Many of us don’t get enough sleep. Do you know that sleep is one of the keys to weight loss? Setting up a nighttime routine can help improve your sleep habits.
Every time I fly the flight attendant reminds me that if there is a loss of cabin pressure, make sure to put the oxygen mask on myself before putting a mask on my child. We tend to put others first and our instinct might be to put the mask on those that we love first. But if we don’t take care of ourselves, we will be unable to help others around us. Our good intentions won’t help anyone if we can’t function to help them.
Today I want to share with you an important self-care habit to ensure that you are operating at your highest level to give yourself the best chance to optimize your weight loss.
Sleep is vital. According to the Centers for Disease Control more than 35% of people are sleep deprived (1). It is recommended that you get at least 7 hours of sleep per night. A study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that those that got only 5.5 hours of sleep lost less body fat than if they got more sleep (2). If you are not getting enough sleep you are sabotaging your efforts and decreasing the effectiveness of all the things you did right during the day.
Your weight is controlled by several different hormones in your body. Lack of sufficient sleep affects these hormones and can affect your weight.
Insulin is a fat storage hormone. It allows your cells to take in glucose from carbohydrates to be used for energy. Lack of sleep causes decreased insulin sensitivity (insulin resistance) leading to increased fat storage. When you are insulin resistant, your body produces more insulin to compensate. Any extra glucose in your system gets stored as fat.
Ghrelin is increased which causes increased hunger signals and a decreased metabolism. That is certainly a bad combination!
Decreased leptin means your stomach feels empty leaving you longing for more. Leptin is the hormone that signals when you are full. So when leptin is not working you lose the signal that tells you that it’s time to stop eating.
Cortisol is a stress hormone that can be released when you are sleep deprived. This can lead to an increased desire for food. High cortisol levels increase appetite. This is what is commonly called “stress eating.”
Human Growth Hormone (HGH) promotes a healthy metabolism and enhances your performance. Sleep and exercise promote the release of human growth hormone. Most of the release comes during sleep. Sleep is when the body does its restorative work. HGH works to restore and repair your body while you sleep.
Sleep is essential to allow your body to heal, repair and for your hormones to balance naturally. Quality sleep is just as important in your weight loss journey as eating and exercise.
Increase the likelihood of a good night’s sleep. Turn off screens at least 30 minutes before bedtime. Even better if you can turn them off 2 hours before bed.
Avoid caffeine after noon.
Don’t eat 2 hours before bed. If your body is digesting when you go to bed it delays the restorative processes of sleep.
Make sure your room is dark and quiet. Dim lights in your house as it gets closer to bedtime. This helps signal your brain that it’s almost time for sleep.
Develop a bedtime routine. Stick to a schedule. Your body likes routines. Set a bedtime and stick to it as much as possible. Finish your night off with writing 3 things you’re grateful for. It makes a difference to end your day with a sense of thankfulness.
Don’t set snooze alarms. Pushing snooze multiple times just means that your last bit of sleep is completely interrupted. Sleep until the alarm goes off and then 5,4,3,2,1…get up and be awesome!
One of the most frequent questions I get is, “What is ketosis?” The human body amazing. We can get energy from more than one type of nutrient. We either use glucose for energy or we can use fat for energy. For me personally, ketosis means I’m in a state where my body is burning my stored fat and I feel fantastic with increased energy, clearer thinking and weight loss. But I sense that people want a more scientific answer. I made a quick video to explain what ketosis is. If you would rather read about it scroll down below the video.
I see so many people making keto complicated and it doesn’t have to be that way. I thought I’d write about some of the ways I make it easier for myself. This is my 3rd month on keto and I’ve lost 16 pounds so far.The best part of it all is that I feel great.
Dinner: My family is not eating keto so dinner is more variable. The easiest is when we have meat and veggies. (i.e. steak and asparagus, pork chops and greens or other combinations). I will add some sort of healthy fat to that like grass-fed butter, avocado, or coconut oil. If they are having something that is not on my eating plan I will modify. For example if they are having spaghetti I will have some meat sauce over zucchini noodles. If they have burgers I will eat mine without the bun. There’s always a way to modify. If all else fails I’ll scramble up some eggs with cheese.
Adding a cheat day or a cheat meal is one of the ways people try to stay on track with their nutrition plan. We tend to give in to the feeling of deprivation and “reward” ourselves with food that we miss. Everyone has to decide for themselves but I’m going to share with you why I choose not to include cheat meals or cheat days.
One reason I don’t cheat is that I’ve realized over the years that the only person I’m cheating is myself. Allowing junk food back into my eating plan has undermined my success over and over. Not only is it a slippery slope for me, it leads to increased hunger and cravings. I worked hard to kick my cravings and I have no desire to fire them back up again. Cheat meals feel fantastic in the moment however there are consequences.
Eating foods with poor nutritional value and unhealthy ingredients causes inflammation in the body. Inflammation is a major contributor to many chronic diseases. It affects your gut health and your mental health. It can also feed any food addictions you may have and can be a starting point for a relapse with subsequent weight gain.
We cheat for various reasons:
The list could go on and on but you get the idea. Next time you are tempted, ask yourself what’s really going on.
When you have cheat days on keto you have an additional set of consequences. You run the risk of knocking yourself out of ketosis. If you have been on a ketogenic diet for long enough you are fat adapted which means you are a fat burning machine. If you are not close to your goal I don’t recommend jeopardizing that fact. Cheating can cause an insulin spike and messes with your stabilized blood sugar. Eating junk food can increase hunger and re-ignite cravings. If you are hungry for certain types of foods I recommend that you find a keto friendly recipe that will help satisfy your craving with ingredients that won’t sabotage your progress. Sometimes it’s just about staying the course, getting used to eating real food, and learning a bit of something about our relationship with food. It’s OK to be uncomfortable and not give into temptation. There’s room for serious personal growth in those moments.
If you do cheat OWN IT. Remember you never “have to” cheat. Don’t play the victim Learn from it. Move on. Don’t use it as an opportunity to continue down a spiral of giving up on your goals. Anticipate the fact that you may feel some negative effects from it and you may be hungrier than usual. Forgive yourself. Don’t dwell on it. Set yourself up for success. Focus on creating better habits over time.
During worship at church I was struck with a thought that grabbed my attention. I was singing one of my favorite songs, “No Longer Slaves.” The chorus says,
“I’m no longer a slave to fear
I am a child of God”
This has become one of my battle cries in my war against food addiction. But today when I sang the bridge of the song:
“You split the sea so I could walk right through it
My fears were drowned in perfect love
You rescued me so I could stand and sing
I am a child of God”
I pictured the splitting of the Red Sea when the children of Israel were fleeing the enemy. It was a sudden, immediate miracle. But I didn’t feel like my weight loss journey was like that. It wasn’t a sudden breakthrough but a long process of struggling, of seeking and praying. Then it struck me. The moment wasn’t sudden for the Israelites either. It came after centuries of slavery and struggle. It came after Moses, the man of God, pleaded with Pharaoh, the ruler of the day, to let them go. They went through plague after plague while God fought for their freedom through Moses. They were protected from the plagues but it still must have been horrific to witness. It came after God gave them a tradition that would point them to the Messiah and his future sacrifice for them. It came after their obedience and it came after they followed God’s leading.
Once they finally got permission from Pharaoh to go to the desert to worship, the Egyptian army was sent against them. They spent a long night up against the sea with nowhere to go and the Egyptian army on their heels. God stood between the Israelites and the Egyptians. The next day, as they stood on the shore and witnessed the sudden splitting of the sea for their freedom as the enemy bore down on them, it seemed they were rescued in an instant. But they had experienced the many works God had done to bring them to the place where they were ready to step out into what He had for them.
But God had done many great works preparing and equipping them for the faith journey to a promised land. Now I stand at the edge of my own breakthrough and am realizing all God has done in me to bring me to this point. As this sea parts I stand in wonder not only at what God has prepared for me, but also at what He has prepared me for.
Since my body is burning fat for fuel now I can go longer periods of time without needing to eat. I am doing intermittent fasting. We all fast at night when we sleep. Extending that fast until later in the day has all sorts of benefits. I do what’s called a fat fast meaning I have some fat in the morning in my coffee but no other food. I eased into this gradually I started by keeping my feeding times down to 8 hours (fasting for 16 hours). So I was eating for the first time at 10 a.m. and stopping eating by 6 p.m. This past week I worked on lengthening the fasting window to 11 or 12 hours. I actually went until 1:30 one day when I was busy at work.
You can do intermittent fasting along with any nutrition plan. I am doing it along with a ketogenic diet (keto). Keto helps my body prefer fat as fuel and doesn’t stimulate insulin spikes. Since insulin is a fat storage hormone this helps me stop the continual gain and begin to lose fat.
I also love the flexibility of intermittent fasting. I don’t have to follow a strict schedule. It’s all about finding what works for me. As for right now I’m fasting 16+ hours a day during the weekdays. On the weekend I’m planning to eat breakfast with my family so my fasting window will be shorter. One thing that challenged me at first was wanting to snack near bedtime. I used to do this every night. In the hour before bed I used to have cheese or nuts or some other snack. I wasn’t hungry. I just did it because I wanted to. Purely out of habit. Now I’m mindful of my behavior and I distract myself when I feel the need to snack at night. Or I just go to bed.
Well, I used to think this too. I taught it to others for years. I thought that my body would go into starvation mode and I would do more harm than good. The funny thing is I believed that this was true while carrying around 35,000 extra calories stored right on my own body. Now I am allowing my body to burn those extra calories for fuel. And the result of that is that I’m losing weight and I feel great doing it. I’m enjoying delicious food along the way.
If you’re interested in learning more about intermittent fasting I recommend you watch Dr. Jason Fung on YouTube. This is a good one to start with:
He also has a great book called The Obesity Code that goes into detail about this concept.
Once you decide it’s time to focus. Focus on actions that move you forward towards your goals. Focusing on the past does not move you forward. It’s OK to learn from the past but don’t hang out there. Focus on what you can control. What you focus on drives you.
There is value in gaining knowledge but don’t get stuck acquiring enough knowledge until the time is perfect. The time will never be perfect. Take what you know and take a step forward. Build momentum.
Continuing to build knowledge and applying that knowledge with action. Each day start out stating to yourself what your goals are and the steps you will take today to move towards them.
And now as William Wordsworth said,
One important part of eating a keto lifestyle is to know what macros you’re aiming for. There are many different ways that people calculate their macros. Below is my favorite way to calculate protein. I find that some of the online macro calculators allow for too much protein. Too much protein can stall your progress (more on this in a future article).
This protein calculation is based on an estimation of your ideal body weight and so it is based on your height.
45.5 grams for 5 foot tall
Add 2.3 grams for each inch over 5 foot
(subtract 2.3 grams for each inch under 5 foot)
50 grams for 5 foot tall
Add 2.3 grams for each inch over 5 foot
(subtract 2.3 grams for each inch under 5 foot)
Example – For a 5’2” female
45.5 + (2.3 x 2) = 45.5 + 4.6 = 50.1 grams of protein per day
You will aim for 20 grams or less of carbohydrates. Especially starting out. Later you can experiment with how many carbs you can handle without getting kicked out of ketosis. Most of your carbohydrates will come from low carbohydrate vegetables. These contain so many important nutrients so yes, eat your veggies. There are two ways to count carbs. The first is total carbs and the second way is net carbs. Net carbs are calculated from subtracting fiber and sugar alcohols from total carbs. To start out with I recommend that you just stick with total carbs until you get the hang of this.
Now comes the easy part. You will eat fat to satiety. Aim for eating at least as much fat as protein but on most days aim for twice the amount of fat.
I am 5’7”. My macros are 20g carbs, 64g protein and 152g fat. I am pretty good bout keeping my total carbs under 20 and I usually get close to my protein goal. My fat usually comes in around 100 grams because I’m just not hungry after that point.
You don’t need to stress over calories. I’m not going to go into detail here – that will be the subject of another post. Just trust me. Stay under 20 grams of carbohydrates, get close to your protein goal, and eat fat to satiety. If you’re not hungry, don’t eat. You won’t go into “starvation mode.” Your body will begin to use your stored body fat for energy as it was designed to do. That’s the beauty of this whole way of eating.
Need help with your macros? Comment below and I can help.