Last year, I wrote a blog post on my personal struggle with exercise.
It's been nearly a year since I wrote that post, and over the course of that year, I have gained a new understanding, respect, and appreciation for the human body.
In my previous post, I explained how working out was causing inflammation and severe nutrient depletion. My stress levels were at an all-time high, and although I felt great, I was ignoring small pleads of help from my body.
I am going to explain to you in this post how your current healthy habits may be making you unhealthy, unhappy, and hindering your nutritional success.
Exercise is a stressor on the body. During intense exercise, our cortisol levels are at all time high. Cortisol is a hormone that regulates how our body responds to stress. It's role is to increase glucose levels for our muscle's use, meaning it increases the amount of sugar in circulation. When cortisol is released, other important systems such as reproduction, recovery, and digestion are shunted. This is the mechanism by which our body adapts and we become stronger, faster, and all around better athletes. However, the issue lies in that many do not know how to control cortisol. We employ a great deal of stress form work, our lifestyle, and nutritional habits, all further increasing cortisol levels. This much cortisol in circulation means: decreased recovery, weight gain, and a crippling toll on our health. The issue is that controlling life stressors is much more difficult than controlling exercise. I know what you're thinking, but a long run or a grueling weight session is how I "de-stress," Lauren. Wrong. This may mentally help you "de-stress" but it is physically eating away at you.
Here's the issue:
1. We are comprising sleep for exercise.
Cortisol (see above) varies in concentration throughout the day depending on our circadian rhythm, or our sleep cycle. Our cortisol is at it's peak upon sun rise, and at it's lowest at sun set. Thus, exercising earlier or going to sleep much later than these times can cause severe stress on our body. Ever wonder why we wake in the morning and we weigh less than when we went to bed? Sure, some of it is the result of having an empty stomach, but it also has to do with the recovery process that occurs throughout the night. You may notice that when you are sleep compromised, you will wake weighing more than if you received sufficient sleep. It is amazing how delicate the human body is!
Image: Precision Nutrition
The above image explains the factors (left side) that influence an increase or decrease in particular hormones (right side). Notice that the factors on the left lead to increased cortisol on the right.
2. We aren't in tune with our bodies.
Trust me, we all fall victim to this- I do too. We don't listen to our bodies when they plead for help- we instead push through. We numb fatigue with more caffeine. We solve stress by more stress (exercise or poor lifestyle choices). We never truly embrace what our body is telling us, because we are scared to hear what it has to say. Imagine if every time your body told you that you were tired, you slept more, that you were hungry, you ate more, that you were stressed, so you took a mental break. How much better would you feel each day? The problem is that we are so focused on what we want from our body, we overlook what our body is saying to us. Our body is similar to a vehicle. Envision the idea that each time a light would flash on your car instrumental panel, that you threw a towel over it to cover up the light, instead of taking your car in to get serviced. That is essentially what we are doing with our bodies. Our bodies are speaking, and we are choosing to ignore what they are saying. We mask the symptoms because of this idea of what we want, instead of harnessing the truth of what our body needs.
3. We aren't recovering correctly.
We are putting our bodies in a constant state of caloric deprivation in pursuit of this idealistic body. We aren't eating enough of the right nutrients. We are sleeping poorly, or maybe not enough all together. We are reactive to pain, rather than proactive to preventing it. Our lives are a constant rollercoaster of stress, poor lifestyle behaviors, sleep deprivation...the list goes on.
4. We are treating our bodies as a pick-up truck, rather than a Ferrari.
We do all these things and our body is resilient. Often times, we don't truly get a health wake-up call until our health comes calling. We do all these things: stress too much, eat too poorly, consume harmful chemicals/supplements, and our body is fine. So why would we change anything? Because the truth is, your body IS NOT resilient, you are NOT immune, you DO NOT know the battle your body is fighting every single day for you.
Remember, I felt great. Sure, I was somewhat stressed, who isn't? I was eating a very well balanced diet, sleeping fairly well, staying active, etc. But my body was not happy with me, and I had no clue. I was not in tune with my body, I was not recovering correctly, I was treating my body as a pick-up truck, rather than the Ferrari that it is.
We must be proactive in our health. We must eat more nutritious foods (not these deemed "healthy foods"). Read more labels, purchase less packaged foods, eat enough food, eat the right foods for your body, and your goals. Supplement with natural (not synthetic) vitamins as needed for your personal health code. Move in a way that feels good to your body and to your well-being.
If you are not sure where to start, let us help guide you to the nutritional and lifestyle strategies so that you can feel better, weigh less, gain lean muscle, feel happier, and most importantly...BE HEALTHIER.
Start treating your body with the love it deserves, and it will love you back. Promise.
With Body Positivity,