7 Habits Wrecking Your Health (Part 3)

Hey folks this week we wrap up our series on the 7 Habits that are wrecking your health. If you haven’t already read the first two blog posts go back and read Part 1 HERE and Part 2 HERE so you understand all the habits to avoid.

This week we are going to take a closer look at some of the common emotional triggers that can damage your health.

Discussed below we will be covering how your emotions are impacting your dietary decisions and how your relationship with the scale is negatively affecting your fat loss goals from a mental standpoint.

6. Your Emotions Are Controlling Your Food Choices

When there is a stressful event or we experience sadness or depression we are drawn to certain kinds of food because they provide temporary comfort from the negative emotion.

Cravings for particular foods are not all caused by the same things in our body. There are actually three different types of cravings that people experience on a regular basis.

3 Types Of Food Cravings

  • Supportive: The body is trying to fulfill a deficiency. You crave dark chocolate because you are severely deficient in magnesium.

You crave peanut butter because your body is trying to make sure you get an omega 6 fatty acid that is missing in your diet.  

  • Emotional: Trying to find a food to fulfill a feeling ,even if it’s short lived. You get depressed as a result you eat ice cream which elevates your mood for a short period of time.

When you come down from the ice cream high your low is much worse. The surefire way to elevate your mood again is to eat more ice cream. This is a tricky cycle to follow because this is how food addictions are created.

  • Associative: Associating a food with a memory or experience. Let assume you are  very close with your family and used to regularly share meals with them. You liked the food but what you really loved was seeing and spending time with your family.

You get a new job and move out of state away from your family and miss them very badly. Suddenly you find yourself cravings the foods you used to eat with them at family gatherings.

You aren’t actually craving the food, but because of the association the food has with your family whom you miss you crave the food.

Many of the food cravings that people experience are directly tied to how they impact the chemicals in the brain to make the person feel better.

I don’t know anyone who describes feeling powerless or addicted to purple cabbage or broccoli like some people do with sugar and processed carbohydrates.

People choose less than healthy options when they have food cravings, because these foods impact their emotions.

There have been multiple studies that link the amount of the stress hormone cortisol in your body to consumption of junk food. Those with higher levels of cortisol ate more junk food than those with lower cortisol levels.

Another study showed that these negative moods not only lead people to eat the wrong foods but also caused those folks to eat much more of those poor food choices as well.

Do you find yourself eating poor food choices out of because of sadness, anxiety, depression or any other negative mood when you know that you feel no physical hunger ?

Try eating the foods below next time your mood takes a negative turn. These foods will  help to  boost your mood, and improve your health long term.

Break The Pattern:

Another strategy can be to replace eating food with a habit that also boosts your mood. This Going for a walk, listening to your favorite music or heading to the gym for a workout have all improve a person’s mood.

When it comes to the foods you eat on a daily basis they can negatively or positively impact your mood and energy throughout the day.

There are specific foods that can be especially helpful for boosting mood because they contain the precursors to the brain hormones (neurotransmitters) that control how you feel.

Those two main neurotransmitters that control your mood are serotonin and dopamine. Let’s cover some of the foods that help to boost production of these hormones.

Foods That Boost Serotonin

 

  • Turkey

  • Chicken

  • Shrimp

  • Tuna

  • Salmon

  • Halibut

  • Sardines

  • Cheese

  • Pumpkin Seeds

  • Sunflower seeds

  • Cashews, Almonds, Walnuts

  • Legumes

  • Spinach

  • Sweet Potato

  • Lamb

    Foods That Boost Dopamine

 

  • Fish

  • Eggs

  • Chicken

  • Turkey

  • Red Meat

  • Beets

  • Artichokes

  • Raw Almonds

  • Sesame Seeds

  • Pumpkin Seeds

  • Almond Butter

  • Tahini Butter

  • Avocado

7. Letting the Scale Impact How You Feel

I don’t like scales when it comes to tracking fat  loss or reaching goals. A lot of people  get up in the morning and step on the scale.

Those people  let the number on the scale dictate how they feel about themselves starting at the very beginning of the day.

If the number on the scale  higher than expected they person feels depressed, if it’s lower than expected they feel excited.

I hate to see this because the scale is very easy to manipulate, and is never a true gauge for fat loss or health.

Scales don’t tell the whole fat loss story, and can have powerful impacts on a person’s emotions and self esteem, typically those impacts are negative.

3 Big Problems With The Scale

  • Weight Fluctuates Dramatically

The human body is truly amazing, and very responsive to the signals we send it. We are constantly eating, drinking, going to the bathroom, sweating

Morning and night time weights will also fluctuate because of what you have been eating, drinking, salt and carbohydrate consumption and your hormones.

  • Weight Alone Doesn’t Reveal The Whole Story!

We all know that muscle weighs more than fat, but in the process of losing “weight” you never want to sacrifice hard earned muscle!

Ignore losing “weight” are interested in losing fat, and scales that give a body fat percentage are very inaccurate.

The goal is to reduce body fat while preserving and even building muscle mass. Weight loss doesn’t answer if we are losing fat, or burning up muscle.

  • Your Self Worth Is Greater Than A Number On A Scale

Having a goal and wanting to make changes is an amazing part of life, but DO NOT let a number on a scale control how you feel about yourself!

Don’t fall victim to playing the up and down emotions game associated with scale addiction. Look how far you have come, and realize you have EARNED every step along the way.

Everybody is a work in progress and has their own journey in this life. Focus on your journey, and  the distance you have traveled since first starting on this path!

Break The Pattern:

Before we cover how to track progress without a scale let me say this: DON’T TRACK ANYTHING DAILY!

Any form of daily tracking can become an addiction, and fosters an unhealthy relationship with your body and food. Once more  DON’T TRACK ANYTHING DAILY!

I recommend tracking your progress every 2 weeks. Take these pictures and measurements  at the same time, on the same day of the week. A Monday or  Friday morning before you eat breakfast are the best options.

Tracking Progress Without A Scale (Non Scale Victories)

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7 Habits Wrecking Your Health (Part 2)

Hey folks we are going to be pick up where we left off last week discussing the 7 habits that are wrecking your health, and what to do if you are stuck in one of these cycles.

If you haven’t already read part one of this blog series  HERE. It will help to provide the context necessary for you to get the most out of this blog post.

4. Sitting Too Much and Disease/Death Risk

As a society most of our daily activities take place with us sitting. Everything from our morning commute, the work that you do at a computer or your leisure activities like watching a movie or TV places place sitting.

It’s not that sitting in general is a horrible practice, but the amount of it you do on a daily basis  is where it begins start to damage your health and  increase your risk for diseases, and premature death.

Unfortunately sitting for prolonged periods of time is linked to premature death, and yes you read that correctly premature death and sitting are associated.

The interesting fact is that even if you exercise for an hour everyday, it does not offset the general sedentary lifestyle of sitting too much, these people are at the same level of risk.

Sitting for six hours or more per day can increase your risk of heart disease by 64%! Your risk for certain types of cancer is dramatically increased,  and your life expectancy is decreased by 7 years.

Based on the above factors and the risks they put you at for an early trip to grave site it is safe to say that sitting is killing you... slowly.

Now that we have covered how sitting too much damages your health we are going to take a look at the new habits and patterns you can implement in your life to solve this problem.

Break The Pattern:

The goal is to create periods of moderate daily activity that break up the time spent sitting.

To break up these periods of sitting that take place throughout the day you are going to be focusing on two different actions:

  • Taking a break from sitting once every hour
     

  • 30-45 minutes of Non Exercise Activity

While your trip to the gym does have huge health benefits, it does not count towards your 30-45 minutes.

These forms of non exercise physical activity could be walking to work, doing yard work, walking your dog the possibilities are endless. The focus is to get your body moving around for periods of at least 10 minutes at a time.

You want your non exercise activity to be done throughout the day, not all at once.

Next we will be looking at some strategies that help you to incorporate these periods of movement into your day and take the stress out of the new habit.

Activity Alarm:

We all live busy lives, and it can get very easy to lose track of time when we feel the squeeze, especially at some place like work.

Set an alarm for every few hours so you are reminded to get up and walk around for at least 10 minutes.

This same alarm system is a great reminder to stand up at least once an hour and  take a short stroll around the office before getting back to work.

Drink More Water:

While consuming more water has its own health benefits, the purpose here is to force yourself to get up more frequently from your desk to fill up your water bottle or go to the bathroom.

Schedule A Walking Meeting:

We spend a lot of time inside and don't get to truly enjoy the fresh air or  beauty outside enough. Break up the monotony of a meeting by scheduling a walking meeting instead.

By combining walking with a client or business meeting it can enrich the process and  provide mental and physical stimulation.

Make All Your Phone Calls While Walking:

This is a great trick for remembering to make phone calls, but also using the phone time to increase your daily movement.

This is a great habit for sneaking in an extra 45-60 minutes, that you would have otherwise been sitting.

Afternoon Slump/Food Cravings Walk:

Everyone has experienced the afternoon slump that typically results in a cup of coffee or a sugary snack.

Sometimes it is just boredom or the fact that you have been sitting down for too long. Use this opportunity to wake your body up, go for a walk and have a glass of water instead of hitting the vending machine.  

For people who experience strong food cravings for poor foods I encourage them to go on a walk.

5. Eating Too Fast Or Stressed


To properly digest food you need to be in a relaxed state, otherwise your digestive system will not function properly and cause dysfunction.

Do you ever experience bloating, gas or burping shortly after meals ? Trying chewing your food better and see if those symptoms improve.

Eating quickly can appear to be a time saver, but it causes people to overeat and not pay attention to the signals the body is sending.

As a society digestive problems, stress and rushed eating all go hand in hand, and are interrelated.

When you are distracted while eating your attention is not on how full you feel, or your digestion.

You have an innate system in your body that connects your digestive system to your brain. This system is designed to regulate hunger in your brain based on the amount/quality of  food in your stomach.

The signal from your stomach to your brain takes 15-20 minutes. However if you eat an entire plate of food before your body can send or receive the signal you can easily overeat.

Break The Pattern:

To help break this pattern you will need to become more aware of your habits around food, and whether you are eating on the run or sitting down and relaxing.

By incorporating more mindful eating into your daily life you will naturally reduce stress and eat in a more relaxed state.

This relaxation when eating allows for better digestion and a person to be more in tune with their hunger from the brain and stomach stand point. 

Here are the top five ways you can start to incorporate more mindful eating in your everyday life and   meals, starting with the next bit of food you take!

5 Ways To Increase Mindful Eating

  • Get away from screens and stressful activities - Take 5 deep breaths

  • Think about three things you are thankful for in life before taking your first bite of food

  • Admire the colors and smells of your food

  • Put your fork down in between bites. This habit leads to better chewing and digestion

  • Eat until you are no longer hungry for the next bite, not until you are “full”

Part 3 Next Week!

The 7 Habits Wrecking Your Health (Part 1)

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 bedtimeWhen 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!...

Fill out the form below if you’re looking for a coach who can help you adopt the simple habits necessary to reach your health, fat loss or muscle building goals.

These habits are based on getting you to your goal in a sustainable fashion that can be maintained, while keeping you accountable along the way.

 

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Why We Overeat Part 3: Sleep

In part 2 of this series on overeating we discussed how the stress response we live with daily  contributes to overeating. Understanding the stress hormones and fight or flight is important to understanding today’s topic: sleep and overeating.

If you have not done so read Why We Overeat Part 2: Stress, before diving into today’s blog on sleep. Not getting enough sleep is a big stress on the body!

Getting a good night of sleep is vitally important to overall health and well being. Any efforts in the gym,kitchen or life to look, feel and perform better are stalled by not prioritizing sleep. 

If you are consistently not getting enough sleep there is a good chance you are  overeating as a result, and may not realize it.

What is it that causes us to overeat when we don’t get enough sleep ? Is it due to willpower ? hormones ? or is there an evolutionary advantage that is at odds with our current lifestyle ?  Read more to learn the answer!  

Sleep Makes It All Better!

Sleep is a basic human requirement, it is mothers nature’s way of forcing our hand into regenerating and rejuvenating.

Our endocrine, neurological, immune, musculoskeletal and digestive systems all rely on sleep to function correctly. This means every system in your body requires good quality sleep work at its best.

A good night sleep has  shown to increase memory and cognitive clarity, improve stress tolerance, better hormonal profiles, increased immune function, improved athletic performance, increased muscle mass, decreased body fat and better mood and energy throughout the day.

If I could  sell the benefits of sleep in a pill form I would be the most successful supplement producer in the world, living on a yacht, sleeping on a bed of gold coins and eating dinosaur eggs for breakfast.

I am here to tell you the health benefits listed above are not going to cost you a dime. All you have to give up is the mindless TV or facebook  and close your eyes when the sun goes down.

How We Are Designed To Sleep

From the smallest microbes in the soil to the largest elephant on the planet we are all synchronized to the orbit of the planet.

This synchronized orbit controls the light and dark cycles that tell us when we should be awake and when we should go to sleep  known as our circadian rhythm.

We have  special nerve cells in our eyes that detect the level of blue light from the sun. The light from the sun  helps signal to brain, and the body whether we should be wide awake or getting prepared for bed.

As the sun sets at night there is a signal sent to an area of the brain called the pineal gland. That signal tells the brain and body it’s time to start winding down. In preparation for sleep the pineal gland begins secreting the hormone melatonin.

We have a number of uses for melatonin in our brain, but one the biggest jobs is it  decreases the stress hormones that promote being awake and alert.

As we sleep melatonin also enhances the appetite suppressing effect of leptin in the body. Leptin keeps you feeling fed while you sleep, instead of feeling hungry and waking you up. The more you sleep the more melatonin is produced.

Sleep is also a huge driver in the production and timed release of our neurotransmitters. The most notable neurotransmitters regulated by sleep are serotonin and dopamine, and associated with mood regulation.

As you read in Why We Overeat Part 1: Feast and Famine;  dopamine and serotonin both play large roles in driving our behaviors to eat certain foods that hit the reward center in our brain and cause us to want more of that food.

While Serotonin and Dopamine play a role in mood they are also big players in focus, motivation and the ability to concentrate.

Serotonin is converted to melatonin, so by sleeping in alignment with our biological rhythms the body times the release of serotonin so it can be converted into melatonin allowing us to wind down at night and sleep through the night.

We are designed to wake up in the morning light with high cortisol secreted from our adrenal glands.The stress hormone cortisol allows us to be awake, alert and ready to handle stress. We should have declining cortisol throughout the day, with it lowest at night so we can wind down and sleep.

We should also wake up from our sleep hungry with low blood sugar levels, and low insulin (storage hormone) because it has been at least 8 hours since our dinner the night before so blood sugar will be low along with insulin.

A Light Accomplice

Electricity and light provided a new era in which humans could have greater control over our environment. While it lead to many great advances in society, it came with a cost disrupting our circadian rhythm, and sleep cycle.

Electricity gave us renewable, cheap, never ending light. This light was a  way to control our environment unlike we ever had before.

The biggest discovery before electricity was fire, it allowed us to cook food and control our environment in way unlike before.

When you start to control your environment it will also change you if you are able to adapt. We have adapted to the constant light, but not all adaptations are positive ones.

Long hours of artificial light and constant dense carbohydrates register as the longer days of summer. Summer means it is time to eat more and gain body fat.

A New Way Of Living

So What happens when we don’t get enough sleep and how does this impact our appetite and overeating tendencies ? I thought you would never ask!

With a lack of sleep you end up with extremely low energy, decreased willpower, lower cognitive function, obesity, type 2 diabetes, depression, fat gain and hormonal dysregulation.

The unending light registers to the body as as long days of summer. From an evolutionary perspective it is an advantage to eat more sugar and carbohydrates to gain fat in preparation for winter.

These days we live in a constant "summer" according to our biological rhythms, that signal us to constantly eat, and gain fat in preparation for reproduction. 

You are staying up late watching TV or checking facebook instead of sleeping, the excess light blue light suppresses melatonin production.

The extra blue light keeps the stress hormone cortisol elevated much later than it should be, causing melatonin to be low. 

This late night artificial light also interferes with conversion of serotonin into melatonin. We need melatonin production to relax and sleep.

Cortisol And Insulin

High cortisol raises insulin and  means low melatonin. Low melatonin  makes it even more difficult to get to sleep.

The elevated cortisol late into the night means that it will not be raised in the morning when we need it to wake up and be alert. Coffee anyone ?

You use caffeine to help with feeling tired, but it only causes cortisol to stay elevated when it should be reducing throughout the day. This constantly high cortisol makes you feel rushed all the time and in a stressed state.

Cortisol is a blood sugar mobilizer causing higher blood sugar throughout the day. Stress and blood sugar dysregulation both lead to overeating on their own, but there is a lot more to this puzzle.

Our circadian rhythms are supposed to control our insulin production  and stress mechanisms. When we do not sleep enough cortisol stays elevated to help mobilize blood sugar to aid in the stress of being awake longer than we should.

Because you haven’t slept enough the body is less effective at managing blood sugar causing you to be hungry throughout the day and night.

Less sleep means reduced willpower, leading to  more impulsive unhealthy food choices. The thing is you are not hungry, you are tired and stressed out.

Melatonin, Leptin and Ghrelin

Less sleep means less melatonin production. The length of prolactin secretion depends on melatonin production.

If melatonin is disrupted by too little sleep, prolactin will be secreted during the day instead of night time when it should be. Prolactin secretion has a relationship to the satiety hormone leptin.

Leptin is produced in our fat cells  and is used a dipstick that tells the brain what our body fat levels are, and helps regulate satiety.

Ghrelin works opposite leptin and is the hunger stimulating hormone.  Depending on the season, and our body fat levels our appetite will be adjusted to eat more or less through leptin and ghrelin.

When the production of prolactin is pushed into the day, it suppresses leptin’s signal to the brain. Suppressed leptin registers as a lack of body fat meaning we need to eat more.

As a result the brain increases the cravings for carbohydrates and sweets through Ghrelin. Decreased sleep leads to decreased leptin, and increased ghrelin meaning you are going to have an increased appetite

As you get fatter the leptin from the increasing fat on your body makes you leptin resistant meaning that your leptin receptors have been overloaded and do not work properly.

Without the adequate function of leptin,your appetite stays switched on day and night causing you to overeat constantly.

The signals that you are sending your body is that you are living in a constant state of summer with shorter nights and longer days, and stressed out.

The adaptation to the constant summer is to keep your appetite increased, especially for sweets and carbohydrates.

The problem is living  in summer with no winter to balance out the feast and famine is sending the signal to overeat and store fat year round.

All feast, and no famine to balance the equation has lead us to a state of fat gain, type 2 diabetes, obesity, heart disease and cancer.

Sleep Tips

A good starting place to avoid overeating and improve health is to prioritize sleep. When the sun goes down start winding down and have a routine for getting to bed.

Put away the screens at least an hour before bed to start making melatonin and calming down. If you have to be in front of a screen for work get a pair of blue blocker sunglasses. They block the blue lights and allow you to start making melatonin.

Avoid stressful activities and engage in some type of myofascial release such as using a foam roller or lacrosse ball to kick on the rest and digest parasympathetic and help you relax for sleep. Completely black out your room and make your room a little colder, both of these help with deeper more restorative sleep.

If you would like to read on more ways to improve your sleep read my blog post: 10 Ways To Improve Sleep

Fill out the form below if you’re looking for a coach who can help you adopt the simple habits necessary to reach your health, fat loss or muscle building goals.

These habits are based on getting you to your goal in a sustainable fashion that can be maintained, while keeping you accountable along the way.

 

Evolve Nutritional Therapy Strategy Session

Name *
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Why We Overeat Part 2: Stress

Hey folks if you haven’t already read part 1 of this series on overeating: Feast and Famine go ahead and do so to get some context for this post.

In the first part of this series we discussed how hunger works, and the fact that are hardwired for cycles of feast and famine.

Our ability to feast during certain times helped us to survive when dealing with famine. This same reward system that was crucial for overeating now works against us because our evolutionary habits don’t match with our current environment and modern foods.

When it comes to something as complicated as overeating, there are a lot of factors to consider and understand.

Once people understand the triggers for overeating they can work  towards a habit based reduction in the triggers and habits that lead to overeating.

In this blog post I am going to be discussing one of the biggest dark horses in overeating; stress. We have all heard mentions of stress or emotional eating,but Why does stress  cause people to overeat and make less healthy food choices ? Is it more of a mental or physical trigger ?

keep reading to learn more.

What Is Stress ?

Before we dive into the effects of stress lets define what it is,and dispel the myth that all stress is bad. Stress can be defined as a mental, physical or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension.

Stresses can be external such as ( social situations, environmental or psychological) or internal such as illness or a  medical procedure.

As an example building muscle from going to the gym and lifting heavy weights  is a beneficial stress response. Mini challenges to the immune system that allow it to grow stronger and fight off larger infections is a beneficial stress as well.

Certain forms of stress  that are short in duration are good for the body, but the poison is in the dose. Most folks are overdosing on stress daily.

How Stress Works In Your Body

We are adapted to handle infrequent short bouts of intense stress followed by time to rest and recover. Unfortunately our modern lifestyle is one of chronic low grade stressors that happen all day long with no time to recover.

Life requires the body to constantly be checking and establishing equilibrium.This equilibrium is known as homeostasis, for the purpose of this blog we are going to apply this to the  processes of appetite regulation, energy storage and use  as it relates to overeating.

Our stress response is a flow of adaptive changes that start in the central nervous system. This stress response is designed to be intense and  short in duration which causes mental, behavioral and physical changes.

Lets say we encounter a mountain lion on while on a hike. In response to the threat of a  mountain lion the body releases the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol to make the heart beat faster, increase the pulse  and move blood to the extremities to prepare for fighting or running away.

The secretion of cortisol also triggers the uptake of blood sugar into the cells to make sure all your energy can go towards fighting or running.

This stress causes the body to use all available blood sugar stored in the muscles or in the blood stream. The mountain lion sees you and runs away but you can still feel the effects of the stress hormones.

Adrenaline runs it course and is cycled out of the system in a short amount of time.Cortisol sticks around for much longer and signals the body to refuel after the stressful event.

We need to eat  sugar and  pack on  fat to make sure we’re prepared for any future fight or flight events.  

In everyday life a more likely stress is money for bills, traffic or an overbearing boss at work. The response is the same as the mountain lion though.

Adrenaline and cortisol is released to cope with the stress response. Your body doesn’t realize you are not fighting or running away.

The cortisol tells your brain to replenish sugar and store fat  in anticipation of the next stressful situation.  

Our stressed out lifestyle is just like coming across the mountain lion all day long.  We are not adapted to handle this volume of stress, but our body does it’s best  to adapt.

Assume our body has a stress bank, and each time you get stressed you make a withdrawal from the bank. We are all operating in extreme stress debt.

Just the same as any other bank sooner or later you have to pay back what you owe. The  currency we pay back our debt with unfortunately is our health.

Stress and Willpower

As we evolved and our brains grew we developed a larger prefrontal cortex. This prefrontal cortex allows us to set goals and regulate our actions.

This is the most evolved part of our brain that helps us to manage, and delay gratification. The prefrontal cortex helps you resist those sugar cookies because you want to look good for a trip to Mexico.

When the stress response is triggered it inhibits the function of our prefrontal cortex. Your ability to delay gratification and think of long term disappears.

In a fight or flight situation being impulsive is an advantage because your only focus is acting quickly and managing immediate threats.

In this state our body is concerned with improving  mood as quickly as possible, regardless of the consequences.

Someone who has something to live for is going to run much faster than a depressed person. The cravings are also  amplified to make sure you consume the foods that hit the reward center in the brain and elevate mood.

When this impulsive behavior is combined with reduced willpower and a perceived need to replenish blood sugar and elevate mood, it is a perfect recipe for overeating.

If overeating was due to occasional stress it wouldn’t be a problem. Our lifestyle and society is not conducive to occasional stress.

Comfort Foods = Sugar, Fat and Addiction

We are hardwired to crave dense sources of energy in the forms of sugar and fats, and processed carbohydrates. 

After consuming these energy dense foods the section of the brain that regulates stress starts to calm down and relax.

The reward system in the brain is triggered and dopamine is released to improve mood. It is a slippery slope when someone eats a food to feel better, not out of hunger.

Over time the same amount of food doesn’t elicit the same mood response, and the person has to eat more to achieve the feeling they are looking for.

Slight overeating can snowball into binging in an attempt to alleviate stress and feel better. The feelings of guilt and shame only create more stress and a vicious cycle that begins and ends with overeating.

While we are adapted to handle a certain amount of stress, beyond a certain point it damages our health and leads to cravings, drained willpower, impulsive behavior and eating to make us eat feel better instead of because of hunger.

I highly encourage you to find a form of stress reduction to do throughout the day. It can be taking your dog for a morning/nightly walk, writing in a journal, going to a yoga class or doing a form of meditation.

The very last post of this series is going to be dedicated to different methods that can be used to address each of the problems that stress provides.

In part 3 of this series I’ll be writing on another huge component of overall health that contributes to overeating.. stay tuned to see what it is!

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These habits are based on getting you to your goal in a sustainable fashion that can be maintained, while keeping you accountable along the way.


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