BLOG 152 HORMONES
Our bodies are fascinating functioning entities that are designed to endure and last. Machines don’t always function properly and fine tuning may be needed. If our heart is acting strange, we see a cardiologist. If we are having issues with our feet, we go see a podiatrist. But sometimes the answers aren’t so obvious when we know something just isn’t right. Endocrinology, the study of hormones is only 100 years old so it’s in its state of infancy. Hence, why there isn’t always a direct response from a doctor when it comes to a woman’s inquiry about her sudden weight gain or lack of energy, or a male feeling depressed or sluggish.
Hormones can rule our lives. They turn children into adults, affect or appetites, and affect our passions. We may not think of them in our daily thoughts, but they are part of our daily lives for sure. The earliest example of hormone study was with the famous opera singer of the 1700s named, Ferinelli. He was castrated to keep his opera voice high. As a result, he had many female features. Later, cattle and roosters were the lab rats to be tested on.
In the 1800s, when women were having issues the answer was to remove their ovaries. 150,000 women in Europe were treated this way to address their unsolved womanly ailments. Yet, that just caused early menopause.
Hormones are chemical messengers that communicate much differently than our nervous system. The word “hormone” came from the ever-famous Greek poet, Homer. Cortisol is the stress hormone. Adrenaline is the flight or fight hormone and there are many more. The pituitary gland is the major house of these hormonal operations. It regulates our levels like a thermostat.
Studies of obesity led to the discovery of insulin and leptin. Without insulin, one will develop diabetes and long ago diabetes was a death sentence. Hence, the name “Die” abetes. Sugar passes straight to urine when insulin is not properly functioning. Leptin is the fat hormone and provides feedback to brain about our appetite. More fat leads to more leptin and studies show this is caused by genetics in addition to self-control.
The movie, “The Fantastical World of Hormones”, by Andrew Smith, was very helpful in my research. This is just a synopsis because we know that hormones are not a straightforward answer. On our fitness journeys there may be speed bumps, but the road to your goals will lead you to better health and a better YOU!!!!
BLOG 151 POLY-CYSTIC OVARY SYNDROME
Women and hormones…. the subject matter goes hand in hand. Our health is a culmination of bodily operations functioning effectively, but there are an array of medical conditions that can impact our fitness journeys. Poly-cystic Ovary Syndrome, better known as PCOS, is a hormonal imbalance which can lead to many problems for females. I was actually inspired to write this Blog because my best friend has this and the star of a reality T.V. show I watch called, “My Big Fat Fabulous Life”, has it too. So let’s take a closer look.
PCOS has to do with cysts growing in the ovaries, and “poly” means many small cysts. On their own, these cysts are not dangerous, but they can cause havoc in other ways. Hormones are communicators in our bodies. They send signals and messages for functions to occur. But when there is a hormone imbalance, the following can result: “One hormone change triggers another, which changes another. For example:
• The sex hormones get out of balance. Normally, the ovaries make a tiny amount of male sex hormones (androgens). In PCOS, they start making slightly more androgens. This may cause you to stop ovulating, get acne, and grow extra facial and body hair.
• The body may have a problem using insulin, called insulin resistance. When the body doesn’t use insulin well, blood sugar levels go up. Over time, this increases your chance of getting diabetes.
There has not been a direct cause of PCOS, but it seems to be genetic. Hormones really don’t make sense, much like behavior during puberty doesn’t either. There are associated symptoms which include:
• Weight gain and trouble losing weight.
• Extra hair on the face and body. Often women get thicker and darker facial hair and more hair on the chest, belly, and back.
• Thinning hair on the scalp.
• Irregular periods. Often women with PCOS have fewer than nine periods a year. Some women have no periods. Others have very heavy bleeding.
• Fertility problems. Many women who have PCOS have trouble getting pregnant (infertility).
The star of the show I watch, Whitney, from “My Big Fat Fabulous Life”, blames her weight gain on PCOS. But the controversy arises in that it wasn’t PCOS that put the weight on, rather it is difficult to take the weight off because of it. It’s a culmination of these symptoms that impact the psyche which impacts one’s fitness journey. It is said that 8-20% of women suffer from this condition (nichd.nih.gov), and are diagnosed in their twenties and thirties. Treatment is hormone based and might include birth control to regulate periods, diabetes medication, hormones for fertility and then any hair removal procedures. Thus, this can be a frustrating experience for those on their fitness journeys having a hard time losing weight. I know some of my clients have found comfort in having a diagnosis when they feel like they are eating well and exercising very well, but don’t see the results they want.
Good old lady hormones, and men don’t like them either. They are only a speed bump on the road to health, but like we know, this is a journey not a sprint. Results will come and the scale isn’t the only measurable indication of success. You are so much more than that number!!!!
BLOG 150 THE REALITIES OF OBESITY
I’m a sucker for a good health and fitness reality documentary, as I’m sure you are well aware of reading my blogs. In my years of this industry, shows like, “My 600 Pound Life” and “The Biggest Loser” are rather depressing and surprisingly hard to view for me. But I’m intrigued by the emotional struggles and mental capacity of those who go on national television in their most vulnerable state. So I watched another. This time is was called, “Fat”. I guess the only difference with a movie vs a reality TV show was that the lead character was his total true self, cussing and behaving as he normally would.
Sean was obese. He was well aware he needed change, but the motivation to take action was more than lacking. Finally, he took a trip to the doctor just to see what could be done, of course with the mindset that there’s a quick, easy fix for all this. Sean didn’t get the answer he was looking for, rather the doctor prescribed him medication for high blood pressure. Sean inquired about weight loss surgery, but instead the doctor recommended seeing a nutritionist. Sean continued to feel defeated when he left.
His best friend was on his team, trying to be an advocate for his change. He even set him up with a lady friend. However, when initially shown a picture of the gal, he said, “What the hell, she’s fat” and “fat people aren’t into other fat people”. So what did he do?? He called up his ex who he had been really stuck on. She, however, upon meeting him said that he had let himself go, and why was he asking for closure when it was such an insignificant relationship. Crushed, he met up with best friend at their regular bar. On a bet, he asked out the bartender. They go out, he tells her that he slept with a homeless person once before. Ruined that. When he finally did go out with the original woman his best buddy set him up with, he actually liked her. She revealed she was getting the lap-band and later on in an argument he said to her, “Ohh that’s right take the easy way out like your surgery”. That ended the relationship.
He got a trainer who he ended up standing up. He attended O.A. (Overeaters Anonymous). He blew up at the man running the meeting. Sean was diagnosed with diabetes. His best friend admitted to him that he smelled bad. His nutritionist fired him.
The point of my Blog is to tell your how poorly we have represented obese people to be in the media and on T.V. We watch as they are degraded and made out to be lazy and weak. What about discussing the causes, the psychology of their current state, and what can be done for them for long term results?? No, obesity is a money- making industry from the diseases it causes, the billions of dollars spent on diets and surgeries, and the insane amount of money spent on food. Someday I will write a book that discusses this. For now, don’t judge obese people by their cover.
Mark Phinney. (2015). “Fat”.
BLOG 149 HUNGER BY ROXANE GAY
A client recommended a great read to me, Hunger, by Roxane Gay, and I’m so thankful she shared this book. It is her personal story of her past forever haunting her and a life of food to hide herself. As a trainer, this story of her BODY, was both powerful and moving. Sadly, it’s not the first time I have read/heard/or even helped clients with similar memoirs. The odds seemed to be lined up against her, but Roxane lives today as a feminist, successful writer, and woman with an incredible message.
Roxane said, “I was broken, and to numb the pain of brokenness, I ate and ate and ate, and then I was not just overweight or fat. Less than a decade later, I was morbidly obese and then I was super morbidly obese” (pg. 22). At the age of 12, she was gang raped by a boy she thought she was in love with along with his friends in a cabin in the woods. Today, she can still smell and taste the trauma, and she used food to suppress this horrible moment of her life that she kept a secret until this book. At her highest, she was 577 pounds. Her outlook on relationships, sex, and her personal sense of self-worth, were forever changed when this happened to her.
Food offered her comfort and she was able to make herself unattractive the larger she became (at least in her mind). Contrary to what one might assume, she had an amazing, loving, family and support system. She was Haitian, and her family was a tight knit unit. She grew up with parents who paid the utmost attention to their kids and provided very well for them. But that didn’t mean she felt it was okay to share her secret with them. In fact, she separated herself from them and isolated herself in books and writing. She is a great writer.
Of course, her weight was a concern to her family and self, and she did try every diet known. But every time she lost weight, she regained it, again hiding inside the cage she created for herself but could still see out of. She lived her life always saying to herself, “Tomorrow, I will make good choices. I am always holding on to the hope of tomorrow” (pg. 139).
Obesity isn’t just about food. Although society has created the notion that overweight people are lazy and eat too much, they rarely stop to ask WHY?? Food is a drug for many people and it can be the high one needs to not feel emotionally. The temporary satisfaction becomes an impulse and just like a drug, one can never have enough as tolerance is built. To binge is to numb whatever emotion is taunting. Food isn’t nourishment; it’s comfort. And yet, society passes judgement, even doctors do too. A client might think I don’t know what it is like or I can never relate, but food is a crazy, messy, mind game for most of us. Professional natural bodybuilding has taught me that lesson all too well. It isn’t just calories in and calories out, oh there is so much more to being healthy than that.
I thank Roxane Gay for sharing her story and I thank the client her recommended this book. Our fitness journeys are unique to ever BODY, and every BODY is worthy of health and happiness. Sometimes the worst moments give credit to who we are today. But they don’t define us. You can turn the page and I will help you.
Hunger, Gay, Roxane. (2017). Harper Collins Publishing.