1. SLEEP – Do not compromise on sleep. We all know that lack of sleep makes us grumpy and foggy, but did you know how much it impacts your waistline, and your health generally?
Most of us have experienced a few nights of inadequate sleep, and know all too well how it makes us look old and tired. our skin becomes sallow and pale, our eyes swell, dark circles appear and our wrinkles deepen.
When we don’t sleep enough, our bodies also release more of our stress hormone, cortisol. When cortisol is released, it breaks down collagen, the protein in our skin that helps give it that lovely firm appearance.
Sleep could also be the culprit if you’re struggling to lose or maintain your weight. A recent study with over 200 participants undergoing a sleep-restricted week showed that sleep deficiency is linked to weight gain. After only a week, participants who slept just four hours a night gained an average of one kilo, compared to those who slept as much as they wanted to. Many similar studies have offered up the same conclusion – that weight and sleep are deeply intertwined.
2. EXERCISE – What if there were a magic pill that could help with your depression, weight, posture, energy, and sleep, with no negative side effects. Would you consider it?
You would? Amazing. Because it exists. It’s called exercise, and it’s about as close to a magic bullet for health as you’ll ever get
Exercise can seem daunting to many of us because we think of it as painful, time-consuming or unrewarding. But it doesn’t have to be if you choose a form of exercise you like – and trust me, there is something out there for everyone. You don’t have to spend hours and hours exercising each day to benefit, either. But you do have to exercise. It’s a non-negotiable.
Again, do not compromise. Make time to exercise, and do whatever you can to get your exercise scheduled in and done. Don’t make excuses to other people about not doing it, and definitely don’t make excuses to yourself!
3. BUST STRESS – When it comes to belly fat, most of us think those extra servings of hot chips are to blame. Of course, such foods are not completely innocent, but the factors involved in weight gain are more complicated than that.
Cortisol, our stress hormone, is a belly-fat culprit we rarely think of, but it’s hugely important.
The simple act of constant stress – physical, mental or even imaginary stress – makes our adrenals pump cortisol, which in turn, pumps glucose. Hello, adrenal fatigue and belly fat.
When we have too much glucose in our bodies, our insulin receptors essentially get tired and stop working; we can become insulin-resistant. When this happens, we become one of those people who just look at food and seem to gain weight.
If you feel like you’re eating well but seem to be weight-loss resistant, this should be a big red alert. Are you just a ‘stress head’ creating insulin havoc?
4. GRATITUDE – The simple notion of gratitude can seem a little contrived, old-fashioned or ‘self-helpy’. But, actually, there’s a lot of research on the benefits of expressing gratitude. When you start to practise gratitude every day, you will feel your mood-lifting, and the flow-on wellness effects this brings. So quash your inner cynic and give it a go.
Numerous studies over many years have found that the act of expressing gratitude leads to greater happiness and fewer incidences of depression. While the field of psychology is often about ‘fixing’, this model of positive psychology is about amplifying wellness. Think of it as preventive health for your mind.
I firmly believe that gratitude can also benefit our physical health. In our busy world, I’m constantly looking for solutions that are not too taxing for my clients, yet yield great results. Since it’s scientifically proven that people who are happier and less depressed are better able to nourish themselves with food, sleep and exercise, and since we know that happy people practise gratitude regularly, I want you to develop a gratitude micro habit.
5. BANISH GUILT – I want you to make a commitment to stop beating yourself up for a poor dinner choice or having one too many wines. Acknowledge that you did, and move on. Because here’s the thing: you cannot fail at good nutrition. Don’t starve yourself the morning after a binge to ‘correct’ your behavior. All you need to do is pick up where you left off. If you’re a bit of a weekend warrior – a wine or two on Friday night with some chips, or half a pepperoni pizza with the family on Saturday – then acknowledge it and consciously decide, without guilt, when you’re going to indulge, and when you’re going to get back to abundant, nourishing foods.
Make a plan, stick to it, and when you do indulge, make it a mindful choice, enjoy it and stop feeling guilty. I would like you to take the #noguilt thing one step further. You may not feel able to take time out for nourishing activities such as exercise, meditation or having a massage. You might see these things as ‘luxuries’, but I assure you they are not. When you feel the benefits of true wellness – mentally, physically and emotionally – you become more productive, open-hearted and creative.
It’s a wonderful reminder that the best thing we can do for ourselves is to support ourselves as best we can. It begins with simple acts like this.