New Zealand Fitness - - IN THIS ISSUE - DR LIBBY WEAVER.

is chang­ing the face of women’s health By Dr Libby Weaver

TThe per­ceived

need to rush, whether a woman dis­plays it on the out­side or keeps it under wraps, is chang­ing the face

of women’s health as we know it in such a detri­men­tal way, writes

he most com­mon an­swer I hear when I ask women how they are nowa­days is – “busy.” When did this so dra­mat­i­cally change? Women are wired. Many of them are tired too. Tired yet wired. And this re­lent­less ur­gency, this per­cep­tion that there is not enough time, com­bined with a to-do list that is never all crossed of f is hav­ing such sig­nif­i­cant health con­se­quences for women.

Many peo­ple per­ceive that ill­ness is to blame for that nag­ging headache, men­strual prob­lems, fre­quent in­som­nia or de­creased pro­duc­tiv­ity at work – but stress is of ten the cul­prit. There are nu­mer­ous ef­fects of stress on the body – both phys­i­cal and emo­tional. In fact, it’s ac­tu­ally more dif­fi­cult to think of an ill­ness in which stress doesn’t play an ag­gra­vat­ing role or any part of the body that is not af­fected.

The ner­vous sys­tem also plays a re­ally big role in our stress re­sponse. There are a num­ber of parts to the ner­vous sys­tem, but the two branches that re­late to this con­cept are the sym­pa­thetic ner­vous sys­tem and the parasym­pa­thetic ner­vous sys­tem. Sim­ply put, one is the “fight or flight” re­sponse or the stressed out re­sponse and the other one is the “rest, di­gest and re­pair” re­sponse, which is the calm re­sponse. When you ex­pe­ri­ence stresses your heart pounds faster, mus­cles tighten, blood pres­sure rises, breath quick­ens and your senses be­come sharper. These phys­i­cal changes mo­men­tar­ily in­crease your strength and stamina, in­crease your reac tion time and en­hance your fo­cus – pre­par­ing you to ei­ther fight or flee from the dan­ger at hand. This stress re­sponse over time can be in­cred­i­bly de­plet­ing of en­ergy reser ves.

When your sym­pa­thetic ner­vous sys­tem is dom­i­nant (when you’re stressed and rushed), your body thinks that it is in dan­ger, whether this dan­ger is per­ceived or real. Adrenalin is our acute stress hor­mone. It was de­signed to save our lives, so it seems ironic that a hor­mone once de­signed for this pur­pose is now hav­ing such a detri­men­tal ef­fect on our health. It com­mu­ni­cates to ev­ery cell in your body that your life is be­ing threat­ened. When we live our lives in a con­stant rush, this fight or flight

re­sponse goes into over-drive. These hor­mones can sig­nif­i­cantly in­flu­ence whether we gain or lose weight, so it is im­por­tant to un­der­stand how these hor­mones af­fect our ner­vous sys­tem and the fuel the body uses be­fore we set out to make our clothes looser.

When the body is stressed, the brain sends sig­nals to pro­duce cor­ti­sol and adrenalin. When these stress hor­mones

If you haven’t lost weight with your

ex­er­cise or nu­tri­tion rou­tine, then the an­swer doesn’t lie in what

you are do­ing.

are re­leased the liver re­leases more glyco­gen, which is con­verted back into glu­cose (su­gar) to give you the en­ergy for “fight or flight” in an emer­gency. As we rush about in our fran­tic state we guz­zle back another cof fee to deal with our im­pend­ing day – not re­al­is­ing that we are ac­tu­ally in­creas­ing our pro­duc­tion of adrenalin, fur­ther­ing our­selves into the stress spi­ral.

The body only ever has two fuel sources it can use – glu­cose or fat. If your body per­ceives it is in dan­ger and needs to get out of the sit­u­a­tion quickly it will ac­cess a quick burn­ing fuel source and this is sup­plied in the form of glu­cose. I so of ten find that peo­ple get stuck in this very sit­u­a­tion – they are stuck in su­gar burn­ing and sub­se­quently they crave it too. Around 20 years ago, we prob­a­bly lived from that rest, di­gest and calm place, only go­ing into the fight or flight re­sponse when, for ex­am­ple, a bal­loon popped or a car drove out in front of us and we had to slam on the brakes. As soon as that stress was over though, we then went back to liv­ing in a calm state.

Now it’s the com­plete op­po­site. Most peo­ple live from this stressed out place. They live in fight or flight to the point where they ac­tu­ally need to sched­ule down-time and our di­ets are also keep­ing many peo­ple in this red aler t state. Under stress, mus­cles tense up which long term can trigger headaches or migraines. Stress that is mo­men­tary – such as be­ing stuck in traf­fic, hav­ing a “dif­fi­cult” con­ver­sa­tion with some­one, or hav­ing a to do-list that is as long as your arm – causes an in­crease in heart rate and stronger con­trac tions of the heart mus­cle. Beyond a cer­tain point, stress stops be­ing help­ful or pro­tec­tive and star ts caus­ing ma­jor dam­age to your health, your mood, your pro­duc­tiv­ity, your re­la­tion­ships, and your qualit y of life . . . sig­nif­i­cant con­se­quences if not ad­dressed.

A pat­tern I see far too of ten is women run­ning them­selves ragged to get in an hour of hard car­dio when what their body is re­ally cry­ing out for is some rest and re­pair. They are busy all day and barely get a chance to eat their lunch and then go straight into a form of ex­er­cise that en­cour­ages their bod­ies to pro­duce more adrenalin and utilise more su­gar. Bal­ance is the key here. If you are hav­ing long stress­ful days with very few breaks, per­haps you would ben­e­fit from in­cor­po­rat­ing yoga or pi­lates into your work­out regime to al­low your body and mind time to re­store. Re­mem­ber the def­i­ni­tion of in­san­ity is do­ing the same ac­tiv­ity over and over and ex­pect­ing a dif­fer­ent out­come. If you haven’t lost weight with your ex­er­cise or nu­tri­tion rou­tine, then the an­swer doesn’t lie in what you are do­ing.

It is im­por­tant to re­alise that the way you think, feel and move is as im­por­tant to your stress re­sponse as what you eat and drink. I write books to en­cour­age and show peo­ple to live their lives from the rest, re­pair and di­gest branch of their ner­vous sys­tem be­cause it has the most pro­found ef­fect on your health.

From that place sex hor­mones are far eas­ier to bal­ance, liver func­tion is bet­ter, di­ges­tion is bet­ter so there’s far less bloat­ing, the thy­roid works bet­ter which is im­por­tant for your meta­bolic rate and your abil­ity to burn body fat and in gen­eral your mood is bet­ter.

The rip­ple ef­fec t of a bal­anced ner­vous sys­tem is ex­traor­di­nar y and I ex­plore it in more de­tail in my book Rush­ing Woman’s Syn­drome, where I of fer very prac­ti­cal and easy to im­ple­ment so­lu­tions. I have also de­signed a Rush­ing Woman’s Syn­drome Quick Star t course, which is a 30-day on­line coach­ing pro­gramme for the rush­ing woman who’s too busy to even read the book!

Dr Libby Weaver . . . “A diet pri­mar­ily fo­cused on plant foods, is so ben­e­fi­cial to the hu­man body.”

RUSH­ING WOMAN’S SYN­DROME The im­pact of a never end­ing to-do list on our health. By Dr Libby Weaver

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