Confession: I’m the mom who used to fall asleep in the carpool line—and it happened more than once.

In the morning, I'd feel great; I'd wake ready to take on the world. But I noticed that by 2:00 pm my energy was completely zapped and I had insatiable cravings for something sweet or salty to help me get through the afternoons and evenings.

Tomery, my personal trainer at Life Time Fitness, was the first expert I started working with and she suggested I take a saliva test to measure my cortisol levels throughout the day and get a better understanding of what was going on with my body. Turns out that my early morning corisol levels were normal, but by late-morning my cortisol dived below normal and stayed that way through the rest of the day and evening.

Read: My cortisol was on the verge of burnout, putting me in stage 3 adrenal fatigue, which can be triggered by any type of stress and explained my cravings, fatigue, irritability, and muscle aches. If ignored, this could be very dangerous and lead to more serious problems such as Addison’s disease.

Both Tomery and my dietitian, Lauren, soothingly explained that I shouldn’t panic and that my condition is reversible by paying attention to the way I exercise (no more long bouts of high-intensity cardio), my stress levels, and how and what I eat. The key is to keep blood sugars stable, they said.

When the body is stressed, cortisol is constantly obtaining glucose, which triggers high blood sugar, but you don’t have to have low cortisol to see the benefits of stabilizing blood sugar. Eating low-glycemic index foods helps blood sugar stay under control, which means energy levels won’t spike and dive and—the best part—it helps to kill those pesky sweet and salty cravings.

Here’s an example of how I changed my diet.

Breakfast
Before: Oatmeal with brown sugar
After: Bacon and eggs, protein shake, or another high-protein meal

Lunch
Before: Carb-y panini, sub, or burrito
After:  Big salad loaded with plenty of veggies, protein such as chicken or salmon, and a few walnuts or almonds

Dinner
Before: Pasta with bread and a side salad
After: Lots of veggies with stir-fried, grilled, or baked beef, chicken, or fish

Snacks
Before: Flavored sweetened yogurt, sugary cereal, chocolate, toast with jelly
After: Nuts, olives, cheese, veggies, unsweetened yogurt with berries

I’m grateful to have an understanding of what was going on with my body and have an explanation for my fatigue. But most importantly, it’s empowering knowing that I have control over my health, energy levels, and cravings by simply controlling what I eat and making the right choices.

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