As I mentioned in my last post about two months ago, I’ve been trying to figure out my best diet. A lot of things have happened in our lives over the last two months. We bought and started renovating a house, work got crazy again with quarter close and a private sale announcement, and holiday planning & travel. So what started out with good momentum and the best of intentions got put on the back burner. Even though I wasn’t able to follow through with the full elimination diet like I planned, I had plenty of learnings about what does and doesn’t work for me.
There were numerous times I found myself craving and eating empty calorie, carb laden comfort food, especially during high stress days. However, what I attributed to stress was more likely rooted in a lack of sleep. When I get super busy, my overall sleep quality goes down and sleep tends to get prioritized a bit lower on the list – even though I know it shouldn’t per my sleep post almost nine months ago. Sleep really is the foundation that I keep going back to.
The deal with me is that I’m an abstainer vs. a moderator. I first heard about this concept from Gretchen Rubin on a podcast about habits and happiness. In short, abstainers find it easier to give up something entirely than to indulge moderately. On the other hand, moderators do better when they avoid absolutes and strict rules. For example, I’m either going to eat no cookies or ALL the cookies. There is no in between. Eating only one requires substantially more self-control from me than eating none. My wife is a moderator. She could have one cookie and be totally satisfied. She can’t understand my extreme approach and I can’t understand her small indulgences. This dynamic has resulted in its fair share of marital annoyances for her (mostly from me eating the rest of something that she wants a few days later).
So how does how does this relate to sleep? Well…lack of sleep impairs self-control according to a review. I love food and I definitely have a sweet tooth. If my self-control is impaired I’m definitely more likely to give into impulses. And…since I’m an abstainer…once I give in to those impulses it isn’t likely going to be a moderate indulgence either.
But it gets worse. In addition to the dynamic above, studies have shown a lack of sleep negatively impacts hunger hormones. Ghrelin is the “hunger hormone” that tells you when to eat and Leptin is the “satiety hormone” that tells you when you are full. A lack of sleep increases Ghrelin and decreases Leptin so, essentially, a lack of sleeps makes you hungrier and less likely to stop eating.
So basically…as an abstainer, when I don’t get enough sleep I’m more likely to indulge in food I want to avoid AND I’m more likely to over eat because my hunger hormones aren’t working like they should.
Therefore, the best thing for having an optimal diet is getting enough sleep!