• Maija Tweeddale

Why self-care is key to maintaining a healthy weight


If you’ve found your waistline creeping outwards despite efforts to reverse it, a focus on hormone-focussed self-care may be the missing piece of your puzzle. On the surface it may seem an unlikely place to start, however it’s especially important for humans in their 40s - yes, women and men - as some of our key hormones are starting to decline and this can play havoc with our ability to maintain a healthy weight.


If we give ourselves a little love in the following four areas we go a long way to preserving and improving our hormone balance and function, helping to keep us looking and feeling in great shape.


Stress

This really is a kicker, and it’s everywhere. Our bodies are beautifully designed to manage acute stress in short bursts, we’re very good at that. Unfortunately almost all of us are under the burden of some level of chronic stress. Often we perceive it as ‘just the way life is’ and it runs in the background: we’ve got more work to do than hours in the day; we’re run ragged taking the kids to activities too many days of the week; the house seems permanently disheveled and our patience is constantly being tested with last minute requests or other people’s panic. And while our ability to feel like we can handle it will vary from person to person, the impact on our bodies is pretty similar - the over-production of stress hormones, which has the knock-on effect of creating an imbalance in insulin and the key sex hormones (estrogen, progesterone and testosterone), the proper functioning of which contribute to our ability to maintain a healthy weight.


Of course, we also need to acknowledge that in times of stress we are often tempted to grab unhealthy ‘quick-fixes’ such as alcohol and fast food as well as sugary drinks and snacks which further sends our hormones awry, shifting the balance towards storing fat on our waistlines.


Stress-reduction practices can be different for different people, but I’d put money on the fact that we could all do with just being a bit less busy. In that case, try writing a list of all the things that fill your time, then rip it in half and throw the bottom half out. I’m sure that the things that are truly priorities for you were in the first half of your list. Anything else needs to be weighed up against the importance of your well-being!


Sleep

How about improving your shape while you sleep?! If you sleep well this is your body’s time to repair and get rid of debris from the normal process of body functioning, keeping everything well-optimised. The hormones related to sleep also affect our appetite and the way our bodies store the food we eat: poor sleep leads to increased appetite and weight gain. And in a nice little self-care loop, when we sleep well we are also more likely to be positive about ourselves and make better decisions about what we do to nourish our bodies and how we spend our time.


How our bed and bedroom is presented is quite influential on how we set ourselves up for rest. In order to make the space inviting and cocooning be sure to make the bed in the morning, reduce the clutter on the surfaces, remove dirty dishes, tidy up discarded clothes and shoes including those that snuck under the bed - basically channel your inner Marie Kondo and go to task on this very important space.


Toxic load

When we think of our body’s exposure to toxins we naturally think of pesticides and food-related chemicals (including those used in food packaging). Considering how important food and drink is to our well-being it’s right that we do the best we can to avoid these. However it’s not just what we eat that contributes to our overall level of toxicity and if we’re focussing on self-care there is lots we can do to lower our toxic load.


Let’s start by looking at what we put on our skin, which is a huge detoxifying organ and one that comes into some contact with almost everything we do. Think moisturisers, cosmetics, hair products, hand-sanitisers, nail varnish, fake tan, sunscreen, shampoo. Many of the ingredients in these products are directly toxic to our hormones and/or their receptors or directly promote the metabolic dysfunction that causes weight gain. Either way it’s bad news so worth paying attention to. You can check out the safety of the ingredients in the products you use every day here: https://www.ewg.org/skindeep/


I feel very sad that make-up is deemed an essential part of so many women’s daily lives, and that such young girls get caught up in the net. If you cannot leave the house without “putting your face on” then please consider why you feel the need. Skin conditions, circles under your eyes, uneven skin tone and blemishes are all resolvable from the inside out - applying make-up will never solve these issues and often compounds the imbalances causing them. [Read my blog about simple steps for skin renewal here]


Exercise

While we probably all accept that exercise is a key part of maintaining a healthy weight, the type of exercise matters as we age. This may mean changing your perspective on exercise to a self-care approach rather than a “calorie burn” approach. The focus should be on strengthening muscle rather than hard-core cardio to furiously burn calories. It’s well-oxygenated lean muscle that supports good insulin management, which is crucial to maintaining a healthy weight. This means gentle intensity, so that you can still talk relatively easily. With walking, running or swimming build up to a longer distance rather than a faster pace. Yoga or pilates are great choices for gentle strength building and usually include stress-reducing breathing practices nicely packaged up with them!


Self-care is an essential ingredient of any wellness plan that works. To find out more about how a personalised, guided, whole-person approach would work for you book a complementary First Steps consult with me. This simple use of your time could be just what you need to get the great energy, calm mood and life-long good health you’re looking for.