The quality of the rest of your life starts with the decisions you make right now. That’s quite a statement and one you may not think about that often. Sure we all try to make healthy choices and decisions, but before you act on them, do you think about how they will effect the overall quality of your life?
Our usual emphasis on strength, energy and overall health & well-being is still paramount. Though our goal is never to solely focus on weight and the numbers on the scale, we know that weight loss is an important step on the path towards optimum health. This spring, Susanna and I have put together a weight loss challenge and it is one in which you can lose weight AND gain strength and cardiovascular benefits as well. You may even learn something about nutrition you hadn’t thought of before. It will be a challenge that will provide an opportunity to learn and focus on getting stronger and leaner.
All the tasks you have been completing and will continue to complete each week will lead up to our challenge starting on April 28th. By now you should be focused on getting 7 hours of sleep, drinking 1/2 your body weight of water in ounces (i.e. 100 lb individual would drink 50 ounces of water), eliminating hydrogenated oils and HFCS, getting more vegetables in, writing in a food journal, and focusing on strength training and HITT intervals.
This post will address some common issues that lead to weight gain or prevent weight loss. Some may seem obvious, and others you may not have suspected. It’s important to understand that weight loss isn’t just about exercising more and eating less. It can be a complicated issue that has many different dimensions. Susanna will tackle some of the issues in this post and other issues will be addressed in our weight loss challenge. As always, if you have any questions or concerns don’t hesitate to email me or Susanna!
Some of the issues that impact weight that are not always discussed are:
1. Sleep: Did you also know that many hormones including leptin (the hormone that tells you you are full) and grehlin (the hormone that stimulates hunger) are affected by the amount of sleep you get? When you don’t get enough sleep, levels of the hormone leptin decrease, which means you don’t feel as satisfied after you Ghrelin, in turn rises, which means your appetite is stimulated, so you want more food. The two combined can set the stage for overeating, which may lead to weight gain. Lack of sleep also impacts insulin, glucagon, cortisol and growth hormone levels, causing us to store rather than burn fat.
2. Liquid Calories: The calories/sugar content in juice, alcohol, soda & coffee drinks really do add up! They taste good and are not really filling, which makes it easy to drink more than one in no time flat! Be aware of how many calories you consume in liquids and try to replace juice with a piece of fruit; limit alcohol to a few drinks a week and replace soda with seltzer water if you need the fizz!
3. Hydration: We know that every cell, tissue and organ in your body needs water to function correctly, but did you know that the sensation of thirst is often confused with hunger? When you’re feeling hungry, try drinking water. Often we may find that we are really thirsty; true hunger will not be satisfied by water.
4. Stress: Chronic stress sets off a chain reaction of hormones. Think about our cave-dwelling ancestors! During times of famine/stress they needed to store calories & fat since food was pretty scarce! To this day, our bodies are still very efficient at storing those calories only our stressors today are no longer wild animals, they are every-day occurrences, often self-induced. Cortisol is our primary stress hormone; when it is released we may be less receptive to the hormone leptin (the hormone that tells your brain you are full), causing you to seek out sugar and fat (again, think of our ancestors) and in our case, since we are likely not in grave danger, overeat.
5. Skipping exercise:Along with burning calories, the mood-boosting and stress –relieving properties of exercise alone are worth it (never mind keeping your heart healthy and your weight in-check)!
6. False Fuels: Stimulants (caffeine, sugar, etc.) may seem to give an energy boost, but they actually deplete our bodies, drawing out minerals and nutrients. These substances are also highly inflammatory and addictive. When we are feeling tired & low in energy, we often reach for these fuels which can trigger unwanted side-effects such as sugar cravings and inflammation, which may lead to weight gain.
7. Unidentified Food Allergies or Intolerances: Undiagnosed food allergies (potentially life-threatening) and intolerances (non life-threatening) can cause inflammation, which leads to weight gain, which causes inflammation, creating a vicious cycle. Eating foods to which you are allergic causes inflammation producing hormones which cause insulin resistance. Insulin is your fat-regulating hormone, resistance to insulin causes your body to hold on to fat instead of burning it. The most common food sensitivities are wheat, dairy, eggs, corn, soy, & peanuts.
8. Medications: can interfere with sugar metabolism, cause inflammation and wreak havoc on healthy gut bacteria which influence immunity, hormone regulation and keep all of our digestive processes working efficiently. Certain medications can also stimulate appetite, increasing the chance of weight gain.
9. Portion Distortion: Knowing how much you are/should be eating is critical and often difficult in a society where portion sizes have gotten out of control.
10. Lack of (Healthy) Fats: Healthy fats like Omega-3′s (found in wild, fatty fish and some nuts & seeds) monounsaturated fats (found in olive oil, avocado, nuts & seeds) and some saturated fats (coconut oil, coconut milk) are absorbed slowly which not only helps you feel satisfied and full for a longer duration of time but combats inflammation and may actually help activate fat-burning genes. Keep saturated fat intake low and avoid all trans-fats.
11. Lack of Planning: Having meal/snack planning strategies in place and carving out time to organize and prepare is vital. Preparing your own meals is hands-down the biggest thing you can do for yourself to promote good health. You are worth the time and energy it takes to prepare healthy, nourishing, fueling food!
12. Confusing Nutrition information/Health Halo: Not knowing what we are really eating is a sure fire way to inadvertently gain weight. Nutrition information is often confusing and always changing. To boot, companies, restaurants, etc. often make products appear healthier than they really are; we call this the “Health Halo”. Is that flax meal muffin loaded with sugar? Or that green tea drink? How about that “healthy” Greek yogurt? Our goal is to demystify some of these confusing claims and get you on your way!
13. Unsupportive friends/family: More than likely you will encounter at least one person who is a little uncomfortable with your new goals and the changes you are making toward a healthier lifestyle. Perhaps you may even have some ‘saboteurs’ in your mix pushing sweets (or a cocktail) when you know it may take you down a slippery slope. There are many reasons friends/family may not be supportive, but the bottom line is you are making these changes for you, not for anyone else. Yes, it is difficult when the people around you are not supportive, so find a tribe of people who are and do not let anyone stop you from your own, personal journey!
14. Emotional Eating: This happens to all of us for a variety of reasons. Check in with yourself. Is it a habit? Are you really hungry? Will eating ____fuel you? Physical hunger comes on more gradually, you are usually open to more options and does not produce feelings of guilt. Emotional eating comes on suddenly, you crave a specific food, and usually produces feelings of guilt.
15. Hormones: We mentioned cortisol, leptin and grehlin, and of course, insulin, but there are many, many hormones (think thyroid, growth, testosterone) that are impacted by our lifestyle and in turn, may impact our weight. How we eat, sleep, move and manage stress are critical factors in hormone regulation. Losing growth hormone as we age, which is a fat-burning hormone, may also contribute to weight gain.
Take a look at some of the items on this list–are there areas you want to investigate? Improve? Take a look at your food journal. Are there any patterns you can see? Keeping track of what you eat and how you feel is an important tool and empowers you to make the changes necessary to meet your health and fitness goals. We will have a great support team to help you on your way!
M & S