I think I am like the stock market sometimes: periodically I am prone to bloating and an adjustment is required. I hit that point last week where I realized an adjustment was needed. Unfortunately that was right before heading to visit my brother and his family. I love visiting them, but I always gain weight when I’m there. I wonder if it has something to do with the fact that I tend to eat and drink more but consume almost no vegetables? So I am back home with a strong decision that it is time for my adjustment.
It seems I am not the only person in this boat right now, as I woke up this morning and read Neghar Fonooni’s blog on the very same topic. The reason I relate to Neghar’s great article is not just that I too have been overeating recently and thus feel comfort in numbers (although I do). What I love about the article is that it’s about taking responsibility for our choices. I too have been eating too much, and not sleeping too much and not moving enough, and it is catching up to me. I now choose to address that. Today.
It was also interesting to see Neghar’s list of what she is changing, as I also made a list yesterday. I am a gradual person and so my list was 2 small changes to implement this week, with an ongoing commitment to continue to add 2 small changes each week until I am suitably adjusted.
I’m quite certain that my bloat has been the result of excess snacking. It has been primarily healthy snacking, but this snacking has increased in both quantity and frequency.
My 2 small changes this week are:
- cut my snack sizes in half
- get to sleep earlier
This approach is similar to what I learned from a presentation given by Dr. John Berardi, creator of the Precision Nutrition system and author of one of the top 11 fitness articles on the internet. He suggested picking changes that have a high likelihood of success. Once those become habits, add more. Build success instead of aiming for too much and potentially hitting failure.
I actually think the sleep change will have a bigger impact than the snacking. I have been going to bed way too late, often leaving myself with only 5 hours of sleep each night. I can manage on 5, but I don’t thrive. I consider 6 to be adequate, and 7 to be optimal for me. The lack of sleep does a few things:
- It means I had more hours for snacking.
- It means I have less energy and thus feel more like eating.
- It increases cortisol levels and impacts the body’s metabolic function. [1, 2]
I’d call that the perfect storm for overeating: extra time, not enough energy, and reduced ability to process food.
The latter point is probably the least obvious and yet possibly the most important. A sleep deprivation study done at the University of Chicago’s Medical Center with 12 healthy volunteers found: 
profound alterations in glucose metabolism, in some situations resembling patients with type-2 diabetes, during sleep deprivation. When tested during the height of their sleep debt, subjects took 40 percent longer than normal to regulate their blood-sugar levels following an injection of glucose. Their ability to secrete insulin decreased by about 30 percent. A similar decrease in acute insulin response is an early marker of diabetes.
We tend to focus on food and exercise, but don’t overlook sleep. Not only does it feel great, it’s good for you.
Are you finding yourself in the same situation as me? And as Neghar? What will you do about it?
Elsbeth Vaino, B.Sc., CSCS, is a personal trainer in Ottawa specializing in training for performance and injury prevention.