Why Women Need to Understand How Cortisol Affects Their Health

Balance is the key element when it comes to cortisol, a hormone produced in your adrenal glands. Cortisol performs many vital functions, including:

  • Reducing inflammation
  • Regulating blood pressure
  • Metabolizing glucose (sugar)
  • Assisting with circadian rhythm regulation
  • Formulating memories

Many of these tasks contribute to cortisol’s role in controlling the “flight or fight response.”  When your body senses danger, cortisol kicks in with the physiological responses that enable you to either flee the danger or fight it. Your heartbeat increases, blood flows to your major muscle groups, your nervous system is on hyper alert – all thanks to cortisol and other hormones like adrenaline. In this state of emergency preparedness, even the clotting ability of your blood increases, in case of injury. To create a fast supply of energy, you metabolize carbohydrates faster.

From an evolutionary perspective, these responses made a lot of sense. Long ago, stressors were often direct threats requiring a fast physical response, one that still serves us well in certain stressful situations.

Now, however, much of the stress in modern life is chronic stress and we have much more sedentary lives. The cortisol our bodies release in times of stress isn’t necessarily required to initiate a physical response.

How High Cortisol Levels Affect Women

As a result of our more sedentary and stressful lives, many women suffer from an imbalance in their cortisol levels. An excess of cortisol in the body can lead to many troublesome symptoms, including:

  • Hypertension
  • Irritability
  • Weight gain, particularly in the belly and upper back
  • Unexplained fatigue
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Muscle weakness
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Headaches
  • Memory problems
  • Indigestion
  • Insomnia
  • Low libido

For menopausal women, these symptoms can be particularly pronounced. Cortisol levels rise at the end of menstruation, exacerbating menopausal symptoms at what is already a difficult time achieving hormonal balance. This is one of the main contributors to a common issue among menopausal women: excess belly fat.

In menstruating women, excess cortisol can lead to painful, heavy, or absent periods. When estrogen is lowered from continuous stress and cortisol production, all the female hormone imbalance symptoms such as night sweats, sleep problems, and mood swings can get worse.

3 Key Steps to Balance Cortisol Levels

1 – Eat for success

A healthy diet is one of the most effective ways to regulate cortisol levels. Start by implementing these habits into your daily meals.

  • Reduce sugar and simple carbs. Studies show that a diet high in refined carbohydrates and sugar raises cortisol levels. Somewhat paradoxically, a high-sugar diet can also make your body less efficient producing cortisol when in a stressful situation.
  • Drink lots of water. When you’re dehydrated, your cortisol levels rise.
  • Focus on fiber. The gut microbiome influences hormone production. A healthy microbiome requires high fiber intake, in order to stimulate the production of “good’ bacteria in the microbiome.
  • Choose omega-3s. The anti-inflammatory qualities in omega-3 fatty acids help reduce cortisol levels. Foods high in omega-3 include flax, hemp and chia seeds, and nuts like walnuts.
  • Fermented foods for gut health. Fermented foods like yogurt, kimchi, and sauerkraut help contribute to healthy bacteria levels in your gut, which helps regulate hormone production.  

2.  Supplement smartly

Supplements that reduce inflammation and improve gut health can support lower cortisol levels. Some to consider include:

  • Magnesium. Magnesium is a wonder-mineral that helps your body cope with stress and promotes relaxation.
  • Ashwagandha. Adaptogens like ashwagandha help your body cope with stress by lowering cortisol production.
  • Chamomile. Tea made with chamomile has been a relaxation treatment for centuries, and new studies suggest it may reduce cortisol levels.

Taking any new supplementation should be discussed with a healthcare practitioner to make sure it’s the right fit for you. I can help you with a personalized wellness plan tailored to your needs.

3. Reduce daily stress

Chronic stress contributes to problems with cortisol because your body is in a constant state of alert. However, reducing stress is often easier said than done. Focus on coping mechanisms to help address the way you respond to stressful situations.

  • Get enough sleep. It’s frustrating: When we’re tired, we produce more cortisol but that cortisol also keeps us awake! This creates a seemingly endless cycle of exhaustion. Focus on creating a relaxing nighttime routine, including a regular bedtime and a restful sleep environment. Avoid alcohol, screens, large meals and intense exercise before bed. Start to associate sleep with your body and mind being at peace.
  • Spend time in nature. It’s a prescription that has stood the test of time. Being outside lowers your stress responses, including cortisol production. It doesn’t have to be an epic hike – just taking a walk through the neighborhood on a busy day helps.
  • Work on your relaxation responses. Meditation, yoga, and breathwork all condition your body to deal with stressful thoughts while minimizing their physical impact.
  • Be careful with the company you keep. Ever notice that some people are inherently stressful to be around? Although positive social relationships can improve our responses to stress, negative relationships create a sense of chronic stress that isn’t good for your cortisol levels. And don’t limit your reach to human companionship – studies have found that positive interactions with pets can lower cortisol too!

If you recognize any of the signs of high cortisol levels, it’s time to take a proactive approach to managing your response to stress. Let me know if you want to learn more about controlling cortisol levels – and improving your overall health!

Book your appointment today to get started! New patients can book a FREE Meet & Greet with me HERE and existing patients can book a consultation with me HERE.

Sources

Woods NF, Mitchell ES, Smith-Dijulio K. Cortisol levels during the menopausal transition and early postmenopause: observations from the Seattle Midlife Women’s Health Study. Menopause. 2009;16(4):708-718. doi:10.1097/gme.0b013e318198d6b2

Hannibal KE, Bishop MD. Chronic stress, cortisol dysfunction, and pain: a psychoneuroendocrine rationale for stress management in pain rehabilitation. Phys Ther. 2014;94(12):1816-1825. doi:10.2522/ptj.20130597

Soltani H, Keim NL, Laugero KD. Increasing Dietary Carbohydrate as Part of a Healthy Whole Food Diet Intervention Dampens Eight Week Changes in Salivary Cortisol and Cortisol Responsiveness. Nutrients. 2019;11(11):2563. Published 2019 Oct 24. doi:10.3390/nu11112563

Tryon MS, Stanhope KL, Epel ES, Mason AE, Brown R, Medici V, Havel PJ, Laugero KD. Excessive Sugar Consumption May Be a Difficult Habit to Break: A View From the Brain and Body. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2015 Jun;100(6):2239-47. doi: 10.1210/jc.2014-4353. Epub 2015 Apr 16. PMID: 25879513; PMCID: PMC4454811.

Tryon MS, Stanhope KL, Epel ES, Mason AE, Brown R, Medici V, Havel PJ, Laugero KD. Excessive Sugar Consumption May Be a Difficult Habit to Break: A View From the Brain and Body. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2015 Jun;100(6):2239-47. doi: 10.1210/jc.2014-4353. Epub 2015 Apr 16. PMID: 25879513; PMCID: PMC4454811.

Salve J, Pate S, Debnath K, Langade D. Adaptogenic and Anxiolytic Effects of Ashwagandha Root Extract in Healthy Adults: A Double-blind, Randomized, Placebo-controlled Clinical Study. Cureus. 2019;11(12):e6466. Published 2019 Dec 25. doi:10.7759/cureus.6466

Keefe JR, Guo W, Li QS, Amsterdam JD, Mao JJ. An exploratory study of salivary cortisol changes during chamomile extract therapy of moderate to severe generalized anxiety disorder. J Psychiatr Res. 2018;96:189-195. doi:10.1016/j.jpsychires.2017.10.011

Zimberg IZ, Dâmaso A, Del Re M, Carneiro AM, de Sá Souza H, de Lira FS, Tufik S, de Mello MT. Short sleep duration and obesity: mechanisms and future perspectives. Cell Biochem Funct. 2012 Aug;30(6):524-9. doi: 10.1002/cbf.2832. Epub 2012 Apr 4. PMID: 22473743.

Ewert A, Chang Y. Levels of Nature and Stress Response. Behav Sci (Basel). 2018;8(5):49. Published 2018 May 17. doi:10.3390/bs8050049

Pauley PM, Floyd K, Hesse C. The stress-buffering effects of a brief dyadic interaction before an acute stressor. Health Commun. 2015;30(7):646-59. doi: 10.1080/10410236.2014.888385. Epub 2014 Aug 4. PMID: 25090099.

Healthy Glowing Skin Starts from Within

Healthy, glowing, wrinkle and blemish-free skin is something we take for granted when we’re young, but as we age, retaining that youthful glow becomes more challenging. This is partly the result of the natural aging process, and partly due to accumulated exposure to environmental toxins. Add in stressors like poor diet and gut health, dehydration, UV rays, dry and cold air, and skin becomes noticeably duller and more damaged over time. However, rejuvenating your skin doesn’t have to be expensive or rely on invasive procedures. Below are five steps to achieve healthy, glowing skin naturally…because beautiful skin starts from within!

Stay hydrated

Most people know to put moisturizer on dry skin, but it’s equally important to hydrate the skin from within. Staying adequately hydrated affects every cell in your body, including your skin. Studies show that drinking enough water improves skin density and improves blood flow to skin. Here are some quick tips on staying hydrated:

  • Drink enough throughout the day. Although adequate amounts vary by individual, aim for about two to three liters a day.
  • If you have trouble remembering to drink your water, invest in an eco-friendly stainless steel bottle so it’s always with you even on the go.
  • Don’t like the taste of water? Adding a bit of lemon juice, cucumber slices or a drop of peppermint oil can also help make water more palatable.
  • Stay hydrated with fruit and vegetables! Including foods with high water content like leafy greens, parsley, strawberries and cucumbers also contribute to skin health.

Protect your gut health and eat a nutrient dense diet

Good skin is also linked to your gut. Many conditions, including acne, psoriasis, and eczema, can be linked to bacterial imbalances in the microbiome. How does this work? In simple terms, hormones greatly impact your skin, and they are metabolized in your gut. So, when your gut can’t do its job, you’re at risk of hormonal imbalances. Balance is also important with relation to the microbiome, and an overabundance of “bad” bacteria increases inflammation throughout your body, particularly on your body’s largest organ – your skin.

Restoring healthy bacterial balance reduces inflammation and helps to regulate hormones. Focus on whole, natural foods, and eliminate processed foods, in particular, foods high in trans fat, sweets, and fried foods. Also, alcohol can wreak havoc on your gut and lead to dehydration. Too much vino is not your best plan for healthy glowing skin!

Top skin and gut healthy inclusions:

  • Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids like walnuts, hemp hearts, and flax seeds. Omegas can help protect your skin from harmful UV rays. Healthy fats also contribute to smoother, more supple skin, according to research. 
  • Foods high in beta carotene, like sweet potatoes, carrots, and bell peppers, can help protect your skin from sun damage. Beta carotene is an antioxidant, which means it neutralizes damaging free radicals and reduces oxidative stress that leads to inflammation. Another carotenoid called lutein also contributes to skin health, and is found in brightly colored produce like broccoli and tomatoes. One interesting study of 800 women found women who ate a lot of green and yellow vegetables even had fewer wrinkles.
  • Foods high in vitamin C are associated with more youthful skin. It’s also needed to produce collagen, which is the protein that keeps your skin in good shape. Brightly colored fruits and vegetables, citrus fruits and leafy greens are full of beneficial vitamin C. You may be surprised that strawberries and red bell peppers are foods high in vitamin C.
  • Be sure to also include probiotic-rich food and beverages like naturally fermented coconut yogurt, kombucha, tempeh, kimchi and sauerkraut which add to the good bacteria that keep your microbiome in top shape.

Gua Sha

This traditional Chinese healing method uses a scraping tool on lubricated skin in certain fluid motions to help increase circulation. One study noted a decrease in blemishes after one week while another pilot study reported increased microcirculation to the areas treated. While not all “beauty treatments” deliver what they promise, the ancient technique of Gua Sha may be a healthy add on to your skin regimen!

Members of my Wellness Club can get 20% OFF Acurea brand Gua Sha and other facial tools through Wellevate!

Facial acupuncture

An easier, typically much cheaper alternative to injections, facial acupuncture offers myriad benefits with minimal side effects. It’s thought that acupuncture can improve circulation and stimulate collagen production, resulting in a brighter complexion and smoother skin. And, by improving circulation and detoxifying, acupuncture is also an effective treatment for acne, psoriasis, and eczema.

Create a skin-friendly lifestyle

Sleep and exercise both impact your skin. Moderate exercise increases blood flow and stimulates antioxidant production in a way that slows the aging process. The connection between skin health and sleep is not always apparent but there’s a reason we call it “beauty sleep.” Studies show that even one night of missed sleep can impact the quality of your skin.

Aim to get 7 – 8 hours of quality restful sleep each night and set aside time in your day for exercise to maintain youthful and glowing skin!

Book your appointment today to get started! New patients can book a FREE Meet & Greet with me HERE and existing patients can book a consultation with me HERE.


Sources

Wipke-Tevis DD, Williams DA. Effect of oral hydration on skin microcirculation in healthy young and midlife and older adults. Wound Repair Regen. 2007 Mar-Apr;15(2):174-85. doi: 10.1111/j.1524-475X.2007.00202.x. PMID: 17352748.

Pilkington S.M., Rhodes L.E. (2010) Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Skin. In: Krutmann J., Humbert P. (eds) Nutrition for Healthy Skin. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-642-12264-4_9

Black HS, Rhodes LE. Potential Benefits of Omega-3 Fatty Acids in Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer. J Clin Med. 2016;5(2):23. Published 2016 Feb 4. doi:10.3390/jcm5020023

Nagata C, Nakamura K, Wada K, Oba S, Hayashi M, Takeda N, Yasuda K. Association of dietary fat, vegetables and antioxidant micronutrients with skin aging in Japanese women. Br J Nutr. 2010 May;103(10):1493-8. doi: 10.1017/S0007114509993461. Epub 2010 Jan 20. PMID: 20085665.

Proksch E, Segger D, Degwert J, Schunck M, Zague V, Oesser S. Oral supplementation of specific collagen peptides has beneficial effects on human skin physiology: a double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Skin Pharmacol Physiol. 2014;27(1):47-55. doi: 10.1159/000351376. Epub 2013 Aug 14. PMID: 23949208.

Crane JD, MacNeil LG, Lally JS, Ford RJ, Bujak AL, Brar IK, Kemp BE, Raha S, Steinberg GR, Tarnopolsky MA. Exercise-stimulated interleukin-15 is controlled by AMPK and regulates skin metabolism and aging. Aging Cell. 2015 Aug;14(4):625-34. doi: 10.1111/acel.12341. Epub 2015 Apr 22. PMID: 25902870; PMCID: PMC4531076.

Proksch E, Segger D, Degwert J, Schunck M, Zague V, Oesser S. Oral supplementation of specific collagen peptides has beneficial effects on human skin physiology: a double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Skin Pharmacol Physiol. 2014;27(1):47-55. doi: 10.1159/000351376. Epub 2013 Aug 14. PMID: 23949208.

Crane JD, MacNeil LG, Lally JS, Ford RJ, Bujak AL, Brar IK, Kemp BE, Raha S, Steinberg GR, Tarnopolsky MA. Exercise-stimulated interleukin-15 is controlled by AMPK and regulates skin metabolism and aging. Aging Cell. 2015 Aug;14(4):625-34. doi: 10.1111/acel.12341. Epub 2015 Apr 22. PMID: 25902870; PMCID: PMC4531076.

Tina Sundelin, MSc, Mats Lekander, PhD, Göran Kecklund, PhD, Eus J. W. Van Someren, PhD, Andreas Olsson, PhD, John Axelsson, PhD, Cues of Fatigue: Effects of Sleep Deprivation on Facial Appearance, Sleep, Volume 36, Issue 9, 1 September 2013, Pages 1355–1360, https://doi.org/10.5665/sleep.2964

Lam CT, Tse SH, Chan ST, Tam JK, Yuen JW. A survey on the prevalence and utilization characteristics of gua sha in the Hong Kong community. Complement Ther Med. 2015 Feb;23(1):46-54. doi: 10.1016/j.ctim.2014.12.002. Epub 2014 Dec 31. PMID: 25637152.

Nielsen A, Knoblauch NT, Dobos GJ, Michalsen A, Kaptchuk TJ. The effect of Gua Sha treatment on the microcirculation of surface tissue: a pilot study in healthy subjects. Explore (NY). 2007 Sep-Oct;3(5):456-66. doi: 10.1016/j.explore.2007.06.001. PMID: 17905355.

Injury Prevention Tips for an Active Lifestyle

Guest post by Sarah Sherman, PT, DPT, ATC, SCS owner of LIVE4 Physical Therapy & Wellness Advising in Acton, MA

At the start of the new year, we often find ourselves reflecting on our health and setting out to achieve a more active lifestyle. You might be trying a new workout class, focusing on including movement in your daily life, or setting new strength goals. Whatever you are working towards, it is important to set yourself up for success. Achieving and maintaining an active lifestyle takes some work. Here are some tips to help reduce your risk of injury and keep you moving in the right direction.

PREPARE YOUR BODY FOR MOVEMENT

We are all trying to sneak in that quick 30-minute workout, but it is important to prepare the body for the demands of high intensity activity. Try a 5–10-minute dynamic warm-up at the start of your workout to help decrease your risk of injury and improve your performance. A dynamic warm-up is a series of active movements performed to gradually increase blood flow, functional mobility, and flexibility. Save the static stretches for after your workout to help relax and cool-down. Here are some examples of exercises to try:

  • Walking knee to chest stretch
  • Walking hamstring stretch
  • Walking lunges
  • Bodyweight squats
  • Skipping
  • Jump rope

EAT WELL. MOVE WELL.

Fueling your body properly is an essential part of preventing injury and ensuring you can make physical progress. Here are some areas to focus on:

  • Eat adequate, high-quality protein
  • Increase consumption of omega-3 fatty acids to help reduce inflammation
  • Taste the rainbow! Real fruits and vegetables are the best way to consume antioxidant-rich foods
  • Work with your physician to ensure you get enough Vitamin D
  • Consider adding anti-inflammatory herbs and spices to your diet. Try adding ginger, turmeric, or cinnamon to your post-workout smoothie. Or flavor your dinner with garlic or rosemary.

RECOVER FOR SUCCESS

Our bodies must have time to repair and recover to make progressive physical improvements. Quality sleep is essential for the functioning of almost all body systems. Chronic sleep deprivation increases stress hormones, decreases endurance, impairs healing, increases risk of musculoskeletal injury, and so much more. Here are some sleep hygiene tips to support your movement goals:

  • Create a relaxing, individualized bedtime routine
  • Keep your room cool and comfortable
  • Get sunlight during the day
  • Set a consistent sleep schedule

Sarah Sherman, PT, DPT, ATC, SCS is a residency trained Board Certified Sports Physical Therapy Clinical Specialist, Certified Athletic Trainer, and the owner of LIVE4 Physical Therapy & Wellness Advising in Acton, MA. LIVE4 provides private, individualized injury prevention, rehabilitation, and wellness services for athletes and active individuals. Sarah’s career has taken her across the country and provided her the opportunity to work with athletes at all levels, from youth to professional sports. She is passionate about providing holistic, client-centered care to ensure her clients achieve and sustain long-term health and wellness.

Contact Sarah Sherman, PT, DPT, ATC, SCS at sarah@live4pt.com or follow her on Instagram at @live4_pt or on Facebook/Twitter at @live4pt

How to Give Your Metabolism a Healthy Boost

If weight loss and a healthier lifestyle are at the top of your list of New Year’s resolutions, you’re not alone. Many people start out the new year vowing to drop some pounds – but not all succeed. This may be due to an under functioning metabolism – the rate at which we burn calories for energy – which directly correlates to weight gain and loss. The good news is that scientists have made a lot of advancements in our knowledge regarding metabolism, and tapping into those discoveries can put you on the road to success. According to current research, you’ll be more successful if you have a concrete plan that centers around a proactive approach to adding healthy habits to improve your metabolism, not depriving yourself.

Key Terms for Understanding Metabolism

In simple terms, your metabolism refers to the number of calories your body burns for energy. We know that when the body is efficiently burning calories, it also maintains a healthy weight and body composition. Your resting metabolic rate (RMR) is a measurement of how many calories you burn while at rest, without adding in additional exercise. The thermic effect of food is a reference to the increase in metabolic rate (the rate at which your body burns calories) that occurs after ingestion of food. When you eat food, your body must expend some energy (calories) to digest, absorb, and store the nutrients in the food you’ve eaten.

Many factors influence your metabolism overall and this includes your age, body, composition, gender and even the food you consume. Although we all tend to blame a slowing metabolism in middle age on growing older, new research shows that it’s not so much the aging process (although that does play a role), but the lifestyle changes we tend to make in late adulthood that are to blame for midlife weight gain.

Signs Your Metabolism May Need a Boost

Our metabolism impacts more than just our weight. Several other body systems are also impacted including our hormones.

If you are experiencing the following, it may be a sign that your metabolism is not functioning optimally:

  • Tiredness and fatigue
  • Struggle to lose weight – despite exercise
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Thinning hair
  • Low libido
  • Irregular periods
  • Poor sleep
  • Bloating, constipation and more

So, what can we do to help speed up our metabolism and once again become an efficient calorie-burning machine? Read on for 10 easily implemented lifestyle changes that can boost your metabolism and help you reach your resolution goals for 2022.

10 Healthy Ways to Boost Your Metabolism

1 – Give your body the calories it needs.

It may seem counter-intuitive, but calorie restriction can slow down your RMR. Think of it this way: Your body wants to make sure you have the energy you need. When it senses you might not have enough caloric intake to support basic energy requirements, it adapts by requiring fewer calories for survival. That’s a big reason why although crash diets may result in short-term weight loss, many people can’t sustain their new lower weight very long.

2 – Spice up your meals.

Certain spices have thermogenic effects which means they can switch on your body’s heat-production systems, boosting your metabolism as you eat them and afterwards. Spicy foods can have a more pronounced thermogenic effect, so increasing consumption of spicier foods, including cayenne pepper, ginger, and turmeric, can impact your metabolism.

3 – Focus on B vitamins.

The B vitamins serve many functions in the body, one of which is to help your body metabolize food, so it’s essential to get enough. Good sources of B vitamins include fruit and vegetables such as bananas, spinach, peas, whole grains (buckwheat, farro, amaranth) and legumes (beans and lentils). Note that vitamin B12 is mostly available through animal sources, so vegans and vegetarians may want to investigate supplements or a good quality multivitamin. Proper testing and speaking with a natural healthcare practitioner can help determine if you have any nutrient deficiencies.

4 – Choose whole foods and plenty of protein.

Heavily processed and overly sweetened foods and beverages create an inflammatory response in the body that slows digestion, increases the production of harmful free radicals, raises insulin resistance, and ultimately slows your metabolism. Instead of processed foods, choose foods as close to their natural state as possible. In particular, quality sources of protein are important. The thermogenic effect of consuming protein is higher than that of carbohydrates or fat, and protein helps prevent muscle loss if losing weight. However, don’t be fooled into thinking “protein = meat”, did you know 1 cup of lentils has more protein than a serving of chicken?!

5 – Add resistance training to your workout routine.

Because muscle is more metabolically active than fat, increasing the amount of muscle on your frame will raise your resting metabolic rate. A resistance training workout can also create an “afterburn” effect, in which you continue to burn a greater number of calories after the workout is over. And, resistance training isn’t heavy weight lifting, incorporate yoga, pilates or barre classes to get a healthy dose of resistance in your routine.

6 – Stay hydrated and choose your beverages wisely.

Making careful choices about what you drink can help keep your metabolism in check. Staying hydrated with water is important for maintaining a well functioning metabolism, as even mild dehydration may slow metabolism down. Some studies show that green and oolong tea consumption can boost your metabolic rate by as much as 5%. Coffee also has a similar thermogenic effect shortly after consumption.

7 – Get enough sleep.

Sleep has a surprisingly big impact on your metabolism, considering you’re not active when you’re asleep! Your body will find ways to conserve energy if you’re tired, and studies confirm that your RMR decreases after a night of inadequate sleep. Plus, when you’re tired, you’re more likely to make poor food choices, in part because sleep helps maintain a balance between the hunger hormone, ghrelin, and the fullness hormone, leptin.

8 – Reduce stress.

When you’re stressed, your body’s “fight or flight” response leads to increased production of the hormone cortisol. Once again, this is the body’s way of trying to conserve energy in stressful times, and, as a result, cortisol can lead to an increase of appetite. Insulin secretion also increases with higher cortisol levels. This made sense centuries ago, when resources were often scarce during times of stress, but in today’s world of modern conveniences, it often leads to weight gain. Of course, reducing stress isn’t always easy, but stress-reduction strategies like moderate exercise and meditation have proven results.

9 – Build in incidental movement to your days.

Moving more doesn’t have to mean formal workouts at the gym. Simply adding more incidental movement throughout the day improves your metabolism. Whether you’re cleaning your house, parking a bit further away from the store, using a standing desk at work, or taking the stairs instead of an elevator, you’re helping your metabolism in a way that fits with your daily life. Even fidgeting more can help improve your non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT), which is the number of calories you burn aside from formal workouts. NEAT tends to slow down with age – we move less in regular life as we get older – so make a conscious effort to keep this on your radar as you age.

10 – Keeping a regular schedule for meals.

Skipping meals might seem like a good weight loss strategy, but ultimately, your body likes a regular schedule. As with low-calorie diets, skipping meals can trigger your body to conserve energy, which ultimately slows your metabolism.

Implement these healthy lifestyle changes and take control of your metabolism today! If you’d like some help finding the perfect balance for your unique needs with tailored recommendations, I’m here to help.


Sources

Pesta DH, Samuel VT. A high-protein diet for reducing body fat: mechanisms and possible caveats. Nutr Metab (Lond). 2014;11(1):53. Published 2014 Nov 19. doi:10.1186/1743-7075-11-53

Hursel R, Westerterp-Plantenga MS. Thermogenic ingredients and body weight regulation. Int J Obes (Lond). 2010 Apr;34(4):659-69. doi: 10.1038/ijo.2009.299. Epub 2010 Feb 9. PMID: 20142827

Dulloo AG, Geissler CA, Horton T, Collins A, Miller DS. Normal caffeine consumption: influence on thermogenesis and daily energy expenditure in lean and postobese human volunteers. Am J Clin Nutr. 1989 Jan;49(1):44-50. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/49.1.44. PMID: 2912010.

Boschmann M, Steiniger J, Hille U, Tank J, Adams F, Sharma AM, Klaus S, Luft FC, Jordan J. Water-induced thermogenesis. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2003 Dec;88(12):6015-9. doi: 10.1210/jc.2003-030780. PMID: 14671205.

Bacaro V, Ballesio A, Cerolini S, Vacca M, Poggiogalle E, Donini LM, Lucidi F, Lombardo C. Sleep duration and obesity in adulthood: An updated systematic review and meta-analysis. Obes Res Clin Pract. 2020 Jul-Aug;14(4):301-309. doi: 10.1016/j.orcp.2020.03.004. Epub 2020 Jun 8. PMID: 32527625.

Kiecolt-Glaser JK, Habash DL, Fagundes CP, et al. Daily stressors, past depression, and metabolic responses to high-fat meals: a novel path to obesity. Biol Psychiatry. 2015;77(7):653-660. doi:10.1016/j.biopsych.2014.05.018

Van Pelt RE, Jones PP, Davy KP, Desouza CA, Tanaka H, Davy BM, Seals DR. Regular exercise and the age-related decline in resting metabolic rate in women. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1997 Oct;82(10):3208-12. doi: 10.1210/jcem.82.10.4268. PMID: 9329340

Yamamoto R, Tomi R, Shinzawa M, et al. Associations of Skipping Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner with Weight Gain and Overweight/Obesity in University Students: A Retrospective Cohort Study. Nutrients. 2021;13(1):271. Published 2021 Jan 19. doi:10.3390/nu13010271

Healthy Weight Strategies: Is It Better to Eat Less or Exercise More?

Eat less, exercise more. You’ve probably heard that’s the secret to weight loss. So, it makes sense that if you want to lose weight quickly, or if you’ve hit a weight-loss plateau, you need to really ramp up the exercise, right?

Unfortunately, many people experience frustration with this approach. Why aren’t they successful?  Research suggests that weight loss can be more complex than a simple “calories in/calories out” formula. In fact, our hormones play a larger role in regulating our metabolism than many people realize. As a result, maintaining a diet that encourages hormonal balance is often more effective than hours of exercise.

Why Exercise Can’t Make Up for a Bad Diet

Consider a woman training for a 10-K race. She runs from half an hour to an hour every day. With all of that exercise, she figures she should be losing weight and should be able to treat herself every so often.  However, she’s plagued by some remaining pounds that she just can’t shake.

What’s happening? Let’s take a look at the math. As a 140-pound woman, she burns about 300 calories in a 30-minute run. And that’s fantastic! In addition to the calorie loss, she experiences cardio health, mood elevation, and countless other benefits (including a sense of accomplishment!) from her runs.

However, those 300 calories are a lot easier to consume than they are to burn. Simply put, she can consume 300 calories by eating a small bagel or sipping on a sweet coffee drink.

In fact, studies have shown that exercising often leads to an increase in food consumption – I know this is true for me, I am always hungrier the rest of the day after working out. Some of this effect may be due to our hormones’ impacts on appetite, and some of it simply might be because we tend to tell ourselves (often subconsciously) that we deserve more food after a workout.

The Science Of Exercise And Appetite

Interestingly, one study found that a modest amount of exercise (about 30 minutes a day, such as a brisk walk around your neighborhood) is more effective for losing body fat than longer periods of working out. One reason for this might be that our everyday movement (the things we do in a normal that are not related to formal exercise) may decrease if we’re tired from a long workout. As well, the hormones that stimulate our appetite may increase when our bodies are overstressed by hard workout.

What does this mean for your weight-loss efforts? All told, scientists have concluded that diet is more effective than exercise for weight loss. However, the best approach combines the two. That’s because it’s important not to dismiss exercise’s role. Working out can improve your metabolism, particularly if you add strength training to your routine. And, of course, exercise offers countless other benefits – from better skin to improved digestion to deeper sleep. It’s an important part of a healthy, balanced life.

The Most Effective Formula For Weight Loss

So, what is the ideal weight loss formula? The best approach is one that reflects your unique health profile. Your age, gender, overall health and lifestyle all impact your metabolism. That’s why it’s important to work with your healthcare practitioner to develop a strategy that works for you and to make sure there isn’t something else going on that’s sabotaging your ability to reach your weight loss goals.

Breaking a Plateau – Tips for Success in 2022

A few simple changes can help you make the most of the “diet” part of the equation so that you experience the weight-loss benefits of both diet and exercise.

1. Experiment with intermittent fasting to find a fasting schedule that works for you.

Intermittent fasting involves integrating scheduled periods of abstaining from food. There are many different approaches you could try. To name a few popular examples, some people eat regular meals five days a week and fast for the other two. And many people follow an “8-16” schedule, in which they eat for eight hours a day (for example, 10:00am to 6:00pm), then fast for 16 hours. I prefer the “8-16” schedule, as I have seen many patients struggle with the “5 days on and 2 days off” food schedule – they tend to overeat during the 5 days. Plus, consciously allowing an extended period of fasting overnight (from 6pm to 10am) allows proper digestion of your meals before going to bed AND allows your body to restore itself overnight (clear inflammation form the brain, build immunity, detoxify hormones, etc.)

Studies have found that the effectiveness of these periods of fasting goes beyond the missed calories because of the effect on your hormones – for example, periods of not eating can help keep insulin levels in check. When your food is digested in your gut, carbs are converted to sugar and used for energy. But excess sugar is stored as fat, with the help of insulin. If your insulin levels drop, fat cells can release this stored sugar. In addition, fasting can elevate your levels of human growth hormone (HGH) which can lead to muscle growth and fat loss.

2. Keep a food diary.

One strategy that has been proven effective for weight loss is to carefully monitor what you’re eating in a food diary. Making this a habit can help prevent the tendency many of us have to overcompensate for an exercise session or grab a quick snack without realizing the extra intake and its effect.

My favorite apps for food tracking are Daily Dozen and My Fitness Pal.

3. Focus on natural, nutrient-dense whole foods.

When you want to get the most nutrient value from the foods you eat, “clean” eating is the best approach. Often when people hit plateaus in their weight-loss efforts, hormone imbalances are to blame. And that means that no amount of extra exercise will help break the plateau. Nutrient-dense foods are full of vitamins and minerals that can help restore hormonal balance. So try cutting out processed foods, refined sugar, and alcohol in favor of whole foods. On average, people have lost 1-3 pounds a week when switching to a plant based diet.

Want some support and fun ideas to get more natural, nutrient-dense foods in to your life in 2022?

Join my upcoming webinar, Plant Based and Powerful, on January 13, 2022