A Little More Each Day

One working mama learning to run & to maintain my 100+ pound weight loss!

Finding time for self-care

I found myself mentally drafting this post, about how important it is to find time to take care of ourselves in the midst of life’s chaos, during a super-relaxing facial last week.
Spa

Then I realized I’d completely spaced on a work commitment for the evening, that someone else had to cover at the last minute because I was off my game.

Oops.

Regardless of this “oops”, I still think self-care is totally worth it and very important. In fact, it is especially important because I’ve been running in circles so much I don’t know up from down!

How am I finding time for self-care lately?

  • Small things count: I may not have time to lounge in the tub, but I can put an aromatherapy tab in the shower with me to have a couple of spa moments in the morning.
  • Do double duty: Time is precious, so make the most of it!
      • The facials started because I’m almost 40 and I’m not great about making time for routine skin care. I get an hour to relax and it seems to be helping my skin too. I’m also a big fan of the new skin care sleeping masks, where I just put them on before bed and wake up with better skin. Yes, I am so lazy that the extra step of washing a normal face mask feels like too much. Even if the overnight masks aren’t REALLY helping that much (who knows), I FEEL like I’m being indulgent and that counts. Win win!
      • Last weekend, I went to the paint and wine place here in town to paint a picture. Two hours of fun and relaxation for me and the finished product of the painting: the Mother’s Day gift I’ll give me mom. One less thing to shop for!

    Art

    • I may not have time to read as many books as I like, but I spend a lot of time in the car. My Audible subscription is money well spent to help me feel like I’m indulging my love of reading, but there are also lots of options from the library.
  • Get outside: Speaking of the car, I avoid it if I can, to get in a walk outside. Fresh air always does good things for my mood and taking a walk during the middle of the day always feels like an indulgence. Couple that with the fact that it avoids the stress of driving in traffic and I’ve got another win win!
    • Just taking a step outside for some fresh for a minute or two can be a huge relief, even if I don’t have time for a walk.

The biggest thing I’ve done this month in regards to self-care is to TALK ABOUT IT more openly than I normally do. We want to pretend that we can do it all without taking that pause for ourselves. Maybe some people can. I technically can I suppose . . . but I’m happier if I don’t. I’m a better worker and mom and wife and Jessica if I don’t try to do it all without taking these little moments of self-care. Let’s admit that we need to take care of ourselves and most importantly, that it is OKAY to make space in our minds and our schedules to make self-care a priority.

By talking about it, not only can we strategize ways to make it work (no matter how important it is, let’s be real – it’s tough to fit in), but we also make it easier for others feel like it is okay to prioritize themselves. Someone called to ask if I’d present an award at graduation in her place last week because she needed to prioritize some self care needs and knew I’d understand. Like so many things, this is a group effort! I was happy to cover so she had a night off.

My favorite self-care from last week was going to kindergarten field day. No, watching my kid kick a ball and twirl a hula hoop wasn’t self care. That was momming. Know what made it self care for me? A large flavored coffee. A little thing, but just enough to shift my mindset to “me time.” I spent an hour and a half drinking my coffee and watching O play, enjoying a gorgeous day, before I returned to writing assessment plans, grants, lectures and everything else I had to do to catch up. It was a lovely day – even if the juggling to get that done with my work day was a little chaotic.
Field day

That large flavored coffee made me late to field day. I missed Duck, Duck, Goose.

It was totally worth it.

How do you fit in self-care in a busy life?

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Struggling a bit . . .

You ever have those days when something is off that you can’t put your finger on? I’ve been having a lot of those. It’s like I’m anxious about something but I can’t figure out what it might be, so I can’t fix it. Not only does this mean I feel off in general, but I’m struggling with a lot binge-y feelings (and some resulting bad choices) and more lupus-y symptoms than normal.

If I knew what was wrong, I feel like I could take proactive steps to help with this feeling. Work is no more stressful than usual and my training is going okay. Long run days are actually the days I feel this anxiety the least. Our busy home life is in balance as much as it ever is and the adjustment to kindergarten has gone relatively smoothly. I feel some distress about the fact that I’ve regained so much weight and haven’t made any headway in reversing that, but it isn’t like I’m dwelling on it. I’m not sure what this is – just an odd season in life I suppose.

Without a concrete thing that’s “wrong” I’m feeling a little at sea in “fixing” this. While I’m feeling the urge to binge and have definitely made some bad food choices as a result, I’ve had nothing that tipped into full scale binge territory like it would have in the past. I need to give myself credit for how far I’ve come because that is a huge victory.

I’ve been so busy that I haven’t been keeping the house stocked with fruit and other “safe” foods for when those evening munchies hit. I should remedy that. I’ve also be re-reading some of my old strategies for managing stress eating and night time, since that seems to be my biggest trouble time right now. Tea instead of snacks and going to bed early both sound like lovely ways to distract myself from the nighttime munchies and to hopefully soothe a little of this anxiety.

I’m also working on building up my bank of happy thoughts as a distraction. This afternoon, I volunteered at O’s school walk a thon and had a blast spraying kids with colored powder (and got messier than the kids!).

Messy but fun!My blue hair does not come through in this photo. 🙂

I think the most important thing, for me at least, in keeping from heading into binge territory again, is being honest about struggling. Honest with myself, honest with Darrell and honest here. It’ll be okay. I’ve handled worse than this and I can (and will) get professional help if I need it.

How do you handle those periods when things just feel off?

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Birthday Gifts to Myself

My birthday is coming up soon and while my birthday list on Amazon includes some things for my upcoming marathon training (starts 8/1!), I’m also working on a list of things to gift myself this year. As I get nearer and nearer 40, I’m realizing that the less tangible things mean as much or more than the things that come in those lovely gift boxes.

– I’m going to give myself the gift of letting go of some of the pressure in my life. I don’t need to be “nationally recognized” for my job, no matter what others may say. That is not the only measure of success, even if it feels like it in my job sometimes. I just want to do my job the best I can. If that comes with bigger opportunities, I’ll swallow my introverted nerves and tackle it, but I don’t have to let others push me along just for the sake of advancement.

– I’m going to give myself the forgiveness I need for regaining weight. I was terrified when I first started Weight Watchers, listening to all of those people who’d lost significant amounts of weight only to regain it all and swearing that wouldn’t be me. All the while, my rational mind knew that they probably thought the same when they were in my shoes. I didn’t fail in regaining 20 pounds. This is part of it. I’m still trying and that’s victory. I find myself feeling that sense of shame and failure far too often in the last few months, which is unfair and a binge trigger, so I need to forgive myself and move on. It isn’t failure – it’s been a chance to learn new things and grow.

Pas 5kThis chick may be slower and fluffier than she’d like to be, but she’s still pretty great most days. 🙂

– I’m going to give myself permission to be a slow runner. Guess what: I’ll probably never get faster. I’ll certainly never be “fast” but I’m out there having fun and that’s good enough.

– I’m going to give myself the gift of accepting compliments. Compliments make so many of us uncomfortable and yet we do both ourselves and the giver of the compliment a disservice when we reject them. I’m accepting my compliments as the gifts they are (well, I’ll start practicing it anyway).

If you could give yourself a birthday gift, what would it be?

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ONE word to describe my running right now?

Today the Tuesdays on the Run ladies asked us to give them ONE word to describe our running right now. Can tell you how hard it is for me to stick to ONE word for anything? Ugh! Thanks for the challenge Patty, Erika and Marcia. 🙂 Be sure to check out the rest of the link up to see what word everyone else chose.

ToTR logo

I’ve been thinking about it this morning and I think my word is EASY – I know it seems like an odd choice. Didn’t I just tell you yesterday about cutting my long run short this weekend? Easy doesn’t necessarily describe how all of my runs have gone lately, but it definitely describes my APPROACH to running this spring. I’m definitely in it to enjoy the miles this training cycle without placing much pressure on myself to hit every workout exactly as it is written. Is it always good to be so lackadaisical about training? Nope – in prior training cycles where I had a definite goal for the race, I put a lot more pressure on myself to hit the paces and the miles exactly as the training plan outlined them. However, I’m running this spring’s half marathon for the fun of it. Really, I’m registered for the race because I know I’m much better about getting out to run when I have a race on the schedule. Maybe I’ll set a goal to PR that course, but more likely I’ll just go out and have a good time.

This spring, I’m keeping my running in perspective. I run to manage my stress, keep my weight in check and help my lupus symptoms. Sometimes, I like to add in a challenge to myself by trying to improve my times or distances. In the grand scheme of things, that’s it. I’m in it for pleasure and this spring, I’m doing a good job remembering that (which is a huge victory for an overachiever like me!).
Bourbon street in the rain

When I was running in New Orleans, I didn’t worry about my pace. Instead, I enjoyed the feeling of running in the rain and seeing the French Quarter in a rarely empty and quiet moment. I’m proud of myself for embracing the moment rather than worrying about my speed.

I’m really working this spring on keeping runs EASY and low pressure. I’ve got big stuff at work and a kid who is growing up faster than I’m ready for and a husband who is seriously the BEST – those things deserve my focus and my mental energy. Running gets to be my pop-off valve for that, even on days it isn’t technically “easy” to run.

I’m grateful for something EASY in my life today.

What’s your word for your running these days?

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Red flags . . .

In my goals for the month, I mentioned taking a little more time to myself because I’d noticed some red flags creeping up. In the week since I got back from Portland, I’ve already lost track of that “be nice to me” mojo and boy can I tell. Last night, not only did I eat my own free pie at Village Inn (a rarity as taking a bite of O’s usually suffices to fill my pie craving), I ate a third of O’s pie that he left behind. That in itself might just be a poor decision, but what is concerning is that it wasn’t actually a decision. I just did it mindlessly and then when I got home, I didn’t want to own it in my tracking. I actually didn’t track that piece of pie until this morning because once I was faced with writing it down, I didn’t want to look at it. That’s a problem.

It was hard to own that negative.

It was hard to own that negative.

One of the most valuable things I’ve learned in the last few years is how to recognize my own red flags – those early warning signs that tell me I’m entering dangerous territory. If I go too long without dealing with whatever is stressing me out, I’ll end up bingeing and now thanks to the wonders of lupus, I’ll also end up an achy, swollen, rashy mess. Sounds lovely, doesn’t it?

Red flags I’ve noticed in the last week:

– Not wanting to track that piece of pie and throwing away the wrappers from the two granola bars I ate on the way home Tuesday night in the garage garbage cans rather than inside the house where someone might see them. Hiding food, even from myself, is a definite early warning sign of impending binges for me.

– I’m having trouble focusing on anything because there’s so much EVERYTHING right now.

– My hands, wrists and feet are aching like they did when the lupus symptoms started this summer.

– I’m exhausted but having trouble shutting down to sleep.

– Several times this week I’ve thought I was coming down with a stomach bug because I felt so queasy in the evening. And a small part of my brain was relieved because if I’m busy being sick, I can’t be responsible for anything else.

Clearly, I’ve got to take a break. This is not setting me up to make good decisions at the holiday parties I have tonight and tomorrow – both social networking and buffet appetizer set ups that always cause me problems on even the best days because of the food choices and my introverted stress. Eating my feelings just feels so good in the moment, unfortunately. The way I feel now, I’m likely to dive head first into the inevitable spinach artichoke dip that’s going to be up there.

Why is this happening? There’s a big rush to get lots of meetings and work done before everyone scatters for the holidays. I have been sick so I haven’t taken the time to get a really good workout done in weeks (although I have been doing at least a little something every day). Today I have an exam to recertify in a part of my job I don’t even practice anymore, but for some reason feel like I need to keep certification in? For pride? I’m really regretting this decision to keep this certification, but confess I’ll be mortified if I can’t pass this!

I am at least wearing my lucky earrings for my exam.

I am at least wearing my lucky earrings for my exam.

I need to take a day off just for me.

This giant stack of books I haven't had time to read makes me so sad.

This giant stack of books I haven’t had time to read makes me so sad.

I need to take some time to figure out a better way to manage the stress related to my job. It’s only going to escalate because that’s the nature of career advancement. I love my work and it is important, but I need to feel like I’m a little more in control of it all than I have felt lately.

I need to make workouts a priority again because that really helps my mental monkeys. I haven’t been on a training plan or running a lot in a month and I really think that’s a huge part of why I feel so on edge lately.

I need to give myself credit for the things I’m doing well. I recognized these red flags and am making a plan to deal with it. I’m writing out these thoughts here (so helpful for me! Thanks for listening guys!) and adding the things I know will help, like workouts and breathing exercises, to my to do list along with all of the other “must dos.” I’ve actually added breathing exercises as an alarm on my phone twice a day.

I’ll be okay because I can see this coming and am not hiding it from myself anymore. Do you know what your red flags are? Do you have a plan for saving yourself when you feel yourself sliding?

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Weight Loss Wednesday: Finishing the Year Strong

Strong or strongly? Grammar is tricky. 🙂

This morning, I’m sitting in the Omaha airport, waiting for a delayed flight that is going to result in a mad dash through the Denver airport later this morning in hopes I can catch my next flight or a seriously delayed arrival into Portland. Definitely not a relaxing start to my last trip of the year, but because I’m determined to finish this year on strong footing in terms of my food choices, I’m not letting it derail me.

Airport NSV: Omaha's parking garage has crazy narrow spaces - I used to have to leave an open space next to me or I couldn't get out. Now I can squeeze through those spaces with luggage. :)

Airport NSV: Omaha’s parking garage has crazy narrow spaces – I used to have to leave an open space next to me or I couldn’t get out. Now I can squeeze through those spaces with luggage. 🙂

In the old days, I’d have used this an excuse to get a peppermint mocha (haven’t had one yet!) and a muffin at the coffee stand because somehow travel stress means I deserve more calories? Screwy logic, but I know I’m not the only one who falls into that trap sometimes. Instead, I resisted that urge and got a large coffee and a liter bottle of water. I then promptly took myself away from temptation. I’m actually sitting behind the gate check in station and physically cannot see all of those treats. 🙂

A timely reminder of how I've come . . .

A timely reminder of how I’ve come . . .

This morning, I got an email from National Weight Control Registry telling me it was time for my annual check in and it was just the reminder I needed to keep me on a strong path to finish the year. This year, I really wanted to work on improving my relationship with food and I’ve had a lot of success in that regard. Am I heavier than I was this time year? Yep – about 10 pounds. However, I’ve learned a lot with those ten pounds.

  • I’ve lost a lot of my fear of food. My first response to an unexpected treat in my space or an unplanned food outing is no longer that tensing with fear like it used to be. For the most part, I’m a lot more calm when I have to make those decisions now.
  • I can take a break for holidays or travel and get right back on the wagon. This is a HUGE part of living like a normal food person for me. I used to get really worked up about vacations or holidays or other food events, but I’ve learned now to let some indulgences into those times and get right back on track when that time is over. It’s fairly automatic now, which I consider a big success.
  • I’m getting better at managing and recognizing binge danger zones, big and small. I’ve learned to be more open with others when I’m struggling with the big stressors that put me in binge territory, like this one. I’ve also gotten better at recognizing the little red flags that I’m entering slippery territory because of a lot of microstresses, which occurred on both our vacation to Disney and at Thanksgiving last week. My biggest clue to myself that I’m heading into the binge zone? That first thing I hurriedly eat and hide the evidence. Poor Darrell – I did this with a cupcake one night at Disney and felt so guilty and worried about it the next day that I confessed it to him. It made me feel immensely better to get rid of the hiding element, such a big component of binges for me, but confused him more than a little. 🙂
  • I’m in the same jeans I was at the beginning of the year, which was technically my only “weight” goal – not a specific number. Of course, those are two year old jeans that have stretched lovingly with me but they still fit right out of the dryer, so that’s a win. I know if I went jeans shopping today I’d probably be in a size or even two above that, which is a good reason not to go shopping.

Does all of this mean I’ll coast through the holiday season? Of course not. I’ll keep up tracking, because I know that helps me, with a break for Christmas (because that’s a worthy indulgence). I’ll keep weighing in and do some measurements (weigh in this morning 182.8, which is probably still in the process of sliding down from travel bloating). I’ll keep up with activity – especially once this monster cold I’ve got is gone.

Most importantly, I’ve realized that with these binge triggers sneaking in more often, I’ve realized I’m not taking much time for myself and letting the stress accumulate. I’m not half marathon training, so I don’t have that two hour run anymore. I know I’ve had a lot of vacation lately but the moms out there know that vacation with your kids isn’t necessarily relaxing, right? My goal this month is to do one little kind thing for myself each day and one big kind thing for myself each week. I’m starting to feel the kind of stressed and run down that came right before my lupus went crazy and got me admitted to the hospital with that weird lymph node thing last year – I do NOT want to end up there again.

How do you take care of yourself during the crazy holiday season? How are you planning to finish the year? We’ve still got a whole month to make good choices and take care of ourselves! Let’s help each other do that.

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September Goals: A tough training month, but looking forward to it!

I’ll confess to you guys right now that I seriously lost track of all of my August goals in the last month, once I decided to seriously address the arthritis issue I was having. Therefore, rather than rehashing everything I didn’t do last month, let’s just look ahead to what I will do this month.

  • Last big push of training for Des Moines Half Marathon: The mileage I have coming up in the training plan for this month is no joke. I have long runs of 10+ miles every weekend (although I’m on call one of those weekends, so I’ll just do as much as I can that particular weekend) plus adding in a new kind of run from the Hanson’s book, strength runs (more about that in my wrap up this week). Happily, my energy levels and arthritis are both at their best on days I run so this lots-of-running thing should help on lots of levels. It’s time to get serious about yoga, foam rolling and strength training to support this training.
At least I should have glorious September weather to run in!

At least I should have glorious September weather to run in!

  • Work on improving my nutrition to support that running: I had a scary step on the scale moment this week, after seeing a number I was appalled by at the doctor’s office. Yes, it’s just a number, but a number that made me look and see I’d been letting in a lot of “just one bite/treat” thinking into my day. I’m back to intermittently tracking (more on that next week), but mostly reminding myself every day I’ve got to fuel my health and my running and that means eating good stuff. Practically, this also means no more snacking on the way home from work (unless I’m going to the gym and need a pre-workout snack that I’ve PLANNED) and NO MORE SNACKING AFTER DINNER. Yes, I’m back to that too. Grrrrr.
  • A big part of managing lupus is managing stress, because that can tie into flares. Running is a big part of that for me, but I need to work in some more moments to decompress throughout my day. I’ve read about several different mini-meditations that can be worked into your day in just a few moments and this month, I’m going to try doing the 4-7-8 breathing technique three times a day at work, to see if that helps. I’ll set an alarm so I don’t forget!

Only three goals this month, but after last month, starting with only three goals seemed wise. 🙂 I’m also planning on soaking up the gloriousness of fall in Nebraska before winter gets here! Apple picking and corn mazes are on the horizon for us, for sure.

What are your goals for September?

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Friday Favorites: Frantically planning & packing!

I can’t believe I’m leaving my guys for a week tomorrow. I’m a little frantic trying to get everything settled at work and everything settled for them in terms of laundry, groceries, prepared food, etc. Beyond that I’ve also got to prep for the two days my mom will be staying with him since Darrell has to leave for Arkansas before I get home from Italy! Wish us luck with all of these moving parts. I did just realize that these overlapping trips mean that I won’t see Darrell for at least 10 days. 😦 That stinks. I like that guy.

My favorite thing this week, in a totally cringe-inducing way, has to be the “incident report” that started off my week:

Yep, my kid was pulling his pants down. Sigh. Boys.

Yep, my kid was pulling his pants down. Sigh. Boys.

Just in case you’re curious, at my particular pre-school, this particular incident also required a phone call to mom at work to notify me. I wonder if I’d be asked to pick up if more than his bare bottom was exposed? Needless to say, we had a long talk about private things in private places and not doing things just because your friends say it will be funny.

Other things I’ve enjoyed this week:

– I’m feeling totally validated in my massive coffee consumption! Decreasing my soda intake has definitely helped me drink more water, but I won’t lie – most of what I drink before noon is coffee (other than my big glass of water to start the day). It’s nice to see this round up of the many health benefits I’m getting from all of that java.

Glancing through my photo collection in WordPress, there are WAY too many coffee cups included in my food shots. :)

Glancing through my photo collection in WordPress, there are WAY too many coffee cups included in my food shots. 🙂

– Fitbloggin’ wrapped up a little over a week ago and I’ve been intrigued to see the comments from attendees as they’ve come home and processed things. For those who don’t know, Fitbloggin’ is an annual conference for people interested in promoting health and wellness via blogs and other social media platforms. It’s the brainchild of Roni, from Roni’s Weigh and the #WYCWYC movement (which I’ve raved about before). Kelly wrote (over on No Thanks to Cake) about how the conference made her pause and reassess where she was in her journey and how she felt about it. There’s so much conflict in being happy with where you are and the progress you’ve made while recognizing you’re still not at that “ideal” point. I love that this was an environment where they could have those conversations and come to a place of love. That environment is supported and generated by Roni herself, who I love even more than I already did thanks to this totally kick a$$ response to a questioner about what she really thinks about conference attendees who are still overweight. I want to read this over and over again because it makes me grin every time. She’s absolutely right. Every body is at a different place and none of us has any right to judge them. The people who aren’t “afters” (if any of us ever really do get there) are the most inspiring in many ways. I know for me, it was seeing those people that helped me to see that I could try too. That answer from Roni totally makes me want to see what Fitbloggin’ is all about myself in the next year or two!

– My life never gets less stressful and I suspect it won’t. That’s the nature of life, right? I just need to deal with it better. I keep meaning to work on incorporating meditation into my daily life because it is so good for you but it feels so huge to try to get to that “empty mind” state. This week’s #wycwyc podcast about meditation reminded me that it doesn’t have to be huge – it just has to be a moment of mindfulness. This post on Huffington Post about meditating over a cup of coffee is right up my alley. I’ll definitely be trying that this week when I’m all stressed about being away from my boys!

Currently I’m stressed out because I forgot to check O’s ears before we left for school this morning. He’s been complaining of left ear pain (naturally since I’m about to leave town!) and I meant to peek at his ear to see if we needed to make an appointment with his pediatrician this afternoon. Looks like I’ll be taking off a little early this afternoon so I can check him out. Maybe he was clingy at preschool drop off because he isn’t feeling well, not because he’s already missing me. Minor, but recoverable mom fail. 🙂 Send Darrell lots of good vibes next week! He’s a stellar Dad, so he’ll be fine without me but parenting is often easier with two sets of hands of deck.

Have a good weekend everyone!

PS One more random smile inducing thing for  your weekend: 22 reasons Tom Hanks is a national treasure

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Tuesdays on the Run: Why I Run

I love today’s Tuesdays on Run topic: Why I Run. Thanks as always to April, Erika and Patty for hosting! I loved reading the posts in the link up so far before I headed out to run this morning!

Tuesdays-on-the-run1

I was actually just having this conversation with a friend who is visiting us (thus the lack of wrap up yesterday – two toddlers made for a busy day and I forgot!). Why do I run?

Stress relief: I have a job where being wrong or making a mistake can have truly catastrophic consequences for other people. As much as I try to remind myself otherwise, motherhood and wifedom sometimes feels similarly “can’t fail.” Because of that, I truly appreciate running, where there are no consequences to anyone but myself. If I miss my paces or my distance, I’m a little disappointed but things are otherwise okay. Really, just making the effort means I’ve already done well enough. That is a huge source of stress relief for an overachiever like me, to give myself a little time to do something without the burden of doing it right. As an introvert, it’s also crucial recharging time.

Role modeling for Oliver: I love that while Oliver intellectually now recognizes my “before” pictures as me, he still thinks of me more when he sees someone running or sees a picture of runner. I love that that’s how he sees his mom and that I’m showing him that exercise  can be a fun part of everyday life.

These are possibly my favorite race photos ever!

These are possibly my favorite race photos ever!

Feeling like Superwoman: While I like the fact that running has no real consequences in terms of stress relief,  I love that even though I am a firmly middle-to-back-of-the-pack runner, I still feel like a rockstar when I’m done. I love crossing the finish line and having that “I did it!” moment (and the bling). I love the slight ache in my legs all day when I woke up early to get my run in before work. I love knowing that even though the first mile ALWAYS SUCKS, at the end I feel like superwoman. 🙂

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Of course I also run for the health benefits and the weight management benefits, but those aren’t usually enough to get me out of bed before 6 am. 🙂 These are the things that get me moving. What gets you moving?

We’re heading out to take an almost 4 year with a full leg cast and an energetic almost 2 year old to the zoo. Wish me luck! (Thank goodness I got that run in for sanity myself already today!)

 

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Sleep, glorious sleep!

Last night, Darrell took on bedtime with Oliver and while it took two hours, he finally successfully convinced O that he could go to sleep alone in his room without Mommy on the floor. It was sort of funny to listen to O negotiate. Even better, O slept quietly until 6:15!! That’s the best night of sleep with he or I have gotten since his accident. If I weren’t still in sleep debt, I’d do backflips to celebrate (also, I’m too clumsy for backflips).

Finally sleeping!

Finally sleeping!

Sleep is so crucial for sanity and for happy, healthy brain function but it’s also important maintaining healthy weight and exercise habits. We all know that when we don’t get enough sleep, everything just starts to feel harder, right? I don’t know about you guys, but I feel like eating all the time and specifically eating carbs all the time. I don’t feel like exercising, I don’t have the energy to do anything but SIT all day and I find it really hard to find the energy to resist things like the pastry cabinet at Starbucks this morning:

For a few moments while I waited in line, that brownie seemed totally worth 350 calories. Happily, I resisted.

For a few moments while I waited in line, that brownie seemed totally worth 350 calories. Happily, I resisted.

Over the last several years, there have been a lot of research studies done showing that in fact, losing sleep does screw up our bodies in ways that leads to weight gain. Specifically, lack of sleep messes with the hormones that control our appetites and control how we process what we eat. Several studies now have shown that lack of sleep leads to a decrease in leptin, the hormone that makes us feel full, and an increase in ghrelin, the hormone that makes us feel hungry. It turns out, it isn’t my fault I want to eat everything when I’m tired. This has been demonstrated in several experiments where they control the sleep of the subjects and then do bloodwork to measure hormone levels. They also do surveys of the subjects and find that people do report increased hunger, just like the blood work suggests they would, and specifically that they crave carbohydrates.

Decreased sleep also leads to increases in cortisol, the “stress hormone” that tells our bodies to store fat for energy for the on-coming crisis. Coupled with the increased cortisol, we also see a decrease in insulin sensitivity so we aren’t able to efficiently process sugars. I definitely saw this when I was pregnant and had gestational diabetes. If I had a bad night of sleep, my fasting blood sugar in the morning was 10-20 points higher than usual (usually putting me in the “bad” range). All of these things together lead to an increase in fat no matter what happens with our calorie intake plus a hormonal storm that makes us want to EAT ALL THE THINGS.

So what we can do about all of this? The first and best answer is to get more sleep, obviously. This can be a problem because poor sleep becomes this self-perpetuating cycle of fatigue: I’m tired, so I drink gallons of coffee, which means it’s hard to go to sleep at night. I’m tired, so I can’t focus enough to settle my mind and get to sleep. I’m tired, so I want that last late night snack that will keep me up with a combination of reflux and guilt for hours.

To combat this, and the other things like zero desire to exercise and the overwhelming desire to eat it all and sit, sit, sit, this is my action plan:

  • Focus on veggies. I can eat ALL THE THINGS if it’s something good for me like broccoli, right? It doesn’t have the emotional satisfaction of the toast I’m craving (toast is a major comfort food for me) but it’ll do. Because I know I’m personally more susceptible to carb cravings when I’m tired, I’m trying to focus even more than usual of veggies and healthy proteins until my sleep gets back on track.
  • Set an alarm to get up and move every hour. Now that I’m back at work, I’ve set an alarm on my phone so that I get up and walk around the floor every hour. It helps my energy, gets more steps in my day and every little bit of movement counts.
  • No caffeine after 2. This one is brutal, but necessary. I’m only brave enough to make this cut back now that I’ve got my first decent night of sleep behind me. We don’t want to talk about how much caffeine I was getting from Saturday through this morning. Not only is the caffeine throwing off my sleep, it’s keeping me from getting enough water during the day, which I know would help me feel better too.
  • Establish a bedtime ritual to get to bed early. Like a lot of us, I find it even harder to get to sleep at night when life is extra busy. Last night, I got to sleep at 9 pm which was awesome! I set a timer to limit the amount of time I could play around on my phone, had a cup of tea and ONE healthy nighttime snack. If I can do that a few more nights, I think I’ll be feeling human again soon.

I’m also not even going to pretend to be waking up early to work out for the next couple of days. Now that O is back at daycare, I’ll go to the gym to run before I pick him up in the afternoon. There’s no way I’d drag myself out of bed at 5 am if Oliver is letting me sleep that late (until today, he’s been calling for me at 4:30 am), so why set myself up for failure by having that expectation?

Do you find that sleep affects your food and activity choices? What about the number on the scale?

Here are some articles on sleep & weight if you want to read more:

Sleep More, Weigh Less

Sleep and Weight Gain

Role of Sleep and Sleep Loss in Hormonal Release and Metabolism

The Impact of Sleep Deprivation on Hormones and Metabolism

 

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