Are you unable to make progress despite your spot on nutrition and active lifestyle? Are you stressed? Stress can cause irregular levels of Cortisol which is why we call it the "Stress Hormone". Did you know that irregular Cortisol levels can effect things like immunity, appetite, energy levels, metabolism, maintenance of muscle tissue, and weight loss? Cortisol levels should be highest in the morning and lowest before bed, but unfortunately the ongoing pressures of the daily grind can throw these levels "out of whack", so to speak. The good news is that there are several simple habits you can adopt toward regulating your Cortisol levels:
1. Get on a sleep schedule that will ensure 6-8 hrs of effective sleep. This can be tricky, especially if you are a shift worker because your bedtime is constantly changing. However, KEEP READING, because a lot of these steps double as ways to help you sleep and improve sleep efficiency.
2. First thing in the morning, open your shades and get some sunlight! Have you ever heard of S.A.D. (Seasonal Affective Disorder)? The lack of sunlight in the winter can have an effect on your Cortisol levels in addition to contributing to depression. A healthy dose or good old Vitamin D, straight from the sun will help raise your morning Cortisol and it'll give your day a great start!
3. Have 1 Tbsp of Coconut Oil or Butter with your breakfast. The short chained fatty acids get metabolized by the liver and get converted straight to energy instead of being stored as fat. Only 1 Tbsp! Don't overdo it, because your body will still metabolize extra calories as fat.
4. Exercise in the morning and if you can get outside for a fun sun run, EVEN BETTER!
5. Keep away from screens! No computer, no television, and no smartphone. Reading is a great way to start your day! But, do yourself a favor, and crack open a hardcover or a paperback. No IPads or Kindles, it's too much blue light stimulation when your body is trying to wake up. Remember when our parents always used to say "Don't sit too close to the television, you're brain will turn to mush"? Why start our day out with staring at a screen, or even worse, more than one screen!
6. Avoid workouts too close to bedtime. Even though we feel exhausted after a good workout, exercise is still stimulating. Too much stimulation, from highly energetic activities, gets us too riled up before bed. Do you find yourself staying awake for hours in bed? Maybe you need to wind down a little more before you hit the sack.
7. Eat early dinners and avoid sugar and other simple carbohydrates in the few hours before bed. Food is energy, and you don't want to pack your body full of energy before trying to nod off. If you find yourself with cravings before bed, stick with a snack consisting of protein and fat.
8. Again with the electricity...TURN IT OFF! Television in your room? GET RID OF IT! An hour before you go to bed, rid your eyes of screens and reap the benefits of a good night's sleep! I know that there's a lot of Facebook Rummaging you need to catch up with, but the electricity hangover that you're going to wake up with is not worth it.
9. Step off the scale. What stresses you out more than wanting to know what you weigh up to the very point that you find out that you don't like the number? You are more likely to keep a consistent healthy and fitness program when you are trusting the system, anyway. If you are constantly weighing yourself you are more likely to switch up your program with every fluctuation. Choose your path, and give it time to work. You're going to fluctuate and the stress of seeing an unchanging number is effecting you, hormonally, more than you think.
10. Deep breathing. Yes that's right. You wanna be healthy? You wanna lose weight? You wanna fall asleep as soon as your head hits that pillow? Just breathe. Easy enough right? Put your hands on your ribs and take a deep breath. If you did not feel your ribs expand, and instead felt your chest raise, then you are not filling your lungs with enough air. Your breaths are too short. When lying in bed, trying to fall asleep, breathe in for a count of 3 and feel your midsection expand before you exhale. Repeat this several times. You'll be surprised how relaxed you will feel. Practice this also in high stress situations. It'll help you keep your cool.
11. Avoid overtraining. I know you have goals, I know you're dedicated, and I know your frustrated. However, being to harsh on your body can do more harm than good. If you are constantly sore from your workouts you're putting physical stress on your body and you're not allowing it to recover before you hit it with another workout. Exercise breaks down muscle tissue so that it can grow during repair and recovery. Your body recovers during rest. Remember that. It will not grow, adapt, or recover when it cannot rest.
12. Do something you enjoy. I cannot stress this enough. Find something that makes you happy and do it as often as possible. Surround yourself with positivity and although it's easier said than done, don't let the bad stuff in. My Daddy always tells me, "The best way to be less stressed is to stress less."
So there you go! Sometimes weight loss is a mystery and stress is a vicious cycle. Try adopting a few of these simple habits and keep me updated on your progress!