Weight Gain A Bellwether For Health.
Weight Gain it all begins here. It’s an important starting point for the picture I am trying to paint in an effort to develop a grass roots corporate wellness campaign. It can be an important tool, a barometer for our health a measuring stick, a weather bell for many of the other health conditions that are also associated with poor sleep.
Weight gain is typically the first sign of the physical toll that working early mornings or overnights can have on our health. Teachers notice the weight gain and they want to know what they can do about it. Of course the weight gain itself is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to our health and poor sleep, but this is a great place to relate with other teachers when we want to encourage them to take better care of their health. Everyone wants to look better in a bikini. I know I do any ways.
It is important to note that body weight alone is not a complete indicator of overall health. Obesity alone is not the cause of these medical problems but rather what is called a comorbidity. (Comorbidity is just a fancy way of saying that you have more than one thing wrong with you.) Teachers could be at an ideal body weight and have other health problems associated with poor sleep, likewise a person who is clinically obsese may otherwise be very healthy.
Obesity is strongly associated with other health conditions and the link between weight gain and poor sleep has been extremely well documented. The point being if we can stop and even reverse weight gain prevalence among Vipkid teachers we may also affect the long term health of the teachers for the better. The reasons for doing this should be obvious, improved quality of life is the end goal. There are also many short term benefits, such as improved productivity.
Evidence points to several causes behind weight gain. It can get really complicated with variations from one individual to the next, but there are some common truths about weight gain in this industry.
One easy way to put it is that the hours associated with this job tend to make us eat more, while burning fewer calories accompanied by significant changes to our hormonal profile.
Our clock is out of whack and that throws everything else out of whack. Notably sleep and digestion. When we eat, exercise and expose ourselves to light(artificial/natural) should be considered and managed.
Weight gain for us needs to be attacked as a hormonal imbalance, not a caloric one. The rules of thermodynamics are still very important, but there is no denying hormonal regulation of metabolism. Sleep deprivation leads to hormonal dysregulation. Most articles and text talk about the hormones that primarily regulate appetite, hunger and metabolism (ghrelin, leptin, cortisol, insulin.) What stunned me in my research was that in a sleep deprived state virtually all hormones in the human body were dysregulated. I plan to write my next article about hormones specifically, but just appreciate that your bodies entire hormonal profile is out of whack. This is a huge piece of the puzzle.The hormonal dysregulation has a negative cascade effect that contributes to all the points below, though not always the sole contributor.
We Eat More
For one thing if we are getting 6 hours of sleep or less, that gives us some extra time to do more eating. It certainly doesn’t help that sleep deprivation makes junky snack foods even more tempting. We make less healthy choices at 2 am and then we make even more bad choices to help us cope with the stress. A tired brain has poor impulse control.
We Move Less
Face it, when we’re tired we don’t feel much like going to the gym. As a whole when we are chronically sleep deprived we just move less, even incidental movement declines.
Too Tired to Cook
And of course, like going to the gym, many of us just don’t feel as much like slaving over a hot stove after pulling an all-nighter. Again we end up making poor food choices, high calorie, low nutrient, processed foods. This all feeds into the vicious cycle that is a pathway to poor health.
What are we going to do about it?
Again solution are going to vary. It depends on what area you are weaker in but I wanted to just outline a few key areas that will help most of us. I don’t want to go into great detail on each topic, for now I just wanted to sort of list them out and people can take it from there, in the future I might write and individual article on each topic.
Please note, at no time do I advocate buying any special products or services. In the event that I ever do it would be with great consideration. I think most of our challenges can be solved naturally with things that can be acquired at the grocery store or that you may already have access to.
Prioritizing sleep is crucial. Most adults need between 7-9 hours and if you’re not getting that, you are accumulating sleep debt which can be difficult to pay back.
Establish a routine even on weekends. You might even find you have a little extra time to squeeze in a little more sleep with some time management.
Only use the bed for sleeping and…
No screens before bedtime
Exercise, it will help you sleep better
Chrononutrition. Our diet needs to take into consideration what we are eating and when we are eating. How does the food we are eating support sleep and the hormones that are out of whack? Food is medicine. Learn about how the nutrient content of food can help support your immune system and other vital biological processes.
Eat mostly whole foods. That is eat food that has been processed or refined as little as possible and is free from additives or other artificial substances.
Meal Prep. Prepping large amounts of food ahead of time will help ensure you and your family are eating healthier. You will have a home cooked whole food meal ready to go so you are less likely to grab the convenient snack foods.
So if you are struggling with weight gain or weight loss for that matter try focusing on sleep first, secondly focus on nutrition starting with eating mostly whole foods while taking into consideration the timings for your meals.
Thanks for reading, in the next article I write I plan to talk more in depth about hormones and sleep.
Association between reduced sleep and weight gain in women.
Poor sleep leads to poor food choices
Role of Sleep and Sleep Loss in Hormonal Release and Metabolism