The Healthy Source - Katie Penman


Our resident Savvy Birds contributing Dietitian, Katie Penman, is kindly coming on board to share all she knows about living your best and healthiest life!


Welcome to Katie's first post and keep an eye out for "Puff + Pantry" on Instagram coming soon.

Rebecca Knight

Stress, Diet & End of Financial Year

So, it comes to the end of another financial year (EOFY), stressors are accumulating (tax - urgh), its winter- cold nights, fires burning and comfort food indulging – move over salmon and salad and welcome aboard spag bol and a hearty red!

I’m no financial guru so I’ll steer clear of advice in that area, however, I do know that what we eat can have a major impact on our stress levels and our stress levels can have a major impact on what we eat! Do you reach for the chocolate when you’re under the pump? That’s because sweet food tastes better when we’re strung out!

Women are stretched, stressed and time-poor like never before. You might live your life by the three a’s (avocado, active wear and acai bowls) but that doesn’t necessarily mean your body is working perfectly. Stress plays a critical role in both your internal health and your external glow. Read on to find how and why!

Your adrenal glands are two very precious, walnut-sized glands that sit just on top of your kidneys. They may be small, but they are powerful.  They play a vital role in your health, body shape and size, vitality, skin, hair, nails and they contribute to your sense of coping and calm. The adrenal glands produce many hormones, two of which are your stress hormones, namely adrenalin and cortisol.

Adrenalin is your short term, acute stress hormone. It is the one that is produced when you get a fright. Adrenalin is designed to get you out of danger – and get you out of danger fast! In the modern world it is more psychological stress that drives us to make adrenalin, and for many men and women today that stress is never switched off. Adrenalin makes your heart race, your thoughts race, and gives you a jittery feeling that can make it difficult to feel calm and centred, despite your best efforts. Usually because of this we race for caffeine… ‘coffee, coffee, coffee’! However, caffeine stimulates the release of adrenaline. The coffee you thought might calm you down, may in fact be having the opposite effect. When adrenaline is generated, sugar is released into the blood stream, which in turn then promotes the production of insulin.  Insulin is one of our primary fat storage hormones. It also sets your blood sugar up to crash at a later stage, creating a fatigued state that makes you feel like only more caffeine or high-sugar foods can fix it. So, instead of your body being able to replenish the non-vital processes (nourish skin, hair, nails and allow the reproductive system to work optimally), it puts all its resources into saving your life. Levels of calm and well-being certainly improve with less caffeine.

Cortisol is your long-term stress hormone. Long term stressors these days tend to be based on financial situations (welcome the EOFYü), relationship concerns, challenges with friendships and uncertainty or worries about your health or body. Long term stress can lead to changes in your metabolism and essentially your behaviour which then takes away from your body’s ability to rest, restore, replenish and revitalise.  In the right amounts, cortisol can help you continue to burn body fat for energy while maintaining stable blood sugar levels. Cortisol is designed to be high in the morning to help you wake with bounce, energy and vitality. If you have been stressed for a while, excess cortisol is produced which leads to your body holding on to extra body fat for survival (especially around the tummy, back of arms and lower back). Cortisol can provide potential challenges to someone who believes their only solution to body fat loss is eating less. Yet, if you eat less, you confirm the belief that the body needs to store fat and metabolism will be slowed even further. Therefore, cortisol issues need to be resolved to be able to decrease body fat.

Very few of us rest or live in a calm state where productivity, patience and kindness tend to easily flow. The PNS (the ability to rest, digest, repair, reproduce and radiate) is activated when we truly rest- this is essential to feeling centred and calm. Calm is vital to optimal digestion. We need to slow down to stop stress hormone production which in turn will allow the blood supply to support the digestive system.

Stress is inevitable but it doesn’t need to creep up as frequently as we may allow it to. Here’s a few surprising ways you can beat a stress injection:

  • Take a break from excessive and intense exercise – try swapping one or two of your high intensity exercise classes for gentle forms of exercise such as yoga, Pilates or walking
  • Diaphragmatic breathing – make a conscious effort to relax and breathe deeply for 10 minutes every evening. Pop your legs up against the wall while you do this- it helps to boost circulation back toward the upper body and head. When practicing this pose, you’re practicing the opposite of action, which is reception. We’re more ready to receive rather than act in our daily life and that speaks mountains for relieving the load we place on ourselves, physically, mentally and emotionally. It’s also the easiest and cheapest way to restore balance to the body so go ahead and give it a go!
  • Include good fats and good-quality protein sources in your diet – healthy fats (think avocado, nuts, olive oil, oily fish like salmon, olives etc) and good quality proteins (chicken, fish, lean red meat, legumes) can work wonders in balancing your hormones
  • Reduce your caffeine intake – think before you go for yet another coffee, energy drink or chocolate bar!
  • Laugh! Go out, hang out with your friends or watch a funny movie and enjoy a good belly laugh- this does wonders for your cortisol levels!
  • Pat your pets- pet therapy can go a long way in helping reduce stress levels as it promotes a calming state. So go ahead and show them the love!
  • Cap your social media catch ups. All the intermittent scrolling we do increases stress as we are subjected to constant information overload. We’re not looking for simple information either, marketing and advertising, events, foodspo, fitspo and all things which potentially distract us from what we’re doing, suck time from our day unnecessarily and worst – make us feel like we are missing out. Limit social media, and you’ll limit your stress levels too.
  • Say ‘no’! We’re encouraged to be positive, open and look for opportunity not decline invitations right? This is absolutely true, but only if it serves your ‘why’ or purpose in life. Jumping too often and saying ‘yes’ to everything can result in a list a mile long of ‘stuff’ to get done, and that ‘stuff’ can cause some serious stress. Why? Simply because you cannot tick all those boxes and look after your own mental, emotional and physical health at the same time. Something inevitably has to give and that usually is our health. We can’t sacrifice our health for the sake of the yes game, instead we need to stay true to our why and only say ‘yes’ to those things we are 100% passionate about.
  • Time block your day – don’t sweat the small stuff. Allow only a small amount of time in your day to get these simple tasks done otherwise we are time wasting and forget the big things which can have a big impact on stress levels.

If you’re feeling like everything is overwhelming and it’s all too much, have a go at incorporating some of these strategies into your daily routine. You’ll never know if you never give it a go! You might find that you are able to cope a lot better with the stressors in your life. For more advice on stress and diet contact one of your local accredited practicing dietitians.

To speak with our local Dietitian, Katie Penman, and for more about your health and well-being, contact us at Savvy Birds at to pass on details. In the meantime, definitely keep an eye out for more posts by Katie and her Instagram - "Puff + Pantry" - coming soon!