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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Confession Time

confession-pic1&$@#&%$$$!!!!!!  So, this morning I post about discipline and choosing between what you want now versus what you want most and all that, and this AFTERNOON, my eating plan completely goes off the rails in a  blaze of chocolate covered macadamia nut glory!

Curse you, Swiss Colony, CURSE YOU!!!

Isn’t self-sabotage an interesting thing?

I KNOW what I need to do and how I need to eat to achieve the physical goals I have set for myself – I KNOW IT ALL!  Hellfire, I even wrote it all down and had it published in a book!

And just when things are humming along and I think to myself , “I got this,” the evil Swiss Colony tin just happens to jump off the pantry shelf and dump itself down my throat!  W-T-F???

001491No, it wasn’t the entire tin, but it WAS probably TEN pieces of chocolate… REALLY???

As penance I shall eat salad for dinner and do an extra core set tomorrow!!!

I thought about just letting it slide… I thought about not confessing my chocolatey transgression… But accountability is one of the things that this blog is all about and if I’m not honest about things, what good is it?

And, yes I am very aware that I must now start my “No Complaining Challenge” over – AGAIN!!! 😦

Free Week Trepidation

nervousToday at 4:00pm begins a time that I look forward to with all my heart three times per year… FREE WEEK!!

What is Free Week, you ask?

Oh, Christmas is awesome, but Free Week really IS the most wonderful time(s) of the year!

Free Week is a 7 day period where the nutrition and exercise rules go out the window.  There are no food restrictions, calorie restrictions, carb restrictions, timing restrictions, blah, blah, blah, and there are absolutely no scheduled workouts.

In the past, I have looked forward to Free Week because the wine flows freely, we eat out at least once per day, we go to Starbucks a bunch, I cook/bake all manner of yummy deliciousness.  And for 7 blissful days we spike our calories and reset our metabolism for the next 16 weeks of the year.

But today I am filled with trepidation.

I have made so many fantastic changes over the past 4 months that have lead to a leaner, stronger, healthier version of me and I’m nervous about what throwing caution to the wind may do to that progress.

food-benderNervous?  Okay, seriously, I’m scared shitless!!

What if I can’t get it back under control on January 1st?

What if I step on the scale on January 1st and found that I’ve gained back every pound that I released over the past 4 months?

What if…

What if…

So, I have a plan!

I am going to enjoy my Free Week.

bring-itI am putting away my watch and my food journal and my scale and I will enjoy my week – it’s Christmas, for heaven’s sake!!!

But there are 2 3 rules:

  1. No wine!  I’ve come too far to go back now!
  2. Free Week is not a contest to see how much crap I can load into my body over a 7 day period!  If I truly want something I will have it, but I will stick with the exceptional – why even bother with the ordinary?
  3. If I do feel like I’ve just completely overdone it or that I can’t go one more minute without some physical activity, I will go for a run walk on the beach.

I know I can make this the best Free Week ever and be ready to hit training HARD come January 1st!

Bring it!!

No Complaining Challenge

Are YOU ready for the challenge of your life?

Are YOU ready for the challenge of your life?

Do you want to change your life?  And when I say “change your life,” I don’t just mean a little change, but rather a huge quantum leap-type, transformational change?  If you are ready, then you have come to the right place!

In my last post I mused on the fact that I have “gone negative” lately and that I just needed to “suck it up.”  And I’m a mindset coach for goodness sakes!

Deb and I were talking about this over the weekend and discussing where we are and where we’re going and we decided that it was time to SERIOUSLY take the “No Complaining Challenge” for 30 days.

Now, Deb has done this before and it absolutely transformed her entire attitude on life.

I have TRIED it many times over the past 4 years, but I rarely get through the first day before my habit of blaming someone or something for, complaining about, or justifying a situation in my life where my results are not as I would ultimately like them to be.

Did you ever stop to notice that complaining never gets you anywhere – at all?  You might feel better in the moment when you get the chance to commiserate with friends, but see, when you complain you only seem to attract more things to complain about and more complainers to surround yourself with.  It’s a negative, out of control spiral!!!

So, here is the challenge: You commit to remaining “complaint (blame and justification)-free” for 30 days.

When negative thoughts come into your mind (and they will – you can’t stop them), just dismiss them without giving voice to it.  Resist the temptation to mull the complaint over in your mind or speak about it to others – just let it flow right on by.

I guarantee that people will want to know who you are and what you’ve done with the REAL (insert your name here) by the time 30 days passes.

If you catch yourself complaining , you have to start over at Day 1!!  30 straight days – no complaining, blaming or justifying… PERIOD!no whining

How do you know if it’s REALLY a complaint?  It all boils down to how what you say makes you and/or the other people around you feel when you say it.  For instance, I can look outside and say, “Oh, it’s raining.”  That’s just a statement of fact.  However, if I look outside and stomp my foot and say “Damn it, it’s RAINING – my plans to go to the beach today are ruined!”  – then THAT is a complaint – it makes me feel bad and likely brings the people I am with down as well.

Most people have a habit of complaining about, blaming other people for, and justifying their present circumstances, so you must be vigilant.  Enlist an accountability partner to help you through.  Post pictures and notes around your office or home to remind you of your commitment.

Then, just do it.  And please come back and leave me a comment and let me know how this challenge changes your life!

I’m only on Day 4 and I already feel so much better, so much calmer, and so much more in control.  I AM making it to 30 days this time!  There is no stopping me!!!

cartoon

In A Lunch Rut

Gina's Crockpot Minestrone Soup from SkinnyTaste.com

Gina’s Crockpot Minestrone Soup from SkinnyTaste.com

I fully admit it – I’m in a lunch rut!  I mean seriously, how many salads can a girl eat before the sight of lettuce causes a bit of a gag reflex?

And poor Deb, she’s a great sport, but she’s not the world’s biggest salad fan at any rate.

Here’s the thing… Lunches are easy when bread, crackers, cheese, etc. are options, but we are experimenting with limiting bread and dairy to free days only, so it does narrow our choices.

I love soup, and minestrone is one of those comfort foods that takes me back to my childhood.  My Nonni and my Mom made minestrone a staple during the fall and winter months and it was always so good.

SkinnyTaste.com is one of my favorite recipe blogs on the internet.  I have yet to try one of Gina’s recipes that wasn’t really delicious and they are usually a great calorie/fat bargain.

Of course, she had a lovely minestrone recipe on her site, but it was vegetarian.  So, I tweaked it a little bit, added some chicken, cooked the soup in a big stock pot (because I was doubling the recipe so Deb and I could both have it all week and it overflowed my crock) instead of a slow cooker, just used the parmagiano reggiano rind for flavor instead of adding extra cheese, substituted whole grain egg noodles for the white pasta, and I chose not to puree the white beans.

The result is a hearty, flavorful soup that I am in love with!

Here’s the recipe:

Chicken Minestrone Soup

adapted from Gina’s Weight Watcher Recipes
Servings: 12 • Serving Size: 1 1/2 cups

  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 med. onion, chopped
  • 2 cup carrots, chopped
  • 2 celery stalk, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 (28 oz) can diced tomatoes
  • 2 (15 oz) can white beans, drained, rinsed (cannellini or navy)
  • 6 cups fat free chicken broth (or vegetable broth for vegetarians)
  • chunk of good Parmesan cheese rind
  • 1 large fresh rosemary sprig
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 4 tbsp chopped fresh basil
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
  • salt and fresh pepper
  • 2 medium zucchini, chopped
  • 4 cups chopped fresh spinach
  • 3 cups cooked whole wheat egg noodles (cooked and stored separate from soup)

Rinse and drain beans.

In a large stock pot, combine chicken breasts, broth, tomatoes, pureed beans, carrots, celery, onion, garlic, herbs, Parmesan cheese rind, salt and pepper. Cover, bring to a slow simmer and cook on low for 4-6 hours.

Forty minutes before the soup is done cooking remove chicken breast from pot and shred or dice into bits sized pieces.  Return chicken to pot, add zucchini and spinach. Cover and cook 30 more minutes. Remove bay leaves, rosemary sprig, parmesan rind and season to taste with salt and black pepper. Place 1/2 cup egg noodles in the bottom of a soup bowl.  Ladle soup over noodles.  Enjoy!!

Step #4: Eat Enough Calories

starveStep #4 along your journey to improve the efficiency of your body’s nutritional absorption processes is to eat enough calories!

I know, you may be saying, “Angie, eating too few calories is NOT my issue.”

Believe me, I know – I thought the exact same thing, but hang with me for a second.

We already spent a fair amount of time on what happens as you age and you try to compensate for poor nutritional absorption by depressing your caloric intake.

I experienced this first hand not so long ago.

I was stuck on a weight and performance plateau.

I not only couldn’t release weight, I was actually gaining weight, even though I was only eating about 1400 calories per day and was burning 400-600 calories per day through exercise.

After consulting with my own wellness coach, she told me I needed to eat more calories.

I freaked out!  Eat more?  I’m already gaining weight!

But she asked me to trust her.

So I did.

I raised my daily caloric intake to ~2200 and kept exercising and made sure I was drinking enough water and bada-bing, I started releasing weight at about ½ lb per week AND my body fat percentage dropped from 24% to 20% in just over a month!

Your body KNOWS!!  If you are exercising like a fiend and you still can’t drop weight – just TRY upping your calories by 25% and see what happens!

I know it sounds completely backwards from everything conventional diet wisdom has  taught you, but insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result.

Maybe it’s time to try something a little out of the box.

Trust me!!!

Step #2: Eat Every 3 Hours

time-eatingStep #2 in turning your body into an efficient nutrition and calorie processing machine is to eat every 3 hours.

Intuitively, would you think your body could absorb more calories overall in one meal or in multiple meals throughout the day?

Sure, multiple meals!

The 3 hour rule says that you eat a meal within an hour of waking up and within an hour of going to bed and at 3 hour intervals in between.

We’ve talked about eating within an hour of waking up, but what about before bed?

Well, once you reach REM sleep, your pituitary gland is hard at work churning out the hormones that keep your body functioning as it should.

But it can only do this in the presence of a good nutritional signal.

For people who go to bed at say 11pm, but haven’t eaten since say 6pm, there is no real nutrition remaining and the hormone levels begin to drop and that’s a problem.

Now, why 3 hours?  Because your stomach empties approximately 3 hours after a meal and you want to keep the grelin production at bey.

Now let’s think about the average dieter who follows conventional diet wisdom and doesn’t eat after 7pm – even though they might not go to bed until 10 or 11pm and then skips breakfast.

That person may be going as long as 12-15 HOURS without food.

The metabolic signal that their body sends out is “Warning, Warning, Starvation, Famine, Winter!!!” and the metabolism is depressed – making more of the calories that person eats store as fat.

You can see the problem, right?

So, eat within an hour of waking (or exercising if you workout right when you wake up) and within an hour of going to bed, and then at approximately 3 hour intervals in between.