Yesterday, I posted a long, but great 🙂 blog on why I think it’s best to focus your efforts on just two hormones.
I made the case that details like thyroid and estrogen may be instances where you need to seek help, but by focusing your daily nutrition and exercise habits on insulin and cortisol you can gain a lot of control over your fat loss situation.
It’s true that there is a symphony of hormones at play in your metabolism – but you simply can’t focus on them all and expect results.
Focusing on just insulin and cortisol is key because: You have the most control over these two hormones with diet and lifestyle.
They are such key players that balancing out these two will set many other hormones straight (at least most of the way!)
You are getting signals all day, from your own body, telling you exactly what to do to balance them out. If you don’t balance these out first, and focus on a peripheral fat loss influencer, like estrogen, you’ll never get that secondary hormone balanced anyway. Yesterday’s blog was a lot of explanation of how insulin and cortisol work.
Today I am going to teach you the habits you can start today to master these two key fat loss hormones.
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10 Better Habits to Balance Insulin + Cortisol
1. Eat as often as YOU need to, but not so often that you are grazing.
This is tricky and totally unique to you, so use ACES (appetite, cravings and energy – and success!) to guide you. This is the simplest diet-tailoring tool around: listen to the cues your body is telling you.
Appetite, Cravings and Energy (i.e. low energy before meals signals low blood sugar, low energy after meals signals high blood sugar). More on this here and here. The S is for Success – as in, are you losing fat or not? Simply tune into AC and E every hour or so until you get to know yourself. Use this to guide how often you eat, how many carbs you eat and what type of carbs you eat.
Check in on Success with weekly waist measurements, how your pants fit, body comp testing or some non-crazy-making method (meaning: skip the scale alone method!)
2. Eat to your unique carb tolerance.
This means finding out how much of what type of carbs you can eat while keeping your ACES in balance. For example, I can eat an entire apple, but if I eat so much as 4 bites of a sweet potato I’m craving the rest of that sweet potato. And if I finish it, I’ll be asleep on the couch. More on finding your UCT, unique carb tolerance, here.
3. Don’t over eat.
Too much food in general will tax your blood sugar balance. It takes practice to start sensing when you are actually 70/80% full. Don’t worry if you can’t do this yet, the more in balance your hormones get the more in tune you’ll be here. For now, eat slower, give your body time to talk to you.
Feels silly to eat mindfully and slowly?Do it anyway. It is that important.
4. Watch the fat+sugar combo.
This makes the biggest mess of insulin and creates the most fat storing message. When eating out, opt for veggies + protein assuming the meal has more oil/butter/etc. that you’d use at home. And skip the rice/pasta/bread/booze while you’re eating out. And watch fat+sugar foods like bagels+cream cheese, chips+guac and desserts like cheesecake and ice cream. I’m not saying never eat these, but if this is your go to treat, just be aware 🙂
5. Eat loads of veggie fiber at each meal and adequate protein.
Start with 2-3 handfuls of veggies and at least 4 oz of protein.
6. Manage emotional stress in whatever way works for you.
This is a biggie and we all get here in our own way. For me it takes many, many things to control my emotional stress. I have to eat well and get enough sleep. I have to take my supplements. And most importantly I have to stay mindful of the kind of woman I want to be.
Mindfulness is hard, but it matters.
To stay mindful of my thoughts and who I’m being in the world I do a gratitude journal every day (I simply write down 5 things I’m grateful for) and run through that list anytime I feel worked up. I read A LOT of self help and spiritual growth books. There are post it notes all over my home and office with reminders of who I want to be. And I’m learning to meditate….it’s still hard for me.
If you don’t know where to begin, this simple breathing tool lowers cortisol instantly: breath in for 4 counts and exhale for 6-8 counts. I use this about a hundred times a day! My life is busy and can be stressful, that’s not changing – only how I respond to it is changing.
This tool really engages the parasympathetic nervous system, pulls me out of fight or flight and allows me the space to act how I want to instead of my frenzied default.
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7. Get enough sleep!
Simple enough right? In theory yes, in practice we all struggle with this. Get to bed early with a pleasure book, not a thriller or work related book that’s sure to get your mind going. Be sure you have a dark, cool room, etc. and by all means if you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, get help! Nothing is worth more to your health and fat loss goals than sleep. See this blog for more advice on better sleep.
8. Manage inflammation.
Discover and avoid your food allergies/sensitivities. Get help with your autoimmunity (i.e. Hashimoto’s). Heal long standing injuries. Watch over training/over-exercising. Get enough rest and don’t drink too much booze. Adequate Omega 3 intake and supplementing with tumeric and resverotrol can also really help.
9. Don’t over train
Especially long duration cardio. If you love spinning, running, etc. you don’t have to never do them again, but if you’re struggling to lose fat, are noticing less motivation to workout or feel generally achy and inflamed it’s time to change it up.
Be sure you are getting enough rest days and that your plan is well rounded. If it’s no weight training and 5 spin classes, take another pass at your plan. If it’s all heavy weight training and sprints, add more walking and more yoga. To really know how hard you should exercise, get this.
10. Slow down!
We are so busy in our nutty lives these days. Eat slower to let hormonal signals get through, letting you know when you’re full and avoid over-stressing insulin. Stop and breathe…… Get more sleep. Take long walks, especially if you love intense cardio – swap a few sessions with some walking. Meditate.Journal. Let the little stuff go. #beBETTER
Whew! That is a lot, but you can do it. Pick one of these 10 habits at a time and implement it. For help with incorporating new habits, but sure to use this tool.
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