What is the last thing you do before falling asleep?
The first thing you do when you wake up?
How many hours of sleep do you get?
Do you feel rested? Recharged? Awake?
Why is sleep so important?
Sleep should be the #1 priority, even more important than diet and exercise. Yet 35% of Americans are not getting the recommended amount of sleep to recharge and reset the body for optimal health. Sleep is often sacrificed when we feel like we "don't have time" and need to borrow from somewhere else in our given 24 hours.
In a world full of technology, undoubtedly you take time each night to plug in your devices so they are fully charged for the next day. But what happens when you don't charge that phone or tablet to 100%?
Your body needs recharging too...and it takes about 7-8 hours for adults to recharge to 100%. During these 7-8 hours your body is:
There are 4 stages of sleep. Stage 1 is that moment of drowsiness as you lie down and begin to fall asleep. Stage two follows a few minutes later, heart rate begins to slow and your body temperature drops. Stage 3 is a deeper sleep where muscles begin to relax, breathing slows and blood pressure drops. Entering into the Rapid Eye Movement (REM) stage is the deepest stage where dreaming happens.
Stages 3 and REM is where the magic happens. However, not everyone reaches these stages, resulting in feeling fatigued and lethargic upon waking the following morning.
Sleep and Hormones
Human Growth Hormone or HGH is a chemical secreted by the pituitary gland. It was highly active during those awkward stages of puberty and responsible for growth spurts and muscle development. Thankfully those times are behind us, but HGH is still working long after the past growth spurt and acne breakout!
According to Dr. Josh Axe, "Adequate HGH levels help women improve an appropriate body-fat ratio and elasticity in skin. Risk of osteoporosis is reduced when HGH levels in women are balanced." Levels of HGH begin dropping as early as the 20's and could result in
You sleep, but don't feel rested or recharged...why?
There are lots of things that affect the type of sleep we get. If you are spending most of your slumbering hours in Stages 1 and 2, you are not in recharge mode. Setting yourself and your environment up for good sleep will have a profound impact on all areas of your health and well-being.
Here are a few things you can start doing tonight to ensure a restful night of sweet dreams:
I wish you health, happiness and sweet dreams!
If you would like to learn more about healthy sleep hygiene or support in creating your own healthy sleep habits, please contact me. I would love to work with you to create restful sleep.
The great Stoic Philosopher, Epictetus, once said:
“People are disturbed not by a thing, but by their perception of a thing.”
Google the definition of stress and you will get hundreds of hits with just as many different definitions. In context to a wellness and weight loss journey, stress can be defined as a change or circumstance that exerts physical, mental, emotional or psychological discomfort or strain. What these changes or circumstances are depends on each person and how they perceive or handle it. Stress can be positive (changing your exercise and eating habits) and negative (being under pressure to get a project done or not having enough money for groceries this week).
What Causes Stress
Past studies have identified money and the future of the country as two main contributors of stress. This statistic came before 2020 and the pandemic it brought with it. Today, the changes and circumstances an invisible enemy has imposed has undoubtedly found its way to the number one cause of stress in America. One must also recognize that the non-pandemic stressors have not disappeared; on the contrary, one may argue they have gotten worse. I truly feel there has been no other time in our life that has been more challenging than now. So what do you do about it?
The Stress Response
Allow me to start with the "why" should we recognize and adopt strategies to reduce stress.
The human body has adapted in so many ways generation after generation. Fun Fact: did you know the appendix gets smaller with each new generation and researchers believe at some point humans may be born without one?
One function of the body that has not changed since our cave man ancestors is the Fight or Flight response. In simple terms, your body has the ability to use glucose (blood sugar) to give your body superpower strength and speed in order to fight a threat (think angry lion) or flight (get the hell out of there!!). Pretty cool, right?
While this was great for the hunters who sometimes became the hunted, rarely do we find ourselves face to face in such a life threatening situation, with the exception, perhaps, of going to the grocery store when there is a threat of a New England blizzard. Godspeed, my friend! However, as Epictetus eluded to over 2000 years ago, sometimes our perception of current circumstances and change feels like we are looking in the mouth of a hungry lion.
When there is a real or perceived threat, your body's defense mechanism is alerted and the Stress Response is triggered. The adrenal glands that sit just above the kidneys secrete two hormones, adrenaline and cortisol.
ADRENALINE: "causes air passages to dilate to provide the muscles with the oxygen they need to either fight danger or flee. Adrenaline also triggers the blood vessels to contract to re-direct blood toward major muscle groups, including the heart and lungs. The body's ability to feel pain also decreases as a result of adrenaline, which is why you can continue running from or fighting danger even when injured. Adrenaline causes a noticeable increase in strength and performance, as well as heightened awareness, in stressful times. After the stress has subsided, adrenaline’s effect can last for up to an hour." Cue the Superhero Music! https://www.hormone.org/your-health-and-hormones/glands-and-hormones-a-to-z/hormones/adrenaline)
CORTISOL: triggers the body to release glucose which provides the energy to fight or flight.
What does this have to do with weight gain?
While the stress response was great for our ancestors, the constant triggering due to traffic, deadlines, kids and a million other triggers do not really require an epic "fight to the death" battle. Unfortunately, your adrenal glands cannot tell the difference between "angry lion" and "angry boss". The response will be the same.
The difference? Once the angry lion had been defeated, the stress was over and the body could pump the brakes and go into "rest and digest" mode. The angry boss, the endless housework, bills, appointments...these never seem to be defeated.
The adrenal glands are constantly pumping out cortisol, never allowing your body the time to rest and recover. Because cortisol triggers the release of glucose (sugar) and insulin levels slow down (the body's way of controlling blood sugar) your body begins to store the extra glucose in...you guessed it...fat cells; mainly those in the lower abdomen as belly fat. You can read more on sugar and insulin's role in weight gain here.
Rest and Digest
So what is the antidote? What tools and weapons do you have to combat the invisible stressors? There are a few things you can begin doing RIGHT NOW to trigger your Rest and Digest response.
Health and Happiness!
Unless you live off the grid, you are well aware that sugar is one of the biggest culprits to blame for America's obesity crisis. But those little crystals we use to sweeten our coffee and baked goods is only part of the problem. What we really need to focus on is ALL carbohydrates and how they impact a little hormone called INSULIN.
What is Insulin
Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas. It is secreted whenever your blood sugar rises. Blood sugar rises when glucose (sugar) enters the blood stream after eating foods that include carbohydrates.
When blood sugar spikes, insulin comes to the rescue, either directing it to be used as energy (YAY!!) or stored as fat (BOO!!)
Not all carbohydrates are treated equally. Whole grains, fruits and vegetables all contain carbohydrates but also provide a dose of healthy vitamins, minerals and fiber. This helps keep the blood sugar spike low. These can be especially helpful when engaging in moderate to vigorous activities such as exercise to provide lasting energy throughout a workout.
Refined sugar, like the sugar added to your coffee or tea and added to baked goods and soda, is not so kind. Sugar may grow from the ground in the form of sugar can but it is highly refined and contains no nutrition value...only calories. AND... when it enters the blood stream, it causes a massive sugar spike resulting in the production of insulin and glucose being pushed into fat cells for storage. Bottom line is consuming refined sugar results in a blood sugar spike causing insulin to be secreted to collect and push this glucose into fat cells causing weight gain.
In addition to the sugary beverages and baked goods, some so called "healthy" foods can also cause a spike in insulin. Foods that have been refined or processed such as white bread and pasta, starchy vegetables like potatoes and corn and high glycemic fruits like bananas and pineapple can have the same effect. Does this mean you have to take the banana out of your green smoothie? No! You will just want to be aware of WHEN you consume it. Just before a vigorous workout or long walk or hike is best as you will end up using the glucose to fuel your workout and support a strong finish!
As your pancreas continues to pump out insulin, it gets tired. It goes into a kind of autopilot, secreting and pumping out insulin to the point the body becomes resistant to it. This is called Insulin Resistance and is partly responsible for the rise in obesity among Americans.
So what can you do to control your insulin?
It all comes down to the recommendations you have heard time and time again. Eat healthy (low carb, whole foods), exercise regularly and get plenty of restful sleep. You will also want to be aware of what healthy fruits, vegetables and grains are likely to spike your blood sugar (High Glycemic) and which keep it under control (Low Glycemic). There is a great app you can download that will help you quickly identify these foods called Glycemic Index Load Net Carbs. Stick to foods that rank low on the Glycemic Index.
Healthy Food is YOUR responsibility
According to The American Heart Association, Americans consume an average of 77 grams of added sugar, almost three times the recommended amount for women. Big Food Companies make it harder and harder to spot healthy foods. Labels like "All Natural", "Gluten Free", "Great Source of Whole Grains" and "Heart Healthy" make it difficult to pass up that box of cereal with the picture of the farm at sunrise on the front.
By law, these companies need to provide ALL the facts, not just the ones that help them sell. However, these facts are on the nutrition facts label that is usually hidden from view through strategic display placement in the supermarket.
The info is there, it is YOUR responsibility is to gather the facts and make an INFORMED decision...but you need to know where to find it and how to decipher all that info! No worries, I broke it down into a few simple steps.
If a food does not meet most or all of these requirements, it is time to break up with it and find a healthier alternative:
I challenge you to go through your pantry and fridge right now. Do a little detox and get rid of foods that break multiple rules. If you are having trouble deciphering, I recommend the app Fooducate. This app allows you to scan the barcode of a food, provide a letter grade with reasons and recommend healthier options for the foods that may not make the grade. Give it a try!
And do NOT feel guilty about throwing away food that doesn't meet the grade. I sympathize with the thought of neighbors not having enough food, but no one should be eating unhealthy Frankenfood. Throw it out, ease your guilt with a food pantry donation of HEALTHY non-perishables and move forward knowing you are doing your part for your health AND your community!
Look at you....ROCKSTAR!!
I'm Liz. Mom, wife, teacher, Health Coach. My passion lies in everything health and wellness. When new research and trends pop up, you can bet I am finding the best resources to information, weeding out the not so good and making the great easy to digest. From meal planning and recipes to exercise and mindfulness, wellness touches upon so many dimensions. Your path to optimal health is out there and I can help you find it.