Debra Atkinson, Guest Poster
You are going to get a kick out of this guest post by the highly qualified, fully irreverent, fitness professional, and midlife specialist, Debra Atkinson MS, CSCS. After she interviewed us for her podcast, WellUAfter50’s, we knew you would enjoy her style and substance! We also hope you listen to the episode with Debra and us, Better Sex, Arms, and Knees as You Age. After you read her solutions for hormone hell below.
Sleep Tight and Right
If you’re short-sheeting yourself on sleep your belly fat may thrive. When sleep is down, cortisol is up. We know cortisol as a houseguest we didn’t invite. Truth is some healthy hormone stress is good. If you’re sleep deprived though, two other ho’s play games on you. Ghrelin tells you that you’re hungry and usually not for carrots and kale. On the flip side of things, when you’re low on sleep, Leptin never tells you that you’re full. Cortisol is going to help you store the extra calories from cravings in your belly. Not the kind of help you want.
Get Anti-Inflammatory Exercise
Now you’re thinking, “I’ve heard about aerobic and intervals, what’s the anti-inflammatory workout?” Look for exercise that keeps cortisol levels from going too high. A little cortisol for a short time is a good thing. Too much cortisol for too long is going to take advantage of your stress levels and elevate cortisol. Growth Hormone is another factor in your best exercise plan. You want to get the most growth hormone for the least cortisol. They’re on the teeter-totter playing nicely together. For best results we want higher growth hormone than cortisol. What works best? Short sessions of higher intensity intervals (bursts of your best effort) and longer sessions of moderate exercise. Take a moderate walk in nature without being a slave to a heart rate monitor and you’ve got a great cortisol reducing, immune system enhancing groove on.
Embrace Your Stress
All these years we’ve been told how bad stress is for your health. Run, Forrest, Run, they said. New news is that you don’t have to hire the mafia to rid yourself of toxic people or “Om” your way through your day. If you change the way you think about your stress you can change your body chemistry. You’ll live better, longer.
Your stress isn’t your stress. The way you think about your stress is the stress.
Studies show people who say they have low levels of stress lived longer and healthier than those with high levels of stress. No surprise, right? New studies also showed that among all the respondents who said they had high stress levels, those who thought the stress was “bad” died sooner. Those who thought stress made them stronger and more resilient lived longer with less incidence of disease.
Correct those well-meaning peeps who want to wallow with you. Surround yourself with some strong-minded stress-resilient friends. You’re still here after all; stress can’t be that bad!
You already know diets don’t work long-term. In fact, our rollercoaster weight loss and weight gain is what got many of us where we are today: frustrated that doing the right thing now doesn’t work. Diets are stress on your body. Women tend to think stress is emotional. It’s about relationships or finances or work pressures. Unfortunately, stress does not discriminate. If you’re exercising too hard or you’re eating too few calories or too much of the wrong thing, that’s also stress. There’s a 25% increase in cortisol among dieters. So, a diet backfires. Reduce calories and increase cortisol. Cortisol increases fat storage and cravings. Stress fat tends to go to the belly.
Wired and tired is the new norm. We’re exhausted but staring at the ceiling. Mid-afternoon if you’re reaching for that java or pop fix, think twice. Caffeine increases cravings by 23%. What happens if you give in and it’s not kale and carrots? Insulin teams up with cortisol and these two belly-fat bullies have their way with you. Once insulin is released all fat metabolism stops. You store and hold fat easier: a skill you don’t even remember working toward.
Try These Strategies
Know how much sleep you need. A simple sleep-need assessment can help. (link to include: http://bit.ly/1CyQtBg) Plan your exercise and plan your exercise-under-stress so you don’t let cortisol go wild. Buff your relationship with stress. Get your bring-it-on attitude staring it down. Take a diet cleanse. Just say no. If you focus on all the right foods you’ll reduce cravings naturally. Treat yourself to fresh foods in abundance and you’ll never have to go hungry again. Your hormones will thank you. They may thank you by dropping a few pounds or inches. Naturally rested with sleep and naturally juiced by plentiful nutrition you’re less likely to reach for a jolt of caffeine. If the urge comes try a natural pick-me-up like lemon or orange water.
You’ll be hormone healed in no time!
Debra Atkinson, MS, CSCS started teaching aerobics in 1984 with big hair, high top Reeboks and leg warmers. Lycra was the fabric of fitness and she embraced it. Over 30-years she’s taught, trained, managed, lectured and presented. Chief of Everything (COE) at Voice For Fitness, she’s a fitness speaker and consultant for personal training businesses. She’s the author of Navigating Fitness After 50: Your GPS For Choosing Programs and Professionals You Can Trust and the coming soon book The After 50 Fitness Formula For Women. Friend her on Facebook.
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
Are you time-pressed, overstressed, overbooked, underloved, underfed? Ok, I got a little carried away thinking of “It Never Rains in Southern California.”
Stress can take a toll on your well-being, weight, and ability to enjoy life. When we launched our VoiceAmerica.com radio show, Active Aging for Boom Chicka Boomers, we interviewed hormone expert, Tamara Grand on the subject of midlife weight gain. In looking at the effects of hormones, Tamara commented on the role stress plays in layering on fat. (Listen to the whole show, but the short story here is that stress triggers the release of cortisol, which slows the body’s metabolism and promotes fat storage). Oy vay, does that short story have an unhappy plot!
This connection between stress and fat levels going up together, triggered an email from one of our radio show listeners:
Good question! Add in the aspect of “easy” being tied to “busy life” and the best methods probably also mean the quickest or least time consuming. The answer is … It Depends. What might be easy for you might be hard–and perhaps even stressful– for me. For example, I find a walk in nature relaxing and stress reducing. Walking outside might be anathema to you. You know I have to mention that even a 5 minute walk outdoors helps release tension.
In researching meditation benefits for our post on its stress reducing aspects we discovered that meditating as short as three minutes make a positive difference.
Taking deep, refreshing breaths is another strategy that is easy, free, and quick.
First, let’s distinguish between chronic and acute stress. And done! Yup, go to our post “Is Stress Making You Fat?” to catch up on what chronic stress can do to you and what you can do it! I feel better already knowing my work on that subject is already written. Whew!
Next, let’s consider more strategies that are easy, effective, and quick. For instance, laughing is a great way to bring cortisol levels down. Oh sha bam – again dropping my stress levels by having you link to this article from WebMD that offers 10 relaxation techniques you can all try. Why work harder than I have to?
What’s left? Ah yes, please also read our post about how stress is a stealth saboteur of your good health. Again, I feel pressure being lifted from my well-toned shoulders being able to refer you to work already finished. Aaaaahhh
However, I am compelled to do a little heavy lifting here. Of all the strategies I encounter, support, and even propose why not go straight to the problem? What is causing the chronic stress in the first place? Would it ultimately be easier, or at least more successful to address the source? For example, if finances are the cause of the stress, then is it time to change either income or expenses? The change might be challenging at first, but easier long term if the problem is solved. Meantime, I plan to use the easy, free, readily available stress reducing strategy of LAUGHING and BREATHING, preferably while WORKING OUT! Hmmm, that means it’s time to call my witty, walking sister.