The wonderful Dr. Libby Weaver

Holistic Nutrition Specialist Dr Libby Weaver is one of Australia's leading nutritionists, and the woman I go to straight away when I’m feeling that something is just “not quite right” with the way that my body is working. A shining, gorgeous example of what good eating, exercise and a positive outlook can do for a girl, she is a veritable minefield of tips on how to lead a more “healthful” life. One of the key minds involved with creating the oasis known as Gwinganna Lifestyle Retreat in Queensland, Libby also played a major role at Golden Door's Elysia and works fine tuning the bodies of a broad range of people from stay-at-home parents to prominent sportspeople and Hollywood celebs. Libby completed her PhD examining biochemical and nutritional factors in children with autism, and through this work she came to better understand the role various hormones play in influencing our body shape and size, fertility, our response to exercise, clarity of thought and sleep patterns. For those that have met her and taken her advice, Libby's insights are often described as “life-changing”, and I can definitely vouch for that.  
One of the main things Libby was adamant about incorporating into the programme at Gwinganna was the promotion of the “cortisol message”, which relates the inability to lose weight directly to the stress hormones constantly swirling around in our bodies. “Cortisol is an important hormone in the body, secreted by the adrenal glands and involved in things like glucose metabolism, the regulation of blood pressure and insulin release for blood sugar maintenance,” she explained to me, “but is a major problem when it gets out of control.” Although stress isn't the only reason that cortisol is secreted into the bloodstream, it has been termed “the stress hormone” because it's secreted in higher levels during the body's 'fight or flight' response to stress: the body's response to perceived threat or danger. During this reaction, hormones like adrenaline and cortisol are released, speeding the heart rate, slowing digestion, shunting blood flow to major muscle groups, and generally giving the body a burst of energy and strength. Originally named for its ability to enable us to fight or run away when faced with danger back in the days of caves and sabre tooth tigers, it's now activated in situations where neither response is appropriate, like when you're raging in traffic or during a stressful day at work. When the perceived threat is gone, systems are designed to return to normal function via the relaxation response, but in our times of chronic stress, this often doesn't happen enough, causing damage to the body.
Higher and more prolonged levels of cortisol in the bloodstream have been shown to have negative effects, the most common affecting many of us being increased abdominal fat, the bane of many otherwise slender women. “For many women, the key to shifting weight is just learning to breath properly,” Libby explained, “as ridiculous as that may sound!” An inability to turn on that relaxation response is what is holding many of us back from shedding that last five kilograms, “and again, my number one tip is to breathe, lovely long slow deep breaths for a period of time each day. I have seen women who have dieted and exercised for months only really see a result when they have started making this a real part of their life”.
Some other tips on shifting belly fat seem ridiculously simple, but here they are anyway:
Step away from that wine! As well as being loaded with calories, alcohol increases cortisol levels and blood sugar, making fat go straight to your tum.
Get moving! Exercising aerobically for a minimum of 30 minutes a day will improve sensitivity to insulin, lower your blood sugar and decrease both visceral and subcutaneous fat.
Eat healthy fat. Omega 3 and 9 fats work to increase insulin sensitivity and come in many forms: oily fish, flaxseed oil, avocado, olive and nuts and seeds.
Eat low GI carbs. Think many fruits and vegetables, wholegrains, porridge, legumes and basmati or brown rice. These are all slow-release carbs that will not cause blood sugar to spike.
Banish simple carbs. Processed snack foods, white breads and sugars – they sound bad, and most definitely are.
Try some supplements. The following can help reduce your insulin resistance and lower blood sugar, and are as simple as popping a pill: folic acid, magnesium, chromium.
But most importantly, what is the one thing you think we should all avoid? Stress! The unavoidable… so look at the way you manage it, and don't let it ruin your waistline.


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