So with juggling woman with her nervous system, when she’s living on adrenaline in that fight-or-flight response, with all that intensity to counterbalance that, we want to activate the green zone which is the calming aspect of our nervous system and that’s what a long slow diaphragmatic breath does. That’s how you activate that. And when we are living in that beautifully calm place, we burn our body fat very easily as our fuel. But when we’re living in the red zone, living on adrenaline, your body has no choice but to believe that your life is literally in danger, it needs to power you to get out of that danger and it needs a fuel, it’s got to supply you with fuel to get out of that danger, to take a wild guess between your body’s fuel of glucose and fat which is the fast burning one, it’s always going to be glucose or sugar to power you out of there. So when we are calm, we burn our body fat very readily.
And I’ve seen this countless times with people. A woman completed the New York Marathon and came to see me afterwards, because she’d run between 40 and 90 miles every week for nine months, eaten amazingly and gained 12 kilos; how is that possible, I had my own experience with this.
While I was at university I used to be a mad keen runner, I would run for two hours virtually every day. But then I got a job running a health retreat and I had to get up at 20 past 4:00 in the morning to be at work on time to wait the guests. And by 6 o’clock in the morning, we were doing Tai Chi for 30 minutes with very slow gentle arm movements but you diaphragmatically breath for 30 minutes. And then I would take the guests on a very gentle walk. So it went and my eating remained the same across this period. I went from being little miss crazy, run our burning bucket loads of calories to little miss Tai Chi, hardly burning any and my clothes got looser and looser and looser even though my food stayed the same. And it completely fried my brain because if the calorie equation held true the exact opposite was supposed to happen. And it was that experience that led me to go back to my geeky biochemistry textbooks with the question in my mind: what leads the human body to get the message that it needs to burn fat and what leads the human body that it needs to get the message that it has to store fat. But that’s a story for another day. So understand that when we are calm, we use our body fats so readily as fuel.
The other body system that can be so enormously impacted upon when we are living in this frantic state is our sex hormones. Progesterone in particular — it has reproductive — it does reproductive things in our body but it does other amazing things. It’s an anti-anxiety agent; it’s an antidepressant, and it’s a diuretic. But we make our progesterone in the first half of the menstrual cycle from exactly the same place where we make our stress hormones. And when we’re juggling everything in our world we churn out adrenaline which says our life is in danger and we churn out another stress hormone called cortisol that says there’s no food left in the world. And your body links progesterone to fertility. And so the last thing it wants is for you to bring a baby into the world where it feels you’re not safe and there’s no food.
And so your body thinks it’s doing you a great big favor by shutting down your adrenal production of progesterone. And in my opinion that is the biggest biochemical challenge facing women’s health today. That scenario with low progesterone and too much estrogen, that is chaos for us and everyone around us. Good luck at being patient and kind to the people you love the most in the world when you’ve got that going on.
And I know that firsthand. When my work first got busy, I would stay up until 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning doing emails, I would then get up again about half past 5:00 or 6:00 in the morning, get back on emails, go to work and see patients back-to-back all day, then clear the messages, return the messages, then go and buy the groceries, come home, cook dinner, spend some time with my beloved and then get back on emails. And I lived like that for four months before he and I had a conversation that the way I was living was unsustainable.
So even with all of my knowledge and all of my rituals, I still fell into the trap of trying to please every single human in my realm and wanting them to like me. And if you think about that scenario, there aren’t even children in that mix, and that’s because I’m not brave enough to be a mother, because I can’t imagine being the mother that I would want to be while still doing my mission in this world. I can’t imagine how I would do that.
But it was that experience that led me to go back again to my geeky biochemistry textbooks and come to diagnose what I have come to call Rushing Woman Syndrome and we don’t need to live like that. It’s time for us to put our oxygen masks on first. We have to give ourselves the oxygen before we can be of service to others and to allow us to live our missions. And for me that is to educate and inspire and enhance people’s health and happiness and ignite a ripple effect that transforms the world.
It is time for the dawning of a new era within ourselves. Supply yourself with that oxygen. I want you to picture in your mind’s eye a little girl — cute little girl wearing a pretty dress and she’s on her own, in her own little world and she’s spinning around going lalala, she knows that she is precious, she lives every moment from that place, and we were all born with that knowing, but we lose it. And I believe we spend our entire lives trying to feel like that again. Only we do it using means and substances that sometimes harm our health: too much food or not enough food; too much alcohol or caffeine or spending beyond our means, or running ourselves ragged trying to be all things to all people.