It’s that time of year when so many of us set a goal or intention to lose weight or live healthier in the new year. We pick a number that we want to see on our scales, say we are going to work out more, and/or start fad diets. We just know this is going to be the year!
That’s exactly how I started my new year in 2013. A month later my husband, Tom, had a heart attack at the age of 45. Until then, I paid attention to calories and fat grams and thought if I indulged in something that was not considered nutritious, I could just work it off at the gym.
I did not feed my family fast food, and Tom and I cooked dinner at home 90% of the time. For the most part, we thought we were eating healthy. I definitely believed in the “calories in vs calories out” theory.
I worked out on and off my entire adult life and my weight fluctuated from the time that I was 34 until about 6 months after Tom’s heart attack when I was 46. While my weight fluctuated, I owned clothes that were three different sizes. I attributed the weight fluctuation to my on again off again workouts.
I have done a lot of research and have learned a lot about nutrition and health since then. This past year, I enrolled in The Institute for Integrative Nutrition, where I learned so much more about nutrition and overall health and wellness. The more that I learn, the more I change the way I approach health and wellness. Today, I’m sharing 5 tips that will change the way you think about nutrition and overall health and will help you live a healthier lifestyle this year!
1. Nutrition – Focus on Quality, not Quantity
It’s time to rethink the “calories in vs calories out” concept for weight loss, weight management, and our overall health. The concept has been oversimplified, when in actuality there are a tremendous amount of factors involved.
According to Dr. Mark Hyman, not all calories are created equal. Food is information, not just calories. The same number of calories from different foods can have different biological effects on the body.
Our bodies process 100 calories of blueberries differently than 100 calories of Doritos. We also absorb calories at different rates depending on food types and our unique gut bacteria.
A much better approach to living a healthy lifestyle is to improve the quality of the food we are putting into our bodies rather than strictly focussing on the quantity. Think about food as nourishment rather than calories. Eating a whole foods diet and limiting highly processed food can allow you to eat more food, help you feel satisfied longer, and will help with cravings. Nourishing foods will help to heal illness and help with weight loss and weight management.
Here are some ways to increase the quality of the foods you are eating while decreasing highly processed foods. This is exactly how I started out.
- Add more fruits and vegetables to your diet.
- Switch to whole grains.
- Read ingredient labels.
- Use unrefined oils.
- Visit your local farmers market.
You can read more about each of these in my Clean Eating: 6 Tips To Get You Started post.
Our nutrition, environment, sleep quality, genetic factors, body size, age, health status, and stress levels are some of the things that influence calories in and calories out. It’s not as simple as eat less, move more. If it were, we would all have this weight and health thing figured out!
2. Get Some Sleep
Last year, I did a significant amount of research for my Conquer Your Food Cravings post. This was my introduction to the link between sleep and overall health. While in nutrition school, I learned even more, and most recently, I took a sleep master class.
I was surprised how much our quality of sleep affects our health and well-being. Of course, I knew we need to get quality sleep. We all know that! We may know some reasons, but when we read or hear get plenty of sleep, we are rarely told what happens to our bodies while we are sleeping and how it affects every area of our lives.
I certainly didn’t know about all the things that go on while we are sleeping. Nor did I know the incredible impact that our nutrition, hormones, and environment have on our sleep, and the impact sleep has on our nutrition and overall health and wellness.
Effects Of Sleep Deprivation
Lack of sleep is linked to a host of health issues. Some of which include the following:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Poor immune function
- Lower life expectancy
What Happens When We Sleep?
When we are sleeping, our bodies are at work going through a number of changes that are connected to our overall health. Here are some critical activities that happen during sleep:
- Brain detoxes and makes sense of everything that happened during the day. It consolidates memory, which is important for creating long-term memories and allowing new memory formation.
- Internal organs rest and repair. For example, the liver detoxes, tissue repairs, and our kidney function slows down.
- Hormones that regulate sleep, growth, stress, metabolism, and appetite are produced during sleep.
Hormones and Sleep
Hormones are huge when it comes to sleep. Our sleep affects our hormones and hormones affect our sleep.
As mentioned above, we produce a number of hormones during sleep. Some of which include human growth hormone (HGH) and leptin.
70% of our human growth hormone, which is our anti-aging hormone, is produced during quality sleep. Our HGH increases lean body mass, burns fat for fuel, improves bone mineral density, and protects the body from aging.
Leptin and ghrelin are paired with our circadian rhythm. Leptin helps us to feel satiated, and ghrelin is our hunger hormone. When we don’t get enough sleep, we don’t produce enough leptin, and we produce too much ghrelin. This causes us to be hungrier and not feel satiated. Hello cravings and overeating!
Stress, unbalanced blood sugar, toxins in our environment, poor nutrition, and lack of exercise can all disrupt hormone levels. Progesterone, testosterone, and estrogen all affect each other. Too much or too little of them will affect other hormone levels, which can interfere with sleep.
How Can I Catch Quality ZZZ’s?
If you are having a hard time getting quality zzz’s, here are some tips that might help.
- Get out in the sun early in the day and set a consistent sleep schedule.
- Avoid caffeine after 2:00 pm.
- Maintain a healthy diet. Meals should include plenty of colorful veggies, small servings of healthy fats, and quality protein about the size of your fist.
- Try keeping your last meal of the day light, and avoid eating past 7:00 pm. Digestion requires energy. Eating a heavy meal at night can interfere with your body’s ability to rest.
- Turn off all electronics in your room. Blue light can hinder your body’s production of melatonin, and in turn, your sleep.
- Clear your mind. Keep a notebook or journal on your nightstand to write down anything weighing on your mind before bed.
- Enjoy a relaxing activity before bed such as restorative yoga, meditation, or an Epsom salt bath with essential oils.
Taking a quick walk at 7:00 am every morning, putting my phone away two hours before I go to sleep, taking Epsom salt baths with essential oils, limiting alcohol, and removing the tv from our bedroom have helped to support my circadian rhythm and have helped me to sleep so much better.
Sleep is connected to every area of our lives. I have only skimmed the surface on what occurs when we sleep, some things that affect sleep, and some tips for getting a good night’s sleep.
3. Drink Your Water
Water plays a major part in our overall health and well-being. There are a plethora of benefits to drinking enough water. Here are just some of the many:
- Increases energy
- Rids waste through urination, perspiration, and pooping
- Cushions tissues
- Regulates body temperature
- Improves brain function
- Prevents headaches
- Improves skin health
- Promotes weight loss
I put a glass of water on my nightstand before bed every night, and drink it first thing in the morning. Drinking water first thing in the morning helps to get your metabolism fired up, flushes out toxins, and helps rehydrate your body. For more info and tips, check out my 10 Tips to Increase Your Water Intake.
4. Move Your Body
Just do it!!! The END. I spent too much time on sleep. 🤣Just kidding – but I am going to keep this as short as possible.
Physical activity can have emotional, cognitive, and physical benefits. Movement can help to reduce and manage stress, improve sleep, help memory and thinking, strengthen the immune system, support weight management, and support gut health.
According to The Department of Health and Human Services, “to attain the most health benefits from physical activity, adults need at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, like brisk walking or fast dancing, each week. Adults also need muscle-strengthening activity, like lifting weights or doing push-ups, at least 2 days each week.”
Tammy’s Top Tips For Moving Your Body
- Just START! It all adds up! Getting in 10 minutes here and there counts. You don’t have to do anything crazy to reap some of the many benefits of physical activity.
- Find an accountability partner. Having a partner definitely helps me to stay consistent and motivated.
- Try something new. You’ll stimulate different muscle groups, prevent injuries, bust boredom, improve brain health, and you may find something you love doing. Over the past several months, I’ve discovered that I love yoga and kayaking. Yoga with Adriene is one of my favorites for free online yoga videos. I also have a subscription to Melissa Wood Health. Love her too!
- Get up from that desk and move. Sitting for too long can lead to a number of health issues. I like to get up and move every hour. I stretch, refill my water, or take a quick walk outside.
5. Manage Stress
As you have seen throughout this post, stress has a big impact on our health. It can affect our quality of sleep, weight, and nutrition. It can also interfere with our ability to fight and recover from illness and cause several other health issues.
Stress is the body’s normal reaction to a demand or challenge. Our sympathetic nervous system signals our “fight-or-flight response” which enables us to fight or run away. It’s perfectly healthy when it helps us in an actual emergency or to deal with a temporary situation. The problems occur when we have frequent or prolonged stress and our parasympathetic nervous system doesn’t have an opportunity to rest and digest. Finding ways to activate our relaxation response is crucial for optimal health.
Stress Management Tips
I know that managing stress is easier said than done, and I have experienced firsthand the toll stress can have on health. I’ve worked hard over the past several years to manage my stress. I’m always learning and trying new techniques. Here are a few tips to help you manage stress.
- Practice gratitude. Gratitude can boost your mood and help you have a positive mindset. I have a prayer/gratitude journal that I write in every morning. I look for small things that I am grateful for throughout my day and write them in my journal the following morning.
- Try the 4-7-8 Breathing Exercise. It’s a simple and quick technique that was created by Dr. Weil, and it can be done anywhere. It has definitely helped me to relax! You can check it out here.
- Organize your work and living spaces. I don’t know about you, but clutter makes me crazy! Keeping things organized helps to create a peaceful environment.
- Meditate. To be honest, I’m working on this one. I have been practicing a few times a week for about 10 or 15 minutes and have noticed a difference. Headspace is a meditation and mindfulness app that has a free 2-week trial. It’s a great way to get started with meditation.
Nutrition, sleep, movement, and stress are all connected, and our overall health is impacted by each one of them. When we set a goal to lose weight or live healthier, it’s important to treat the body as a whole. The mind, body, and soul all work together.
It doesn’t mean you have to go and do ALL of the things tomorrow. Taking small steps and being consistent will lead to sustainable changes that will have a big impact on your overall health and wellness.
I’d love to have you join my private Facebook group, Small Steps Matter. We are creating a community of women who support and motivate each other to live a healthier lifestyle.
If you would like more information about how I can help you create a plan to make sustainable diet and lifestyle changes to improve your health and wellness, click on the link below to schedule a free consultation. I can’t wait to chat with you!
If stress, weight loss, and/or sleep are a chronic issue and nothing you do seems to help, it’s important to find a medical professional who will help you get to the root cause and not just treat the symptoms. I highly recommend seeing a functional medical doctor, if you do not already have a trusted medical professional. You can find a functional medicine doctor in your area on The Institute for Functional Medicine website.
Dr. Mark Hyman’s Sleep Master Class
Sleep and Health. (2008). Harvard Medical School.