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IS STRESS MAKING YOU FAT? ...ASK THE EXPERT – an interview with Dr. AJ, Naturopathic Doctor

Updated: Mar 23, 2021

Val from Spoil Me Beautiful’s Marketing team sits down with Dr. AJ, ND, RKin for an interview about how to manage stress, lose weight and maintain a healthy body.

Dr. AJ Ferreira is a Toronto based Naturopathic Doctor. She began her career operating a personal training company for over 10 years helping people lose weight and learn the true meaning of healthy living; this led to her passion for healthcare where she now helps people master their hormones - the true reason weight stays stuck. She has a wealth of knowledge and has helped so many people transform their lives, bodies, and health through her practice.

Val: Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me today about such an important topic. It feels like everyone I talk to these days is complaining about stress and weight gain. Then when you are stressed it affects your whole life; when you can’t sleep at night, you reach for more coffee, sugary foods and carbs to try to stay awake. It becomes a vicious cycle and I think we all need help right now to deal with it. I know it has been such a difficult year for everyone and I’m sure you see that with your patients as well?

Dr. AJ: Yes definitely, stress and anxiety have become quite common words this past year, more so than ever. If everything going on this past year has you feeling more stressed than ever, you're not alone.

Val: What do you suggest to your clients to do to manage stress? I can see the correlation myself with my mental health and physical body and the negative impact stress has on me. I recently resigned from an extremely stressful job that was negatively affecting my life and body for the past few years. In the week after I finished work, I lost 6 pounds! I was also amazed that my back pain is now gone after 3 years of suffering! Now it seems that stress was the main cause of my pain. My body was finally able to relax and start to get back to normal. I know I still have a long way to go to reach my goals, but I am excited to work with you on my own customized health, weight loss and fitness plan.

Dr. AJ: That is wonderful news! Your adrenals will thank you- you are living proof that hormonal balance leads to weight loss success! I am happy to hear you are feeling much better now. I am passionate about helping people restore their health after periods of prolonged stress like you went through. Today, I'm going to give you some strategies and supplements that will help reduce stress to start feeling like yourself again.

What is stress anyways?

It starts in your adrenal glands, small organs located on top of your kidneys. They produce the hormone cortisol, however, they are also responsible for other hormone production such as estrogen, testosterone, DHEA, and epinephrine (adrenaline). These hormones regulate your metabolism, immune system and much more! When your adrenal glands are on fire from stress, you start to over or underproduce these hormones.

Why should you care?

Chronic, unmanaged stress zaps these glands making them sluggish at producing those key hormones that regulate every function in our body. These hormones are the secret to maintaining healthy weight, and when they are unbalanced the direct result is either weight gain or the inability to lose weight.

It's important to identify the many different forms of stress: physical (such as from over-exercising, think CrossFit), mental (such as work or family related stress), and also nutritional (under-eating, which is the lie the fitness industry wants us to believe is the key to weight loss). So that means there are many different ways to tackle stress!

5 Strategies to Support Your Adrenals:

1. Nutrition-> Aim to eat foods rich in magnesium & B-vitamins. Consider leafy greens like spinach, avocados, cocoa, beans, nuts & seeds (pumpkin & sunflower seeds, brazil nuts, almonds), eggs, whole grains like barley & brown rice. Also, limiting caffeine intake temporarily to recharge your adrenals as it can increase cortisol secretion. And most importantly, eating meals at regular hours of the day for hormonal balance.

2. Exercise-> Light & gentle is the key. Walking, Pilates, stretching are all great ways to manage cortisol. The heavier & harder the exercise the more stress you place on your body, and the more likely you are to promote an imbalance in hormones.

3. Rest-> Aim to get a minimum of 7+ hours a night of sleep. Support optimal sleep by maintaining regular in bed and waking times, reduce light exposure 2 hours before bed, and engage in regular physical activity.

4. Meditation-> Meditation has been found to significantly reduce cortisol levels and encourages a heightened state of awareness, focus & relaxation.

5. Supplements-> Supplementation is best done with testing cortisol in the body as both high & low levels cause symptoms such as fatigue, abdominal pain, poor appetite, and irregular menstrual cycles.

Val: Wow that is amazing advice, thank you. I can see how following this plan would completely transform your body. I am going to work on changing my diet and incorporating all these tips into my routine. What supplements do you recommend?

Dr. AJ: Supplements are an amazing addition you can make to your healthy diet. Some supplements that can be used to support and protect your hormonal balance and adrenal glands include the following.

5 Supplements to Support Your Adrenals:

1. Ashwagandha-> Supplementing with this herb has been shown to reduce cortisol levels in the body and reduce perceived stress in people suffering from chronic stress.

2. Holy Basil-> Another herb that can help to improve cognitive function as well as reduce salivary cortisol levels.

3. Asian Ginseng-> This herb is well known for it's anti-inflammatory & antioxidant properties. But research has shown it improves chronic fatigue and reduces the body's response to stress.

4. Vitamin C-> The adrenals have the highest concentration of this vitamin in the body & stress causes these glands to release vitamin C. Used in research, vitamin C lowers blood pressure, salivary cortisol & improved subjective stress response ratings. Did you know your body doesn’t make any vitamin C? Getting it from food and supplementation is best!

5. Rhodiola-> This herb has been shown to increase mental performance, concentration, and reduce cortisol levels in the body.

Val: Where can people go to learn more about you and your practice?

Dr. AJ: Know that you are not alone during this time! We may be apart physically but a quick phone call or click is all it takes to chat with me. I offer virtual Naturopathic appointments with insurance receipts to claim through your work benefits. Additionally, you can follow me on Instagram @enrichedwellness or Facebook at Enriched Wellness for daily tips on how to balance hormones and lose weight the right way.

Dr. AJ Ferreira, ND, RKin Tel: (416)671-3021 Email:

Val: Thank you so much Dr. AJ for your sharing your valuable insights and information with us today. We at SMB love to learn how to take care of our bodies from the inside out and live a healthy lifestyle.

Having high energy is essential for living a high standard of life since it directly effects our mood, relationships, productivity and overall confidence. Making these positive changes to your diet and lifestyle will help balance your hormones and allow your body to let go of stress and lose weight. This will in turn give you more energy to enjoy your life and relationships and be more productive. The best part about getting fit and healthy is feeling great about yourself and the new confidence and happiness it brings. Get started today with an action plan, even small changes made today will make a big difference by the summer!

“Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day-in and day-out.” –Robert Collier

By Valerie Maltman & Dr. AJ Ferreira, ND, RKin • March 16, 2021

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