Tag Archives: stress

Is this shutting down your thyroid?

Well, it’s almost the end of September. How’d that happen? 🙂 

That means we are at the end of our focus on thyroid health. Why have we spent an entire month on this? Because:

  1. So many people are experiencing thyroid dysfunction (whether officially diagnosed or not).
  2. Your thyroid affects so many systems. If it isn’t working properly, you can’t be your best YOU. And your best YOU is what the world needs!
  3. There are simple, natural strategies you can implement to improve the health of your thyroid!

In previous emails, we’ve talked about toxins, food sensitivities, and critical thyroid nutrients.

Today I want to focus on the thing that has the biggest impact on your thyroid (and overall) health: Stress.

In today’s world stress runs rampant and often lies hidden as one of the root causes of disease. In a study performed by the Cleveland Clinic, the number one factor they discovered that improves health across the board is pro-actively reducing stress.

How does stress affect your thyroid? Well, when we are under stress, our adrenal glands produce a hormone called cortisol, which produces a number of effects in the body. Concerning the thyroid, when there is too much cortisol in the body, TSH conversion in the brain gets blocked, leading to a buildup of reverse T3, which “puts the brakes” on the thyroid. (TSH and T3 are hormones that play an important role in thyroid function.)

For those of us who recently experienced the extended stress of Hurricane Harvey or Irma, our adrenals were probably working overtime producing excess cortisol. You may have noticed that you felt fatigued, or your appetite was off, for several days after the event passed. I know I did. That’s your adrenals affecting your thyroid.

It’s time to take a comprehensive look at how stress shows up in your life and begin to take small steps to lessen it.

In my coaching practice, I share my 3-layered approach to stress management, as depicted in the Stress Management Pyramid:

  1. Resilience – cultivating a frame of mind and body that is resilient in the face of stress so that you experience stress less frequently, and when you do, you don’t react as strongly.
  2. Reactivity – shifting your mindset through cognitive flexibility exercises so that you are less likely to react to situations in a stressful way.
  3. Release – building a menu of tools that will help you effectively release stress when it does occur.

While I can’t get into all these layers here, I will share my top 3 strategies for building stress resilience:

  1. Mind-Body Nutrition – this includes giving your body adequate vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and adaptogens to help it be stress resilient. But it goes far beyond just what you eat.
  2. Meditation – regular meditation practice can contribute greatly to improving  your stress resilience.
  3. Sleep quality – poor sleep is a stress on your system, while getting consistent, good quality sleep will help you build stress resilience.

If you are looking to reduce your stress, whether its to improve your thyroid health or your overall health, let’s chat! As you know, I offer affordable, effective self-study courses and coaching programs, and I’d love to talk to you to see how I could serve you further.

Just reply to this email and we’ll set up a time to chat on the phone. What’s the worst that could happen? And what’s the best that could happen?

Now go ahead and rock your day!

Let’s Talk … Thyroid!

Did you know: about 300 million people worldwide are experiencing thyroid issues – and half of them don’t even know it!

And women are 10 times more susceptible to thyroid irregularities than are men!

Your thyroid gland plays such a big role in your overall health. Symptoms of thyroid dysfunction are all over the place – unexpected weight change, lack of energy, foggy brain, difficulty sleeping, feeling cold, thinning hair, dry skin, depression, anxiety, and more. Yeah, it affects lots of things.

Traditional medicine detects thyroid dysfunction using a standard blood test measure. Depending on the results, you may then be placed on thyroid medication to adjust the amount of thyroid hormones in your body. There are two major drawbacks to this approach:

  • The standard blood test measure only detects thyroid dysfunction when it has reached a certain stage. It does not detect early thyroid abnormalities.
  • Thyroid medications treat the symptom; they do not address the cause.

Most often when there is a thyroid challenge, it stems from other areas of the body also being out of balance. By restoring this balance, we can improve your thyroid health.

I’m so excited that I am now able to offer a program designed to do just that – restore balance and create the optimal environment for your thyroid to THRIVE!

Introducing the …

Thyroid Health Transformation Program!

Who is this program for?

  • Anyone who has been diagnosed with a thyroid issue, is currently taking thyroid medication, and is looking to improve their thyroid health naturally
  • Anyone who is experiencing the symptoms of a thyroid issue but has not been been placed on thyroid medication

Why this program?

This program was co-created with Dr. Marcelle Pick (OB/GYN, NP, IFM Certified Practitioner), who has been practicing functional medicine for 30 years.

The program combines Dr. Pick’s thyroid health protocol with powerful coaching methods to create an experience uniquely designed to address your thyroid health in a way that’s never been possible before. In this program, you will:

  • Learn how to make yourself a priority within the context of your busy lifestyle
  • Take charge of your life and your health without compromising everything else
  • Learn how to eat to support healthy thyroid function
  • Identify and remove toxins that affect your thyroid health
  • Build stress resilience and practice stress reduction techniques
  • Turn new healthy habits into behaviors that last

Most importantly, as a participant in this program, I offer you a safe environment where you can fully express yourself, perhaps in a way you have never been able to before. I will be there to support you, to challenge you, to stretch you into being the best YOU possible.

 

How does this program work?

When you enroll in the Thyroid Health Transformation program, you receive:

  • Twelve weekly, private 60 minute coaching sessions with yours truly. During these coaching calls, I share curated information and customized coaching exercises designed to accelerate your results and help you achieve major breakthroughs.
  • Communication between appointments via email and/or Facebook message.
  • Two emergency 15 minute calls, in case you get stuck and aren’t sure what to do. (And you get to decide what counts as an emergency.)
  • Customized curated done-for-you materials such as checklists, handouts, exercises, and more. This program doesn’t exist to give you MORE information, it exists to give you CURATED information. What this means is that you can expect to receive information that is relevant, practical, and actionable, so that you can stay out of overwhelm and in action.

I’m interested. What’s my next step?

Easy – let’s talk to see if this program really is right for you! Just click this link to schedule a call.

To your health,

Dawn

Got Stress?

Got stress?
 
Who doesn’t?
 
In my coaching practice, stress management is a big focus. Why? Well, stress affects your eating habits, digestion, appetite, sleep, mood, energy, and so much more. I want my clients to regularly operate from a place where they are maximizing their digestion and metabolism, experiencing healthy mood and appetite, and are able to make calm, empowering decisions about their health on a moment-to-moment, day-to-day basis.
 
I take a 3-layered approach to stress management:
 
  1. Build Resilience, in mind and body, to reduce the effects of stress.
     
  2. Shift Reactivity, that is, shift your mindset to you react in a stressful manner less often.
     
  3. Promote Release through tools that help you release stress readily when it does occur.

In this post, I want to focus on the base of the pyramid: resilience. Here are some ways you can build stress resilience.

  • Mind Body Nutrition: Proper nutrition is key to stress resilience. But proper nutrition goes beyond what we eat, which is where most people focus. I believe focusing on the how, when, where, who, and why of eating are just as important, and my clients’ results support that. If you want to learn more, message me or check out my course Empower Your Relationship With Food.
     
  • Meditation: A regular meditation practice can contribute greatly to improving your stress resilience. Meditation is not difficult, but it is a practice. You need to stick with it for a while to reap the benefits. There are so many tools and resources out there to help you get started. One of my favorites is the Zen 12 meditation program, because it uses ‘brainwave’ sounds to shift you into a state of total relaxation and give you an hour’s worth of meditation in just 12 minutes.
     
  • —Movement helps release stress energy trapped in your system. The key here is to engage in movement that you enjoy, whatever that might look like for you. For some, this may involve intense exercise, for others, it may involve practices like yoga or tai chi. Movement could be walking, dancing, working around the house, gardening. But watch out – you can increase your stress through over-exercising, or through engaging in movement activities that you really don’t like. So experiment and find out what resonates with you. And create some variety!
     
  • Sleep quality. Poor sleep is a stress on your system. Getting quality sleep is key to creating stress resilience. That’s when your body performs the majority of its detox and repair functions, in order to get your body ready to face a new day.

—Other practices that can build stress resistance include: being in nature, play (whatever that means to you – could be playing sports or games, playing with children, playing with pets), exploring your creativity, journaling – keeping a gratitude journal, for example.

Two products that form a regular part of my stress resilience protocol are:

  • EMRO Quantum energy Stress Relief discs – like acupuncture without needles, these non-transdermal, non-medicinal discs help balance your body’s energy so that you experience less stress.
  • Isagenix Ionix Supreme: this nutrient-rich tonic, featuring a blend of Adaptogens, helps balance and normalize the body’s systems while protecting against the negative effects of stress.

If you are interested in learning more about either of these products, email me!

I’d love to hear from you: what do you do to cultivate stress resilience? Comment on this post or email me. I’ll collect your responses to feature in a future post.

Journaling: Fiber for your Emotions

Journaling

If there’s one thing that I think all the nutritional experts can agree on, it’s that fiber is important for health (and most people don’t get enough). Fiber helps things move through the digestive track – sweeping out your gut like a broom – and it also helps with nutrient absorption.

In other words, from a digesting-your-food perspective, fiber helps you absorb what you need and get rid of what you don’t.

Analogously, the act of journaling can play an important role in helping you digest your emotions.

Emotion is energy in motion. Emotions flow through us like energy waves. We naturally “digest” this emotional energy by absorbing what we need and releasing what we don’t need. Many of us, however, halt this natural flow. We erect a dam; we halt/stuff/distract ourselves if the emotional feels uncomfortable or too intense. And over time, we become emotionally constipated.

That’s right. Just as lack of dietary fiber can lead to constipation, I’m suggesting that suppressing the natural flow of emotions can lead to emotional constipation.

Journaling can be a great tool to help you relieve that emotional constipation and encourage the emotions to flow again. It’s the fiber for your emotions.

Journaling provides a focused means by which to consciously assist the flow of pent-up emotions. When you write about what you are experiencing, what you are feeling, you help your emotions begin moving again.

Plus, research has shown that journaling:

  • Decreases symptoms of asthma, arthritis, and other health conditions
  • Improves cognitive functioning
  • Strengthens the immune system
  • Counteracts stress

So if you aren’t journaling regularly already, maybe its time to get started.

 

Related reading

The Benefits of Journaling and Tips for Getting Started

The Health Benefits of Journaling

100 Benefits of Journaling

The Benefits of Journaling for Stress Management

The Benefits of Journaling: How to Get Started

 

Pleasure: A Necessary But Often Forsaken Ingredient

happy-halloween

It’s Halloween, the time for treats (and tricks, but I prefer treats), so let’s talk about pleasure. Here’s what I am wondering:

  • Do you enjoy your food? I mean really enjoy it?
  • Do you eat foods that give you pleasure? Or do you avoid them?
  • Do you view pleasurable foods as “bad” or “sinful”, making you bad or sinful if you eat them? Do you feel guilty about eating foods that give you pleasure?
  • Do you eat foods you don’t like, because they are “good for you”?

Well, if you are denying yourself pleasure from food, you are not doing yourself any favor. Not only is pleasurable eating natural, but it is necessary. Pleasure aids in your digestion, helps you relax, and dials down your appetite so that you are less apt to overeat.

Pleasure and Digestion

Our “pleasure chemistry” is intimately tied to digestion (and appetite). One chemical involved in that chemistry is cholecystokinin or CCK. CCK has multiple functions in the body – it signals pleasure in the brain and it also assists digestion by stimulating the small intestines, stomach, and more. Without CCK – without pleasure – our digestion does not function as efficiently – and this claim is backed up by research on both animals and humans.

One intriguing study [1] investigated how cultural preferences affect the absorption of iron from a meal. Although the study investigated several different conditions, the one that sticks in my mind is the following. One group of women was given a standard meal to eat, after which their iron absorption was measured. The second group was given the same meal – except the meal had been processed through a blender so that it was a smooth mush. The researchers found that the women who ate the blended meal absorbed 70% less iron! If I had to guess in advance what the result would be, I would have predicted the opposite. I would have predicted better absorption from the blended meal, as it was already in some sense prepared for easy digestion.

As stated eloquently by Marc David [2]:

“The nutritional value of a food is not merely given in the nutrients it contains, but is dependent upon the synergistic factors that helps us absorb those nutrients. Remove Vitamin P: Pleasure, and the nutritional value of our food plummets.”

Pleasure, Appetite, and Overeating

That same chemical CCK, the one that helps us digest our meal and enjoy it, also helps shut down our appetite. In the absence of pleasure, our appetite increases. How often have you craved a pleasurable food but avoided it by having other “phantom food” substitutes, only to find yourself finally having the food whose pleasure you seek?

I bet many of you are thinking, now wait, if I eat pleasurable foods, I won’t be able to stop.

I want to suggest that it is exactly that – the pleasure – that helps us stop. Geneen Roth [3] sums it up beautifully.

We don’t overeat because we take too much pleasure from food, but because we don’t take enough. When pleasure ends, overeating begins.

Pleasure and Stress

One of the keys to actually experiencing the pleasure from pleasurable foods, however, is relaxation. If you eat quickly, you will trigger a stress response in your body. And stress desensitizes us to pleasure.

Interestingly, many of us who overeat do so quickly, under stress – exactly the conditions that prevent us from experiencing pleasure, and that therefore prevent pleasure from shutting down our appetite.

Not only does stress desensitize us to pleasure, it also inhibits digestion. The more stressed you are, the worse your digestion will be – the fewer nutrients you will absorb from your food. A stressed eater will need to eat more not only to experience the pleasure we are hard-wired to seek, but also to absorb the nutrition our body needs. 

How to Get More Pleasure from Food in 3 Easy Steps

  1. Choose foods that you truly like
  2. Move into a state of relaxation (see my previous post on stress)
  3. Eat slowly, sensually, attentively

That’s it!

So in honor of Halloween, if you want to indulge in a treat, go for it. Just make sure follow the three steps above so that you really enjoy it.

For me, there is a Reese’s peanut butter pumpkin with my name on it.

Are there foods you have been avoiding because they might be too pleasurable? Are there foods you eat regularly even though you don’t really like them? Any other comments? Share below.

 

[1] “Food that tastes good is more nutritious”, Tufts University Health and Nutrition Letter, October 2000.

[2] The Metabolic Power of Pleasure, Marc David, Institute for the Psychology of Eating

[3] Deeply Delicious, Geneen Roth

 

 

#1 Weight Loss Tip: Relax

Anyone who has ever struggled with managing their weight is probably aware of a relationship between stress and weight – namely, we tend to eat when stressed (to put it mildly). But there is a lot more to the stress-weight connection than just that. Bottom line: chronic stress creates a chemistry in your body that de-regulates your appetite, promotes fat storage, and decreases metabolic activity (among other things). In other words, chronic stress leads to weight gain.

In this post, I first explore our stress chemistry, then turn to the more practical part – identifying what stresses us and how what we can do about it.

Stress Chemistry

DangerDialYour body’s autonomic nervous system includes two subsystems: sympathetic and parasympathetic. Your sympathetic subsystem, also known as your stress response or “fight or flight” response, is designed to help you react and move quickly in response to a perceived threat. Your parasympathetic subsystem, also known as relaxation or “rest and digest” response, allows the body to recover, digest, build, and heal. You shift between these two systems all the time, like turning the knob on a dial, so that at any one time, one system is dominant to a certain degree. And your body chemistry changes to support the requirements of the dominant system.

When the sympathetic (stress) system is dominant, these are just some of the changes that occur in your body:

  • Increased production of cortisol (associated with weight gain, abdominal obesity, inability to lose weight or build muscle)
  • Increased production of insulin (possibly leading to insulin resistance or pre-diabetes)
  • Decreased thyroid hormone (leading to a decrease in base metabolic activity)
  • Reduced gastro-intestinal motility (the movement of your digestive tract)
  • Decreased blood flow to the gut (4 times less)
  • Decreased enzymatic output in the gut (20,000 times less!)
  • Reduced absorption of nutrients
  • Increased excretion of nutrients, particularly minerals and water soluble vitamins
  • Die-off of healthy gut bacteria

StressConsequences

Bottom line, when you are under stress, you burn fewer calories, you do not properly digest your food, nutrient absorption is inhibited, and your body favors fat storage over fat burning and muscle building. In fact:

You can eat the healthiest food in the world,
but if you do so under constant stress,
you can become malnourished!

In other words, it’s not “you are what you eat” but “you are what you absorb”.

And as if this weren’t enough, chronic stress also contributes to inflammation, increased risk of osteoporosis, impaired kidney function, and other conditions!

So if the stress response causes so many problems, why do we have it? Your stress response is actually a beautiful, powerful mechanism designed to heighten your senses and responses for a couple potentially critical minutes. It is designed to help you in the short term. The problem is that in today’s society, many of us are constantly operating in some degree of stress chemistry. Our stress dial is constantly turned towards the “danger” zone. Under these conditions, you will have a hard time losing weight (if that is your goal) and your health risks for various conditions will increase.

Now that we have been stressed out about all the bad things that stress does to us, let’s see what we can do about it. The first step is to identify what stresses you.

What stresses you?

First, let’s define stress.

Stress is any real or imagined threat
and the body’s response to it

Any real or imagined threat… Some stress is real, but a lot is of our own doing. We stress about what other people are thinking, about things that we have no control over, and more. These self-chosen stresses are fertile ground to work, but eliminating them is not always easy. While we can’t fully control what happens to us, we can control how we react to it. We need to learn to react differently, where possible.

To find out what stresses you, take some time to sit down and create a stress inventory: write down all the persons, places, things, situations, thoughts, beliefs, fears that stress you. Some stresses you might be able to identify right away (work, relationships, finances) but others are not so obvious. This is where working with a coach can be of a big help. A coach can help you identify stresses like

  • negative self talk (“I’m so fat” “I hate my body” “I’ll never be good enough” “No one could ever love me if I look like this”)
  • Fears (“what if I get sick” “what if I never lose this weight”)
  • Holding on to anger, guilt, frustration, undigested life experiences

Take some time to review what you have compiled and rank them from most charged to least. You want to start working with the biggest stresses first. Also ask yourself – how many in my list are self-chosen?

Now that you have your stress inventory, it’s time to start the real work…

How do you combat manage stress?

First, please don’t try to “combat stress”. That in itself sounds stressful, right?

There are several tactics for managing stress:

  1. Change how you react (avoid the stress)
  2. Move out of stress into relaxation (shorten the duration of a stress event)
  3. Incorporate regular relaxing self-care practices (cultivate a general sense of peace and relaxation)

1. Change how you react

I like to call this “mental gymnastics”. Others call it reframing. The idea is to practice reacting in a different way to a stressor. Remember, you can control how you react to a situation. With practice, your new reaction can become automatic.

Here are a couple examples:

  • Instead of thinking “I only have 5 minutes for lunch so I better rush through it, and while I’m eating let me plan the afternoon agenda”, try thinking “I’m so grateful to have these 5 minutes to just sit and relax and enjoy my lunch.”
  • Instead of thinking “Oh that person just cut me off I am going to tail him and honk at him and get angry”, try “Boy, it must be really awful to feel the need to drive so aggressively and dangerously. I am grateful that I do not feel that way”.

2. Move into relaxation

Stress is inevitable. When you become aware that you are feeling stress, try to move yourself into a relaxation response as soon as you can. Here are a couple techniques to try.

  • Deep breathing – never underestimate the power of your breath to move you into relaxation. If you can breathe deeply, then you are not in an emergency situation (stressed breathing is rapid and shallow). Practice taking 3-5 really deep breaths – feel your belly expand as the air goes in, and feel it contract as the air goes out – and see if you feel different. The great thing about using breathing to relax is that you can do it anywhere, and it doesn’t take much time.
  • Feeling positive emotions like gratitude, love, trust. Think of someone or something you love unconditionally, or something you are grateful for, and feel yourself relax.

3. Incorporate regular relaxing self-care practices

Activities like physical, pleasurable exercise, meditation, yoga, tai chi, etc. are well known to help relieve stress.

Personally, I practice meditation and yoga regularly and I have noticed a significant change in my overall well-being. Meditation is really easy to do. You just sit quietly and breathe. It’s ok for thoughts to come and go – that is natural – just observe them as pass through your mind and keep breathing.

If you have never meditated before, here are a couple ways to get started.

  1. Set yourself a timer on a phone, find a comfortable sitting position, close your eyes, and just breathe. Monitor your breath as it goes in and out – you can count in your head as you inhale and exhale. Start with 5 minutes. When you are ready, increase the time to 10 minutes, or more.
  2. Check out the “Headspace” app. It includes 10 free brief guided meditations that are great for beginners.
  3. You can also explore lots of guided meditation videos on YouTube.

Another of my favorite de-stressing activities is to lay in my hammock outside and read a good book. I was pleasantly surprised recently to learn that even the fictional character ‘Jack Reacher’ knows that stress inhibits digestion – if you want to be fully nourished, you need to eat while you are relaxed, well before you go into what will be a known stressful situation:

“We ate at five-thirty, because we wanted to be full of energy and good nutrition three and more hours later, and human digestion gets slower with stress, not faster.” Child, Lee (2014): Personal (A Jack Reacher Novel).

Now you know too. And a lot more. If you got this far, congratulations. I know this post is a long one. But it is such a rich topic!

Use the comments to share your thoughts. What do you do to relieve stress? What are you willing to commit to try?

At Mind Body Nutrition Coaching, we help clients identify and alleviate stressors that contribute to conditions such as weight challenges, binge eating, digestive issues, fatigue, mood, and more. If you are interested in our services, please contact us.