Staying Fit With Hormonal Challenges
By Guest Blogger Paula Jager, CSCS
Life is not always perfect – today’s world is 24/7 and many of us are faced with one or more of the 21st century’s “stress syndromes”. The hormonal swings and grave endocrine disruptions leave us sluggish, overweight, battling metabolic syndrome and the last thing we feel like doing let alone have the energy for is exercising.
We lead busy, stressful lives and the demands of both children and career can take a severe toll on us if we are not proactive. There is nothing like experience as a teacher. In my early 40’s I found myself in a similar situation. No children but after expanding my business before I should have, trying to thrive on a low fat vegetarian diet and competing in fitness had me while not overweight, battling borderline diabetes, adrenal fatigue, low thyroid function and positive antibodies for autoimmune disease. Talk about a downer for the physique.
My way of handling the “stressors” with excessive exercise and too much wine along with refined carbohydrates only exacerbated biochemical and neruoendorince imbalances leading to anger and extreme aggressiveness. This often had me snapping in the most benign situations (grocery store and bank lines, blood pressure soaring in traffic etc.) not to mention I had sunk to the lowest point in my life.
I was beyond fatigued, unhealthy and headed downhill fast. Fast forward almost 10 years later to health, happiness, confidence and business, marriage and life in general thriving. What changed, what helped, what didn’t and how does one get there?
Long story short. . .
Nutrition: If you have been following this blog the nutritional aspects have been covered in depth expertly by Sarah. She has stated countless times “you have got to have the proper nutrition to heal the gut and that’s where it all begins.” I am not going to go into any details here but what worked for me was getting away from the low fat vegetarian diet and adding in lots of pastured meats and fowl along with their fats, wild caught seafood, fresh bone broths, local organic vegetables and fruits, taking out all grains in any form, taking out all nuts, taking out all soy, soy products and alcohol.
I added in raw dairy and found that it contributed greatly to my healing. If you are on birth control pills, get off them. Check out Sarah’s previous post on what they can do to your body. If you are on antidepressants, get off of them–they will only make the situation worse. For in depth information on any of the above mentioned, search Sarah’s blog posts on the topic along with her series on the Gaps diet. Depending upon the condition of your gut it could take anywhere from “6 mo to 3 yrs to heal.” This requires dedication, discipline and a strong internal desire to heal, no matter what the cost or sacrifice. It will not be easy, it will not always be a smooth ride and you will have ups and downs.
After a month or 2 of the above nutritional implementations you ought to be feeling and sleeping a little better, becoming calmer and more balanced. Now let’s address physical activity and a few other areas. . . .
Cardiovascular exercise: not an option–a priority. You must. No matter how little or how low of an intensity you have got to start moving. Mark it in your appointment book, calendar, ipod or whatever you keep your schedule in. You do not skip it, you do not miss, no excuses accepted. You need to get blood and oxygen flowing and the body moving or you will never make it. It won’t be easy in the beginning. Do what you can–give yourself sufficient rest and then do more the next time. It must be progressive. Start with walking for 5 mins if that is all you can do.
Say you cover only ¼ mile. That’s your baseline, next time you walk you cover the ¼ mile in 4 mins and 45 s and you gradually increase to ½ mile over time and then a mile increasing the speed also and so on. Incorporate interval training; walk briskly or jog for 30 s to 2 min then walk at a recovery pace for 1 to 2 mins. This can be scaled up or down for any level. What you don’t want to do is excessive endurance exercise. Going long and slow will get you nowhere fast and wear the body down further. There are many appropriate modes such as walking, running, cycling, stationary biking and rowing.
Resistance exercise: yes, you heard me correctly. If all you can muster are 5 bodyweight squats and 5 wall push ups then that is where you start. You wait until you have recovered sufficiently whatever that may be 1 or 2 days and then you do it again but this time you do 5 bw squats and 5 wall push ups, wait 2 mins and repeat and so on. Once again it is progressive with adequate recovery. When that gets easier, you add external weight in the form of dumbbells and barbells. You must break a sweat, your breathing must be challenged and you must feel slight discomfort. You must push past it to an intelligent degree or you will not get better.
The intensity should be progressive and in line with the rate of healing. The more you heal, the more you will able to do and the better you will feel. You will begin to regain control of your situation and your life.
Sleep: crucial to success. 8-9 hours of quality sleep per night in a dark room. Make it pitch black with the use of black out curtains and cover all digital screens and lcd monitors. Avoid a stimulating environment close to bedtime such as exercise, violent or scary television, computers and loud noises.
Sunlight: Again, Sarah’s covered your need for vitamin D exposure; search the blog for previous posts
Stress reduction: it’s not the stress but how you react to it. I know this is easier said than done but find a way to cope. Yoga, deep breathing, qi qong, tai chi, time in nature, etc. . . There are many different paths to follow here. Also, as your exercise tolerance and capacity increases as you heal the better handle you will have on the stress.
Family/friends/lovers: spend time with them. They are a source of joy and support as well as physical release.
Screwing up: it’s going to happen, you’re going to fall down. You’re going to feel like it’s not fair and you feel cheated because you can’t eat a muffin. Get back up again each time you fall and quickly. Don’t beret yourself or dwell on the guilt. Determine why you fell, what you learned from it and what you will do next time to prevent it. Treat the cause.
Don’t take my word for it, You do not need to be a fitness professional to pull this off . .
. . . Case in point: Joni
Joni is a client of mine, a wonderful 49 year old woman who makes me proud. She is a joy to work with. Please read a testimonial she shared with me as well as view her Before & After photos
“After five years of constant health challenges, I am so thrilled to finally be feeling awesome. Five years ago I was diagnosed with Hashimotos (autoimmune thyroid), adrenal insuffiency, Celiac (gluten allergy), dairy, whey, and soy allergies. Since then I have been from doctor to doctor trying to find the right course of treatment.
I had periods of feeling pretty good followed by even longer periods of weakness, fatigue, depression, dizziness, nausea, just to name a few. Even though I was avoiding all gluten, soy and dairy, I was still plagued with digestive issues. I had lost a lot of muscles mass and everything had pretty much turned to mush. I had no strength, couldn’t lose weight to save my life; leading me to feel even worse about myself.
At my wits end and in total desperation, I sought the help of Paula. I started working out with Paula and changed my diet as she suggested. My diet choices are so limited because of my food allergies. My doctors had me on a rice based anti-inflammatory medical shake. Because I was allergic to gluten, they had me on all rice based carbs. I have had this shake every day, sometimes two times a day, for the last 3 years. I was very hesitant to give it up when Paula suggested. I cannot even believe how my digestion issues totally cleared up when I did finally quit the shakes. I have so much energy now and am finally accomplishing things at work and home that I have been working on for years. After only ten weeks of working out with Paula, I am so much stronger and can actually see muscles now. I am dead lifting 120 pounds and over head pressed 70 pounds today. My family and friends are constantly commenting on the changes they see. I finally am feeling so good and I am so excited at last.”
Joni, you rock!
Since 2002, Sarah has been a Health and Nutrition Educator dedicated to helping families effectively incorporate the principles of ancestral diets within the modern household.
Sarah was awarded Activist of the Year at the International Wise Traditions Conference in 2010.
Sarah received a Bachelor of Arts (summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa) in Economics from Furman University and a Master’s degree in Government (Financial Management) from the University of Pennsylvania.
Mother to three healthy children, blogger, and best-selling author, her work has been covered by USA Today, The New York Times, National Review, ABC, NBC, and many others.