I love exercise for so many reasons. For me, it boost my soul and makes me happy. I love my morning run in the country...seeing deer, the silence, the emotion of gratitude... It took me years to enjoy running. When I first started, I remember aiming for 1/2 mile and that was tough. Now I run every morning without hardship and I do it because I love it, not for weight loss.

I did however sign up for a marathon 6 years ago for weight loss and guess what happened? I GAINED weight! I was running 2 times a day. I would get on the scale and it would go up! ARG. I ate the same low carb way...what is going on? I was overtraining, I went beyond  excessive cardio. My high-intensity exercise  routine pushed the body’s stress response too far, which lead to a cascade of biochemical responses that can caused damage to my health.

First, let’s be more specific, MOST people do cardio to lose weight. Some people are more focused on the number on the scale rather than "fat" loss (see photo of fat vs muscle).  The majority of “fat” in our body (over 80%) is collected in one form and stored in body fat cells.  To get rid of it, we can use it as energy which is a process called lipolysis. BUT if you are a "sugar" burner, meaning, you fuel your body with carbs before you exercise, you don't initiate the human growth hormone to burn fat.... you just burn "sugar."

Too much cardio stimulates a stress hormone called Cortisol...yes, you probably heard advertisements for weight loss drugs to reduce cortisol, the undesired "belly fat" increasing hormone...Don't waste your money on these. The easiest and free way to lower cortisol is to sleep! This is why most people gain weight in the summer...not enough sleep. Anyway, cortisol is the hormone that is released when the body is under stress. Stress can be from work, family, not enough sleep, bad eating habits, and excess exercise, such as marathon training, which all stimulate cortisol. All of our hormones go in waves, like the ocean, cortisol is naturally high in the morning, but chronically high levels of cortisol increases your risk for a variety of health issues, such as depression, weight gain, sleep disturbances, and digestive issues. Also, cortisol and testosterone seem to conflict; Aerobic work = more cortisol release = less available testosterone (and you know what that does) while cortisol is elevated.

Excess cardio also effects our brain neurotransmitters such as serotoinin, GABA, and dopamine which are our feel-good, anti-anxiety brain waves. Craving for carbohydrates and binge eating is associated with low serotonin levels. When you burn these out with stress and intense exercise this leads to feelings of depression, chronic fatigue and sleep disorders. A shortage of these healthy neurotransmitters negatively affect the hypothalamic-pituitary axis, which can cause serious conditions such as hypothyroidism. This is why I ask my clients if their thyroid disorder happened during a stressful event. Stress = excessive adrenal hormone output = adrenal burnout = adrenals steal from thyroid.  Hypothyroidism is known to cause weight gain, depression, constipation and digestive dysfunction along with other undesired problems. Again, stress can be from a loss of a loved one, family stress, work stress, exercise induced stress, not enough sleep and poor eating habits.

Excessively intense exercise can cause a variety of health problems, especially for those dealing with other concurrent stressors such as autoimmune disease, leaky-gut, or adrenal fatigue. On the other hand, short, high-intensity workouts are awesome for stimulating the human growth hormone, which induces fat loss.

Another issue when women complain that they are feeling more tired, losing their hair, and not losing weight with exercise is that they are most likely low in iron. About 90% of women are low in iron due to menstruation, a diet filled with gluten which inhibits iron to be absorbed, and excess cardio. Cardio causes you to also lose iron. Fat loss is all about oxidation... if you lack iron you have a hard time carrying oxygen to the mitochondria of you cell, which is where you burn fat. SO, if you are low in iron, fat burning is hard to accomplish. The problem comes in when we push ourselves too hard and we deplete our body even more of this mineral each time you step onto that treadmill. I have a whole chapter about working out for your menstrual cycle in my book: Secrets to a Healthy Metabolism for more tips on how to burn fat efficiently. 

I am still very active, I run in the morning, lift HEAVY weights, practice yoga and walk with my boys after dinner, but I no longer HAVE to run or workout. I do it because I love it.

People often complain to me that they don't have time to cook, well, using things like cauliflower "rice" cuts the time down significantly. I make cauliflower into "rice" the night before so all I have to do is stir fry it up until soft. Traditional rice take a long time to cook; cauliflower rice only take 3 minutes.

2 TBS macadamia nut or olive oil
1 TBS paprika
 2 tsp dried oregano
 Celtic sea salt and fresh black pepper to taste
2 lbs boneless chicken breasts, cut into 2 inch pieces

4 TBS coconut oil, divided
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 head of cauliflower, pulsed into "RICE"
1 pinch saffron threads
1 bay leaf 1/2 bunch Italian flat leaf parsley, chopped
2 lemons, zested
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, coarsely chopped
1 lb chorizo sausage, casings removed and crumbled
1 lb shrimp, peeled and de-veined

In a medium bowl, mix together 2 tablespoons oil, paprika, oregano, and salt and pepper. Stir in chicken pieces to coat. Cover, and refrigerate.

Cut the cauliflower into pieces and pulse in a food processor until small pieces of "rice." TIP: You can also use the heart of the cauliflower for rice, or use for making "French Fries." Set aside "rice." (TIP: can do this up to 2 days ahead of time and store in fridge for easy lunch/dinner options).

 Heat 2 TBS oil in a large skillet or paella pan over medium heat. Stir in garlic, red pepper flakes, and Stir in saffron threads, bay leaf, parsley, lemon zest and cauliflower "rice". Cook, stirring, about 3-5 minutes or until cauliflower pieces are done to desired liking.  If you want a visual, click HERE to see a video of me making Cauliflower Risotto on KARE 11 TV.

 Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons oil in a separate skillet over medium heat. Stir in marinated chicken and onion; cook 5 minutes. Stir in bell pepper and sausage; cook 5 minutes. Stir in shrimp; cook, turning the shrimp, until both sides are pink. Spread cauliflower "rice" mixture onto a serving tray. Top with meat and seafood mixture. Makes 8 servings.

Traditional Paella = 736 calories, 35g fat, 55g protein, 46g carbs, 2.9g fiber (43.1 effective carbs)
"Healthified" Paella = 531 calories, 32g fat, 55g protein, 3.8g carbs, 1.3g fiber (2.3 effective carbs)

Here is a SUPER FOOD to help with iron levels, energy and soooo many things!

SPIRULINA: It is a sea vegetable in concentrated form (Enhances Immune System, Improves Digestion,  Suppress bad bacteria like candida and ecoli and help strengthen the good digestive bacteria that help reduce stomach bloating and help increase digestive health, Increases Energy and Endurance,  Detox’s metals and toxins from the body and blood. It is a great detoxifier because it naturally contains manganese, zinc, copper, selenium and other minerals that help neutralize free radicals that cause cell damage. Cleanses the liver and kidneys. Balance blood sugar levels to help control cravings, appetite, and weight, Helps maintain healthy cholesterol levels, Reduces inflammation and water retention, Reduces seasonal allergies, Anti-aging: high antioxidants, Eye Health: more beta-carotene than 10 carrots! Enhances nails and hair, Spirulina is the highest source of vitamin B-12. Are you a female/an athlete/or have a food allergy and are low in iron? Spirulina is very high in available iron which is very important to supplement with especially if you are female.

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