Why Water, Sleep and Stress are Sabotaging your Fat Loss - Step 2



ALSO DON’T SKIP THIS STEP.


Much like the previous step, it is very tempting to want to skip this step. You would have heard these basics a million times before and be thinking ‘yeah yeah I already do those’. You may think you have them down, but let’s just check.



Water and fat loss


This is the easiest one. You should be aiming for a minimum of 2 litres of water a day, ideally 3 litres. This can include tea and coffee.


Being well hydrated gives you a number of things:


  • A well managed appetite. Thirst is often mistaken for hunger, and you’ll find yourself snacking when really your body just wanted some water.


  • Better mood, energy and willpower. You’ll just have more in the tank mentally if your brain is getting the water it needs as opposed to feeling sluggish, tired or flat.


  • Better performance and recovery from exercise, therefore more enjoyment and progress long term.


Once you start drinking 2L+ of water a day consistently, you will notice a difference in how you feel. Most people go about their days being dehydrated constantly. You need to teach your brain what it feels like to be dehydrated vs. hydrated, because once you know how being fully hydrated feels you will not be able to go back


So, how do you actually do it?



 


Get a good quality BIG drink bottle


Have it with you at all times and just sip away at it. Investing in a quality bottle will make you more conscious and aware of where your drink bottle is at all times (no one cares about an old crinkled plastic pump bottle), and a bigger bottle = less refills.


We recommend a 1L+ stainless steel bottle for keeping water nice and cold, with an easily accessible mechanism like a folding nozzle.


If plain water isn’t your thing, try using things like lemon/lime juice, mint or water drops in order to add some flavour.


These are our drink bottles ---

https://www.fiftyfiftybottles.com/collections/bottles/products/40oz-bottle-with-wide-mouth-straw-lid-1



 


Pair drinking water with something else you do each day


This is a great habit forming hack, find something you automatically do each day without having to think about it (classic one is brushing your teeth) and combine it with a new habit that you are trying to create.


E.g. put your toothbrush inside a big empty glass by the bathroom sink - you have to drink the big glass of water before you can brush your teeth (better to do this in the morning rather than at night so you don’t need to pee all night).


Or every time you send an email, receive a message or finish a call - have a drink of water. The hardest point is getting it to the stage where it’s automatic. Most people don’t actively avoid drinking water. It’s just something that is easy to forget, therefore you need reminders initially to get this habit started.



 


Have a big glass of water with dinner each night


This can also help with appetite control at dinner. Slowly sip away at it throughout your meal and don’t leave the table until you have finished it.


NOTE: Having alcohol or soda (even if it’s zero sugar) doesn’t count toward your water intake.



 


Make a big pot of tea


Tea (and coffee) does count towards your water intake, so to break up your water throughout the day, make a big pot of tea to sip on during the day. If you prefer it cold, make it into iced tea by letting it cool and adding ice cubes.




 


Always have a bottle of water in the car


An easy time to sip water is while you are driving. Always have a full drink bottle in the cup holder (use an insulated drink bottle so it doesn’t get warm, eugh).



 


Have a nice water jug and glass on your office desk


How fancy! Hopefully this will encourage you to drink more while you are sitting at your desk. Who doesn’t love a statement jug.



 


At a minimum, make sure you get the big drink bottle, then maybe pick one or two of these other tips to do and voila you will find yourself drinking 2L+ a day easily. Disclaimer: you will have to pee more (sorry), but now your pee will be clear which means that you are actually hydrated properly. Welcome to team clearpee.


Once you start drinking 2L+ consistently, trust us, you will notice the difference immediately if one day you don’t drink enough. Your brain learns very quickly what being dehydrated feels like vs. being hydrated, and it doesn’t like it.


Now that we are used to drinking so much water, even if we have one day of not drinking enough we notice it. If either of us get to the end of the day with a headache, we can immediately think back to the amount of water we drank that day and realise that it wasn’t enough.



 


Sleep and fat loss


Similarly to being dehydrated, your body is most likely used to running on less than 8 hours of sleep a night. You may think that you are one of those people who can run on 6 hours of sleep a night and function completely normally, but you aren’t (this is called Short Sleeper Syndrome and research shows that under 1% of the population are genuine short sleepers).


Your minimum sleep time should be 7 hours, but ideally you should be aiming for 8 hours. This is easier said than done and you will need to put some serious effort into consistently getting your 8 hours.



 


Why is getting enough sleep so important for fat loss?


In short, being tired makes EVERYTHING harder. This includes making decisions, planning, willpower and sticking to what you said you would do. This is not a good environment to start your fat loss journey in.


Sleep is also where we get the majority of our recovery, and therefore progress, from our exercise and training. If this is something that you’re currently incorporating, then improving your sleep will pay dividends for strength, muscle mass and fitness improvements from your training.


While technically yes you can lose fat while not sleeping enough, it is going to make your progress a lot slower and generally a lot harder. Why would you choose to lose fat in hard mode?



So, how can you actually get enough sleep?


It’s worth mentioning here that as with everything else nutrition/lifestyle wise, we’re realists when it comes to sleep. Young children, shift work or sleeping environments that are outside your control to change all make ‘perfect’ sleep a bit of a pipe dream. Sometimes, it’s just about doing the best you can with what you’ve got, and controlling what you CAN control.



 


Work back 8 hours from when you need to be up


Most of us have a time each day that we need to be up by. If you don’t have wiggle room on this, then work backwards and get to bed 8 hours beforehand. The single biggest improvement you can make to your sleep is to budget more time for it.



 


Go to bed and wake up at the same time


Make this a priority during the week days when you have a relatively set routine, as it is generally harder on the weekends when you are more likely to be staying up later than usual. The best option for weekends if you can’t go to bed exactly at the same time as you usually would during the week is to either:-


  • Sleep in a bit later in the morning to catch up on the missed sleep, but try and limit it to only an hour or so (even though it can be tempting to stay sleeping all morning)


  • Still get up at the same time in the morning but plan a nap that day


If you really want to lie in bed but don’t want to go back to sleep, wake up but turn the lights on and open the window then sit with a cup of coffee (the best).



 


Cold dark room with some white noise


It is hard to sleep in a hot room! Open some windows or get a fan. Then make your room as dark as possible or get a sleep mask if there’s light you can’t eliminate (we have this one --- https://mantasleep.com/ ).


The fan also makes a low white noise sound which is nice to fall asleep to rather than dead silence.



 


A routine that you follow before bed


This is mainly to tell your body that it is time to go to sleep, but it is also so nice and relaxing. Make this your own, choose something that you love and that makes you feel calm. Only rule is that it can’t include any technology!


Here are some ideas:


  • Reading

  • Lie on a shakti mat in bed (James’s favourite)

  • Meditation

  • Cup of tea in bed

  • Prayer

  • Grateful list

  • Journaling

  • Light stretches

  • Lying with legs up on a wall


Don’t go all in and try to all of these, just pick one or maybe two that you can stick with every night.



 


Example - James’s night time routine


I’ve lain on the shakti mats before bed for such a long time now, that I immediately associate it with sleep. Combined with reading, it’s usually enough to make me sleepy pretty quickly. Regardless of the merits of a shakti mat, it’s simply a behaviour I've associated with sleep for long enough that it leads to it.



 


No screens one hour before bed


We are sure you have heard this one many times before, but that’s because it’s SO IMPORTANT. The blue light from your devices wires our brains and keeps us up longer than usual (by impeding our melatonin production). It is now so common for most of us to spend every evening on our phones or watching Netflix (most likely both at the same time). Our poor wee brains!


You will know the feeling when you are on your phone all night or stay up late watching a movie, when you eventually get into bed your brain feels wired, you can’t stop thinking and it takes you ages to get to sleep.


So try to avoid this at all costs. Aim to have at least one hour between being on a device and going to sleep. Set an alarm for when you will get off your devices.


If you’re not going to follow this one straight away (even though you really should) then at least get a blue light blocker. Either as an inbuilt function in phones and computers, or a pair of blue light blocking glasses.



 


No phone in the bedroom


This is basically just to protect ourselves from our urge to be scrolling late into the night then to roll over in bed in the morning and go straight back on our phones. If your phone is right next to your bed it is very hard to resist the urge to do both of these things.


If your phone isn’t even in the bedroom, you are more likely to do another activity like reading or journaling before bed. Then in the morning you are more likely to just sit in bed (with a coffee) or get up, rather than roll over and blast your rested brain with news and messages and urgent to do’s, the most stressful way to wake up.


Set up modes like automatic “do not disturb” hours, or even better schedule it to power off overnight (e.g from 9pm) and back on in the morning.



 


Example - Kate on her phone at night


Even if I have the best intentions of reading, if I can reach my phone from bed I still inevitably find myself on it. Unbelievable. It’s easier just to take the temptation away completely.


If I end up on my phone, my brain instantly feels wired and it takes me much longer to get to sleep vs. lying in bed reading which is a much better option. I read every night in bed, it is so relaxing and helps me fall asleep quickly (often with the book still in my hand).



 


Get a sunrise alarm clock


“But my phone is my alarm so I need it in the bedroom”.


GET. AN. ALARM. CLOCK. Believe it or not they still make them. There are some very cool ones out there, our favourite and also a very nice way to wake up in the morning is a sunrise alarm clock. This turns on a very low light (aka the sun) half an hour before you have set your alarm. The light slowly gets brighter and brighter to simulate the sun rising until your alarm goes off, but the idea is that you will naturally be awake from the light before then.


And yes you could just use the sun by sleeping with your windows open, also a lovely way to wake up.


Here is our one ---

https://www.onceit.co.nz/products/2772339/sunrise-gradual-light-alarm-clock



 


What about naps?


If you simply can’t get your 7+ hours of sleep a night, a nap can be a good option. It isn’t as good as getting your 8 hours a night uninterrupted, but it is better than nothing. This is as long as you stick to the nap rules:-


  • Don’t make it later than 3pm


  • Make it between 20-30 minutes (longer than 30 minutes and you will wake up feeling groggy and even more tired)


  • Don’t replace your night time sleep hours with a nap e.g. thinking you can now go to bed an hour later if you just have a nap the next day


  • Have a big glass of water and stand outside for 5 minutes immediately after you wake up


In summary, use a nap as a way to supplement your usual sleep hours if you aren’t getting enough, not as an alternative.



 


What about any supplements that can help with sleep?


Start with the above sleep practices first. Remember when it comes to exercise and nutrition that things you do yourself are usually more effective than things that you take or have done for you.


That being said, a good quality liquid magnesium supplement before bed can be helping. In more severe cases, melatonin can be used however this is something you should consult your GP about first.


Avoid caffeine and pre-workout usage in the 10 (yes 10) hours before bed.



 


Stress and fat loss


Yet again, similar to both water and sleep, if you are constantly operating at a high level of stress in your life, you will feel ‘used’ to it. You will think that you are supposed to feel like that, that it’s just normal, and that there is nothing you can do about it.



 


Why is having low stress levels essential for fat loss?


In short, trying to lose fat while you are chronically stressed is hard. Yes it can be done, but it would be like trying to untie a knot with your eyes closed, a.k.a doable, but unnecessarily hard and it will take twice as long.


Dealing with stress could be a whole piece just on it’s own, it is very complicated and there is no silver bullet. As with sleep, we know that less than ideal stress levels are an expected part of life. Do what you can, with what you’ve got.


Here are a few ways that we find are most helpful to us for keeping our stress to a minimum.



 


Get outside every day


Have you ever had one of those days where you sleep in, watch some TV, potter around the house, have a nap, eat some snacks, watch some more TV … then next minute it’s dinner time and you realise you haven’t actually left the house.


How do you feel after one of those days? I for one never feel great. I feel sluggish, lazy, a bit irritable and feel like I haven’t achieved much that day. If you have experienced this then you’ll know what I mean.


Leaving the house and getting outside into some fresh air and nature makes us feel GOOD. Loads of studies have been done that conclusively prove that getting outside, especially when it’s sunny and you are surrounded by nature, makes a significant positive difference in someone’s mood and general wellbeing. Here is a meta analysis proving just that - https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0013935118303323


Nowadays far less people are working outside, playing outside and generally just being outside than we used to. Levels of anxiety, depression and overwhelm are climbing. The more time we spend inside hunched over a computer, the less happy we seem to be.


Vitamin D (from the sun) is a big player in this as we are now getting far less of it. We can’t really get Vitamin D in sufficient amounts from any other sources, and so getting some sun on your skin is essential. Poor weather, indoor lifestyles and lathering yourself in sunblock before stepping outside can all contribute to a deficiency of Vitamin D and it’s associated effects on mood (among many other things).


So whatever you do each day, make it a non negotiable that you at least get outside whenever the weather permits. Sit on the deck with a cup of tea, go for a short walk, do some gardening, mow the lawn, ride a bike, go to a playground, visit a park, have a picnic somewhere. Bonus points for incorporating as much greenery as possible.


Since having our pups we noticeably get outside far more than we used to. Now WE also notice if we haven’t taken them for a walk that day … not only are the pups extremely pesty but we just don’t feel as good either.


So getting a dog is a great solution to get you outside (seriously though this study found that dog owners are FOUR TIMES as likely to meet physical activity guidelines that dog owners - https://www.sedentarybehaviour.org/2019/10/29/do-dog-owners-get-more-exercise/). So definitely consider it.



 


Do a weekly plan


Doing these on a Sunday morning in bed with a coffee is the best, but Sunday night is also a great time or even a Monday morning. It is a time for you to have a look at the week ahead and do some serious planning.


First off, plan your exercise sessions in (more info on these in Step 5). Make these non negotiable appointments that you cannot miss. Having a personal trainer booked or even scheduling sessions with a friend can make these easier to keep.


Secondly, make a rough plan for your meals for the coming week (this might include doing a grocery list). You don’t have to plan each meal exactly, but you should at least know what you will have for dinners, and have things for breakfast and lunches in the pantry.


This will mean that you start off each week fresh with a clear plan, rather than just blindly rushing through the days without a clear picture. This practice is a real game changer, as trying to ‘wing’ your week rarely works out well for anyone. Prioritise and protect this time for a weekly plan, think of it as your brain’s weekly staff meeting (except something actually gets done).



 


Brain dump


Once you have planned your exercise and meals, do a brain dump of all of the other things that you need to do in the coming week or that have been on your mind.


Think of it like clearing out your brain each week and closing down your browser tabs at the end of each day. It can be exhausting for our minds if we constantly have a million different things to think about.


Think of how stressful having 15 browser tabs open at once is. The tabs are so tiny at the top that you can’t even read what is in each one. You can’t concentrate, you just keep flipping through the tabs at random, doing a tiny task for each tab at a time then flicking to the next one (aka multitasking). This is an extremely stressful way to go about your day.


Write everything down that you can think of initially without filtering anything. Only once it is all out and your wee brain is empty, start sorting through the list and getting it organised.



 


Put as much on your calendar as you can


This is such a good way to get things done. Once you have done your brain dump and have a big list of everything, instead of just leaving it as a huge stressful list, start scheduling those things into your calendar if you need to get them done the following week.


This gives you much better direction than just having a huge list with no plan of how you are going to tick off anything. Even if you don’t actually have to get a task done at a certain time, treat it like you would an appointment, and actually do the thing when you have scheduled it in and finish it in the allotted time. This is a great trick for chronic procrastinators.



 


Do something you love doing every day


This seems simple, but you would be surprised at how often we rush through our days simply working, doing admin, commuting, looking after family and rushing from place to place …


Think of your day yesterday … did you do anything that you absolutely love doing just for the sake of it? What was the best moment in your day? Hopefully there was something in there that wasn’t just work or admin or child related.


Ideally you would do something for you every day, but start with just a few a week e.g. Thursday night market, a movie on Friday, coffee in bed on a Sunday. It’s so easy to feel like all you do is work, and end up rushing through each week in a hectic mess. Stopping and doing something you love will make you more relaxed.



 


Do a nightly review


A much smaller version of the weekly plan is a nightly review. This might be more your jam if you have so much on that you need to be planning on a day by day basis, eek!


Reflect on your day (we like to write a few short sentences about what we did), look at what you have on tomorrow and do some prep the night before so the morning isn’t a mad rush e.g. getting your gym bag ready.


We also like to do a peak and pit of the day (best and worst bits) and say what we are each grateful for. This can be a lovely family activity to do and it is a really nice way to end each day #lifecoach.



 


Phone away before dinner


Another game changer. Our nights are filled with technology. Imagine if each night your brain wasn’t going at a million miles an hour flicking from the TV to your computer to your phone. Imagine if half your family wasn’t zombied on their phone and could actually have conversations with each other.


This can be a family activity, everyone putting their phones in a bowl (which can be next to your chargers) before dinner and the phones stay there until the next morning. This then flows over into no phones in the bedroom.


Try it tomorrow night and see how your evening goes :D We’ve all heard of strategies like this before, the thing is we rarely ever do them. Make a conscious effort to get off that damn thing and just see how you feel.



 


STEP 2 CHECKLIST


🗹 Are you drinking 2L+ of water a day?


🗹 Are you getting 7+ hours of sleep a night?


🗹 Are you being proactive in managing stress most days?



DO NOT PROGRESS to the next step unless you are doing all of these consistently for at least a fortnight.


Feel free to use our Water + Sleep + Stress tracker here (open then to use yourself select 'File' (top left) then 'Make a Copy') -

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1bNxiZeNdfII65Uw8CDAK9GUD6Pua5t3FdnCs6Z_cq4o/edit?usp=sharing



 


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