Weight control benefits of sleep and exercise

Lose weight while you sleep! You may have heard claims such as this connected to fad diet advertising. Well, it turns out that there may be some truth to the promise that getting a good night’s sleep can help with weight management. Research presented at the annual Food and Nutrition Conference (FNCE) of The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics held in Nashville this year included studies on the effect of sleep deprivation on food intake. Bottom line: The less you sleep the greater your odds of weighing more. Registered dietitian Devon Golem, professor at New Mexico State University, explained that lack of sleep can disrupt the hormonal regulation of appetite leading to increased total calorie intake.

“When you’re exhausted you’re not making the best decisions about what to eat,” said registered dietitian Tamara Melton, clinical instructor at Georgia State University and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “You might seek out high-calorie high-sugar comfort foods or snack more often to stay awake. Plus you may be too tired to exercise.”

How much sleep is healthy? According to the National Sleep Foundation, adults should get between seven and nine hours of sleep. Meanwhile, the national average is six-and-a-half hours. “Sleep deprivation is an epidemic in the U.S.,” said Katherine Finn Davis researcher at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

Shedding light on shedding weight

There’s good news and bad news in the battle against obesity in the U.S. “I think we’re at a turning point,” said Dr. William Dietz of George Washington University. “In the last 10 years, we’ve seen no significant difference in the incidence of obesity.” Some states including New Mexico and Mississippi have even seen declines in obesity rates.

“It’s sort of leveled off,” said Dr. Jim Hill, of the University of Colorado. “Is it something we’re doing right? I don’t even think we’re close to knowing.” Hill pointed out that the real challenge is helping dieters over the long haul. “We are wildly successful at losing weight but also wildly successful at gaining it back.” So research on obesity treatment has turned to the psychological components of mindset and motivation.

It’s no longer a simple math problem of balancing calories in with calories burned through physical exercise. Anyone who’s ever walked on a treadmill and seen how long it takes to rack up 100 calories will be happy to hear this. Hill said, “Exercise does way more than burn calories. It helps regulate appetite and metabolism. It’s more than calories in and out.”

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Carolyn O’Neil is a registered dietitian and author of “The Slim Down South Cookbook.” Email her at carolyn@carolynoneil.com.