Sleep and NutritionJun 12, 2023
I was 29 years old when I began to ask myself if this was just the way life was going to be from now on.
As a young mom of two small children, I found it hard to keep up with my tasks and responsibilities throughout my day. I was tired, very tired. So tired that I would find myself crashing on the couch every day at 1pm and unintentionally taking an hour long nap just to wake up…exhausted.
My focus was all over the place and I found myself being incredibly short tempered with my children and husband. After my husband would come home from work, I felt checked out and didn’t want to join them in any after dinner family time, games, or adventures. I was depressed. I wanted to enjoy my life and all of the wonderful gifts in it, but I was too tired to care.
In every area of my life I was struggling to exist, let alone communicate, lead, or inspire others. I felt like a car running on fumes, and even if I had the desire or ambition to help others, I rarely had the energy to do so.
Our bodies are the vehicle we use to deliver effective communication. Whether it’s talking with our families, standing on stage and addressing a crowd, typing up drafts, brainstorming creative solutions, training new employees, the list could go on and on, but the point is, if this is the vehicle we need to use to get things done, it’s important to take excellent care of it.
There are many factors that can help or harm our ability to communicate and one of the most crucial is physical health. Strong communication skills lie at the heart of being an effective and inspiring leader in all areas of our lives.
One day, I looked in the mirror and decided that I was sick and tired of feeling sick and tired and that I was too young to feel this old. I knew that if I wanted to enjoy my life and lead others well I needed to address what was going on in my physical body and what I was doing to contribute to that.
Thus began my journey into health which eventually led to me becoming a certified coach with a focus on helping people create healthier habits.
HORMONES AND CALORIES
There are many ways our physical health can affect our ability to communicate including energy levels, mood, and focus. Two things that have a huge impact on all of these are: quality and length of sleep, and nutrition.
Quality sleep is not only important to your physical and mental health, it’s crucial. I know it is tempting to stay up late to get things done, or to catch up on your favorite TV series, or to just have one. blessed. moment. alone while the kids are in bed. Been there, done that!
One important thing that happens while you sleep is hormone regulation. Your body relies on many different hormones to function such as Cortisol (the stress hormone), Ghrelin (associated with appetite), Leptin (signals fullness when eating), and Insulin (regulates blood sugar levels) just to name a few. Lack of quality sleep leads to hormonal imbalances which in turn leads to changes in your mood, cognitive decline, slowed metabolism, increased appetite and overall compromised health.
All of these things left unchecked will inhibit your ability to lead with focus and clarity. So the next time you are tempted to burn that midnight oil, do yourself a favor and dump a hot cup of SleepyTime tea on it and get those ZZZs so you can show up as a well-rested leader the next day.
What you eat plays a direct role in your energy levels, and immune response. It is very important to fuel your body well to avoid blood sugar crashes, frequent illness, and chronic disease. Nutrition can feel like a tricky topic. If you are like me, you may have agonized for hours reading article after article on what is “the best” way to eat. The experts can’t seem to agree. Am I supposed to live like a garden goddess gulping down green drinks and hearty salads, or forgo all plants and stick to my ancestral instincts as a cold-blooded carnivore? Maybe if I just count calories I’ll be okay? But no, I need to focus on my macros to make sure I have the perfect balance of protein, carbs, and fat… Ugh, forget it! Give me a brownie!
All of the conflicting research nonsense aside, most experts agree on a few things when it comes to nutrition. Avoid artificial or heavily processed foods (which are mostly devoid of nutrients), eat plenty of whole foods (foods with ONE ingredient), drink plenty of water, and do not make overeating a regular habit (except for Thanksgiving… those calories don’t count).
At the end of the day nutrition is not a one-size-fits-all category so you may benefit from taking the time to explore what kind of eating style makes you feel the best, helps you manage your weight, and gives you the energy you need to lead with enthusiasm.
Okay, so you are convinced that taking care of your physical health is important. Now the hard part: where on earth do I begin?
Be Honest! When I start with a new client we do an assessment first. From there we determine what goals we need to establish. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard “I eat pretty healthy”. This is not a helpful way of assessing where you truly are in your habits of health. Get more specific and be brutally honest with yourself. How often are you grabbing processed foods? How often do you eat out? How many servings of fruits/vegetables do you eat daily? How many ounces of water are you drinking? How many calories are you taking in each day versus how many calories is your body using? It can be a pain, but it can be a very eye-opening exercise to take a week and track everything that makes its way into your mouth. Until you know the facts, you can’t plan successfully to make changes.
Take Responsibility! This one can be tough. I know it has been for me personally! It’s easy to fall into the trap of feeling like a victim of your circumstances and surroundings. Whether I blamed it on my children for leaving me with leftovers, or “I had a crazy week”, or I have Hashimoto’s so it’s just harder for me, or I didn’t have time to grocery shop, or I was out of town and didn’t have access to my own food…. You get my point. You can come up with a thousand reasons why it’s hard to focus on your health, but at the end of the day you are the only one who decides what goes into your mouth and what actions you take to improve your life. The question becomes, what do I want more: to be an excellent and energetic leader, or my excuses. Hear me compassionately: sometimes life gets in the way… most of the time we stand in our own way. Accept what you cannot change, and take responsibility for what you can.
Find Community! There is an old proverb that says “if you want to go fast go alone; if you want to go far go together.” If you want to make lasting changes in your health, you will need to find a community of like-minded individuals to support you for the long haul. There is no end goal when it comes to pursuing your health. Even if you have a “goal weight” in mind, your weight certainly isn’t the only factor that makes up your health, and you will need to adopt a healthy lifestyle to maintain. There will be good days and not so good days. It’s essential to have people who understand and can give you encouragement, tips, accountability, and inspire you to go further than you thought possible. First, ask the people closest to you to go on this journey with you. If they say no, ask them to respect you in your decision. Be the leader in this area and live a vibrant life, and you may end up inspiring them to change as well. Find a gym or fitness club that encourages member interaction. Find a sport or hobby that fires you up and fits into a healthier lifestyle. This can even look like finding and interacting with an online group dedicated to healthy living. Find your tribe so you can thrive.
Taking charge of my health was the single most impactful thing I have done to improve my communication, leadership, and zeal for life. It has not been an easy road, but it has been worth it. I am no longer that tired mom who doesn’t have the energy to show up for her life; I am a woman who is full of passion as I pursue my purpose both inside of my home and outside.
Your health affects nearly every aspect of your life. It plays a crucial role in your effectiveness as a leader and should be treated with care as an investment. Even if it feels like a mountain, my encouragement to you is to start climbing that mountain one small step at a time. Start by making an honest assessment, take responsibility for what you can control, and find the people that are going to help you get there.
By: Carla Gavilanez - Certified Personal Coach
Carla helps clients assess their physical health and provides the tools, encouragement, and accountability they need to meet their goals.