- How do I fix blemishes/acne/dry skin?
- How do I target excess belly weight?
Now, as we all should know, I don't buy into body hate and shaming and guilt. Women naturally have curves and a tendency to hold weight around the belly and hips because women are designed to create, house and nourish new human life within their bodies. That's pretty amazing. Whether you choose to have children or not, your body is engineered for it.
That said, there's a fine balance to find between functional and healthy amount of particular hormones and the sort of irregularity and imbalance that will lead to a cycle of nasty symptoms that indicate hormonal problems and that lead to MORE hormonal imbalances if not addressed through lifestyle.
The culprit - in all my discussions with medical and natural health practitioners, and in my personal experience - is the stress hormone, cortisol. An excess of cortisol leads to inflammation within the body, creating dramas with digestion, sleep, mood, acne and blemishes, insatiable appetite, cravings, bloating and weight gain particularly around the belly and hips.
Cortisol is a hormone produced by the adrenal glands (in the kidney area). It isn't all bad! Cortisol is produced to enable the body to handle and respond to danger. It is also heightened during exercise or at the beginning of the day to put the body into a more alert state.
Too much cortisol results in a number of symptoms, including weight gain around the face and abdomen, thin and easily broken skin, acne, bones more vulnerable to fracture and breaking, depressed mood, increased facial hair and irregular periods.
Some medications can mimic cortisol, including some asthma medication and topical steroid creams or steroidal drugs.
What can you do to prevent excessive cortisol and a crappy mood, bloated belly and tired, dull skin? Here's some simple steps. Take one at a time, or all at once:
- Stop the extra long workouts. No wonder your body believes your under pressure and in need of hormones to cope with stress if you're forcing yourself through training regimes that run over 90 minutes
- Cut the coffee. Sure, addictive, sure. But if you want to sleep and look 10 years younger, stop.
- Eat wholefoods. Organic wherever possible, but maintain a diet where at least 80% of your food is a plant that you can recognise as exactly the same as it was on the tree or in the earth (powdered beetroot doesn't count)
- Take high-quality supplements if your diet is restricted at all (vegan protein, omega 3 supplements, vitamin D if you don't get much sun, multivitamins)
- Did I mention Omega 3 supplements?
- Eat a high fibre diet to maintain good gut health
- Take adaptogenic herbs: licorice root tea or medicinal mushrooms are easy to find at health food stores or online
- Take 5 minutes every morning and/or evening to sit quietly, eyes closed and breathe fully into the belly then slowly out again. Set a phone timer if you need.
- Get away from screens. Put the phone down.
- Go to yoga - any type.
- Do pilates
- Omega 3 supplements (seriously, though)
Image from Wholefood Merchants, Melbourne