Sleep and Weight Management

Why do people gain weight?

  • Mental challenge of weight loss
  • Overeating
  • Food addiction
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Consuming too many processed, high calorie, low nutritional value “food”
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Medical conditions such as diabetes

I.    The mental challenges of weight loss

Everyone goes through a rough and stressful day. If you happen to be on a diet or some weight loss program, those are the days that your will is tested. You come home from work, tired and glad the day is over. The deadlines and nagging boss just about did it for you. The last thing you want to do is get on a treadmill and then eat a salad. You are looking for some junk food to satisfy your cravings and make you feel better, even temporarily.

There is nothing wrong with having few of those days.  Since you are human, you will have them and yes, you are entitled to indulge. But, if every day is like this day, then you need to work on your stress level and your coping mechanism. If your after-work every day looks like you gorge on potato chips bag while you lay on your couch and watch a brain-less show, then there is a problem.

Weight loss is a mental challenge. It is about motivation and drive. Have plan B when your get into those stressful situations and food becomes your opium.  Talk to yourself. Ask yourself about how you feel and what alternative routine can you take to overcome a stressed hour. Remind yourself that stress is temporary. Find a way out of it- call a friend and go for a nice (healthy) dinner. Go for a hike in the neighborhood, hit the gym for only 15 minutes (not the whole hour) and your mood will change. Keep track of your weight and goals. Remind yourself of that goal. Imagine weight loss. Imagine slim.

A weight loss program is successful if your mind is honest about putting the effort to start and persist. Falling off the track is just fine, but the key is to get back on it.

Pick a pants size that you wish to fit in. Lets say that you are 180 lbs and you want to fit in a size 8. Try that pants on once a week. In the beginning, it will be impossible to even bring it up to your knees. That is OK. Keep going with your diet plan and you will get there. You will button that pants. It is up to you.

II.    Food Addiction

Food addiction and overeating are culprits for why people gain weight. There is also slowness and not getting exercise our body needs. At the heart of weight gain there are personal issues that need to be addressed. Stress and boredom often cause many people to resort to food for comfort. Sometimes weight loss and weight maintenance after the loss is attained seems daunting like pushing a ball uphill. The minute you leave it, it will slide right back and very quickly. But it does not need to be such a struggle.

The drive and motivation to lose the extra 20, 30 or even 100 lbs is not always there, even though the “want to” is there every minute. The drive is what you need to get out of your comfort zone and change your eating habits, don’t reach for the donut and get yourself in the gym. What drives people to do things are usually innate or intrinsic. Ask yourself why do you want to lose weight? To fit in your clothes, look prettier, younger? These are good reasons but maybe a focus on being healthy would be a more force-full driver. Change your mind so you can change the simple things in life that makes a difference. Think big and do small. Think “I am healthy and happy” but eat your veggies and go for a brisk walk. Feeling healthy is addictive too but you need time to get there.

III.    Sedentary Lifestyle

Sedentary life style can cause a multitude of problems. It can lower your basal metabolic rate and you will not burn much of the food you eat. It will decrease your muscle bulk and muscles help you burn calories. Inactivity can lead to tiredness and lethargy.

IV.    Processed Food

Most American’s shopping list include processed food. Processed food are stripped of the wholesome nutritions and antioxidants that nature gave us to keep us alive and healthy. Processed food are also filled with chemicals and additives. You will find those additives in the fine prints, in names you can hardly pronounce. Some of these additives pose risks to your health. Our bodies are made of the stuff of the earth, air and sun. Our bodies do not recognize these artificial fats (trans fats), colorings, sweeteners and preservatives.  Processed food can make your look old because it speeds up the aging process.

Watch out for those bad boys:

  • High fructose corn syrup is sweeter than table sugar and is added to so many food because it makes food taste better. It is believed to be addictive, so you go start craving that food.  It increases triglycerides and may lead to “fatty liver”; it causes insulin spikes and leads to insulin resistance. It if found in sodas, bread, salad dressing and so many processed and packaged foods. Read the labels. You will be surprised at how many items contain this product. One warning is that the FDA allows a food item to be labeled “trans fat free” is it contains 0.5 gram of fat in a serving. This fructose corn syrup turns into fat. Other types of sugar can burn into energy.
  • White stuff, also known as “refined grain”. White flour, wheat flour, white bread, white rice, pasta. They cause a spike in your insulin and increase your risk for insulin resistance and weigh gain. White flour is considered processed because they removed the fiber (bran) and germ that is good for you. Why did they do that- to make it taste better. Instead, go for grains with high fiber such as oats, barley, bulgur.
  • Trans-fats and hydrogenated fats are factory made fats and they have no business going into your body. They clog your arteries because they raise your bad cholesterol and lower the good one and eventually can give you heart attack or stroke. They are more like plastics that your body doesn’t know what to do with it. Yes, they make your packaged bakeries and French fries taste good.
  • MSG (monosodium glutamate) is another chemical added because it enhances flavor. It is another one that causes increased insulin secretion. It causes weight gain and can trigger migraines.
  • Food that contain names like “hydrolyzed” or “autolyzed”.
  • Artificial coloring which is made of tar-coal. Can cause allergic reactions, headaches and hyperactivity.
  • Artificial flavoring can cause allergic reactions and eczema.
  • Benzoate preservatives preserve fats from going rancid. They can cause tumors or asthma.
  • Artificial sweeteners are linked to cancer and headaches.
  • Olestra is a fat substitute linked to gastrointestinal problems.
  • Salt is added to processed food. Salt in moderation is fine. In fact, we need it for survival. But excess salt that our body does not need raises our blood pressure. A tablespoon of salt is all your body needs (1,500 mg a day). Read the ingredients on the package.

V.    Sleep Deprivation

Sleep deprivation can make your belly size grow. How is that ?

  • The low energy and grogginess associated with not getting enough sleep causes people to think they are hungry instead of sleepy. So they overeat to compensate. They also crave carbohydrate and sugars.
  • Not getting the adequate sleep that your body needs affects two important hormones that normally regulate your metabolism: Leptin and Ghrelin. Leptin normally suppresses appetite and Ghrelin stimulates appetite. Lack of sleep lowers leptin and increases ghrelin. The result is hunger and not feeling full after eating.
  • Sleep deprived individuals lack energy and motivation to exercise, an important element for healthy weight.

VI.    Diabetes Mellitus

If you are diabetic, losing weight can be of tremendous benefit. It can even help you get off diabetic medication (under the instruction of your physician) and improves your blood sugar. Try to lose calories but keep about 50% healthy carbohydrates, 20% fats and 30% proteins.

Belly Fat, be gone
The fat around the belly is most annoying for most people. They feel that it is visually unpleasing and can really change their entire figure. What should your belly size be at? There is a simple formula and it has to do with your height: calculate your height (inches) and divide by 2; the final number is the maximum # for your belly size. So if your height is 5’4”,  that comes up to be 64 inches. Divide that by 2. You get 32 inches. So your belly size should be less than 32 inches.
The fat around the belly is called visceral fat; it is deep in the organs and increases the risk for inflammation in your body which causes diseases such as heart disease and diabetes. If you are a women and your belly size is  > 35 inches, you are in the danger zone; for men it is > 40 inches.
Although everyone wants a trim belly, it is not always easy. But the combination of a healthy diet and exercise will help you get there.

Tips for thinking “healthy” and losing the extra weight:

  • Shift your thinking from the idea of losing weight to creating a long  lasting healthy habits. Focus on health and the rest will follow.
  • Eat healthy. Go for the minimal processed food. Stay away from food that  contain added sugars and corn syrup. They will make you fat and get you addicted.
  • Eat food that is close to the earth and picked fresh if possible: veggies, fruits, nuts, legumes. If you eat animals, go for animal that were not injected with hormones and antibiotics.
  • Substitute bad food for healthy, earthy food such as fruits, veggies, legumes. You can also substitute junk food for a stress releasing activity to ward off your craving for a non-nutritional food item.  Before you reach out for the chips bag, think about why you are doing it. If boredom and stress are the issue, take action. Go for a walk, do some push- ups, chew on some carrots.
  • Exercise- you can define and decide what exercise is for you.  Don’t become sedentary. Daily brisk walks for 45 minutes are excellent. Yoga, aerobic classes are other options. Weight training is good to keep you toned up.  You need at least 30 minute of aerobic exercise to give you health. The 45 minute workout is better.
  • Get rid of one bad food item every month. Get them out of your kitchen, house and car. Don’t buy nasty, sugary drinks.
  • Cleanse your body. Get rid of toxins that have built up over years from eating chemicals in junk food. Your body doesn’t know what to do with them. It is like eating plastic. Your body doesn’t process them. So they stay, typically in your fat tissue. Get the vaccum vaccum cleaners (fruits and vegetables- go for multiple colors); they contain antioxidants. You will feel so much better.
  • Explore issues related to food addiction. Do you eat for comfort? Are you depressed, anxious, stressed.
  • Break the Drill: Do you live a life of routine, drills and chores? Routines have their limited value? Do you come home from work exhausted, eat, watch TV and then pass out?
  • Check your energy level. Do you feel inactive, lethargic, sluggish, lazy? If so, check the food items your eat. Are you indulging you a high sugary feeding routine? Are you getting enough sleep?
  • Be flexible. Flexibility is a virtue that will allow you to explore outside the box. Maybe one diet plan didn’t work: “Oh well, I will try another one”. Everybody’s body is different. Stay optimistic.

Tips for lowering your caloric intake without going hungry:

  • Start your major meals with a soup
  • Eat the rainbow- go for colors when shopping for veggies and fruits. Colors suggest different antioxidants and enzymes. For example, blueberries have powerful antioxidants known as anthocyanidins (gives the blue colors) which are phytonutrients that protect our blood vessels against the harms of free radicals.
  • Avoid eating heavy meals at evening/night time.
  • Increase your water intake- drink ice water. Your body has to produce heat to burn it.
  • Watch your calories 6 days a week. But once a week, you can indulge to boost your metabolism. You will not gain weight. In the beginning, you will get your ice cream or hamburger and jump up your metabolism. Over time, you will crave the food that you know is not good for you and opt for good quality food for indulgence.
  • Cut off sugary sodas. You can save lots of calories. Diet is not much better. Drink water. That is what your body needs. No one has a soda deficiency, but you can get dehydrated without water. It cleanses toxins and washes your kidneys.
  • Watch for alcohol. One glass of wine has about 120 calories.
  • Drink water. Many people mistaken hunger for thirst.
  • Find a weight loss buddy or group. Studies have shown that they help you stick to the plan.
  • Keep a journal of what you eat (food, juices and water) for one month. People who keep track of their food end up eating less.
  • Eat at regular times and stick with it. This way, you are less likely to snack when you feel the craving. Go for three meals and three small snacks. This way, you are less likely to overeat and your body secretes smaller amount of insulin.
  • Eat with smaller plates. Use salad plates instead of the regular plates. You will more likely eat less.