If I had to guess the lazy man’s ultimate fantasy, I would have to say that it’s probably a “lose weight while you sleep” program. How does that sound? Do absolutely nothing and shed pounds while you snooze. Ooh, I like the sound of that: Losing weight while sleeping. Well, now your dreams can become reality. So says a study out of Europe showing that lack of sleep can lead to weight gain. Hey, that’s not the same thing. I know, but I had to get your attention somehow.

According to French scientists, sleep deprivation has an effect on two principle appetite-controlling hormones, grehlin and leptin. Grehlin makes people hungry, slows metabolism and decreases the body’s ability to burn body fat, and leptin, a protein hormone produced by fatty tissue, regulates fat storage. In the study, sleep deprived people (only four hours sleep two nights in a row) showed an 18% loss of the appetite-cutting leptin and a 28% increase of appetite-causing grehlin. The people also showed about 25% increased hunger. according to lead author, Karine Spiegel, this translates into an additional 350 to 500 kilocalories a day, “which for a young sedentary adult of normal weight could lead to a major amount of added weight.”

Add to this a second study which discloses that children who lack adequate sleep (and those who watch more television, but that’s another story) have double the chance of being overweight, raises the chances of later anxiety and depression. Looking at 915 children in Massachusetts, researchers at the Harvard Medical School found that those who slept less than 12 hours a day in the first two years of life were twice as likely to be overweight at age 3 than children who slept longer.

These stories bring out two predominant thoughts for me: First, when it comes to weight management, it really is all about lifestyle choices. It’s not solely about genes or foods–it’s about how we choose to live our lives. I push the principle that sleep is absolutely necessary to a well-functioning mind and body. I see the effects of sleep deprivation every day in my patients, and I’ve got plenty of my own experience, and I know, it’ll kill you.

But it will also lead to poor energy utilization and, as a result, more weight gain. Think about it: You don’t sleep, you are tired, your body get discombobulated and starts using your stored energy rapidly to keep you going. You secrete the appetite-stimulating hormone, grehlin–your body’s way of saying, “more food, more fuel”. The hormonal imbalance leads you to crave foods heavy in fats and sugars–foods that are high in energy and efficiently stored as fat. And on your way to the bulge.

The second predominant thought is that losing weight for the long-term isn’t often correlated with following a particular fad diet. It really is about the lifestyle changes one makes, like:

  • eating healthy, wholesome foods
  • exercising regularly
  • getting sufficient sleep
  • getting rid of pain that prevents exercise–try chiropractic, it rocks!
  • balancing one’s perceptions

These are the true tricks to trimming down. It’s not rocket science, but it can be hard work. I tell you though, it is worth the effort. Start today by getting enough sleep, and your lazy fantasies can become reality. Isn’t it great to know that not all healthy habits are a pain in the rear?

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