Detox Take-Away #8 – Sleep On It

Newborn Baby Boy in a Teddy Bear Costume

I’m a big fan of sleeping, dreaming, snatching some shut-eye, napping, you name it. Sleep provides the necessary perspective that excess caffeine or carbs can’t quite copy despite our attempts to chemically induce enlightenment.

It turns out sleep is also a really important player in the weight loss game. Experts consider it as important to health, well-being, and weight as diet and exercise. Yet almost two-thirds of us don’t get enough sleep in a typical week.

Most of us know what it feels like to be sleep deprived. But we may not be aware of its consequences.

Because fatigue dulls the activity in the part of the brain where decision making and impulse control reside, making good decisions becomes increasingly difficult when drowsy. When we’re overtired, the brain’s reward centers seek something that feels good. Temptations we may have been able to resist when well-rested cause us to cave when can’t keep our eyes open.

The type of foods we want when we’re sleepy tend to be of the energy dense, high carbohydrate variety.  Think candy bars, cookies, chips, soda, or energy drinks. These cravings coupled with a lack of impulse control can lead to bigger portions, late-night snacking, and all kinds of actions that can lead to weight gain.

Lack of sleep messes with our metabolism as well as hunger and satiety hormones like gherlin and leptin that clue our brain in to when we’re hungry and when we’re full. Cortisol can spike, sending the message to conserve energy and store fat. Insulin can also be impacted, making it difficult to process fats in the bloodstream and adding to the hunger hormone havoc.

Realizing this, one of the new habits I incorporated during the detox was getting more sleep.  This meant going to bed earlier. This was challenging because I often don’t get home from work until 7 or 8pm and then there’s dinner, dog walks, a little tv time, and tending to my blogging business.

I had to give up my late night routine of regularly bathing my eyes in the artificial light of my electronic devices and engaging in activities that stimulated my brain (Lumosity, anyone?). I needed to shift from work mode to relaxation mode. While unplugging a device shuts it down immediately, unplugging myself takes a little while.

Fortunately, I didn’t have to worry that I had eaten a heavy meal or consumed alcohol or caffeine before bedtime during the detox. However, it did make me realize how often doing so had interfered with my sleep.

By creating a reasonable regular bed time, I also established a natural and consistent waking time.  (No alarm clock for me, thank you.) I used to live for the weekends so I could sleep in. Now I find myself getting up at approximately the same time no matter what day it is. Mainly because my brain is badgering me to write and my belly is begging me to eat.  At last I have the energy and enthusiasm to create a day worth writing about.

What about you?

Do you get enough sleep? What helps you get the rest you need? How does not getting enough sleep impact you? What steps can you take to get more sleep?

Leave a reply below.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

“If the only prayer you ever say is thank you, it will suffice.”  – Meister Eckhart

It’s here once again.  My favorite holiday of the year.  A day dedicated to giving thanks and appreciating all that is good and plenty and ours to experience.

It’s been an amazing year.  As often as possible I’ve attempted to blog about it because for me, an experience isn’t assimilated until it’s articulated.  Once I committed to learn, grow, and connect in a very public way, each risk I took  opened the door to the next big thing.  Often times opportunities overlapped, making life that much more interesting.

My writing life has been full of plot twists, unruly characters, unexpected drama, comic relief, tragedy, mistaken identities, and happily ever afters interrupted by reality scripts.  Had I been given a choice of superpowers, I may have picked a talent that would more clearly catapult me to super stardom or super service. But for argument’s sake, I’m going to assume I did have a choice and my soul choose writing.  Consequently I will wield my words accordingly.

It’s interesting that the thing others find extraordinary about us is often the thing we consider the most ordinary.  We mistakenly believe if we can do something, so can everyone else.  It’s almost preposterous to think people will pay us to do what we do naturally.

But it happens every day.  Yesterday, for example, I consulted an expert in web design for speakers, writers, and coaches. In about twenty minutes I discovered I could take my business to a place I’ve not been able to get it to in twenty years.  Yes, it will require a considerable investment of time, effort, focus, and vision as well as cash.  But I am thrilled to know there are people out there who are extremely good at the things I am not.  Aligning myself with them,  frees me up to focus on what I do best while they do what they do best.

I also had a chance to catch up with friends who have believed in my dreams long before there was evidence they would come true.  Talking with them was so nourishing because they have been there, listened to, and participated in every iteration of my evolution and still support the ongoing unfolding with unbridled enthusiasm.

So yes, I love it that there is a day devoted to giving thanks.  Because in my world, despite a few failures and downright disasters, so much to be grateful for remains.  Here are a few things on my gratitude list.  I’m grateful for you, for a couple of days off work from a good job, for time to walk the dogs, connect with family and friends, eat good food, watch movies, stay home while other people shop, play cards or board games, spend time in nature, and write until my heart’s content.

What about you?  What are you thankful for this year?  Share if you dare in the comments below.

PS – I know the holidays can be rough for those of you who have suffered a loss or multiple losses or are struggling with financial, health, or relationship challenges. In these instances it may feel impossible to feel grateful.  Yet I do believe the saying, “There is always something to be grateful for.”  It may be hard to believe this when you’re feeling incredibly low, but I’ve found that identifying even the simplest thing to be grateful for helps the healing begin.

Detox Take Away #7 – Rhythm Is Gonna Get You

eating design

One of the concepts I am learning from my Eating Psychology coaching certification program is that timing is everything. From when we introduce new concepts to our clients to when and what we feed ourselves, there is a rhyme and a rhythm that can help us get results quicker or sabotage every step.

For many of us time is of the essence.  We hurry about grabbing meals on the go, eating in our cars, at our desks, and at all times of the day or night. We skimp on sleep, forgo our intentions to exercise, and collapse on the couch.  The accumulated impact over time can lead to weight gain, digestive issues,  sleeping challenges, you name it.

We’re a society out of sync with our rhythms. While that may not sound like a big deal, think back to the last time you traveled across multiple time zones and attempted to seal the deal on a major account as your body was desperately seeking sleep.

Our bodies really do talk to us. And not just once in a while. Like streaming video, our bodies are a constant feedback system. Our job is to listen. If we ignore the messages the body sends, it will pump up the volume.

One way I’ve learned listen  to my body is to eat when I am best equipped to metabolize meals. The first meal sets the rhythm for the day.

Eating breakfast lets our bodies know the fast is over.  Since there is no threat of starvation, there is no need to conserve energy and slow down metabolism.  Eating breakfast heats up the fuel burning mechanism in our bellies and prepares us to process the nutrients we need to get through the day.

Metabolism moves into it’s peak when the sun is highest in the sky. By eating our biggest meal between 12-1:30pm, we deploy our best digestive agents into active duty.

Body temperature then dips between approximately 2-5pm.  This explains that afternoon slump or the need to nap. Then temps start to rise again around 4-6pm.

Metabolically speaking, it makes sense to eat a healthy breakfast, substantial lunch,  and moderate evening meal.  Unfortunately, that’s the opposite of what people practice.

Many of us have a mini breakfast (if we eat at all), followed by a moderate lunch, and then go all out at dinner. This can be difficult pattern to change since the evening meal may be the one time your family gathers during the day.  It may be the only time you have to make a meal or the first time you get to relax and unwind.

I get it.  It’s a challenge for me as well.  I work long hours and often times I don’t eat lunch until 2 or sometimes 3pm. I usually don’t get home until 7pm, making dinner late as well. My new goal is to eat lunch by 1:30pm.  I’d also like to eat less during the evening meal (preferably before 7pm) leaving me with time to take a walk and digest my meal before going to bed.

It’s one thing to know better and an entirely different thing to do better.  I share this information with you not to so you have another item on your should do list but so you gain some awareness into the part rhythm plays in our overall health and well-being.

Recovering your rhythm can take some time.  You can start by experimenting with when you eat, even if you have no interest in changing what you eat.  Notice how you feel. Then pay attention to when you naturally want to move, sleep, work, and play and how you feel when you honor your instincts and follow your own rhythm.

I’d love to hear about your experiences. How does the timing of meals impact you?

Share if you dare in the comments below.

Detox Take Away #6 – Trust the Process

discovering new places

When I used to teach fitness classes, I remember thinking how much more motivating it might be for students if they could immediately lose a pound or two after completing a workout. Sure they felt better after having mobilized their bodies and activated their endorphins, but wouldn’t they be more willing to stick with it if they experienced instant weight loss?

We all know the real work of shape shifting takes time and consistent effort.  When goals are attained too easily or quickly, we can miss the message or sabotage the results. For many of us, weight is an incredible teacher. It certainly gets our attention and packs a wallop of emotion when we gain it or lose it.

Detoxing not only our bodies but also our brains is bound to take some time. We carry a lot of toxic beliefs about what we should weigh, how we should look, and how much of our value depends on an arbitrary number on the scale. Despite all my training, I’ve held on to some rather insidious beliefs about my weight that simply don’t serve me or anyone else.

Changing these beliefs and patterns of behavior is not easy.  There are a lot of variables to consider when attempting to make or break a habit. Factors like how often we automatically or unconsciously engage in the current habit, what benefits we get from continuing with the current habit, and what kind of habit we are attempting to change all impact the speed at which we can progress.

At the outset, 21 days seemed like a long time for a detox diet. However, I kept telling myself that 21 days in the course of a lifetime was not too much to ask. I reminded myself that I would gladly do this if it could save the life of a loved one. Hitting the reset button for myself might just save my own life.

I will not lie.  Some days were difficult. Every day I counted down the days until I would be done. Social situations were like land mines because they required special preparations and explanations and more effort than would be required if I just stayed home and kept the whole process on the down low.

The up side is that I felt better, cleaner, and lighter than I had in years. My brain fog lifted, my energy surged, and those few stubborn pounds melted away. But it didn’t and couldn’t happen overnight.

About half-way through the detox process I realized the only way out was through. I had to keep going. No matter how much I thought I knew, there was more to learn.  And that meant trusting the process.

Trusting the process meant relaxing into life. Trusting the process meant letting go of how I thought it should go. Trusting the process meant no matter what happened, I would be able to handle it. Trusting the process meant allowing the universe to have my back.

When I could do this, eating this or not eating that did not seem insurmountable.  Such a simple idea in theory.  But one that takes a lifetime of practice.  Or at the very least,  21 days.

Have you done a detox diet?  What lessons did you learn?

I’d love for you to share your thoughts or experiences in the comments below.

Detox Take Away #5 – Hunger Games

 

Tween Girl with Handmade Bow and Arrow Over White

Hunger Games is not just a popular book and movie trilogy. Hunger games are what many of us resort to in order to manage, suppress, control, or otherwise manipulate our appetite.

Many of us act as if hunger is the enemy when, in fact, hunger is a natural and instinctive response that serves a very important purpose – to keep us alive.

Especially when we’re trying to lose weight, we can see hunger as the culprit that leads us into temptation and tests our willpower. But if we can look at hunger as our friend, a helpful reminder to replenish our  resources on a regular basis, we may begin to give it the respect it deserves.

Where we often get into trouble with hunger is where we get into trouble with most things; when we’re not paying attention.

If we ignore our hunger until we’re ravenous, it’s easy to grab anything and everything in sight, regardless of its nutrient value.  We might mindlessly demolish a bag of Doritos or eat an entire bag of Oreos, but our body knows better. We may feel bloated and beat up ourselves up with guilt, but if the body has not has received the required nutrients, it will not be satiated. Consequently, we’ll keep scrounging for food.

For some, eating becomes a necessary evil in the midst of a busy life. We have so many decisions to make day after day, it’s easy to go unconscious in the eating area. With so many rules and restrictions about what we should and shouldn’t eat, it’s tempting to grab what’s fast and cheap.

But here’s the thing. In order to feel satisfied by the foods we eat we need to notice the color, the taste, the texture, the smell, and the environment. Quickly and unconsciously consuming something without giving ourselves time to register these sensations robs us of little luxuries to be found in food. Any foodie can confirm this.

Feeding yourself quality, nutrient dense foods is a profoundly nourishing way to support yourself. Running on empty is not. Would you regularly put just a few gallons of low quality fuel into your car expect it to run optimally for a long distance?

Hunger is a sign that we’re alive. How lucky for us that we’re alive at a time when food is plentiful and the choices are abundant.

During my detox I got in touch with what it’s like to be hungry. When I missed some of my favorite foods, I wondered what it would be like to feel hungry all the time. What would it be like to not know where my next meal is coming from or not have the means to buy groceries?

Those questions snapped me right out of my self-imposed pity party over not getting to eat the foods that are not that great for me to eat anyway. It was ironic that I was eating arguably the cleanest diet I had ever eaten and somehow felt deprived because junk foods were off limits.

This, of course, lead me to question all the things I hunger for. Some of them are good for me. Like wanting to be a better blogger or coach or facilitator. Others, like watching bad tv and eating Buster Bars, not so much.

I invite you to notice your hunger. What games do you play around your appetite, not just for food but for life? How to you express or suppress your hunger?

I’d love for you to share if you dare in the comments below.

Detox Take Away #4 – Size Matters

Measure design

The size of our plate, the height and width of our glass, the comfort level of our clothes. According toBrian Wansink, director of the Cornell University Food and Brand Lab and author of the book Mindless Eating, these are just a few of the factors that play a part in our ongoing effort to battle the bulge.

Unfortunately, these covert attempts at mind manipulation are so subtle that we seldom realize they could be  leading to weight gain.  This slippery slope can be as simple the 25 extra calories a day that add up to 2.5 pounds a year or 25 pounds in a decade.

A normal serving size on an 8 inch plate might look like an appetizer on a 12 inch plate. A drink in a tall, slender glass might seem more like a shot in a short, wide tumbler.  Wearing a track suit to a buffet may feel better than sporting Spanx or a body shaper, but if we constantly wear loose-fitting clothing, we can easily lose sight of the weight measurement many of us rely on more than a scale – how our clothes fit.

While most of us are aware of the dangers of super-sizing, we remain blissfully unaware of the advantage food marketers have on the subliminal marketing of their products. They are brilliant at getting their brands to look delicious, desirable, and therefore, in high demand.

But you and I know better. Or at least we think we do. It takes constant awareness and presence to keep our wits about us and we navigate the aisles of our supermarkets, health food co-ops, and menus at our favorite eating establishments. They are all equipped with weapons of mass distraction, designed to derail us from our best intentions of making conscious choices about how we nourish ourselves and our families.

What I learned from the detox is it takes a lot of practice to implement these ideas. It also takes a lot of education. Fortunately there are tons of books, blogs, websites, articles, and programs intent on bringing us out of the dark ages of nutrition and into the light of a new dietary day. Admittedly, the information can be overwhelming, confusing, and even conflicting.

My goal is to gather the resources I’ve found to be most helpful in my journey and share them with you. I’ll get them to you in the next week.

In the meantime, become a detective. Discover the hidden ways you are being influenced and literally shaped by habits that you may not have questioned before.

I’ll leave you with some food for thought:

  • What is a serving size? What does it look like? How does it look different depending on the size and even the color of the plate, glass, or container?
  • Do you think you eat more calories consuming handfuls of pretzels in front of the television or computer screen or sitting down at the table with a piece of pie? (Hint: When you’re unconscious about what or how much you’re eating, you’re going to eat more.)
  • How many decisions about food do you think you make per day? (Hint: It’s closer to 200 than 20.) Do you see how the sheer number can lead to poor choices?
  • Do you eat more of an item if you leave the box or package or dish on the table than if you put it back in the pantry or stove? (Hint: Make it inconvenient to grab more.)

That’s today’s take away.  Next up:  Hunger Games.  Hunger is not the enemy.

Share if you dare below any questions, insights, or ideas.  Thanks for reading.

Detox Take Away #3 – Less Is More.

The world in a drop of water

I love food writer Michael Pollen’s take on nutrition. In his book Food Rules he succinctly sums it up like this. “Eat Food. Not Too Much. Mostly Plants.”

I used to think I needed to eat a lot more than I really do.  I held this belief partly because I like to eat, but mainly because I wasn’t really aware of what I was eating or fully present when I was eating.

If I don’t slow down and pay attention to what I’m eating, when I’m eating, and even why I’m eating, I inevitably eat too much, too fast, and without a clue as to when I’m actually full and fully nourished.

Most of us are so busy we scarf down our food in an ongoing attempt to keep our fuel tank from running on fumes all day.  Seldom do we stop to savor a meal or take the time to select foods that actually nourish us.

Before the detox I’d skip meals or load up on carbs, sweets, or other foods that only made me crave more of the same later.    This usually meant when I got home from work and didn’t have the metabolic power working for me that I would have had earlier in the day.

Even though it seemed like I was eating less because I was skipping meals, I was actually eating more.  By the time I did eat, I was ravenous and that seldom led to good choices.

During the detox I came to appreciate everything about a meal from purchasing the ingredients to preparing the food to presenting the meal on an appropriately sized plate.

Because I’ve always been on my own, I had not done this consistently for kids or family members. It became a profoundly nourishing way for me to support myself in making changes to the way I’ve eaten most of my life.

When we eat high quality, nutrient dense foods like I mentioned in the last post, we don’t need to eat a lot of food.  So many of us eat foods devoid of actual nutrients. This means our bodies naturally crave more food in an attempt to get the nutrients we need.

I understand it may seem more appealing to snack on a bag of chips or M&Ms than some celery with almond butter, but your brain, your body, and your belly would love it if you’d give it a try.

That’s today’s take away.

Next up:  Why Size Matters.

Share your comments or questions below.