What’s the first thing you think about when you consider setting a health goal? For many Americans, the first goal that comes to mind has to do with that number on the scale… and for good reason. Weight can be a clear indicator of one’s risk of illness and disease. The challenge here, however, is that it is not the number that increases the risk, rather the habits that contribute to an increased weight as well as the results of carrying the weight. For example, there are a few specific chronic diseases associated with obesity.
It is the leading risk factor for type-2 diabetes and osteoarthritis and is a major risk factor for heart disease and hypertension. Thirteen different cancers have a causal link to obesity, as well. Our hormones, our cardiovascular health, and how vitamins and minerals are utilized in the body are all impacted by our weight. And like we mentioned above, these chronic diseases are directly influenced by habits, as well as the consequences our bodies experience due to the extra weight. While we at Balanced Wellness encourage you to reach a healthy weight, we hope you have the desire to look at the circumstances influencing that number rather than the number itself.
Over the past couple weeks, we have discussed healthy habits at great length, encouraging you to put together lifestyle changes and habits that support overall health. The first blog of 2022 shined some light on basic every day nutrition and fitness recommendations for the masses – drink more water, move more, and eat whole foods, while last week’s blog gave you some simple tips on making that happen. These tips are a great starting point to creating those healthier habits which will in turn support a healthier weight, collectively reducing your risk for illness and chronic disease. Our goal is the big picture!
While we have already covered quite a bit in 2022 regarding healthy habits, there are two more pieces to the puzzle that go along with the big picture of supporting your health and a healthy weight: quality of sleep and stress management!
Quality of Sleep
The healthier our diets, the more we move and exercise, and healthy stress management techniques all play vital roles in the quality of our sleep. Your daily habits, from sun up to sun down, either support or disrupt your body’s ability to reset overnight – physically, mentally, and emotionally. Poor sleep or an insufficient amount of sleep has been linked to various cardiovascular diseases, poor food choices, self-medication, reduced physical activity, and more… thus also impacting those steps you’re taking toward greater health, a healthier weight, and stress management.
*As you make modifications in your nutrition, fitness, etc., pay attention to how you’re sleeping, how well-rested you feel, and even how quickly you fall asleep. For many, improved sleep quality is a surprising and most welcome result of improving healthy habits.
Health and wellness education used to focus on embracing certain types of stress, as it can elicit positive reactions in our body. Positive stress, also known as eustress, helps create excitement and momentum in our lives. Unfortunately, in 2022, positive stress is being reported less and less, while negative stress is taking over in droves. While the number of potential stressors increases, so must our proactive methods of managing such stressors. When stress impacts our health by lowering our immunity, creating sleep disturbances, and changing our hormones, it can no longer be considered positive.
Cortisol, coined the “stress hormone,” is an essential hormone for everyday function – important for blood pressure maintenance, stimulating fat and carbohydrate metabolism for fast energy, etc. – but too much of a good thing is not always a good thing. Increased levels of stress in Americans have perpetuated almost a constant release of cortisol, leading to an excess. This disruption of healthy release patterns can cause weight gain but also impacts where the weight gain “sits” on our bodies. The typical target areas are those associated with an increased risk in cardiovascular disease (the abdominal area). Since cortisol also deals directly with the release of insulin, an excess increases our body’s need to satisfy sweet, high fat, and salty foods, thus leading to situations of overeating… which also leads to weight gain.
While we could ideally remove negative stressors from our lives altogether, that is not reality. Therefore, let’s consider ways to decrease our body’s response to stress overall. Stress management techniques have proven quite effective, and most are simple to implement. The Cleveland Clinic outlines some basic tips, including the overall wellness tips we mentioned above: eat well and move more, plus a few others.
While we know that eating and drinking well, moving more, getting quality sleep, and managing your stress all work together, it is sometimes a challenge to address these various areas in our lives. As you work to get beyond the number in 2022, remember a few things:
- Small steps add up! The beginning of a new year creates excitement but also an “all or nothing” mentality. We prefer you find somewhere in the middle so you are more likely to continue on your journey throughout the year and beyond. What 2-3 small steps can you take today to move toward greater health?
- It’s the big picture! If you decide to track your weight over time, we encourage you to track a few other lifestyle factors, as well. How many vegetables are you eating in a day? Are you moving more, taking more steps? What other factors can you track throughout your journey?
- We are here for you! Whether you need advice, accountability, or someone to celebrate your victories with, our wellness coaches are eager and excited to walk alongside you on your journey. Email email@example.com to see if wellness coaching is for you!