Now that we’ve talked a bit about nutritional strategies to stay trim and healthy, I want to point out a few lifestyle habits that go a long way in the battle of the bulge because what you put in your mouth is only part of the equation for a healthy body weight. Your mindset/attitude, amount of sleep you get and the way you cope with stress also contribute greatly to whether or not you fit in them jeans!
So, I’m going to break down a few important lifestyle strategies that will help you to look and feel your best this summer and all year round.
Try a food/mood journal
A food/mood journal is helpful way to take stock of how you are feeling after eating certain foods. Sometimes, just being aware of these things can lead to a personal revelation about potential food sensitivities and can create a meaningful change in behavior. You are your own best advocate and there’s nothing quite as effective in doing the detective work yourself when it comes to really understanding the link between what you eat and how you feel.
I know, I know, easier said than done, but it is possible. Stress plays a huge role in weight gain. In response to stress, our adrenal glands secrete adrenaline and cortisol, which increases blood sugar but decreases insulin sensitivity (so the glucose isn’t getting into the cells to do its work). Increased insulin in the blood also increases fat storage. Chronic stress and chronically elevated levels of blood sugar results in weight gain (especially around the abdomen aka: belly fat). Find ways to de-stress to help manage your weight. This could take any form for you: hiking, meditating, yoga, gardening, singing, cooking…you get the picture. One of the best things you can do when you’re stressed is go for a walk or run to use up that circulating blood sugar.
Sleep is becoming widely recognized as being just as important as diet and exercise when it comes to overall health and body weight. In terms of weight, lack of sleep has been found to result in something that’s been coined “metabolic sluggishness”, which means your metabolism slows down and therefore, weight loss becomes difficult. Lack of sleep can also make you crave foods because it messes with the hormones leptin and ghrelin, which control hunger and metabolism. Fatigue also affects your amygdala (the reward portion of your brain) and therefore sabotages the best of intentions. Lack of sleep also increases cortisol and we’ve already talked about how that contributes to weight gain in Part 1. Plus, when you’re sleep deprived, you’ll just be too tired to exercise. Do I need to say more? Sleep people! Aim for between 7-9 hours/night.
Reduce your exposure to toxins
Toxins that cannot be readily eliminated from your body get stored in fat cells. So, when you are ingesting too many toxins for your liver to effectively deal with, it will shuttle those toxins into fat cells as a sort of protective mechanism. To reduce your exposure to toxic chemicals, I recommend eating organic when possible and starting to transition to more natural personal care products and household cleaners. It doesn’t happen overnight, but you can baby step your way into a cleaner, more natural way of life. And as our bodies try to cope with the barrage of toxins in modern life, we can work towards increasing the efficacy of our own natural detox pathways trough good pooping, peeing, sweating and breathing practices.
Pick an exercise that you enjoy
Last, but not least is exercise. Don’t worry; you don’t have to be a gym rat to get your exercise in. The most important aspect to any exercise is picking something you actually enjoy doing. You want to be able to incorporate it into your life for the long haul so that it’s a consistent way to manage your blood sugar, cortisol and weight. Ideally, you’d work up a bit of a (or a lot of) sweat, but if you’re just starting out, or ridiculously busy, brisk walking will do the trick. Bake it into your day. Plan an errand that’s a walk away. Take the stairs. Get off your bus early and walk the rest of the way. There’s always a way. Once you get the ball rolling and endorphins following, blood and oxygen circulating, you’ll wanna do more.
Slow and steady wins the race
You don’t want to lose weight too quickly. A lot of fad diets will result in quick weight loss, but this messes with your Basal Metabolic Rate and will ultimately lead to rebound weight gain and often even more weight than before. Sudden and drastic weight loss results in a fatigue, a drop in BMR (basal metabolite rate) and will force the body to use up muscle for food.
With weight loss, it really is a case of slow and steady wins the race. It might be a hard pill to swallow in this quick-fix culture of ours, but it’s really the most effective and lasting way to go.
This is, by no means, a definitive list; Just some of my top lifestyle tips to get you moving in the right direction towards and healthy and sustainable weight. Don’t forget, it’s summer! Be sure to stop and smell the flowers (maybe just do a bit of a squat while you’re at it. 😉 )