I know, I know, what a ridiculous attention grabbing title! But bear with me, because there is actually the science to back this up.
My biggest issue right now with the whole Brexit fiasco is the UNCERTAINTY of it all. Will it happen? Won’t it happen? When will it happen? It is the not knowing that is the problem.
We all face times of uncertainty, finding ourselves in situations where we don’t know what the outcome will be, and are therefore unable to prepare for it. And boy, is it stressful! It could be your next job posting and relocation, whether your house purchase will go through, or if you’ll still be together with your partner. These are big questions, and each of the possible outcomes will dictate the next chapter of your life and shape your future.
So what can we do to better manage uncertainty, and what on earth has it got to do with diet and nutrition anyway? Well, our brains have pretty sophisticated mechanisms in place for dealing with uncertainty. We are intrinsically wired to assess risks, drawing on our previous knowledge and past experiences to predict future outcomes. This is the basis of decision making and how we manage to deal with possible negative outcomes, perhaps choosing to avoid them, or taking steps to maximise the chances of a positive outcome.
But this sort of information processing and analysis that the brain does requires extra energy resources to be diverted to it. And this is where our stress response systems come in. Yep, you probably didn’t need me to tell you this, but uncertainty triggers stress. The adrenal glands are activated and hormonal changes ensue that divert glucose from the muscles and fat cells to the brain. The circulating stress hormones like noradrenaline and cortisol put us in to a hypervigilant state. We become more aware and pay more attention so that we can gather and process the information required to make the necessary decision and resolve the uncertainty.
Well what happens if you have no control over the uncertainty? I’m not a member of the Conservative Party, so I have no say in who will be the next Prime Minister. Maybe your boss is dragging their feet on deciding where to send you next? Some of us are lucky. Our brains and bodies adapt to the chronic stress of the uncertain situation by habituating. Readjusting to the new normal, if you like. But others are not so lucky and the persistent state of not knowing can lead to an overload on our body systems. The neuroendocrine, cardiovascular and emotional responses are constantly activated, affecting blood flow in the major arteries around the body, raising blood pressure, impacting on cognitive function, depressing mood and accelerating disease progressions.
That’s a pretty gloomy state of affairs, right? Well sorry, but what’s coming next is only going to depress you more! When we have persistently high levels of the stress hormone cortisol circulating in our bodies, we tend to put on weight. And not just a little extra padding all over our bodies. No! Stress related weight gain is most often seen around the abdominal area. Not only does your belly grow, but the fat is coating all those essential organs that keep you alive. Not only have these selfish politicians buggered up the country, but I’ve also got fat from it too!! In times of uncertainty, and stress, we need to be doing more to support our bodies nutritionally so that we can adapt and move on.
First things first, it’s a good idea to have a measure of how your stress response system, your adrenal glands, are currently functioning. That’s why my Expat Weight Loss Program includes a test called the Adrenal Stress Profile.
Using saliva samples gathered over a 24 hour period, it analyses your cortisol levels and lets you know whether your body can handle the stress it is experiencing. With these results in hand, we can make sure you are getting the vitamins and minerals you need at the right levels to support your adrenals and give them that extra boost if needed.
To find out more about my Expat Weight Loss Program and supporting yourself through uncertain times, book a free discovery call with me today.
You know that funny video that was doing the rounds on social media about wearing your active wear to go and do non-sporty normal things like grocery shopping? Well, that could be me! Except usually I have actually done something active in my active wear before I’m doing the activities that don’t require active wear. But some days I do find myself quickly running upstairs to change in to 'normal' clothes before I pick up my kids from school, just so that people don't think I've been sitting around in active wear all day!
I find that to make exercise a regular feature of my week, I need to build it in to my routine. And for me this means making it a means to an end. I’m not just exercising for exercise sake, I’m using it as a way of getting from A to B.
Here in London, there is a huge push at the moment to make greener choices, and in particular greener school runs. Our kids are breathing filthy air, and I feel that by not driving to drop my kids at school, I’m doing my little bit to reduce the number of pollutants they have to breathe. So I take my daughter to school by bus. We have a lovely time on the journey, sitting side by side and chatting about the day to come. It's much better quality time together than being in the car, and it doesn’t make a huge difference to our journey time.
But the real bonus is that then I get to walk back home. Earphones in, podcast loaded, I don’t just stroll back home. I march on, powering my way up the hills of Hampstead and across the Heath to home. Swinging my arms, engaging my abs and lengthening my stride means it really is a workout. 45 minutes later, I arrive home with rosy cheeks and muddy feet, ready to start my day.
Just like Amos Lee describes in his lovely song, Bottom of the Barrel, I walk whatever the weather, and tend to love it even more if it’s pouring with rain like it was this morning.
As a nutritionist, I advise all my clients to exercise regularly, whether they want to lose weight or not. It’s as important for their state of mind as for their physical health.
But the type of exercise needs to work for them.
For some people that could be HIIT work outs, but for others the intense physical stress of that type of activity may be exacerbating their already stressed state, and elevating their cortisol levels even further. Something more gentle, like yoga or a hike, is better advised.
Just like diets, what works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for another, and it really does pay to listen to what YOUR body needs and focus on that, instead of what everyone else around you is doing.