Can Lack of Sleep Cause Weight Gain?

Are you stuck trying to figure out why you’re gaining weight — or why it’s so difficult to lose those extra pounds that just seemed to sneak up on you despite not changing your diet or exercise habits?

This is often referred to as Weight Loss Resistance and it is exactly how it sounds: weight that just won’t stinking budge no matter what you do!

Here’s one surprising reason why you might be gaining weight or experiencing weight loss resistance: lack of good, quality, restorative sleep.

In fact, there are actually science-backed reasons why a lack of sleep can be a strong contributing factor to not being able to maintaining a healthy weight.

Why Lack of Sleep Causes Weight Gain

If you thought unsightly dark circles under the eyes were the worst outcome from cutting corners on sleep, you may want to think again.

Sleep is of the utmost importance to nearly every bodily system and losing out on it, even just a little, creates a vicious cycle in your body.

For example, where a healthy body weight may be of concern, the more sleep deprived you are, the higher your levels of stress hormone (cortisol) will be, which tends to increase your appetite.

Then, once the appetite is increased, lack of sleep also thwarts your body’s natural ability to process sugar and carbohydrates. Which of course is what you’re craving after a crappy night’s sleep!

Additionally, when you’re overtired, the mitochondria (little cellular factories that turn food and oxygen into energy) actually start to shut down. This causes glucose to stay in your blood, and you end up with high blood sugar levels.

Insulin is a hormone whose job it is to signal the body’s muscle, fat, and liver cells to absorb glucose from the bloodstream to be used for energy. A study in the Annals of Internal Medicine reported that skimping on sleep can cause fat cells to become less insulin-sensitive by up to 30% – meaning they lose their ability to use insulin properly.

Yet another reason you might pack on pounds when you’re lacking in sleep is because your body goes into survival mode – much like when we deprive our bodies of too little energy & calories. Therefore, survival mode = extra fat storage. (The body thinks it’s better to be fat than dead!)

And all of that isn’t even the worst of it! (more…)

Emotional Eating – What is it and how can I get a handle on it?

Picture this: You hit the snooze button one too many times, had a last-minute project thrown at you at work, and then sat in an hour of evening traffic.

Finally home, you breathe a sigh of relief, head into the kitchen, and decide you deserve a snack after the day you’ve had. Maybe you reach for a few crackers, then a bit of chocolate. Before you know it, you’ve munched your way through the entire kitchen without eating a proper meal. You’re stuffed, ashamed, and wondering WHAT THE HECK just happened?!

Sound familiar?

It’s called emotional eating, and in a nutshell, it is eating for any other reason besides actual physical hunger, fuel, or nourishment.

3 Trademarks of Emotional Eating

  • Binging – usually on high-sugar and carb-rich comfort foods (i.e. junk food). How many people do you know who reach for avocado and apples when they’re upset?
  • Mindlessly eating – you’re not aware of what or how much you’re eating or how those foods are making your body feel.
  • Eating to numb, soothe, please, relax, or reward self, i.e. “I had a bad day and deserve it” kind of thinking. Eating during these times provides temporary relief, but often leaves you feeling worse than where you started!

I know I have personally done all of these! I’d get home from a long day and feel drained so I’d just grab something until I made dinner later. Then never made dinner because I just ate a crap ton of just whatever. Or on more than one occasion saying “umm, how did this whole bag of chips disappear?”

The trouble with emotional eating is it overrides your body’s natural hunger cycle and can promote things like:

  • weight gain
  • an increase in your risk for inflammation and chronic disease
  • create an unhealthy relationship between you and food
  • lead to more danger types of disordered eating

What Triggers Emotional Eating?

Even though it’s called “emotional eating” because people often reach for food to cope with their feelings, there are a lot of other non-hunger reasons that can prompt you to eat.

Some of those reasons include:

  • Uncomfortable emotions, like anger, guilt, fear, and sadness
  • Stress (biggest culprit)
  • Boredom
  • Need to feel pleasure and/or comfort

(more…)

Three Must Eat Breakfast Foods

Do you love your breakfast?  Do you have a short list of “go-to” recipes? Do you need a bit of inspiration to start eating breakfast again?

Getting some protein at each meal can help with blood sugar management, metabolism, and weight loss. This is because protein helps you feel fuller longer and uses up a bunch of calories to absorb and metabolize it. So I’m going to show you how to get the protein, as well as some veggies and healthy fats for your soon-to-be favorite new “go-to” breakfasts.

Breakfast Food #1: Eggs

Yes, eggs are the “quintessential” breakfast food. And for good reason! No, I’m not talking about processed egg whites in a carton. I mean actual whole “eggs”.

Egg whites are mostly protein while the yolks are the real nutritional powerhouses. Those yolks contain vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and healthy fats. Eggs have been shown to help you feel full, keep you feeling fuller longer, and help to stabilize blood sugar and insulin. Not to mention how easy it is to boil a bunch of eggs and keep them in the fridge for a “grab and go” breakfast when you’re running short on time.

And…nope the cholesterol in eggs is not associated with an increased risk of arterial or heart diseases. One thing to consider is to try to prevent cooking the yolks at too high of a temperature because that can cause some of the cholesterol to become oxidized. It’s the oxidized cholesterol that’s heart unhealthy.

Breakfast Food #2: Nuts and/or Seeds

Nuts and seeds contain protein, healthy fats, vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Nuts and/or seeds would make a great contribution to breakfast. (more…)

Walking For Fitness – Is It Really Enough?

Walking often gets a bad rap when it comes to fitness. A lot of fitness pros may even scoff at the idea of a walk being a “true” workout. You may even find yourself feeling like a bit of a slacker on the days you choose to walk rather than run or do a higher intensity workout.

But many experts do agree that not only does walking yield a ton of health benefits, it also improves your overall fitness too. So, before you go ditching those comfy walking shoes, let’s learn how the experts are weighing in on the link between walking and better fitness.

Walking & aerobic fitness

When it comes to improving your heart health, look no further than a brisk walk around the block.

In fact, one study showed that walking briskly for only 30 minutes a day can significantly improve V02 max – this is the maximum amount of oxygen the body can use during exercise.

In addition to improving aerobic fitness, walking has also been shown to reduce risk factors linked to cardiovascular disease. Reduced blood pressure, BMI, waist circumference and overall body fat were among some of the benefits to adopting a regular walking routine.

Short on time? You can still reap the cardiovascular benefits of walking by performing 3 bouts of 10-minute intervals. Basically, every little bit counts, so keep that body in motion whenever you can!

Walking for strength gains & strong bones

While walking certainly isn’t going to give you the shredded muscular physique of a bodybuilder, it still packs a big punch when it comes to maintaining your muscle mass.

One study looked at the benefits of walking amongst older adults and its impact on muscle mass.

Researchers found that those who performed higher amounts of moderate to vigorous physical activity (such as walking) significantly reduced their risk of sarcopenia — a condition defined as the loss of muscle mass and function (muscle wasting or “frailty syndrome”), commonly seen in older adults.

There’s also evidence that walking can keep your bones strong too. Because walking is a weight bearing activity, it helps maintain bone density and strength. (more…)

Meal Prep: The Shortcuts You Need to Know

A big part of feeling successful in your healthy eating regime is planning and preparing your meals ahead of time — so you’re not tempted to just stop at the fast food drive-thru on your way home from work!

So, why not bring back the tradition of good ‘ol home cookin’ and start eating healthier, more nutrient-dense meals… at home?

I know you are saying “Heidi it’s way too time-consuming to cook all meals from scratch.” However, if you plan in advance AND do at least some of the meal prep ahead of time, healthier home-cooking habits can be established far more easily than you think!

It really doesn’t matter what type of diet you follow either – whether it’s vegan, gluten-free, keto or diabetic-friendly. Nor does the size of your kitchen need to limit you – just a few basic pieces of cooking equipment is all you need to get started.

Believe me I know you’re busy, busy, busy and time really can feel like a luxury these days. So, I’ve chopped, diced, and puréed everything you need to know about MEAL PREP, including all the best shortcuts.

What is meal prep?

Meal prep does involve planning ahead and preparing your meals in advance. Basically, you’re cooking complete or near complete meals in advance so all you have to do is reheat them at meal time. This generally works best for lunch & dinner, but I’ll show you how to do it for breakfast too.

However, the prep part can’t really happen until your meal planning is done first. This can be hard for some so keep a running list of meals as ideas pop in your head during the week. Then during the meal planning process, you need to decide what meals you’re going to prepare, make a grocery shopping list, and then buy all the ingredients. Then you get to prepping! (more…)

Life “Hacks” of the Longest-Lived People

Think living a long and healthy life well into your nineties or even one hundred years old is only for those lucky few who hit the genetic lottery? Think again. Lifestyle factors, i.e. the things you do every day over the long-term – can add up to increase the number of quality years in your lifespan.

Look no further than the people of Blue Zones for proof of how powerful everyday habits are when it comes to staying healthy for the long haul.

Blue Zones are regions around the world where people have very low rates of chronic disease and live longer compared to other populations. They are located in regions of Greece, Sardinia, Costa Rica, Japan, and California.

Because these communities are home to the greatest number of people who live healthfully into their nineties and even hundreds, researchers have studied them to determine just how they age so healthfully.

Do you have to live in an actual Blue Zone to guarantee longevity? No you don’t! You can adopt some of the well-studied lifestyle traits of these folks to promote health and longevity right where you are.

Here’s the top 5 life “hacks” of the world’s longest living people:

Eat a Plant-rich Diet

Blue Zone residents eat a mostly plant-based diet that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, and whole grains. Animal foods aren’t avoided – they eat smaller portions of meat a handful of times per month.

You don’t have to become a strict vegetarian or vegan, but it’s important to eat a variety of plant foods daily – they contain fiber, vitamins, minerals, and powerful antioxidants that help decrease inflammation and protect you from chronic disease, like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.

A simple rule of thumb is to fill half your plate with vegetables at every meal. Yep, every meal!

Include Healthy Fats

Eat heart healthy unsaturated and omega-3 fats in the form of olive oil, nuts, avocados, and fish.

Getting enough omega-3’s helps decrease disease-causing inflammation and keeps your heart and brain healthy.

Eating enough fat also keeps you feeling fuller longer, which can help prevent overeating that leads to weight gain – bonus!

Stop Eating Before You Feel 100% Full

This can be the tough one. Avoid the clean plate club. Eating slowly chewing your food thoroughly gives your brain and stomach time to register that it’s had enough to eat. Blue Zone communities avoid overeating and eating beyond feelings of fullness, which again, can help prevent weight gain.

Drink Red Wine

Enjoying a glass of red wine once a day increases your antioxidant intake, which is thought to decrease inflammation and help prevent heart disease. Of course, moderation is key. Four ounces of wine is considered a glass and drinking more than that is associated with negative health effects.

Move Your Body Throughout the Day

Have you heard the phrase “sitting is the new smoking”? As in, it’s not good for your health to sit for extended periods of time. Lack of physical activity and prolonged sitting is linked to weight gain, obesity, and increased mortality. Be sure to look for opportunities to add movement into your regular routines.

You might try:

  • Stretching while you watch TV
  • Take an after-dinner evening walk
  • Park farther away from your destination
  • Choose stairs over elevators
  • Take standing and stretching breaks at work
  • Use a stand-up workstation, and fidget while you work (or dance!)

The world’s longest living people live active lives that include daily physical activities, like gardening, walking, and manual tasks.

Are you looking for support on your journey to get healthy? Join my free Facebook group, a safe place for tips, healthy recipes, fun challenges, and coaching with no judgement.

RECIPE: Mediterranean Bean Salad

 Ingredients

2 15-oz cans of beans, drained and rinsed (use black, cannellini, kidney, or garbanzo beans)

1 English cucumber, chopped with skin on
1 bell pepper, diced
1 small red onion, diced
1 cup cherry tomato, halved
1 cup kalamata olives, roughly chopped
¼ cup virgin olive oil (= longevity oil!)
¼ cup red wine vinegar
2 whole cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp dried oregano or 2 tsp fresh herb
salt and pepper to taste

Preparation

  1. Combine beans, cucumber, pepper, onion, tomatoes, and olives in a large bowl.
  2. In a small bowl or sealed jar with a lid, whisk or shake together olive oil, vinegar, garlic, oregano, and salt and pepper.
  3. Toss salad with dressing and enjoy at room temperature or refrigerate unused portions.

 

REFERENCES

Power 9: Reverse Engineering Longevity

Why People in “Blue Zones” Live Longer Than the Rest of the World

13 Habits Linked to a Long Life (Backed by Science)