Have you ever tried riding a unicycle blindfolded while juggling a tennis ball, bowling pin, and chainsaw? Assuming most of us haven’t performed in a circus, the answer would be no. However, life can be very similar to this act. Finding balance is the base of success for both the juggling act and life itself. In both scenarios, things will start to fall apart without balance, both literally and figuratively. We are pulled in a million different directions daily; often making it difficult to find balance.
When talking about living a healthy and fulfilling life, we often look at three aspects: mind, body, and spirit. Comparable to nutrition when we look at carbohydrates, fats, and proteins, we must dig deeper to further understand how much of each category we need and what to include or what to avoid. I like to break down these three aspects of life further into five subcategories of wellness:
Physical wellness focuses on your physique, nutrition and health habits. When talking about physical wellness, it is more than hitting the gym regularly; it also includes what and how much food and liquid you are consuming, the amount of sleep you give your body and your ability to make healthier lifestyle choices such as avoiding tobacco and alcohol. This dimension is directly related to the body, which is the home for the mind and spirit. We can’t live alone on our physical wellness; however, it is often a representation of how the mind and spirit are feeling as well. Physical strength allows our mind, body, and spirit to thrive in a healthy environment that we can build ourselves.
Tip: Go for a walk next time you feel like using an unhealthy habit to cope with stress.
Mental wellness can often be the most difficult for us as humans. According to the American Mental Wellness Association, this subcategory can be described as, “A state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.” Mental wellness deals a lot with our personal issues, confidence, self-esteem and how we deal with stress. When related to stress, it is our mental strength that helps keep us from avoiding unhealthy habits to cope like smoking or drinking. Mental health can be influenced similarly to physical wellness as we need proper sleep and a nutritious diet; we also need to know when to rest mentally versus physically. Taking a few minutes out of your hectic schedule to meditate or just pause for some stillness allows mental rest throughout your day.
Tip: Next time you start to feel flustered at work or home, step into a closet or quiet room and take ten long deep breaths, regroup your thoughts, and then go back and dominate the rest of your day.
Emotional wellness is where you are in touch with your feelings: joy, sorrow, love, hate, fear, anger, trust, etc. Often, it is our emotions that drive our motives and control our reactions to whatever life throws at us. Emotional strength is not being able to hold in your tears during a dramatic movie, but instead being able to express your emotions in a healthy manner. Emotional strength is being able to smile throughout the day, be light to anger, and express yourself through healthy outlets like dance, singing and art. Emotions can be contagious! If someone is feeling joy, he/she might hug you or open a door for you. This then makes you happy and may change your feelings for the day. However, it can also be road rage when someone is driving angrily and cuts you off, thus angering you on your way to work. It is important to be aware of other people’s emotions and how you react to them. When it comes down to it, you have negative and positive emotions, but you have to decide how they will impact you.
Tip: Focus on the emotions that feel good inside and express with a smile or dance.
Social wellness is one of my favorites because of its fluency with all the other dimensions of wellness. First, imagine living life all alone. With no one around to talk to or bug you. Some people, at first, would love this concept; however, as Tom Hanks taught us in the movie Castaway, we would eventually start to go crazy. Our mental health would start to fail and we would start talking to inanimate objects. We wouldn’t be able to express our emotions with others who could understand our feelings and we would have no workout buddies to push us in the gym! Jokes aside, social health is how we communicate and get along with others who may keep us accountable in other aspects of life. Social strength allows us to create strong relationships that connect us with others. Whether it be workout partners who train and eat together, someone to express our emotions to when we are feeling frustrated, or groups of people who have had similar struggles and work together to overcome them, Social health is important because it helps us succeed in different areas of life with a team.
Tip: Find a social group for areas of life you want to improve in.
Lastly, spiritual wellness is a personal matter involving values and beliefs that provide a purpose in our lives. While different individuals may have different views of what spiritualism is, it is generally considered to be the search for meaning and purpose of human existence, leading one to strive for a state of harmony with oneself and others while working to balance inner needs with the rest of the world. I believe everyone should have something that he/she believes in, whether it be religion, fate, science, an all-powerful being, nature, etc. Spiritual health is believing in something that helps bring reason and understanding to our lives when nothing else makes sense. This dimension is the most personal and self-driving of the five subcategories.
Tip: For some, this can be difficult to establish so I would recommend exploring your family background, practicing yoga, traveling and meditating to try to find some answers.
Finding balance in our lives may sound difficult when looking at ourselves as a whole, but when we take a step back and look at how well we are doing in certain areas, we can establish a base. From there, we can see where we struggle and then find ways to improve. Just like we do in the gym, we want to focus on the weak parts of ourselves because that will only make everything else stronger. Imagine going through life as driving a car: if you get a flat tire, you don’t pump up the other tires and keep driving without addressing the flat tire. It may be possible to keep going for a short distance, but the rest of the car will eventually fall apart. Instead, you need to fix the flat tire so you can stay balanced and keep driving to your destination.
Tip: Set realistic goals and priorities. Tackle what needs to be done first. Find support and purpose. Don’t forget to reserve time for your own needs too!
This world, especially in the western society, seems to be defined by time. Everything that we do, and do not do is constrained by time. Time will rule our life unless we wield our personal power to take responsibility for convincing the clock to work in our favor.
I want to be more physically fit; I want to be healthier; I want to compete in an athletic event. We have all had this conversation before with ourselves and with our friends. The number one objection I hear is that someone lacks the resources they would like to have to achieve the health and fitness of their dreams. The reality is that there is a limited amount of resources. True. The reason that most do not make health and fitness a priority is because of convenience and time. Well, if convenience is the problem let me help you by delivering a workout to your phone (exercise video demonstrations included) so that you can do what we all do at the gym already – look at your phone awkwardly in between sets (checking emails, planning the evening’s events after you finish your workout, or making sure everyone on “the gram” knew you made your sweaty appearance to “pay your dues” for eating those donuts for breakfast). At the end of the day, I am passionate about coaching people into a healthier and happier life using fitness.
Now, if you’re still reading, great. That means that convenience isn’t your barrier. Onwards to time… that is, if you have time to read more. I promise to keep it short. We each have an allotted amount of the world’s most precious resource every minute, hour, day, week, month, year, etc. We all have 168 hours in our week. The difference between each of us is how we utilize that time. There is one simple way to get started today making time work in your favor instead of having your stomach in knots while you continuously race the clock – GET ORGANIZED. Structure might seem rigid and forced but that is simply a perception. Paradoxically, a bit of structure added to your schedule can offer freedom.
One of my favorite ways of getting organized that takes your highest purpose and desires into account is by using a weekly calendar to create your Best Week where you create a hypothetical week that has each of your responsibilities and priorities considered. Be sure to add the important stuff – things like sleep, eating and cooking, exercise and recreation, time in transit, your work or school schedule – that you must accomplish. Be sure not to skimp on sleep! Block out a full 8-9 hours. Remember this is the schedule that you would ideally follow if everything in your day went perfectly. Once finished, you have a framework for your realistic and reactive schedule. The framework of your Best Week will help you be more aware to time management, your decisions, manage those decisions more efficiently, and provide you with the opportunity to say no to the things you don’t want and yes to those that you do.
This system for your schedule is one of trade-offs. You will have to make decisions but instead of the uncertainty of “what if” you will have the certainty of knowing exactly what’s being taken on and/or given up. For example, I do my best to keep a 2-hour window of time in the middle of the day free for when I feel most efficient and creative for doing things like designing workout programs, writing, or keeping myself active. Therefore, whenever I schedule a client for an afternoon session, I know that the trade-off will be giving up my best efficiency and creativity to accomplish those tasks. Developing this system for myself took time and it’s a continual process of refinement in the name of effectiveness. Adding the freedom of choosing the what’s and the when’s of your life is where we all should go our own way and experiment with what works best for each of us individually. Some may not enjoy making decisions this way, some might only want to use a paper calendar, still others might need two calendars to take children or a spouse into consideration. Whatever your situation, ACT! Remaining idle in reclaiming your agenda is the worst-case scenario while life continues to blend the days together in a flurry of hurry. Act by raising your awareness to how your time is spent by turning to the basic ways to track your time: online calendar systems and paper planners. Once you know what you spend your time doing, you can choose to invest your time in health and fitness.
Choice. Something we were given and are repeatedly given every single day. Choice. From the most valuable moment in our lives to our most fundamental needs as human beings, we are impacted by the choices we make. When we open our eyes as the sun begins to greet us, we have the choice to turn off that alarm clock to begin our day or hit snooze to rest just a little bit longer. We have the choice to start our mornings off by integrating movement, whether it’s yoga, running or weight lifting. Or we can choose to save our fitness regimen for an open slot later in the day. We have the choice to grab a donut (or two) and rush out of the door or we can choose to reach for the piece of fruit and protein bar as we take on the day. We have the choice to be angry and anxious as we wait impatiently in traffic or we can choose to simply accept where we are at in that moment and realize that the traffic is out of our control. We have the choice to ignore the pain we feel, or we can choose to start overcoming the pain through healing. The point I’m trying to convey is a simple one. Choices, whether they seem major or not, influence our lifestyle, our habits, and our next choice following the last. The choices that seem mundane and minuscule are typically the choices that will become habitual and affect us long term. For example, if I chose to eat one donut every morning starting today, the likelihood of just one (sugary) decision would begin to wreak havoc on other areas of my life as time goes on. My cravings for sugar would increase, causing me to want and/or eat more sugary commodities during the day, which would cause my blood sugar to increase, eventually leading to insulin resistance, and ultimately leading me to develop type 2 diabetes.
Now, I know what you’re thinking, “This chick really thinks that if I eat one donut a day I will develop type 2 diabetes?” To which I respond by saying, “No! Well, kind of.” I firmly believe that our choices, especially health related decisions, are influential on our overall wellbeing, which determines the quality of life we will be living. “But what if I make the wrong choice!?” you may ask. The greatest realization when it comes to the choices we make, is that we always have the choice to choose again and choose differently. Sometimes we don’t always have a clear indication of which choice is the right one; however, each day in every moment is a new opportunity to learn from the past choice and make a better decision moving forward. Being mindful about making healthy decisions or even just choosing the healthier option for what is available to you in that moment, is a simple way to begin creating healthy habits and self-discipline that end up being a beneficence to our health, wellbeing, and overall experience. Here are a few tips that can help you begin making healthful, impactful, and mindful choices:
1. Choose to prepare your belongings the night before, so you can wake up the next morning without feeling rushed and anxious, but rather content and energized which can lead to more mindful choices as the day progresses. That 5-10 minutes the night before can often turn into 15-20 minutes of spur of the moment decisions when rushed.
2. Choose to ingest a tall glass of refreshing water first thing in the morning to rehydrate your body after it worked so hard to heal you as you slept.
3. Choose to make the healthier decision when it comes to that moment where you don’t have time to eat lunch, but you know you need to eat something, and your face-to-face with a vending machine, and you only have $1.50.
4. Choose to avoid taking things personal, but rather, maintain composure and a sense of peace knowing that you don’t have to be affected by outside negativity. This change isn’t just mental. Your body will literally produce less stress hormones and more happy neurotransmitters by this changed thought process.
5. Choose to prioritize your health so you don’t have to sacrifice your time later in life dealing with the consequences of what initially seemed to be harmless choices that turned habitual. Bad choices in the present tend to lead to exponential increases in time, money, and effort to undo later.
6. Choose to give yourself permission to take care of what you need. That might mean saying “No” to plans with friends and saying “Yes” to plans with you and yourself (or vice versa).
7. Choose to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. Growing pains typically precede major life changing experiences.
8. Choose to move often. Try new forms of exercise to challenge yourself and tune into how your body begins to feel the more you take care of it through frequent movement. Maybe it’s lifting weights, running, tai chi, yoga, sports, walking, or chasing your two -year-old around the park.
9. Choose to be grateful for at least three (preferably more) different things each day. Gratefulness leads to mindfulness and mindful choices benefit your health, ultimately leading to a quality life for you and those around you, and help you prepare for the next opportunity to choose again.
When you first discover that you or a loved one are intolerant or sensitive to gluten and have anti gliadin antibodies by an immune response it can be quite daunting giving up so many favorite foods. However, with many great alternative options out in the market place it need not be a scary transition into the gluten free world.
Today's recipe I found at Ohsheglows.com and I am excited to share this delicious alternative to a standard tortilla, savory pancake or simple wrap that tastes amazing with any topping you choose to add to it. If you love that earthy flavor of chickpeas this recipe will not only satisfy your taste buds. It’s texture is a delight, it packs a nice protein punch, and contains fiber for a hearty breakfast or lunch. We recently served this recipe to a group of kids and parents at a free local event and it was a huge hit.
Due to its spongy consistency it can also easily replace egg omelets (for those of us that are allergic or vegan) and can be topped with ingredients such as avocado, homemade salsa, or grilled veggies to name a few. I have indulged in these delights for lunch more than a few times and each time garnish with different flavors. What’s also great about this recipe is how quick and easy it is to make and if you wanted to make a bigger batch to have for another meal you can refrigerate the batter for the next day.
This pancake is made with chickpea flour, aka garbanzo bean flour or besan, and can be purchased at most local health food stores. Locally, Organic Roots is your best bet. Brands like Bobs Red Mill are available, or you also have the option to scoop out your own amount from a bulk bin. It is also available to purchase from Amazon, Thrive market online or from a local Indian foods market.
I would not recommend using a stainless-steel skillet for cooking as the pancake might stick, however I tested on my go to cast iron griddle and it turned out beautifully. Non-stick skillets, as practical as they seem, are not recommended due to the toxins in Teflon that can leach into food.
For beautiful pics and step by step instructions on how to make these pancakes, you can click here.
I, like many of you (no, all of you), see some pretty stupid things on social media. Most of the time, I just shake my head and continue on. However, 2 weeks ago, I passed one that I just couldn't resist. So much so, that I think it deserves further conversation because it touches on a huge issue that we all need to be aware of. It affects all ages and, unfortunately, it's affecting teenagers more than it affects adults. Before I dig into the real issue, let me show you what lit this fire in me. I have now seen this post in a giant forum of 22,000 locals here in Murrieta and individually on another individual's Facebook page. Here is the post:
First, let's be clear, very few people are ALLERGIC to gluten, but many people are SENSITIVE, or INTOLERANT to gluten. That's just a minor detail that the creator of this likely isn't aware of. Now, at surface value, this statement does hold some weight. It may make many people think, "Yeah! All these people are just following a fad." Here's the thing though, they mistyped the first part of the statement. It should read, "I've never tried to understand" or "I'll never want to understand" because this is as ignorant as not understanding how we can talk to someone halfway across the world on a hand-held device. Some may think I'm a bit harsh with this, and perhaps they're right, because this is my wheelhouse, but this speaks to a much larger issue than dietary issues with gluten.
We live in a world now where you can literally learn anything you want to know. You can find the answer to the most random question in about 5 seconds with this same magical hand-held device that allows us to talk to people halfway across the world. Incredible, right?! We have the ability to know the answer to essentially any question that wanders through our incredibly sophisticated but often underutilized brains. This is a huge convenience for us but it also swings the dial of responsibility. Since we have this ability, it is our responsibility to use it. For the most part, we don't have the luxury of saying, "I wonder why..."
It is our responsibility to pursue knowledge, especially if it pertains to information that may improve the lives of those around us, not to mention our own. We have no excuse in this matter. If we choose to not pursue information that can give us 5 more quality years of life with our loved ones, we are throwing away a winning lottery ticket.
Do you see why this is about so much more than gluten?
You will never understand if you never seek to understand. That goes for the picture above and many of life's "secrets". Unfortunately, I have known many people throughout my life who not only didn't actively seek to understand, but actively avoided to understand out of fear. Sometimes, people don't want to know. They don't want to know that something they enjoy may not be the best thing for them. Some might say that borders along addiction lines. In any case, it's a shame.
For those of you who are wondering about gluten and the pictured caption, I'll save you some time and give you 3 big reasons, but you should know that this is really just the tip of the iceberg. I highly recommend reading some of the books written on this issue such as: Wheat Belly by Dr. William Davis, Grain Brain by Dr. David Perlmutter.
3 Reasons why gluten issues have exploded in the last 10 years:
Now that we've at least cleared that up, let's get back to the real issue here. We have to take responsibility for knowing and understanding for ourselves and loved ones, but we also have to do so for the sake of compassion. Many people can eat gluten and other grains without issue, but why does that often lead to food/diet shaming to those who do? I think the chances of that happening goes up exponentially based on us knowing why so many people do have these issues.
If you don't feel it yourself, know about it, or know someone who does battle it, you likely have no compassion for people whose lives are massively impacted by the food they eat. That needs to go. I've met people who can name fewer foods that they can eat without problems, than foods that they can't eat. I'm talking people who could only eat 4 or 5 foods without running to the bathroom. Do you realize how much that affects someone physically, emotionally, and socially? We gather around food! Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, dating, etc. We tend to celebrate with food. Do you know that people who have problems with gluten spend just as much time worrying about others viewing their avoidance of gluten just as much as avoiding the food itself?
We need to learn to have compassion for all diet related issues. If you don't fight them, talk to someone who does. If you don't know anyone, read about it, or ask us. We know countless stories of those whose lives are massively affected by the food they eat.
Yes, gluten has become a fad, but that's not because it's not affecting people. It's because of the food industry. And while sometimes I feel like exploding a bag of rice all over the grocery store because it is advertised in giant, bright lettering, "GLUTEN-FREE" (rice is naturally gluten-free so I hope you get the irony), it still helps many people who are just learning about how to navigate a gluten-free diet.
If you're on either side of this coin and just want to talk more please don't hesitate to comment or contact us.
I love being a dad. I've always known I would enjoy it, but I never imagined how much love I would have for my little boy. I grew up with babies constantly around me as I have a dozen nieces and nephews ranging from 2-20 years old. It's true what they say. You just can't understand the love until you have your own. Being in the health and fitness field, it always felt like my son would be my own personal experiment. I can finally take someone, literally from the first day of life, and implement everything I've learned to create the optimal human being. I think we all do that in some way or another. If not in relationship to our child's physical well-being, we often make vows to make sure our child is raised in a way that gives them advantages in other areas of life. Advantages that we wish we would have had. We make vows to make sure they never go through what we went through. To let them learn from our mistakes and our accomplishments.
I made it my mission to give my son the best possible chance of having a healthy physical body through the nutritional and fitness knowledge I've gained over 28 years of life. I'll have to write another blog on exactly what my wife and I have done and why we have done things this why, but that's not what I want to share this time. For now, I will just say that we have walked the perfect line (to our knowledge) in terms of nutrition and movement. And after 10 months, this is one of the biggest lessons I've learned:
You can never 100% control the outcome of another human being.
Here's what I mean. As health and fitness professionals, we strive to improve the lives of others. Sometimes that means helping someone lose weight. Other times that means helping an athlete reach peak performance. Yet other times, it's helping someone learn how to walk and feed themselves again. We fitness professionals pin our reputation, our self-worth (for right or wrong), our livelihood, and even our measure of life success (again for right or wrong) on helping others achieve positive outcomes. This, at times, is incredibly rewarding. It feeds our soul to serve others.
But the reality is, not everyone reaches their goals. Sometimes life gets in the way. Sometimes commitment levels aren't high enough. Sometimes people can't afford the type of service or care that they need to truly reach their goals. Shoot, sometimes goals just aren't realistic. This is a true day in the life of every health and fitness professional you know. For various reasons, we can't always get people to their goals and it crushes us when we don't. It keeps us up at night. It racks our brains and drives us into hours of research searching for an answer. It causes us to question nearly everything we know and do at times.
But after 10 months of fatherhood, with a seemingly perfect setting with nearly every health related variable controlled, my son still battles regular skin issues and digestive irregularity. Now, there is of course the reasonable possibility that we are missing something. He's eating too much of this or not enough of that, or whatever. Say we're even off by 10%. Really? So 90% "perfection" isn't enough to keep his skin clean and his poos regular? C'mon! Herein lies the lesson; you can never control the outcome 100% and we should be okay with that.
We fitness professionals should be satisfied with the fact of doing everything in our power to help someone. That's all we can do.
I think this message is most valuable for every parent or future parent out there. Especially all you moms who often carry the heavier load. Please listen to me on this. Not everything that your child struggles with is your fault. Should we question our actions in the event of struggles? Of course. Educate yourself. Ask more questions. Try everything you can. But don't carry the burden of guilt or shame for your child's struggles. I can't tell you how many parents have come to me heartbroken because of various health issues in their children. You can feel when they blame themselves. They've tried to live up to a standard that they were never built to uphold. If you've done everything in your power and ability then you've got nothing to be ashamed of. Life happens. We must accept that we are not perfect and parenthood is quite an easy reminder of that.
In a day where every kid gets drilled in their head that life's success depends on a 4.0 GPA, a college athletic scholarship, or worldwide fame, we need to accept and teach the reality that: 1) Not achieving those things doesn't define you and 2) Achieving those things doesn't necessarily equate to the "perfect" life they sometimes envision. You can do everything you think is right and still not get what you truly want. It's not always in your hands.
Parents, health and fitness pros, children, and well, everyone; Can we stop beating ourselves up with impossible expectations? Can we strive for perfection while being prepared and satisfied with nearly missing the mark? Perhaps that's "unamerican". Or perhaps we need to redefine what it means to be American in this sense. I think the happiness and health of the younger generation may depend on it
If this has reached you on a personal level we would love to hear your thoughts!
Are your thoughts, beliefs and actions sabotaging your weight loss? I see it all the time with my clients. They kick ass with their workouts, eat healthy, lose weight and then BAM I get a text that they crashed. Their car magically arrived at In and Out Burger where they consumed 2 double doubles, a large French fry and a gigantic soda. WTF?!? Can you relate to this? Have you ever been on track doing what you think you are supposed to do and then you magically end up in the fast food line or on your couch double fisting ice cream containers and reversing all of your hard work?
After witnessing such events over and over again, I knew that there had to be more to the story than lack of will power. Why would someone work so hard and then throw it away for food? Food doesn’t have some magical power, it doesn’t have the ability to talk to you and taunt you into eating it. (Well….Maybe it does) I decided to search deeper into the behaviors my clients were exhibiting. I discovered neuroscience and the power of our thoughts, beliefs and habits.
Let’s delve into a little dictionary/definition session shall we.
A thought is defined as an idea that suddenly occurs into our mind.
A belief is nothing more than a thought that has been thought over and over and over again until we believe it to be true.
A habit is an action that we do repeatedly that reinforces our beliefs.
So basically, a crazy thought (from an unexplainable place) pops into our mind, shoves itself into our brains, we take that thought, believe it to be true and then take action based on it and now we have a new habit.
So what I have gathered is this, people adopt thoughts over a period of time and believe them to be true. Once they believe these thoughts they take action to reinforce them. If people adopt certain thoughts that come from Magic Land such as; working out is hard, eating healthy is too much work, I was born this way or (my personal favorite)… I always fail when I try.. then they are going to create actions that reinforce these thoughts. If I constantly told myself and/or verbalized to others that I was “fat” or “fluffy” then I am powerfully reinforcing these thoughts to be true.
This leads me to a little thing called neuro dissonance, or in other words, a disconnection in the brain. When our actions conflict with our beliefs, our brains force us to revert back to what it knows. For example, if we have set our brains GPS system to “Fluffy-Land” and we start to workout, eat healthy and say nice things to ourselves our brain thinks we are off course. When we stray off course towards “Fit-Land” with these new thoughts and actions our navigation system steps in, makes a lot of noise and sends us back in the direction of Fluffy-Land. These new actions are not in alignment with our GPS destination. This is when we find ourselves at the In and Out drive through. Our GPS is doing what it is supposed to do by telling us that we need to get back on course.
The good news is we can change our GPS destination by overriding the current one. We can get to “Fit-Land” we simply have to change our GPS settings.
Here are 5 steps to creating new thoughts, beliefs and habits so that we arrive at the correct location.
Step 1. NOTICE — Start to notice and observe your thoughts. Are they negative or positive? Do they help or hurt you? How do they make you feel?
Step 2. CHALLENGE — Challenge any negative thoughts that you notice. Where did they come from? Do they serve you? If not, tell them to take a hike.
Step 3. REPLACE — Interrupt the negative thought by replacing it with something more positive. For example, if you notice a thought such as “I’m not good enough” or “I will always be overweight” replace it with “I am good enough” or “Anything is possible”.
Step 4. REINFORCE — Keep reinforcing the positive thoughts and give less attention to the negative ones.
Step 5. TAKE ACTION- Take action towards your goals. Start working out and eating healthy. This time couple it with the positive thoughts and beliefs and watch your GPS start to change directions.
As a reminder, your current GPS system has probably been set for a very long time. Be kind to yourself as you go through the journey of changing destinations. You didn’t get here in one day so don’t expect to change in one day.
Do you suffer from weight loss resistance, insomnia, anxiety, depression, fatigue, headaches, infertility, or skin problems? If any of these symptoms describe you; you likely have some degree of hormone imbalance.
What are hormones?
Hormones are your body’s messengers that provide the necessary signals for optimal cellular and organ function. Hormones affect many different processes such as metabolism, growth, development, and mood and reproduction.
Endocrine glands are a special group of organs that are responsible for the production of hormones.
Let’s discuss the hypothalamus and pituitary. The hypothalamus is a part of the brain that plays a role in hormone production. Some of the hormones produced here are responsible for body temperature regulation, sleep, hunger, thirst, libido, and mood. This area of the brain also controls the pituitary gland, which stimulates hormones for the thyroid and adrenal glands.
How is your diet impacting hormones?
You have over 70 trillion cells in your body. Each cell is made up of lipid bi-layer that contains saturated fat and cholesterol. If your diet is lacking some of these healthy fats, the production of hormones and your cells ability to communicate will become negatively impacted.
Another large contributor to poor hormone production and communication is exposure to toxins. Exposure to toxins can come from our food supply, but also anything that comes in contact with our skin or that we breathe in. There are toxins that can mimic hormones themselves, which are extremely problematic. The body tries to utilize these fake substances as building blocks for hormone creation and it causes a toxic cell. This can then lead to cellular inflammation or mutation of more toxic cells.
One hormone that is notable is leptin. Toxins attach themselves to fat cells and continue to elevate the hormone leptin. Leptin is the hormone that tells your brain to burn fat for energy. Toxins can burn out leptin receptors in the brain leading to leptin resistance. As a result, you gain weight, and can become weight loss resistant. This is when diet and exercise stop working they way they used to for you.
What about Gut Health?
Gut bacteria also work with hormone signaling and our immune system. 75%-80% of our immune system resides in our gut, so our overall health really does stem from the gut. Many of us have had our healthy bacteria destroyed by overuse of antibiotics, prescription medications, exposure to toxins, etc. Using a good quality probiotic, eating foods that are high in healthy bugs such as fermented foods, sauerkraut and even raw, fermented dairy products like kefir can help build your defense system.
There are some basic things that you can do to boost your body’s ability to create, balance and “hear” your hormones. The good news is there are steps you can begin right away, to decrease cellular inflammation and increase hormone communication.
Steps to Begin!
Written by: Kimberly Andrulis RD, FDN-P
This is a great breakfast substitution for those who like to eat oatmeal. While oatmeal is naturally gluten-free, it is often contaminated during processing. Even if you get gluten-free oatmeal, we still fight a battle of properly fueling the body. Oatmeal is almost entirely carbohydrate and very seldom do people eat other things with oatmeal to balance the meal out. This leads to large fluctuations in blood sugar causing fat storage and a shortened period of satiety. The breakdown of nutrients in this recipe will keep you full and satisfied while also keeping your blood sugar levels steady. If you are an athlete or active in the early part of your day, adding things like berries and/or yogurt will help get you a few more grams of carbohydrate to replenish the glucose (carbohydrate) you use during exercise.
Makes 2 Servings
1/4 cup walnuts (any nuts will work)
1/4 cup pecans
2 tbsp. ground flax seed
1tbsp chia seeds
1/2 - 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 - 1 tsp. nutmeg
1 over ripe banana, mashed
1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk (add more if desired)
1/4 cup yogurt or kefir
1/4 cup of fresh berries
2 tsp. pumpkin seeds
Serving size: 1 bowl
Total Calories: 383
Fat: 25 grams
Protein: 16.5 grams
Carbohydrate: 23 grams
There are some things that get so culturally ingrained into our minds that we tend to accept them as we have been told over and over again. However, seldom do we question or check to see if some of these things are actually true. We tend to think that things can only be as we have structured them to be in our mind as logical. It takes some new information for us to really wrap our heads around another possibility and even then it may take decades for full acceptance. One great historical example of this was the realization that the world was round. In hindsight, we chuckle at the thought of people having this idea, but they created a logical explanation based around what they knew. They knew that they couldn’t see forever so they figured there must be a cliff somewhere out there. Can you imagine how hard it would have been to convince people of this fact at that time?!?! In 30 years people will likely think the same of us with our views on many nutrition topics. The world of human nutrition has more cases like this than we can count. We know relatively little compared to the amount of unknown. Our understanding of cholesterol numbers are one specific example that I’m going to explain today.
When most of us think of cholesterol, we automatically think of the clogging of arteries which leads to cardiovascular disease (heart attacks). The mental picture of seeing lard or hardened fat lends weight to this idea that eating these things causes buildup in the body but that’s far from what actually happens. When your blood vessels become inflamed/damaged due to free radicals in your blood, (usually caused by inflammatory foods or toxic particles) your immune system sends out a signal to attend to this damage. This immune response sends cholesterol to patch up the hole in your arteries. Then, just like any other serious wound, you are left with some scar tissue. It is this scar tissue that “clogs” arteries and over time can cause a heart attack. In the mainstream medical field, cholesterol is condemned as enemy #1 in the fight against cardiovascular disease. Did anyone catch the problem with this? We’re metaphorically blaming the messenger, or in this case, the medic! Cholesterol is actually coming to heal and protect you from imminent danger. This is like having to amputate a leg because you have diabetes then blaming the doctor for weight gain because you couldn’t exercise enough! The problem wasn’t the doctor or the amputation. The problem was the ability to regulate blood sugar appropriately in the first place. In this case, with cholesterol, we should be asking ourselves, what can be done to reduce the inflammation in the arteries?
Knowing this about cholesterol, doesn’t however discount the value that we receive in getting our cholesterol levels checked. While cholesterol doesn’t directly cause heart disease, it still plays a role, and if certain cholesterol numbers become too high they are more likely to degrade and crash before being used to heal one to the arteries. Many of you know HDL as our “good cholesterol” and LDL as our “bad cholesterol”. This is somewhat true, but not quite. First off, the cholesterol itself is the same in both cases. HDL (high-density lipoprotein) and LDL (low-density lipoprotein) are the carriers for cholesterol along with triglycerides (fats), fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K), and other cofactors. Secondly, your HDL count is derived from your LDL. Confused? Your body actually packages up all those nutrients in an LDL particle to be distributed where needed throughout the body. The LDL actually becomes an HDL because the previously fat laden lipoprotein becomes more dense as it’s contents are distributed to tissues. Hence, low density and high density. The lipoprotein carrier is the same, but the contents inside have changed. The lipoprotein then returns to the liver to be repackaged and performs the whole process again before being decommissioned. Here’s the catch, if that LDL is originally packed with unstable fats (processed, high omega 6 oils) or a lack of stable (saturated, monounsaturated, and omega 3) fats and travels in a highly inflammatory bloodstream, such as those with a lot of sugar or other free radicals, it never gets the chance to make it back to the liver. When this happens, the LDL fails to distribute it’s goods and becomes oxidized in the blood. This is what I mean when I say degrade and crash. When this particle becomes oxidized it’s like a boat in the middle of the ocean being hit by a missile. The boat (LDL particle) is a sitting duck for missiles (sugar, toxins, free radicals, etc.) and everyone on board (cholesterol, fats, vitamins) are left floating around in the ocean (the blood). You can also have problems in this cycle if your liver is overloaded, but I'll save that issue for another time.
Science has proven that cholesterol is NOT the bad guy. Mainstream medicine, however, still hasn't changed practices and procedures for prescribing medication and giving nutritional advice.
So really, it’s not that cholesterol is the bad guy here. It’s the fact that we’ve got LDL particles being destroyed in a dangerous environment. The first thing way we help this number is by reducing the number of free radicals and toxins that we take in through our diet and lifestyle. Do you know what the number 1 source of free radicals is in the human diet? Here’s the sad part. The food/ingredient we were all told to consume to replace high cholesterol foods: low-saturated fat and cholesterol vegetable oils. We’ve all been told to eat margarine instead of butter. Nearly all packaged foods are made with or contain soybean, cottonseed, canola, grapeseed, or other vegetable oils just so they can say low cholesterol. These oils, even the ones that say no trans-fat, are the biggest reason why we have our insides literally on fire. They’re unstable, degrade easily, and combined with uncontrolled blood sugar, are destroying our health.
The second thing we want to do is raise our HDL cholesterol because it’s a safer place to be as we stated earlier. HDL particles actually receive cholesterol from LDL particles when they meet in the liver. So having extremely low LDL cholesterol can actually inhibit your body’s ability to have sufficient amounts of cholesterol in HDL particles. We can help this process in a couple ways. First, we need to make sure our liver in functioning correctly because it’s the liver’s job to help repackage and carry out this process. Second, we need to make sure we are taking in sufficient amounts of good quality fats. The quality and quantity of the fats you consume can make a huge difference in the strength of the LDL and HDL particles in fighting against oxidation and efficiently completing the lipid cycle of distribution. For a copy of my best and worst fats to cook with and consume, subscribe below.
Most importantly, with cholesterol numbers, we need to take into account each person’s situation as an individual. This is because cholesterol numbers are just numbers unless you really have a good idea about the full picture. Forget cholesterol numbers, this is an important point on understanding how to help heal people from any condition. This is also where many general practitioners in the medical field will fail to truly heal people. Understanding the full scope of a person’s lifestyle and diet is just as important as identifying the condition itself. To truly fix the problem, you have to identify the possible causes and eliminate those causes. Nutrition and health is not as easy as a+b=c. It’s calculus, not algebra. If certain conditions are met, a+b=c but if other conditions are met, a+d(b-x)/a lot of other characters I can't type in word =c.
I hope this sheds some light on a topic that is often misunderstood in our health. Please feel free to ask any questions you have here or on the Facebook page as this topic is certainly deeper than I've covered here.
Shanahan, Catherine, and Luke Shanahan. Deep Nutrition: Why Your Genes Need Traditional Food. Lawai, HI: Big Box, 2009. Print.
Bowman, Barbara A. Present Knowledge in Nutrition. Washington, DC: ILSI Pr., 2006. Print.
Taubes, Gary. Good Calories, Bad Calories: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom on Diet, Weight Control, and Disease. New York: Knopf, 2007. Print.
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