The Four Systems of Your Body That Your Lifestyle and Exercise Routine Could Be Damaging and What To Do About It!

image     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.

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What is the Difference Between Fat Loss Foods and Healthy Foods?

image     Are you confused about what foods you should and should not be eating?  There are a lot of nutritional plans out there including eating low-carb, eating low-fat, avoiding meat, detox, cleansing, fasting, and only eating raw foods to name a few.  It can be confusing because there seems to be experts and evidence to support all of these to some extent.  The purpose of this article is to try to help clear up some of this confusion and to give you a glimpse into the philosophy I use when developing nutritional plans for clients.

The first thing I need to clarify is what the goals are for my clients and the intentions of my coaching and plans.  Most on my clients come to me with a desire to be healthy (free of disease, full of energy, strong) and to optimize their body composition (loose inches, lose fat, gain muscle).  Most of my clients want to lose weight, but I want to make sure that the weight they lose is fat and not muscle.  You may have seen my post awhile back that stated if the weight you lose is muscle, you may be smaller in the short-term but flabbier and probably fatter and larger in the long-term.  This is all related to hormones and muscle loss.

So, if my clients and I want to achieve fat loss, then I would call their nutritional plans fat loss diets.  But what does a fat loss diet mean?  A fat loss diet means that you are eating foods that help you lose fat and change your body composition.  There are lots of other characteristics of a fat loss diet which include controlling insulin with a higher ratio of fiber and protein relative to carbohydrate, a decreased dietary fat content, and eating enough starchy carbohydrates and calories to have energy but not enough to slow metabolic fat burning.

So, here is the distinction between healthy foods and fat loss foods.  Fat loss foods help you to lose fat and change your physique.  Examples of these foods include lean protein, lots of vegetables, small amounts of healthy fats, and enough starch to maintain muscle/energy but not enough to stop fat loss.  Fat loss foods are always healthy foods, but not all healthy foods are fat loss foods.  What I mean by this is that many foods that are considered healthy do not help you lose fat or change your body composition in a positive manner.  So, are you wondering what foods are healthy foods but not fat loss foods?  Below I will name five common ones and briefly explain why….

1.  Beans and Legumes  The reason these are not fat loss foods is that they high starch content (over 70%).  Fat loss foods have a higher ratio of fiber and protein relative to carbohydrates (starch).  As I stated above, this ratio of fiber and protein relative to starch is important for fat loss because it controls insulin.

2.  Whole Wheat and Whole Grain The reason these are not fat loss foods is the same as indicated for beans and legumes.  Whole wheat and whole grain products are 70 to 80% starch.  Another interesting thing to note is that there are a lot of individuals that have a sensitivity to gluten (a protein found in whole wheat products).  This sensitivity may present itself as stomach upset, but it also can impede fat loss.

3.  Juice  Fruit juice has many vitamins and phytochemicals with healing properties.  But it is also lacking in fiber and is high in natural sugars.  Therefore, fruit juice inhibits fat loss by elevating insulin levels.  You are much better off eating a piece of fruit, but there are also some individuals whose fat loss is also inhibited by fruits (due to the high natural sugar content).

4.  Milk  Milk is not a fat loss food because it contains amino acids that are insulin producing.  If you can remember from above, a key to a fat loss diet is controlling insulin levels.  A great substitute that I suggest to my clients is almond milk or coconut milk.

5.  Nuts and Seeds  In large amounts, these are not fat loss foods because fat is converted to fat quicker than protein or carbohydrates when there is an excess.  With that said, small amounts of healthy fats are actually needed for optimal body function and for fat loss.  That is why all of my clients consume at least one serving of healthy fats a day.

One important point that I began to make reference to above is that some healthy foods (such as the nuts and seeds) will not disrupt fat loss and may actually aid in fat loss when consumed in limited quantities.  Other examples of this include small amounts of beans or small amounts of rice.  In summary, a fat loss diet is rich in foods that are high in lean protein and high in fibrous veggies and much lower in amounts of high starch/sugar foods and healthy fats.  No foods are completely off-limits in a fat loss lifestyle, but the ratio of fat loss foods you are eating relative to the non-fat loss foods will play a part in your success in body change.  Want a jump-start and help in you fat loss nutrition plan?  Join my 4 Week Summer Shape Up Online Program.  But hurry, it starts May 1st and sign-ups end April 29th.

How to Be Fit and Healthy After MULTIPLE PREGNANCIES!

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     One of the reasons I started Nurturing Fitness is because I want to teach fellow moms what I have learned through my own experiences and through my education.  I am a mom or four, with my youngest being six months old and my oldest being eight.  While I have always been athletic and healthy, my tactics for maintaining myself have had to change over the years.  This is partly because my body’s response to food and exercise has changed and partly because my responsibilities and time for myself have changed.  It is my goal through my Nurturing Fitness programs, such as the 4 Week Summer Shape Up For Busy Moms that starts May 1st, to help as many moms as possible become healthy, fit, comfortable in their own skins, and excellent role models for their children.  It is possible to be healthy and after multiple pregnancies and I have found there are 5 key steps to reaching this goal.

     The first of these is to make yourself a priority.  You have to make time for you to get your workout in.  It does not take long; you only need to block out thirty minutes of your time.  I choose to do this first thing in the morning because it helps me start my day off in a healthy manner that carries through the rest of my choices for the day.  But you need to carve out your time whenever it is easiest for you and works best for you.  Next, you need to make yourself a priority by making sure you have the foods you need to eat for fat loss.  The easiest way to do this is make a list and shop ahead for the week.  Also, having prepared or easy to grab and go snacks and meals works well.  If you are someone who cooks family meals on a nightly basis, make sure the recipes you choose allow both you and your family’s needs to be met.  I have some great recipes already up on my website and will be sharing several recipes with the participants of my 4 Week Summer Shape Up For Busy Moms.

     The second of these is that you have to learn proper nutrition.  Foods have a hormonal affect on your body.  Foods can either result in the release of hormones that promote fat loss, stabilize blood sugar, and promote muscle-building or result in the release of hormones that promote fat gain, dramatic shifts in blood sugar, and potential muscle loss.  All of us have unique physical make-ups and therefore, there is no one size fits all nutritional plan.  But there are some general guidelines that are fairly universal.  These include: lots of high fiber and nutritious veggies, a good amount of protein, and smaller amounts of healthy fats, starchy carbohydrates, and fruits.  It can be a little challenging to figure out initially what nutritional plan and lifestyle will work for you and that is where a fat loss coach or nutritional counselor can be beneficial.  But if you have the right coach/counselor, you should develop a good understanding of what foods affect you in a positive way and which do not.  You should also have an understanding of how to modify your lifestyle as your body and needs change.

     The third of these is you need to learn the most efficient and effective exercises.  As moms, we all have very limited time (whether we stay at home, work, or do a combination of both).  Therefore, an exercise plan that requires very little time is obviously optimal for the ability to carry it out in the short and long-term.  I am one of those crazy people who like to exercise.  If you have read some of my previous posts, you may already know that I used to spend hours each day exercising.  With four kids, I no longer have hours to spend.  In addition, too much exercise can actually become harmful or counter productive.  Exercise increases the release of stress hormones.  Too much exercise, especially the moderate intensity, long durations type, can actually lead to muscle loss, fat deposition around the waist, increased hunger, increased cravings, low energy, and sleep disturbances.  Aren’t those all the opposite of the reasons why we exercise?  There are lots of variations of the most efficient and effective workouts, but some generalizations can be made.  These include short duration, high intensity resistance training with a small amount of short duration cardio interval training and restorative activities (walking, yoga, ect.)

     The fourth of these is to get enough sleep.     I am wondering how many of you reading this are laughing right now.  I have a six month old (plus three other older children) so I know how hard it is to get enough sleep.  First, let me share with you some reasons why sleep is so important and then I will share some of my solutions.  Sleep is a hormonal reset button.  It helps replenish/reset hunger hormones, anti-aging hormones, stress hormones, and muscle-building hormones.  Most adults need around 8 hours of sleep a night.  Some of the consequences of not enough sleep include increased hunger and cravings, increased reactivity to stress, and a decreased ability to improve body composition.  My methods for ensuring enough sleep have varied based on the number of children I have and the age of my children.  When I had a newborn with my first two children, I slept while my little ones slept (day or night).  With my last baby, I made sure I went to bed as soon as she went to bed and let my husband/family handle putting the others down for bed.  I also use a wind down routine to help me relax which includes snuggling my children and reading to them, Yogi bedtime tea, and writing all my to-do list/worries in a notebook.  Here is a link to more free info on improving sleep http://nurturingfitness.com/free-information/.

     The fifth of these is to take time to recharge/destress.  We all have a finite amount of energy.  Studies have shown that people can only work productively for 90 to 120 minutes at one time without a break.  Studies have also described cognitive, physical, and emotional batteries in our bodies that require recharging.  You can learn more about this in my previous post. Ways to recharge include leisurely walks, meeting with a friend, reading, yoga, meditation, a massage, ect.  It doesn’t take a lot of time.  Even a block of time as little as twenty minutes is beneficial.  Who cannot make time (20 minutes a day) for this?  For me, it works best to get up earlier than everyone else and just relax or write in my gratitude journal.  I also require a small amount of quiet time from my older two children while my younger ones are asleep in the afternoon.

     Do all of these key steps make sense to you but you are not sure how to implement them?  My 4 Week Summer Shape Up for Busy Moms will directly address the nutritional and exercise components and also include information and suggestions for sleep and recharging.  It will give you a great start on your path to better health and fitness.  To find out more or sign-up click HERE!  But hurry spots are limited and sign-ups end April 29th.

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