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Sleep To Lose Weight

Less sleep = more weight gain? (But wait - you’d think that if you’re awake longer, you’re burning more calories and you’ll lose weight, right?) Apparently not. There’s a strong link between reduced sleep and increased girth. Here are some of the reasons why:

  • The hormone Ghrelin regulates feelings of hunger, and when you get less sleep, your Ghrelin levels increase.
  • The hormone Leptin regulates the feeling of fullness, and when you’re sleep deprived, you guessed it: your Leptin levels decrease
  • Cortisol is another hormone affected by sleep deprivation. It’s a stress hormone that can stimulate hunger, and it’s released when you haven’t slept enough
  • Basal metabolic rate: supposedly needs adequate sleep to maintain its speed, so if you sleep less, the rate at which you burn calories while you rest decreases
  • Non-exercise associated thermogenesis: a fancy term for fidgeting. If you’re tired, you move less and burn fewer calories
  • Lack of sleep can interfere with the body’s ability to metabolize carbs. This results in high blood glucose levels, which triggers the release of extra insulin, which then results in extra fat storage.

The last three items may account for the results of a study that monitored close to 70,000 women over 16 years, which demonstrated sleep reduction related weight gain without an increase in food eaten.  In other words, despite the change in appetite regulating hormones that resulted in less sleep, these women still did not eat more, and yet they still gained weight.

Nice. So much for the hope to get more done by sacrificing some sleep... yeesh. I guess I'll publish this post and go take a nap?

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Eat Every Hour To Lose Weight

This is something else I've tried in the past that has also melted away a few pounds: eating every hour.

You still need an awareness of caloric values, because at the end of the day weight loss, gain or maintenance is the net result of calories in vs. calories out. (When I say eat every hour, I don't mean a super sized fast food meal ;)

Here's how I did it:
  1. Have a calorie count resource, such as a website or book, which tells you the caloric value for each food.
  2. Aim for each hourly "mini meal" to be between 100 - 150 calories. 
  3. Keep a running total of what you've eaten as the day progresses. This is helpful not only so that you won't go overboard, but it increases your awareness of what you've actually eaten and reminds you to eat healthy.
  4. Use a timer: eat something as soon as you wake up, and then set a timer for an hour. Set it again each time you eat. This is so important! I'd eat and then forget, and then three hours would pass, which defeats the whole purpose.
  5. When you sit down to eat with others, don't eat the same portion size as they do. This will definitely skyrocket you into a calorie count that's too high. At dinner time, I'd sit down with my husband and kids and eat the same food, just a very very small portion (max 200 cals worth). At this point of the day I'd be close to 1,300 calories, so if I had eaten a full meal, all the benefits of eating every hour would have been negated.
Why it works:
  1. Research has shown that your metabolism increases after you eat, so the more often you eat, the more often your metabolic activity is increased.
  2. Your blood sugar and insulin levels will be more consistent, resulting in less blood sugar being stored as fat. When your insulin levels increase, after a large (high glycemic) meal, it's harder for your body to burn fat, because insulin is then released to move glucose from your blood to be stored as fat. 
What to watch out for:
  1. Make sure the hourly mini meals are small! Otherwise you'll simply end up eating too much.
  2. Pay attention to the glycemic level of each mini meal. For example, if you've already eaten some healthy stuff that day, let's say veggies at 1:00, go ahead and have a cookie (60-100 cals) at 2:00, but eat a piece of cheese with it (60-100 cals). Eating a high glycemic food (cookie) with a low glycemic food (cheese) will reduce the glycemic index (i.e. speed of increase in blood sugar) of the snack.

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Thin For Life - Anne M. Fletcher, M.S. R.D.

I love this book.

The author, Anne M. Fletcher, talks to weight loss "masters": people who have KEPT OFF the weight they've lost, and examines the characteristics they have in common. Also featured is her "Jump Start" diet. I lost 18 pounds two years ago, thanks to adapting the common strategies used by the successful dieters featured in Thin For Life, and the Jump Start Diet got me going on the road to success.

The reason the Jump Start diet worked so well for me is because of the caloric allotment for each food type. This was my first exposure to the concept of protien staving off hunger more than carbs, and boy did it work. In this diet, your daily limit of calories is broken down into food categories (i.e. protein, carbs, vegetables, fruit, dairy, etc.), and each category has it's own limit. Then you can choose which items you eat for each category (samples of portion sizes and caloric value are listed for reference). No food category is omitted, but protein is given the highest calorie limit, to help reduce hunger.

I am a huge believer that if you want good advice, take it from someone who has been successful at what you are trying to achieve. The fact that the author has based the information in this book on the stories of people who have mastered losing and keeping weight off makes this a very informed and worthwhile read.

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7 Reasons To Not Give Up Chocolate Cake

This is a guilt buster for me: I can't give up chocolate cake, so I'm (making it work for me ;) looking at the reasons why it's OK not too:

  1. It's a carb, which is fuel and helps your metabolism.
  2. Dark chocolate contains flavonoids, which slow aging and relax blood pressure, among other things.
  3. If you incorporate occasional treats into a diet, you're more likely to stick to that diet.
  4. If you bake the cake yourself, you can add grains such as flax and bran, or fruit and veggies such as applesauce and zucchini, which will increase health benefits.
  5. Cake can be frozen, so it's a treat you can make or buy and eat small portions of, without fear of waste.
  6. Chocolate has been linked to increased serotonin levels, which acts as an antidepressant.
  7. Chocolate contains theobromine, which is a stimulant similar to caffeine.
There are more, I just know it. I may be writing a "part 2" to this post in the near future...


8 Calorie Counting Tips

Since I've counted calories before (and am currently doing so), I thought I'd put together a list of some tips for anyone who is interested in trying.

  1. Determine how many calories you need to eat each day to lose weight. Here's an example of a formula you can use to calculate your caloric requirement. My personal goal is to eat somewhere between 1,300 - 1,800 calories per day, but I am quite active. If you have a desk job and drive everywhere, you may want to reduce your caloric intake below that.
  2. Have a calorie counting resource, such as a book or website that lists caloric values for the types of food you eat. I used to have a paperback book but now I simply Google "how many calories are in ____ " and take it from there.
  3. Write down what you eat.
  4. Measure what you eat and drink. This is so important for the sake of accuracy. It's very easy to get it wrong if you have to guess.
  5. If you can't measure something and must guess, overestimate how many calories it has (instead of underestimating).
  6. Record EVERYTHING that goes in your mouth: the cream in your coffee, the peanut butter you licked off the knife when you made that sandwich for your kids, etc.
  7. Be organized: I have a notebook and pen, as well as measuring spoons and cups, in a handy spot in my kitchen.
  8. Know that protein makes you feel full longer. For example, if you eat 100 calories worth of carbs, you'll be hungry sooner than if you eat 100 calories worth of protein. I personally don't believe in completely cutting out any food group - I think a diet should be balanced to be healthy - but if you raise your protein intake and lower your card intake, you'll find it easier to eat fewer calories.

When I record what I eat, I use four columns (I've arrived at this by trial and error, and this works best for me):
  1. Time - this helps me pace myself, so that over the course of the day I don't exceed my goal.
  2. Food item - I write down what I've eaten so that if I'm hungrier that normal I can analyze why (for example, protein suppresses appetite whereas carbs can stimulate it).
  3. The caloric value of each food item.
  4. A running total - this lets me know how much I've eaten so far and how many more calories I can eat.
In the beginning, calorie counting seems like a lot of work. However it does become easier as you set up your own routine, and find yourself remembering caloric values so you don't have to look them up every time. Bottom line - if it is an approach that you're comfortable with and can stick to, it will work.


How Exercise Can Sabotage Weight Loss

It's simple, really - exercise increases hunger, which makes cutting back on calories more difficult.

In the past, when I've tried exercising to lose weight without counting calories, it's been a dismal failure. Everyone is different, of course, but for me, exercise brings out a feeling of entitlement in regards to food. I burned a lot of calories today, I can have that extra slice of banana bread. In the end I gain weight, and it's not all from muscle building, if you get my drift.

I will never give up exercise. It strengthens your body and makes you healthier. However when I exercise solely for the purpose of losing weight, it makes losing weight difficult. So instead, I incorporate exercise into everything I do (such as walking when I can instead of driving), and focus on calorie reduction as my weight loss method.

The trick for me is being conscious about what I eat. Yes I spent an hour and a half walking today, but that does not mean I can eat my way through the fridge. Weight loss requires burning more calories than you consume, whether you're exercising or not!


The Problem With Take Out...

...is that it makes me crave pop. This time, in particular, Root Beer (one of my weaknesses!). I just finished a Tandoori chicken sub, which I'll call 500 calories just as a guess, and now I WANT SOME ROOT BEER. sigh. I should have known this was coming ;)

I'm not going to cave in though, because so far for today I'm at 1,630 calories, which is low enough considering all the walking I've done. If I can tough it out and resist the Root Beer, I'll be able to wake up tomorrow feeling like today was not just another delay, but instead, actual progress!

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