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Millions of Americans suffer from depression. The National Institute of Mental Health estimates approximately 6.7 percent of the population have experienced at least one major depressive episode during any given year. Depression is often treated with pharmaceuticals, which can cause weight gain and other side effects. Mounting evidence suggests exercise may provide better benefits for the body and mind.

Physical and psychological benefits of exercise

Regular exercise has many proven benefits. It’s great for the cardiovascular system, as it strengthens the heart, improves circulation, and lowers blood pressure. Exercise also reduces body fat, which in turn can improve sleep quality. Regular exercise has also been shown to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, as well as improve overall body image.

A study conducted by the National Institutes of Health found obese adults who lost at least 5 percent of their body fat reported better sleep and longer hours after six months of weight loss. Additionally, those who lost weight were shown to have a statistically significantly better mood at 24 months, regardless of how much weight they lost.

Another study found that depressed subjects who participated in a 6-month behavioral weight loss program lost 8 percent of their initial weight reported significant improvements in their depression symptoms. They also had reduced levels of triglycerides, a risk factor for heart disease and stroke.

Studies have long suggested exercise is linked to improved mood due to the release of endorphins, commonly called the “feel-good hormones.” When you exercise, your body releases endorphins; these interact with the pain receptors in the brain, lessening your perception of pain. They also trigger a positive, euphoric feeling in the body, similar to morphine — but without the negative effects of addiction or dependence. This is why people often experience a positive, energizing outlook on life after workouts known as a “runner’s high.”

Moderate or high-intensity exercise?

Current exercise guidelines suggest adults should do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity weekly to maintain or improve their health. Does the intensity of the exercise matter when it comes to mood?

One study compared the release of endorphins during conventional aerobic exercise and HIIT (High-intensity interval training). HIIT is a type of exercise where short bursts of high-intensity activity are broken up by brief periods of less demanding activity. After each exercise session, researchers measured the subjects’ endorphin levels, as well as their endorphin levels after a rest period. The subjects’ mood was also assessed.

Researchers discovered HIIT workouts caused a significant rise in endorphin release compared to aerobic exercise. Endorphins were found to occur in the areas of the brain associated with pain, reward, and emotion. They also found that HIIT caused negative feelings, which they associated with increased endorphin release. The researchers believe the increased negative feelings were linked to dealing with physical activity that’s emotionally and physically challenging.

Exercise And Endorphins

In contrast, subjects reported feelings of pleasure and euphoria with aerobic exercise. The researchers suggested that moderate endorphin release stimulated by moderate-intensity exercise may promote habitual exercise.

Additional benefits for depression

Not only does exercise release feel-good endorphins, but the physicality of it can help take your mind off negative thoughts that feed depression and anxiety. Being able to meet exercise goals and challenges, no matter how small, can also provide a boost of self-confidence and increase feelings of self-control.

Many exercise activities also give you a chance to meet or socialize with others, which can counteract the isolation many people with depression tend to feel. Exercise is also a healthy coping mechanism for when you’re facing emotional or mental challenges in life. Rather than turning to substances or negative behaviors that can make your symptoms worse, exercise boosts your immune system and reduces the impact of stress.

It can be difficult to find the motivation to exercise when you have depression, but at Northern California Medical Associates, we’re here to help. Contact us today to get started on a customized weight loss program designed to help you meet your health goals.

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The pros and cons of morning, afternoon & evening workouts

Everyone knows it’s important to exercise regularly, but busy schedules can make that difficult; most people only have time to exercise before or after work. Some people swear by early morning workouts to get energized for the day, while others insist evening exercise provides better benefits.

Best Time Of Day For Exercise

So, when is the best time to exercise? Is there an optimal time of day to burn the most calories? While there are different benefits for morning, afternoon, and evening workouts, the best time to exercise comes down to consistency and what works best for you.

Early morning workouts

According to Anthony Hackney, a professor of Exercise and Sport Science at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, early morning workouts (especially on an empty stomach) are the best way to burn stored fat. People have a naturally elevated level of cortisol and growth hormone in the morning, which draws more energy from fat reserves. This allows for better fat metabolism than other times of the day, which can be conducive to weight loss. Research also suggests that those who exercise in the morning may have less of an appetite throughout the day.

This is great news for early risers, but what if you’re not a morning person? A study published in the Journal of Physiology found that exercising at 7 a.m. may shift your body’s internal clock earlier. Additional studies suggest it’s easier to make new habits stick when you do them first thing in the morning. Since exercise is a great stress reducer, morning workouts may also contribute to better mental health and productivity throughout the day. However, if you’re really not a morning person, morning workouts may not be beneficial. You may be too tired to exercise at an intensity level that will expend enough energy to provide real results. It’s generally easier to stay consistent and get into the habit of regular exercise if you’re not fighting fatigue and tiredness.

Afternoon workouts

According to Hackney, afternoon workouts are a great second choice if you’re not able to get motivated to move in the morning. Since you’ll likely have eaten a meal or two, you may see a boost in your performance. Afternoon workouts can also be helpful to avoid the afternoon slump — even something as small as taking a quick walk can help you feel more alert and focused. One preliminary study suggests people naturally burn about 10 percent more calories in the late afternoon compared to other times of the day, though this study looked at people at rest, rather than those working out. It’s inconclusive whether you’ll burn more calories while working out in the afternoon.

Nighttime workouts

For those who aren’t morning people, evening exercise after work is generally the most convenient. However, there’s a common belief that working out in the evening can make it difficult to fall asleep. The Journal of Physiology did find that exercising between 7–10 p.m. can delay the body clock, causing later bedtimes, but Hackney says it only interferes with sleep if you’re jumping into bed right after your workout. One paper published in the Journal for Experimental Physiology found there were no links between evening exercise and sleep disruption, and that over time it may even reduce levels of the hunger-stimulating hormone ghrelin.

Listen to your body for the best time to exercise

The best way to achieve your weight loss and health goals with exercise is to stay consistent — and consistency is best achieved by listening to your own body. Try working out in the morning for a few weeks, then try noon, and early evening. Which time is easiest for you to stick to? Which one makes you feel the best afterward? Find a time that allows you to make exercise a consistent habit in your life. To stay motivated, make sure to choose activities you enjoy. If you’re a social person, you may want to take a group exercise class or take walks with a group of friends. If you’re more of an introvert, solo activities like swimming or walking may be a better fit. It’s also important to find a variety of activities you enjoy to prevent feeling bored or burnt out.

Exercise is essential to maintaining a healthy weight and decreasing the risk of health conditions like heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes. If you’ve been struggling with your weight, contact us to learn more about our medical weight loss programs in Santa Rosa. Our programs, overseen by Dr. Jennifer Hubert, give you the support and tools you need to have a healthy weight and lifestyle. We offer behavior modification, nutritional counseling, medical monitoring, and customized weight loss plans for Santa Rosa patients. Schedule your free weight loss consultation today by calling us at 707-575-8446.

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Our understanding of nutritional science is constantly evolving. In the past, nutritionists recommended adopting a low-fat diet to prevent weight gain and health conditions like heart disease and diabetes. Today, we have a better understanding of dietary fats and now know that not all fats are equal. Dietary fat is an important part of a healthy diet. Fats give us energy, build cells, help us absorb nutrients, balance hormones and even lower cholesterol levels. The key is to eat a balanced diet with the right type of fats and avoid (or limit) the unhealthy ones.

What makes a fat healthy vs. harmful?

Dietary Fats | Facts About Fats

There are four major categories of dietary fat:

  • Saturated fat
  • Trans fat
  • Monosaturated fat
  • Polyunsaturated fat

These four types of fat have different chemical structures and physical properties. Bad fats, like saturated and trans fats, tend to be solid at room temperature (like butter) while monosaturated and polyunsaturated fats stay liquid at room temperature. Different types of fat can also influence your cholesterol levels. Bad fats raise the bad cholesterol (LDL) levels in your body, while good fats can lower LDL levels when eaten as part of a healthy, varied diet.

Regardless of the type of fat, all dietary fat contains nine calories per gram. Since fats are more energy-dense, they contain more calories than protein or carbohydrates, which both contain four calories per gram. While healthy fats are beneficial to a healthy diet, it’s important to remember to eat them in moderation. High calorie intake, regardless of the source, can contribute to weight gain or hinder your weight loss goals.

Here’s a closer look at each type of fat.

Trans fat

Small amounts of trans fat are present naturally in animal-based foods like meat and milk, but most of it is found in processed foods that use partially hydrogenated oil. This is a liquid vegetable oil that has hydrogen added to make them solid at room temperature, which preserves the food for longer. It also adds flavor and texture to foods like French fries, cakes, cookies, margarine, microwave popcorn, and frozen pizza.

Trans fat tastes good but it increases health risks, even when eaten in small quantities. This type of fat raises LDL cholesterol, which increases your likelihood of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. Trans fats also lower the “good” (HDL) cholesterol in your body. The American Heart Association recommends getting no more than 1% of your daily calories from trans fats. Some countries, including the U.S., have put restrictions on trans fats, with some states banning them altogether. The World Health Organization is pushing for a complete ban of trans fats from global food supplies by 2023, which highlights the serious health concerns they present. 

Saturated fats

Saturated fats are naturally present in red meats, poultry, whole milk dairy products, butter, and eggs. They’re also found in coconut and palm oils. Unlike trans fats, there’s some debate about saturated fats in the medical community. While a diet that’s heavily based on saturated fats can increase total cholesterol and bad cholesterol (which can cause blocked arteries) some studies have suggested saturated fats aren’t directly linked to heart disease. Other studies have indicated some types of saturated fats are less harmful than others.

The general consensus is that it’s best to limit your intake of saturated fats. The American Heart Association recommends that you get no more than 5-6% of your daily calories from saturated fat. If you replace saturated fat in your diet, what you replace it with can also affect your health. For example, replacing saturated fats with polyunsaturated fats may lower your risk for heart disease, while replacing them with carbohydrates may increase your risk.

Monounsaturated fats & polyunsaturated fats

Monounsaturated fats are found in plant foods, like nuts, avocados, and vegetable oils. Monounsaturated fats are beneficial for your health in several ways. Monounsaturated fats help develop and maintain your cells, as well as lower your LDL cholesterol.

Polyunsaturated fats are found in foods like flaxseed and corn oils, walnuts, salmon, and other fatty fish. There are two types of polyunsaturated fats: omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Studies have found that a diet that’s high in omega-3 fatty acids can lower the risk of heart disease and may even prevent or slow some forms of age-related cognitive disorders. Omega-3s aren’t produced within the body, so it’s important to make sure you’re incorporating these foods into your diet. Omega-6 fatty acids are found in food like leafy green vegetables, seeds, nuts, and vegetable oils. Like Omega-3s, Omega-6 fatty acids provide heart benefits.

While both of these are healthy fats, it’s recommended that you get no more than 35-30 of your daily calories from monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats.

In Conclusion

A healthy, balanced diet is essential for heart health and meeting your weight loss goals. The majority of your fats should be from unsaturated sources. Saturated fats can be consumed in limited amounts, while trans fats should be avoided completely. You should aim for getting most of your calories from vegetables, fruits, fish, legumes, low-fat dairy products, nuts, and whole grains. At Northern California Medical Associates, we create effective plans to help you meet your weight loss goals. Our medical weight loss programs in Santa Rosa have helped hundreds of people live happier, healthier lives. Professional weight loss support has a higher chance of success – both in losing and keeping off weight. If you’ve been searching for a weight loss program in Santa Rosa that will bring you long-term success, contact us today to schedule a free consultation.

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We all know certain activities are helpful for weight loss, like giving up junk food in favor of healthier choices and exercising regularly. But many patients don’t realize that getting enough sleep is also important for losing weight. While adults need at least seven hours of uninterrupted sleep at night to feel rested, many people don’t hit that mark. According to a survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than one-third of U.S. adults report getting less than seven hours of sleep a night, and mounting evidence suggests this could be a large factor in the struggle to lose weight.

People who sleep less than seven hours a night tend to have a higher body mass index (BMI) and have more trouble losing weight in comparison to those who get an adequate night’s sleep — even when they follow the same diet. One study followed 60,000 non-obese nurses for 16 years. At the end of the study, it was found that the nurses who slept five hours or less a night were more likely to be obese than those who slept seven hours or more. Another study found that less sleep increased the likelihood of obesity by 89% for children and by 55% for adults. While these studies were observational, the effects sleep has on weight have also been observed in experimental sleep deprivation studies.

There are several reasons why sleep affects weight.

  • Less sleep, larger appetite
    Studies have found that many people who don’t get enough sleep report having a larger appetite. This is likely because sleep directly impacts ghrelin and leptin, two hormones that control appetite. Ghrelin is responsible for signaling hunger to the brain, while leptin suppresses hunger and signals fullness. Those who sleep less have been found to have 14.9% higher ghrelin levels and 15.5% lower leptin levels than those who get adequate sleep at night. Cortisol, a stress hormone that can increase appetite, also tends to be higher in people who get less sleep.

  • More difficult to make healthy choices
    Sleep deprivation has been shown to dull the activity in the frontal lobe of the brain, which is the part of the brain that’s responsible for self-control and decision-making. Additionally, the reward centers in the brain are more stimulated by food after a night of poor sleep. People who sleep less are also more likely to choose foods that are high in calories, carbs, or fat. These combined factors can make it difficult to not only choose healthy foods but also to eat healthy portions.

  • Increased calorie intake
    People who don’t get enough sleep at night tend to eat more calories. While this partly due to the hormone factors mentioned above, less total sleep also results in more awake hours. This allows for more time in the day to eat. This is especially true for people who spent a lot of their awake time being inactive, such as sitting in front of the television. Studies have also shown that many people tend to consume excess calories as snacks after dinner.

  • Decreased resting metabolism
    The resting metabolism rate (RMR) is the number of calories a person burns while they’re completely at rest. It’s affected by several factors, including age, weight, height, and gender, and muscle mass. Some studies have suggested that less sleep may lower RMR, while others have found no changes in metabolism. It’s also thought that poor sleep can contribute to muscle loss. Muscle burns more calories at rest than fat does, so losing muscle can directly affect the body’s resting metabolic rate.

  • Daytime fatigue, less energy
    Many people who don’t get enough sleep at night also suffer from daytime fatigue. This can make you less motivated to exercise and makes you more tired during physical activity. Your body produces the most growth hormone during sleep, which not only repairs muscles but also helps burn fat. If you do manage to make it to the gym, you’re less likely to be able to push yourself during your workout and you may not see the same results.

  • Insulin resistance
    Insulin is a hormone that moves the sugar in your body from the bloodstream into your cells, where it can be used as energy. It’s been shown that poor sleep can contribute to cells becoming insulin resistant. This allows more sugar to remain in the bloodstream, which makes the body produce more insulin to compensate. Excess insulin in the bloodstream can make you feel hungrier. It also sends signals to your body that tell it to store more calories as fat. Insulin resistance is a precursor to type 2 diabetes and weight gain. One study suggests that as few as 6 nights can cause cells to become insulin resistant.

Insufficient sleep can create a vicious cycle. As you sleep less, you’re more likely to gain weight. As you gain more weight, it can make it harder to get a good night’s sleep. In addition to making weight loss more challenging, poor sleep may also affect circulation, memory, and social relationships. So not only is good sleep an important part of successful weight loss, but it can also have a significant impact on your overall health and social life.

The good news

Sleep Affecting Weight Loss

If you’re having trouble with weight loss despite doing everything else right, it may be caused by poor or inadequate sleep. At Northern California Medical Associates, we can help you evaluate the factors that are hindering your weight loss and help you overcome them. Our medical weight loss programs in Santa Rosa use a comprehensive multidisciplinary approach to weight control and have helped hundreds of people like you find success.

Overseen by Dr. Jennifer Hubert, our weight loss programs will provide you with an effective weight loss strategy to evaluate and address factors that may cause roadblocks to your goals. If you’re interested in learning more about our weight loss programs in Santa Rosa, contact us today for a free consultation.

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Let’s face it: dieting can be difficult at times, but it’s especially challenging during the holiday season. In the span of three months, there are a handful of major holidays, all of which are traditionally celebrated in part with delicious temptations. From Halloween candy to sugary pies and high-calorie buffets, there is literally unhealthy food lurking around every corner. If you’re not careful, it can be easy to put on more weight in these three months than you were able to lose in the previous six. Breaking your dieting routine now can also make it that much more challenging to get back into it once the season is over.

The good news is with a little planning, you can avoid these temptations. Here are four easy ways to stay on track with your diet between now and the New Year:

  1. Be Proactive with a Healthy Snack

    Holiday parties are infamous for being loaded with enticing food and beverages. If you plan to attend any company parties or family get-togethers, eat a healthy snack or meal before you go. This will help you feel satiated and allow you to avoid overindulging. If you’re worried about being hungry later, you can also bring along your favorite weight loss or protein bar to enjoy.
  2. Bring Your Own Portion Controlled Plate and Cup

    Large plates make it easy to pile on several portions of food – and many people feel inclined to finish it all. To avoid this, bring your own small or portion-control plate with you. You won’t be able to put on as much food, and it will help you be more aware of how much you’re eating. Bring a five-ounce cup as well, so you can limit yourself to a single high-calorie beverage. After that, stick to water for the rest of the night.
  3. Eat Mindfully

    Many of us are more at risk of unconscious eating during the holidays, when we’re rushing around and multitasking during meals. Unfortunately, unconscious eating often leads to overeating. You can prevent unconscious eating by being fully present during meals. Put down your phone or holiday to-do list and focus on eating. This allows you to have a better connection between your physiological state and your mental state. Being mindful can also help you eat less and make healthier meal choices.
  4. Find a Weight Loss Buddy

    Pairing up with someone who has similar weight loss goals as you can help you stay accountable – and make your diet more fun! Ask a friend, family member, or coworker if they would be willing to offer you support during the holidays. It’s important to choose a buddy with a positive mindset who can help you feel a sense of camaraderie about eating healthy. Cheer each other on and gently remind each other of your shared goals in times of temptation.

It may feel daunting to stick to your diet during the holidays, but it’s entirely possible! By following these simple tips, you can continue to make progress with your weight loss goals while still enjoying the season.

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Belly FatNo matter who you are or what sort of body you have, we all have to deal with belly fat sooner or later. Even slender people with clearly defined abs have abdominal fat. Yes, really! It’s a fact of life, and a certain amount of fat is completely normal. However, when your waistline starts to grow beyond its usual limits, it can indicate rising problems, so take note.

Maybe you’ve noticed you’re carrying more weight around the middle than you used to. You’re hardly alone. You may be dealing with deep visceral fat located around your organs, which complicates things. This fat is totally normal and typically used as cushioning by the body, but when it starts to build up, it can cause health conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and much more. Visceral fat is a whole different ballpark than what we typically think of as “fat,” and it’s caused less by fatty foods and sweets (though diet is definitely a factor) and more by genetics and activity level. Inactivity is a top contender in your likelihood of having excess visceral fat.

Here’s some advice for keeping yourself fit and making sure your organs aren’t building up too much padding.

  1. Get out and exercise.

    Increasing your activity level is the absolute best way to trim excess belly fat and ensure you’re staying healthy. A sedentary lifestyle makes it different to get into “exercise mode,” so it’s important to take it slow and start with reasonable goals that feel manageable to you. You don’t have to jump immediately into serious cardio to get active. Start with a few brisk walks. Even a 30-minute walk five days a week can help reduce fat!

  2. Keep an eye on your stress levels.

    Stress is a part of life for most of us, but when our stress levels start to peak, it can cause a whole host of mental and physical issues. Digestive trouble and weight gain is hardly uncommon when stress levels are high, particularly because we’re more likely to eat poorly or skip exercise when we feel overwhelmed. Exercise will actually help you unwind by releasing endorphins. Reward yourself for a job well done by letting yourself relax once in a while.

  3. Take a good look at your diet.

    There’s never been and there never will be a miracle diet that will specifically target your visceral and belly fat, no matter what all the fancy blogs and advertisements say. However, maintaining a balanced diet and increasing your fiber intake will help a great deal to increase your overall health and reduce fat. Studies show people with good fiber intake tend to have less belly fat, so make sure you get enough!

  4. Get a good night’s sleep.

    Getting a full night of rest doesn’t make you lazy — it makes you healthy! Your sleep habits can affect your weight, and multiple studies show that people who get 6-8 hours of sleep a night have less visceral fat than people who get more or less. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking less sleep is better — it’s not!

By following this advice, you’re already well on your way to decreasing your body’s excess fat, including that stubborn belly fat. Looking for more advice and guidance? Follow this blog or reach out to our team at Northern California Medical Associates!

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Weight Maintenance Tips

You’ve likely heard just about every tip and trick under the sun for losing weight and keeping it off. Weigh yourself daily, count your calories, avoid fatty foods, reduce alcohol intake, and all of those things. However, there are some less obvious bits of advice that you probably haven’t heard! Here are our five favorite secret-but-not-secret tips that will help keep the weight off.

  1. Take it one step at a time.

    You have to put one foot in front of the other, as the saying goes. It’s really easy to get discouraged during your weight loss journey when you overexert yourself right out of the gate, or realize that the journey continues even after the weight comes off. Don’t dive headfirst into a brutal two-hour daily workout. Start with little things first: plan your meals for the week, cut the cream from your morning coffee, bike to the store instead of driving — whatever you can do that feels manageable. Build from there!

  2. Keep an eye on portion sizes.

    American culture is really lousy at dealing out appropriately sized portions of food. If you want to practice portion control, you’ve really got to learn to love reading labels and knowing how much a cup of food actually is. We’re raised in a “clean your plate” culture and it becomes second nature to polish off an entire plate of food without even stopping to think about exactly how much we’re eating. Take the time to learn what a “portion” actually is and keep track.

  3. Take stress into account and plan ahead.

    One of the major players when it comes to weight gain is stress. When everything’s spinning out of control and time is at a premium, it’s incredibly simple to seek out quick fixes and easy meals. You only have so many hours in the day, so why not skip a workout? Things at work are off the wall, so why not pick up fast food for the third time this week? If you take a moment when things are calmer to plan ahead for stressful events, if goes a long way toward maintaining healthy eating habits. Have some time on the weekend? Make healthy meals to freeze for those days when it just feels like too much to cook.

  4. Make note of bad past behaviors.

    It’s good to know your own weaknesses. Write them down on a list and keep it somewhere you can see whenever you need to. Even if it seems frivolous, check the list often and make a mental note when you’re starting to slide into those “danger zone” behaviors again so you can curb them.

  5. Make tangible goals you can build upon.

    Create a “climbing list” of goals. That means starting with the goals that are easy to reach and steadily building up to tougher stuff, with mid-level goals in between. Try dedicating yourself to taking a 10-minute walk once a day, then build it up to 30 minutes, then make it jogging, then consider training for a half-marathon. Treat yourself to a nice reward to stay motivated.

Most importantly, stay positive! A good attitude works wonders. Weight loss is a constant journey, but with the right support system, you can definitely do it. Reach out to Northern California Medical Associates anytime for help!

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Sleep HabitsIt’s not uncommon to believe that sleep is for the lazy and the undisciplined, or that keeping busy and running on as little sleep as possible is a point of pride. People who get lots of sleep are often considered lethargic and out of shape, while being fit is assumed to mean that you’re always full of energy, and therefore require less sleep. In reality, sleep is one of our body’s most essential needs, and forgoing it can cost you big.

Sleep isn’t only for recharging our figurative batteries.

When we sleep, our bodies are working overtime to release hormones into our system, digest food, repair tissue, and run system checks to make sure everything’s working. When we say our body is a machine, it’s very true, and that machine can overheat and break down if you don’t maintain in properly. Proper maintenance means proper rest. Sleep is a very passive activity, and as such, many people assume it’s doing nothing to help with weight loss and, in fact, may actually be a detriment to weight loss goals. This is completely untrue. When you sleep, two of the hormones your body releases — Leptin and Ghrelin — specifically affect your appetite. Without a proper amount of sleep, these hormone levels get thrown out of whack, which in turn can cause issues with your eating habits. In particular, Leptin is the hormone that lets you know when it’s time to stop eating. Without enough of it in your system, it’s incredibly easy to overeat.

Most of us get our best night’s rest when we hit about 6.5-8 hours of sleep every night. Numerous studies show that people getting a proper amount of sleep are more likely to have lower body fat than people who get too much or too little, and consistency is key. If you don’t have any sort of set sleep schedule, your irregular sleeping habits can throw your body off its game, according to a study from Brigham Young University.

Even if you think you’re bursting with energy and endorphins post-exercise, refusing to get enough sleep can leave you waking up groggy and tired, and you’re psychologically less likely to make good choices when you feel that way. When we’re tired, it’s so much easier to reach for pre-made and processed foods rather than tackling a healthy cooked meal. You may even decide it’s okay to skip your workout for the day to catch up on rest, and before you know it, it’s become a habit. This can lead to stress, which can impact our eating habits, and the cycle continues.

Pay close attention to what you eat before going to bed. You don’t have to go to bed on an empty stomach, despite what all the old myths say, but eating acidic or fatty foods could result in acid reflux or gallbladder pain that keeps you up in the middle of the night. Keep a food diary if it helps you figure out what’s affecting your sleep.

If you need help figuring out how to work within your schedule and maximize your weight loss, give the Northern California Medical Associates a call!

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Exercise PlanOn the internet, absolutely no one can agree on the best exercise plans and methods for weight loss. There’s a reason for that, of course… there isn’t one answer. Every person’s body and weight loss journey is different, and you have to find the path that works best for you. However, there are a few bits of advice floating around out there that are definitely worth avoiding, such as the recommendation to “push through the pain” or any miracle exercise plan that claims to help you train to run a marathon in “only six weeks.”

Your body knows what you need

If it’s causing you pain, there’s a reason, and there’s a distinct difference between slight soreness after a good workout and a sharp muscle pain during one. Your energy levels, metabolism, and personal needs will dictate the type of exercise plan that will work best for you. It’s important not to start out aiming too high so that you don’t get discouraged and quit. Always start slow — 30 minutes of exercise three days a week is an excellent place to begin. Avoid jumping directly into hardcore cardio or weight training. Pay attention to your current fitness level and ability and choose an appropriate exercise regimen. Visiting a trainer at a gym can help you create a good plan if you don’t know where to start, and even if you’re just lifting small weights for 30 minutes a few days a week, that’s perfect. We all have to start somewhere!

The most important thing is sticking to a continued plan. No matter what you choose, you should be able to do it for half an hour without stopping or resting. Don’t ignore your body’s signals — if it’s telling you to slow down or stop, listen. If you ever have chest pain, nausea, dizziness, shortness of breath, or any other concerning issues, stop immediately and consult a medical professional. Pushing through could cause you serious injury or health problems.

The last piece of the puzzle is choosing to do something you really enjoy. Exercise shouldn’t be stressful and something you hate doing. Do you love to stretch and dance? Try Zumba! Prefer to be outside? Consider power walking or jogging. If you have trouble with your joints, swimming is excellent cardio exercise that doesn’t stress them. Pilates, yoga, strength training, cycling, jump rope, even pole dancing… do something that makes you feel good when you’re done!

Dedicated weight loss takes time and persistence. Don’t give up! It’s also important to take a good look at your diet — all the exercise in the world can’t make up for a poor diet. If you look closely at what you’re putting in your body and what you’re putting your body through, you’ll see results! For counseling or coaching, contact us here at Northern California Medical Associates.

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Staying HydratedWe all know that staying hydrated is good for our health, but do you understand why? Surprisingly, many people don’t. In fact, most people are likely to be considered “mildly dehydrated” on a given day because they aren’t getting enough fluids, even though they think they are.

First things first: why is hydration important?

Our body is made up of mostly water because we need it to maintain proper cellular function. When we don’t regularly replenish our water levels by consuming fluids, our body’s ability to function on a cellular level can be seriously impaired. To combat this, adults should be consuming about 64-80 ounces of water every day — or 8-10 ten-ounce glasses.

Part of the problem comes in when people are trying to lose weight. Exercise and sweating causes us to lose more water in our system, of course, but even when you aren’t active, you should be drinking water. We lose moisture every day from urination and even breathing, so there’s never a day when you shouldn’t be consuming water regularly. People often hear the term “water weight” and assume it means weight that comes from the water in your system at a given time, so they choose to drink less. Unfortunately, this actually has the opposite effect on your weight — dehydration causes you to retain water, which increases your water weight gain. This is also why you may notice your weight fluctuates after eating salty foods. Salt dehydrates us, which causes water retention as our body tries to compensate.

What’s the solution?

Drink more water. The easiest way to determine whether or not you’re dehydrated is by checking your urine every time you use the toilet. It should never smell bad or be dark or cloudy, which are all indicators of dehydration. While some vitamins and supplements can change the color of your urine, for the most part it should be pale yellow or straw-colored if you’re getting enough fluids.

Keep a water bottle with you throughout the day, especially if you’re exercising or the weather is warm. Pregnancy and nursing also have an impact on your water levels because you’re producing more blood, amniotic fluid, or milk, so make sure you take that into account and consume more staying hydrated as necessary. There are many apps for smart devices to help you keep track of your water intake, so don’t be afraid to test them out!