If you are like me (and most other Americans), you probably have a vision of yourself. You have a vision of how you are now, how you were before, and how you’d like to be. It is these visions that influence many of the decisions that we make regarding our lifestyle. We’re constantly bombarded with “no excuses,” “no shortcuts,” and a myriad of phrases and buzzwords that are supposed to motivate us. We are enlightened now to the fact that fads don’t work. So why aren’t we getting results? Why are we not realizing the visions that we have of ourselves? Why is it so hard and seemingly impossible to become who we want to be, to look how we want to look, and to feel how we want to feel?
In our combined 20 years of experience in the Fitness and Strength and Conditioning field, we have seen one indelible truth, one common denominator among people who are fit and healthy: they embrace the concept of lifestyle. People who are happy with their health are usually products of the consistent, conscious choices they make. It is the accumulated effect of these choices that produces success. The same is true of people who are not currently satisfied with their condition. They too are the products of conscious, consistent choices. The question then becomes: why do we choose to be unhealthy? Is it simply too difficult to look and feel good?
Many fitness experts have given up, calling the majority of us “undisciplined, lazy, and unmotivated.” Nothing could be further from the truth. People all desire to look and feel their best. But it is because they lack awareness for how to initiate and sustain change that they run into issues. For example, if I told you that eating ONE strawberry could kill you immediately (and you believed me), would you ever put one in your mouth again? Wouldn’t you try to save everyone you know from eating them? That is of course a completely fictional and extreme example of how proper awareness can lead to a positive change in behavior. However, there are definitely small choices that people make every single day, without being aware of how detrimental those choices actually are to their health and well-being.
I offer ONE basic concept that everyone can use to their advantage when trying to begin their journey toward improving their health and fitness. It has nothing to do with diet or exercise. It is getting enough sleep! Most people simply do not do this. In fact, most health “gurus” don’t even get this one right. “Enough sleep” varies from person to person, but in general, 6-9 hours a day is a must. Even if it is split into 90 minute blocks, it is still beneficial.
Not getting enough sleep leads to stress. Stress causes the body to retain a hormone called Cortisol. Cortisol and fat are friends. The more Cortisol your body retains the more fat it retains. Especially in the abdomen! In addition, your organs and your digestive tract do a lot of work when you are sleeping that simply cannot be done in nearly the same way when you are awake. Furthermore, a person who is chronically not getting enough sleep has constantly elevated levels of cortisol. This leads to a “burning out” or fatigue of the Adrenal Glands. A person with “Adrenal Burnout” not only stores fat at a much higher rate, but is also highly susceptible to infectious disease, cold and flu, and stomach viruses.
Think big picture! If you have enough rest, you already start the day thinking more clearly. The food choices you make are different. You are less likely to start your day with a doughnut and several cups of coffee. These huge spikes of sugar and caffeine stress your body out. You’re more likely to eat badly the rest of the day. You’re more tired at the end of the day. You’re less likely to go exercise after work if you are stressed, craving sleep, and eat poorly all day. And even if you do exercise, your body is less efficient at burning fat that day.
If you are well rested, your energy levels and work capacity for exercise are greater. Now you are actually burning fat instead of storing it! This allows you to exercise less! No, it’s not crazy talk. The more efficient your body is at burning fat, the less you have to exercise. You will also be less susceptible to injury and have more time to do other things. The less stressed you are on a consistent basis the better your body is at pretty much everything. Why wouldn’t you want that?
Again, this is a simple lifestyle choice that you can make on a consistent basis to move further toward your health and fitness goals. Whether you are trying to lose weight, gain muscle, or just feel better in general, you MUST get enough sleep! At the very least you will be more sane and pleasant to be around. In fact, your personal relationships will probably improve if you are less stressed and better rested.
Try this for three weeks. Get enough sleep every single day, even on the weekends. Do this without changing your diet or exercise habits at all. See how you feel!
At Team FRESH we always try to encourage realistic and sustainable changes. Make this your first one. In the meanwhile, stay tuned for our next article, detailing more lifestyle choices that we can make to feel and look better.
Bouchez, Colette. “The Dream Diet: Losing Weight While You Sleep.” www.WebMD.com, 2007. Web, .
10 October, 2012. <http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/guide/lose-weight-while-hsleeping?page=3>