In Part 1, I laid out the 12 Tips to a Healthier You and encouraged you to start planning, prioritizing and incorporating changes that will support your wellness goals in 2018. In posts Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4, I will dive deeper into each of these topics.
12 Tips for Healthier You – Part 2
The 12 Tips are organized into three categories: behavioral changes, nutritional changes and activity changes. In Part 2, I will tackle: the benefits of proper hydration, discuss eliminating artificial sweeteners and reducing consumption of refined sugars and how maintaining a consistent sleep schedule improves your quality of life. Let’s explore the how and why each of these silver bullets works.
1. Hydrate Frequently. Water is an essential ingredient to life and a pre-requisite for a high quality of life. Our bodies are composed of 70% water. It should come as no surprise we need to properly hydrate. A person can go a week or more without food, but few people can survive beyond 48 hours without drinking any water. Drinking 96 – 128 ounces of water a day is imperative for active people. Exercise creates waste products that accumulate in the muscles and tendons. Drinking plentiful amounts of water flushes these toxins from the system. Proper hydration aids digestion, keeps our mind clear and allows our muscles and joints to feel good.
Another benefit of proper hydration is that it prevents over eating. Many times, if you think you are hungry, your body is likely telling you it’s thirsty! The brain registers thirst and hunger almost identically due to the caveman wiring in our bodies. Our bodies use the same neural pathways to communicate thirst and hunger and both conditions are processed in the same area of the brain. Since resolving thirst and hunger are vitally important to survival, our bodies did not develop separate systems to distinguish between these signals.
To calculate your own personal hydration number: multiply the appropriate variable and your ideal body weight. For example:
Non active day = 0.5 x ideal body weight in pounds
Active day = 0.75 x ideal body weight in pounds (1 hour of exercise)
Using this formula my personal hydration number is 120 ounces of water a day since 0.75 x 160 = 120. Calculate your own personal hydration number right now! Source: “Better Than Steroids” by Dr. Warren Willey
If you are hungry, drink water first. If you are still wanting to nosh on food 20 minutes later, go for it. (This system is notoriously slow to communicate status updates as well. Hence use of the words caveman wiring.) If you are properly hydrated you will likely be more compliant with your nutrition plan and are likely to maintain and even lose weight!
It’s time to talk about sweeteners. Let’s first acknowledge why sweeteners have such an incredible grip on us: 1. Nothing in nature that is poisonous is also sweet. 2. Sugar is a source of quick energy. 3. Because of these properties, evolution has programmed our bodies to activate the pleasure and reward centers of the brain when we taste sugar.
4. Eliminate Artificial Sweeteners. There are many artificial sweeteners and they are known by several names. I will call them out here by brand and chemical name(s) in parentheses:
- Sweet’N Low (sodium saccharin or benzoic sulfimide)
- NutraSweet (aspartame, a methyl ester of aspartic acid/phenylalanine dipeptide)
- Sweet One/Sunett (acesulfame potassium, a.k.a. acesulfame K and Ace K)
- Splenda (sucralose)
Let’s get real: how yummy do these concoctions from a chemical laboratory sound? The right answer should be, “Not very yummy.” I’ll explore the risks and nutritional impacts of each of these sweeteners. Let’s begin talking about how chemists and food scientists have hijacked our brains and manipulate “food” us to keep coming back for more.
First, let’s read how these chemicals are implemented by food scientists courtesy of Wikipedia: “In products such as powdered beverages, the amine in aspartame can undergo a Maillard reaction with the aldehyde groups present in certain aroma compounds. The ensuing loss of both flavor and sweetness can be prevented by protecting the aldehyde as an acetal.” Wow.
In layman’s terms (with only two chemistry classes between high school and college as credentials), I interpret this as meaning one artificial ingredient reacts with another artificial ingredient so chemists include another artificial ingredient as a buffer (a substance that prevents interaction) so you will find this concoction palatable enough to eat it. Yuck! I could hear myself sounding disgusted and moaning in disbelief while doing the research for this post.
Artificial Sweeteners Are Too Sweet
If that’s not enough, artificial sweeteners are about 200-600x times sweeter than sugar. You might be thinking that’s great. Wrong! This increased sweetness results in less sensitivity to naturally occurring sugars in healthy foods such as fruits. This is bad. Let me explain.
When you consume artificial sweeteners, your brain gets reprogrammed to what it thinks is sweet. Because of amplified artificial sweetness, your brain and taste buds develop decreased sensitivity to naturally occurring sugar and High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS). This decreased sensitivity causes you to over eat items sweetened with sugar or HFCS. Decreased sensitivity to sugar means you need more to satisfy cravings. Research has shown decreased sugar sensitivity causes people to turn away naturally sweet and healthy fruits such as blueberries, cherries and apples in favor of processed food with high amounts of refined sugars. This is one reason why artificial sweeteners with their radically increased level of perceived sweetness are so dangerous.
No Good News for Artificial Sweeteners
Regarding most artificial sweeteners, as of 2017 evidence does not support a long-term benefit for weight loss or reduction in diabetes. Regarding aspartame, because its breakdown products include phenylalanine, people with the genetic condition phenylketonuria (PKU) must be aware of this as an additional source. Two 2017 systematic review and meta-analysis found that aspartame consumption had no significant effect on variables related to obesity and diabetes. Nonnutritive sweeteners appear linked with increased weight. You have been conned.
Regarding Splenda, a study at the Washington University School of Medicine has shown that a false insulin response can be invoked due to its chemical makeup which so closely resembles sugar. Now we are really confusing our bodies when a false insulin response is created and no significant amount of sugar is present in the bloodstream. Nothing good can come of this.
I will not address Stevia in this article, but encourage my readers to approach it with caution since it’s relatively new. Just consider the balance of macronutrients in what you are about to eat. A big brownie made with Stevia is not a substantial nutritional improvement over one made from plain old sugar. Sugar free crap is still crap! Let’s not lose sight of that.
5. Eliminate High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS). Technically, since HFCS is a man-made, processed food additive that does not exist in nature it too can also be classified as an artificial sweetener. The only difference between HFCS and chemically based ‘artificial sweeteners’ described above is that artificial sweeteners such as sucralose are completely nonnutritive, whereas HFCS does contain calories.
Some studies have shown that HFCS causes additional weight gain than other sugars. The unintended consequence of HFCS is that it does not stimulate insulin secretion or require insulin to be transported into cells, as do other carbohydrates. It would seem that a lack of glucose and insulin secretion from fructose consumption would be a good thing. However, insulin also controls another hormone, leptin, so its release is necessary.
Leptin tells your body to stop eating when it’s full by signaling the brain to stop sending hunger signals. Since fructose doesn’t stimulate glucose levels and insulin release, there’s no increase in leptin levels or feeling of satiety. This can leave you ripe for unhealthy weight gain.
The resulting spike in available sugar in the bloodstream, which initially feels good, is then followed by the dreaded sugar crash. This results in additional cravings hours later and then the cycle repeats. The results of this roller coaster ride are unclear thinking, general fatigue, increased fat storage, enhanced risk of diabetes and a shorter lifespan.
8. Avoid Refined and Added Sugars. Unless you’re extremely active (4 hours or more of vigorous exercise a day) consuming more than 6g of sugar in a single serving will likely result in new fat cells being created to store the excess energy. Who wants that?!
Daily Added Sugar Limit
According to the American Heart Association, the daily limit on added sugar intake is 36 grams for men and and 25 grams for women.
Names for added sugars on labels include
- Brown sugar
- Corn sweetener
- Corn syrup
- Fruit juice concentrates
- High-fructose corn syrup
- Invert sugar
- Malt sugar
- Raw sugar
- Sugar molecules ending in “ose” (dextrose, fructose, glucose, lactose, maltose, sucrose)
The risks of excessive consumption of refined sugars are: unclear thinking, general fatigue, increased fat storage, enhanced risk of diabetes and a shorter lifespan.
Reprogramming Your Brain
Here’s the good news: eliminating artificial sweeteners and radically reducing your intake of refined sugar over a period of 4-6 weeks alters how your food tastes. You will find that you start to appreciate the natural sweetness in foods you don’t consider sweet such as raw almonds. Now for the bad news: studies have shown this effect can be lost in only one episode of over indulgence and that another 4-6 weeks are required to reprogram the brain.
Crime of the Century
It is the opinion of Wellness Wayne and Trainer Joe that this rampant adulteration of our food by incorporating artificial sweeteners, HFCS and excessive refined sugar is the Crime of the Century. Sure, we can talk about many things in this world that are wrong, but the fact that we let large corporations mess with something as sacred as our food causes me great concern.
Call to Action
As a species, how can we continue to thrive if we allow chemists and food scientists to alter our food for increased profit and without regard for our health? My friends: I encourage you to read labels and vote with your wallet. Don’t buy this stuff and don’t eat this stuff! Only then will the corporate monsters change their ways.
10. Maintain a Consistent Sleep Schedule. Getting consistent sleep is my secret weapon when it comes to losing fat and reducing stress. You really can lose weight and feel great by doing nothing! When you sleep your body repairs itself, the mind processes and reorganizes thoughts and stores memories that occurred during the day.
During sleep, most of the body’s systems are in an anabolic state, helping to restore the immune, nervous, skeletal, and muscular systems; these are vital processes that maintain mood, memory, and cognitive performance, and play a large role in the function of the endocrine and immune systems. Source: Wikipedia
the secret recipe to using sleep to lose weight and feel great
- Start by establishing 4-5 core hours of sleep each night
- Build upon these core hours until you get to 7 hours each night
- Don’t vary sleep and wake times by more than 30 minutes each day
- Keep exceptions to these guidelines rare
It is well understood that sleep reduces stress. We also know that a body that is under stress will not lose weight and will likely gain weight. The more regular you are with your sleep schedule the more regular your circadian clock will be and you will enjoy more benefits of stress reduction and healing. Note: some adults benefit from 8 hours of sleep a night, while some do well on 6, but the experts recommend at least 7 hours of sleep each night for optimal health and wellness.
On your days off get up at the same time and do something. Exercise, read a book, listen to music, watch a movie, catch up on e-mail, do chores, or go shopping while people are still in bed. Then take a nap later in the day. What a wonderful treat it is to get things done early on your day off and then take a delightful nap in the afternoon! If you keep your sleep schedule regular you will find that your alarm clock becomes a backup, rather than a rude awakening to your day. Keep a regular sleep schedule and allow your mind to relax before sleep and you will find you will quickly fall and remain asleep.
I have heard people say, “I will sleep when I am dead.” If you don’t establish good sleep habits, your quality of life will decline and the date of your death will come sooner. These are facts. Skipping out on sleep is a no win scenario. You can’t make up for lost sleep just like you can’t get back the time you spent watching a bad movie.
How to Begin
Starting this week, choose one behavioral change, one nutritional change and one activity change and implement them. Then build upon your foundation and incorporate an additional change from each category every week until the end of the year. Refer back to Part 1 for tips on How to Succeed at the end of the article.
In Part 3, I will tackle: mindful eating, how reducing dairy and gluten can help, and why practicing yoga improves your quality of life.
Love, Wellness & Prosperity for All!