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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Do these 7 Simple Steps to (Actually) Stick To Your Goals

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Ahhhh, setting goals…

Excitement fills you as you put pen to paper and dream of plentiful visions dancing in your head. Seriously, this time, you are sticking with your goals!

You set off excitedly proclaiming, “Monday, I am starting.” You have a twinkle in your eye, a fire in your heart, and a perfect plan percolating like the morning coffee that is going to fuel your start. Nothing is going to stop you this time.

Nothing!

You believe yourself fully and completely.

Monday comes and is filled with firey awesomeness. You get out of bed and you are excited to get started. Day 1? DONE! You feel like Super Woman.

Tuesday rolls in with motivation and heart. That [meditation, workout, healthy breakfast, etc] feels needed and refreshing. Day 2? DONE!

As Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday begin, you notice that something happens. 

Life.

Life happens.

You may stick with your plan, but that raging fire within begins to die down. **Is it the weekend yet?

Last minute errands to run and looming work deadlines consume your days (and your focus).  **And, why did little Johnny wait until 10 pm to tell me that he needed 3 dozen cookies for school tomorrow?!

In 4 weeks, that raging fire turns to a mere smoldering ash of broken self-commitments and long lost dreams.

Life happens and it can happen in a serious way. But, life happens to everyone. How is it possible that some rise from the ashes like a phoenix, pushing through and still having copious amounts of day end energy? Yet others struggle with getting lost in life’s chaos and never really accomplishing their deepest dreams.

The first step before any of the sticky goal steps is that you have to create a plan — write it down and refer to it often. Make it as easy and detailed of a plan as possible so that it feels like a walk in the park to implement and it feels super doable!

After the actual creation of the goals, there are a few key concepts to keep in mind to help you stay engaged with those goals. Here are 7 steps essential for being a master of your domain and making your goals stick-able:

Step 1

Know your core values. Core values are those non-negotiables. Those parts of life that fire you up and that bring you joy and happiness. When you know your core values and you can create dreams that revolve around them, life is honey-sweet and your dreams become sticky. Create a list of 3-5 core values and see how you can set visions to enhance each of them. For example, one of my core values is adventure and travel, making skydiving a perfect goal. When you learn to live in your core values, you feel less depleted and stressed and you are more likely to be motivated to stay on your goal bandwagon for a longer ride.

Step 2

Create a ritual. Some call it a routine, but routines can be seriously boring. You need a ritual for excellence, something you do everyday that gets you one step closer to your end goal. A ritual not only respects you, but it also takes out the guess work of when you are going to get stuff done. Want to eat healthier? Pack your lunch at night with focus on what you need to eat to honor your body the next day. Need to fizzle out some of your daily stress? Start your morning off with a refreshing walk outside. Which then leads into…

Step 3

Know your boundaries (and use them). Most of us think we set boundaries, but really most of us live in a low boundary world. Knowing your core values and setting your rituals are events to help you stay on track, but if something continuously pulls you from them, then they don’t do much for you. Life happens and schedules change. That’s inevitable, but that is not constant, unless you allow it to be. Stating and enforcing clear boundaries to keep you on track is key. For example, if you want to read more before bedtime, then an appropriate boundary might be to turn off your phone, text messages, or incoming updates and let everyone you know that you will not respond after a certain time at night. Honor yourself and your needs and watch your dreams flourish.

Step 4

Talk to yourself. Positive mantras are super powerful! They can shift your mindset instantly, bring more focus and clarity, and silence that little inner voice that speaks from emotion rather than rational thinking. And they can help keep you on track. For example, “My willpower is strong” and “I take care of myself and I am worth it.” Create a positive mantra paragraph of 3-5 sentences and repeat that, out loud, 10 times daily.

Step 5

Pull the trigger word. Trigger words are a fun little tool to help reign your runaway thoughts in and recenter your focus. They also get your mindset re-centered around success and possibility becoming reality. If your goal is to workout 3 mornings a week before work, a trigger word example could be “Dedicated.” It’s purpose is to reignite the fire when it isn’t burning so bright. Incredibly simple and incredibly effective! Remember, you have to recite your trigger word and say it with passion for trigger words to be effective.

Step 6

5, 4, 3, 2, 1…Go! The mind can play all kinds of crazy little tricks on you when you are trying to change habits. Sometimes you need a simple mental interruption to take your focus away from fear or negative thoughts. This simple tip of counting from 5 to 1 and then saying GO! (or replacing GO with your trigger word) is a mental interruption that is just enough time to allow action to replace fear. Next time you have to make a decision or push through to stick with your dream, try this tip and then, like Nike says, just do it!

Step 7 

Reevaluate. Sometimes you just got to step away and reevaluate if what you are working on is working for you. It’s easy to stick with something that you think you really wanted to do (or what someone else wants for you), just to discover that it just doesn’t motivate you anymore.  Or maybe it never did. And that is ok! What is important is that you are spending your life working towards what feels fulfilling and exciting and pushing you towards your higher purpose. What serves you. So, reevaluate regularly and stay motivated by giving yourself permission to push yourself when you really want to and walk away when it no longer serves you.

What are you currently working towards? I would love to know! Leave a comment below and tell me what goal you are working on and/or which step above is your favorite.

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5 Ways To Instantly Lower Your Stress

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Life’s chaos are like ribbons.

They wave and dance in and out of your life but, when some of those ribbons brush up against your skin? WHAM! 

A sting of pain — Some of those ribbons have thorns and others may feel like sandpaper and others get wrapped around you, holding your down and not letting you walk forward in life.

Another word for life’s chaos? Stress.

As my friend, Katie, and I sat and talked, I brought up the word “harmony” and how harmony resonates with me when talking about stress, rather than referring to stress as balanced or managed. Katie’s face softened, a smile emerged, and a glimmer of resonance filled her face as she sunk into the concept of stress harmony. 

Here is the real deal — life is chaotic. It is never truly balanced and nor should it be. We need to have stress to fuel our drive to be great. 

We need to have stress to inspire us to create. 

We need to have stress to persevere. But the question is, where is your line in the sand? 

Stress only truly becomes toxic and burdensome when it is either heavy and negative or when it becomes chronic. When life hands us lemons and we decide to suck on the lemon instead of turning it into lemonade, that’s when harmony flies right out the window.

That’s when we feel overwhelmed and frustrated and out of control. 

We all know that too much chronic stress is unhealthy for us. Every Tom, Mary, and Joe tells us so. But on a deeper level, stress can set up us for future pains and aches and major health issues. Immediately, you might experience:

  • Low energy
  • Headaches
  • Upset stomach, including diarrhea, constipation, and nausea
  • Aches, pains, and tense muscles
  • Chest pain and rapid heartbeat
  • Insomnia
  • Frequent colds and infections
  • Loss of sexual desire and/or ability
  • Food cravings
  • Depression and other mood imbalances
  • Blood sugar imbalances

But, in the long term, you may experience:

  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Weakened immune system
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Gastrointestinal disorders
  • Skin irritation
  • Respiratory infections
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Insomnia
  • Burnout
  • Depression
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD
  • Alzheimer’s or Dementia

Stress is not just physical or mental/emotional, there is so much more that can cause stress in your life. Stressful situations are energy and how you perceive those situations directly affect your own personal energy — good or bad.  The key to bringing it into harmony is to address it in real time — not just when you get a chance or when your schedule allows for it. It is easy to forget and push it aside, downplaying the effect that it has on you. This is the first step of letting it get out of control.

Here are 5 easy ways you can get back into harmony from a mind, body, and soul perspective:

  1. Get grounded. Grounding, aka Earthing, has gotten much attention. Research has shown that grounding neutralizes free radicals, improves sleep, decreases pain, decreases stress, improves inflammation, strengthens the immune system, just to name a few benefits. And it is easy to do — all you have to do is get your bare feet or hands in dirt or on a natural surface to reap the benefits. Getting grounded is essential to start healing your stress. Check out my blog on grounding to get all the details.
  2. Explore nature. Nature has a calming effect that can instantly decrease our stress levels. Spending time in nature can help relieve stress and anxiety, improve your mood, and boost feelings of happiness and wellbeing. Whatever you call it — forest bathing, ecotherapy, mindfulness in nature, green time or the wilderness cure — humans evolved in the great outdoors, and your brain benefits from a journey back to nature. Take a bike ride around your neighborhood or check out local trails to go hiking. Simply sit out on your porch or in your yard. Or you can…
  3. Go for a walk. It is well known that moving the body improves your health, but being strategic in how you use exercise to manage your stress levels is key. When the body is stressed, it is already in a very heightened state. Engaging in exercise that is too aggressive or that will raise the stress levels even more (yes, exercise does place stress on the body) may not be what your body needs when trying to calm down. Going for a walk is a great way to move the body, loosen the muscles, increase feel-good endorphins to the brain, and give you thinking time to work through your stressful problems. Start with 15 minutes and increase it as you can.
  4. Practice gratitude. Being grateful and being stressed can not co-exist. They simply can not happen at the same time because they are on opposite ends of the emotional spectrum. When you are feeling stressed, take a moment to breathe and then practice gratitude for the things that are good in your life. Stress is all perspective and when you actively and consciously make an effort to change your perspective towards gratitude, you begin to break the chain of negative thinking, opening your thoughts and your brain to being able to figure out how to work through your stressful situation. Practicing gratitude is super easy! You can simply start saying out loud what you are grateful for and why or you can pull out your journal and write it down. Need more ideas of how to practice gratitude? Check out my infographic here. 
  5. Breathe and reframe. The breath is powerful. A shallow, tight breath increases the body’s stress and an open, deeper breath can instantly calm the body. Learning how to expand the breath to come from the entire torso rather than just the chest is a great tool to use in the moment of stress. How do you do it? Take 5-10 deep breaths allowing your torso to expand in all directions (like you are trying to create a barrel shape). Breath in for 4 counts, hold for 4 counts, and exhale for 4 counts. But it doesn’t stop there. Since stress is about a person’s perspective on the situation, it is even more powerful to couple breathing and reframing the mindset in real time. I like doing this with power statements. For example, Perform the breath described above and immediately say a power statement such as “I am in control.” Repeat the process until you have completed all the breaths. You can use the same power statement or a different one, it really is about what you need in that moment. 

Learning how to take back control of your stress is possible. Living in a chaotic world does not have to be. Stress is all about perspective — when you can learn how to calm down your body and reframe your perspective, life starts to open up!

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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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Join my Patreon and become part of my garden of wild flowers! Not only will you be part of the exclusive content that I ONLY share with my Patreon members, but you will also be helping a community of holistic health like-minded people push forward!

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I love inspiration through story-telling! If you liked this article, then you will love my other blogs.

Click here to get my Free 10-day body reset detox guide. You will become part of my tribe and get weekly blogs delivered straight to your inbox (along with a free gift and other insider tips that only my tribe will get)!