In previous articles, the importance of combining a healthy diet and exercise program with equally healthy lifestyle habits has been emphasized. The questions then are: What exactly are these lifestyle habits that must be adopted for life and what are their effects on weight loss? This article will answer these two questions.
But first, we have to emphasize that the discussion will focus on three aspects of lifestyle – smoking, stress and sleep. Other aspects like sexual and social patterns of behavior are not discussed.
If there is one advantage to smoking cigarettes, it is that the activity stimulates your metabolism. In smokers with a pack-a-day habit, 250 calories are burned from the activity alone. Thus, when you stop smoking, you will likely gain weight of as much as 2 pounds within 2 weeks after going cold turkey since your body has to deal with an additional 250 calories.
You will then return to the smoking habit because of your fear of gaining more weight, as illogical as it may sound. But you should stick to quitting the cigarette habit because your metabolism will even out in about 2 months. So, whatever extra pounds gained can be lost with the proper diet and exercise soon enough.
Plus, you have to consider the benefits of quitting smoking in relation to exercise and, hence, weight loss. Your heart, arteries and lungs become healthier, which means that you have the physical ability to perform more intense, more frequent and longer cardio exercises than before.
Yes, stress can lead to weight gain, which is possible on both the physiological and psychological ways. First, the neuroendocrine system activates the fight-or-flee hormones present when we are faced with stressful situations, said hormones being adrenaline, CRH (corticotrophin releasing hormone) and cortisol. High levels of adrenaline and CRH lessen the appetite but the effect is temporary while cortisol increases the appetite – combine the impact of these three hormones and you are likely to binge on food.
Second, stress can lead to emotional eating even when the stressors have been absent for a long time. For example, the deaths of loved ones in a tragic accident place extreme stress on the emotions of the bereaved with food as his main source of earthly comfort. We have heard of so many stories of people growing bigger in girth as they grieve.
When it comes to sleep, its relationship to weight loss can be traced to two hormones – leptin and ghrelin. These two hormones work in a check-and-balance system that controls the feelings of hunger (ghrelin) and fullness (leptin).
When you get insufficient hours of sleep in a day, your leptin levels go down while your ghrelin levels go up. The result is that you don't feel full even after a bountiful meal and you always seem hungry. This is the beginning of overeating and, hence, weight gain.
So, if you want to lose weight, we suggest kicking your cigarette habit, managing your stress levels and getting sufficient sleep – the hallmarks of a healthy lifestyle, indeed. There are many ways to achieve these goals including engaging in exercises, adopting a healthy diet and applying relaxation techniques, among others. But the most important thing is to start now.