How your adrenals hold the key to weight loss & sanity

“You can’t pour from an empty bucket”

Have you ever felt tired but wired? Or perhaps you exercise, eat right (or along those lines), live a pretty healthy lifestyle, and still your weight is not budging or you’re not really feeling that much better? Or all of a sudden in the past few days, or weeks, you’re just not feeling yourself, want to sleep all the time (and can’t fall and/or stay asleep), craving carbs/sugar/fats (or find yourself eating them more than usual), and wondering what in the heck has changed?? We’ve been on the earth for a number of decades, and have generations of ‘stuff’ behind us that influence our health and livelihood. We didn’t just develop these concerns, in fact, they’ve been snowballing little by little over time when now we need to play detective to ‘what was the straw that broke the camel’s back?’

The adrenals are two glands the sit on top of the kidney, with the inner most part the medulla, responsible for secreting epinephrine and norepinephrine, our ‘get up and go’ hormone. The cortex has a few more layers, with the outermost layer responsible for our salt/water balance (i.e. blood pressure), below that is responsible for cortisol (our stress hormone, which we also need to be alive), and the last layer is our sex hormones (DHEA - anti-aging hormone, and testosterone, which can get converted into estrogen). The adrenals are what take over for most of women’s hormone production post menopause.

The stress we endure, physical and emotional, has been slowly building up over time and whenever we need to hit that deadline, find ourselves in an uncomfortable situation, rushing to get somewhere, etc. our adrenals keep pumping out cortisol to keep us going. It will pump out cortisol if we are literally in life or death, or if we feel are in a life or death situation. In any of these scenarios, much of mitigating this response is mindset.

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When it comes to weight loss, constantly exercising (to the point where we’re tired shortly after or just don’t feel good) can place stress on our body. Unhealthy relationships, poor food choices, not getting enough or quality sleep (or going to bed after 11pm), caffeine (for some), alcohol intake, certain drugs, not exercising enough (or at all), ruminating on whatever task needs to be done, are all instances that place stress on our body. If we want to lose weight, or know we can, then it’s any one of these pieces of the puzzle that could have been that straw. Physiologically, when cortisol goes up, it increases sugar into our bloodstream, both of these feed our fat cells, and cortisol also has a much higher affinity for our abdomen than any other place. Irritating, right? I feel you.

Here’s how you can balance out that cortisol response, and change up your routine to help keep those pounds moving along:

  • Sleep by 11pm- I know, this may not be the favorite advice of many, but it really does work! Our body really likes rhythm- when we know we’re getting our basic needs met, it can go heal, detox, drop weight, etc. It feels safe enough to do so. Cortisol wakes us up in the morning and drops in the evening, as melatonin then rises to help put us to sleep. Sleep is when we regenerate hormones like thyroid (our metabolism), blood sugar hormones, hunger/satiety hormones, sex hormones, etc. that all keep us at optimal function. Without sleep or broken sleep, cortisol levels stay slightly above where they should, so now over periods of time, it’s adding to stress on our body. If you go to bed later than midnight, consider going to bed 15 minutes earlier every few nights.

  • Stop grazing- Our body needs to rest. We’re not meant to eat 24/7, and sometimes we graze when we don’t even realize it. Fasting for at least 12 hours from dinner to breakfast, and then 4 hours between meals helps our body heal and relax. In fact, giving our body rest from any calories allows it to repair, and increase metabolism by way of increased efficiency in getting rid of waste.

  • Drink at least 80 ounces of water per day- More if you work out. We are about 70% water, so our body really does need this to survive. It’s detoxifying, boosts our metabolism, and moreover, our brain has the same signal for thirst as it does with hunger. So if we feel hungry, drink about 8-16 oz of water, and wait a few minutes. Or if the last time you ate was not that long ago, think back to see if it really had a good mix of protein, fats, and vegetables. Further, whatever we start our day with tends to determine our choices the rest of the day. Consider flavoring your water too with lemon, grapefruit, lime, berries, cucumber, mint- any of those combinations!

Adrenal health is incredibly important to our health and hormones, and fortunately can also be reset. One of the best ways to continuously improve our adrenal health and function is routine, especially around eating and sleeping, as the more our body knows what to expect, the more it can divert resources to heal and detox whatever may not be serving it. This can also take some time in listening to our body when it comes to certain foods, exercises, who’s in our life, etc. Yet that’s the fabulous part of being human- we have that awareness!! Check out some recipes and supplements too to really achieve optimal balance!