  By getting the blood to flow throughout the entire body, the muscles are receiving fresh nutrients and eliminating waste products.  These waste products in and of themselves can cause pain.  Also by moving, we are taking the muscles through a greater range of motion which can be a start to add length and strength to the muscles.
  • Stretching:  Working to lengthen the shortened muscles before strengthening the elongated weaker muscles will aid in realignment of the skeletal system.  It is important that specific stretches are given in order to lengthen the appropriate muscles.
  • Strengthening:  Once the shortened muscles are working towards being longer, it is then time to add in exercises to strengthen those muscles on the elongated side of the joint.  This is important to allow the body to regain a healthy posture where the joints and ligaments are able to do their job thus decreasing the amount of energy it takes to remain upright in gravity.
  • Ergonomics:  Assessing the position of the person to the height of the desk, the relationship to the chair, the positioning of the computer and so forth is a key.  Only focusing on ergonomics will not change the posture by itself but rather help to maintain the healthier posture with the aforementioned suggestions. 
  • Diet:  Although not directly involved in posture, it does play a large role in the health of the muscles.  Eliminating fast food, sugar, refined foods, soda, excess caffeine and more will enable the muscles to receive the nutrients need for maintaining health.  A healthy diet will also decrease constriction of blood flow thus allowing the entire body to process waste products at a healthier rate.

These are just some suggestions to creating a healthier posture.   Remember posture is much more than just looking good.  By having a body that is fully supported by the appropriate joints and ligaments, we will have more time and energy to enjoy all aspects of life and to live it to its’ fullest.  Isn’t it time to take a good look at your body?

I am excited to tell you that my eBook, Regaining Good Posture IS NOW AVAILABLE! 

Learn about:

  • Which muscles are potentially short or weak
  • How to assess your own body
  • Which stretches you need to do and how to do them
  • Strengthening Exercises to maintain a healthy posture

Included is a video presentation of each stretch and strengthening exercise. 

GO HERE to check it out!

After reading my article on posture, Dr Phil said this:

“Couldn’t agree more – great article examining in detail the importance of good posture. The advice is all spot on.”

He has a great software product called PostureMinder that you might like to check out!

Testimonial from D.M. Shepard, Torrance, California –

“As I mentioned, I was a personal trainer years ago and I still refer to my anatomy books to diagnose surprise aches and pains.  Suddenly a couple of weeks ago I developed major discomfort in my left groin and lower back so I limped around my business office for a full week before I searched online for treatment for the iliopsoas muscle.  Your video demonstration reminded me that sitting at a desk all day will reduce flexibility, shorten muscles and over time compromise posture.  The best part of your video was the stretch you demonstrated to lengthen the iliopsoas muscle area.  My discomfort was remarkably improved after only one day of stretching and I just about have regained full range of motion.

The trend these days is for people to live longer lives.  As a professional financial advisor, I have to prepare more ‘preventive’ investment strategies for my clients to stay ahead of potential financial problems later in life.

I see the same ‘preventive’ value for regaining and maintaining healthy posture and stretching flexibility, to assure functionality and better quality of life.  Certainly posture and stretches are cheaper than pills and surgery!

Thank you, Julie!”