It never ceases to amaze me how many myths we’re bombarded with concerning diet, exercise, and weight. Following are some common myths that I hear frequently from my patients. Have you heard them, too? Have you begun to realize that they’re false?
Myth: Cutting fat and calories is all you need to do to lose weight.
Fact: A low-fat, low-calorie diet is not good for most women. Your body is craving certain types of nutrients and, without them, your adrenals can’t function properly. And if your adrenals aren’t functioning properly, you’ll find it very difficult to lose weight. Since we’ve gone low-fat/no-fat, obesity rates have actually increased.
Myth: Vigorous exercise is beneficial to any weight-loss program.
Fact: If you’re suffering from adrenal imbalance, too much exertion will actually have the opposite effect, raising your stress levels and driving your body to produce more cortisol, which will contribute to fatigue as well as interfere with your weight loss. Depending on your adrenals, moderate or gentle exercise may be better for you, at least for a while.
Myth: It doesn’t matter what kind of food you eat, as long as it’s low-fat or low-calorie.
Fact: Different food has different impacts on different body types. If you don’t address the hormonal imbalances that are driving your weight gain, just reducing caloric intake won’t help. Your body will continue to produce cortisol, a hormone that drives your body to hold onto fat, as well as creating other metabolic imbalances.
Myth: After menopause, it’s pretty much inevitable that you gain five pounds each year.
Fact: Although many women do gain weight after menopause, that is by no means inevitable. When the adrenals are balanced, the weight returns to a healthy level.
Myth: If you’re overweight when you go into menopause, you need an hour a day of exercise just to maintain your current weight.
Fact: If you’ve tried a healthy diet and moderate exercise and still failed to lose weight, your body is probably out of balance in some way. You may be struggling with hormonal issues, insulin resistance, thyroid abnormalities, adrenal dysfunction, or some combination of all of these. Find the problem and solve it. Don’t push yourself to higher levels of exertion.
Myth: You can’t rehabilitate your metabolism. Once it’s slow, it’s slow.
Fact: Your metabolism is extremely responsive to diet, exercise, and adrenal function. Getting your adrenals into tip-top condition can work wonders with resetting your metabolism and then keeping it healthy.
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Timing Is Everything: Timing Your Meals and Snacks
Timing your meals and snacks may well be the most important aspect of the adrenal-friendly eating plan:
Plan for regular mealtimes and snack times, eating approximately every three hours, with the first meal taken within an hour of arising.
Eat your biggest meal early in the day, with dinner being the lightest meal.
Stop eating three hours before bedtime.
There are two reasons for this plan. First, getting too hungry means you’ve let your blood sugar levels drop — and low blood sugar stresses your body and can tax your adrenals.
Cortisol — one of the stress hormones released by your adrenals — makes sure your blood sugar stays high enough to feed your body’s muscles and organs. Long periods without food make the adrenals work harder — they have to release more cortisol to signal your liver to release glycogen.
Stress, Adrenals, and the Cortisol Cycle
If you’re living a stressful life, your adrenals are working pretty hard already, releasing cortisol in response to deadlines, your children’s crises, and perhaps also your own anxieties, fears, and frustrations. Keep your body well supplied with blood sugar by eating every three hours, and give your adrenals a rest.
The other key reason for timing your meals has to do with your cortisol cycle. Cortisol has a natural cycle that works with your circadian rhythm. Normally, cortisol begins to rise around 6:00 a.m., peaks at 8 a.m., and then gradually declines throughout the day, apart from small rises in response to exercise, meals, or snacks. At night, healthy cortisol levels are usually low, in preparation for nighttime rest.
It’s ideal to work with this natural cycle to avoid dramatic ups and downs. The best way to do this is to get most of your food in earlier in the day and to eat an early dinner, by 6 p.m.
Do You Overeat in the Evenings?
Many of my patients tell me they overeat in the evening to soothe themselves. If they’ve been living with high levels of stress all day, their cortisol is quite high — and that can either stimulate or decrease their appetites.
This can lead to the vicious cycle that we saw before: if stress stimulates the appetite, then nighttime eating disturbs sleep, and the Workhorse becomes exhausted — and her next day is all the more stressful. If she uses caffeine to keep herself going through that exhausted day, she’s compounding the problem even further, as the caffeine in her system will also help keep her awake.
One way to “get off the merry-go-round” is to shift eating patterns, with the heaviest meal in the morning, the lightest one at night, and either no caffeine or very restricted caffeine during the day.
Cortisol Levels and Exercise
Keep in mind that cortisol will also rise a bit with exercise. Lighter activities, such as a walk after dinner or a bit of gentle stretching before bedtime, will not subvert this natural tapering-off process. But more intense exercise is often best planned for the morning, before you eat. However, listen to your body’s symphony: Some of my patients prefer to exercise at the end of the day, sometime between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m., to release the day’s stress.
I personally prefer to exercise in the morning, but again, there’s no one right way. You should decide when exercise feels best to you and plan to do it then. The ideal is to not push and to check in with yourself.
If you feel fabulous after a workout, then you’ve found the ideal time. If you feel exhausted, you need to either find another time or perhaps wait until your adrenals are in better shape.
©2011,2013 by Marcelle Pick. All Rights Reserved.
(Original Title 2011: Are You Tired and Wired/ Revised 2013.)
Excerpted with permission of the publisher,
Hay House Inc. www.hayhouse.com
This article was adapted with permission from the book:
Is It Me or My Adrenals?: Your Proven 30-Day Program for Overcoming Adrenal Fatigue and Feeling Fantastic Again...
by Marcelle Pick.
Do you wake up every morning feeling tired, overwhelmed, and stressed? Are you constantly reaching for coffee, soda, or some other promise of energy just to keep yourself going? Do you struggle through the day — sluggish, irritable, forgetful, depressed, and craving sweets — only to have trouble sleeping at night? If you answered yes to any or all of these questions, you’re not alone. In fact, hundreds of thousands of women are fighting these same feelings as they strive to live the lives they want. In Is It Me or My Adrenals?, Marcelle Pick gives you the knowledge and tools to overcome this epidemic of fatigue.
About the Author
Marcelle Pick is a member of the American Nurses Association, American Nurse Practitioner Association and American Holistic Nurses Association. She has served as Medical Advisor to Healthy Living Magazine, lectured on a variety of topics — including “Alternative Strategies to Healing” and “Body Image” — and appears regularly on television to discuss women’s health. She is also a member of the advisory board for the renowned Hoffman Institute. In her practice, she undertakes a holistic approach that not only treats illness, but also helps women make choices in their lives to prevent disease. Visit her website: www.WomenToWomen.com