I usually go to Arizona about once a year in the wintertime to escape the bitter cold and get some much-needed vitamin D. Being able to run outside, sit in the sun, and simply leave my house without wearing 20 layers is an amazing, much-appreciated change.
But whenever I’m there, something always stands out to me: People there are on a different time. I don’t mean this literally—as in them being in a different time zone—but I mean this metaphorically. They just work slower. Don’t mistake this as an insult; it’s actually very refreshing. Complete strangers strike a conversation with you, employees ask you about your day as you check out at the grocery store, and everyone isn’t in that frantic, rushed state like we are here in Toronto.
For the first few days of being there, I even find myself feeling frustrated with everyone’s slower pace. Why is this person driving so slowly! Why is it taking so long to check out! But I soon realize the problem isn’t with them, it’s with me. Why am I moving at such a fast pace? Why do I need to check out in less than five minutes?
This train of thought got me thinking about all the things we have accepted as “the new normal” in our busy lives. But once you start to understand your body a bit better, you realize what truly is normal, and what isn’t.
Normal or Not?
“I only poop twice a week.” NOT NORMAL.
Yup, I’m starting off with a bang and talking about poop. I hear way too many people say they only have three or four bowel movements per week. Realistically, you should be pooping every single day. And not just one of those pellet poops; I’m talking a good, satisfying poop.
FIX IT: If you aren’t pooping with ease at least once a day, try upping your fibre intake, enjoying more probiotics, chugging some water, and reducing stress. Many people don’t realize how interrelated stress and bowel movements are; the more stressed and uptight you feel, the less likely you’ll be able to poop. (If you want to read more about how to cure constipation, check out my other blog post.)
2. “I wake up at 2am every night and can’t get back to sleep.” NOT NORMAL.
Waking up to pee in the middle night or tossing and turning a bit is one thing; waking up at 3am and taking an hour to fall back asleep is not. If this continually happens to you, it could be an issue of fluctuating cortisol levels (linked to fatigued adrenal glands), unstable blood sugar levels, too much caffeine, or anxiety in general. If your cortisol levels are too high and on their own erratic schedule, it doesn’t matter what time you go to bed; your body is going to wake you up in the middle of the night.
FIX IT: Reduce caffeine intake, keep your blood sugar stable throughout the day by eating small, nutrient-dense meals, exercise regularly. And for desperate times, take a melatonin supplement an hour before bed.
3. “I feel a mid-afternoon energy lull at 3pm every day.” NORMAL.
Cortisol is a steroid hormone that our adrenal glands produce that’s involved with blood sugar stabilization, anti-inflammatory actions, heart and blood vessel contractions, central nervous system activation, and the metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Known as our “stress hormone,” cortisol levels peak around 8am so we can get our tushes out of bed, increase during exercise, spike when we’re under stress, and naturally decrease around 3 - 4pm every day. This is precisely why you naturally feel sluggish around that time—because your cortisol levels have naturally declined.
FIX IT: The best way to combat the 3pm energy lull is to manage your blood sugar levels throughout the rest of the day. Stick to meals and snacks that incorporate whole grains, fibre, protein, and healthy fats and opt for a snack that meets this criteria at 3pm. Half a cup of Greek yogurt with some fresh blueberries and ground flaxseeds is a fantastic option. And no matter how tired you feel, avoid caffeine and refined sugars at this time as much as possible; they might make you temporarily feel better but trust me, you’re just postponing your energy crash.
4. “I’m never hungry for breakfast.” NOT NORMAL.
When you wake up in the morning, you haven’t eaten for 6 - 8 hours (depending on how long you’ve slept). You have legitimately been fasting for six or more hours, meaning that your glycogen stores are depleted and your body is in need of fuel. In other words, you should be really hungry when you wake up! Now, I’m not saying that you should feel the need to eat something the moment your eyes open, but if you aren’t hungry at all then it’s likely that you ate too late the night before, overate at dinner, or enjoyed one too many late night snacks.
FIX IT: Eat dinner earlier and don't snack so much at night. And remember, if you’re not used to having breakfast then it might take your body to get used to eating in the morning, but it truly is the most important meal of the day!
5. “I can’t function without coffee.” NOT NORMAL.
If you’re the type of person who can’t even string a sentence together until you’ve had your morning cup of joe, that’s a problem. Your cortisol levels naturally peak around 7 - 8am, meaning you should be the most energized first thing in the morning! If you are feeling abnormally sluggish without your coffee, it could mean that your adrenals are fatigued, your sleeping habits and patterns need to be improved, you’re dehydrated, or nutritionally depleted all together.
FIX IT: Get in the habit of consistently going to bed earlier and eat a well-balanced diet throughout the day. My suggestion would be to cut out coffee for a few weeks so you can focus on strengthening your adrenal glands, improving your diet, and increasing your water intake before enjoying one cup of coffee per day again.
6. “My sex drive has gone down.” NORMAL.
While nutrition can certainly contribute to one’s sex drive, I think many people underestimate just how influential our emotions can be in this realm. If you’re going through a particularly stressful time and haven’t developed any coping mechanisms to deal with said stress, it probably feels impossible to shut your brain off for more than 30 seconds let alone think about having sex. It also might help to look at how your relationship is doing. Have you had a romantic date night recently? Are you and your partner on the same page when it comes to things you do and don’t like? While it's not unusual for our sex drives to fluctuate every now and again, if you're going months without having sex there might be more to the story that needs to be discussed.
FIX IT: Get dressed up and enjoy a romantic date night with your partner. It doesn’t have to be anything super extravagant, but put in that extra effort when you’re getting ready, crack open a bottle of wine, and enjoy some quality alone time with your significant other. Also, try to engage in at least one de-stressing activity every day after work, such as having a bath with epsom salts or giving yourself a manicure. And finally, eat clean. If you’re filling your body with junk, you’re not only going to feel like junk, but you're also just going to feel totally unsexy.
7. “I never take a lunch break.” NOT NORMAL.
I get it, you’re a hard worker and you want everyone else to know it, too. Our culture seems to equate taking a lunch break with laziness, which is absolutely preposterous to me. In reality, our brains simply cannot be 100% focused for eight hours solid. You wouldn’t be able to run on a treadmill for eight hours, would you? Why is your brain any different!? Taking a break to enjoy your food will not only significantly improve your digestive capabilities, but it will also help your brain recharge. I guarantee that when you go back to your desk afterward, you’ll get more done than if you had sat there the entire time anyway.
FIX IT: Get over yourself and your fear of “looking lazy” and take a damn lunch break already, even if it’s just 30 minutes. It’s not going to kill you, I promise.
The Bottom Line
Practically every person I work with is addicted to coffee, has trouble sleeping, is chronically dehydrated and constipated, and feels exhausted all the time. So many people think this is normal simply because others are going through the exact same experience, but it simply isn’t. We shouldn’t need a cup of coffee every day to not feel like a zombie. We shouldn't be pooping twice a week. My goal is for you to change the way you define “normal” and get your body in the best shape it can be so that your normal is waking up feeling energized, enjoying a restful sleep each night, and taking a lunch break without feeling like you’re going to get fired.
You Tell Me!
What are some things you’ve noticed that have been masquerading as "normal" habits and occurrences? Let me know in the comments below!