Most people are under the impression that weight loss is all about diet and exercise. Sure they are components, what you eat more so than how much you work out, but weight loss is actually more about the bigger picture of your complete health.
To me, weight loss is 70% diet, 25% stress and sleep and 5% exercise. I always tell my clients I would much rather they get a good night’s sleep as opposed to getting up extra early to work out. Without giving your body the best environment possible, losing weight and sustaining that loss is near impossible.
You need to shift your focus to total body health rather than weight loss. It’s not a temporary job – it will be a work in progress your whole life. Good health is not effortless, but by forming good habits, it can feel that way!
So firstly – what does lack of sleep cause? Check out this graphic below:
Confronting isn’t it?
How much is enough sleep?
We are in an age where being busy is glorified. The reality is that there is nothing cool about being so busy you don’t have enough time to achieve the things that give you pleasure in life – or too busy to maintain good health! Gone are the days where working through the night to meet deadlines, then going to work in the morning is considered cool and makes you “the top dog”. This kind of attitude will make you susceptible to a huge range of negative health consequences and will not help your performance.
The National Sleep Foundation recommends the following sleep times:
- Newborns (0-3 months ): Sleep range is 14-17 hours each day
- Infants (4-11 months): Sleep range is 12-15 hours
- Toddlers (1-2 years): Sleep range is 11-14 hours
- Preschoolers (3-5 years): Sleep range is 10-13 hours
- School age children (6-13 years): Sleep range is 9-11 hours
- Teenagers (14-17 years): Sleep range is 8-10 hours
- Younger adults (18-25 years): Sleep range is 7-9 hours
- Adults (26-64 years): Sleep range is 7-9 hours
- Older adults (65+): Sleep range is 7-8 hours
As an adult, counting backwards 8 hours from your wake up time is the best place to start – then head to bed 30 mins prior to this to read and relax.
Where did they come up with these times? You can read the research HERE.
So, how can you improve your sleep?
Well there are a numbers away. I always talk to my clients about creating good sleep routines.
Here are my main tips:
1. Turn off all screens and devices 1 hour before you go to bed.
Instead of looking at Facebook and reading this interesting sleep blog, or surfing the internet or watching Netflix or doing work from home – read a good old fashioned book or spend time with your family. The lights emitted from devices stimulate and signal to your brain that it’s time to be awake. Your sleep hormone melatonin is turned off and you are unable to fall asleep as easily, generally resulting in restlessness, frustration and maybe you turning the TV on! If you do manage to fall asleep the quality of your sleep is generally reduced from that light stimulation and you wake up feeling less rested. If you are going to be on your device after the sun goes down (which is in all honesty, most of us!), especially in those colder months where the days are shorter, then install an application on your computer called flux. This is a blue light blocker and helps to mimic a more natural light which better for your sleep hormones!
You can install this here: https://justgetflux.com/
For iPhones, you already have this function built into your phone. Go to Settings > Display & Brightness > Night Shift. Once in night shift, select scheduled and set it from Sunset to Sunrise.
2. Aim to be asleep by no later than 10.30 each night.
Obviously there will be times where that’s not possible – especially if you’re on a night out, but it’s what you do consistently over time that counts. My recommendation is to hop into bed around 9.30-10pm with a lamp or dim lights and read. This will signal to your body that it’s time to start winding down.
3. Improve your sleeping environment.
If you’re a light sleeper, perhaps it’s time to invest in some blackout curtains. Our bodies are highly calibrated genetically via our Circadian Rhythm to respond to the rise and set of the sun to govern our sleep and wake patterns, so sometimes to make sure you’re getting that little bit of extra sleep, extra measures such as black out curtains are needed. White noise machines, earplugs and fans are also a few other tools you could consider! Uncomfortable bed? Trade it in for a new one. Spending money on a good quality bed is one of the best choices you can make, considering most of us keep our beds for several years.
4. Take a magnesium supplement.
Having trouble getting a sound night’s sleep? Try magnesium! Insomnia is a symptom of magnesium deficiency and magnesium also helps suppress the release of the stress hormone, cortisol, allowing for a better night’s sleep. Magnesium is cheap to pick up, but make sure you go for a quality brand such as this one here.
5. Minimise caffeine intake.
Now – I know this sucks for some of you with your beloved coffee. But if you have adrenal issues then you should really only be having one cup a day anyway! Keep your coffee to the morning and ideally avoid caffeinated drinks after 1pm so that your body has time to process it before sleep.
If you are serious about improving your health, then it’s time to get serious about sleep. Making good sleep a priority and not trying to do too much is important. It’s time to stop the glorification of busy. Being busy does not make you a superhero.
6. Get Herbal Supports
I would be so lost without my incredible naturopath. I am constantly amazed by the fact there’s a herb for almost everything. Don’t get me wrong, I am a firm believer that you need a good GP as part of your health picture, but my naturopath, who is a medical herbalist, helps with everything from the common cold to my PCOS. Head to your nearest medicinal herb store and see how they can support your sleep!
Stress and it’s Toll on the Body
As I also mentioned, stress is another aspect that can make a huge impact on your health and wellbeing, and therefore weight loss.
Check out what the American Institute of Stress has to say about its impact on your health:
“There are numerous emotional and physical disorders that have been linked to stress including depression, anxiety, heart attacks, stroke, hypertension, immune system disturbances that increase susceptibility to infections, a host of viral linked disorders ranging from the common cold and herpes to AIDS and certain cancers, as well as autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis. In addition stress can have direct effects on the skin (rashes, hives, atopic dermatitis, the gastrointestinal system (GERD, peptic ulcer, irritable bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitis) and can contribute to insomnia and degenerative neurological disorders like Parkinson’s disease. In fact, it’s hard to think of any disease in which stress cannot play an aggravating role or any part of the body that is not affected (see stress effects on the body stress diagram) or. This list will undoubtedly grow as the extensive ramifications of stress are increasingly being appreciated.”
Working to minimise stress is one of the most important things for you for your overall wellbeing. When you’re stressed out, it stresses your body out, often sending you into fight or flight mode. If you spend too much time in fight or flight mode too often, you will end up suffering from burnout. This means you won’t lose weight because your hormones will be all out of whack whilst trying to recover from the overall stress of being stressed! Again, especially us women, are culprits of trying to do everything at once. We want the career whilst we raise the family, as well as having the social life and ensuring we try to look after everyone (check our Rushing Women’s Syndrome by Dr Libby). You need to take the time to look after yourself! Remember – you can’t pour from an empty cup!
My tips to reduce stress?
1. Ensure a good work/life balance takes priority.
A lot of us let work rule our lives. Sure, work is essential to make a living, but there’s nothing worse than going home and continuing to think about work. Leave work at work as much as you can. If you’re someone like me who works for yourself, I know this can be hard. Ensure you create some strict rules for yourself surrounding when you work and how you work. Setting yourself at home hours is a great plan, as well as dedicating an area in your house for it and only working there. If your job is truly stressful, you wouldn’t be the first person I’ve told to leave it. I have had many clients realise their health is more important than their high-stress job. It never ceases to amaze me how many people put up with a volatile work environment. You DO have a choice! Put yourself first.
2. Take time for yourself.
Taking time out for yourself is super important to just be YOU! Whether it’s just to get your nails done, get a massage, have a bath or spend a minute just calmly breathing, it all counts. Having some down time to yourself where you don’t have to answer to anyone (turning your phone off or having it on silent is a great plan!) is super calming.
3. Do things that you enjoy.
It’s not rocket science that when we do things we enjoy, it makes us happy, therefore reduces stress. Life is all about doing what we love, so this one shouldn’t even need to be on the list. Do you have a hobby? What makes you happy? For me, I love cooking, baking and anything to do with food! So getting in the kitchen and creating makes me so happy. My lifestyle is all about regulating hormones so that your body can burn fat for fuel with no issue.
4. Learn to say no!
How many of us are too nice to say no? Sit back and prioritise what things benefit you, and what you’re just saying yes to because you are too nice or feel obligated. It may sound like a no brainer, but something so simple can provide so much relief. Make that list of everything you do, sit down and decide what needs to go. Everything from the gym, to your kids sports, to that parent teacher meeting. Put it all down, prioritise and decide what’s truly important to you, and what can go.
5. Again, get Herbal supports.
Just like sleep, there are some calming and stress reducing herbs to help support your body. It may be something to support your adrenal system, or something more direct. I wish I was a medicinal herbalist, but I’m not, so I’ll leave the recommendations to the professionals. Herbs are so worth the effort!
So there you have it – why working on your sleep and stress levels is SO important for not just weight loss, but your general wellbeing. If you’re someone who has any regard for your health, then these areas need to be addressed.