The final week of the W8less 40-Day Challenge is here and the focus now changes to get connected to those around and keeping those connections going in order to help you on your journey going forward. Kate Troup, founder of W8less, has answered some questions around why connections are so important in maintaining your general health and wellbeing.
Connection isn’t something you normally associate with weight loss or wellbeing programs. Why is this a W8less ‘brick’?
How connected you are to other people might not be something to which you give much thought but it’s every bit as important as every other Foundation Brick in the W8less Challenge. Even if you eat well, stay active and get great sleep, if you’re disconnected from other people or socially isolated, your health will suffer. In fact, loneliness is as risky to your health as smoking and twice as bad as obesity!
Loneliness literally breaks your heart. It causes the production of inflammatory chemicals and stress hormones which cause damage and lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, sleep disorders, anxiety and depression. Connecting with someone makes your heart sing and floods your body with chemicals that encourage health. Without it, cells get old faster and your health suffers.
What exactly does connection mean?
A lack of connection, or loneliness, occurs when there are unfulfilled intimate and social needs. An example of this is an elderly person in a retirement home. They will be surrounded by people, so not experiencing social isolation, but if they haven’t made friends and aren’t visited by family, they are likely to be very lonely.
Loneliness can affect you at any age or at any time. The naturally introverted won’t need as much connection as the naturally extroverted will, but we all need to feel connected to someone. This doesn’t necessarily mean knowing lots of people or having hundreds of connections on social media. Connection is feeling that you are a part of someone’s being, or perhaps that their happiness and wellbeing is connected to yours. This means that it’s possible to feel lonely or disconnected even when you’re surrounded by people.
What can you do to feel more connected?
- Nurture real life relationships: It’s much more difficult to have a real connection with our online and social media friends. Making time for face to face meetings allows us to communicate completely with another human being.
- Be more physically intimate: Physical intimacy stimulates the release of the hormone oxytocin which makes us feel connected to the recipient of our embrace. Oxytocin influences the production of our reward driving neurotransmitter dopamine, so it’s possible that when you crave chocolate or chips, what your brain is really asking for is physical touch. This hormonal response is triggered in our pets too, so don’t forget to hug them and make both of you feel good.
- Be present: Turn off the TV or stop reading the paper when you’re with other people. Engaging with someone either through touch or conversation, connects you to them. This opportunity is lost if your mind is elsewhere.
- Feel loving: Fascinating research is being conducted on the subject of heart rates and how we influence people around us. Studies have shown that people in close proximity, such as couples sleeping, a mother and her infant, or individuals in the same mood, develop the same heart rate. Focusing on feeling calm and loving towards the people around you, helps them to feel calm and loving towards you.
- Don’t give up: It’s easy to become disconnected with our hectic lives and the ever increasing number of electronic ways to shut ourselves off. Ask yourself how connected you feel and if the answer isn’t very positive then start working on it now.
Leading up to the end of the W8less 40-Day Challenge, the focus is now firmly on getting enough sleep for your body. Kate Troup, founder of W8less, has answered why the amount of restful sleep you get is so important in maintaining your general health and wellbeing.
How is sleep linked to weight loss and wellbeing?
Sleep is so commonly overlooked but it’s critical for long term weight loss success. If you’re constantly tired, you will find it much harder to lose weight and stay healthy. Sleep is the time for the human brain and body to regulate and recharge itself. This is the time during which certain chemicals are released (some are only released while sleeping) and others are suppressed, working to keep the body in a state of balance or “homeostasis”. Inadequate sleep leads to chemical and hormonal imbalances which can cause a myriad of problems, including working against your efforts to lose weight.
In fact, a lack of sleep can be the cause of weight gain. German research showed that after just 4 nights of sleep deprivation, due to the effect on appetite hormones, otherwise healthy women ate 20% more food than when they slept for 8 hours and as a result gained an average of 0.4kg.
How do I know if I have sleep problems?
The occasional period of insomnia is pretty normal and should be interpreted as your body’s way of telling you that it’s stressed. But if you regularly struggle to fall asleep, wake during the night or feel like you could do with another 8 hours when you wake up in the morning, then your sleep is not good enough and you are probably in a state of constant sleep deprivation.
What effect does sleep deprivation have on you?
Poor sleep will:
- Make you hungry
- Less satisfied by the food that you eat
- Much more likely to store food as fat
Why do you think sleep problems are becoming so common?
Stress and poor food choices do play role but I think believe that main cause of the effect of light on our brain’s hormonal response. Your brain has evolved to use the cue of light during the day and darkness at night to regulate your sleep – or circadian – patterns. In the same way that feeling hungry is the cue to eat something, the absence of light is the cue that it is time to sleep.
The screens of laptops, televisions, tablets and smart phones all emit a frequency of light which is blue. This is particularly disruptive to your brain because the sky also emits blue light (which is of course why we see it as blue).
At night-time, when the light is meant to have disappeared so that your body knows that it’s time to go to sleep, the blue light from screens convinces your brain that it is still in fact daytime and it should stay awake. This reduces both the quality and duration of sleep. In fact, many people suffer from something which is akin to chronic jetlag where the body’s diurnal pattern is constantly out of balance.
This effect is so significant that researchers are trialling blue light in cars to reduce driver fatigue at night time. One study found that having a bright blue light inside a car at night was as effective as taking caffeine tablets which were the equivalent of 4 espresso coffees.
How can we minimise the effect of light on our sleep?
- Turn off all screens at night time especially after 9pm.
- Dim the lights around you at night time
- Never check your phone or turn on lights if you wake during the night
- Use a non-backlit reading device
- Get adequate sunlight during the day