I have chosen to write this post because I have had a lot of clients coming to me with complaints of things beyond a difficulty losing fat. These things include fatigue, difficulty sleeping, abnormal periods, low libido, and problems with digestion. I love that they are mentioning these things to me because these issues are related to lifestyle choices, and I can help them begin to address them through the correct nutrition, correct exercise, sleep management, and stress management. I also love that clients are coming to me with these issues because many of them I suffered from. They are what led me to learning about and changing my exercise and nutrition to the type that I use with my clients. So before I explain some of the science, I want to share with you some of my personal experiences.
So, just a warning here. I am about to get personal. I tend to be a fairly private person, but since I have had so many woman share with me similar issues that I have had, I feel it is important to share my story. I felt very alone at times, but there are so many of us out there and there is hope! I have posted before that I used to do hours of cardio with diminishing results. What I have not written about is the other issues that I had for years and years. These include years of very infrequent periods, fertility issues (I had to use fertility treatments to conceive my 2nd and 3rd children), sleep problems, chronic fatigue, and digestive issues. I went to a few traditional doctors over the years and they would ignore the issues of fatigue and sleep and treat only symptoms when it came to infertility. Also ironically, none of the Gynocologists I saw were the least bit concerned over the absence of my period (unless I was wanting to get pregnant). It is sort-of funny as I look back, but I did not really start to look for a different solution until after the birth of my third child (when my traditional exercise routine was no longer effective for fat loss and I felt too fatigued to continue the lengthy cardio sessions).
Now to the exciting part! Things started changing when I was introduced to Metabolic Effect type workouts. I started doing the same type of exercises that I teach my clients (short duration cardio intervals and short duration resistance circuits). Within a couple of weeks of starting, my body composition started changing for the better. It was amazing to me that 30 minutes a day of exercise had me looking better and feeling better than the 1.5 to 2 hours I was spending. I started taking courses and getting certifications through Metabolic Effect to learn the science behind what was happening in my body. I also sought the help of one of the Naturopathic Physicians that co-founded Metabolic Effect. He helped me address the damage that I had caused to my adrenal and digestive systems. In less than six months, my periods had returned on a regular basis and I was no longer having stomach discomfort. After three normal cycles, I became pregnant naturally with Brooke (who is now a happy, healthy 7 month old). Pretty exciting right! All of the above is a huge reason why I am so passionate about Nurturing Fitness and want to reach as many moms out there as possible!
Now back to the title of this post. I want to briefly describe what was happening in my body, what systems were affected, and the process to correct it. Basically, the years of lost of cardio combined with a healthy but relatively low-calorie diet had put my body under chronic stress. This in turn resulted in dysfunction/imbalance in four major systems of my body.
1. First, I created an imbalance in my NERVOUS SYSTEM. The nervous system consists of the sympathetic (fight or flight response) and the parasympathetic (rest and digest). My lifestyle got me stuck using my sympathetic nervous system more than my parasympathetic (when ideally there should be a balance between the two). Symptoms of this (which I had) include disrupted sleep, fatigue, low motivation, and gas/bloating.
2. Second, over time the disruption/imbalance of my nervous system caused a disruption/dysfunction in my ENDOCRINE SYSTEM. Your endocrine system is your hormonal system and involves your hypothalamus and pituitary gland which send signals to your adrenal gland, thyroid, and ovaries. Being stuck using the sympathetic nervous system over stimulates the hypothalamus and pituitary gland and then ultimately leads to a hormonal resistance. The result is a cascade involving adrenal fatigue, dysfunction of the thyroid (although thyroid blood tests will often look normal), and a lack of ovulation/periods.
3. and 4. Finally, once I had dysfunction occurring in the nervous and endocrine systems, my DIGESTIVE and IMMUNE SYSTEMS were affected. Besides having symptoms of heart burn, IBS, and/or gas and bloating; other problems such as difficulty absorbing and assimilating nutrients occurred. Once my immune system was affected, I developed symptoms that included multiple illnesses/colds and the development of food intolerance.
So, next to the basics of my recovery! The very first step that I took with myself and that I now take with my clients is to address nutrition, exercise, sleep, and stress. The process of this for me involved making sure I was eating enough, an exercise routine that combined 20 minute cardio intervals and 20 minute resistance circuits, making 8 hours of sleep a night a priority, and using tactics to deal with stress. I had improvements that were noticeable in a few short weeks, but my problems that had been long-standing and the dysfunction of my body systems required some additional help in the form of natural supplements. Basically, I was supporting these systems to help them recover and get back into balance. I used adrenal adaptogens (such as Rhodiola Rosea and Ashewaghanda) to restore function and support my endocrine system. I also used digestive enzymes, HCL, and probiotics to restore my digestive and immune systems. As I stated above, it took around 6 months for me to recover, but recovery is individualized and averages between 3 and 12 months. Now days, the only one of these supplements I have to use is a minimal amount of adaptogens (probably because I do have a lot of good and some bad stress in my life).
In summary, the first step to dealing with symptoms such as fatigue, sleep disturbances, low libido, irregular menses, and even anxiety/depression is to make corrections in lifestyle (nutrition, exercise, sleep, and stress management). Without doing this, often other interventions (such as birth control pills to regulate periods) will not be affective. Once these lifestyle elements are addressed, decisions can be made on what next steps may need to be taken. Are you dealing with these issues? I would love to help you! The more effective and personalized program I have can be found HERE.