Most of us when we want to get “healthy” or lose weight, the first thing we do is commit to exercising more and/or harder. Sounds familiar?
While exercising is not a bad idea, it is often overvalued as a means to lose weight & “get healthy” and takes our focus away from other factors that have a more powerful effect on our health & weight such as diet, sleep, hydration & mindset.
In the past few years I´ve experimented a lot with the amount of exercise I have been doing and I´ve also taken a keen interest in the habits of others, not just as a Health Coach but as a friend, girlfriend, sister, daughter & Pilates trainer.
15 years ago, I was living with a pro athlete and both our lives revolved around fitness. We were waking up at 5:30am nearly every day, going to the gym for 2 hours a day & running up to 70kms a week. (He was doing quite a bit more than that but that was my average week!)
While I can´t say I wasn´t fit, I wasn´t exactly happy either. I was constantly tired & sore from training, I was 10% heavier than what I am now, I had a round little belly because I was bloated AF from eating foods that didn´t agree with me & I was ravenous all the time.
My training was driving me to eat more than I needed and my eating was driving me to train harder each time to offset the calories. Maybe you can relate?
This is only one of the issues that are often overlooked when we start training harder or more in order to "be healthy" or to lose weight. Here are a few others:
· We believe that because we´ve worked out, burnt calories & are hungry, we can eat anything we want.
Well, we can´t. While 100 percent of the calories we consume come from food, we can only burn 10 to 30% through physical activity each day.
By addressing what & how much you eat, you can have an impact on the 100% you consume rather than on the 10-30% that you spend through physical activity.
· Physical activity increases cortisol levels. Cortisol is a “stress hormone” that not only affects insulin levels and therefore our hunger but also favors fat storage, especially around the abdomen.
I know it might seem crazy but it wasn´t until I stopped doing high intensity workouts and opted for walking, Pilates & Yoga instead that I finally lost the fat around my abdomen. It also made me more relaxed, less ravenous and gave me the ability to be more mindful of what I was eating.
Slowing down is sometimes the best way to speed up!
· Going to the gym is something we do occasionally, at most once a day. Eating is something we do several times a day, every day.
Being more mindful of what you eat requires less time than exercise but will have more of an effect on your body as you eat more often than you exercise!
· If you exercise solely for the purpose of losing weight, you´re more likely to choose a form of exercise purely based on the fact that it “burns calories” instead of it being something you truly enjoy and that benefits your body.
A good form of exercise should make you stronger (without breaking you), more flexible, more mobile, more relaxed & happier as a result. These factors are more important than the amount of calories it will make you burn.
Aside from the above, there are three other factors worth addressing in any quest to lose weight, that are as important, if not more important than diet & exercise:
1) Sleep: When we are tired we are more likely to reach for junk food and to neglect our diet. We are also more prone to stress. Stress leads to inflammation and inflammation leads to disease.
The quality & the amount you sleep affects your stress & hunger hormones so getting enough sleep is as important as exercising & eating healthy!
2) Hydration: we often mistake hunger for dehydration.
One of the first things I do with my private clients and in my detox program, before I even address diet or exercise, is to make sure people are drinking enough water.
A lack of water can affect your metabolism, your capacity to eliminate but also your brain´s ability to function. No amount of exercise will be beneficial to your health if your body is not properly hydrated.
3) Mindfulness & stress management: you already know that stress hormones can affect your ability to lose weight but stress also has an impact on the voice in your head. Your mental health is as important as your physical health.
The mind and body are not separate. What affects one, affects the other.
Meditation & breathing techniques are the most powerful ways to calm and focus your mind. It only takes a few minutes a day but it affects every minute of your life that follows.
Realising that you have the ability to find peace inside of you, no matter what is going on in the World around you is extremely empowering and will benefit you in more ways than one.
More info about my personalized coaching programs can be found on my website www.maddywell.com. My next 10 day mind & body detox starts on October 23rd. You can get more info & secure your spot by signing up here.