In my first book, Come Back Strong, I introduced the concept of a wellness wheel, where each spoke on a bicycle wheel represents a different element that helps keep you feeling balanced and moving forward in life. There are many spokes on the Wheels to Wellbeing, including exercise and nutrition and hormones. Others can include spirituality/faith, relationships, finances, self-care/self-love, career, nature, prayer/meditation, rest/recovery, psychological, emotional, social, personal development, play, and more. These are all fundamentals or “spokes” on the wheels to whole “body, mind, and soul” wellness.
I know we are all capable of feeling much better than we do and living a vibrant life on purpose. It doesn’t take a pill to make it happen. For me optimal health will always take a preventative and pro-active approach and will involve a balanced healthy lifestyle.
Exercise, nutrition and hormone optimization are three lifestyle habits that can have a positive effect on health, with weight-loss, and overall well-being.
Exercise and Physical Activity
There are many benefits of regular exercise, but let’s face it, physical activity is easier for some than others. I’ve been an athlete all my life. As a child, it was softball and water skiing. Middle School, it turned to soccer and then running to stay in shape for soccer. In my forties, biking and bodybuilding were a strong focus.
I played a lot along the way and have always been willing to try new recreational pursuits, including kayaking, rollerblading, hiking, kickboxing, yoga, swimming, TRX, bodybuilding, and various fitness and cardio classes. I believe regular exercise should be a part of everyone’s healthy lifestyle, and you must find one that you truly enjoy to keep it consistent. With consistency comes a positive effect on your health and your life.
In my twenties and thirties, my exercise routine included running (aerobic exercise) and competing in races from 2 miles to marathon. Running is a common form of aerobic exercise.
In my late thirties, I discovered strength training (anaerobic exercise) and competed in a 16-week transformation challenge. Not only did I gain muscle strength and core strength, but I sped up my metabolism, which helped me avoid weight gain.
These days, I’m still riding my bike as a form of regular exercise. My personal exercise program also includes yoga. Everyone has different levels of exercise and different preferences. You may like to exercise alone, and others prefer group fitness or sports. You may be just getting started, an expert or someone who participates in the middle: moderate exercise. Whatever you choose, find the things you love and work movement into your life wherever you can.
Note: I believe everyone can benefit from exercise or physical movement, however, if you have any kind of health condition, including coronary heart disease/cardiovascular disease, cancer or diabetes, check with your doctor before beginning any kind of exercise and nutrition/dietary changes.
As an adult, my nutrition became extremely important to me. I struggled with digestive issues and hormonal imbalances for most of my twenties and thirties. Doctor after doctor told me nothing was wrong, yet I still did not feel good most days. I knew the answer was with my diet.
I’ve learned that the state of our food in America is frightening. With good intentions (perhaps), we have increased the quantity and lowered the cost of our food. However, it has come at the sacrifice of quality. GMOs, pesticides, herbicides (remember, cide=death in Latin), bovine growth hormones, artificial coloring, and sweeteners are just a few of the things that I am concerned with.
Under the care and guidance of an acupuncturist, I discovered I had gluten sensitivity. WOW! Removing this from my diet was a huge step in helping me feel better!
I have also transitioned to buying organic foods. More expensive, yes. But it certainly tastes better, and I feel better and have less illness since doing so.
In 2009, a good friend introduced me to nutritional cleansing and replenishment. It was like someone turned a light on in my body. My digestion improved, and I achieved my weight loss goals. (I released 21 pounds, 27 inches, and 9% body fat!) It continues to be a major part of my nutrition and healthy lifestyle to this day, and every day!
If you have any form of chronic disease or are at risk due to your family or personal medical history, walking is a great place to start to add more movement into your life.
The Health Benefits of Exercise and Nutrition within a Healthy Diet include
- An increase in muscle mass can help you avoid weight gain or maintain a healthy weight.
- Physical exercise can assist with mental health.
- Both can help to
- Lower your risk of heart disease and cardiovascular disease
- Lower blood pressure
- Better blood sugar control and less risk of diabetes
Exercise and nutrition were a constant focus in my twenties and thirties. WHen I hit my forties, I had to add hormone awareness and balancing. In 2015, I went into surgery to have an ovary removed and awoke to realize I had received a full hysterectomy, sudden surgical menopause included. At 43, with no ovaries, I began doing a lot of research on hormones and hormone imbalance. I realized there was a good chance I struggled with hormonal balance (or imbalance) for most of my life.
There is a HUGE difference between synthetic hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and bio-identical hormones regarding hormonal balance. I have chosen the latter and am grateful to my doctors for helping me through this new territory and season of life.
As women, we do not have to suffer or accept that we’re getting older when menopause or perimenopause hits. And, it is more than hot flashes and night sweats. Anxiety and depression are two common symptoms of menopause and hormonal imbalance that can affect our mental health. In addition, weight gain, mood swings, and relationship challenges all become something to manage, and we feel like an alien in our bodies!
“Why are so many young women in their thirties and forties feeling like PMS is their new normal? On a roller-coaster ride of emotions, they are uncharacteristically cranky and fatigued—a bitchy, nasty, fuzzy-minded person they barely recognize and don’t enjoy (and neither, by the way, do their partners and families). It’s perimenopause, that lesser-known term defining the years when women’s hormones are kissing them good-bye, before they reach menopause. Perimenopause takes a big toll on women’s moods, health, and relationships.” (Suzanne Somers)
If you have an irregular menstrual cycle or want to get your hormone levels checked, consider working with a hormone specialist. They’ll check your major sex hormones, including thyroid hormones.
Partnering with your doctors with the goal of hormone balance can have a beneficial effect on your health, mood, and life! Keep in mind, it will change over time. I’ve been on a combination of estrogen, progesterone and testosterone for years, and recently my hormone specialist added thyroid hormones.
Also, know that stress hormones (i.e. cortisol) have a major impact on hormones and overall health and wellness. This will most likely require some lifestyle changes to lower your stress levels.
Other Spokes Beyond Exercise, Nutrition and Hormone Health
We are each responsible for keeping the “spokes” in our Wheels to Wellbeing balanced and in good working condition. From time to time, some areas will require more attention than others.
Some additional spokes or areas you might want to consider include ensuring you get good quality sleep. Everyday activities can make for a busy schedule; however, taking time to slow down, rest, recreate, and break out of autopilot of your day-to-day life can have rewarding effects.
Another area or spoke could be relationships. Consider your spiritual relationship with God, the Universe, or Higher Power, as well as romantic relationships, friendships, family, and colleagues.
What “spokes” are you currently working on? What steps are you taking to live a healthier life? Do you feel the positive effects? Trust that even improving one small area of your life can have beneficial effects on your whole being.