Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Sleep and weight loss

For many, it is common sense that to stay healthy and fit you need to have balance and nutritious eating habits as well as an active lifestyle. I think what many of us forget though, is that even if we are the most healthy eaters ever and exercise every day, we can be ruining our hard work and putting our bodies at risk if we don’t get enough sleep.

We need sleep to survive…much like food and water. Sleep expert and President and Medical Director of somniTech, Inc., Dr. Steven Hull, says every person is different in their sleep needs, but the average person should get between 7 and 8 hours at their best. The benefits of sleep are vast and necessary for survival.

Benefits of Sleep:
  • Sleep repairs the body
  • Improves our memory
  • Keeps your heart healthy
  • Reduces stress
  • Helps with your weight loss goals
When we do not get enough sleep (at the very minimum, 6 hours a night) can be tragic to our health.

Consequences of not sleeping enough:
· Loss of memory
· Decreased alertness
· Increased cholesterol
· Raised blood pressure
· Increased risk of getting sick due to a weakened immune system
· Decrease of important of leptin (the hormone that tells us we are full) and an increase of ghrelin (the hormone that tells us we are hungry)

According to National Geographic, when compared to the person who gets the average recommended amount of sleep (7-8 hours per night), the risk of obesity increases 23% when a person gets just 6 hours of sleep up to a whopping 73% when a person only gets 4 hours of sleep per night.

So what can a person do if they have problems falling asleep or staying asleep like some 50 to 70 million Americans do? Incorporating a few simple changes into your life (especially around bed time) can make a big difference in how easily you fall asleep and stay asleep.

Sleeping Don’ts:

#1 Say good night to caffeine
  • Even if you don’t think that caffeine is effecting your sleep, if you have sleeping problems, try to limit your caffeine to morning times only and Dr. Hull says it is a good rule for everyone to stop any kind of caffeine intake at 2 p.m.
#2 Skip the nightcap
  • Though alcoholic beverages might make us sleepy and some people may doze off after a glass of wine, alcohol interferes with our natural sleep cycle and cause disturbances. So abstain from drinking to for a better night’s sleep.
#3 Don’t exercise to wear yourself out
  • Exercise is a fantastic way to be more energetic and alert not so much to put us to bed. When we exercise is done too close to our bedtime, our bodies will not be ready to slow down, we’ve revved them up and we’ll be up for a few more hours. A great rule of thumb is to make sure that you have at least 4-5 hours before you plan on going to bed.
#4 Turn off the TV and Computers
  • Falling asleep in front of the TV or heading to bed after updating your Facebook page or finishing a presentation for the next day can deter any real attempt at good quality sleep. The lights from computers signal our brains to become alert and late night television is anything but relaxing (think sobering news programs or sit-coms).
#5 Quit midnight snacking
  • Not only does midnight snacking pack on the pounds, but eating refined carbs (bread, cake, cookies, cereal, etc.) or sugary foods put your body into a hormonal rollercoaster keeping you from sleeping through the night. If you have to eat before you go to bed, focus on protein (a few slices of turkey, a small handful of almonds, etc.)
Sleeping Do’s

#1 Relax
  • Relax both physically and mentally. Stress can be one of the major causes of insomnia and disordered sleeping. Try for just a few minutes before you go to be to do some easy breathing exercises or light yoga and stretching.
#2 Make your bedroom a sleep-haven
  • The only two activities that you should do in the bed room are sleep and sex. This will promote a sleeping environment instead of a room that is used for work, TV watching, doing crafts, etc. Being in your bedroom will signal your body that it is time to rest.
#3 Lights out!
  • Making your bedroom dark when you sleep is important. Our bodies are made to sleep when it is dark outside. So if you have a spouse that likes to read late into the night with the light on, or if you work the night shift and have to sleep during the daylight, get yourself a sleep mask to cover the eyes.
#4 Have a bed-time routine
  • Just like you might have a morning routine where you get up, brush your teeth, go to the gym, eat breakfast, take a shower, etc., have a bed-time schedule as well. Maybe have a cup of herbal tea (it’s caffeine free) while reading a book for a few minutes, then brush your teeth, do some light stretching and turn off the lights and close your eyes. All of those things, when you do them every day, will signal your body that it’s time for sleep.
#5 Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day
  • That’s right, every day. Yep, even the weekends. Having a set schedule for when you go to sleep and when you wake up will get your body and mind into a routine so that your internal clock knows when it’s time to go to bed and more importantly, when it is time to wake up (instead of waking up randomly in the middle of the night.

Follow these tips and get a better night’s sleep…your body will thank you!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

A few of my favorite things

I thought I’d share this week some of the foods I love and eat daily to get good protein, fiber and lots of veggies into my body.
First is the Healthy 8 Chopped Veggie Mix from Trader Joe’s. All it has in it is fresh chopped up broccoli, carrots, green cabbage, red cabbage, jicama, green bell peppers, radishes and celery. It is amazing (and already prepared for me!). I stir-fry it, add it to eggs, top spinach with it for amazing salads and snack on it by itself, etc. You only spend 30 calories on a huge ¾ cup serving of this mix, plus you get fiber and NO fat.
Second is my all-time favorite snack-food popcorn. I have searched far and wide for the tastiest 100 calorie individual serving bag of popcorn and I’ve found it: Pop-Secret 100 Calorie Pop in Homestyle flavor. It’s rich and buttery and totally satisfying. You can eat a whole bag for only 100 calories (and it’s a lot of popcorn) and you also get a bit of protein and a whopping 4 grams of fiber. Snack on!
Third, and finally, are Meatless Meatballs (again from Trader Joe’s). I can actually hear some of you gagging, but hear me out. These things are AMAZING. I love meat as much as the next carnivore, but if you are looking for a heart healthy substitute for meatballs in pasta, crockpots, sandwiches, you name it…look no further. You get to eat 6 healthy sized meatballs for 140 calories and an impressive 16 grams of protein and 4 grams of fiber (hard to find fiber in meaty meatballs). I frequently (like 5 days a week) make a meal of meatless meatballs sautéed with the healthy veggie mix…totally satisfying

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

How many hours does it take to work off spaghetti and meatballs?

When I’m craving a high-calorie snack or meal, I find it helpful to see how many minutes or even hours it would take me to work off that little “cheat.” More times than not, seeing that I will have to run for three hours or do push ups for the rest of the decade is enough to nudge me into making a more healthy decision. Check out some of the worst food offenders in our country and how much exercise it takes to burn off a serving.

If you eat this: A premium burger fast food meal with fries and a regular soda. I compared the nutrition values of the three leading hamburger fast food restaurants and their premium hamburger value meals all contain between 1,500 and 1,600 calories (that is the number of calories that I intake in one entire day!)

You will have to do this: 
  • 140 minutes of running (6 mph pace)
  • 378 minutes of walking (3 mph)

If you eat this: Pot Pie. This creamy, flaky crusted comfort food is not so comforting when you find out that many of these pies have around 1,000 calories per serving! AHH!

You will have to do this: 
  • 333 minutes of bowling
  • 111 minutes of continuous jump rope

If you eat this: Spaghetti and meatballs with meat sauce (Macaroni Grill). If you order this dish, you will be served up a heaping plate of 2,430 calories.

You will have to do this: 
  • 8 hour of pushups
  • 3.5 hours of running (6 mph)

If you eat this: Ice Cream (specifically Dove brand). One half cup (the size of a light bulb) of this creamy, dreamy treat is a nightmare at 300 calories.

You will have to do this: 
  • 25 minutes of vigorous spinning (group cycle class)
  • 30 minutes of swimming laps

If you eat this: Large white chocolate mocha (at Starbucks). Drinks like tea and water do not have calories, but this frothy drink had 580 calories…that’s as many as a large meal!

You will have to do this: 
  • 90 minutes of hiking
  • 85 minutes jogging

For a great and comprehensive calorie burn calculator, click here.

* All calories burned were based on a 150-pound person. If you weigh more, you will burn slightly more calories, if you weigh less, you will burn slightly less.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Take your workout to the pool

It’s super hot outside right now which makes it the perfect time of year to get in the pool for your workout. Swimming is a fantastic way to build muscle and burn calories like crazy. Want to know why? Well, I’ll tell you. It’s good for everyone...young, not-as-young, people with joint issues or arthritis, folks recovering from injury, or others who just want to try something new for a change or as a cross training option. Swimming uses all of your major muscle groups including your back, legs, arms, chest and core. In fact, swimming laps for 30 minutes can burn more than 300 calories, and is a great cardiovascular and strength training work.

A few tips before you start swimming for exercise:

1. Have the right equipment. A comfy, stay-put swimsuit and goggles are all you need to get started.

2. Start slow and build up. Swimming can be very challenging for the newbie, so be patient with yourself. Begin with 5-10 minutes and then work up to 30 minutes and more.

3. Breathing is important. Of course it is, right?! But finding a breath rhythm during your swimming is the key to building your stamina.

Like working out with a group? Sign up for a water fitness class at your local pool or gym (try a water boot camp if you want a major challenge). Even playing the pool with your kids can be a great workout. Resistance from the water is also a great way to ease into strength training. So get in the pool and burn some extra calories this week!