How to beat the three silent killers
Lack of sleep, stress and prolonged sitting can have dire consequences
ANYONE can lose weight eventually by eating less and moving more – but if you want faster, easier results, and you want that gut to stay gone, the smart thing to do is start paying attention to the 3 S’s: sleep, stress and sitting.
Twenty thousand years ago our hunter-gatherer ancestors slept more, stressed only when they really needed to, and sat less, but now with all the demands of our busy lives the 3 S’s often get ignored, to the detriment of our health and with dire consequences for our waistlines. In fact, how much we sleep, how much we stress, and how much time we spend sitting are just as important as diet and exercise, and can make all the difference in blasting away fat and getting fit.
Our bodies are saturated with stress hormones, and prepare for disaster by hoarding energy stores
When we are sleep-deprived the hormones that control our appetite are negatively affected – that’s why you find yourself ripping the door handle off the fridge half an hour after lunch. A recent study at the Mayo Clinic showed that on average people who got only two-thirds of a proper night’s sleep ate a whopping 549 extra calories the next day.
The other thing that happens when we don’t get enough sleep is our brains crave high-fat and high-sugar foods. And on top of that, sleep deprivation raises blood pressure and increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. So if you don’t want to undo all your good work in eating right and training right, you need to make sure you sleep right, too.
You’ll find that as you lose weight you’ll also sleep better – studies at Johns Hopkins University have shown that losing belly fat in particular leads to much better sleep quality. And as you sleep better your ability to lose weight will improve. Win win!
To make sure you get a good night’s sleep:
Stop eating and drinking at least an hour before you go to bed.
Put away the smartphone or computer, turn off the TV and read a book, or have a hot shower in the hour before bed to help your body wind down and get ready for sleep.
Turn your room into the ultimate man cave: make sure your blinds block out any light, remove any devices like phones, computers, TVs and alarm clocks and make sure the room isn’t too hot and that you don’t have too many layers on, as this can disrupt your sleep, too.
Our bodies are biologically programed to put on weight when we’re stressed. When one of our ancestors saw a sabre-toothed tiger on the horizon, an alarm would go off in his brain and his body would be flooded with the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol, preparing him for fight or flight (hopefully flight in this case). The fight-or-flight mechanism was vital for survival, but it was not constantly in use.
Nowadays, however, we are surrounded by daily stressors, and have exactly the same response, even if the threat is only an annoying email. The result is that our bodies are saturated with stress hormones, in particular cortisol, and prepare for disaster by hoarding energy stores, aka fat.
To manage your everyday stress levels so that your body is not constantly in fat-hoarding mode, try some of these strategies:
Don’t dwell on it – If something is stressing you out and you can’t change it, accept it and move on.
Get the blood pumping – Leave your stress behind by taking a brisk walk to clear your head. Or, even better, high-intensity exercise is an awesome instant stress remedy.
Catch up with your mates – Yes, scientists have proven that nights out with your mates are essential for men’s health. A study of monkeys with similar social behaviour to humans showed that male monkeys were most relaxed in all-male groups.
Live in the present – Take a break from stress by being mindful of what you are doing in the moment.
This silent killer now kills more people than smoking, and has been identified as an independent risk factor for developing heart disease and diabetes. No matter how well you eat or how much you exercise, sitting for more than six hours a day can still undo your good work.
In most people, as soon as you sit down your metabolism grinds to a near halt, burning just one calorie a minute, the electrical activity in your leg muscles shuts down, and worse still, a key enzyme in your body that helps break down fat in the blood is switched off. After two hours of sitting your good cholesterol levels can drop by 20%. This may explain why people with desk jobs have twice the rate of cardiovascular disease. Not only does your metabolism slow right down if you sit on your rear end for long periods of time, but the fat cells in the area can increase in size by as much as 50%.
Add to this the truth that sitting for hours can cause your insulin and blood sugar levels to spike dangerously, and you can see why it is such a major lifestyle risk factor.
Try these tips to break up the time you spend sitting:
Aim to stand up every 30 minutes and move around for five minutes at a time.
If you’re watching TV, use the ad breaks as training time – pump out some mountain climbers before the footy’s back on.
Move around while you’re on the phone – it’s called a mobile for a reason.
Build your own standing desk.
Author and businessman Adam MacDougall.
Extract from The 10 Minute Man by Adam MacDougall, published by Viking RRP $35.