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2

Hormone Hell to Hormone Heal: Guest Post by Debra Atkinson

Debra Atkinson, Guest Poster

Radio host, Debra AtkinsonYou 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.

 

The fitness world is abuzz with what to do for your muffin-top, belly fat, and bat wings. Diets offer abundant advice for melting it, blasting it, and banishing it. All the jumpstart workouts are usually prepared to take advantage of a woman’s desire to go sleeveless Saturday. Unfortunately, even the legit diet sense and exercise eloquence you know won’t matter if you’re in hormone hell.

If you’re in hormone hell, just keep going.”

To get the hormone bullies off your playground, discover your GPS for stopping the way hormones plot against your best efforts. Here’s how you can put up the good fight. No mo’ ho’s wrecking your plans for energy and vitality.

Sleep Tight and Right

Debra's book, Sleep Yourself SkinnyIf 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!

Stop Dieting

midlife woman w/ tape at waist

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.

Reduce Caffeine

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

16

Ease Out of Stress

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA

Be Like a Dog with Stress

Are you time-pressed, overstressed, overbooked, underloved, underfed? Ok, I got a little carried away thinking of “It Never Rains in Southern California.” [youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XqMEEvmfyQU#aid=P9-iToGsibI[/youtube]

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:

What’s the easiest way to reduce stress in a busy life?

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.

Walk in Nature to Destress

Walk This Way

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.

So far so good — get into nature; move/ walk/ exercise; breathe deeply; meditate. What else?

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?

Total Gym and Kymberly

Combine two destress tactics into one: Relaxing While Exercising

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.

Reduce stress easily when you subscribe to our website and listen to our radio show. Experience some of the best leaders in the health, wellness, and fitness world every Wednesday morning at 8:00 PT/ 11:00am ET. Listen in (better yet, call in to 866-472-5792) to our new radio show Active Aging for Boom Chicka Boomers with guests who offer practical advice and cutting edge solutions to your active aging challenges. You’ll find us at voiceamerica.com on the Health and Wellness channel.

 

5

5 Age-Defying Tips to “Youthen” Your Heart

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA

picture of heart rate on a wrist monitor

This is the heart rate of someone who exercises!!

What better way to end February’s Heart Health month than to be your own lifelong Valentine and show love to your heart? To help you, we’re sharing some lovely heart facts to inspire you to write a sonnet improve your health.

Your heart is the fastest responding muscle in your body. When you work out cardiovascularly (heart rate increases, you breathe heavily, and your whole body is involved in the movement), the heart adapts upwards within 24 hours. Aaaaand, if you dodge exercise more than you dodge taxes, then your heart adapts down, down, down.

Do you want your midlife body to stay as vital, youthful, and cooperative as long as possible? As Dr Michael Roizen MD, co-founder of RealAge and chair of its Scientific Advisory Board puts it: “Physical activity decreases the greatest causes of arterial aging, including stress, the greatest ager of all.”  Good news: you can combine strategies to achieve the youngest, most stress proof, physiological body possible. No heart stopping shocks coming, but the secret to a Strong, Age Defying Hearty Har Har is ……….

… to exercise and eat well. Did you see that coming? But what does “eat well” for heart health mean in practical terms, especially for baby boomer women? We wondered ourselves so checked in with Registered Dietitian and celebrity, best-selling author Frances Largeman-Roth. Based on her input, we offer you the following juicy tips:

fruit for Outshine frozen fruit bar smoothie

Red and blue: Key colors of healthy circulation

Embrace the C

1. Vitamin C is a heart-healthy and anti-inflammatory nutrient that helps repair and produce body tissues. Add oranges or grapefruit to your snack routine to get your daily dose. Other vitamin C-rich foods include strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, papayas, mangoes, kiwi and bell peppers. Basically, eat fruity stuff aka “fruit.”

We’ll (Not) Drink to That!

2. Limit high-calorie, sugary drinks such as soft drinks, and sweetened iced tea and coffee drinks. Instead, drink lots of water – at least 2 liters per day. Water, water everywhere. Alcohol isn’t so great for you either. Yes, we know about the studies that tout the benefits of red wine, and Mayo Clinic simply says that it MIGHT be healthy in MODERATION. They theorize that flavonoids or resveratrol may be the beneficial substances. More to come on our radio show about those flavonoids.

Circulate and Let Your Arteries be Free!

3. Support your circulation. Add a guaranteed source of cocoa flavanols, like CocoaVia® cocoa extract supplement, to your breakfast every morning. Once we learned about flavonoids, we jumped at the chance to try cocoa extract powder supplements when we met CocoaVia at a fitness convention a few years ago, because they are …. flavanols..in cocoa form. What’s not to like about cocoa that’s clinically proven to help maintain healthy circulation?

Puffy, swollen foot

Oh, Swell! Begone Flim, Flam, Inflammation!

What if You are Super Swell?

4. Fight inflammation. Eat foods that contain high amounts of anthocyanins, a type of antioxidant that fights inflammation and may help reduce the risk of heart disease. You can find it in blueberries, blackberries, plums, cherries, Mission figs and eggplant. (note from Alexandra: Figs – ewwww)

Go Popeye and Olive Oil on Yourself

5. Instead of cooking spray or butter, use olive oil. Olive oil is a great heart-healthy ingredient; the Mediterranean diet has long been linked to heart health and longevity. Try drizzling extra virgin olive oil on top of pasta and using it as a salad dressing or as a substitute for butter on bread.

Frances LCocoaVia Live thw Life You Loveargeman-Roth recently partnered with CocoaVia® to help spread awareness on maintaining good heart and circulatory health, and we’ll be sharing more of her tips on air. when we interview her live. Yes, in the world of Yawn, Who Cares Exciting News, we proudly announce our own partnership with CocoaVia® for our revamped, bigger (cue the cannons and confetti) radio show on VoiceAmerica that begins March 19, where we and our guests will share weekly amazing info about active, healthy aging. For more information visit www.cocoavia.com/. Then do 10 push-ups.

27

Stress, Relaxation, Bread & Exercise

Alexandra Williams, MA
Politicians Know How to Create Stress

Politicians Know How to Create Stress

With the looming government shutdown and sequester sending the nation into a tailspin, it’s no surprise our collective stress levels are way up! Not good. High stress = faster aging + weight gain.

Reduce Stress – Relax

While we can write to our elected representatives (and click Like on Facebook political posts that match our positions), it’s also smart to find ways to reduce stress. It’s not physiologically possible to be stressed and relaxed simultaneously, so finding ways to relax can decrease our anxiety AND make us younger! Just a few short weeks ago, a study was released in The Lancet Oncology that found that eating a plant-based diet, moderate exercise and reducing stress might help reverse the aging process on a cellular level. Is that cool or what??!!

Gratuitous “Relax” video from Frankie Goes to Hollywood. It came out (haha, get the double entendre there?) in 1983, the same year I started teaching aerobics in Berlin.
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lyl5DlrsU90[/youtube] Although I love to read, I know myself well enough to realize that reading in the day also makes me feel guilty. I need to be DOING, not BEING in order to feel relaxed. Exercise is my job and my passion, so I definitely use exercise as a way to decrease stress. Yet my non-exercise relaxation, creative technique is to bake, especially bread. Sourdough, sweet, European, sandwich, herbed, whole wheat, baguettes – I love it all.

Bread Baking Class

I’ll let you decide if these pictures show how enjoyable it is to make bread. They are from a class I took at Le Pain Quotidien a few weeks ago as a special invited guest.

IMG_4592

IMG_4593 IMG_4596 IMG_4597 IMG_4598 IMG_4599 IMG_4601 IMG_4602

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We made baguettes, epi de blé, dinner rolls and whole wheat hazelnut raisin bread, plus they sent us home with rising dough. Sadly, I left mine in the car overnight and it rose so splendidly that it exploded all over the back seat. Instead of Epi de blé I had Epic de Boom!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Even with my years of baking, including my confidence using sourdough, I got a lot from the Ten Tips for Bread Baking they sent home with me. Every time I read the news about the political mess in D.C., I head to the kitchen for some baking therapy. Today it’s Sourdough Pizza Herb. Luckily for me, baking bread is how I relax, not eating bread, though I do love fresh bread.

Sourdough Pizza Herb Bread

Sourdough Pizza Herb Bread

With the October 17 deadline really close for the Treasury to run out of money to pay our nation’s debts, I think I’ll have to double my exercise and baking efforts, as I feel my stress levels rising.

What about you? How do you reduce stress?

 

 

 

Photo credits: Politicians:  Ephemeral Scraps via CreativeCommons.org. All others: Alexandra

 

A) Subscribe to our YouTube channel and blog.

B) Follow us on google +Alexandra and +Kymberly, on Twitter:  AlexandraFunFit and KymberlyFunFit and Instagram: KymberlyFunFit and AlexandraFunFit.

C) Hire us to speak at your next meeting or conference. Call (805) 403-4338 or email info@funandfit.org.

D) Come on over for some delicious bread!

10

Is Stress Making You Fat?

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA

Stress, Weight Gain, and Strategies to Lose Fat are Connected

Stress, Floating Anxiety, and a Thailand Beast at White Temple

Stressed out and feeling beastly?

Stress affects all species. Most humans have a good idea of their stress levels and whether the stress is helpful (such as exercise) or harmful (such as an injury). As well, we human personages can distinguish between Chronic and Acute Stress. Interesting to note is that we tend to handle major stressors better than micro ones.

When it comes to weight gain and fat accumulation, chronic stress is the problem. In short, chronic stress triggers a cascade of hormonal reactions that tell your body to store fat, create more fat, and swell up. Yes, long term stress increases both number and size of fat cells. As fat cells increase in size, they increase chronic inflammation, which triggers more hormonal reactions, all leading to more fat. Aaaaarrrggggh!

Getting caught in this cycle can be very … well, um … stressful! Keep reading and take a relaxing breath as we look at ways to decrease fat that stress may have added to your “friend’s” figure.

Recently Alexandra and I attended and spoke at the IDEA Personal Training Institute. One of the many stellar sessions we attended was Professor Len Kravitz’s talk “Stress, Obesity, and Cortisol.” He offered key insights on stress and fat collecting — the collection we don’t want to inherit, pay too much for, nor store for posterity (in posteriors).

First off, bad news and some Fat Facts:

  • More women than men are obese because of menopause (not really bad news for men).
  • We now know our bodies can make more fat cells at any age. We used to think we added fat cells only at certain times in life, such as gestation and puberty.
  • Fat cells can swell up to three to six times their minimum size. Oh, swell! Those cells are unwell!
  • “Normal” weight adults have about 40 billion fat cells; overweight people may have as many as 80 billion. Yes, DOUBLE! The odds are really stacked against the stressed out.

Now for some good news and Fit Facts:

  • Relaxing in the Sleeping Buddha position

    Exercise Your Right to Relax and Destress

    We really don’t gain a lot of weight over the holidays. The average is about one pound … per holiday season, so pack light for the upcoming 4th of July!

  • Two super duper interventions that really work to unpack fat are exercise and destressing. No kidding, Sherlock. (Yes, I heard you thinking that all the way from here.) What Dr. Kravitz emphasized is our need to shift our thinking from all or nothing strategies to ones that are more realistic and flexible.
Destressing with Alexandra in Thailand

Aaaaahhh, Bliss Out, Le Freak, C’est Chic

The plan? First, implement the 4 F words of Weight Management and Lower Stress Levels

  1. Have a Flexible approach when creating your workout program. For instance, maybe morning routines don’t work for you, though you’ve heard that early bird exercisers tend to be more consistent. Or your favorite cardio machine is taken. Try a different piece of cardio equipment or an aerobic class. Look for what fits YOU. Today. With each day up for a renewable contract.
  2. Remind yourself that you are not a Failure if you lapse.
  3. Forgive yourself for any unmet goals or expectations.
  4. Fix what’s not working — without blame or self criticism.

As Dr. Kravitz stated, “Learning to lose weight is a skill, just like learning to ride a bike.” He recommends that we use the same strategies as proven, successful weight losers. Referring to the work of Dr. James Hill, who founded the National Weight Loss Registry, Dr. Kravitz highlights the actions in common of those who lose fat (and keep it off):

Successful Fat Losers:

Sleep Helps Reduce Stress

Dog Days of Slumber

  • Stay or become physically active
  • Log 250-300 minutes per week of aerobic activity
  • Limit and monitor dietary intake
  • Accept realistic weight goals
  • Eat a healthy breakfast
  • Schedule meals and exercise thereby staying consistent with both
  • Limit fast food
  • Eat some favorite foods without guilt
  • Accept their body shape
  • Confront problems rather than eat to cope
  • Recognize that weight control is ongoing

Got all that? You now have THE ULTIMATE list of what it takes to lose fat. So relax. And exercise. Then relax some more.

Call to hire Kymberly and Alexandra with this telephone

Call us. We’re dialed in.

Do you or your colleagues need professional, motivating speakers to edu-tain audiences at your next event? Call us at (805) 404-4338 or email info@funandfit.org.

Subscribe to our YouTube channel to see short videos that will improve your fitness. Have you subscribed yet to our blog? Please also follow us on google +Alexandra and +Kymberly, on Twitter: AlexandraFunFit and KymberlyFunFit and Instagram: KymberlyFunFit and AlexandraFunFit. Or click now on the icons above.

A good laugh also reduces stress. So check out this interview of Kymberly from BiteSizeWellness. Spread the Wellness with us!

 

25

3 Stealth Saboteurs of Your Weight Loss

by Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA

Kymberly: Be prepared to disbelieve my next sentence:  If the U.S. continues its current weight gain trends, within the next 2 decades 100 percent of our adult population is projected to be obese. Not just overweight, obese!

Keep an eye out for Sneaky Saboteurs

That Freak Out Fit Fact comes straight from the founder of the National Weight Loss Registry, executive director of the Anschutz Health and Wellness Center located at the University of Colorado Medical Center, and professor of pediatrics and medicine, James O. Hill, PhD. That’s some serious chops. (For more eye-opening weight loss info from Dr. Hill, listen to our radio interview of him, How Do We Escape a Future of Obesity).

If you are at all like me, you are thinking “no way that projected statistic can be right as I have no plan to be in that category and I do plan to be alive in 20 years.”

Consider that already 2/3 of our population is overweight or obese. That means normal weight people are in the minority.

So what can we – you and I – do to reverse that trend and stay at a healthy weight? If you are running to the answer of “eat a healthy diet and exercise” you are mostly right. But exercise and diet are not enough. We must also recognize other factors that cause weight gain:

What are those 3 Sneaky Saboteurs that Hinder Losing Weight?

I’m Dressed for Stress

1) Stress

  • releases cortisol, a hormone that slows your metabolism
  • increases food cravings, especially of sugary, fatty foods
  • promotes fat retention, especially in the abdominal area

2) Sleep (Specifically, Insufficient Snoozing)

Cart Me Away to a Deep Sleep

In the 1970s, U.S. adults averaged 7+ hours per night. We are now down to the low 6s. When we sleep too little (6 hours or fewer) we:

  • are awake longer and often therefore snacking more
  • create an imbalance of appetite-regulating hormones, with the hormone that stimulates hunger pangs taking over
  • are possibly dealing with sleep apnea, which shows a correlation between weight gain and lost, interrupted, or insufficient sleep. The cause and effect are still in question.

Sugar is Trouble – Squared (and Cubed)

3) Sugar

  • Our average intake today is 90 pounds per person per year. That is triple the number of sugar pounds consumed 50 years ago.
  • The American Heart Association recommends women ingest no more than 9 teaspoons per day; men are not to exceed 11
  • Current average is about 28 teaspoons per day.

What are the Solutions?

Reduce stress by building in activities or habits that soothe you. Meditate, perform some kind of cardio workout, take a bath, play with your pet. RELAX ALREADY!

Sleep at least 7 hours per night, preferably 8. More than 8 is not necessarily better though, so don’t feel compelled to snooze 9 or 10 hours. Unless you’re a teen reading this, then 9-10 hours might be a cutback.

Reduce sugar intake. Focus on ingredient labels to know what sugars are in packaged foods. Worry less about the sugar in fruits or sugar you put in your coffee. Where sugar adds up is as an ingredient in other foods. And it’s cleverly disguised too so check for any words ending in “lose” and starting with “something Latin sounding.” Examples: sucrose, lactose, dextrose.

Alexandra: Great. Now I’m hungry, cranky, tired and stressed out. I do not wish to be a statistic, unless it’s in the category of “Woman who is 20 years older and has perfect curves.” I also want to be able to run high and jump tall buildings in a single bound. I think I’ll go take a nap. I already did the cardio. A steam bath sounds good too. With aromatherapy so I can smell my bright, fit future!!

Photo Credits: Creative Commons: Harald Groven (sleeping man), INeedCoffee / CoffeeHero (sugar cubes)

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