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You may have heard of the standard American Diet, or SAD. A large portion of the US population eats processed, chemical-laden food on a daily basis. Here in the San Francisco Bay Area, it seems that people are much more health conscious and fit. I’ve heard, “Well, I eat better than most people” over and over again. To some extent this is true, but there is another side, another version of SAD. Look around and you will see many thin and fit people (especially women) that buy organic food, shop at the farmers markets, and exercise every day. That doesn’t sound too awful, so what could possibly be wrong?

Actually, many of these healthy and fit- looking people are starving. Plenty of them skip meals on a regular basis, live on 1,200 calorie- a- day diets, and then spend an hour or more a day doing heavy cardiovascular exercise. So, if they look healthy, why is this a problem? Every one of these individuals I have worked with experiences mood swings, anxiety, and brain fog. The brain needs fat to maintain healthy and fluid cell membranes so that the neurotransmitters (brain chemical messengers) can plug into their receptor sites. In order to make these neurotransmitters, the body needs amino acids, which come from protein. If you are skipping meals or are on a low calorie diet, then it’s not only your belly that is starving it’s also your brain!

Many of these people work full time, have children, and are always on the go. Due to a lack of food and overworking, they are often fatigued and turn to caffeine for a boost. This vicious cycle leaves them amped up and then exhausted at a deep level. This is because their adrenal glands are being overworked and are, possibly, barely functioning. The adrenals are two tiny glands that live on top of the kidneys, and are responsible not only for manufacturing sex hormones such as progesterone and estrogen but also for stress hormones such as DHEA and cortisol. They are designed to release adrenaline in times of crisis. Historically, if we had to run from a saber tooth tiger, the adrenaline would pump our muscles up and allow us to run much faster and farther. The problem is that by using stimulants we are constantly tapping into this fight or flight mechanism. It’s as if the adrenal switch is stuck in the “on” position. Over time, these essential glands become taxed and can’t produce enough hormones. This is when people really begin to increase caffeine, and with every cup they are further damaging the delicate balance of their body.

You need to keep your body in good shape, but be wise about it. Heavy cardiovascular exercise such as running further depletes the adrenals.Instead of running 5 miles a day, try to do 20 minutes of cardio at a time along with muscle and core strengthening such as weights, yoga and pilates. For deep breathing and relaxation, yoga, tai chi, and xi going are all excellent and complimentary to your cardio workout.

Eat 3 meals a day and if on the go a lot snack on healthy foods such as nuts, seeds, yogurt, and avocado. Include healthy fats such as coconut oil, which has medium chain triglycerides (MCT) that actually increase metabolism and help the body burn fat. Increase veggies as they are packed with nutrients and naturally low in calories.

If you are on a quest to lose weight, tone up, or be in shape remember there are healthy and sustainable ways to go about it. Make sure that your exercise routine is balanced and not actually making you more stressed out. If you are already fit, but are moody and anxious you may want to think about adding some more nutrient-dense whole foods to your diet.

Here is  some inspiration. This recipe is for Turbo-Charged Vital Bars, adapted from a recipe by Edward Bauman, M.Ed, Ph.D. These bars can nourish you between meals or serve as a meal in a pinch when proper food is not available. They are simple and delicious. Double the recipe and share with the whole family!

turbo-charged vital bars

1 cup raw nuts, soaked in sea salt and water overnight and then lightly toasted.

1 cup goji berries (or mixed unsweetened berries)**

2 tbsp ground flax seed

2 tbsp hemp seeds

4 heaping tbsp organic dark cocoa powder or carob powder

2 tsp maca powder

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon  ground cardamom

zest of one orange

hot water as needed to soften

1/3 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

**optional: only use 3/4 cup berries and 1/4 cup of dates

directions: Using a food processor, grind the nuts to a coarse powder and put in a bowl and set aside. Add berries to food processor with the chocolate or carob powder, maca, spices and zest, and process into a paste, adding hot water a little bit at a time if mixture is too thick and dry. Add nuts and coconut, and process until mixture forms a ball, adding more hot water if necessary. Press mixture evenly into a 9″ x 13″ inch pan, or smaller if a thicker bar is desired. Chill in the refrigerator for about 1 hour.  Cut into bars and lift carefully out of pan. Wrap individually and store in refrigerator, or vacuum seal individual bars for hikes, bike rides, work or travel.

enjoy!

If you like what you have read, and want to learn more, then contact me at kale@nutritionevolution.net for a complimentary initial consultation (telephone or Skype).

4 Responses to “you can’t always judge a book by its healthy cover”

  1. Kristen

    Thanks for a very informative article. Aside from minimizing caffeine intake, balancing your exercise habits, and eating healthy, are there any other steps one can take to keep the adrenals healthy? And aside from brain fog, are there other indicators that the adrenals aren’t functioning properly?

  2. Diedre Linsenmayer

    Hey! Would you mind if I share your blog with my myspace group? There’s a lot of folks that I think would really appreciate your content. Please let me know. Cheers

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