How Lack of Sleep Sabotages Weight Loss

Did you know that how much (or how little) we sleep has a ginormous effect on what and how much we put in our mouths?
Have you ever experienced a sleepless night followed by a day when no matter what you ate you never felt full or satisfied?

If so, then you have experienced the workings of leptin and ghrelin.
Leptin and ghrelin work in a kind of “checks and balances” system to control feelings of hunger and fullness.

Ghrelin, which is produced in the gastrointestinal tract, stimulates appetite, while leptin, produced in fat cells, sends a signal to the brain when you are full.

So what’s the connection to sleep? When you don’t get enough sleep, it drives leptin levels down, which means you don’t feel as satisfied after you eat. Lack of sleep also causes ghrelin levels to rise, which means your appetite is stimulated, so you want more food.

The two combined can set the stage for overeating, and is a real recipe for weight gain or difficulty losing weight.

If you have the munchies in the evenings, sometimes the best thing you can do is put yourself to bed and get some precious shuteye, which will help your appetite hormones return to normal the next day…

When you get enough quality sleep you may just discover that you aren’t as hungry, or that you have lessened your craving for sugary, doughy, starchy foods that you rely on for quick energy.

One thing I have seen is that once a person is not as tired, they don’t need to rely on sweet foods and high carbohydrate snacks to keep them awake – and this automatically translates into eating better quality foods – and smaller quantities.

So next time you feel like you can’t stop eating and nothing seems to hit the spot – don’t beat yourself up – surrender to a power nap or an early night instead…

Do you notice increased appetite when you are overtired? What do you do? Please leave a comment, I read them all:)

How to Detox from Sugar (and 7 Ways to Triumph over Cravings)

Which causes more damage? Fat or sugar? Despite 40 years of us being brainwashed into thinking that fat is bad, it turns out its excess sugar, not fat, that makes you sick and overweight.

While I lost over 30 pounds by not quitting sugar or white flour completely, I did cut way back to a mere ¼ quarter of what I used to eat to get good results and in the process cured my addictive, compulsive eating habits.

Since sugar begets sugar, cutting way back will help reduce cravings naturally without necessarily banning it completely (which can be overly daunting for most people).

I know firsthand that we tend to feel pretty bad about ourselves when we can’t control our food cravings, but being addicted to sugar and flour is not a human flaw. It’s a biological condition, driven by hormones and neurotransmitters that fuel sugar and carb cravings — leading to uncontrolled overeating.

But are you addicted? Addiction means you keep doing something even when you know its destructive. In other words you eat the whole row of cookies, despite knowing full well they will cause weight gain.

There are several signs that you’re addicted to sugar. You might have heard them before – moodiness, fatigue, the mid-day lull, bingeing, weight gain, and evening cravings.

But I want to give you one question to ask yourself to determine how reliant you are on sugar, and by sugar I mean flour too, because flour acts exactly like sugar in the body.  To be honest, I would say that flour is even worse than sugar, since flour raises blood sugar even more than table sugar. Even whole-wheat flour, which not many people are aware of.

The question is this;

“Are you ever NOT hungry, but still WANT to eat?”

If the answer is yes, you have to take note. Frequent non-hunger eating and an inability to stop is a sign of addiction.

If you find yourself wanting to eat certain foods–particularly sweet and starchy foods, even when you’re not hungry, those are the cravings that fuel emotional eating. We can usually stop eating carrots easily, because they are non-addictive, real food.

And the only non-hungry bodies that get cravings are addicted bodies.

Why do you get Cravings?

It could be physiological, meaning you experience hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar) because you ate foods that shot your insulin too high and it resulted in a crash.

Or it could also be chemical – where you are depleted in two important neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine – and sugar and starch help you get a quick boost of these chemicals in the brain. If you are depleted, your brain will cry out and “hunt down” sugary, doughy starches until it gets a hit, which is why willpower fails in the face of this chemical lacking, until you boost serotonin naturally with the right food, supplements and lifestyle habits.

How Can You Stop the Cycle?

Every addiction has a cycle. Breaking that cycle generally kicks off a cycle of withdrawal.

Withdrawal is hard because you’re not just stopping habits. You’re not just letting go of your life raft or favourite junk foods. You’re fighting the pleasure centre of your brain.

That can be a tough fight. We humans are pleasure-seekers, and your brain (and body) has come to equate pleasure with sugar and starch.

Still, it’s possible to start paring back your sugar intake, coming carefully off of it in a way that alleviates withdrawal symptoms.

Here are my 7 favourite ways to nix sugar withdrawal and to triumph over insatiable cravings.

1) Start Your Day with Protein and Healthy Fats

Do you eat a syrupy waffle, toast with jam, muesli bars, cereal, soft bagel, or carton of low fat flavoured yogurt in the morning? If so, you’re kicking off the sugar craving cycle everyday!

Keep your blood sugar levels balanced, get natural energy, and give your body the micronutrients it needs for long-term health by starting your morning with a some eggs, full fat Greek yogurt, berries, nut butters or a protein pancake – with real foods that keep your blood sugar balanced and hunger pangs at bay so you can kick the sugar-craving cycle all day long.

2) Pick ONE (Healthy) Treat

Your brain will always equate eating with pleasure. It’s an evolutionary thing. If food brings pleasure, you’ll seek it out and survive.

Rather than fighting against your basic biology, use it for your good. Find a single healthy snack you enjoy and swap it in for your classic go-to sweets. Then, allow yourself to enjoy it once a day.

Focus on a full-flavored food that you truly enjoy. A handful of pistachio nuts, fresh berries and real cream, some olives and feta or super dark chocolate. Sparkling mineral water with lemon or lime is also a refreshing flavour boost for your palette and a great alternative to soft drink.

3) Fight Sugar with Fat

Fat is not a four-letter word. Fat doesn’t make you fat, sugar does. Fat makes you full, balances your blood sugar, adds flavour and is necessary for fuelling your cells. Instead of a sweet tooth, become a fat tooth. Along with protein, have good fats at every meal including nuts and seeds (which also contain protein), extra virgin olive oil, coconut butter, avocados, and omega 3 fats from fish.

4) Don’t Drink your Calories

Any form of liquid sugar calories is worse than solid food with sugar or flour. Think of it as mainlining sugar directly to your liver. It turns off a fat storage machine in your liver, leading to dreaded belly fat. You don’t feel full, so you eat more all day and you crave more sugar and carbs. It’s also the single biggest source of sugar calories in our diet. That includes soft drinks, commercial smoothies, juices (other than green vegetable juice), sports drinks, sweetened teas or coffees. One can of soft drink a day increase a kid’s chance of being obese by 60 percent and a woman’s chance of type 2 diabetes by 80 percent. Stay away!

5) Anticipate Your Cravings – Know Yourself and Your Triggers

You know yourself better than anyone. When do you reach for the cookie jar? Be prepared for that 3 p.m. “snack attack,” with a strategic plan (i.e. tea break and a ten minute walk). Start to train your body into healthier habits by responding to that craving by adding other pleasurable activities to your day. Drink a big glass of water, go for a quick walk, call a friend. It won’t be long before you’ve established a new routine and you don’t need the cookies everyday. Your will look forward to your soothing hot tea and a walk in the fresh air.

6) Pay Attention to Food Labels

Plenty of everyday so called “healthy foods” can contain enormous amounts of hidden sugar. Worst culprits are breakfast cereals, granola bars, pasta sauce, salad dressing and low fat flavoured yogurts. Sugar comes under all disguises. Avoid terms like: anhydrous dextrose, dextrose, fructose, high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and malt syrup. Those are sneaky terms for different types of sugar. What’s the point in weaning yourself off of a sugar addiction, when you’re getting the same amount of sugar in something you don’t even want to be sweet? The general rule of thumb is, if you can’t identify everything on the label – put it back on the shelf.

 7) Swap Distress for De-stress

If you are stressed, your hormones go crazy. Cortisol goes up which makes you hungry, causes belly fat storage and leads to type 2 diabetes. Studies show that taking deep breaths activates a special nerve, called the vagus nerve, that shifts your metabolism from fat storage to fat burning and quickly moves you out of the stress state. And all you have to do is take a deep breath. My “Peace Process”, outlined in my soon to be released book “How I Got Skinny Eating Fat” is something you can do anywhere, anytime. Take a few moments to bring your mind back to your body by taking deep breaths – in to the count of five, out to the count of five. Five times. That’s it. Do this before every meal. Watch what happens!

I’d love to hear your comments about sugar cravings, so please leave me a comment below, I read every one of them!

BLOGS I LOVE!

If you are looking for some mouth watering recipes that are sugar and wheat free, check out Gourmet Girl Cooks. Ayla has consistently delicious tasting meals and desserts that help live a healthier lifestyle without feeling deprived. Check out her website here.

 

 

So You Fell Off the Wagon…Tips for Success

You know how it goes. You’re cruising along, mindfully enjoying whole, unprocessed foods and integrating exercise into your daily routine — in general, doing everything right. The next thing you know, one cookie turns into six, one scoop of ice cream turns into an entire tub, and you’re banging your head against the wall asking yourself where you went wrong.

Two Kinds of Relapses

There are two different kinds of relapses. The first — and the easier one to deal with — is the acute relapse. You’re going along fine and then, you just lose it.

The reasons for it are as unique as the individual. One of the more common ones, I have found with myself and with clients, is being too restrictive with yourself and putting yourself into a mindset of deprivation.

When you just can’t take it anymore and deprive yourself too much, you break out.  Just as in physics, resistance creates force and extreme restriction is setting yourself up for a binge. It’s almost like pulling the elastic band too tight and having it flick back into your face.

The remedy for this is to give yourself some wiggle room, by setting healthy, nurturing boundaries. For example, twice a week, allow yourself a treat, preferably a quality one, and really savour it. This helps you learn self-trust, that it’s OK to enjoy your favourite foods occasionally.

Another reason is stress. You’ve had a fight with your spouse, the kids are whining, or you had a bad day at the office, and you decide you need a time-out. Life happens, and if you have a piece of chocolate to deal with that, that doesn’t mean you’re a bad person. It’s just important to move on from the chocolate and do some things that truly relieve stress, other than eating such as a bubble bath, a funny movie, a good book or a walk.

When stress happens, it’s important to learn from the experience. Ask yourself what happened. Who were you with, what were you feeling, what could you have done besides eat? If you don’t recognize what triggered the relapse, you’re more likely to react the same way the next time the situation arises.

Chronic Relapses

The more difficult type of relapse is the chronic variety. Somewhere along the line you loosen up and let your guard down. You can’t really pinpoint when, but you realize you have been eating mindlessly and spending all day sitting, skip your daily walks. You’re snacking — and not on broccoli — far too much. In short, you’ve given up, even if only temporarily.

Usually what this means is that you’ve lost your motivation and need to renew it. Sit down and take stock. Refocus your goals about self-care. Put yourself first. When you were eating well, managing stress and taking excellent care of yourself how did you feel? What was motivating you then? If you can recreate those feelings, you can get your desire back.

One trick is trying on and wearing beautiful clothes every day. This can help you to get motivated again, since most people are motivated by looking good.

Learn Your Triggers

When you do have a lapse, pick yourself up and return to what you know works for you.

Write a list of your trigger situations and then plan an alternative for each risk. For example: You’re at work and always get tempted by the cookie jar in the break room. Don’t take your breaks in the cookie room, go for a brisk walk outside instead and have a tea at your desk. Or: You and your kids are having lunch. Instead of reaching for the fries, take a drink of sparkling water instead.

Reinforce the new behaviors with small rewards that will keep you motivated. If you do not eat off your child’s plate for 2 weeks, have a manicure or buy yourself a new lipstick.

We all have stressors in life that we can’t change, but how we react to them is in our control.  And if restricting all yummy things too much is backfiring on you, remember that weight loss is not a race, it’s a lifestyle you can stick to and the slow losers are usually the best losers, since compliance and consistency means success.

Youtubers I Love…..

If you are looking for some great toning exercises to do at home, I love Hang Tight with MarC. She has great moves for tightening abs, butt and all over and best of all you can do them in the comfort of your own home. Check out her Youtube Channel here.

Is Sugar Toxic?

Most of us are aware that excess refined sugar isn’t great for our health. Sugar (without protein or fat) spikes our blood sugar very rapidly and elevates insulin (the fat storing hormone), causes inflammation in the body, is known to be highly addictive and over time can lead to insulin resistance. But is sugar toxic?

Toxicity Depends On….

The truth is white sugar and high fructose corn syrup are not “toxins” in the sense that even small amounts are potentially harmful. However, it is when you consider the amounts the average American and Australian swallows each year—a whopping 130 pounds of added sugars ingested annually. That’s about 22 teaspoons a day, way over the max set by the national recommendations. New science shows that this overload of sugar—often stemming from hard-to-detect hidden added sugars—is affecting your body in all sorts of strange ways and leading to weight gain from overeating.

Liquid Sugar

Liquid sugar and high fructose corn syrup are particularly detrimental because we don’t tend to compensate for the calories we drink by reducing our calorie consumption elsewhere. Liquid calories are easily consumed and rarely counted, and liquid sugar fails to trigger the satiety hormone that tells us we’ve had enough.

Sugar is neither a toxin nor a replacement for real food. If weight loss and optimal health is your goal, small amounts of sugar can fit into a whole foods, nutrient dense, unprocessed diet, as long as you realize it for what it is – an occasional treat.

An Occasional Treat – without the Guilt

I feel that intentionally consuming sugar on occasion, mindfully and with your full attention shouldn’t be a problem for most people. If every now and then you decide to enjoy a chocolate truffle or a slice of lemon tart with sugar in it, you shouldn’t mentally and emotionally beat yourself up about it. The stress that comes with excessive food restrictions can be much more harmful than having a bit of refined sugar here and there.

Having said that, we need to become more aware of where the sugar is hidden and cut back where we can. Some of the best ways to do this are;

-          Buy plain foods (like yogurt) and sweeten them yourself with stevia and spices, which are natural, calorie free and don’t raise blood sugar.

-          Rather than keep sugary treats at home, only consume them when out and in the smallest serve (sharing is a great option). This helps you keep track of when you ate.

-          If you love ice-cream, instead of stocking the freezer at home, make it a point to drive to a local ice-cream parlor, no more than once a week and order the small serve, savoring every bite, while at the shop.

-          If you love sweetened beverages, including teas and coffee, carry sachets of stevia with you, order them unsweetened and add your own healthier sweetener.

-          If you’re a dessert lover, opt for fruit based-desserts (nature’s candy) like baked apples, frozen or fresh berries, frozen red grapes or honeydew.

-          If you love pasta sauce, (most contain hidden sugars), try using diced tomatoes with herbs and tomato paste for your Bolognese and casseroles.

Plan Your Indulgences and Savor Every Bite

We know that excess sugar is bad news, but fear of food is no good either. It’s what you do 80% of the time that really counts, so if you plan to have a dinner out and want to mindfully enjoy your favorite dessert, make sure you don’t ruin the sweetness by feeling guilty or beating yourself up for days.

I am Eating Healthy and Exercising, But…..

As a weight wellness coach, I often hear clients tell me that they are eating healthily – consisting of whole foods and exercising regularly, but…they are stalling in their slimming efforts.

It can be very frustrating, especially when they watch a slim friend bite into muffin or donut at the mid-morning coffee break. It just doesn’t seem fair.

The major problem is we can’t compare ourselves with others, as our metabolisms are all different. Some of us have very broken metabolisms due to years of dieting, and if we happen to have impaired thyroid function as well as some degree of insulin resistance – it can be a real challenge to shift the weight.

With that in mind, there are a few common mistakes I see regularly that, if addressed, can make all the difference to your results.

-          Amounts Do Count! – How Much “Healthy” Food are You Eating? A lot of people are eating foods that are ‘healthy’ when looked at individually. Like if you have oatmeal and fruit for breakfast, they are both carbs, with NO fat and NO protein. These are two ‘healthy foods’ but will not help you lose weight when eaten that way, especially if you are eating a big bowl. Also, a high GI meal like that will probably lead to being ‘hungry’ again in an hour or so, and you still haven’t given your body any fat or protein it needs to keep you satiated for very long.

-          Eating Too Many Nuts and Cheese – Nuts have great fiber, fat and protein and cheese is a rich source of satisfying protein and fat, but both are notoriously easy to overeat. Your best bet is to portion them out in zip-lock bags or serve in a small ramekin and put the container away. Better still; buy nuts in shells, because cracking them and shelling them yourself will help control portions. I love pistachios for this reason. With cheese, I love Babybels, or simply serve yourself the size of 4 dice with your meal and sit down to eat at the table.

-          Eating Too Much Fruit – Fruit has amazing antioxidants, fiber and phytonutrients, but it also has a lot of sugar, which can spike insulin and make you overeat. When we eat fruit alone (without fat or protein) it fails to trigger the satiety hormone that tells us we’ve had enough. So try having apple slices with almond butter, for example, or berries with Greek yogurt, both make a delicious dessert

-          Going Fat Free – We know well that when the fat has been taken out of food, it tastes like cardboard, so what do food manufacturers do? They add lots of sugar and refined flours, which is addictive and spikes insulin to make you fat. A smaller amount of the real thing is better, like whole, plain Greek yogurt is much more satiating and doesn’t contain excessive amounts of sugar. Better yet sweeten plain yogurt yourself with stevia, cinnamon or coconut flakes.

-          Getting Carried Away with “Healthy” Desserts – There are some wonderful “healthified” ways to enjoy your favorite treats, but just because it’s “sugar free’, “gluten free”  “fat free” or “high fiber”, it still contains calories which doesn’t make it a free pass. Remember, if we eat more than our bodies physically need, we get fat, even if it’s healthy food.

You may be on the right track with un-processing your diet, but it’s also important to approach certain foods with caution and to really learn to read your own body, to see what’s working. With a few small tweaks, you can be well on your way to reaching your goals.