I met with a holistic nutritionist yesterday.
“But Ariana, aren’t you a Personal Trainer?”
Why yes, yes I am.
“And didn’t you just take a course to be certified as a Nutrition and Weight Loss Specialist?”
I sure did. But every now and then you need to ask for help, even when you’re fairly knowledgeable about the situation.
This is one of those times. I’ve been feeling off my game for a few months now. I can’t pinpoint exactly when I started feeling this way, but I think it was around Mid-March. I’m constantly tired, feeling lethargic and unmotivated to do anything really, and have had a lot of strange symptoms showing up within the past few weeks. I had allergic reaction-type symptoms despite eating pretty much the same foods every day, glands swollen to the point you could see them at the sides of my neck, and while I’ve never had the happiest digestive system, it’s been giving me more grief than usual lately.
Being the hypochondriac I am I diagnosed myself with an array of things, from toxoplasmosis to mono to adrenal fatigue to hypothyroidism. I needed another opinion, and since I’m a firm believer that our nutrition plays a HUGE role in determining our health, I decided to see a holistic nutritionist as opposed to my family doctor.
I approached one of the trainers at the gym I train out of who is also a nutritionist and we had a quick chat one afternoon before she had me fill out a monster of a questionnaire. As I was ticking “rarely”, “moderately”, and “severe” to a wide range of symptoms I started conjuring up diseases I could potentially have. I also found that after having filled out the questionnaire I was much more in tune with my body. One of the questions asked if I ever burp after meals, to which I responded “moderately”. Sure, after a big meal I let out a big burp, but doesn’t everyone?
I began noticing that in addition to those big burps, there were also little burps every. single. time. I ate. It’s crazy how once you become more conscious of things how much more you notice them. In addition to worrying about what diseases I had, I also began to worry about how unhealthy I really might be. I’m a Personal Trainer! I’m supposed to be healthy! I’m supposed to be a role model for my clients! I can’t have a slow metabolism or HIV or something. (FYI: if you’re as paranoid as I am, don’t look up the symptoms of HIV. Even if there’s no way you could have contracted it, you’ll make yourself believe you have it.)
We met yesterday for over an hour to discuss her findings from my answers. Turns out the culprit is……
Which I kind of already knew. Stress is a sneaky thing. From an evolutionary standpoint, it’s necessary for our survival. It makes us alert during uncomfortable situations and prepares us to face the challenge or get out quickly by stimulating the release of certain hormones, increasing our heart rates, halting the digestive and immune systems, plus a whole host of other physiological changes. Hence the term “flight or fight”.
But when experienced for long durations, stress can have a profoundly negative effect on our bodies. Restless sleep, a disrupted digestive system, creeping weight gain or an inability to lose weight, and feelings of exhaustion are just the tip of the ice berg.
Saying I’m stressed out is an understatement. I could have told you that before meeting with a nutritionist. My job at the hotel is fairly stressful and up until this week I’ve been working close to 40 hours. Which is totally normal, but then you add the 10.5 hours of Personal Training I’m doing each week which, while not necessarily stressful, requires me to be completely alert and focused on the client I’m working with. Then there’s program planning for my clients, writing programs for the clients I don’t train in person, keeping up with my own strength and triathlon training which takes 8-10 hours each week, generating and beginning to act on ideas for my business, regular household duties like grocery shopping and cooking, and trying to maintain the personal relationships in my life.
On top of that one of my regular hobbies is worrying. I worry about whether I’m doing a good enough job for my clients or not. Whether I’m going in the right direction or not. Whether there’s something I’m completely missing or not. I worry about my future, my boyfriend’s future, my parents’ future, what’s going to happen if there’s an earthquake or my building catches on fire while I’m not at home, if I’m eating too much or too little, if I’m going to get cancer, and if one day I’m going to act on my urge to pull a fire alarm as I walk by it.
The human body can’t differentiate between stress from a job or the loss of a loved one. It doesn’t know that we’re exercising for enjoyment and not running away from a sabre tooth tiger, or that toxins from the environment aren’t actually some sort of chemical warfare used by a neighbouring tribe. It just knows that something is disrupting its normal balance, also known as homeostasis, and it does whatever it can to help us survive these situations and bring everything back to normal.
So while I do have some dietary changes to implement, controlling my stress levels is going to be numero uno when it comes to helping me feel like the badass I used to. This means no lying in bed Instagram-ing right before going to sleep. Ideally it means no technology whatsoever for AN HOUR before bed. This is when I do all my drooling at various #foodporn and commenting on pictures of people I’ll never meet. When am I supposed to do this?!?! (I sense some stress coming on.)
Gone are the mornings where I’m glued to my phone before I’m even out of bed, checking e-mails as I’m putting my slippers on. Now I need to “take five” and do some deep breathing, collect myself and remind myself of the awesomeness of the day that’s about to ensue. I might as well throw an “ommmmmmmmmmmmm” in or something.
That online yoga video subscription I’ve been talking about subscribing to? Time to subscribe, sista.
All the cooking I love to talk about doing but never actually do? Time to get back in the kitchen, make a mess, and screw up a bunch of new recipes.
All those books that are piling up on the book shelf that have nothing to do with exercise, nutrition, or science, but I never read? Time to get my read on. (In case you’re interested, I’m starting with a book called “From Panic to Power: Proven Techniques to Calm Your Anxieties, Conquer Your Fears, and Put You in Control of Your Life”. A little more self help-y than what I’m used to, but it seems promising.)
In addition to becoming a more zen-like human being, for the next 30 days I’ll also be eliminating wheat, rye, soy, and barley, avoiding fruit & dairy mixtures (adios nightly 500-calorie bowls of fruit, yogurt, and PB), reducing my coffee intake from 2-3 cups (venti-size) to one (ideally not venti-size), downing a cuppa’ apple cider vinegar and cayenne with warm water each morning, and practicing food combining. What is food combining, you ask?
Simplified my ass.
Thankfully my nutritionist gave me a dumbed-down version. Avoid eating protein and starchy carbs together. Fruits on their own or with fat. Wait 30 minutes after eating fruit to eat anything else. And then the aforementioned no fruit and dairy. Which is probably the most heartbreaking thing about this whole ordeal. But I’ll survive.
The belief is that prolonged stress, which as I mentioned before disrupts the digestive system, has essentially made my guts lazy. My stomach isn’t producing enough hydrochloric acid, and my coffee consumption that might as well just come straight from an IV is ridding my body of digestive enzymes as well as vital fluids and minerals.
Despite eating a variety of nutrient-dense foods at most of my meals, my body likely isn’t absorbing all of those nutrients. And as starchy carbohydrates and high-protein foods require more energy than say, fruit or leafy greens, my lazy digestive system apparently says “nahhhh, I’ll do some now and save the rest for later” leaving food to “fester” in my stomach (nutritionist’s words, not mine).
So hopefully by eating and living this way I’ll be able to give my body a bit of a break. It’s done a pretty good job at handling all the tasks I’ve handed it over the years, so I figure the least I can do is give this a shot so it can run efficiently again. After a month or so we’ll re-assess where I’m at and see what other changes need to be made. I’m not forbidden to eat a baked potato with my steak for life, however just like with any other cleanse, it’s in my best interest to not go back to pre-stress cleanse ways of life if I want to thrive for many years to come.
Since foods that are high in omega-3s are good for the brain (and not to mention delicious) I went on a hunt for some good quality salmon at the farmer’s market yesterday. While perusing the various coolers containing sockeye, coho, spring, and one other that I can’t remember, I learned that spring salmon, while pink in colour and lower in price point (which to me usually means farmed and crappy) come only second to coho (highest in price point) when it comes to omega-3 content. So spring salmon it was!
If you feel like you need a mood boost, give this super quick and simple salmon recipe below a shot. I’m usually turned off by roasting fish because I’m so afraid of under-cooking it and getting some sea disease that I tend to just cook it to rubber in a frying pan. But this was so easy and tasted delicious.
Are any of you out there afraid of the sky falling, or contracting sea diseases, or randomly pulling fire alarms? Ever found that your stress caused by actions of seemingly good intentions totally messed with your health? Do you even believe stress has an impact on your health? Let the debate begin!
Super Simple Spring Salmon – Serves 1 (if there’s more of you…buy more fish!)
You Will Need:
- 1 fillet spring salmon
- Juice of 1/4 lemon
- 1 bunch of green onions, chopped
- Fresh/dried herbs of choice
- Sea salt & cracked pepper, to taste
1. Preheat oven to 450F
2. Brush a roasting pan with a bit of olive oil, then place the salmon fillet on top, skin-side down
3. Squeeze lemon on salmon
4. Top salmon with herbs of choice, sea salt, and cracked pepper
5. Sprinkle green onions on salmon and in pan
6. Bake for 10 minutes, then enjoy!