Road Block #1- Proper Sleep
The first non-calorie roadblock to explore is your sleep. One might think that less sleep means you burn more calories because we burn more calories awake than asleep. However, sleep plays a large role in our hormones and hormones play a large role in our waking metabolism. If we do not get enough quality sleep our hormones will be out of balance which will cause our body to not burn as many calories during our waking hours, resulting in less calories burned overall for the day.
The most common reasons people don’t get the proper amount of quality sleep is timing and ability. Timing is usually due to not getting into bed before they’re tired. Often people wait until they’re tired to go to bed. On the surface that makes sense. However that is a flawed thought process because if you continue to stimulate your mind you’ll likely be tired long before you realize it. You’ll even get a “second wind”... we don’t want a second wind. That just results in less quality sleep later. Often we are amazed at how quickly we’ll feel tired once we’ve turned off all our devices and climbed into bed.
It is recommended to turn all blue light/technology off an hour before bed. If that doesn't seem doable and you feel you need to turn the tv on when you climb into bed, that's still better than waiting until you feel tired. Likely once you lay down and get comfortable you’ll find yourself nodding off mere minutes after you do so. The moral of the story is identify the amount of sleep you want to get, and begin preparing for bed an hour beforehand regardless whether you’re tired or not.
Another common reason people do not get enough quality sleep is they have a hard time falling asleep or have a hard time sleeping well. Exercise helps with this and there are a number of supplements that can help as well. You might look for something that contains substances such as melatonin, valerian, chamomile etc. If something natural does not work, consider speaking to your primary care provider because the consequences for accepting poor sleep go far beyond weight loss. Decreased sleep is associated with a dramatic increase in dementia as we age. It is associated with heart disease, and many other chronic diseases. So if you’re getting into bed but unable to get quality sleep, make this a priority.
If you’re not sure if you’re getting enough quality sleep a good test is to lay down and close your eyes. Be sure to set an alarm. If you’re easily falling asleep that is a strong indicator you’re not getting enough. That being said, you may find taking a regular nap a good solution to the sleep challenge. You don’t necessarily have to get all the quality sleep at night. If you find you can only sleep well for six hours but are able to easily fall asleep for a nap, then do that. Again, I know it takes time and everyone is so busy, but if you don’t make time for your wellness today, you’ll be forced to make time for your sickness tomorrow.
Road Block #2- Digestive Health Needs Improved
The second non-calorie roadblock is gut health. In our digestive system is where the majority of our lymphatic tissue resides. Lymphatic tissue is largely responsible for the efficiency of our immune system. Therefore a healthy gut will likely result in you getting sick less. However, there is also a relationship with our digestive system and our ability to lose weight. Over the course of the last 10 years the body of scientific evidence now shows those with a healthy gut i.e. lower intestinal inflammation, greater bacteria diversity and permeability, are able to lose weight more effectively on the same level of calorie restriction than those whose gut health is not as strong.
Things that influence gut health are of course, hormones, and nutrition. A diet high in saturated fat, refined carbs and sugars promotes inflammation. A diet containing fermented foods such as sauerkraut, yogurt, cottage cheese and fiber (fruits and vegetables) promotes improved health, lowers inflammation and promotes diverse healthy bacteria. So if you’re sticking to a 1200 calorie diet and struggling to lose weight but ignoring things like vegetables and fermented foods you may want to revisit your food choices as it may be less the calories getting in the way and more the health of your gut.
Road Block #3- You Need More Lean Tissue
The third non-calorie roadblock is lean tissue. Primarily what we mean by lean tissue is bone and muscle. Something I have seen many times is someone losing weight through diet alone. They continue to reduce what they eat to lose weight. Sometimes you have to adjust your calories down as you lose weight, no doubt about it. However, if you’re not doing resistance training you’ll find you’ll be reducing your calories, further and further. The reason is the speed of our metabolism is largely determined by the amount of lean tissue we have. Think about a car, the bigger V8 motors consume much more gas than the 4 cylinder motors right? Of course they do because bigger motors require more energy. Lean tissues are the motors of our body. If we do not perform resistance training we lose lean tissue when we diet. The reason for this can be found in our evolution. The human body adapts to stress. If we go back in our history we spent thousands of years being hunters and gatherers and lived in a time when people commonly missed meals, and endured the stresses of going hungry for long periods of time. This stress caused the body to adapt to such food shortages through processes of slowing down the metabolism. Lean tissue is not advantageous to preventing hunger as it burns calories even at rest. Therefore if there is no stress on the muscles the body has adapted to get rid of it. However if there is stress on the muscles the body has adapted to maintain and build the muscle, as well as then metabolizing fat to meet the energy shortage. So it is important to perform resistance exercise when dieting as it signals to the brain that “we need” this muscle which ensures your metabolism stays high even in the state of food reduction. If you’re not performing resistance training at least twice a week there is a good chance your metabolism is slowing down and you’ll have to continue to reduce your calories to a miserably low level.
Understand this is just three roadblocks. As mentioned in the beginning of the article a food sensitivity or a medication/medical condition may also be interfering. However even if that is the case, there’s a good chance that addressing the three roadblocks above can still help. You may have noticed that the three roadblocks when addressed won’t just help you lose weight, they’ll help you stay healthy, strong and sharp. If our gut is healthy, our sleep is good, and our muscles trained, we are going to feel better, and look better. If we feel and look better we live better and can be better for those we love and for the activities in life we enjoy.