One of the great things about taking a holistic approach to health is that it makes you realize just how interconnected our body’s systems are. A perfect example is a connection between weight, specifically body fat, sleep, and your health in general. If you struggle with sleep AND weight loss, you may be surprised to know that reducing body fat could be a solution to both of these problems. Sure, we know that reducing body fat sounds like a major challenge, but it may be easier than you think.

Break the Sleep-Weight Cycle

One of the biggest challenges with trying to lose weight is that excess body fat can interfere with sleep, but lack of sleep can also be a factor that causes you to gain weight. As Men’s Health explains, excess weight can lead to issues that make it harder to sleep, such as sleep apnea. At the same time, research has shown that lack of sleep changes chemical signals in the brain that affect appetite, making you hungrier and more likely to crave junk food. In addition to eating more unhealthy food, another way that lack of sleep can cause weight gain is that it leads to fatigue, making it harder to find the energy to exercise. While this cycle may seem frustrating, the situation is far from hopeless! The trick is to find sleep solutions that work now, despite other problems. For example, sleeping on an old mattress, or one that’s too small, could play a role in back pain and sleep quality in general. As such, it’s important to upgrade your mattress if the one you currently have causes you pain or disrupts your sleep.

Find the Right Diet

Lots of people diet to try and lose weight, but to lose body fat, you have to be more intentional about what you eat. For example, Muscle & Fitness recommends a diet that limits starchy carbs, plus rotating the carbs you do eat. This means setting “low carb days” where you eat fewer foods like potatoes, pasta, and bread. You can also find ways to substitute high-carb foods with low-carb options. For example, if you love rice, try swapping white rice for brown rice. And while some people find brown rice a little tricky to cook, investing in a high-quality rice cooker — be it a basic or tricked-out model — can make preparing this dish much easier.

Also, don’t forget about hidden calories in drinks too, with alcohol, sodas, and sweetened coffee drinks being the biggest culprits. While limiting these sugary beverages, you can burn even more fat by increasing the amount of water you drink.

Remember, too, that a fat-burning diet isn’t all about limitations. In fact, eating smaller meals more frequently helps burn fat faster. Make sure you’re eating lots of vegetables, healthy fats like salmon, plenty of protein, and foods that are high in fiber.

Get Into Fat-Burning Fitness

Any exercise you can do safely is good for your health, but certain types of exercise are better than others at burning fat. PartnerMD explains how combining strength and cardio is ideal because building muscle and keeping your heart rate up are the two best ways to beat fat — and getting both at the same time is more efficient than doing one or the other. The easiest way to do this is through HIIT workouts or circuit training.

The reality is that many people who want to lose weight simply go about it the wrong way. When you know how to sleep, weight and other health issues like mental health are all connected, you can make sure your health goals are focused on intervening where it matters most. When you do, you’ll see more than just a smaller number on the scale. You’ll see body fat fall away, too, which will help you sleep better, feel better, and have a fuller life overall.

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