Here’s the familiar scenario: You want to lose weight. You’re health conscious and watch what you eat, plus you exercise regularly…yet the scale just won’t budge.
In fact, the number seems to be going up!
How can exercise make you GAIN weight?!?!
I have so many women in my office tell me that despite eating healthier and exercising MORE, they just cannot tip the scale.
Are you wondering if these women are twisting the truth a bit? Closet junk food eaters? Exercising while drinking Frappuccino’s?
No. They are genuinely dedicated to their health and achieving optimal weight. And the problem is truly frustrating, not to forget being emotionally and physically exhausting for them.
Can you relate? Are you doing all the “right” things and still not fitting into your skinny jeans?
If so, read on to find out why your exercise program may be making you retain or even gain more weight.
Meet Your Adrenals – The Misunderstood Key to Healthy Weight Management
The adrenal glands are walnut size glands that sit atop the kidneys and regulate our hormones during the fight or flight response of stress.
These glands are so important to our health and basic survival, that if they were removed or damaged, we would die. We simply cannot live without them.
Yet very few people understand their purpose and function OR how to care for them.
What Your Adrenals Do for You –
So, in a normal, healthy world our adrenals would serve us by regulating hormones and producing cortisol during times of acute stress, like if a tiger jumped out at us, or during an illness.
Helping us regulate our stress response to acute, or occasional stress is no big deal for healthy adrenals. Yet their PRIMARY function is to regulate and make hormones like cortisol, estrogen, progesterone, DHEA, and testosterone.
Keep this in mind as we go on…
The Adrenals and the Typical Stressed-Out Woman
The reality is that we don’t live in a normal, healthy world most of the time, do we? Most women are inundated with stress, worry, and fatigue. I know, because I’ve been there. Stress from work, family, illness, too much screen time, taking on other people’s problems, not asking for help when we need it, trying to be everything to everybody…sound all-too-familiar, ladies?
We women tend to absorb stress like sponges—and it shows up in our adrenal and hormonal health.
When the adrenals are constantly pumping out cortisol to deal with chronic stress and inflammation (stress always puts the body in an inflammatory state), they can’t possibly keep up with their primary function: to regulate and make hormones.
This translates into a wide range of symptoms, one of the most noticeable and concerning for women is…tada…weight gain.
Chronic stress+reduced calories+strenuous exercise = adrenal burnout and more weight gain.
We have been conditioned to believe the answer to weight gain is to eat less and exercise more. This wisdom plays out logically, so long as you are not in a chronic state of stress. Here’s why:
When our adrenals are already stressed and tired and we start feeding them LESS nutrition (not all types of calories, such as good fats for example, should be cut) and piling on MORE stress via long runs, boot camps, or intense cardio, our cortisol goes wild—and so does the hormone aldosterone.
What the heck is aldosterone?
Aldosterone is responsible for retaining sodium and excreting potassium in the kidneys. When this adrenal hormone is out of balance, it equates to more fluid in the body which directly affects the heart and blood vessels.
When cortisol goes up, aldosterone should go down. But when you have chronic adrenal fatigue, your cortisol reserves are exhausted, and your aldosterone goes up.
This causes the body to hold onto more water weight and inflammation. Not a good combo for someone looking to lose weight.
Plus, when we are in a constant state of “fight or flight” the body is NOT about to give up its most precious survival reserve, FAT, without a fight.
When I learned about this, it really changed how I thought, educated, and frankly judged about how much a person should exercise, including myself.
A surprising truth: Nourishing your adrenals and managing stress is FAR more important than exercise.
My husband and I have both been in periods of life when we overloaded with work, caring for our children and life in general. We both love to exercise, yet we understand the importance of being flexible with our bodies’ needs. We’re both willing to adjust – or even temporarily eliminate – exercise during intense, busy cycles of life. Nourishing the adrenals takes tops priority.
Here are some telltale signs you may be suffering adrenal burnout:
- You are going through a time of transition—such as a change in job, relationship, move, birth of a new baby (yes mamas, this is a time of stress!), children going off to school, or death of family member or close friend.
- Weight gain or trouble losing weight
- Chronic fatigue
- Reduced sex drive
- Mood swings
- Trouble focusing
- Hormonal issues
- Uncomfortable or extreme menopausal symptoms—suffice it to say, if you don’t care for your adrenals now, they won’t be able to help you stay balanced during menopause.
- Painful or irregular periods
Fill Your Well — How to Nourish and Manage Adrenal Burnout
If you feel you are in a constant state of stress, it’s a pretty good bet your adrenals are suffering. Chronic adrenal burnout is most successfully helped by an integrative health practitioner. However, there are a few natural ways you can refill your adrenal “well” and help them return to their balanced state.
What fills each person’s “well” is highly individual and here are some suggestions:
- Practice light exercise—like restorative yoga, walking, or tai chi.
- Consider adopting a meditation practice—this could be as simple as writing down your thoughts or sitting quietly in a peaceful room for a few minutes every day.
- Get a handle on stress—find healthy outlets for stress, so stress doesn’t have its way with you.
- Eat less inflammatory foods and more anti-inflammatory foods—avoid grains, gluten and dairy and focus on more vegetables and fruits.
- Practice mindfulness—it’s amazing how learning to become present makes 99% of stress just float on by.
- Try starting a gratitude journal—write down five things you’re grateful for every night (this SAVED my health years ago, read about it here.
- Put the day to bed—by writing down your victories, short-comings, and any plans you have for the next day. This closure to the day means you’re not lying awake at night worrying about it.
- Cut down your screen time—did you know that little “ding” you hear when you get a text message causes your adrenals to release cortisol? And that’s just from texting! Make a pledge to put away the electronic devices after 8PM.
The Wrap Up:
As women, we have been so conditioned to focus on our appearance that we often overlook what our bodies are trying to tell us.
If you’re exercising and not losing weight, it’s your body’s way of telling you there is something more important to address. Likely, it’s your adrenal health and stress levels.
Pay attention to your body and the signs I listed above. In doing so, you will begin to learn the language of your body. It’s your must trusted ally and will always show you the way.
Have you overcome adrenal burnout and have a testimonial to share with those who may be struggling? What are your insights on today’s topic? Has it got you thinking about prioritizing your health in a new way? For those dealing with weight-loss and stress, an uplifting success story can make all the difference. Please comment below!
If you’re looking for an effective meditation technique to support you so you can begin to see a change in your weight, use my 60-Second Stress Buster here. It’s a fantastic resource for anyone squeezed for time, yet you still want to make a step in the right direction.
Wishing you well,
Hi! I'm Dr. Jessica
I’m Dr. Jessica Payne, Medical Intuitive, Doctor of Natural Medicine, and your go-to guide for living your life naturally…More
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