Besides classic adolescent mood swings, menstruation and menopause, how much do you actually know about hormones?
Well, as it turns out, there’s a lot more to hormones than meets the eye. Period. (sorry, I promise I won’t make any more hormone jokes). Hormones play a crucial role throughout the body, every single day.
Hormones control our sleep, our immune system and even our libido! (Hot flush alert!)
Are you ready to control those hormones for good?
The extremely knowledgeable Michelle Chevalley Hedge is an American nutritionist, health writer, presenter and a close friend of mine. She created The Australian Healthy Hormone Diet to help you uncover what your hormones are actually trying to tell you!
The Australian Healthy Hormone Diet offers a four-week nutritional plan that encompasses both lifestyle and nutritional changes to help bring your life, and your hormones, back into balance. If you’re looking to start your hormone-healing journey but you’re not even sure where to begin, Michelle shares countless stories to help you understand just how hormone imbalances can manifest throughout your life and how it’s something every single one of us can experience.
For example, if you’re someone who experiences high stress, your cortisol levels could be through the roof, if you have metabolism issues, you may want to check your thyroid and if you suffer from anxiety, it’s time to up that serotonin!
The Australian Healthy Hormone Diet will show you how to find balance in your life through delicious recipes and simple lifestyle tips for lasting changes. I love the little informative tid-bits she includes throughout the book, discussing things like the fat vs. skim debate and the importance of sleep!
Enjoy my interview with Michelle and don't forget to check out her delicious recipe for her Brussel Sprouts Chicken Caesar Salad (um... yum!) below.
- Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you started your health journey?
I have always been interested in food - madly interested. My mum is Italian, with 5 sisters, so I grew up in a home where ‘food is love’. I thought I would go into medicine and health as a career but as life has it, I ended up getting a scholarship to a business school and a fellowship for a Masters in Computers. This landed me a career in education and marketing for Microsoft here in Australia 26 years ago. I often tell people how I came here to speak at a conference, and fell in love with a man and a country - in 24 hours!!!
While I was working at Microsoft, like most time-poor working people, my physical and mental health began to suffer. My moods, brain clarity, energy, and sleep was unbalanced, not to mention my weight would fluctuate 2-3 kilos a week due to my stress hormone, cortisol being overloaded. In retrospect, I am so lucky to have that career, as now as a nutritionist I can say to most super busy time poor people….’I get you! I truly understand wanting to get healthy without an extreme approach!'
- Do you subscribe to a food or wellness philosophy?
I like ‘a healthy view’, not an extreme one. I educate our clients on how food needs to be tasty, easy and affordable. If it is not, then it is not in our books, plans or cleanse programs. I believe in eating as much real food as possible and when we are not that is ok, but make a conscious, mindful choice. For example, if you are going to have a couple of Friday night champagnes then perhaps that day you don't have sushi rice with your meal because you know you're going to have a fair bit of sugar from your champagne.
- What are your top 3 cooking staples?
Oh, that is difficult to limit to three! Food-wise… it would be flaxseeds, avocado, and eggs. I could live on those three yummy things to keep me satiated and my bowels moving! Equipment wise… it would be a NutriBullet, case iron fry pan, tea pot.
- If you could cook a meal for one person, what would you make?
I love eggs, poached, boiled, or scramble for breakfast or lunch with wild flavours added but I will tell you my favourite, easy, peasy dinner.
A piece of fish rubbed with some moroccan season and oil to marinate in the fridge before I leave for work. Arrive home and chop a sweet potato in small chucks ( smaller chucks means less cooking time) and toss in boiling water for about 15 minutes. Drain and mash, adding some olive oil, salt and pepper. While the sweet potatoes are cooking, I decide if I'll bake this fish or pop on the BBQ for only 8-10 minutes depending on the thickness of the fish. I'll use any veggie I have, often broccoli, cauliflower or green beans. Toss them in oil and a tiny bit of preserved lemon, finely chopped. Place the veggies alongside the fish either in the oven at 200 degrees or the BBQ for about 8-10 minutes or until cooked.
Lay the sweet potato mash on a white plate. Place the fish on top and pop the veggies alongside. Yum!
- How do you know if your hormones are out of whack?
Do you ever wake up tired after 8 hours of sleep? Do you have trouble losing weight or maintaining weight despite eating like a bird? Do you go to bed exhausted but lie there - tired but wired? Is your weight going straight to your tummy? Are you hungry all the time? Are you moody, anxious or depressed and cannot understand why?
These are just a few of the signs that something is hormonally out of balance.
It could be that you are on cortisol overload from food and life stresses. It could be a sluggish thyroid hormone hijacking your weight. Perhaps it is your insulin levels, creating high testosterone levels and cascading into PCOS. Or oestrogen excess and heavy periods or cystic breasts? Our humble hormones have a lot to answer for.
- What are your top tips for people who are trying to balance their hormones?
Take 4 weeks out of your life and eat clean, real food that is low sugar, no gluten and low dairy. Make sure you have someone or a book to guide you and provide you with easy recipes that taste delicious. If your food is tasty and satiating, then it is repeatable and becomes a habit and will most likely continue beyond the 4 weeks because it's easy to follow.
- I'm in menopause, what foods do you suggest for people like me?
I love talking about menopause, but this book is for men and women of all ages not just with menopause hormone issues. But since we are on this hot topic let me say that doing our 4-week rebalance that is included in the book will bring back you energy, shine, and perhaps even your libido. The 4-week program is designed to get your liver clean, tummy flat, digestion working and brain firing. We do that with recipes that are nutritionally dense, high in fibre, with good fats and quality proteins.
- What inspired you to write your latest book, The Australian Healthy Hormone Diet?
In our clinical practice, A Healthy View and at our corporate speaking engagements, we were seeing an alarming number of people who were angry with themselves for lack of willpower and self-discipline. I want people to stop beating themselves up and start looking beneath the surface of weight gain, exhaustion, belly back, fat and muffin tops! I want people to start exploring if their fat storage hormone, insulin, is out. I would like people to explore if their stress hormone, cortisol, is keeping weight on their belly or perhaps it’s an undiagnosed, sluggish thyroid hormone. People who are suffering from PMT, fibroid and fertility issues - could it be that your oestrogen is out of whack? Men who are exhausted and gaining a ‘dad bod’ need to know what is going on with their bodies, brains and hormones and its connection to food.
- Tell us about The Australian Healthy Hormone Diet?
It is a 4-week, step by step recipe and lifestyle program to rebalance your hormones. It starts off in Part I with real people, sharing their true experiences of PCOS, exhaustion, brain fog, lack of libido, and anxiety. Those clients then go on to explain how the 4 week hormone rebalance has become part of their life because it is so easy. It includes delicious recipes in a food combining way.
- What’s your favourite recipe from The Australian Healthy Hormone Diet?
Brussel Sprout Caesar Salad. "Lock up your Brussels Sprouts"…as Lee says! This dish is scrumptious and nutritious. I love the flavour of the dressing and I am in a race to out caesar my Italian mum in New York. She is hands down the queen of caesar dressing. The added benefit of Brussel sprouts being liver cleansing just takes this dish to the next level.
For more information, check it out here.
Warm Brussels Sprouts Chicken Caesar Salad
- 4 x 150 g skinless chicken breast fillets
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 500g brussel sprouts, thinly sliced
- chopped flat-leaf parsley, to garnish
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tsp finely grated lemon zest
- 1/2 cup lemon juice
- 2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
- 3 teaspoons dijon mustard
- 2 teaspoons tamari
- 2 teaspoons capers, rinsed
- Sea salt to taste
- freshly ground black pepper (optional)
- To make the dressing, combine the olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, garlic, mustard, tamari and capers in a blender and blend until smooth. Taste and season if required
- Place the chicken in a glass or ceramic dish, then pour half the dressing evenly over the top. Set aside to marinate for at least 15 minutes (though if you can, prepare this in the morning or even the night before so it's had plenty of time to marinate). The dressing will keep for up to 3 days in the refrigerator
- Preheat the oven to 180°C
- Transfer the chicken breasts to a baking dish and bake for 20-25 minutes or until cooked through. Alternatively, cook them on the barbecue
- Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat, add the sprouts and sauté for about 5 minutes or until just tender. Transfer to a large bowl.
- Toss the remaining dressing through the sprouts.
- Slice the chicken and scatter over the top, then garnish with flat-leaf parsley and serve