Sorry for the slight hiatus in blog posts. To be perfectly honest with you (as I always am), I kind of lost my drive to blog there for a few weeks. About two months ago I contacted a web designer and spent a lot of time coming up with my vision for where I want this blog to go, what I want it to look like, what I’m planning for the future, etc. And after a few emails, I never heard back from him. So I called, and he said he would be getting around to my email that weekend. Well, that was like seven weeks ago and I never heard back. Needless to say, I lost my enthusiasm for a bit, and was also pretty peeved that this guy never got back to me. It made me feel like my project wasn’t important to him, and that’s a depressing feeling. But anyways, I’m over it now. Although I’m still looking for a great, reliable, creative, and affordable web designer to make some updates to the blog, so if anyone has any suggestions – hit me up in the comments!
Today’s post is super well-timed in my opinion. How many of us overdid it this past holiday weekend what with all the food and drink? Come on people….be honest and put your hands up. My hand is up. In fact, both of my hands are up. Trust me, I ate waaaaaaaaay too much white cheddar popcorn this weekend (I blame my mom for this one as she gave me a huge BJ’s bag of it on Saturday. It was gone by Sunday evening….). And of course there were other tasty treats (like roasted marshmallows) and a few alcoholic beverages (wine, wine, annnnnnnnd, oh yeah – more wine). So I think it’s a great time for cleaning up my diet and getting a little healthier before the next round of indulgences crop up (ie. Wedding Season). I’m generally not one for hardcore “cleanses” or any sort of fasting (because honestly neither sounds remotely appealing and is by no means sustainable). So instead of giving you a “detox” program, let’s just keep things simple, and talk about 5 easy changes you can make that can help you lose weight.
1. Protein at Every Meal
In case you missed Nutrition School Part One: Macronutrient Basics, let me just give you a quick nutrition summary. Our food is comprised of macronutrients and micronutrients. The three macronutrients are carbohydrate, protein, and fat. These “macros” give us energy in the form of Calories. Micronutrients include vitamins and minerals. We need these “micros” , but they do not give us any energy (ie they have no calories). Protein is the most satiating of the 3 macronutrients. It helps to keep you full until your next meal, and it helps to keep blood sugars more level when you pair it with a carbohydrate compared to eating a carbohydrate alone. So it’s a good idea to make sure that each meal and snack has a source of protein. That will help to keep you full throughout the day and make it less likely that you’ll be craving sweets and carby snack food. Good sources of protein include meat, poultry, fish, seafood, eggs, hummus, soybeans, tofu, cheese, Greek yogurt, nuts/seeds, and beans/legumes.
If you need some new high protein recipes to check out be sure to try a few of these dishes:
2. Veg Out
Fill at least half your plate with non starchy veggies. They’re low in calories, full of satiating fiber, and filled with plenty of beneficial phytochemicals. Fiber helps to keep our bowels regular, especially insoluble fiber, which is the kind more often found in non starchy vegetables. Vegetables also have a lot of water in them, which helps to fill us up without many calories. If you make half your plate non-starchy vegetables, and also have a good source of protein, you’ll be less likely to overdo it on high carbohydrate foods like pasta, rice, bread, and potatoes.
Veggies DO NOT have to be boring. If you’re someone who says that you don’t like veggies, let me tell you – how you prepare them makes a world of difference in their taste. Here are some of my favorite ways to make veggies more exciting and suuuuuuuuper flavorful:
3. Wear a Pedometer
Tracking your steps throughout the day makes you more aware of how much and how often you’re moving. It’s fun to see the numbers go up, and it becomes a way to challenge yourself to be more active all day. Many of the more advanced tracking devices like Fit Bit or Garmin Vivofit track other things as well like distance walked, active minutes, sleep, etc. They also integrate with other apps and social media platforms so that you can join an online community of fitness conscious people which helps ot challenge you to better yourself. So if you’re willing to spend 50-100 dollars you can track a lot of aspects of your health and connect with others for a little healthy competition, but a simple 5 dollar pedometer works too if you’re just interested in tracking your step count.
You’ve definitely heard this one before. Drinks tons of water. Sometimes our brains have trouble differentiating between hunger and thirst, so if you’re feeling like you’re constantly hungry, try increase your water intake throughout the day. You might just be a little dehydrated. Drinking plenty of water helps to flush toxins out of your body. And I’m really sorry to tell you this, but caffeinated beverages do not count as “hydrating”. For every cup of coffee or diet soda that you drink, you need two glasses of water. 64oz a day should be a minimum. Different people have different water needs, but in general you want your urine to be pretty darn clear. Personally, I try to get 100-128oz of water per day, but that’s just what works for me. You may find you need more or less water than I do, but try to get at least 64oz per day.
If you can’t stand plain water, try infusing your water with some fruit, veggies, and herbs.
5. Set an Alarm for Bedtime
Sleep is crucial to a well-functioning body. In a sleep deprived state, we are more likely to overeat and snack on high carb foods because lack of sleep impairs impulse control, so it’s a little like being drunk. We crave junk food and have a really hard time saying no to things we know we shouldn’t eat. Most people need 7-9 hours of sleep each night. Do you know someone who consistently gets this much sleep? I sure don’t. Nine hours of sleep is something that (unfortunately) only happens on vacation for most people (myself included). But if you’re routinely getting less than 7 hours of sleep a night, it could really be derailing your attempts to be healthy and lose weight. Not getting enough sleep affects your hunger and fullness hormones – ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin sends your body signals that it’s time to eat, and a sleep deprived brain makes more ghrelin. Leptin (the fullness hormone) signals your body that you’re full, and it’s time to stop eating. Without adequate sleep, leptin levels plummet, which causes you to eat more food. I’m sure you’ve all heard about cortisol as well – the stress hormone. Without enough sleep, cortisol levels spike, which signals your body to conserve energy (ie. burn fewer calories). Sleep deprivation also messes with your body’s response to insulin. Within just 4 days of insufficient sleep, you become more insulin resistant, which leads to fat accumulation. As you can see, lack of sleep can mess with your hormones (and your weight) in many different ways.
So, here’s how you can ensure that you get more sleep, and that it’s high quality sleep. Decide what time you need to fall asleep so that you will get 8 hrs of sleep. So, if I’m waking up at 6:30am, I need to be asleep by 10:30pm. Give yourself another 15-30 minutes to allow for the time it takes you to fall asleep, and that’s when you physically need to get in to bed. So if I need to be asleep by 10:30, then I need to get in bed at 10pm. Then, set an alarm on your phone for a half hour before that time, which in this scenario would be 9:30pm. When that alarm goes off, you put down what you’re doing, and start getting ready for bed. From the time that that alarm goes off – no screen time. No computers, TV, cell phones, or tablets. Screen time makes falling alseep much more difficult because it stimulates your brain and prevents you from relaxing. Instead of browsing the internet, use this time to create a ritual that will cue your body and brain that you’re winding down, and sleep is coming soon. Wash your face, brush your teeth, pack your lunch and your gym bag for the next day, pick out your outfit – whatever you need to do to get ready for bed. Setting an alarm forces you to shut off the screens and get in to bed at a reasonable time, so that you can get enough sleep to get your hormones in line and wake up with enough energy to have a productive and healthy day.
So there you have it. Five simple changes you can make TODAY to get you on a path to better health.
What other changes have you made (or do you want to make) that will benefit your health? Leave your suggestions in the comments section below!