When you're battling adrenal fatigue, it is difficult to lose weight for several reasons. Not only are you exhausted and lack the physical energy to exercise the way that you used to, but those suffering with adrenal fatigue also crave sweets and salty food, as they use food to drive their pooped-out adrenal glands. The combination of being sedentary, having no energy and eating chips and cookies makes it seemingly impossible to lose weight, but there is hope, and it can be done without worsening your already delicate state of health, and without feeling famished.
Lifestyle Change One: Normalize Your Sleep Schedule
What does sleep have to do with weight loss? Substantial medical evidence suggests some fascinating links between sleep and weight. Researchers say that how much you sleep and quite possibility the quality of your sleep may silently orchestrate a symphony of hormonal activity tied to your appetite." The bottom line? Sleep more, and sleep at the right times. Your body's circadian rhythm, or biological clock, is on a set schedule of secreting exact amounts of hormones that control ALL of your bodily functions, at the same times each day. If you are staying up extra late, pushing past that "second wind", or not getting enough sleep, your entire circadian rhythm is thrown out of balance, and therefore your body's hormonal balance is, too. Did you know that circadian rhythm disorders can actually cause adrenal fatigue in the first place?
So, at what times should you be sleeping, and for how long in order to alleviate adrenal fatigue and optimize weight loss?
I strongly suggest being in bed and asleep by 10:30 pm daily. I also recommend sleeping until 8:30 or 9:00 in the morning if you are able to, "There is something magical about the restorative power of sleep between 7:00-9:00 in the morning for people with adrenal fatigue. Even when your night has been restless or your sleep fitful, catching those couple of hours of sleep between 7:00-9:00 am can be remarkably refreshing."
Lifestyle Change Two: Eat The Right Foods
Dieting is especially difficult for those with adrenal fatigue, since extreme carbohydrate and stimulant cravings caused by high cortisol levels (in early stage adrenal exhaustion) can lead to binge eating. Not only do high cortisol levels make you want to keep on snacking, but excess cortisol also contributes to storing more belly fat, which is known to be a bit harder to lose.
First of all, with and without adrenal fatigue, high-glycemic index foods such as sugary fruit juices, sweet foods and empty carbohydrates lead to weight gain because of the hormone insulin, which is released in larger amounts when sugar and high-carb foods are consumed. Insulin promotes the storage of fat. Steer clear of sugar, refined carbohydrates, and fruit juices if you have adrenal fatigue, since they further tax the adrenal glands, and contribute to weight gain much more than any other foods it is essential to, "Combine fat, protein, and starchy carbohydrates (such as whole grains) at every meal and every snack." This is probably the hardest step of all, but it is the most important if you are aiming for both recovering your health and losing weight.
Eat healthy combinations of fat, protein and whole grain unrefined carbs, while staying within your body's caloric needs. 6-8 servings of vegetables per day are essential, and extra sodium, believe it or not, is acceptable for those with adrenal fatigue (if you don't have high blood pressure).
Remember that choosing foods that are closest to their natural state is best, too, since preservatives and artificial colors and flavors stress the adrenals.
Whatever you do, do not starve yourself. If you dramatically restrict calories and starve yourself, not only are you making your adrenal glands work harder (and keeping yourself sicker), but you are also setting yourself up for more weight gain, since your body will immediately store what food you finally decide to take in, and your hormonal activity will be further disrupted by low blood sugar levels. Do not take this route as it will only backfire and cause you more misery later on.
Lifestyle Change Three: Eat At the Right Times
Eating at the correct time of day is just as important as eating the right foods if you are aiming to help restore your adrenal gland function and lose weight.
I strongly suggests eating breakfast before 10:00 am, so that your blood sugar does not drop too low and further mess up your hormonal functions for the entire day. The rest of the recommended schedule is as follows:
- 11:00-11:30 am Lunch
- 2:00-3:00 pm Healthy snack
- 5:00-6:00 pm Evening meal
- Tiny snack before bedtime to avoid nighttime hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)
Lifestyle Change Four: Yes, You Can Exercise!
As I mentioned in the beginning of this article, over-exercising can actually be detrimental for someone with adrenal fatigue, since weakness, lack of energy, and lack of stamina are main symptoms. Despite this, some exercise is actually good for you to increase blood flow, improve cell function, normalize hormone levels, and increase oxygen levels. If you can only do 5 minutes here and there or 5 minutes total per day that is fine. The key is to use exercise as a tool to help you relax, improve your glandular functions, and consequently, help you lose weight. It should not be stressful, and the only type of exercise that you should attempt is gentle, slower-paced, and non-competitive exercise. Stretching or just going on a pleasant and leisurely walk is a good place to start. Attitude is important. Never should you feel like a failure because you are unable to do the amount of exercise that others can do, and never should you become discouraged that you aren't losing massive amounts of weight quickly. Look forward to your daily exercise as "you time", and know that you are doing something good for your mind, body, and spirit. A good rule of thumb is to do only 50% of what you think you can do, so that you do not become even more fatigued and stressed. Slow down or stop completely if you have pain or discomfort of any kind, and always check with your doctor before changing your diet or exercise routine.
Realize first and foremost that you cannot lose weight without a healthy body, and a healthy mind. Once you normalize your sleeping and eating and make simple lifestyle changes that help you and your weak adrenals, the weight will come off in no time.
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