Everything in our body from head to toe is interconnected and all works together as a system. What you eat and how you sleep can impact your hormones. How you exercise and manage your stress can impact your adrenal health.
Most folks focus on a singular area such as nutrition or exercise, but forget to address other areas like stress and sleep which are just as important.
The bigger picture of health includes: nutrition, sleep, stress management and exercise in a balanced manner, and they all impact one another.
When you get overly focused on one aspect of health and don’t address the other areas your health will suffer.
An important part of this health picture is understanding your habits that create patterns. These patterns drive your behaviors everyday.
The habits you develop that control your behaviors can improve or hurt your health, but the best part is you can change your habits!
Here are the top seven habits wrecking your health, and how to break these patterns if you find yourself stuck and don’t know what to do.
1. Undereating Leading To Overeating
You start an extreme calorie restricted diet, and think that the less you eat the better your fat loss results are going to be.
You start eating 1,200 calories every day unaware of the health problems and potential binges that are going to result.
You have no energy and are hungry all the time. At some point you give up on the diet calorie and gorge on all the foods you have been restricting.
You feel guilty for not staying on the diet , and think that you can make up for the gorging by eating 1,100 calories per day instead of 1,200.
As a result of eating even less you are hungrier, you have no energy and your sleep is starting to get worse and your food cravings feel out of control.
You continue on this path and then it happens again, you have a day where you gorge on all the food you have been craving for the past few weeks.
To “make up” for the overeating, you choose to lower calories even further trying to eat 1,000 calories per day.
Over time this pattern leads to hormonal dysfunction, thyroid and adrenal damage, insomnia and metabolic damage.
Breaking The Pattern:
Realize that you are not your food choices, what you eat doesn’t make you a bad or a good person.
Stop trying to punish yourself for food choices or going off a diet. Know that with any dietary change there are going to be bumps in the road.
Eat whenever you experience physical hunger and stop eating when the next bite of food no longer looks as appetizing as the first bite.
Avoid eating around stressful situations or out of habit or entertainment. Don’t let your emotions become a driver for hunger. Emotions can trigger cravings not actual physical hunger.
Center your meals around one to two palm sized portion of protein ( eggs, chicken, ground beef) and fill up the rest of your plate with non starchy vegetables (brussel sprouts, kale, broccoli, asparagus, onions, peppers) and one to two thumbs worth healthy fats (butter, coconut oil, olive oil, palm oil). Include some starchy vegetables ( potato, squash, sweet potato,taro) if you do well with them.
2. Riding The Blood Sugar Roller Coaster
You start your day with a breakfast of granola, toast with jam and a glass juice with a cup of coffee. This breakfast is extremely high in sugar and processed carbohydrates, while lacking any healthy fat or protein.
This breakfast fills you up but doesn’t provide the lasting energy you need, as your blood sugar levels crash from breakfast you feel a significant mid morning energy dip and cravings.
To help get your energy back you grab a Kind bar from the break room, again very high in sugars and processed carbs and low in protein and fat. This sugar pick me up works until at lunch you are starving again.
You have a sandwich at lunch while is the most filling and satisfying meal of your day so far, but mid afternoon you feel the crash again need a snack to make it to dinner after work.
The fact of the matter is while some of these foods are not the type of sugar you find in candy, they still break down into sugar and react the exact same way in the body.
These foods that are converted into sugar are more dangerous because they masquerade as health foods and people assume are good for their health.
Someone who eats this way is riding the blood sugar roller coaster. They are constantly hungry and need to snack and eat to boost energy. These folks experience frequent dips in energy, mood and cognition due to low blood sugar.
Breaking The Pattern:
Center all your meals around one to two palm sized portion of animal protein, vegetables and some healthy fats. Breakfast could be two or three eggs cooked in coconut oil or butter with asparagus or kale. If you are still hungry have a fourth of an avocado or a half cupped hands worth of raw nuts.
Is your mid morning snack the result of physical hunger, a mental craving or just a habit ? Keep some beef jerky, coconut chips, hard boiled eggs or a small vegetable tray on hand if you are physically hungry before lunch.
There are going to be some sugar cravings to break , but avoid the urge to give in to the cravings. Realize that most of the time these cravings are a mental feeling not actual physical hunger.
Make sure you aren’t turning to another source of sugar and over consuming that instead. This is common with people who are giving up sugar, but start to consume a ton of fruit instead.
Use distraction to your advantage. Develop a new habit that you will do when you feel a sugar craving, over time this becomes a patterns and a new behavior takes the place of eating sugar. Drink a glass of water and go for a walk instead of heading to the vending machine.
3. Stress and Poor Sleep
The two biggest dark horses when it comes to health are stress and sleep, and they never get the attention they truly deserve when it comes to the health picture.
Although most people wouldn’t see an immediate connection between stress and sleep they are very interrelated.
We have a hormone named cortisol that is secreted in a specific rhythm with our sleep and wake cycles.
The hormone cortisol has gotten a bad reputation as of late, but the fact is that we need this hormone in the right amounts to be healthy.
The poison is in the dose with regards to cortisol, and many people force their body to make more of this hormone than is good for them.
How It’s Supposed To Work, But Doesn’t
When you wake up in the morning you have high amounts of cortisol which triggers you to feel awake and alert. You may get spikes throughout the day but your cortisol levels overall decrease the longer the day goes.
Cortisol is at its lowest levels at night so other sleep promoting hormones can be secreted. These low levels of cortisol help you sleepy and help you stay asleep during the night.
Because cortisol is a stress hormone you can interrupt this pattern your body has by inserting stressors throughout the day in the form of; exercise, diet and regular life stresses, and lack of sleep.
What’s extra harmful to your health is that stress and lack of sleep feed into each other amplifying the negative effects of the other.
As an example you ride the blood sugar roller coaster all day using sugar, processed carbohydrates and coffee to give you energy.
Your job has lots of stresses that you take home with you in the form of late night emails and extra work. You go to the gym and crush yourself for a few hours as a stress relief.
When you get home and eat and try to go to sleep you sit there wide awake, eventually falling asleep and but getting poor quality sleep.
The next day you are way more tired because of the poor sleep so you rely on caffeine and sugar to get you through the day.
Even though work is less stressful today you are creating an internal stress with the lack of sleep, caffeine and sugar. Then this cycle repeats itself!
Breaking The Pattern:
Find some time throughout the day to practice a form of stress management. This could be meditating or going for a walk while listening to music or read. Find something that helps you deal with life stresses.
Try not to consume caffeine past noon, even though some people are non responders to caffeine and can fall asleep the sleep quality they get is still negatively impacted.
Balance your meals and not rely too much on carbohydrates for energy, make sure that your meals include sources of healthy fats and proteins to give you a longer lasting energy and prevent crashes.
Don't exercise within three hours of bedtime. When you hit the gym too close to bed the stress hormone cortisol that is released when you are deadlifting is also keeping you wide awake at one thirty in the morning. Allow yourself enough time to wind down between exercise and bed.
Have the majority of your carbohydrates at night time. This helps to dampen higher cortisol levels.
Carbs at night also allows your body to turn more of the tryptophan from your protein into the sleep promoting hormone melatonin.
If you have trouble with sleep eat protein and a good sized serving of starchy carbohydrates at dinner instead of taking a melatonin supplement.
Part 2 Next Week!...
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