The Complex Relationship Between Sleep and Weight

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This blog is guest written by Sheila Johnson at https://www.wellsheila.net .

Are you struggling with stubborn body fat while suffering from insomnia? Or perhaps you’ve gained a few pounds and aren’t sleeping as well as you used to. It’s easy to write these connections off as coincidence, but there’s a complex relationship between weight and sleep. Not only does your weight affect how well you sleep, but sleep also impacts your ability to maintain a healthy weight. Wild Flowers Grow invites you to read on if you’re ready to get better sleep and lose weight. 

How Weight Affects Sleep (and Vice Versa)

Excess weight is linked to sleep disorders

Being overweight or obese is a major risk factor for sleep apnea, a sleep disorder that causes the airway to become obstructed during sleep. Because sleep apnea reduces sleep quality, it can lead to further weight gain due to sleep quality’s impact on appetite, exercise, and metabolism.

Poor sleep makes you hungrier

Sleep deprivation causes the body to release more appetite-stimulating hormones and suppresses leptin, a hormone that tells your brain when you’re full. If that’s not bad enough, insomniacs are also more likely to reach for high-fat, high-sugar, and high-calorie foods.

Poor sleep makes it harder to exercise

People are less likely to exercise when sleep deprived. Even if you work up the will to hit the gym, workouts tend to be shorter and less intense when you’re not well-rested.

Poor sleep leads to weight gain

There’s also research that suggests poor sleep lowers resting metabolism and increases insulin resistance, two things that make it even harder to lose weight.

These facts are scary, but you can break the cycle of insomnia and weight gain.

How to Sleep Better with Excess Weight

Before you get serious about losing weight, you need to address your poor sleep quality. These are some things you can do to sleep better when you’re carrying extra weight:

Get a supportive mattress

If you’ve gained weight, your old mattress might not be as supportive as it used to be. Many heavier individuals find foam mattresses don’t provide enough support to align their spine, which can lead to back pain and difficulty sleeping. If you’re on the heavier side and tend to toss and turn most nights, switching to a larger size innerspring mattress for more support could be the perfect solution to help you achieve better sleep.

Avoid eating and drinking before bed

Overweight people are more likely to experience acid reflux. To reduce nighttime heartburn, stop eating and drinking three hours before bed. If you’re a side sleeper, sleep on your left side.

Exercise more

Exercise is proven to improve sleep. Vigorous aerobic exercise like running or HIIT is best for sleep, but even moderate-intensity exercise makes a difference. However, avoid intense exercise right before bed. If you’re looking for a nighttime workout, try a mindful yoga routine instead. Better yet, making yoga a regular activity can enhance your ability to feel more relaxed since it’s a great stress reducer. If you need some extra motivation, use discounts to splurge on some new activewear from stores like Nike or Finish Line. 

Talk to your doctor

Sleep apnea and snoring may go away with weight loss, but in the meantime, it’s important to address sleep disorders that leave you waking up groggy. Talk to your doctor about sleep apnea. You may be prescribed a sleep study and a PAP machine.

Weight Loss Tips for Better Sleep (and Health!)

Now that you’re sleeping better, it’s easier to conquer your weight loss goals. There are tons of weight loss tips out there, but these simple tips are at the core of any weight loss plan:

Eat filling foods

Controlling your appetite will be a challenge at first, so avoid empty calories and instead, focus on filling foods like proteins, vegetables, and complex carbohydrates.

Find exercise you enjoy

Consistency is the most important thing when it comes to exercise, so find something you can commit to. Again, yoga is fantastic when you’re starting a weight loss journey because it’s low-impact, beginner-friendly, and adaptable to every body.

Focus on the dos, not the don’ts

It’s common to approach weight loss by taking things away — junk food, calories, lazy nights on the sofa. Instead of focusing on what’s off-limits, work on building healthy behaviors. Planning your meals, eating more vegetables, and getting active are positive goals that build you up.

It’s hard to find the motivation to get healthy when you’re not sleeping well. Unfortunately, poor lifestyle habits also make it harder to catch quality rest. If you’re stuck in the cycle of sleep loss and weight gain, use these tips to get your sleep and your health back on track.

Image via Unsplash

This blog is written by Sheila Johnson at https://www.wellsheila.net . For more info and to contact her directly, head over to her website and see what she has to offer! 

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The REAL Reason You Can’t Lose Weight And 6 Ways To Fix It

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Eat less, move more.

That’s what mainstream wellness advice is often telling you to do.

Sprinkle that plate of advice with eat more veggies, drink more water, get more sleep, and boost your diet with fibrous foods.

Sound advice? For some it is, especially if you are doing little to none of that. But for others? Perhaps not as in-depth as you may need.

If you are a women who is going through hormonal changes (at any life stage), in peri-menopause, or in menopause itself, you probably know that real struggle of body change and how mainstream wellness advice may not give you the results you are looking for. 

Weight gain, weight shift, mood changes, digestive problems, fatigue, joint pain — you may know these all too well. But if you are doing all the right things, or at least most of them, and still not getting results, what do you do?

First stop? Make sure that your hormones are being supported.

Imbalanced hormones create a whirlwind in the body that can cause a spiraling effect of physical symptoms and problems. Your hormonal needs are going to be different than mine, but there are a few hormones that are key factors in the balance game for all of us. Let’s take a quick look at them…

Insulin

Insulin is a fat-storage hormone. Insulin resistance or block means your cells can’t absorb the extra blood glucose your body generates from the food you eat—when that happens, your liver converts the glucose into fat. Insulin resistance usually causes weight gain and sugar addiction. This is one reason that it is imperative to keep blood sugar levels balanced when looking to balance out hormonal levels.

Leptin

Leptin is nature’s appetite suppressant. When you’ve had enough to eat, leptin says to your brain, “Hey it is time to stop eating.” High leptin can cause weight gain and excessive hunger. When you are overweight, your fat cells produce excess leptin. When your brain gets bombarded with leptin signals from too many fat cells, it shuts down; leptin levels keep rising, receptors stop functioning, your body doesn’t get the leptin signal, and you don’t feel full. You keep eating the wrong foods in an addictive pattern, and you keep gaining weight. An imbalance in this hormone can really make it challenging to gather your willpower to push away food that you know is not going to help you achieve your goals. 

Estrogen

For women, estrogen can greatly fluctuate through many stages of life — pregnancy, peri-menopause, menopause, etc. Estrogen dominance is when you have too much estrogen compared with its counter-hormone, progesterone. Having too much estrogen in the body causes a number of symptoms, including resistance to weight loss, moodiness, PMS, and heavy periods.

Thyroid

Your thyroid is directly tied to your metabolism. It is like the gas pedal, managing how fast or how slow you burn those calories. When the thyroid is sluggish, hypothyroidism, it can cause weight gain, fluid retention, hair loss or thinning, depression, and constipation, among other problems. When it is excessive, hyperthyroidism, it can cause appetite changes (decrease or increase), difficulty sleeping, fatigue, frequent bowel movements, heart palpitations, heat intolerance, increased sweating, irritability, just to name a few. 

Getting Your Hormones Back On Track 

Addressing your HPA axis is going to be the first step. If you missed my blog on the HPA axis and it’s involvement in hormonal balancing, make sure that you read that first. After addressing that, now we have to look at the other lifestyle changes essential to getting your hormones back on track. There are 4 main essential changes needed to correct the hormonal misfiring. These are changes in:

  • How you eat (this makes up approximately 80% of your overall results)
  • How you think
  • How you move
  • How you supplement 
  1. Choose wisely what you eat and drink. Eating whole, unprocessed foods that are abundant in healthy fats, vegetables, protein, and some fruits are the best place to start. Each person’s needs will be different, but if you start incorporating more of these foods, you will start to notice differences. Greatly limit processed foods, refined carbohydrates, sugars and sugar substitutes from your diet. These foods create an imbalance in your blood sugar levels and an imbalance in your overall hormonal disposition. Eliminate alcohol for 30 days. A single serving of this can reduce a woman’s metabolism by more than 70% and, even though, it is temporary, it can add up if you have a drink most nights.
  2. Support your digestion. Hippocrates stated that “All disease begins in the gut.” It is not only where approximately 80% of your immune cells reside, but it is also the gateway to nutrient absorption. If your digestive health is out of whack (think excessive gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, stomach pains after eating, etc), then the way your body uses your food and your hormonal balance will be following suit. Foods such as processed foods, sugar, gluten-containing foods, refined carbohydrates, unhealthy fats (i.e., vegetable oils, canola oil, trans fats), and foods you are allergic/sensitive to can all decrease the health of your digestion (aka your gut health). Eating supporting foods (refer back to #1), fermented foods (i.e., sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, yogurt, etc), decreasing your stress levels, and taking supportive supplements can all help to get your gut health solid. 
  3. Watch your thoughts. Stress and our reactions to life start with the thoughts we think. Finding ways to alter your inner dialogue and understand why you think and believe what you do can make a significant difference on your stress levels. It really is about discovering yourself, what stresses you out, and how you can change your approach so that it is not so taxing on your energy (and your hormones). Negative thoughts and increased stress also raise your cortisol levels, putting you in a fight or flight mindset. And, the more you go to that place of being, the more your cortisol levels chronically stay elevated. Long-term exposure to cortisol and other stress hormones can wreck havoc on almost all of your body’s processes, increasing your risk of many health issues, from heart disease and obesity to anxiety and depression. 
  4. Add targeted body movement into your day. It is important to move the way that you and your body love — that will help to keep you committed to moving. But when balancing hormones, there is a hierarchy in what will get you the best results. Chronic cardio and long distance training are not as likely to stabilize your cortisol, which can actually be raised dramatically after these sorts of activities. Burst training, HIIT training, and adaptive exercise (i.e. Pilates and yoga) are more likely to stabilize cortisol. Burst training is incredibly efficient because it involves short periods of high intensity exercise with moderate-level exercise as recovery. This allows your body to raise cortisol, but only for a bit, allowing you to get the benefits of exercise, but not create a huge imbalance. Not only that, but it is extremely effective at raising growth hormone, the growth-and-repair hormone that maintains your lean body mass, a crucial indicator of how your body is aging biologically. 
  5. Consider genetic testing. It can guide the best ways for you to eat, move, think, and supplement for hormonal harmony and weight loss. This way, there is no guessing game and you can truly discover what might be the factors holding you back. 
  6. Use supplements as needed to improve your hormone levels. In a perfect world, you can get all you need from the food you eat and the healthy lifestyle choices you make. Unfortunately in our modern society, that becomes a challenge. Our food system has been so greatly depleted nutritionally and replaced with much processed, chemically-laden foods. We are inundated with environmental hazards such as toxins, pesticides, EMF’s, and poor air quality that our body is under daily attack — more for some people than others. Adding appropriate supplementation into your nutrition plan can greatly enhance how your body manages all of these modern day obstacles, but can also help offload some of the stress so that your hormones can get better balance. Outside of the adaptogens that are often associated with hormonal balances (ashwagandha, rhodiola, maca) and the common vitamins and minerals that can offset other health woes (Vitamin D, B complex, magnesium, etc), there are a few others that are highly researched: 
  • Cortisol Manager: You need 7 to 8.5 hours of sleep to break through weight loss resistance. An excellent supplement for improved sleep and less stress is called Cortisol Manager, by Integrative Therapeutics. It is a combination of phosphatidyl serine and ashwagandha. It dials down the HPA so that you don’t feel stressed and can wind down for a good night of sleep. Too much cortisol raises blood sugar and deposits fat at night. 
  • Berberine. Berberine, (a great brand is Integrative Therapeutics) is the most proven supplement to reset insulin and support weight loss in women. It activates an important enzyme called adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase, or AMP, nicknamed the “metabolic master switch.” It has been shown to work better when combined with milk thistle.
  • ION Biome Gut Health. Want a supplement that not only supplements, rather it supports your health? This is it. The active ingredient, Terrahydrite, has been shown to support the integrity of the gut lining, even in the face of damage from toxins such as glyphosate. I use this when I know that I will be consuming foods or drinks that may not be the healthiest or when I suspect potential issues may be present.

If you suspect that you are struggling with imbalanced hormones and they are causing you to not get the results you want, it doesn’t have to be that way. There is hope. I encourage you to investigate all areas of your life and get really real with yourself to see what might be the main culprit in holding you back to going exactly where you want to go!

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Women, Weight-Loss, And How To Balance Your Hormones

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It all shifts.

Every single inch seems to shift to a part of the body that it wasn’t meant to be. 

The thighs move up to the hips, the butt moves up the belly, and the back of the arms extend their goodbye with just a little extra jiggle than you might want. 

The shift happens for men and women, but women are more afflicted because of their delicate hormonal balance that can easily get upset. 

It Isn’t All About The Calories

People have been brainwashed to think if we eat a little less or follow the latest fad diet, that the weight will just melt off of us — regardless of your age or current hormonal disposition. 

Unfortunately, there continues numerous dieting models that place this hypothesis on a pedestal, promising their female clients success. And then when it doesn’t work or only works for a short period of time? 

Well…

You blame yourself. You must have done something wrong or did not have the magical willpower unicorn to help you stay on track.

I discovered that the calorie-in/calorie-out hypothesis has been widely disproven and remains the greatest misconception women have about diet and weight loss. Calories matter, more to some women than others, but hormones matter more.

Most diets don’t work for women. They fail to address the hormonal root causes that are the most common reasons for resisting weight loss resistance — excess cortisol, insulin and/or leptin blockage, estrogen dominance, a sluggish thyroid, low testosterone, and problems with the HPA (hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal) control system.

The HPA (Hypothalamic–Pituitary–Adrenal) Axis

The HPA axis is the boss of all your hormones. It sits up high looking out over the hormonal kingdom and communicating based on how it interacts with other hormones. The root cause of cortisol imbalance is usually a dysregulated HPA axis. 

When the HPA is up-regulated, you churn out too much cortisol. Think muffin top, feeling like you’re constantly racing from task to task, feeling wired but tired, quickness to anger and irritability, and rapid weight gain.

When the HPA is constantly up-regulated, it can get super burned out, like how you feel after those days of back-to-back meetings and then coming home to making dinner and managing your kid’s soccer schedules.

At this point, the HPA becomes down-regulated and suddenly you have a lack of stamina, you are quick to catch a cold, your viewpoint turns more negative, and your thyroid begins to show imbalances.

Since the HPA is often the root cause, the key is resetting it. Any other attempt at fixing the hormones will likely fail in the long run if the HPA is not addressed and stabilized.

It All Starts With Cortisol

There are so many steps you can take to address your cortisol and it really is bio-individual. Some are more researched than others, with my suggestions below being some of the most researched and successful with my clients. Here is my simple protocol to get you started for balancing cortisol.

  • Start a regular massage routine. Getting a massage once or twice a month not only prioritizes self-care, but it also helps the muscles and the fascia to release tightness and it helps to move stuck energy throughout the body. You can do this by paying for massage and/or you can start a foam roller practice, which acts like a self massage. 
  • Add B Vitamins and Omega-3’s if you are deficient. Both of these nutritional gems helps to soothe the nervous system. You can get them in supplemental form or you can eat foods like salmon, leafy greens, liver, beef, eggs, sunflower seeds, and nutritional yeast for B vitamins. Want more Omega-3’s? Fill your meals with foods like walnuts, almonds, fatty fishes, avocados, and chia seeds.
  • Honor your voice. This was the biggest action step for my own personal success! Talk through what’s stressing you with someone you trust. Get it off your chest and learn how you can work through it so it doesn’t consume you. While you are at it…
  • Honor your energy. Restore your energy by regular meditation or yoga sessions to help calm the nervous system and bring your conscious awareness back into homeostasis and alignment.
  • Drink more green tea. L-theanine, an amino acid found in green tea, helps to reduce stress. Limit your coffee and alcohol, especially if you are more sensitive to either of these. 
  • Eat more dark chocolate. Yes, eat more dark chocolate, but make sure that it is the 75% or higher variety or raw cacao. Dark chocolate is high in magnesium, a mineral necessary to balancing your stress response. 
  • Take phosphatidylserine.  Phosphatidylserine is helpful to take until you perceive less stress and your HPA is no longer hypervigilant. 
  • Add an adaptogen that helps to reset cortisol. You can try Ashwagandha or Rhodiola, often being successful when taken at night. To help increase your testosterone, you can try some Maca in the morning. 

As you get older and your hormones begin to naturally transition into a peri-, post-, and menopausal stage, it is even more important to pay attention to your stress levels and to the hormones that play critical roles. Next blog, I will be talking about the key hormonal players that you need to know about that keep you in balance and living your best life yet!

References: 

  1. Cuciureanu MD, Vink R. Magnesium and stress. In: Vink R, Nechifor M, editors. Magnesium in the Central Nervous System [Internet]. Adelaide (AU): University of Adelaide Press; 2011. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK507250/
  2. Hellhammer, J., Vogt, D., Franz, N., Freitas, U., & Rutenberg, D. (2014). A soy-based phosphatidylserine/ phosphatidic acid complex (PAS) normalizes the stress reactivity of hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal-axis in chronically stressed male subjects: a randomized, placebo-controlled study. Lipids in health and disease, 13, 121. https://doi.org/10.1186/1476-511X-13-121

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Trouble Slowing Your Mind? 3 Steps To Easy Meditation

My brain was like a monkey flying on the high trapeze and tauntingly giggling at me with each swing.

Back and forth. Here and there. Laughing at me the entire way.

Or, so it seemed as I sat awkwardly in the OM-iest of ways. Fighting the movie of monkey thoughts streaming across the screen of my brain — My neck hurts. My hips hurt. Surely it has been at least 10 minutes of this mind calming stuff that I know is supposed to be good for me. I can’t believe she called me that today!

Don’t look at the clock…Don’t look at the clock!

(*Looks at the clock*) Only 3 minutes?!?!?! This is stupid….I can’t do this. I am so bored…My mind is not made for meditation.

When I first started meditating, this was what happened to me. I could not focus. My brain was not trained to focus. My brain was trained for distraction. And the monkey swinging wildly was out of control. Not only in my meditations, but also in my everyday moments. My mind was running amok and I convinced myself that I was no good at the meditation thing — it was a waste of my time.

How many times have you told yourself that meditation is “not for you?” Or that you were no good at it. Or that you don’t have time to sit and meditate.

What I learned is that meditation is for everyone — at least one of it’s forms. Meditation doesn’t mean that you have to sit crossed-legged, palms up, and chanting wildly. It simply means that you are engaging in an act that calms the mind and brings you to a place of mindfulness that pulls you away from the chaos of your world.

Mindfulness and meditation are not just trendy terms that the Yogi down the street is raving about or that all the celebrities are doing to be noticed. There are real reasons you might just want to try it out. Here are just a few nuggets of benefits —

  • Restores blood pressure
  • Lowers cholesterol
  • Increases blood flow
  • Slows your heart rate
  • Increases deeper levels of relaxation
  • Decreases headaches and muscle tension
  • Increases exercise tolerance
  • Builds self-esteem
  • Reduces anxiety attacks and depression
  • Increases mood and behavior
  • Promotes weight loss
  • Increases immunity
  • Stabilizes pre-menstrual syndrome
  • Helps with healing following a trauma or surgery

Meditation is medicine outside of a bottle!

But what if I tried it before and I failed? I got 3 main tips for you to get started that can help to get you in a solid routine, turning off the monkey movie, and finally feeling successful in mastering your own meditation!

couch-447484_1920Same Time, Same Place

Practice time is sacred. Even if you are walking down the hallway to work while eating an apple as you march towards your next meeting, that time is sacred if you are using it to center yourself and calm your mind. Is that optimal meditating skills? Probably not, but it is one way to own your space and reclaim your brain.

What I am trying to emphasis is that practice time is sacred and set boundaries make it even more sacred. To deepen the sacredness of your OM-iness, take it one step further and try to stick to the same time and same place everyday. It creates some solid consistency and cueing to the brain. For example, meditation time could be at 6 am, after you wake from your deep sleep, retrieve your steaming cup of Joe, nestle into the couch with your headphones and a zen-like tune, and set aside 10 minutes to enter a quiet reflective mind. Deep breathe…and you are off.

When you step into that space at the time you are keeping sacred, your brain turns on to tune into meditation (think Pavlov’s dog, without the drooling).

candle-335965_1920

Create A Ritual

We humans love some easy rituals. Even the most spontaneous and impulsive folks gravitate towards rituals. Why? Because it creates repetition and repetition easy. We don’t have to think too hard about it. Fortunately for us, repetition leads to habit and habit leads to stickability. It’s like a respite for the brain and a trigger that says, “It’s ok to relax.” What do I mean by rituals?

  • Put some soothing music on or a guided meditation. One of my favorites is Chakra Healing Zone.
  • Perform 3-5 deep belly breaths, relaxing more into your seat or couch with each exhale.
  • Visualize connecting to your higher power (or something bigger than yourself) by imagining a bright white beam of light laser beaming from the center of the sky and  entering through the crown of your head, traveling down your body. Let it fill every nook and cranny with a glowing white healing light.
  • Take a deep belly breath in and begin counting down from 10 to 1, relaxing every part of your body and sinking even further into your seat or couch with each descending number.
  •  Bring your attention to your breathing and allow your mind to be free to anything that passes through it. Observe whatever thoughts enter and, without judgment, give yourself permission to let it go.

head-674131_1920

Let Go Of Judgement

Thoughts of what Lucy said about you today. That annoying thing that your significant other did this morning. The utter embarrassment of tripping over your foot and almost falling in front of everybody. These are going to run through your head. At least at first! And that is ok.

Day’s events and judgey thoughts are going to try to consume your mind. That is totally normal (even for experts who have been doing this forever). And even though this is normal, fearing and worrying only prompts the monkey mind to become frustrated and more likely to quit. Here is the key  — remain judgement-free and just observe it. Try this little exercise:

Pretend you are at the movies. When thoughts pop in, gently observe them like you are watching a movie on a big movie screen while you are sitting comfortable in your movie chair. Allow them to flicker by as you tune in and observe. Rather than getting consumed in the movie, keep judgment-free and think to yourself “Hmmm, there that is.” Gently bring your focus back to your breath. Rinse and repeat as thoughts enter.

The more you practice, the more your mind becomes disciplined to hone in faster and stronger.

Did you know that mindfulness and calming the mind are one form of detoxing the body? It helps to decrease stress and inflammation so that your body can operate optimally. Want more detoxing power? Scroll below…

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