The Surprising Reason Why Weight Loss May Be Eluding You…

We live in a culture where burning the candle at both ends is praised and exhaustion is worn like a badge of honor. Most people are continually seeking new ways to cram more “stuff” into the 24 hours they are gifted each day. Meanwhile, we are told that we need to get at least 7 hours of sleep each night.

We know the importance of sleep… We KNOW aren’t doing ourselves any favors over the long-term by going to bed late and waking up early in an effort to be more productive… We know all this and yet we still do it!

That was me! I knew my lifestyle of going to bed at 10:30 pm and waking up at 3:00 am was not great for me. Intellectually, I got it, but dialing back my wake up time still seemed to be the best option to cram more hours in my already overstuffed schedule, so I continued this regimen for years. I never correlated my “weight creep” between 2013 and 2017 with my chronically sleep deprived state.

Then, several months ago, while reading through some supporting material for my nutrition coaching certification program, I gleaned some information that was a serious emotional impact moment for me. Since then, ensuring that I get at least 7 hours of sleep each night has been a priority for me – even if it means going to bed at 8pm each night. So, in this post, I want to share what I learned with you. I welcome your feedback as you process it.

For most people weight problems are not a willpower issue; they are a hormonal issue. When the hormones associated with blood sugar (insulin), body composition and muscle growth (growth hormone), hunger and satiety (ghrelin and leptin) get out of balance, weight gain follows as naturally as the sun rising and setting. As it turns out SLEEP can be a major driver in the balance of these important hormones and inadequate sleep can be a recipe for diet disaster no matter how iron-clad our willpower may be.

So dive into it, shall we? In a study done at the University of Chicago, researchers discovered that after only four nights of sleep deprivation (4.5 hours of sleep per night), insulin sensitivity was reduced by 30%… THIRTY PERCENT!!!  This means that the body’s ability to properly use insulin (to move glucose into our cells for use as energy) became completely disrupted. When insulin can’t do its job, blood sugar remains high and the excess gets stored in fat cells and in our organs. This is very bad news!

Another study followed a group of dieters who were put on different sleep schedules. When the dieters received adequate rest, half of the weight they lost was from fat. However, when they cut back on sleep (again to about 4.5 hours per night), the amount of fat lost was cut in half (55% less fat lost) —even though they followed the same diet. The study participants also reported that felt significantly hungrier, were less satisfied after meals, and lacked energy to exercise. So, even if we are doing EVERYTHING right while we are awake, we are sabotaging our weight loss efforts if we cheat ourselves on adequate sleep. AMAZING, right?

Oh, but it gets worse… We’ve talked about our hormonal friends leptin and ghrelin before – leptin is the hormone that helps us feel satisfied so that we don’t overeat. Ghrelin is the hormone that stimulates hunger and makes us want to eat (oh, it also reduces our metabolism – nice…). So, we need to control leptin (increase) and ghrelin (decrease) in our favor to successfully lose weight, but sleep deprivation makes that nearly impossible. Research has shown that sleeping less than six hours triggers the area of your brain that increases your need for food while also depressing leptin and stimulating ghrelin.

But wait, there’s more… When we are sleep deprived, our cortisol levels rise. Cortisol is a stress hormone that is often associated with fat gain (particularly “belly” fat). Cortisol activates the reward center in our brain (the amygdala) that makes us want food. The combination of increased cortisol and increased ghrelin shuts down the areas of our brain that leave us feeling satisfied after a meal, meaning we feel hungry ALL THE TIME—even if we just ate a meal.

And get this:  Even ONE night of sleep deprivation can be enough to impair activity in our frontal lobe, which is the area of our brain that controls complex decision-making. As it turns out, sleep deprivation is a little like being drunk. We just don’t have the mental clarity to make good decisions, specifically with regards to the foods we eat. So, we have impaired decision making coupled with a fired up amygdala that only wants high-calorie, feel good foods and it’s no wonder that our weight loss efforts fail!

So, let’s review… When we are short sleeping – say, less than 5 hours per night (and be honest, how many times in your life have you gotten less than 5 hours of sleep for several nights in a row? I know I’ve done it for MONTHS on end in the past), we are trashing the very hormones that should be working for us regarding our weight and virtually guaranteeing that any efforts we make to lose weight during our waking hours will be unsuccessful.

What if the struggles you have had with your weight were not the result of some failure of willpower or some loss in the genetic lottery, but rather just the biological result of not getting enough SLEEP? What if?

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3 Tips For Alleviating Sugar Detox Side Effects

Minimizing added sugar in your diet is a big step in the right direction when it comes to improving your health, but while your body adjusts to your new diet; you can experience some unpleasant sugar detox side effects. They may include headaches, body aches, nausea and of course cravings for anything and everything sweet. The key is resist the urge to go running for the vending machine or office candy dish. Instead, try these three tips to help you make it through the relatively short detox period.

Drink Lots of Water

First and foremost make sure you drink plenty of water. Not only will staying hydrated help alleviate many of the detox symptoms, but it will also keep you full.

Feel a headache coming on? Get a glass of water. Want a cookie or donut? Get a glass of water. One of my favorite strategies when I don’t think I can make it without another sweet treat or when the plate of danishes in the breakroom are calling my name is to pour myself a big glass of water, drink it slowly and then make myself wait 15 minutes. By then the craving has usually passed, or at the very least, I’m so full with water that I can pass on the sugary stuff.

Supplement With A Good Multi Vitamin

Vitamin C, B vitamins, and Zinc are all known to help with cravings. Taking a good multi vitamin may be just the thing to help reduce detox side effects and make it through the few not so pleasant days of getting used to consuming a lot less sugar.  In addition, you can talk to your medical care provider about supplementing with a few of these micronutrients in higher doses. Don’t do this without medical supervision or the advice of your doctor though.

Stay Busy

Last but not least, I need you to realize that a lot of the cravings and not feeling well is in your head. The more you focus on negative side effects of detoxing from sugar, the worse they will get. The best way to avoid this is to stay busy. While I don’t recommend doing a sugar detox when you’re at work, particularly during a busy or stressful time, staying busy is a good idea. Make some plans to head out with friends, go for a walk, reorganize your closet, or just settle in for a Netflix marathon. What you do doesn’t matter as long as you stay busy and keep your mind of the sugar detox symptoms.

Healthy Daily Actions Challenge

The cornerstone to a healthy life is making choices and taking actions each and every day that promote better health and wellness. We’ve reached the middle of January, and many people have already cast their New Year’s Resolutions to the curb. However, making big strides in improving our health doesn’t have to be some grand gesture… It doesn’t have to be some huge mountain to climb. It can be as simple as making healthier choices, one day at a time.

For the rest of the month, I challenge you to explore some healthy daily actions and then choose 2-3 of them that resonate with you personally and work to turn them into new habits. We already know that it is not wise to try to build too many new habits at once, so please keep in mind that this challenge is not about doing all of these actions every single day, rather just trying each one and seeing if you notice that it makes you feel better.

The Healthy Daily Action Challenge starts TODAY!

January 16: Eat the Rainbow – Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners prescribe a colorful diet for their patients, associating certain colors with certain elements. While I know very little about all of that, I do know that eating a colorful plate is one of the very best ways to ensure that you are eating a diet chock full of essential vitamins, minerals, and nutrition.  The colors to make sure you are eating are black (lentils, black beans, blueberries, blackberries, etc.), yellow (eggs, yellow peppers, mango, yellow tomatoes, etc.), red (red peppers, strawberries, raspberries, red lentils, tomatoes, beets, etc.), white (bananas, cauliflower, egg whites, rice, bread, quinoa, nuts, etc.), and green (avocado, broccoli, green grapes, kiwi, spinach, kale, lettuce, all green vegetables, etc.). Try to eat foods from all five color categories today (ingredients count). Also, the color of the edible part of the food is the color category. For example, a banana is a white food, not yellow. An egg is both white (egg white) and yellow (egg yolk). Make sense?

January 17: Try a New Food – Choose a new healthy food and eat it. For example, maybe you’ve never eaten brussel sprouts. Go buy some at the store and roast them in a hot oven with olive oil and garlic.

January 18: Slow Down – Chew each bite of food at least 20 times before swallowing and put your fork/spoon down between each bite. Savor each bite. Notice if you feel full before you are finished emptying your plate (this is HUGE if you are able to master it… I’m still working on this one).

January 19: Meditate – Download a meditation app or just listen to some instrumental music and sit quietly with your eyes closed for 10-15 minutes and just focus on your breathing.

January 20: Cook Your Meals – Refrain from eating any packaged, processed, or restaurant food today. Cook your meals from scratch. You don’t have to be a gourmet chef to prepare a day’s worth of wholesome, nutritious meals.

January 21: Develop a Meal Time Routine – This healthy action is one you will need to do for a few days to get any benefit from it. Pick a time for each your daily meals and stick to that time each day. For instance, Breakfast at 10:00, Lunch at 1:30, and Dinner at 5:00. Your body will get used to eating at those times and can make it less likely for cravings to kick in between meals.

January 22: Clean Out a Cabinet/Drawer/Pantry Shelf – Chaos and clutter are not our friends. Sometimes bringing order into our kitchen starts with the simplest action of just opening a cabinet and cleaning it out. Check expiration dates… when was the last time you used each item… get rid of the unhealthy, processed, sugar-laden crap, etc. You might be surprised at how motivating just one clean cabinet can be to keep going.

January 23: Hungry vs. Starving – We all understand the waves of hunger and riding the wave until the next time you plan to eat is fine but try not to allow yourself to feel like you are “starving” because self-control can go right out the window. If it’s not time for your next meal, have 1 oz of walnuts or macadamia nuts and a cup of tea. It can work miracles!

January 24: Use Smaller Plates – I don’t know about you, but I have trouble with proper portion sizes. One trick I’ve been using that has worked really well for me is to serve my meals on a salad plate rather than a dinner plate. I still get plenty of food, but it’s a reasonable portion instead of a restaurant portion.

January 25: Drink More Water – Ah yes, it always comes back to water, doesn’t it? Today, make sure you are drinking enough water. For most of us that means about a gallon!  Try some lemon water – I promise, it’s amazing!

January 26: Eat Your Veggies First – Today, eat the vegetables that are on your plate first at each meal. See if it helps control portion size.

January 27: Planned Leftovers – Prepare enough of one of your meals today to eat as another meal tomorrow. This is a great way to reduce waste, save time and money. And make sure your meals tomorrow are just as nutritious as today’s.

January 28: Meal/Snack Prep – Save time by prepping all your meals in advance so all you have to go is grab, heat, and eat.

January 29: Make Advance Decisions – If you are eating out at a restaurant look up their menu online and decide what you are going to eat before you even sit down at the table. Then you don’t even need a menu when you sit down. You can just order your pre-decided meal. Making advance decisions helps us stay on track when hunger might make us want to choose something unhealthy otherwise.

January 30: Reverse quantities at meals. Traditional thought in the USA has us eat a small breakfast, a moderate lunch, and a larger dinner. Countries that have the lowest incidence of obesity reverse this… Breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, dinner like a pauper. Try this and see what you think.

January 31: Don’t Beat Yourself Up – If you have a bad day, just let it go. None of us are perfect and mis-steps happen. Give yourself some grace and just move on, making proper choices at the next opportunity – not tomorrow, not Monday… Right now.

What If?

I’ve been driving back and forth across the state of Florida a whole lot lately and listening to the same old radio stations can get old, so I’ve been listening to audiobooks in an effort to “kill two birds with one stone” (drive to Sarasota and still get my personal development time in). Recently, I listened to “Girl, Wash Your Face,” by Rachel Hollis. It’s targeted to an audience of women who are quite a bit younger than me, but Rachel has good thoughts on mindset issues and I got a lot out of listening to her book.

One of her quotes that I’ve seen pop up in internet memes is “What if I just don’t break this promise?” When I see it, my mind automatically flips it to the positive and I read, “What if I just KEEP this promise?”

When you think about it, Rachel is really just streamlining Deb’s signature phrase: “Where would you be if every time you said, ‘I should…,’ you actually did?”

How many times do we promise ourselves that TODAY will be different… that TODAY will be the days that I:

  • Start that exercise program…
  • Eat 100% on plan…
  • Tackle that project at work that scares the heck out of me…
  • Call that person to say “I’m sorry” or “I love you…”
  • Stay sober…
  • And all the other promises that we make and break on a regular basis.

Where would we be in our lives if – just for today – we kept all those promises we make to ourselves? Where would our health, our careers, our relationships, our self-esteem be?

And, what if we went to bed tonight feeling like a winner – like a complete success – and promised to do it again tomorrow…

And then we woke up the next morning and we DID? And then we did it again the next day… and the next… and the next?

Now, I know there is no way for us to be perfect, but what if we just latched onto ONE THING today – just one important thing – and then we committed to doing it (or not doing it)… just for TODAY?

It sounds so simple and yet we fail at it all the time. I’ll be the first one to confess that breaking commitments I make to myself has become all too commonplace here lately and I don’t like it… Not one bit… And it stops RIGHT NOW!

See, I have HUGE plans for 2019 and they are only going to become my reality if I stop spiraling downward, get it together, and start moving forward again, and that means keeping the promises I make to myself. I refuse to look back a year from now and wonder “What if” about these big goals. I just want to bask in the wonder of what I achieved and keep right on going.

What IF I just keep THIS promise?

My Top 10 Tried and True Tools for Getting Your “Diet” Mojo Back…

I want to talk about a subject that I think a lot of us may be dealing with, which is how do we get our healthy eating mojo back now that the holidays are over so we can keep moving toward our health and wellness goals? When January 2nd rolled around, I was totally dealing…

via Angie’s Top 10 Tools For Getting Your “Diet” Mojo Back — Cheslow Achievement Group

Are We Having Fun Yet?… The Holiday Edition — Cheslow Achievement Group

This is AWESOME for this time of year and SO TRUE! Just wanted to share!

Image Credit: Rebekkah_ann/iStock by Getty Images Handling the inevitable stress, tension, and disappointment of holiday gatherings… It’s a scenario that plays out across the globe every holiday season. Families come together to celebrate and enjoy each other’s company. But how long does the celebration last before someone gets their feelings hurt and walks off to sulk…

via Are We Having Fun Yet?… The Holiday Edition — Cheslow Achievement Group

Coming to A Head

Coming to A Head

volcanoLife is kind of coming to a head right now.  There are so many things that are either ending or beginning in the next few days and I’m finding myself feeling a little stressed out over them, so I thought writing about them might help… :/

First, Deb’s dad has been visiting us for the past month.  He’s such a dear, sweet man and we have really enjoyed having him with us. Tomorrow he heads back to Maryland and we’ll be readjusting to a house of three again.  On one hand, I’m sorry he’s leaving – he’s a cool guy and I like him a lot!  But on the other hand, I need to get back to my routine, and eating at restaurants 3 times per week is NOT part of my routine. He doesn’t get our plant-based eating style (he doesn’t like and won’t eat vegetables), so finding things to eat here at home (when we’re not going out) that will work for all of us has been challenging to say the least.

Second, my training plan for Great Floridian Triathlon begins on Monday, and I’m honestly not sure how I feel about it.  I’ve really enjoyed my off-season.  I’ve enjoyed lifting again.  I’ve enjoyed just flying by the seat of my pants and doing what I FEEL like doing instead of being so structured. It’s very different from last year when I was chomping at the bit to get to the training.  I’m sure it’s just a matter of getting back in the training mindset and I’m counting on my body and my mind jumping right back into the groove.

massive-actionThird, the house is still on the market and we are getting antsy to get on with it. There’s no pressure to get it sold, but we’ve found the place we want to move and we’re just anxious to move on to the next stage of the adventure.

Fourth, Unrealogical has gone to the publisher and we’ve already gone through the first round of content review with the legal eagles and are now waiting for phase #2, and that’s a little nerve wracking.

3HUFifth, I start Round #3 of Swim Bike Fuel next week (or Round #1 of 3HU, depending on how you want to look at it) and I’m putting a lot of pressure on myself to really GET IT RIGHT this time.  I’ve had great results with both of the previous rounds, but I get a little loose with the rules sometimes and I really want this to be a “third time’s the charm” type of thing.

excitementSo, lots going on and I just feel stressed out.  I’ve been using all my tools, but my stomach feels all knotted up and I can’t seem to unravel it.  Right here, in this moment, I am VERY uncomfortable.  And when this happens, I get excited, because it usually means I’m on the verge of some major life shift.  Something is out there looming on the horizon – something big – I just can’t quite see it yet.

Stay tuned…