HEALTH WITH JESSICA

Stress and adrenal fatigue

Chances are if you’re part of this fast paced, over stuffed, over stimulated, over stressed culture you have experienced adrenal fatigue.  This is an issue plenty of people deal with, however there is very little knowledge about it in mainstream medicine and therefore our society in general. Typically, doctors don’t recognize a problem until the adrenal issues have gone to an extreme level and thyroid issues ensue.  This is not to point at doctors, it is simply outside of the realm of the modern medical perspective at this point in time. I will add though…awareness seems to be slowly occurring and I remain hopeful.

So what exactly is adrenal fatigue?  Our adrenal glands are small walnut sized glands located above the kidneys.  They create corticosteroids like cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenaline that then communicate specific messages to our brains that release certain hormones in response. I am going to keep it simple for the moment and focus on “CORTISOL”.adrenal glands

Our bodies are amazing and designed to work in very intricate ways with impressive communication skills. Cortisol may be a familiar word to some as it is linked to stress and weight gain.

Here is what happens: stress comes in different forms, physical, emotional, mental.  What is stressful to me may not be to you and vice versa.  We all have different tolerance levels of stress as well as different ways in which we deal with (or avoid) stress. However, when stress becomes chronic, our bodies become overwhelmed.

If I am dealing with a high level of stress for a prolonged period of time, rather than stress hormones spiking and then returning to normal, they will remain at an elevated level.  Specifically focusing on cortisol today…if I have an overload of cortisol I will likely experience things such as headaches and backaches, cravings for junk foods (salty and sweet…refined stuff), sleep will be an issue perhaps having a hard time falling or staying asleep and then feeling tired even if I do get an adequate amount of sleep.  A big one for a lot of people is weight gain and difficulty losing weight. Cortisol tends to make us hold on to body fat especially around the belly (aren’t we lucky?).  Then it gets overzealous and won’t let go.  Some people will experience depression and/or anxiety as well as gastrointestinal issues.  Infections and allergies are also more prevalent with high levels of cortisol.  And one more…it can kill your sex drive.

Anyone relate to any of this stuff in conjunction with some stress you’ve been dealing with?  Yup.  We all do at least at some point in life…especially in our crazy, fast paced society that has too much, is too busy and far too distracted.

If these type of stress responses continue for long, because we are not able to change the level of stress in our lives or haven’t figured out how, then our adrenal glands get worn down.  **newsflash**  We are not meant to have chronic stress in our lives. After a while our adrenal glands say…”well, I’ve put in my hours.  This ‘overtime’ was not in my job description…I’m out”. They end up slacking off, but it’s because they aren’t equipped for the overload.

When adrenal glands become fatigued, the symptoms are like those I mentioned above.  The symptoms often become more pronounced and you will likely have a more difficult time “shaking” whatever you feel you are dealing with.

I went to a naturopath several years ago because of this heavy fatigue I was experiencing that I didn’t understand.  I eat healthy and balanced and exercise regularly…but the doctor sat and talked to me about my life in general.  He even talked about past stress (yes, some childhood questions came up).  He essentially brought to light how spread thin I was and how my body just needed rest (not just the sleep kind of rest) and more balance in all areas.  I do struggle with this and have learned to be aware of it and manage it far better than ever before. This whole issue with our adrenal glands can really be a good thing…IF we listen!!  It can motivate you to seek balance in your life.  And balance, as we know, is one of my favorite things. <3

stress

My hope is to help individuals to start recognizing the havoc that is being reaped on their bodies BEFORE it gets to such a critical level that medication and other things are necessary just to regain some form of “normal”.

ATTENTION:  once we reach critical levels with our health in general, we risk never being able to return to “normal” without the aid of modern medicine…which can often lead to other issues.  It is super important to address problems and symptoms when they are manageable!

Our issues are an opportunity to create healthy change!!!

As I finish this I am noticing it is nearing midnight.  Oops.  I am a work in progress 😉

Good night sweet friends…
XOXO,
JESS

 

 

 

Clean Eating Peanut Butter “Cookies”

Who doesn’t love a good peanut butter cookie?!  These are like Larabars & once again super easy to make!  (I like easy, low maintenance if you haven’t noticed!)

Ingredients:
3/4 cup peanut butter
3/4 cup raisins
1 cup old fashioned oats
3/4 cup unsalted peanuts
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips *optional

Add all ingredients to a food processor and blend until moist and well mixed.  Scoop dough out by the heaping teaspoonful.  I like using a cookie dough scoop.  Place each scoop on a tray lined with parchment paper and squish with a fork (just like regular peanut butter cookies).  These are ready to eat!!  I put mine in an air tight container an either freeze or keep in the fridge.  Such a yummy healthy snack or even breakfast!

 

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NEWSFLASH: French Fries and Ketchup Do Not Count as Veggies!

Listen. I get it…you are an adult now.  Who says you have to listen to your mom’s nagging voice and “eat your veggies!”? I admit, sometimes it’s hard to get them in.  There are several that are not allowed to touch my plate as well…celery (gag me)…carrots (only in carrot cake OR shredded and hidden in things so I don’t even know they’re there!).  HOWEVER, there are a lot of very powerful reasons that when you look at your plate that your veggies should be representing the majority of what you see!  For reals!  Don’t leave me just yet…!! There are tons of ways to make veggies not just  palatable…but super yummy, without creating a monster out of something that was healthy and turning it into a sad resemblance of a vegetable (no deep frying this stuff, people!).

Big green leafy veggies, colorful peppers, juicy tomatoes, cucumbers, broccoli and cauliflower…. all this stuff is super filling, LOW calorie and SUPER NUTRIENT DENSE! Talk about getting a lot of bang for your buck!  Here’s some other cool stuff:

1. FIBER (duh)

Veggies help fill you up and um…keep you regular 🙂    Also, the fiber helps lower bad cholesterol in the blood. Bonus!  I’m tellin’ ya, if you fill your plate half up (yes I said half of your plate should be full of veggies and NOT drowning in dressings and sauces!) you will start feeling pretty darn good as this becomes a habit.  I, for one, like food.  Yup.  And when I get to make my plate full and keep my calories low, nutrients high…winner!

2. Phytonutrients

Phytohuh?? Do you feel like you’re in middle school science right now?  This is what makes veggies pretty darn cool.  They offer some powerful stuff that we can’t get anywhere else!  Did ya hear that?  You can’t skip out on this stuff and think you are giving your body what it needs.  Phytonutrients give fruits and veggies their brilliant colors and give our bodies some of the things they have to have for OPTIMAL CELLULAR FUNCTION!  Yes, I’m yelling!!  You guys, why on God’s green earth should we expect our bodies to feel good, look good and perform well when we aren’t offering them what they need at the very basic level?! “Cellular” = very basic level.  Got it??  Would you get up to go to work and think to yourself: “I haven’t checked my oil in my car in like…well, months, but I don’t like doing it…it’s not cool, so forget it.  My car will be fine?”  Yeah…probably not.  We NEED this stuff!  AND we HAVE to get this stuff from whole food sources…not from a pill!  You can’t give your car an oil pill, right?  Really.  You can’t give your body something that you think might “act” like the nutrients it needs and expect good results.  If you are paying a bunch of bucks for supplements to avoid eating your veggies, you might as well be flushing your $ down the toilet.  Your body doesn’t recognize that stuff.  It’s called bioavailability.  LOVE that word!  It boils down to what you ingest versus what your body actually absorbs.  More on that later…

veggies

I will end here for now and highlight one veggie and some benefits:

SPINACH: Full of vitamin C, vitamin K and folate.
Some of its key phytonutrients and their benefits:

  • Polyphenols (group of phytonutrients) – Anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties, also immune enhancers
  • Alpha lipoic acid – Helps stabilize blood sugar, aids in improved cardiovascular function

SO…go make yourself a big veggie omelet; or crisp colorful salad with a lean meat on top; or a smoothie with Greek yogurt and dark green leafy veggies and yummy fruits…or… need I go on?!  🙂

5 Questions to Ask When You’re Looking for a Diet/Weight Loss Plan

I don’t know if working in the health and fitness field makes all the information zooming around about health and fitness less confusing, or more confusing than ever!  There’s always a new “plan” of some sort, new “super foods”, new theories, new trends, etc.  And then there are new findings about “old news”; eggs used to be off limits, now they’re good; butter was bad, now it’s good; low fat used to be the way to go, now full fat is the answer; soy used to be an ultra healthy choice, now it’s a “no no!”…  Anyone else feel like they’re getting whip lash dealing with all the back and forth?!

When I look back over my own “diet history” I get a little dizzy.  I started with the Scarsdale Diet in the 7th grade, then joined the low fat bandwagon (jumped on that one with both feet!), went vegetarian for several years (living in Alaska changed that for me!), I tried Atkins…for like a day, Nutrisystem… you get the idea.

Overwhelmed!
Overwhelmed!

I think somewhere along the lines my frustration with all this information, plus my growing relationship with research while working on my masters degree, made me start to look and things much deeper than how it was presented and I started deciding how it may or may not be a fit for me.

Here are 5 questions I’ve learned to ask when I encounter a new health and fitness program:

1. What does research say?

Regardless of whether it’s a new trend in food, exercise, stress management, supplements, etc…I check on what research has found about it and any individual elements involved in the program.  What if it is so new there really isn’t any good evidence on either side?  Then I hold back or use whatever it might be with caution.  For me Stevia is a good current example of this.  I’m not convinced that it’s perfectly safe quite yet.  When something is new on the market, even if it is a food that is found naturally, I wonder about how it is modified and what that means. Or, if it really shouldn’t be used the way we humans have decided it should be used!

Need help figuring out what research is good and reliable when you do find it?  Chris Kresser is one of my favorite functional and integrative medicine practitioners.  Click here for an article he recently wrote on just this subject.  This guy is a science nerd and I LOVE it!  It is so easy to go with something based on face value, but it is CRITICAL to look behind the scenes when making a decision about something that could dramatically affect your health!

2. Does it involve real food?

If a program comes with it’s own prepackaged foods, I would most definitely think twice about it (or don’t think about it at all and move on!).  First of all, you will more likely than not have to sell off all of your belongings in order to afford to pay for all the food.  Even more importantly, these foods typically are chalked full of artificial junk: preservatives, fillers, fake sweeteners, etc.  Not only are you then putting potentially harmful ingredients into your body, but these “ingredients” are taking the place of other nutrients that are necessary for your body to function the way it is designed to.  Ever heard the term garbage in, garbage out?  If you fill your body with garbage, it will look and feel like garbage.  Pretty simple.

3. Is it working for other people?

Ok, this one comes with a caveat.  When I set out to try something new or buy something, whether it’s new running shoes, a class I want to take, a campground, new gadget, you name it…I read reviews. I like hearing inside perspectives of what I’m looking into.  HOWEVER, just because someone has a certain opinion, doesn’t mean I will go in the same direction they chose.  The reasons for their decision as compared to what I value is important and should be considered during the deciding process.  If I don’t jive with their way of looking at something, their opinion will hold less weight.  Regardless, I like to hear what others have personally experienced!

4. Is it sustainable?

This is huge.  Why buy into a program that will get you to your goal and leave you stranded and back at square one shortly after it’s over?  A good weight loss plan will teach you new habits, without adding a ginormous amount of stress to your life.  It will be something you will want to continue in your life indefinitely. The hard truth is that often times this way of doing things takes longer.  However, if you want it to last and forego the endless merry-go-round with new diets, this really is the way to go!

5. What is my style?

This fits well with question #4.  I am a busy working mom and know that something that takes a ton of prep and cooking from scratch is something that, although I would like to do, will not be realistic for me at this stage in my life.  I am also a creature of habit.  If I have a menu to follow that changes every single day, it will overwhelm me.  I need streamlined, easy, as convenient as possible while still being very healthy.  Others really prefer to have a lot of creative freedom with their nutrition.  What works for me, may not work for you and vice versa.  You have to find something that helps you make changes without feeling like you are torturing yourself!

In the end, habits will have to change, effort is required and not all of it will be breeze.  A good program, however, will be something that makes you feel great and that is why you will stick with it!  The hard stuff will feel so worth it!

 

Is “everything in moderation” a joke?

Are you sick and tired of hearing “everything in moderation”?  Or maybe you are one who preaches this belief system?

One of my favorite podcasters, Chris Kresser, an expert in functional and integrative medicine, will take most health issues he is presented with and usually comes up with the same answer he has for everything before explaining himself. That answer: “it depends”.  I LOVE this.  Because, the truth is, it does depend. We are not one dimensional beings.  We are complicated, in a good way (usually)!

“Everything in moderation” is something I live by.  It jives with the 80/20 principle of eating.  80% of the time I’m really on top of eating clean, unprocessed, foods and focusing on the right amount of macro and micro nutrients for my body and activity type and level (not as complicated as it might sound…don’t be scared). The other 20%?  That’s my ice cream, my donut on my friend’s birthday weekend, the coffee creamer I “shouldn’t” have but sorta love, the delicious chicken enchilada casserole I had at the church potluck today… You get the idea.

I know myself and this is what I know:  I LOVE to be healthy.  I love how it feels.  I love what it does for my goals. I love the energy it gives me.  I love that I don’t have a million health issues and take ZERO medication.  I feel pretty darn good!

I also know, however, that if I go extreme in my diet, you won’t want to be around me.  🙂  Just sayin’.  I will get grouchy.  I will be far too focused on food.  I will feel deprived and at the end of the night eat whatever might be considered edible in my kitchen and then polish it off with “that food” I wasn’t “supposed” to have.  So.  What’s the point. For me, this whole moderation thing works.

I also subscribe to the 80/20 thing when it comes to activity and exercise.  I’m busy.  I don’t like to sit down.  I exercise regularly.  However, there’s a thought in the health and fitness industry that 80% of your results will come from diet and the other 20% from exercise.  I believe this to be true from my very own first hand experience.  I mean for real…if I’m a regular at McDonald’s I can pretty much put money on it that my 40 minutes on the treadmill (or whatever your exercise might look like) is not going to be super effective.  It’s that phrase I love so much: YOU CAN’T OUTRUN YOUR FORK.  #truth

(***Disclaimer…you will NEVER see me at McDonald’s.  Part of that is due to the level of unhealthy foods they offer and the other part of that is because I’m a snob.  I won’t give money to people or businesses I don’t believe in.  Period.***)

Here is where you might decide you don’t like me and my advice/perspective doesn’t serve you (ok maybe you already did, but obviously you’re still reading!)…this whole moderation idea does not apply to everyone and I totally get that.  There are those with some pretty intense, underlying health issues that can’t survive by such guidelines.  Understood.  I’m that middle of the road girl.  That’s the amazing thing about having so many different people out in the health and fitness world.  There’s someone for everyone.

I’m the one that watches portions, listens to my body, eats really healthy MOST of the time and just LOVES to love life!  I don’t want to stress over everything I’m eating all the time.  Thankfully I don’t have to.  I am mindful, and I move on.

NOW, that being said…I do think it takes some training to get yourself to the point where you know what moderation looks like…where portions come naturally and you can listen to your body when it is satisfied and not go beyond that point.  Trust me, I wasn’t always able to do it.   The 80/20 principle takes time to grasp.  It’s a learning curve if you aren’t used to it.  Absolutely.

One more point: when I am over focused on what I am eating, that brings my life more away from balance.  Balance is my thing.  I strive for that.  I do not in the slightest bit believe I was put on this earth to stress over my food all day every day.  To be healthy and to help others be healthy…heck yeah!  There’s a pretty darn big difference.

I hope you all had a wonderful, restful, rejuvenating weekend with people you love and food you love!  🙂  My son and I made some pretty delish oatmeal cookies tonight…oh yes we did!

Baking with Mom
Baking with Mom

I’ll share the recipe in the “food” section of my site.  Warning…it does contain things I would consider “healthy” such as craisins, whole wheat flour and flax. See…balance.  🙂

Love ya!
Jess

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