Adrenal fatigue – what does it actually mean to live with this condition? Could you possibly be suffering from it without knowing?
Adrenal Fatigue and Stress
Stress is not something we typically ‘see’ in ourselves; sure, we notice when our blood pressure rises because someone has scared or angered us.
Acute stress, or situations in which our bodies react to a danger or threat, is something that happens to each of us on occasion. It’s actually a protective mechanism to prepare our bodies for fight or flight.
Chronic stress, on the other hand, has the opposite effect from protection. It’s very destructive to your health. Chronic stress can decrease your immunity, mess with your hormones, and lower your metabolism. Long-term stress can then lead to cancer, early menopause, really bad PMS, and stubborn abdominal fat.
Adrenal Fatigue Affects our Bodies in Many Ways
It’s become apparent to me that I am suffering from chronic stress. In the past few months, my weight has crept up, my abs have disappeared, my energy is very low, and my sleep is atrocious. I KNOW what I need to do; I’m just not having a lot of luck sticking to my own advice!
I’ll never know what the root cause of my health issues were, but, when I was 12, I caught pneumonia. I was hospitalized for a few days and I remember feeling exhausted in a way that I had never felt before. I recovered fairly quickly and was back to playing with my friends after a couple of weeks.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
I developed chronic fatigue that was so bad that I had to quit all my sports and try really hard just to get through the school day. It was a good thing that I was a good student because I had no energy for homework most days.
I eventually overcame my chronic fatigue when I began my clean eating lifestyle. Suddenly, I had so much energy it was ridiculous – I didn’t know what to do with it all! I became an avid runner and gym-goer; I joined a bunch of different dance classes; and started taking part in social events with friends.
Life was great – it was hard to imagine that I had once been too exhausted to do anything remotely outside of lying around my apartment. I felt great, I was happy with how I looked, and my overall outlook on life had changed from extremely negative to overly positive.
That Unexplained Weight Gain Again…
I know how frustrating it is to lose weight – finally – only to start to see it creep back up on you again. Maybe your pants fit a bit too tightly in the legs or maybe you see a ‘muffin top’ that you previously did NOT have. It’s natural to put on a little bit of extra weight on in winter, but not enough to affect your image and self-esteem!
Struggling with unwanted weight gain, you start exercising yourself to exhaustion and being way too picky about your food. Instead of enjoying your meals, you start to add rules around meals, how much you can, when you can eat certain things, and what time you have to stop eating. This is all very annoying and time-consuming! And the guilt – you feel guilty of you miss a workout or eat too much pizza; you feel guilty for that one cookie you had this week when you were ‘supposed’ to eat healthy!
It feels like you had it all figured out. You were happy with your weight, you were mostly comfortable in your clothes, and you ate without worry. It didn’t miss with your brain if you skipped a day or two of exercise.
So, what’s happening now? What’s changed? Why are you struggling with weight?
If you’ve recently gone through a major change, either positive or negative, or if you’re feeling like you can’t get a handle on life, work, family and fun, there’s a really good chance that your unexplained weight gain is related to stress!
A client came to me a few months ago complaining about stubborn abdominal fat and looking for a way to lose weight. She had struggled with weight during her teen years but cleaned up her diet and started exercising regularly during college; her weight dropped to a happy level and she was quite comfortable in her clothes and body.
Then, last fall, she decided to start her own business and began diving deep into everything this entailed. All her evenings and weekends were spent writing proposals, looking for investors, and trying to get the business off the ground. Her financial situation didn’t allow for her to quit her 9-5 job so she was still dealing with deadline, frustrating managers and gossipy co-workers.
A few months into this hectic schedule, she noticed her pants were fitting tighter and her stomach wasn’t quite so flat. She began exercising even more, adding a couple of HIIT workouts to each week.
Nothing changed and her abdomen got a bit bigger! Julia was so angry! She began criticizing herself and her habits; she was constantly frustrated with her body.
Somewhere along the line, she hit a wall. She was burnt out from working extra hours on top of her regular Monday-Friday job; she wasn’t sleeping well anymore, often waking up in the middle of the night; and her workouts seemed pointless because she could barely get enough energy to lift a pair of dumbbells most mornings!
Ever felt this way? Like, no matter what you do, you’re exhausted and can’t quite get ‘caught up’?
My client had done quite a number on her body with all her extra work and excessive exercise. Her adrenals were overworked and she was suffering from a really bad case of adrenal fatigue. She also noticed that she was very reliant on coffee to get her through the day, something she could have lived without prior to taking on all these extra stressors in her life.
In addition, she craved carbs, sugar and chocolate all the time. Her afternoons were riddled with uncontrollable cravings and hunger pangs.
At first, when I told her to try to cut back on exercise and relax more, she just couldn’t. Her guilt for not working out and eating a few too many cookies was at an all time high.
Then, with some baby steps that adjusted her exercise and diet to support her adrenals (and some long discussions about the journey she needed to take to reverse her health and weight), she started to see improvements. Adrenal health is so important yet so easy to overlook.
Adrenal Fatigue Symptoms
Symptoms of adrenal fatigue are often thought to be something else and symptoms are masked with medications, rather than investigated to discover the root cause. If you experience three or more of these symptoms on a regular basis, it may be time for you to speak with your holistic health coach about options to address and support your adrenals.
- Excessive, chronic fatigue
- Brain fog, confusion, inability to concentrate
- Cravings for sugar or salt, especially when stressed out
- Menstrual irregularities, like early onset menopause, PCOS, missed periods, PMS!
- Loss of vigor or thrill with life
- Impatience, especially when something messes up your schedule
- Digestive disturbances, like gas, bloating, diarrhea, or constipation
- Problems with sleep: Feel ‘wired and tired’ at bedtime and/or waking up a 3am and being unable to fall asleep
- Light-headedness and/or shakiness between meals and when you stand up after sitting for a long time
Find out if your adrenals are struggling with this quick quiz! If you do score high in one or more areas, be sure to check back often for great tips to stabilize your adrenal fatigue naturally. I’ll be sharing my journey with you as we go and providing you with specific tips for improving adrenal fatigue and chronic stress.