By: Janine Serio
April “showers” bring…a FOUR WEEK SERIES that answer the questions YOU have asked, and coupled them with easy, DIY workouts to help you start living the moderate lifestyle, get clarity on your struggles, and change the (current) “all or nothing” approach.
Welcome “Mindset & Mat Work”
Over the next four weeks, we will be addressing the exact “struggles” you have shared with us – everything from nighttime eating, mindless snacking, dropping those “last 5 lbs.,” making healthy food choices, beating the belly fat bulge, and much more. We will provide you with valuable insight and strategies on how to, effectively, change these behaviors, work on getting your mindset “in check,” and, most importantly, make it feel effortless & sustainable.
This week’s focus is on that “ugly” six letter word – STRESS. We all have it in some form or another, and some of us seem to manage “it” better than others. As someone who has fallen victim to this “gremlin,” I know, firsthand, how it can manifest in a way that not only leaves you feeling anxious, drained, and defeated (hello adrenal, thyroid, and fatigue issues) but also pulls you further away from your fat loss efforts. I recently wrote a piece on how stress has impacted my overall wellbeing. You can find it HERE.
Before we get started, please know I will keep this conversation extremely “superficial.” While we can go really deep and scientific (i.e. all the “in’s and out’s” of adrenal and thyroid issues), I want this to be easy and doable for YOU. While fascinating information, it can get overwhelming and confusing. Take what I am presenting and apply it to your lifestyle accordingly.
Okay, now for the good stuff!
I can’t tell you how many times our clients will come to us not understanding “why the scale is not moving” or their clothes are “still not fitting right.” They are putting in solid workouts, they are eating properly, and accordingly, based on their biofeedback signals BUT they are still coming up short. Again, I can relate – I am in the same boat! Here is where we dig a little deeper…
“Let’s look at your activity level; how many days per week are you working out? How long have you been on this trajectory? How does your body feel – tired and constantly sore?”
“I know you said you are consuming foods according to your biofeedback signals but maybe this needs to be tweaked. How many times per day are you eating? What exactly are you eating? Do you notice any reactions to certain healthy foods you are eating?”
“Do you have a stressful job? Is your life stressful, in general? If so, how do you manage? Do you acknowledge it and handle, or ignore and suppress?”
“What are your sleep habits and patterns? Are you getting enough sleep? Is it sound sleep?”
In addition to addressing ways to manage and handle stress – I will get to this in a moment – it truly is about healing the metabolism. The key here is to focus on improving digestion. When your body is in “fight or flight response” for long periods of time (i.e. from internal or external factors), the digestive system becomes extremely compromised and we are unable to process and digest foods correctly and efficiently. Remember, your gut is your 2nd brain! Even though we feel we are eating clean, we may need to do more. What do I mean by doing more? You, actually, need to do less!
Hold the phone…WHAT DO YOU MEAN “DO LESS?” While these are merely strategies and suggestions I am providing, you need to investigate what seems to work the best for you. The goal is to figure your unique formula for balancing your hormones and getting your internal stress under control. Maybe tweaking one or two of these will make a huge difference. With anything, no need to completely overhaul EVERYTHING all at once. Apply for 4 weeks and see how it goes. Document any changes – positive or negative – or if things stay the same.
- Decrease your exercise frequency…and no, I do not mean to now become a couch potato. While a positive stress, exercise is still a stress on the body. When you are dealing with other stressful factors in your life, exercise may be doing more harm than good. For the next 4 weeks, back off your workouts to 2-3 days per week, focusing solely on strength training, especially if you are a fitness fanatic. In fact, you may need to take some time off, completely, to rest and recover. We have provided you with a 20 minute, full body workout, for you to do on your MAT (not literally, but you get where I am going with this ;). Get your FREE copy HERE!
- Decrease your eating frequency but still monitor your hunger, energy, and cravings. Hunger is both behavioral and biochemical. As humans, we train our body to eat a certain way – i.e. how many times per day we eat to what we eat at a given meal. In an effort to heal the metabolism it, sometimes, means we need to tweak these components. Plus, if you are decreasing your exercise frequency (especially your cardiovascular workouts), your nutritional needs will differ too. That insatiable hunger and roaring appetite should, most likely, subside. Focus on 3 quality meals per day, with the first 2 having a strong emphasis on lean protein, healthy fats, fiber and, convenience (protein shakes/smoothies are a great option). For your 3rd meal, continue to focus on lean protein and fiber but add in a starchy carbohydrate too. This brings me to my next point…
- Add in starchy carbohydrates to your evening meal, specifically, the hypoallergenic kind (not as harsh on your digestive system and are high in fiber and water content). This is a perfect solution for chronic insomniacs or those who have been on a low carbohydrate kick – two HUGE stressors on the body. Carbohydrates and sleep are key, especially (if you are like me) experience the feeling of being “wired but tired.” Cortisol (i.e. stress) levels should be higher in the morning and lower in the evening. Unfortunately, individuals who have adrenal, thyroid, and fatigue issues have the opposite effect (stress is higher at night). By adding foods such as beans, brown rice, baked & sweet potatoes (skin on), and even quinoa to your evening meal, it will help to significantly increase serotonin levels, decrease stress, and bring hormone levels back to a balanced state. As with anything, there is no “magic rule” as to the quantity you should be consuming. This is all individual and will take some investigative work on your part to figure out exactly what is the right amount for you (not too much and not too little).
Now that I have provided you with an outline of small changes you can make to your exercise and nutrition regime, it is time to show you how to manage and handle your internal and external stressors on a daily basis. Introducing “rest and recovery” – so simple, so important, and so necessary. These are your bread and butter; no ifs, ands, or buts!
A general rule of thumb is for every “strenuous” workout (i.e. strength training) that you do, you should have 2+ rest and recovery activities to back it up. What I have provided is a non-exhaustive list but some of my favorites and other research-based favorites too!
- Self massage (i.e. foam rolling)
- Taking a hot bath or sitting in a sauna
- Contrast Hydrotherapy: Alternating between hot and cold water (1-3 minutes of hot —> 10-30 seconds of cold); make sure to always end in cold!
- Sex (umm, yes, I went there): An extremely restorative hormone, oxytocin, is released when an orgasm occurs. Although no one seems to ever talk about it, this is one of the best rest and recovery activities you can do.
- Restorative Yoga (not hot yoga or power yoga)
- Physical Affection
- Spa Treatments: Manicures, pedicures, facials, massage, etc.
- Slow, Leisurely (not power) Walking: Slow walking in a peaceful setting such as nature is another one of the best rest and recovery activities you can do
- Meditation: Guided meditation is a wonderful way to get in you in the zone. If you are unsure of how to do it correctly, there are many free apps on your phone to download which will guide you through.
- Read, Paint, & Draw (must be leisurely – not work related)
- Cat Naps: Research shows that a 10 minute nap per day can easily reverse the effects of a restless nights sleep.
- Relaxing Music
- Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Let me know what you try out and if any of these suggestions and strategies work for you. If you have any other practices that have been extremely helpful and you would like to share, I would love to hear!
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