Think and Rest Your Way to Fat Loss and High Performance.
What if I told you that there are three simple things that are completely holding you back from reaching your potential that have nothing to do with what’s on your plate or what you’re doing in the gym?
You can have the best eating habits in the world and be following the perfect training program consistently, but those are only two pieces of the puzzle if you’re on a mission to look, feel and perform better.
Make sure you have the following three components in check and that you’re building a lifestyle that supports your time in the gym and vice versa.
1. Using self-loathing as a motivator.
Change your mindset: fitness and health are NOT about punishing or restricting yourself, resisting temptation, deprivation, fighting your body or adding up/chasing numbers to determine your worth. Fitness and health are about becoming stronger (physically and mentally), more athletic, and more confident. It’s about valuing and appreciating your body enough to nourish it and take care of it enough so that you can thrive.
If you want to change on the outside, you need to change on the inside first…and most people completely overlook this step. Women in particular, start their journeys from a place of self-loathing – feeling like they’re not enough or that they need to work out longer and harder, eat less and restrict more and constantly beat themselves up because their thighs touch, their arms jiggle or they don’t look like a Maxim cover model.
Using self shame and superficial things as motivators is going to lock you in a miserable, tired, hungry prison. And constantly fighting your body to look a certain way is not the way to build a sustainable, healthy, lean lifestyle. Instead, if people used fitness and health as a way to enrich their lives, bodies and minds rather than tear them down, so many wouldn’t bonk out of their New Year’s resolutions.
It takes a lot of digging deep and self-discovery to learn how to be happy with yourself before starting your transformation, but if you step up and face your demons you will succeed and come out in a much better, vibrant place.
Can we please stop glorifying a culture of “all work, no play” and the “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” attitude? That kind of lifestyle and attitude sucks…do you really want to live like that?
Lack of quality sleep will absolutely wreak havoc on your fat loss, performance and overall health.
Inadequate rest will:
- Jack up your hormones – leptin, which signals you to stop eating, decreases and ghrelin, which raises your appetite, increases when you’re short on sleep…causing you to eat more. HGH, which helps our muscles recover and has several metabolic roles is also released in our sleep, directly linking lack of sleep with lack of muscle gain/fat loss
- Decrease immune function – hello sickness and disease
- Decrease your ability to handle stress
- Increase chronic inflammation
- Screw with your mood and mental health. Plus, are you really motivated to work out when you’re tired? Or get up a few minutes early to cook a healthy breakfast?
- Impair your carbohydrate tolerance and insulin sensitivity
The phrase “more isn’t better, better is better” applies just as well to sleep because what does it matter if you’re getting 8 hours of sleep if it wasn’t restful, quality sleep? Getting quality sleep means at least 7 hours of deep, natural (no sleeping pills or other sleep aids), REM sleep – not light sleep, taking 30+ minutes to actually fall asleep, tossing and turning or waking up multiple times during the night.
There is seriously nothing more important to your performance in the gym, recovery, brain and immune function, hormone optimization and quality of life than good sleep.
If sleep could be bottled, it would the absolute best supplement ever.
As far as your body is concerned, stress is stress. It can’t tell the difference between stress from life and stress from exercise, eustress or distress. Your body undergoes the same stress response and releases the same hormones whether you’re battling through a tough set of squats, pushing the heavy sled, losing your mind because you’re late for an important meeting, being held at gun point or frazzled out due to a crappy night of sleep.
Most people I’ve worked with have stressful jobs/work long hours, eat like garbage or barely fuel their bodies at all, have tons of family obligations, don’t sleep enough, run on caffeine, are filled with negative self talk (YES this stresses your body) and put zero premium on stress management. Therefore their bodies are in constant “fight or flight” mode..and they don’t even know it.
There’s a high price to pay for constantly running your body and mind into the ground and people fail to understand the effects that modern lifestyle has on their bodies, health and well-being. (I can tell you firsthand!)
Chronic high stress can make or break the benefits you should be reaping from your good nutrition and exercise regimen. Having a constant low level of stress day in and day out and a steady stream release of cortisol can cause many of the body’s major systems to operate at subpar levels: endocrine, immune, digestive.
Linking this to fat loss, stress can contribute to excess body fat storage due to its effect on the endocrine system (glucose, insulin, cortisol, yadda yadda, I’ll spare you the details, but take my word). Also, if your digestive system isn’t functioning optimally, you’re not going to be able to absorb all the awesome vitamins, minerals and nutrients in all those high quality, healthy foods you’re consuming.
Now when someone is following an exercise program and is eating right, yet has a high amount of stressors in their life and is struggling to lose fat or hits a plateau – their first inclination is to add more intense exercise, go harder and restrict more food, when all this is going to do is add more stress to their body and set them back further. Instead, the absolute best thing to do is take a step back and implement more recovery based activity and down time. Unfortunately, most people don’t like to hear this.
The harder you rest and recover, the harder you can train and reap the rewards of doing so. You need to earn your right to train hard if you want to be successful and managing your sleep and stress is the best way to do so.
I meet with most of my clients only 2-3 times per week, but the real work for them doesn’t begin until their sessions are done and they go back home. It’s their mindsets and what they do outside of the gym that is going to have the most profound effect on their long term success and performance IN the gym.
Make sure you understand that reaching your goals involves changing your mindset, lifestyle and well-being, not just plugging away hours at the gym.
Read Part 2 HERE where we get into how to turn your self-loathing, stress and sleep around.