Currently more than ¾ of Americans are overweight and more than 1/3 are obese. These numbers are increasing each year. The average middle age weight gain is 22 lbs. Obviously these numbers prove that losing weight is no easy feat.
What’s alarming is that carrying around extra belly fat is linked to just about every disease including heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol, liver and gallbladder disease, sleep and breathing problems, osteoarthritis, low self-esteem, all types of cancers and even death.
What is even more scary, is that studies have found that being 20 lbs overweight more than doubles your risk for heart disease and triples your risk for developing cancer.
Below are the most overlooked weight loss strategies that if address could help you lose 10, 20, 30 or even 100 lbs to reclaim their body and health.
1# NOT MANAGING STRESS
You can be eating all the right food and exercising consistently, but if you’re not managing your stress well, your waistline will be greatly affected. Stress is an inescapable part of the human condition, and we all experience stress on different levels and in different ways.
Stress not only causes weight gain, by keeping us up at night but can lower our immune systems making us susceptible to getting sick.
What happens when we feel stress is our bodies ‘fight-or-flight’ (sympathetic nervous system) is activated, reacting to a stressful or perceived stressful event. Notice how I said “perceived stressful event,” because nothing even has to happen for us to activate the stress response. Worrying is a perfect example of this type of stress.
Our bodies produces larger quantities of the chemicals cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenaline, which trigger a series of physical events from higher heart rate, heightened muscle preparedness, sweating, and alertness; all of which help us protect ourselves in a dangerous or challenging situation.
We don’t want to be walking around in a state of this type of stress on a consistent daily basis, because when you are stressed, your body produces cortisol which increases appetite. Cortisol also stimulates the growth and the manufacturing of new abdominal fat cells.
This increase in fat storage increases belly fat. Belly fat is the unhealthiest fat on the body. When cortisol levels are high, serotonin levels are lowered. Serotonin is an important brain neurotransmitter that promotes a ‘feel good’ feeling. Low serotonin causes carbohydrate cravings and depression.
When we feel stressed, many non-essential body functions are also affected and slowed down, such as our digestive and immune systems. This is another reason chronic unmanaged mental/emotional stress causes weight gain, illness and disease.
When we are stressed, the following physical responses happen:
*Stress hormone cortisol released (leading to belly fat)
*Our digestive system slows down
*Immune system goes down
*We do not sleep
The effects of stress on the mind include feelings of anxiety, depression, forgetfulness, mental fog, irritability, restlessness, sadness, fatigue, burnout, and anger.
Which can cause…
1. Eating too much or too little
2. Food cravings
3. Drug and alcohol abuse
4. Relationship problems
5. Rash, poor decisions
Don’t let stress sabotage your weight loss success. Learn to powerfully deal with it using one or all of these proven effective stress busting techniques:
1. Meditation- Studies show that having a daily practice greatly reduces chronic uncomplimentary stress by normalizing blood pressure, reducing tension and perception of stress, helping cope with pain and loss, improving the immune system and greatly increasing concentration and mental focus.
2. Breathe Exercises- These can be as simple as taking ten deep breaths in and out through your nose and can help your body to slow down and greatly reduce stress.
3. Being in Nature- A recent study done in Japan showed that even looking at a picture of nature can greatly reduce chronic stress. Simply placing pictures of beautiful nature scenes at your desk or in your home is a great strategy but even better is getting outside as much as possible to a park, beach, lake or mountain area to decompress.
4. Physical Exercise– Science has now proven that exercise can help you become more resilient to stress. A recent research study conducted by Princeton University has found evidence that exercise actually reorganizes the brain to be more resilient to stress. They also found that physical activity reorganizes the brain so that it’s response to stress is reduced and anxiety is less likely to interfere with normal brain function (Princeton 1). This new evidence has provided yet another great reason to incorporate exercise into your daily lifestyle. Not only does exercise induce an immediate reduction in stress levels, it is now proven to help recondition our brains to respond better to stressful situations in everyday life and reduce anxiety.
#2 NOT GETTING QUALITY SLEEP
Many people struggle with not being able to fall asleep. In fact, prescriptions for sleeping pills topped 56 million in 2008-up 54 percent from 2004- with over $5 billion in sales in 2010. Not getting optimal sleep can throw off your hormones leaving you feeling hungry, cranky and tired throughout the day.
The main hormones involved are:
Ghrelin, produced in the gastrointestinal tract and stimulates appetite.
Leptin, produced in fat cells and sends a signal to the brain when you are full.
Cortisol, most commonly known as a stress hormone and also regulates appetite.
Insulin, produced in the pancreas and regulates blood sugar.
Growth Hormone, regulates the body’s proportions of fat and muscle during adulthood.
The quality of sleep and the right amount of deep sleep is just as important as the quantity of sleep.When you don’t get adequate sleep, leptin levels decrease; therefore, you don’t feel as satisfied after you eat. Also, a lack of sleep causes ghrelin levels to rise, which means your appetite is stimulated, so you want to eat more. The combination of these two hormones causes overeating because you feel hungry even if you are full.
Sleep loss may interfere with the body’s ability to metabolize carbohydrates which leads to high levels of blood sugar. A rise in blood sugar promotes the overproduction of insulin. This also can lead to the storage of body fat and insulin resistance. Insulin resistance occurs in diabetes.
Articles published in The Journal of the American Medical Association and The Lancet suggest that sleep loss may increase hunger and negatively affect the body’s metabolism, which may make it more difficult to maintain or lose weight.
When you don’t get optimal sleep your body becomes out of sync with its natural sleep-wake cycles or circadian rhythms, which leads to disturbances in hormone regulation.
Abnormal circadian rhythms have been associated with weight gain, obesity, diabetes, depression and many other diseases because of these disturbances.
The most common reasons most people have trouble sleeping is because of stress, consuming too much caffeine, drinking alcohol or not having an ideal sleep environment. Usually it’s a combination of a few of these factors.
If you’re drinking excessive amounts of coffee and having a few drinks in the evening, cutting back on both of these practices is a good place to start.
#3 SALAD SABOTAGE
First congrats on choosing to eat a salad. The #1 missing food in the American diet today is greens. But when it comes to a salad, you must be a savvy salad connoisseur to make sure that your salad isn’t packing on as many calories as the bacon cheeseburger you just chose it over.
The challenge with salad is to not load it up too much with toppings and heavy dressing, while not making it so skimpy that it will leave you with lingering hunger. You want to feel full, satisfied and energized after eating a salad, not like you want to eat your hand.
The salad sabotage doesn’t happen in the leafy greens or the raw vegetables that are added.
The sabotage occurs in two specific areas:
1. Using too much or the wrong kinds of dressing
Beware! Most commercial dressings are loaded with oil, fat and sugar. It’s super important to read the labels of the salad dressings you buy and when you’re ordering a salad at a restaurant, ask for a lite dressing on the side so you can decide how much goes in. The best way is to just make you’re own salad dressing.
Note: One tablespoon of oil is about 120 calories. One tablespoon of dressing doesn’t go that far on a big salad.
2. Be mindful to not over do it with toppings
Adding toppings to a salad not only adds variety but it adds bulk to the salad, helping to leave you feeling satisfied. This is good. But the trick is to add toppings in layers and to be mindful which ones are more calorically dense–contain more calories and not to over do it on these toppings.
The main topping to watch out for is cheese, which is both high in calories and fat. Nuts are also high in calories and fat, but contain much healthier fats than cheese. Nuts are both healthy and filling so using just a small handful will help fill you up and stay full.
Stick to topping your salads with mostly vegetables and 1-2 servings of a lean protein such as beans, eggs, organic animal protein, tofu, nuts and seeds.
I hope these 3 weight loss strategies help you to naturally lose weight to experience how good your body is designed to feel. True healthy weight loss addresses the lifestyle factors that get out of balance and lead to overeating in the first place. Food can never fill what’s missing in your life.
True sustainable weight loss happens when you’re aligned with yourself, when you’re happy and fulfilled.