Maybe you’ve gotten a great start with your Spring Cleanse but worry you’ll relapse without additional support. Perhaps you’ve had trouble getting started all together and need someone to push you and hold you accountable.
Both people can benefit from joining my Spring Cleanse Small Group Coaching series beginning Thursday, April 8th.
This session meets for 6 weeks each Thursday evening at 630 pm via Zoom.
Beyond providing structure and accountability for your continued cleanse goals, these sessions provide a deeper dive into the intersection of food and physiology.
We’ll explore the relationship between weight loss resistance, sleep disturbance, gut health, and chronic stress.
Your Small Group Series includes:
Five weekly Zoom Sessions on Thursdays at 630pm
Thursday, April 8 – Weight loss resistance
Thursday, April 15 – Microbiome Matters
Thursday, April 22 – Stress & the Gut-Brain Axis
Thursday, April 29 – Food Sensitivities
Thursday, May 6 – Timed Eating Protocols
Weekly Homework Assignments to complete
Weekly Accountability Updates from each participant
This series is an extension of my online Spring Cleanse course. I highly recommend you sign up for the Spring Cleanse course for the foundation and resources provided. Luckily, I’ve included that option!
Over the winter months, some of us may have overindulged in food and drink. We may have let our exercise program slide, eaten too much while hibernating, or had one too many glasses of wine to keep the winter blues away. Whatever the reason, by early spring, few of us are feeling our absolute best. Undertaking a detox now can change all that, and help put you in perfect form for the year ahead.
On an energetic level, Spring is the ideal time for cleansing. In traditional Chinese medicine, spring is linked with the element of Wood, which encourages us to try new things, set a new course, and find new ways, to commit to action. It’s an open, energetic, enthusiastic feeling, so even if you’ve never detoxed before, this could be the perfect time and the perfect way to start feeling better fast.
We’re regularly assaulted by pollution in the air, in our homes, in the foods we eat, and in the clothes we wear. Our livestock are treated with drugs; our crops are sprayed with powerful pesticides and fungicides, many of which have unpleasant side effects on our health.
The best way to deal with our toxic load is to build up our immune systems. Our bodies were designed to be “self-cleaning” but it needs our support to work optimally. Our circulatory system, metabolism, gut, brain, and powerful elimination system require our attention.
Cleansing once or twice yearly gives your body the chance to rest, restore, and reset.
Benefits of a Cleanse
While this cleanse is not focused on weight loss, it may be a side-benefit. You may shrink as your body releases toxins and inflammation.
Cleansing helps alleviate bloating, nausea, and indigestion as it gives your gut and your liver a chance to rest and renew.
Constipation, gas, and cramping also subside as your gut flora is balanced and restored.
Frequent colds and flu, tiredness, cellulite, blemishes, and puffy eyes may all improve as your lymphatic system awakens with new vigor.
Clogged sinuses, congestion, and nasal drip may disappear when you stop eating the foods that cause them.
Urinary problems clear up as your kidneys take a break from overworking and under-functioning.
Better skin, sleep, brain function, and mood are improved when you get rid of toxins that may have been affecting your brain function and memory.
this Spring Cleanse includes:
Complete Step by Step Spring Detox Program
Addressing the Problem, Process, and Practices for healthy detoxification
Sleep is a fundamental building block to health, yet 1 in 4 women suffer from insomnia. Most women will experience trouble getting to sleep, staying asleep, and reaching deep levels of sleep during their lifetime. It is a chicken and egg situation.
Are your hormones causing poor sleep, or is poor sleep-disrupting your hormones?
Usually a little of both, as our bodies are cyclic. Our circadian rhythm is intimately connected with our hormonal cycle.
Stress and Your Adrenal Glands
Stress is a daily challenge for most of us. Work, relationships, family, and financial pressures add up and lead to elevated cortisol levels. Cortisol should be a short-term hormone but chronic stress keeps cortisol elevated, disrupting our circadian rhythm.
In a healthy person, cortisol levels spike early in the morning to allow us to wake up refreshed and energized.
Levels drop slowly throughout the day as melatonin increases. This helps us feel sleepy and wind down for bed.
Chronic stress flips this equation because cortisol remains elevated into the evening which disrupts melatonin release and quality sleep.
Cortisol levels finally drop through the night leaving us fatigued and foggy in the morning
Stress has a direct impact on our emotions via our nervous system. It triggers our sympathetic nervous system (the fight or flight portion of our neural response), leaving us anxious, nervous, and hypervigilant.
Stress disrupts our hormone balance, gut health, and metabolic function because we’re not able to access our (rest and digest) parasympathetic nervoussystem. Chronic stress wires our nervous systems to become sympathetic dominant.
When the nervous system is operating predominantly in asympathetic state, we feel anxious, reactive, and tired. Our sleep suffers.
And because sleep is the time when we rest, digest, and detox, our hormone, gut, and metabolic health also suffer. Without intervention, this becomes a truly vicious cycle.
hormones and sleep
There are several hormones involved in controlling your appetite and weight.The two big appetite controllers are leptin and ghrelin.
As it turns out, these two hormones are directly affected by sleep (among other things)!
Dubbed the “hunger hormone”, ghrelin is produced in the gastrointestinal tract. After eating a meal your stomach distends and the secretion of ghrelin decreases, signaling you that it’s time to stop eating.
Leptin, the “satiety hormone,” is produced in several tissues, but mostly in our fat cells. High levels of fat lead to higher levels of leptin. The brain reads leptin as a sign that you have plenty of nutrition, ie fat stores, so it “turns off” your hunger. More leptin means decreased appetite.
But wait, wouldn’t that mean those with excess body fat feel less hungry and eat less, thereby losing weight?
Like all good things, too much is bad.
When you have persistently elevated levels of leptin, your brain becomes desensitized and stops “hearing” this hormone. This is called leptin resistance. Your brain acts like the level is low which leads to you having an increased appetite.
Ghrelin is a complex hormone with many roles but we can oversimplify it for this discussion. Ghrelin is produced in the GI system, mainly the stomach. Ghrelin levels go down when you eat and then start building up again 3 hours later.
The level rises significantly right before you eat, especially if you have a predictable eating schedule. This hormone is what gives you those hunger pains right before lunch. The higher ghrelin you have, the brain reads this as starvation and tells you to eat.
When you’re sleep-deprived, ghrelin levels rise, and along with that, your feelings of hunger.
More ghrelin + less leptin equals weight gain.
Cortisol, glucose, insulin, and growth hormone also play a role in weight and appetite and are all affected by sleep!
It’s a complicated process but we’re focusing on leptin and ghrelin since they play such a big role in our appetite and satiety.
What is the sleep-weight connection?
Let’s start with leptin. Sleep increases the amount of leptin you have, telling your brain you do not need to eat.
This not only decreases your appetite, but it also helps with not storing food as fat for future use.
Ghrelin does the exact opposite, levels go down with sleep so your brain is not triggered to feel hungry.
Those who sleep 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night have higher levels of leptin and lower levels of ghrelin which makes you feel less hungry throughout the day.
In addition to hormones, your brain is affected by sleep deprivation.
First, your frontal lobe is less active. This is the center of impulse control and behavior modification. The less sleep you have, the less active your frontal lobe is which means you have less impulse control.
You know when you see that donut in the bakery window and you just know how tasty it will be! But, you still manage to walk away because you know it isn’t healthy and you aren’t even hungry anyways.
That ability to walk away is blunted with decreased frontal lobe activity which leads to poor decisions, and not just with food control.
Sleep also undermines our brain function and ability to focus.
When we miss sleep, our brain feels foggy and sluggish, partly due to the role of glucose while we sleep. That lack of energy is sensed by your hypothalamus (the portion of the brain that largely controls hunger) and tells you to eat high-calorie junk food in order to pep up a bit!
Increased cravings for junk food and decreased impulse control lead to a late-night run through a drive-thru or powering through a tub of ice cream by yourself!
How do I sleep to support my weight loss?
Our body’s control over our hunger is complicated and the sleep-weight connection is still not fully understood. We still have much to learn about the signals our brain processes that drive us to eat. But it is also becoming clear that sleep plays a crucial role in helping to regulate these hormones and our brain’s ability to control or stimulate our appetite.
It all comes back to nutrition and lifestyle
Once again, our gut-brain axis is at the center of our choices. The good news is we have choices about what we eat, sleep and move. The symbiotic relationship between food and physiology is a powerful ally in our quest for optimal health.
In my next blog, we’ll look at the topic of meal timing to explore how the body is impacted not only by what we eat but when we eat it.
Keeping a journal is not only for women or for those who want to fine-tune their writing skills. Journaling is for anyone wanting a safe place to record and express feelings, emotions, and secrets.
It’s a place to transcribe what goes through your mind during the course of the day, and how you feel about it. A journal is the music and voice of your true emotion. For some, the journal is considered their best friend.
One good thing about keeping a journal is that the journal “listens,” doesn’t talk back, and makes no judgments.
Some people like journaling in notebooks and others prefer fancier journals, like the ones sold in book or stationery stores.
Personally, I use an encrypted app called PENZU so I can write anywhere (phone, iPad, laptop), despite being told I’d write better if I did it longhand.
But writing longhand has become so laborious, it robs me of spontaneity and flow, which I feel is equally important. Whatever method you choose, be sure it’s a way that resonates with you so that you are drawn to fill up its pages.
“All serious daring starts within.” ~Eudora Welty
Psychologist and author Diana Rabb lists nine great reasons to keep a journal. I agree with them.
1) Empowerment and Self-Reflection. Journaling brings life experiences into focus by putting a lens on your feelings and thoughts.
2) Clearing the Mind. Your journal is a forum for freeing yourself from confusion and negative emotions.
As you write, you feel yourself grounding in calm and clarity- for better vision and action.
“Ajournalis your completely unaltered voice.” – Lucy Dacus
3) Journaling builds Self-Confidence. Writing down your thoughts gives you a clearer picture of who you are, your strengths, weaknesses, and accomplishments. (This can be helpful to those of us who have a habit of self-criticism.)
4) A path to self-discovery. Journaling helps guide you through challenging times, and glancing at older journals can help you identify certain life patterns that could lead to transformation.
5) Journaling improves mental health.Expressing yourself improves your sense of well being. When used with talk therapy, it’s a powerful way to understand yourself, and make essential changes.
6) Encourages self-reflection. Writing down your feelings helps you engage in conversation with yourself, leading to an inner examination and transformation.
7) Creativity.Writing is a creative endeavor that may lead to further creative endeavors, which can be transformative.
8) Memory triggers.Sometimes the nature of what is happening in your life can trigger thoughts about your past and offer solutions to current issues.
9) Journaling is a self-inventory.If you are interested in writing a memoir, your jottings may become a source of invaluable information.
Whether you’re keeping a journal or writing as a meditation, it’s the same thing. What’s important is you’re having a relationship with your mind.” Natalie Goldberg
One additional benefit I’d as is to use journaling as a meditation. As someone who has a hard time sitting still, writing helps me focus, ground, and be present.
On mornings when I can’t seem to quiet my mind to meditate, I write. The effect is very much the same.
I have been keeping a journal of some kind since I was in the fourth grade. I even discovered some of my high school journals in the attic! How painful and funny!
My point is, journaling has been my touchstone and salvation when I have felt loss, anger, and confusion. It’s how I righted myself when I was sure I could not.
It has connected me to unknown sources of courage and resilience.
That’s why I’m passionate about sharing journaling as a method of healing and transformation.
I’ve created a FREE Mindset Reset journal with simple prompts and resources to help get you started.
In this blog, I’ll unpack some of the exciting new research about the link between gut health, mood, and stress. We’ll explore the importance of your friendly resident gut microbes, probiotic foods, and supplements, to improve your mood and energy.
And, just because I love you, I’ve included simple recipes to keep your gut and taste buds happy.
There are trillions of microbes that happily live in our gut. These friendly microbes do more than help us digest foods, make vitamins, and protect us from the not-so-friendly microbes – they have mood-boosting and stress-busting functions too!
Our microbiome is a hotbed of research right now and we’re finding out more about gut bacteria’s awesome health and mood/stress benefits every day. And, while the research is just beginning to decipher the many gut microbe-brain connections, it’s an important topic that I couldn’t wait to share it with you!
Did you know that there are more microbes inside our gut, than all of the human cells that make us? That’s right, we’re more than half microbe! So, how could they NOT impact our health?”
GUT MICROBES AND PROBIOTICS
The microbes that live in our guts are known as our “gut microbiota”. The microbes that we can ingest are known as “probiotics”.
“Probiotics” are live organisms that you can eat, drink, or take as a supplement. They turn milk into yogurt, and cabbage into sauerkraut; and they are great for both your gut health and mental health.
Special probiotics that have mental health benefits are called “psychobiotics,” (psycho = mental health, and biotics = live). They are live organisms that can benefit our psyche.
PROBIOTIC-RICH FOODS AND SUPPLEMENTS Probiotics can be found in yogurt, sauerkraut (and other fermented veggies), miso, tempeh, and kimchi. You can drink them in kefir or kombucha.
Be sure to choose unpasteurized ones that will be refrigerated in your local grocer. Unpasteurized foods are not recommend if you are pregnant or have a compromised immune system, so please check with your healthcare provider.
Of course, there are a number of probiotic supplements available too. Check with your healthcare provider to identify which one is best for you.
Generally, we look for one that’s refrigerated and has at least 10 billion active cultures. I also suggest you look for one that has been “third party tested,” which means someone outside the company has tested it and says it’s a quality product.
Also, be sure to read the label before taking any supplements. The probiotics with the most research are of the Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus types. There’s still not enough known about the psychobiotic effects to make specific mood-boosting recommendations yet.
It may not seem obvious or intuitive, but your body is interconnected in a myriad of surprising ways. New research is focusing on the “microbiota-gut-brain axis.” It’s the very complex connection between your gut, its microbes, and your brain. This new field has been called a “paradigm shift in neuroscience” (Dinan, 2017).
There are a number of ways we’re beginning to understand how our gut microbes affect our brain. One is via the “vagus” nerve, which is the nerve that directly connects your gut to your brain.
Other ways are through “biochemical messengers” that are made in your gut and travel throughout the body to communicate with other organs, including your brain.
Examples of biochemicals include short chain fatty acids, cytokines, and even tryptophan (the amino acid that the neurotransmitters melatonin and serotonin are made from).
You may have heard about seratonin as it is the main target in antidepressant medications to improve mood. But 90% of our seratonin is produced in the gut. Recent studies indicate taking anti-depressants can hurt the gut microbiome which only further compromises mood. The focus needs to be on keeping our gut healthy; not simply treating the symptoms as a cure.
There’s a lot of research surrounding the microbioate-gut-brain axis that may one day prove helpful for conditions like autism and Parkinsons.
MOOD, STRESS, AND YOUR MICROBES
Several studies show that stressed rodents not only have increased stress hormones and stressed behaviors; but, they also have different gut microbes! This has also been studied, to a small extent, in people too.
One study showed that moms with high levels of stress hormones during pregnancy had infants with more of the “bad” gut microbes.
But, can it work the other way around? Can changing our gut microbes affect our moods and stress responses?
Studies of rodents that grow up without any gut microbes at all (in a “bacteria-free” environment) respond to stress more than mice with normal gut microbes. Then, when they’re given either a probiotic or gut microbes from non-stressed mice, their stress responses often go back to normal.
“Gut microbiota and probiotics alter behavior and brain neurochemistry.” That’s a pretty powerful statement. (Ait-Belgnaoui, et. al., 2012)
Many animal studies show positive effects on behavior when they get probiotic supplements. For example, after a probiotic, stressed rats had lower levels of both stress hormones and an inflammatory molecule associated with depression (“LPS” – lipopolysaccharide). Human studies show that after a few weeks of taking probiotic foods or supplements, healthy people have reduced stress hormones, feelings of stress, negative thoughts, and sad moods.
One fascinating study showed that when people took probiotics, brain MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) tests showed reduced brain activity for negative and aggressive thoughts!
There is some exciting research on the positive effect that probiotics can have on moods and stress. So, what can you do to nurture your own healthy gut microbes?.
We’ve already discussed the benefits of consuming probiotic-rich food. Once the gut microbes take up residence in our guts, we need to feed them!
PREbiotics are food for gut microbes and, when fermented in the gut, produce specific changes in bacterial composition or activity.
They’re your friendly gut microbes’ favorite delicacies so they’ll happily grow, and multiply.
Prebiotics are basically foods that contain fiber. Things like fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. Even dark chocolate (preferably with at least 70% cocoa).
Foods that are particularly high in prebiotics include jicama, asparagus, avocado, whole grains, and allium vegetables like onions, garlic, leeks, and shallots.
Giving animals prebiotics has shown to reduce stress hormones, and anxiety-related behaviors. In people, studies show that taking psychobiotics along with prebiotics can improve both the microbes in our gut, as well as our mood.
The new research clearly supports our interest and maintenance of a healthy gut. Adding probiotic and prebiotic foods (or quality supplements) is a first step towards that goal.
Do remember, no two people have the same microbiome and your response is most important. If you feel bloated, anxious or gassy after adding fiber, probiotics, and prebiotic foods to your diet, it may be a sign your gut health needs further attention.
If that’s the case, please contact your health coach or provider for more individualized guidance. Our gut affects every aspect of our physical and emotional health.
Despite what you may have been told, and the pervasive amount of food- and fat-shaming in our culture, the number on the scale isn’t always a simple reflection of the number of calories we consume vs. the number we burn.
In fact, the added stress brought on by extreme diets and exercise can undermine them entirely—and actually cause weight gain. Often the real key to losing what may be unwanted belly fat, and gaining energy, clarity, and a better mood lies with your hormones.Weight loss resistance is nearly always hormonally based in women.
Most diets don’t work for women, because they fail to address the hormonal root causes that are the most common reasons for weight loss resistance, like excess cortisol, insulin and/or leptin blockage, estrogen dominance, a sluggish thyroid, low testosterone, and problems with the adrenal system.
Learning more about your hormones and how to eat and move to support balance will help you get off the diet roller coaster, reclaim your vitality, energy, and sex-drive, as well as stablize moods and reduce anxiety.
Do you RECOGNIZE ANY OF THESE?
Do you suffer from any of the symptoms above?
You’re not alone if you do. Nearly 70% of us will experience symptoms of hormone imbalance in our lifetimes. The main culprits of haywire hormones include:
Nutrient deficiencies. For instance, not enough vitamin C can lower your progesterone. Progesterone is nature’s Xanax, so a deficiency makes you feel overwhelmed and anxious. We’ll discuss simple ways to supplement in the Metabolic Reset program.
Excess toxins. Bisphenol A is a good example: It can interfere with the estrogen, insulin, thyroid, and testosterone messages in your body. (Look for more about toxins in a future email.)
Poor stress coping. I put myself in this category. Again, the root cause is that the alarm system in the body doesn’t turn off, so you make too much cortisol at the expense of other hormones.
Age. Women’s hormone levels change throughout their reproductive years and through perimenopause, menopause, and beyond. Common life events, such as menstruation and pregnancy, can throw your hormones off balance, as can medications like birth control pills.
Poor sleep. Only 3 percent of the population does well on less than 7 hours of sleep. Sleeping 7 to 8.5 hours every night keeps cortisol in check. Alcohol raises estrogen and cortisol levels, robs you of deep sleep, and lowers metabolism by more than 70 percent, as mentioned previously.
Exercise. While exercise is an essential part of balancing your hormones, it can also throw them further out of whack if not managed properly. Overtraining can stress the body to create or undermine hormone imbalance. Running actually places so much stress on the body that cortisol shoots sky-high. Think of a Tibetan monk versus a marathon runner. Who ages more rapidly? The runner, due to a higher load of cortisol, a wear-and-tear hormone. More on cortisol next.
The fab four
Our hormones are complex and interconnected affecting literally every function in our bodies.
For the purpose of the Metabolic Reset, we’re focusing on four main hormones, (your Fab Four): Thyroid, Estrogen, Cortisol, and Insulin
Thyroid Your thyroid acts as the gas pedal of your metabolism, managing how fast or slow you burn calories. The wrong food choices can prevent your thyroid from getting the nutrients it needs to work well – slowing down your metabolism and putting you into sluggish, fat-storing mode.
When the thyroid is sluggish, it can cause weight gain, fluid retention, hair loss or thinning, depression, and constipation, among other problems.Women are more likely to have an underactive thyroid. In fact, 1 in 8 women will develop hypothyroidism. The disease gets more common with age. People over 60 years old experience it more frequently.
Cortisol Cortisol is the main stress hormone secreted by our adrenal glands. An alpha hormone, cortisol helps regulate blood sugar, blood pressure, and immune function.When your stress is high, it makes your cortisol rise. When it is consistently high (due to daily challenges, poor diet, or lack of sleep), it affects other hormones like your thyroid and insulin leading to dysfunction and weight gain.
Too much cortisol can slow your thyroid down and overstimulate insulin production resulting in low energy, increased fat storage, brain fog. and low mood.Stress and cortisol are inextricably linked so a major part of hormone balance is finding ways to increase your stress resilience.
Estrogen Estrogen is a group of hormones produced in the ovaries that makes you female. It’s what makes you menstruate, grow breasts and hips.Estrogen keeps you flush with serotonin, the feel-good neurotransmitter so your moods are better. Estrogen also keeps your joints lubricated, your sleep and appetite balanced, your sex drive high, and your face relatively wrinkle-free.
Estrogen dominance is when you have too much estrogen compared with its counter-hormone, progesterone. Having too much estrogen in the body causes a number of symptoms, including weight loss resistance, moodiness, PMS, and heavy periods.
Insulin Insulin plays a role in regulating blood sugar levels and converting food energy into fat. It also helps break down fats and proteins.During digestion, insulin stimulates muscle, fat, and liver cells to absorb glucose. The cells either use this glucose for energy or convert it into fat for long-term storage.
Too much sugar can result in too much insulin which leads to insulin resistance.Insulin resistance or block means your cells can’t absorb the extra blood glucose your body generates from the food you eat—when that happens, your liver converts the glucose into fat. Insulin resistance usually causes weight gain and sugar addiction. If you are insulin resistant or have that tendency your cravings will be worse.
Lifestyle and hormones
Lifestyle influences your hormones. Diet, movement, environmental toxins and mindset all impact our hormone, immune, and metabolic function.
Once you understand these factors, you can start to see how your daily choices are affecting your hormones and metabolism, and what you can do about it.So the first of these influences is your DIET.
Food either feeds your hormones or disrupts them. Unfortunately, our standard western diets tend to be nutrient-poor, and our busy lifestyles tend to send us to convenience and processed foods.
When you start experiencing symptoms of hormone imbalance (fatigue, weight gain, mood swings, brain fog, etc), it also makes us crave a fast fix in the form of carbs, sugar, bad fats, which only end up making our symptoms worse.
The Metabolic Reset program is where you’ll learn how food meets physiology to heal your body. Say goodbye to mood swings, night sweats, sugar cravings, and premature wrinkles. Say hello to satisfying sleep, stress resilience, and lasting energy throughout the day.
Take the quiz
Take this hormone quiz to see which hormones might be out of whack in your body.
My love of nature started in childhood as my parents insisted their three children play outdoors as much as possible. While we weren’t allowed to run wild, (you never wanted to hear my Mom’s frenetic bell ring because you were somewhere you weren’t supposed to be), we were given the freedom to spend hours rolling around in the grass, climbing trees, dancing in the driveway, or playing a mean game of tug of war.
Perhaps it was because my parents just wanted us out of the house, or maybe they knew intuitively what scientific studies reinforce today: Nature is a powerful ally and healing force for our mind and body.
nature is good for us
We know that spending time in nature makes us feel good, but does it measurably affect our well-being? Study after study has shown the answer is yes.
Studies show that being in nature, or even viewing scenes of nature, reduces anger, fear, stress, and increases pleasant feelings. Exposure to nature not only makes you feel better emotionally, but also contributes to your physical wellbeing, reducing blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, and the production of stress hormones.
According to health researchers Stamatkis and Mitchell, nature not only improves the quality of our lives but the length of them as well. And a study published in The Journal of Positive Psychology in 2018 found that spending as little as five minutes outdoors was linked to a significant mood boost.
Research conducted in hospitals, offices, and schools has found that even a simple plant in a room can have a significant impact on stress and anxiety.
nature is our happy place
Our affinity toward nature is genetic and deep-rooted in evolution. For example, have you ever wondered why most people prefer to book accommodations that have a great view from the balcony or the terrace? Why patients who get a natural view from their hospital bed recover sooner than others? Or why we crave downtime in nature when stress takes it’s toll on our zen.
Nature’s Impact on our Health
Who would have thought that a little time with the flowers and trees can actually improve your memory? The University of Michigan conducted a study that revealed students who regularly went for a nature walk actually had a better time retaining information.
Nature improves short term memory. Nature also helps us cope with pain. Because we are genetically programmed to find trees, plants, water, and other nature elements engrossing, nature can distract us from pain and discomfort.
Nature reduces stress hormones. In a world flooded by screens, sometimes just taking the time to unplug and go outside can do wonders for reducing stress. Nature has a calming effect on our brains, even if it means going outside for just five minutes each day. As an added bonus, outdoor exercise, like going for a walk, hiking, and so forth, gets the blood flowing and heart pumping, another way to lower stress levels.
Nature increases our levels of Vitamin D. Sure, too much sun can damage the skin and possibly lead to cancer. That being said, studies show that getting between 15 to 20 minutes a day of sunshine will allow your body to absorb vitamin D, which helps strengthen bones and reduce the risk of cancer, type 1 diabetes, and multiple sclerosis.
Nature improves our immune system. Research has shown that going outdoors and getting enough sunlight can help boost the immune system. Make sure to take a little stroll outside or enjoy a bit of fun outdoors to help fight disease and stay healthy.
Nature reduces inflammation. Inflammation in the body can lead to all sorts of disorders, from depression and cancer to autoimmune diseases. A study demonstrated that participants who spent a bit of time each week walking in the woods experienced lower levels of inflammation in the body.
Nature inspires creativity. Nature comes in so many colors, from orange-sky sunsets to seafoam green waters and rose-colored gardens. Spending time outside gives a chance to get inspired by all the gorgeous sights, smells, and sounds of the outdoors. Science backs that up, too, showing that spending time outside actually helps get our creative juices flowing.
Nature improves vision. We spend a lot of time looking at screens, which can damage eyesight. Going outside gives our eyes a break from staring at a computer, television, or smartphone. Australian scientists even found that children who spend time outdoors reduce the risk of developing myopia later in life.
Nature improves our sleep. Spending time in natural light helps our bodies better regulate sleep patterns. When the sun goes down, our brains will release the right levels of melatonin to help get a good night’s sleep.
Nature increases feelings of happiness. You can find all kinds of different activities outdoors for all fitness levels and preferences. Whether it means going for a swim in the sea, taking the dog for a walk in the park, or mountain biking, finding outdoor activities that we enjoy will boost your mood and help you to feel happier. Plus spending time in nature promotes mental well-being.
Nature can open the door to a deeper sense of spirituality. A long walk in nature on your own gives a chance to clear the mind and can even count as a type of meditation. Spending time in nature helps us live in the moment as we breathe in the air, listen to the sound of the birds chirping, or feel the grass on our feet.
Nature can even teach valuable lessons and reveal metaphors to help us connect with our spirituality. The changes of the season reflect the peaks and valleys we go through in life. Meanwhile, a coursing river reminds us of our need to “go with the flow” and navigate the waters of life, so to speak.
Nature’s generous lessons are all around us when we slow down enough to take notice.
take a walk, skip the pill
A walk in the fresh air, the sun on our skin, bare feet in the sand: spending time outside can bring so many small pleasures, making us feel refreshed and revived. Whether it means sitting in your backyard garden sipping a cold iced tea or going for a thrilling white water rafting adventure, time in nature has the power to heal, inspire, and guide you daily.
Need some nature?
Join Tina Sprinkle and Lisa Looy for an amazing adventure on their WILD IN MONTANA Retreat. Daily meditation, guided hikes, horseback riding, and more. Space is limited so don’t delay! This retreat will sell out.
Understanding Your Metabolism Is A Key To Better Health
Even if you’re in the middle of a deep sleep, or quietly reading a book, your body is always active. It never quite “shuts off,” because it’s always storing and consuming energy (from the food you eat) – and building up and breaking down molecules necessary to maintain your health.
This always-on process is called metabolism, which literally means “a state of change.”
Your body relies on metabolism to carry out all its functions – whether it’s storing or burning fat, regulating sugar levels, or keeping your neurons firing – so metabolism has a huge impact on your health.
When your metabolism is working as it should, you’ll have much more energy throughout the day – you won’t feel so sluggish and fatigued. You’ll also find it easier to gain muscle mass and lose fat because your body will be sending the right hormone “signals” to your metabolic system. Even your mood will be brighter if your metabolism is well-balanced. On the flip side, scientists have discovered that metabolic disturbances are linked with major depressive disorder – a testament to the mighty effect metabolism can have on all aspects of your well-being.
Not surprisingly, then, your body tightly controls its metabolism. It does this through swarms of small-but-powerful signal molecules known as hormones – which travel throughout your body in different amounts. So by checking in on your hormone levels, you can get a good gauge of how healthy your metabolism is – and, ultimately, how healthy your whole body is. This is why understanding your metabolism is key to better health.
If it weren’t for metabolism, all the good nutrients you eat wouldn’t do your body any good. Metabolism is how your body turns the nutrients in a delicious casserole or a tasty smoothie into energy – and into the raw materials your body needs to build muscles and repair tissues and organs.
Since metabolism has such a powerful impact on your body, you may be wondering what affects your metabolism. What factors can cause shifts in your metabolic health?
Without a doubt, your diet is one of the most important things that can alter your metabolism.
Because many nutrients serve as the building blocks for the hormones that regulate metabolism, if you have a well-balanced diet – you’re getting the nutrients you need and in the right quantities – then your metabolism will most likely function properly. But say you’re eating lots of foods that are high in sugar. This excess sugar will disrupt your metabolism, and put you at risk of developing metabolic diseases.
Exercise, too, has a profound effect on your metabolic health. In fact, some research suggests that long-term physical training makes your metabolism work more efficiently – so you burn more calories even when you’re not being active.
Something else that affects your metabolism is your age: your metabolism “slows down” as you age, so your body accumulates fat more easily. Certain behaviors can also cause changes to your metabolism. For example, if you’re not getting enough sleep, then your metabolism will be negatively affected – which can contribute to weight gain.
You may recall that earlier we said that metabolism is controlled by signal molecules called hormones – and that you can gain insights into your metabolism and health by understanding your hormone levels. Hormones tell your metabolic system when to store or use energy – and when it should build or break down important nutrients. While your body produces many hormones, there are 3 hormones in particular that can give you incredible information about your health. These three hormones are the thyroid hormones, testosterone, and cortisol.
Nestled at the front of your windpipe is a gland called the thyroid. And although it’s small – only a few inches in length – it plays a big role in the body’s metabolism. This gland is responsible for secreting two important hormones: T3 and T4.
These two hormones travel through your bloodstream and regulate your metabolic system in many ways (for example, they let your cells know when to either break down fats or store more fats). Production of thyroid hormones is controlled by a tiny gland situated in your brain – the pituitary gland. This gland squirts out a hormone of its own – the aptly-named thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH).
If you have elevated TSH levels in your blood it’s very possible that your thyroid isn’t making enough hormones. (Your pituitary gland releases more TSH to send a strong signal to your thyroid that it’s time to make more thyroid hormones. When your thyroid hormone levels are too low – which can be caused by diseases of the thyroid gland, for instance – then your body starts making more fat than necessary. You’ll start gaining weight, and you might also experience fatigue and hair loss.
What happens if your bloodstream is flooded with way too much thyroid hormones? As you may have guessed, in this case your body will start rapidly breaking down fat. A healthy body requires some fat, but if your thyroid hormone levels are too high, then your body will eliminate too much of its fat. The result? Weight loss – along with some other not-very-desirable effects, such as higher blood pressure and sleep problems.
Though many people think of testosterone as only a male hormone, it’s incredibly important for healthy metabolism in both men and women. Testosterone is crucial to well-balanced fat metabolism and muscle production. In fact, lower-than-normal levels of testosterone prompt your body to increase its fat mass.
On other hand, if a man has too much testosterone coursing through his body, then he may be more irritable and have a lower sperm count – among other negative consequences. Women with too much testosterone may gain more weight, have excess acne, and even male pattern baldness.
Testosterone also helps regulate sleep and mood, so for all these reasons (and more) it’s important that your testosterone levels are within a normal, healthy range.
Cortisol – dubbed the “stress hormone” – is released into your bloodstream when your body senses a threat or emergency. Cortisol causes your body to dump glucose (sugar molecules) into the bloodstream, providing you with the fuel you need to respond to the perceived threat. For example, if you’re out hiking and you suddenly encounter a fearsome predator – a bear, perhaps – then cortisol sparks a surge of glucose that gives you the energy to “fight or flight.”
But what if you’re always under stress? Maybe deadlines are always looming over your head, and the traffic congestion en route to the office doesn’t help matters. In situations like these – where you’re always stressed – cortisol will continue pumping you full of glucose. (Cortisol, after all, can’t distinguish the difference between a bear and an important deadline.)
Since your body won’t use all this excess glucose, it’ll turn the glucose into fat. Thus, chronic stress can lead to unhealthily high levels of cortisol – and result in weight gain.
Since your metabolism underpins so much of your health, it’s important to get a good understanding of how well your metabolism is functioning.
My upcoming Metabolic Reset will give you the support and plan to help reset your hormone balance and heal your metabolism.
I came across this reading in a mindfulness group that I am part of led by Sean Fargo. I am a little jaded on setting resolutions myself since I have not only set so many myself that fizzled, but watched countless clients do the same.
Reading how a “resolution” is different than an “intention” changed my perspective enough to want to share. Perhaps it’s just my current place in life, but setting an intention for this new year feels more intuitive and grounded than setting a challenge or resolution. What about you?
Here’s the article.
Setting new year’s resolutions is something that many of us do as the end of December approaches. In truth, however, we can set resolutions for ourselves at any time of the year. We need not wait until January rolls around.
But what is a resolution? And how do resolutions differ from intentions? The difference may seem to be semantic, but new year’s resolutions and new year’s intentions hold important distinctions.
New year’s resolutions are often:
For example: “I resolve to exercise four times per week in the new year.”
On the other hand, new year’s intentions are more typically:
For example: “I intend to cultivate more self-compassion in the year ahead of me.”
This example highlights the qualitative nature of intentions versus resolutions. By focusing on the quality or energy we long to embody or experience, we open ourselves to the many ways this might manifest.
Resolutions and intentions each have their place. At certain times of life, we may feel more drawn to one or the other. Take a moment’s pause now to consider:
What type of new year’s practice makes most sense for you in this moment? Do you wish to set an intention, a resolution, or some kind of hybrid?
What do you want for yourself in 2021? Please share in comments below or on my FB page!
Maybe it’s because I’ve been in the fitness industry for 40 years, or maybe because I’ve been on the planet over sixty, but I’m not keen on New Year’s Resolutions. Wanting to be a better partner, parent, co-worker, or steward of world peace is admirable, but why wait until January 1st to begin?
When I think about my own transformative beginnings, not a one sprang from resolution, new year’s or otherwise. If that sounds tragic, it’s not. My beginnings usually came in the form of divorce, job loss, death, and illness. They were difficult, messy, and painful. My reactions, denial, resistance, or feeling victimized made no difference. Spirit has taught me the only way to transform an ending into a beginning is a one-day endeavor called “allowing.”
At 10:32 am on Wednesday, May 17th, 2017, one of those opportunities literally dropped from the sky.
Our neighbor’s 120 foot oak tree chose that precise moment to come crashing down on our home.
I was in the kitchen, in the center of our little house, when I felt something resembling a train wreck.
I ran outside to find my dog Jack staring back in alarm. It was a bright, sunny, windless morning so we were both confused.
“It must have been a transformer,” I explain to Jack, who’s already forgotten it.
When I went back inside, I noticed the front of the house was weirdly dark. I went to the front door and opened it. A swarm of neighbors rushed towards me.
“Are you okay? Is anyone hurt?” They all said at once.
I just stared at them. “Yeah, I’m okay. Why? Did you hear it, too?”
One of them waved uncomfortably for me to turn around. “Uh, that,” she said.
Somehow, I’d missed the air thick with dust, the bedroom door blown off its hinges, the mangled metal air vent, and the gaping skylight created by the limb now piercing the roof.
For context: 2017 was a shit year for Herb and me. He got very sick, very fast with mysterious and scary illness. This necessitated moving to a hotel for three months to have our home remediated for mold. And this day, after celebrating just three days back home, our bedroom, the last oasis, was destroyed.
I choked and coughed, stomped my feet and pumped my fists, “Okay God! I’ve had it with you! It’s God (3) and Tina Zip! That’s not fair! That’s not okay! What the hell is WRONG with you?”
The next few days were surreal. In shock, I could only manage the most necessary tasks: deal with the insurance company, go to the grocery, get Herb’s medications.
But by Friday I’d come out of the ether in an extremely hateful mood. Angry and indignant, I looked for someone, anyone, to knock the chip off my shoulder just so I’d have the excuse to clock them. I cussed and swore at stupid drivers on the road. I glared at strangers in the grocery store. I flipped off a bus driver and honked at an old person. I was rude to friends who sought to console me.
As it turns out the tree had root rot. You’d never known it took look at it- tall, regal, strong, full with leaves. But all it took was a strong gust of wind on a sunny day in May to send it toppling, and me along with it.
It took me a while to upright myself and longer still to regain faith in my roots, but through a circuitous route that took me to a jungle cabin in Belize, I stopped finally stopped shouting long enough to listen.
I made some hard decisions in that cabin, decisions that were unwelcome but needed which lead to larger transitions built solely on faith.
“Allow,” Spirit coaxed, “then, act.”
Now, nearly three years later, my life feels like an open door, beckoning me to a delightfully unknown future.
As we look forward to a promising 2021, I sincerely hope a tree doesn’t fall on your house. But, if it does, be sure to look for the sunlight streaming in through the ruins.