According to my doctor, any BMI website, and the amount of money I spend on clothing every 3-6 months, my body is between 50 and 100 pounds overweight. I am blessed because it is evenly distributed across my body with a small favoring of my thighs and hips, but that doesn’t make things any easier. There are several things that I know as a reasonably intelligent person:

1. If I exercise more and eat less calories I will lose weight.

2. If I exercise at least 3 days a week for 20 minutes each time my metabolism will slowly and naturally speed up, increasing my energy levels.

3. If my caloric intake, while reduced, consists of a balanced diet including fruits, vegetables, meats, dairy, and whole grains I will feel better, have healthier hair and skin, etc. (i.e. I understand that while I would lose weight eating 1300 calories a day in pizza and Cheetos, that’s probably not the best course of action).

Most reasonably intelligent people KNOW these things. They could probably recite these facts and more that the dieting  and health industry injects into our brain holes. In my search for more information on need-to-know facts on weight loss I came across this blog post on The Huffington Post’s health section. Aside from the usual blah blah blah, this post makes an excellent case for increased amounts of sleep in assisting a person’s weight loss. It doesn’t just say “NEW MIRACLE DIET! Sleep more and eat less and lose POUNDS POUNDS POUNDS!!!!!” It actually says why sleeping more will set up your system for weight loss success. Ghrelin (which sounds like the name of a Lord of the Rings character) is a hormone that the body produces to stimulate appetite and leptin (not the tea) is a hormone released to make the body feel satiated. More sleep decreases ghrelin and increases leptin, and less than 8.5 hours of sleep at night can significantly increase ghrelin and decrease leptin.

I don’t want to be thin. I just want to fit into a pair of size 16 or 14 jeans. I have no aspirations for looking like a movie star and in fact I think that more people need to be at peace with the body that genetics have landed them with. My heritage is lobstermen, Scotsmen, and Germanic peoples. I will not ever, ever look like Natalie Portman. I will be stocky, but if I have to be stocky I’d rather be a tight and toned stocky. If your destiny is to be fat because EVERYONE in your family is fat, change what you can and be wise enough not to be depressed about what you can’t. Believe me when I say this is a battle I face constantly, and I am not always wise enough to know the difference. I know I should exercise more, but I don’t because I’m too tired when I get home from work. I know I should eat less (or at least better) but my job keeps me on the road and so fast food (mostly Subway) is often the best option. These are excuses that are rampant in today’s workforce. How might getting more sleep bring these two other factors in line with people’s weight loss goals? Here are some suggestions that I plan to put in place in my own life, and that others might find useful:

1. Reserve 30 minutes before bed as technology free time. Brains can’t fall asleep when they are being assaulted by tvs, texting, laptops, and video games right up until the time they fall into bed with their owners. That’s like driving a car 100 mph and then hitting a brick wall. The body has stopped but the brain keeps going. Crack a book (Kindles are ok), listen to music, put lotion on those winter legs, change the sheets on the bed, play with your dog/cat/gerbil, write in a journal, or have a cup of tea and play a card game with your roommate or partner. Slow your brain down before you ask it to shut off. This is why we read kids bedtime stories. Think of this time as your bedtime story. Eventually you might even ask for just one more story.

2. Go to bed one hour earlier than you usually do. This one makes more sense when paired with #4, but I don’t remember I time when I went to bed early and then woke up the next morning and said “I wish I hadn’t gone to bed early, that was stupid.” If you go to bed earlier, chances are you’ll get more sleep by default.

3. Drink water. No, more water. Flush out that stuff you’re eating. Seriously, stop drinking soda. Drink water. Especially if you use coffee to help you get through number 4. Drink. Lots. Of. Water. Put that Crystal Light stuff in it if you have to. DRINK IT.

4. Get up earlier in the day. For people like my mother, getting up earlier in the day is bad. She already gets up around 4:00am to go to work, but that definitely gets #2 in line for her. For most of us though getting up a little earlier; 10, 20, or 30 minutes earlier than usual; would allow a person to actually wake up before he or she has to do, you know, actual work.

You know, now that I think about it Jill S. Brown, local fitness expert writing for the Huffington Post might be on to something. Aside from the hormonal stuff, more sleep seems to have all kinds of potential benefits! And honestly, when it comes to more sleep that’s one weight loss goal I can commit to.

Go forth, bring joy to others, and I’ll see you next time.

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