My niece turned 17 yesterday. I remember holding her as a newborn and praying that she would grow to know from the depth of her soul that she is beautiful inside and out. That prayer came from a deep place of pain from within me as I was dealing with a roller coaster of emotions from unbelief in my own value in my late teen years. Even now I battle constantly to fight against feeling like a fraud and to hold my head up high with confidence in my worth and wisdom. What I have found, is that I am not alone. Many of you also struggle to know that you have tremendous gifts and talents and that you kick ass at being uniquely you. I have dedicated my life to helping people- specifically women and girls- rise up and stretch beyond their fears to embrace their body and their beauty. My hope is that we can all get off our personal roller coasters and live lives of passion and purpose to place our stamp of goodness and love on the world- not shrink in our daily episodes of self-doubt.
To do this, it takes a conscious effort. There are a few tricks that can help you remain in belief to keep your kick-ass self in sight. These tricks also primarily effect two crucial hormones that need to remain in harmony for us to have effective energy and mental clarity.
The first is cortisol: the fight or flight hormone we've all heard of as being the enemy.
The second is insulin: The bodies storing and locking signal for effecting blood sugar and fat storage.
Picture this. You are stressed or feeling a little down, so you grab a donut (my favorite stress food) and just a little bit of chocolate. Nothing wrong with that. However, your body has to do something with the large influx of sugar that was just released into your blood stream. So, insulin is released to push the circulating blood sugar into your cells as either stored sugar or fat. Insulin works really well, and once the insulin has surged your blood sugar levels will drop undesirably very quickly. To keep blood sugar stable, cortisol will be released to raise blood sugar back up. And on the see-saw goes throughout our day causing mood swings, energy lows, and metabolic resistance that can lead to greater fat storage around the tummy.
Balancing these 2 hormones and improving your metabolism is a complex process, so we have attempted to narrow down the top 5 ways to tame the hormonal rollercoaster here:
1) Get sleep. There is no better way to help you body out that to let it restore itself during sleep. Whenever possible, go to bed at 10:30 and get up around 6:30 or 7 to match a typical circadian rhythm.
2) Eat protein and veggies as often as possible. High glycemic foods only make the energy swings worse. They may help you feel better for the moment, but they will only leave you hanging in the end. Eating greater protein helps increase glucagon, Insulin's hormonal alter-ego which helps stabilize blood sugar. Eating fiber helps you feel full and slows down absorption of the carbohydrates in your meals.
3) Time your food. Eat your higher carbohydrate foods like bread, pastas, or sweet fruit at breakfast or the first meal after your workout. Eat every 2-3 hours throughout the day.
4) Strength train. There are lots of ways to do strength training, but you might consider taking a rest based approach. Set up your workout so you have 3-5 complex exercises you will complete in a row. Select weights that are challenging for you and complete each exercise until you feel you need to stop. It's up to you whether you take multiple short breaks or fewer breaks that are a little longer. Either way, remember to push yourself as hard as you can.
5) Complete Anaerobic training. Studies show that the oxygen debt that is created after a tough anaerobic workout can positively impact hormones. Specifically, the lactic acid that is built up after the workout elicits a biofeedback signal to tell the body to release testosterone and HGH (human growth hormone). These two hormones are the major players that will pull energy from your fat.
In the end, the best answer is to just be gentle with yourself. Listen to the deep voice inside of you trying to remind you that you are amazing regardless of your size, pocketbook, or your accomplishments. My greatest treasure is that I have surrounded myself with people who will lift me up and remind me when I forget...and my niece is one of those warriors I am blessed to call friend.