When it comes to losing weight, what you eat is obviously important! But it’s not just about what you eat. Exercise has a host of benefits that help you lose weight, not just the obvious ones like calorie burning and appetite regulation.

Relaxing and de-stressing can also make an enormous difference to your body’s willingness to let go of excess weight. If you sleep too much or too little, you are more likely to be overweight. Lack of sleep increases your appetite and reduces the amount of fat you burn. One study found that every thirty minutes’ deficit in sleep equated to an extra 83 calories per day consumed.

On this basis, you could gain over a stone (fourteen pounds) in a year if you get six and a half hours sleep per night instead of seven and a half. Then, there are personal-care products, which can be a significant source of exposure to parabens and phthalates. These are obesogens, so make you gain weight. They are also hormone disrupters and can disrupt your female (and male) hormones.

Emma’s story

Checking back in with Emma, I found that she was continuing to start each day with a healthy breakfast. She was still enjoying her fruit and vegetables and, in the main, doing well with protein-containing snacks. On top of that, she was eating more Omega 3 fats and generally making better choices when it came to carbs.

She had always found sugar hard to resist, so was thrilled that her sweet tooth was diminishing. When she wanted to snack in the evenings, she was now having fresh figs. But Emma’s change wasn’t all about food. Exercise played a role. Since she was hired at her current job a couple of years ago, the amount of exercise she did had dropped dramatically. The running machine at home, she hadn’t used in over a year.

Sleep was also an issue. Once she got to sleep, she was fine, but Emma would often be thinking about work when she went to bed and found it hard to drop off. She decided to try getting up earlier and catch up on her paperwork then, instead of in the evening.

This was not an easy change! Emma’s body had to adjust to new hours. She decided to try it for two weeks, even if it was hard. It didn’t go brilliantly, to start with! She ended up working in the morning and the evening, which wasn’t her plan! Initially, she wasn’t that productive first thing in the morning, but it surprised her how quickly she adapted. She also decided to put a limit on how much work she brought home. That was really difficult, as she had to decide what to drop, and it all felt critical! But she realized that her health was also important. If she carried on like she had been, she wasn’t doing herself any favors.

She acknowledged that she was a bit of a perfectionist and needed to let something go. Now that she wasn’t working in the evening, Emma started going for walks after dinner. Sometimes a friend would join her, so she was also getting the social contact she felt was important, as she lived alone.

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When it was pouring with rain, she got out her running machine and alternated running and walking, as she wasn’t fit enough to run for long anymore! The first time she ran, she felt incredibly achy the next day, telling her she needed to do it more often! After a while, Emma dropped off to sleep more quickly and felt more resilient, more able to deal with stress.

It wasn’t long before she noticed that her body was firming up and she felt fitter, more toned. Her focus had shifted to balancing her body, rather than losing weight. But when she got the scales out, she discovered that, in the process, she had lost five pounds.

Exercise

Your body is designed to be used, to be physically active. It works best when exercise is part of your daily life. Let’s face it, Stone Age people didn’t spend large parts of their day in front of their screens! Even though your life may be very different from that of our distant ancestors, being physically active brings many systems in your body into balance and has all sorts of other weight-loss benefits.

Exercise increases your sensitivity to insulin and helps to balance your blood sugar levels. It regulates your female hormone levels and helps regulate your bowels so you eliminate old hormones. It does not have to be intense; a walk will help. Exercise may also have a beneficial effect on your gut bacteria.

Remember, your gut bacteria can affect your weight. If you exercise daily, it increases the amount of toxins you eliminate. Some of these toxins may be obesogens. Many of us are very stressed. Our bodies are designed to have a physical response to stress, so exercising is important. Exercise also increases levels of serotonin.

Besides making you feel good, increased serotonin helps control your appetite. So, if you tend to overeat, being physically active can help. Try keeping your body moving regularly throughout the day. Take the stairs rather than the lift.

At home, walk up the stairs rather than piling things on the bottom step to take up later. Get up from your desk every hour and stretch or walk around for five minutes. Even better if you can get outside for a brisk five-minute walk.

Tailor exercise to the imbalances in YOUR body

Blood sugar imbalances

Going for a walk after meals is particularly helpful for blood sugar balance. Even fifteen minutes can be effective. Even if you walk slowly, it is beneficial for blood sugar control.

Appetite regulation disruption

Doing five minutes of exercise every hour is particularly good for reducing appetite.

Slow metabolism

If you want to boost your metabolism, exercise is crucial. Not only does exercising burn more calories, but it also builds muscle. Muscle burns more calories than fat, even when you are resting. Lifting weights, sit-ups, pushups, Pilates, yoga, working with resistance bands or heavy gardening can all build muscle. Building muscle is the best way to boost your metabolism.

Exposure to obesogens

It can help to do exercise that makes you sweat. Sweating can help you eliminate some toxins from your body.

Relax and destress

Finding time to relax and de-stress is really important for your health and your weight. stress can have a major impact on your weight. Not only does it make you want to reach for calorific foods, but it also makes you store more fat, particularly around your belly.

On top of that, it has a knock- on effect on other systems in your body, affecting your female hormones and your thyroid, the latter of which controls your metabolism. Stress raises your blood sugar, making it harder to regulate. Your stress hormones are produced by your adrenals, and blood sugar imbalances significantly affect your adrenal function.

Long-term stress can overwork and exhaust your adrenal glands. Your adrenals are an important source of oestrogen if you are postmenopausal. You therefore want them to be efficient. If you have polycystic ovary syndrome, it is vital to address your stress levels, as stress can cause your adrenals to produce more testosterone.

Sometimes we get overwhelmed by the sheer pace and stresses of modern life. You may even be so used to it that you don’t register just how stressed you are. Running can help reduce stress and anxiety. If you do not feel able to go for a run, try taking a brisk walk when you are stressed.

If you have been under a lot of stress for a long time, your adrenals may be exhausted. In this case, intense exercise will further deplete them. Instead, try some simple stretches, yoga or a gentle walk.

Does finding time to relax feel like yet another thing to fit in that you don’t have time for? If so, it’s probably a sign you really need it! The dietary measures recommended, will support your body in handling stress. However, it is also important to directly address the stresses in your life and find ways to manage them. Additionally, take time out to relax.

Sleep

Not getting enough sleep may lower your metabolism, as a consequence of which you put on weight more easily. If you generally get less than seven to eight hours sleep, you are more likely to be overweight. However, spending too long in bed can also slow down your metabolism.

It’s all about balance. Some studies have shown that people who get less sleep have increased ghrelin and reduced leptin. If you remember from earlier, ghrelin is a hormone that stimulates appetite and increases fat storage. Leptin has the opposite effect, suppressing your appetite and promoting the burning of fat. Therefore, if you don’t get enough sleep, you are likely to eat more and gain weight.

Also, you may be more prone to overeating in the evening. This could be a bit of a vicious cycle, as overeating, especially late in the day, can overload your digestive system and reduce your sleep time.

Use natural household and personal-care products

In previous article 11, we talked about personal-care products (such as shampoos, moisturisers, deodorants, hair spray, nail varnish, sanitary products and cosmetics) that contain obesogens.

But below is some additional information as well as information that bears repeating. If possible, reduce or avoid products that contain phthalates, parabens, fragrance, parfum, musk, tonalite or xylene.

However, be aware that some products marketed as natural contain these chemicals. To reduce your exposure to obesogens, chose personal-care products labelled ‘paraben free’ and ’phthalate free’ or check the ingredients list.

If a product contains ‘fragrance’ or ‘parfum’, it may contain obesogens. The individual ingredients that make up a fragrance do not have to be listed on the label. Fragrances often contain phthalates, as they help the scent last longer.

To reduce household obesogens, use natural, nontoxic cleaning products and avoid using aerosols. Reduce use of nonstick cookware and use stainless steel pans instead. If you use commercial air fresheners, swap for natural oils or herbs.

Don’t smoke

Smoking contributes to insulin resistance. If you stop smoking, you regain your insulin sensitivity in just two weeks.

Your next step

What changes do you need to make to your lifestyle to help balance your body? If you are not exercising, your next step is to be more physically active. If you are already exercising, do you need to focus on reducing your stress, finding time to relax, getting enough sleep or reducing obesogenic chemicals? Below, you will find some suggestions to help with each of these areas. Decide on one or more changes to make next.

Exercise What’s holding you back?

If you are not physically active, why not make the decision to start including exercise now? Remember, even a small amount of physical activity can make a difference. What is stopping you? What could you do to change this? I’m not suggesting you start a big exercise regime unless you want to! But I would like you to think about how you could be more physically active.

Name any physical activity you enjoy? Would making it social help? Could you do an online exercise class? What small change could you make to incorporate more physical activity into your life in a sustainable way? Maybe you are feeling resistant to the idea.

Nevertheless, it is important to take that first step. Once exercise becomes a habit and your body is used to it, it is so much easier to do. If you are inwardly groaning, that’s OK. If you haven’t exercised for a long time, it’s normal to feel hesitant. Could you start with just ten minutes a day and gradually increase it to twenty to thirty minutes?

Fit the exercise in when it works best for you. This might be at the same time every day. Or it might vary depending on your commitments. If you think you don’t have enough time for it, could you get up earlier in the morning or take a longer lunch break? What do you need to make this work for you? How can you motivate yourself to do it? Would it help to find someone to exercise with or to be accountable to each other, whether that involves exercising together or checking in on the phone to keep each other on track.

How can you get past your resistance and make this work for you? It also helps to be more active throughout your day. For example, could you walk instead of taking the car for short journeys? If you drive to work, could you park a bit further away and walk the last bit? If your job is mainly sedentary, could you get up every hour or so for a few minutes and walk around?

Reducing stress and relaxing

What are the key stresses in your life? Can you do anything about them? If not, is it possible to change the way you react? How do you relax? What do you find relaxing? When did you last priorities relaxing? You need to find time for this, even if it’s just fifteen to thirty minutes a day.

If you are specific about how and when you are going to relax, it might help. You might want to read a book, listen to music or join a meditation group. Or go for a walk-in nature or have a relaxing bath. Do what works for you.

Sleep

Sometimes getting enough sleep is more about changing a habit. If you are not getting enough sleep and regularly go to bed late, could you start going to bed a bit earlier? Maybe you go to bed but can’t get to sleep. Or maybe you drop off, then wake up.

Sleeping problems can be complex, but dietary changes may help. Irregular meal patterns disrupt your sleep. If you eat a varied diet with lots of fruit and vegetables and drink plenty of water, you are more likely to sleep better. It can also help to watch your caffeine intake. The amount of caffeine in one cup of coffee from a coffee shop can disturb your sleep if consumed up to six hours before bedtime. Chocolate, caffeinated teas and alcohol may also disrupt your sleep.

Read Also About Eat This Not That

Reducing obesogens

As you replace your personal-care products that contain parabens and phthalates, could you find natural alternatives? Could you reduce the number you use? Dry skin brushing is believed to get your lymphatic system moving to remove toxins.

Use a good quality skin brush and brush towards your heart. Brush up your legs, then up your arms, starting at your hands and moving towards your shoulders. Using a brush with a long handle, you can brush your back. Moving in a clockwise direction, you can also brush your abdomen. You only need to do this for a few minutes followed by a shower or bath.

Key things you have learned in this article

  • Exercise has benefits for your whole body, from boosting your metabolism and regulating your appetite to helping your blood sugar, hormone and gut bacterial balance all of which make it easier to lose weight. 
  • Stress disrupts pretty much every system in your body. It is essential to find ways of dealing with it and to priorities some time each day to relax. 
  • If you don’t get enough sleep, this disrupts hormones that control your appetite and fat burning, making you eat more and burn less fat. If you are short of sleep by just one hour a night, you could gain a stone in a year.
  • Your personal-care products can be a significant source of exposure to obesogens—some of which also disrupt your hormones. Use natural and organic products as much as possible and limit the use of products that contain parabens and phthalates.

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