Weight loss for improved sleep, sex and stress management.
The biggest obstacle to lasting weight loss is being solely motivated by a number on the scale, because once you hit that number your motivation to maintain healthy habits disappears. That’s why a key part of lasting weight loss is understanding the lifelong physical benefits of maintaining a healthy weight, regardless of the number on the scale.
Losing weight will certainly get you into those pants at the back of your closet, but did you know it can also improve your sleep and sex life–and even body’s response to stress?
Here’s a wonderful closed loop: Weight loss improves sleep, and sleep improves weight loss. A 2012 Johns Hopkins study demonstrated that type 2 diabetes patients who lost an average of 15lbs and 15% of their belly fat improved their overall score on the Sleep Survey by about 20%. One likely reason is that excess body fat increases the risk of sleep apnea.
More sleep can also assist in weight loss and maintenance of a healthy weight. The Nurses’ Health Study, which followed over 68,000 subjects for 16 years, demonstrated that nurses who slept five hours or less a night were more likely to gain 30lbs than those who slept at least seven hours. Sleep deprivation decreases leptin, the hormone that signals fullness, and increases ghrelin, the hormone that stimulates appetite. These factors combined lead to over-eating. Furthermore, when you are sleep deprived, you are also much less likely to muster up the energy to exercise.
Weight loss also impacts sexual performance. One key to a satisfying sex life is to keep your blood flowing. Being overweight can negatively affect circulation. According to a 2012 Penn State College of Medicine study, weight loss can also increase male production of the sex hormone testosterone, and may improve women’s sexual function as well. Lastly, it’s no secret that losing weight can drastically improve physical confidence, which is key when it comes to a healthy sex life!
Losing weight can also help combat the effects of chronic stress and reducing stress can help you lose weight. For many people, excess weight is a significant source of stress, especially if they have developed or are at risk of significant health problems as a result. That increased stress leads to higher levels of the hormone cortisol, which slows your metabolism and triggers your body to store sugar more readily as fat. This can be a vicious cycle, but given the research there is plenty of motivation to break it.
When it comes to weight loss, my advice is to keep it simple. Don’t get caught up in extreme programs or quick-fix fads. Eat real, one-ingredient foods as often as you can–and eat only when you’re hungry. Aim for seven to 10 servings of veggies and fruits daily. I know it sounds simpler than it is, but these small changes alone can go a long way to achieving a healthy weight. The improvements to your sleep, sex life and stress levels will motivate you to maintain it!
WENDY McCALLUM, LLB, RHN, is a food coach and educator who left her career as a lawyer and returned to college to learn more about nutrition. She operates Simple Balance Consulting, through which she helps her clients reach their wellness, weight and nutrition goals. Her cookbook, Real Food for Real Families, features the most popular recipes her clients love and tips on how to introduce a family to new approaches to food. www.simple-balance.ca