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.
We love your name; it means “wonderful” and “peace.” We’re going to tell you right up front that we are NOT fans of “cheat days” for a whole bunch of reasons. We shall now do our best to talk you out of eating this way.
* Just the name implies you’re a cheater. Who wants to feel that kind of shame and have that label? It’s all negative. We hate the whole concept of looking at food as good or bad. Food isn’t moral; it’s fuel.Food is not moral; it's fuel. Shift away from bad & good thinking in order to lose weight,… Click To Tweet
*Also, what do most people (and probably you) eat on those 3600 calorie days? Salad? Roasted veggies? Fruit with yogurt? Suuuuuuuure. More like ice cream, candy, chips and all kinds of high fat foods. Sadly, that fat makes its way to your brain, telling it to ignore the “I’m full” signals that those lovely hormone regulators – leptin and insulin – are trying to send. Think of them as your parents, yelling “Put the spoon down,” and the fat as earbuds that you stuck in your ears so you wouldn’t have to listen. It’s not good to become resistant to leptin and insulin because they are your BFFs, and want to help you.
* This “fat high” can last for up to three days, which means you will spend half of the next week wondering why you’re extra hungry, especially for those high-fat foods. Basically, it’s a short-lived addiction, and willpower cannot overcome addictions.
* Math has an uncomfortable way of butting in to your weight loss business. If you reduce your caloric intake by 500 calories a day, you’ll lose about a pound in a week – 500 X 7 = 3500. Everyone is different, but these numbers are a great place to start. You say you normally eat about 1750 calories per day – 1750 – 500 = 1250 (the low number on your diet plan). It will take more than a week to lose a pound of weight if you are at the higher, 1350 amount. But on that 3600 calorie “cheat day,” kowabunga – you just got yourself an extra 1850 calories (3600 – 1750 = 1850). So in 6 days you reduced your intake by 3000 calories, but on that seventh day you took in an extra 1850 (3000 -1850 = 1150). So for the entire week, you had a total reduction of 1150 calories, which means you’re losing less than half a pound a week.
* If you jogged in place during the above math lesson, you might have burned some extra calories! If you hate math, that section just above said, “Cheat Day = Bad Idea.”
* You also asked about metabolism, so let’s go over some weird “opposite day” type of stuff – When you eat less, you expend calories at a slower rates – meaning your metabolism slows down. It has a fancy name – diet induced adaptive thermogenesis. If you want to speed up your metabolism, you should ditch the cheat day AND the diet and just go for 4 or 5 small meals/ snacks a day. Mostly choose healthy food, yet leave space for a few of the treats that you were saving for cheat day. Moderation beats the Restriction – Overindulgence cycle you’re in.
* And we wouldn’t be exercise experts if we didn’t ask, “Mina, are you also exercising?” You had better say, “ kyllä.” That’s fancy talk for “heck yeah.”
Alexandra Williams, MA