This past weekend I was fortunate enough to attend the CanFitPro one-day event with Dr. Natasha Turner. Natasha Turner is a naturopathic doctor who is causing a lot of hype these days in the wellness industry because of her successful novels - two of which, "The Hormone Diet" and "The Carb Sensitivity Program" I picked up at the lecture.
The reason why I was so full of adrenaline (!) while listening to Natasha's lecture is because she was affirming the very pattern of nutrition that I've been teaching to my clients for the past eleven years, and made such sense of it. Of course, this pattern of nutrition does come from my collected readings of studies, courses and lectures over the years. But I've also always been sure of it in my gut, have seen its results in myself and in my clients, and Natasha really rounded it out with her description of its effects on our hormones. And, let's bear in mind, hormones affect absolutely every angle of wellness. Keeping them in balance is really vital.
When people hear the word "hormones" these days they usually think about females who've flown off the handle. Am I right? We forget about cortisol and insulin, adrenaline and serotonin. We don't think about men and high levels of estrogen, or women and high levels of testosterone. We don't think about hormones affecting every aspect of our lifestyles, and vice-versa. That is what needs to change.
I will attempt to keep this simple and concise so that it can reach the widest amount of people. She began discussing insulin. Clients of mine have heard lots about insulin. My approach with nutrition, overall, is one which keeps insulin levels balanced. When you eat something that is high-glycemic (a banana, white rice, a cookie), insulin levels spike, and then drop soon thereafter. This leads to food cravings, a desperate grasp at something that will take that insulin back up again, and results in a destructive cycle. It's quite like a drug addiction - you start chasing that "high", that bolt of energy you had gotten from the first sugary / high glycemic item of the day. Every day that we wake up, we have fasted for about 8-12 hours and have the opportunity to set ourselves up better in balance by what we choose to eat for breakfast. If you had a half of a banana with a tablespoon of natural nut butter, and a hard boiled egg or some egg whites, you would have a steady climb of energy. The protein and the healthy fat help to slow the release of insulin into to blood stream, and similarly slow its decline. So, rather than being starving and desperate so soon, you will simply know when it's time to eat again, and will have the sense to choose wisely because the hormones would have been balanced. Juicing is a "health practice" that is quite popular. It's one that I have never advised for my clients, and I was happy to hear Natasha agree. I cringe inside when a client has proudly told me he/she has switched to a fruit smoothie for breakfast. For the same reason, these practices can do more harm than good. First of all, juicing doesn't always provide the fibre of the whole fruits/vegetables. Secondly, you are receiving too much at once! Vegetables and fruits are carbs. Some lower glycemic than others, of course, but if you are having too much at once, and out of balance (without other macronutrients - proteins and health fats), you will spike your insulin. It will lead to cravings, restlessness, and fat gain. Smoothies can be good - I personally don't like anyone to have more than 1 serving of fruit at one time. My "smoothies" will have spinach, half a banana (or less) and about 1/4 of an apple, and will never be consumed on its own. I will have it with an egg whites, for instance. You have to think of your proteins and fats as an insulin blocker - a steadier, a stay-lean machine. They are anchors for your energy, your fat loss, your MOOD. I've been saying it forever - do not eat a fruit on its own, and no, not even a vegetable!
Let's move on to cortisol. Cortisol, as many of us know, is the stress hormone. It leads to many problems in our physicality - the most popular being extra fat in the gut. People feel powerless when it comes to stress, like it is beyond our control. Of course, we all have to work. We all have personal stresses from family or relationships. These things we cannot control, they are a part of life. However, there are fixes for stress. First of all, eating in balance. Fasting, friends, (beyond our natural overnight fasting) causes an increase in the stress hormone. What does that do? Stores fat. It's stupid. You've heard it right here and now. I think I've been polite about my opinions for long enough. I am completely against "detoxes" unless it is a short-term, still nutritious, not deprived of essential nutrients kind of detox. A juicing detox? Lord. Just not smart, not good for the body. It leads to insulin disorder, and then to a spike in cortisol. Extremes are stressful to the body, and nothing will send you off-track faster, because it begins this snowball effect of desperate grasps. It disrupts your relationship with your own energy, and with food. How do you combat stress? Exercise, sex, eating in balance, laughter, exercise (this must ALSO be balanced and not excessive) and meditation. When I say meditation, I am well aware that not everyone can meditate. Frankly, I'm not sure I can. But I know that being pulled into a novel, or a fashion magazine (!), or yoga - anything without advertisements, marketing ploys and bright lights (!!) can have the same affect as meditation. All of these things are incredibly important health practices.
I need to keep this a bit shorter, but I would be happy to discuss more in the comments section, so please send your questions.
I will wrap this up with the most important affirmation I received at the lecture. People who know me, or who have dated me (ha) know that I love, and really need my sleep. I know firsthand that when I am low on sleep, if I stay up too late, my wellness is completely thrown off the next day. Not only do we feel like we can't get back on the horse, energy-wise, but we are endlessly hungry and depleted of the required energy for exercise. And guess what? When I was being called a total loser for going to bed around 10pm every night and not wanting to waver on it, I was right.
Being sleep deprived messes up your insulin, causes cravings, reduces testosterone in men (ie fewer and lesser erections, man boobs), leads to obesity, spikes the stress hormone - and if your interest is fat loss, know that if you are not sleeping enough, this is probably your number one place to start. Because being low on sleep will have every single factor racing to put fat on your body, and to keep it there.
Frankly, living longer, having an optimal quality of life, and having the strongest anti-aging factors in my favour is worth the trade of those midnight hours of time-wasting. Sleep is at the very root of the rest of our health practices. Take it seriously - you might lose a few pounds in the first two week without changing any single other thing. Not to mention you will feel more alive than ever.
Oh and one more quick mention - if you are training for more than an hour a day, you are likely moving backwards. Balance, in exercise is also key to supporting the metabolism and not disrupting your hormones. Hormones affect everything, and I will be considering them much more strongly in my work with my clients moving forward.
Fresh skin, high energy, a healthy sex life, a high metabolism, men being manly, women being womanly, feeling young through your lifetime and making the most of life is worth making these changes to balance your lifestyle.