dieting

4 'Healthy' Habits That Caused My Adrenal Fatigue - Rebelle Nutrition

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If you read my last post, you are probably well aware of the different types of stressors that can cause adrenal fatigue.

Adrenal Fatigue: as described by Dr. James Wilson:

"Adrenal fatigue is a collection of signs and symptoms, known as a syndrome, that results when the adrenal glands function below the necessary level. Most commonly associated with intense or prolonged stress...
You may look and act relatively normal with adrenal fatigue and may not have any obvious signs of physical illness, yet you live with a general sense of unwellness, tiredness or “gray” feelings. People experiencing adrenal fatigue often have to use coffee, colas and other stimulants to get going in the morning and to prop themselves up during the day.
Adrenal fatigue can wreak havoc with your life. In the more serious cases, the activity of the adrenal glands is so diminished that you may have difficulty getting out of bed for more than a few hours per day. With each increment of reduction in adrenal function, every organ and system in your body is more profoundly affected."

 

In today’s post, i’m going to talk about 4 of the so-called “healthy” habits that contributed to my adrenal fatigue. 

 

First things first:

How did I know that I was suffering from AF?

The main symptoms I noticed in myself that were a huge red flag: extreme difficulty waking up in the morning -then feeling “wired” at night, inability to handle everyday stressors without a meltdown, feeling easily overwhelmed, craving salt like a mofo (I would literally put salt on EVERYTHING - this one also led to severe water retention) and getting dizzy overtime I went from seated to standing (a classic symptom of low blood pressure).

Symptoms can vary from person to person - check out this post for more info.

In today’s world we are constantly bombarded with tips and tricks about how to “hack” our bodies, our diet, and our health. I’m clearly a fan of this type of information (it's part of my job!) and find it fascinating - but it does allow us to become disconnected from our own bodies in lieu of "trying out" whatever the new health trend is this week. 

When I finally accepted the fact that I was not immune from the wrath of adrenal fatigue, I took a close look at my daily habits, dietary intake, and stress levels in order to begin my own healing. 

Here are the 4 “healthy” habits that caused my adrenal fatigue:

 

1. Drinking coffee:

Okay, so maybe this one isn’t considered universally healthy, but I personally don’t think everyone needs to avoid it, either. Especially when you add some good collagen and healthy fats to it - yum! My problem with coffee (caffeine, specifically) is that I personally have a tendency to abuse it (#teamnomoderation).

For example, at the height of my adrenal fatigue I was probably drinking around 12-20 ounces in the morning, followed by 12 or so ounces after lunch in order to make it through the afternoon. Unfortunately, the more of it I drank, the less it actually worked. I decided it was time for an intervention and cut out caffeine cold turkey, which was a terrible decision (think flu-like symptoms, horrible headaches, and waves of hopelessness and depression - WTF coffee) - but it taught me something very important: caffeine had been masking the true state of my adrenal health for the past few years (which I now knew was completely tanked).

I’ve now been in the process of backing off of coffee for the past few months, and am down to about 2 oz in the morning, mixed with dandy blend (my favorite coffee substitute). I plan to cut it out completely in the next few weeks...someone hold my hand?

Are you in the same boat? Here's what you can do:

Adrenal Fatigue RX: Cut out coffee completely OR back off slowly to avoid withdrawal symptoms. This is a great way to witness the true state of your adrenals and might just be the motivation you need to begin a healing protocol. 

2. Eating low-carb:

I now know from experience that eating too low-carb for my body ( which is anything less than 150g a day) is STRESSFUL AF. To be honest, I never actually intended to be eating a low-carb diet, but once I transitioned to eating a paleo-ish diet that removed most sources of grains (and thus, carbs), I naturally began eating more veggies, meats and fat. At first I felt amazing, but after a few months I noticed my energy tanking, an inability to complete my workouts, and a more difficult time sleeping. 

Carbs are extremely important in the body, specifically their role in signaling to the hypothalamus (the main hormone-signaler in the body) that you are in a fed, relaxed state. When we under-eat carbs (or food, period) this is seen as a stressor to the body: calling on the adrenals to produce the stress hormone cortisol. Constant output of cortisol from the adrenals leads to the disruption of every other hormone, leading to things like fatigue, PMS, cravings, and weight gain. 

Adrenal Fatigue RX: Aim to eat nutrient dense carbs at every meal: fruit, starchy veggies, potatoes, even gluten free grains if you tolerate them. If you suspect adrenal fatigue is an issue for you, never dip below 100g of carbs per day - but experiment with different amounts and see how you feel. Some of my clients have needed to increase carb intake to 250g per day in order to start feel healing.  

 

3. Eating eggs

Important note: I think eggs are one of the most perfect, nutrient dense foods out there! But, ANYTHING can be harmful to your body if you’ve developed a sensitivity to it. When I first started eating real food, it was not uncommon for me to eat 2-3 eggs for breakfast, followed by some sort of paleo baked good in the afternoon (that also contained eggs). Although this was extremely delicious, I began wondering why I was starting to struggle with fatigue and breakouts again, after the initial euphoria of paleo wore off.

When we continue to eat the exact same foods, every single day, without rotating them or changing things up, our bodies can start to create antibodies against these foods. When we have an antibody response to a specific food, the immune system is activated- putting us back into a state of sympathetic stress (aka "fight or flight” mode) that calls upon the adrenals once again - when they really shouldn't be involved in the first place.

Adrenal Fatigue RX: Rotate your meals. If you are stuck in a food rut (i.e. eating the exact same things every single day) start mixing it up! Try out some new veggies or cuts of meat that you've never tried before. Look for local, in season fruits and veggies. Also, If you suspect a food sensitivity, try pulse testing it!

 

How to pulse test: take your pulse for 1 full minute. Place suspecting food in your mouth and chew it (without swallowing) for 15 seconds. Take your pulse for another full minute (with the food still in your mouth) and assess: Did your pulse stay the same? Did your pulse increase? If your pulse increases over 6+ bpm, remove that food for at least 2 weeks before bringing it back in and repeating the test.

 

4. Working out

We all know that working out is good for you. Duh. But when you are an extremist like myself, “good” things often get taken too far. For example, for years I ran 5-6 miles per day without many rest days. Then, I decided to train for a half marathon, and incorporate hot yoga, and become a personal trainer so I could basically live in the gym…you get the idea. I think this one is pretty self explanatory, but years of what MY BODY perceived as over-exercise (this threshold is different for everyone) were the icing on my adrenal fatigue cake.

However, it wasn’t like one day I just crashed…I had months, maybe years, of signals from my body that I needed to take it down a notch (no period, hair falling out, extreme fatigue, reliance on caffeine to workout) but I didn’t listen. So as a result, I am in a constant state of rebuilding and repairing my adrenals, which includes avoiding any type of intense workouts.

These days, I stick with walking, yoga, and bodyweight only workouts. I am definitely still a work in progress, and the effects of just one too-intense workout will still leave me fatigued for days afterward. 

Adrenal Fatigue RX: Try incorporating mind-body movement, walking, things you love that do not leave you feeling depleted. Give yourself permission to NAP! Especially if you feel like you’ve hit a weight loss plateau despite eating well and exercising hard - what you might need is more REST. Add more rest days into your schedule and you just might be surprised how much your inflammation goes down.

Clearly, just because something is considered "healthy" for one person, doesn't mean it's necessarily healthy for YOUR body. For more information about healing adrenal fatigue, download my free guide below!

 

XO, Amie

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10 Nutrition Lies That Need To Die

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It seems like every other day a new study comes out claiming that ‘X’ food will either be the key to longevity and health; or eventually kill you.

I am not a fan of sensationalized news stories or scare tactics around food. Obviously, some foods are more nutritious than others, but stressing out about whether you have eaten enough “superfoods” each week will do you more harm than good.

One of my favorite things about ancestral health is disproving myths and nutrition lies that we have been led to believe over the past few decades.

Here are 10 Nutrition Lies that I am constantly trying to clear up for people:

1. Saturated fat causes heart disease

2. Margarine is better for you than butter

3. Soy is a health food

4. Losing weight is an equation of calories in vs. calories out
here's another

5. Carbs cause weight gain

6. Non-celiac gluten sensitivity isn’t real

here's another

7. Eating vegan will save the planet

8. Drinking 8 glasses of water per day is the key to health

9. Don’t salt your food

10. Red meat causes cancer hint: unprocessed and grass-fed matters!

Click on each of the links above to read about why these nutrition myths are false, and why listening to our intuition around food can be the best way to ensure we are eating a balanced, nutrient dense diet.

In my opinion, studies claiming that certain foods are suddenly unhealthy are VERY counterintuitive. When in doubt and deciding what to eat, ask yourself these 2 questions:

- Did/does it come from the earth?
- Did/does it have a mother? (The animal lover in me hates to say this, but I do believe it to be true)

Generally speaking, answering ‘yes’ to one of these questions will ensure you are eating something unprocessed and nutrient dense. I have talked before about eating in a way that will not drive you crazy; and another way to do this is to take every nutrition article you read with a grain of salt.

Tell me: which nutrition myths did you spend years believing? What would you add to this list?

My Biggest Problem With The Paleo Diet (Rebelle Nutrition)

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I love the Paleo style of eating. Meats, vegetables, fruits, nuts, fats - what's not to love? These cover all of my favorite food groups.

In terms of nutrition, there is so much value in eating a paleo, nutrient dense dietPeople have literally healed themselves from the inside out by eating this way.

However, a huge problem that has become increasingly blatant to me in the real food-sphere is the tendency to throw intuitive eating out the window and instead follow militant food guidelines for the sake of "health".

I am as guilty as anyone else; when I first switched over to a paleo-style template, I created hard and fast rules that never allowed me to eat grains of any kind, or dairy, or anything but the highest quality cuts of meat. I also focused on meats and veggies so much that I actually started to fear carbs and worried that my beloved fruit had 'too much sugar'.

My biggest problem with the Paleo Diet is that we have abandoned the idea of using it as a 'template' of the most nutritious foods to choose from; and turned it into a set of strict rules intertwined with feelings of morality and judgement.

(I believe this can be said about ANY diet, i’m just picking on paleo because it’s closest to what I follow and recommend :) )

Just like nearly everything in western culture, we think it must be taken to an extreme in order to be effective. This black and white thinking about whether something is or is not "paleo", is what keeps people trapped in the ‘diet-mentality’ and leaves us feeling guilty for “falling off the wagon” because we ate a gluten-filled chocolate chip cookie.

I have noticed this trend in my work with clients, as well as with other bloggers and people on social media. Someone begins eating paleo innocently enough as a way to focus more on quality of food and nutrition, and suddenly becomes wrapped up in a sea of unnecessary food restrictions and "righteous eating".

What if we could eat what we wanted, when we wanted it, in a healthful way, devoid of feelings of guilt or restriction? (hint: we can)

Enter: Intuitive Eating

What is Intuitive Eating? from this website:

"Intuitive eating is an approach that teaches you how to create a healthy relationship with your food, mind, and body--where you ultimately become the expert of your own body. You learn how to distinguish between physical and emotional feelings, and gain a sense of body wisdom. It's also a process of making peace with food---so that you no longer have constant "food worry" thoughts. It's knowing that your health and your worth as a person do not change, because you ate a food that you had labeled as 'bad' or 'fattening'".

In simple terms, intuitive eating is identifying hunger cues and satisfying them with the food that your body is truly craving, and then moving on with your life.

To someone who has never had a fucked up relationship to food or body image, this probably sounds like what you do on a daily basis, every time you eat.

For those of us who have years of dieting and body image issues under our belt, eating intuitively can sound daunting and extremely challenging.

Here are the 10 Principles of Intuitive Eating: (from the book, Intuitive Eating)


1. Reject the Diet Mentality - Clear out any diet books, “fitness” magazines or social media accounts from your life that provide you with the idea that ‘X' new diet will be the solution to all of life’s problems. Beware of the ‘Leanness Fantasy’


2. Honor Your Hunger - Make sure to eat adequate meals at regularly scheduled intervals throughout the day. When starvation is perceived, our bodies are biologically programmed to overeat once the next meal comes. This is why low-calorie diets are destined to backfire; and has nothing to do with willpower; bingeing or overeating after a period of scarcity is simply a biological response to ensure your survival.


3. Make Peace with Food - Give yourself permission to eat whatever you want (assuming you have no allergies or sensitivities). Telling yourself that certain foods are “off limits” or “bad” will only lead to feelings of deprivation and result in overwhelming guilt once you finally give in to said food.


4. Challenge the Food Police - Learn to identify the beliefs you have around certain off-limits foods or ways eating. Do you avoid eating until noon because you aren’t hungry, or because some internet guru told you that was the best way to burn fat? Identify and challenge the beliefs you have around food that are contradictory to how you feel intuitively.


5. Respect your fullness - Pause mid-meal to ask yourself your current level of fullness. Begin to identify signals from your body that indicate you are no longer hungry, such as physical fullness or food not tasting as satisfied as when you first started eating.


6. Discover the Satisfaction Factor - Find pleasure in the food you are eating! Eating what your body is craving, in a calm and relaxed environment is one of the most powerful ways to feel satisfied and content after a meal. Alternately, imagine a time when you have rushed home to eat frantically in front of the TV. It doesn’t really matter what the food was that you ate, but it is very likely that you were left feeling unsatisfied, snacky, and looking for something else to eat afterwards.


7. Honor Your Feelings Without Using Food - Loneliness, boredom, anxiety and anger are all emotions that will arise at some point in our lives. Finding ways to cope and resolve these emotions without using food is paramount. Food may provide comfort or distraction in the short term, but will most likely make you feel worse in the long run when you have to deal with the discomfort of overeating in addition to the difficult emotion.


8. Respect Your Body - Learn to accept that every single person has a different body size and shape. Respect your body as it is right now, even if you want to change it. Rejecting the ‘diet’ mentality is nearly impossible if you have unrealistic goals and expectations about your body shape.


9. Exercise - Forget exercising as a way to “burn calories” and shift to focusing on how it feels to move and be active. Do you feel stronger, more energized? These are long term motivators of exercise that will ensure it becomes a lifelong habit, rather than exercising as punishment or for aesthetic goals.


10. Honor Your Health - Choose foods that are health promoting and make you feel optimally. Many people are under the impression that eating intuitively and removing food rules will send them into a downward spiral of doughnuts and pizza rolls for the rest of their life. Let’s say you do crave doughnuts and pizza rolls as your first 'intuitive eating' meal. Assuming you ate slowly and stopped when you were satisfied, the craving would then be gone and you could go on with the rest of your day. More than likely, by the time your next meal came around, you would be in the mood for something a bit lighter and more nutrient dense. Surprisingly, “giving in” to cravings can actually have a positive effect on your weight as well as your mindset. This allows you to consume the food that you want in a reasonable portion, instead of stewing over the thought of it for months and months only to result in a binge.

Obviously, eating intuitively with food allergies or intolerances can be a little more tricky, although still doable. Check out this blog post for more information!

Tell me: Do you eat strict paleo? Do you find yourself feeling restricted or “guilty” around certain foods? What are your thoughts on intuitive eating?

5 Practical Tips to Improve your Relationship to Food (Rebelle Nutrition)

 

 

In my work as a personal trainer and holistic nutritionist, I find that a vast majority of people have very poor body image and quite simply, feel crazy around food.

I get it; as someone with a history of disordered eating, it has taken me years to navigate through all of the diet dogma, ‘fitspo’ and media bullshit. Thankfully, my own struggles have allowed me to discover a few actionable steps that I use to help my clients not only feel amazing in their bodies physically, but mentally as well. Here are 5 steps to improving your relationship with food, exercise and body image that you can start today!

 

1. Stop exercising

     Yes, you read that right. Probably didn’t expect to hear that from someone who has made a living in the fitness industry, right? Surprisingly, most people I work with who have weight loss or health goals are working out too much. Our bodies absolutely need movement; walking, yoga, dancing, and playing are all great examples of this. However; scheduling 2-a-day workouts inside a gym, on a human hamster wheel, or at your Crossfit box may be harming you more than helping you. According to Barry Braun, Ph.D, “physical activity may raise concentrations of longer-term appetite stimulating hormones like insulin and leptin in women” [Effects of exercise on energy-regulating hormones and appetite in men and women, Braun,  2007]. This may explain the feelings of extreme hunger not only immediately after an intense workout, but for the following 24 hours. Braun continues, “women are wired to defend their body weight to preserve energy for pregnancy.” This isn’t to say that women are made solely for the purpose of becoming pregnant; however it does give an excellent reasoning as to why working out too much can actually backfire, specifically for women.

Tip: For 1 month, aim for movement daily in a way that brings you joy. Ask yourself the following question, “If I were stranded on a deserted island, would I still choose this type of movement?” This will identify whether your workouts are serving an internal purpose (joy! health!) or external purpose (aesthetics! gains!)

 

2.  Sleep more

     As a society today we are under slept and overworked. Sleep is often not a priority when we feel the need to wake up before the sun rises, simply to get everything completed for the day. Besides feeling tired, a lack of sleep can cause our blood sugar and adrenal hormones to become out of balance and interfere with our hunger and satiety cues. One night of too little sleep can lead to increased risk of insulin resistance and increased fat storage due to the disregulation of leptin and ghrelin; the hormones responsible for increasing hunger and making it harder to feel satisfied after meals. Too little sleep also increases cortisol levels (leading to catabolism of muscles) and inflammatory markers in the bloodstream, leading to things like arthritis, migraines, and digestive distress.

 

Tip: Try to go to sleep and wake up at the same times every day (even weekends!) for 1 month. Aim for at least 7-8 quality hours a night. Try not to rely on stimulants such as coffee and pre-workout supplements; these will further exacerbate the stress put on your blood sugar/ adrenal hormones and lead to lowered satiety after meals and  increased cravings for sugar and stimulants.

  

3. Find pleasure

     We are often so busy that we rarely take the time to really enjoy not only our food, but every other aspect of life that is meant to elicit a pleasurable response. When was the last time you were completely mindful about the meal you were eating, savoring every bite?  Or watched the sunset without simultaneously checking your Instagram feed? Being mindfully present in every situation and experiencing pleasure allows us to determine what we are truly feeling, for example, “am I satisfied? tired? hungry? fulfilled?” which enables us to address the real issue, rather than turning to food or exercise as an escape.

Tip: Do one pleasurable thing each day. Whether that is sleeping 5 minutes longer, getting a massage, or taking a bath. Reassess your feelings about your relationship with food and body image after 1 month. 

4. Make changes from a place of love, not shame

     A common misconception that I see is that positive changes will occur if we are more strict with ourselves. Hating your body and forcing it through grueling workouts and minimal calories may work temporarily, but once your body adapts to the demands you have placed on it, you will be right back to where you started. How many diets have you successfully completed, only to find yourself feeling guilty and shameful once you go back to ‘normal’ food? How many times have you reached your ‘goal weight’ but still found things to criticize while looking in the mirror?

     Establishing change from a place of shame, hatred, or fear will never work in the long run. We must learn to make  positive changes because we love ourselves; not to punish ourselves into becoming something or someone that we love.

 

Tip: Give yourself one positive affirmation every single day for the next month. Start simply with filling in the blank with the adjective of your choosing: “I am _____” (worthy, exciting, beautiful, brilliant, strong, etc!). At first this will probably seem awkward and uncomfortable but stick it out and I promise you will notice an improvement in your overall mindset and attitude towards your body and mindset around food.

5. Stop body shaming

     If you are not at the place (yet!) where you can say positive things about yourself, start by complimenting others. Think of a genuine compliment that you love about your best friend, mom, boyfriend, etc. and tell them.

On the other hand, make it a rule to stop body-shaming others. This can be so easy to get sucked into, especially in the media. With constant headlines about which celebrity gained or lost the most baby weight, the topic is bound to rear it’s ugly head at some point. Often times, our harsh criticism of other people’s bodies is reflective of how we feel about ourselves. I have never met a confident, body-positive person who went around picking apart anyone else’s appearance. 

Tip: Compliment 1 other person each day, and make it a point NOT to participate in any body shaming for the next month. 

You may be thinking that none of these tips has anything to do with food, and you're right. Nutrition is only one piece of the puzzle when it comes to optimal health, and our food choices are often influenced by different variables on a day to day basis. I believe that when we first address things like mindset and self-care, it is easier to make choices around food that are going to be the most nourishing and sustainable. 

Try out these 5 steps for the next month and watch the lasting changes you really desire start to happen. Send me an email and let me know how your mindset around food, exercise and body image has improved!