Step Ahead Wellness Center Blog

Don't Let Lack of Sleep Derail Your Fitness/Weight Loss Goals!

Posted by deborah neiman on Tue, Feb 25, 2014 @ 11:15 AM

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Can’t stop snacking? Make sure you’re not skimping on sleep. Research
already shows a link between not spending enough hours in dreamland and weight
gain, but exactly how sleep contributes to weight gain and overeating isn’t
clear. According to some research, the answer lies with the way sleep affects
two appetite hormones that turn on and off the desire to eat.

The Dueling Duo: Leptin and Ghrelin

Leptin and ghrelin are hormones that control appetite control. Leptin is
produced by fat cells and sends a signal to the brain that curbs the desire to
keep eating. It essentially puts a brake on your appetite. Some obese people
don’t respond as readily to the satiety signals leptin sends because their body
is resistant to it, a condition known as leptin resistance.

Ghrelin is produced by cells lining the stomach and pancreas. It’s the
hormone that causes your to stomach to growl and sends you rushing to the
kitchen for a snack. Ghrelin is a hormone you don’t want working overtime if
you’re trying to control your weight.

Together, leptin and ghrelin working quietly behind the scenes in
conjunction with other hormone players to control your desire to eat. They’re a
powerful duo when it comes to appetite control.

How Sleep Affects Appetite

In a study published in Annals of Internal Medicine, researchers measured
the effects of inadequate sleep on appetite hormones in 12 healthy young men of
normal weight. They did this by restricting the amount the men slept for 2
night consecutive nights. On those nights, they were only allowed to sleep for
4 hours.

When researchers measured levels of appetite hormones in these
sleep-deprived young men, they found that their leptin levels had dropped by
18% and their ghrelin levels rose by 28%. Not surprisingly, their appetite also
increased, and they experienced more cravings for high-carb, energy dense foods.

Even though this study was small, other research also suggests that lack of
sleep boosts appetite and cravings for carbs. Some experts believe it’s an
underappreciated contributor to obesity.

Another Way Lack of Sleep Causes Weight Gain

If you deprive yourself of sleep, levels of the stress hormone cortisol rise. Cortisol is a hormone that breaks down muscle tissue, reduces resistance to infection and boosts belly fat, especially the most dangerous kind, visceral fat. Cortisol is another hormone that can trigger cravings for carbs and send you running to the vending machine for a high-calorie snack.

As you can see, a variety of hormonal players work overtime when you don’t
get enough shut-eye. That’s why sleep should be a priority in the same way
exercise is. If you’re working out regularly and aren’t shedding body fat, keep
a sleep diary for two weeks and see if you’re getting enough sleep. If not,
it’s time to re-prioritize.

To keep your appetite hormones in line, between seven and eight hours of
sleep a night appears to be optimal. Less than that and you’ll have a harder
time reigning in your appetite and may find it more difficult to resist
high-carb treats like doughnuts that usually get passed around the office.

The Bottom Line?

Don’t underestimate the importance of sleep for controlling your weight.
Lack of it can upset the delicate balance between your appetite hormones and
undermine your efforts to control your weight. Next time you’re tempted to
watch a late show on television, head to bed instead. You’ll feel better the
next day, and you may eat less.

For more healthy fitness tips contact our fitness director/certified
personal trainer, Noelle Lusardi, directly at  And be sure to visit our website at
for our latest weight loss program special and lose weight fast tips!



Medscape CME. “Getting Sufficient Sleep May Help Reduce Weight Gain”


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Sari's Skinny Eggplant Parm Recipe

Posted by deborah neiman on Fri, Dec 13, 2013 @ 01:54 PM

Skinny Eggplant Parmigiana Sandwiches

skinny eggplant parm image resized 600

Makes 4 sandwiches.  The skinny per sandwich: 302 calories

You can use leftover baked eggplant from this recipe as a side dish (97 calories for 2 slices). Simply double the ingrdients for the “Baked Eggplant” recipe below, if using the whole eggplant.

Part I: Baked Eggplant

1 eggplant, sliced into 16 rounds—You only need 8 slices for this recipe (1/2 of a 1 lb eggplant)
¼ cup egg beaters
2 teaspoons olive oil
2/3 cup Italian bread crumbs
Nonfat cooking spray
Part II: The Sandwich
4 multigrain Arnold sandwich thins (or “120 calories” of whole grain bread)
4 teaspoons grated parmesan
1 cup pre-washed baby spinach
2 Tablespoons part-skim ricotta cheese
1 cup part-skim shredded mozzarella cheese
1 cup pasta sauce
1. Rinse & slice eggplant. Place eggplant slices in colander; sprinkle with salt. Place colander over large bowl; let stand at least 30 minutes to draw out the water. Rinse & dry eggplant slices to remove excess salt.
2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray.
3. Beat egg beaters in bowl. Arrange bread crumbs on shallow plate. Dip each eggplant round into egg and then coat with bread crumbs. Arrange breaded eggplant slices on foil sheet.
4. Drizzle oil over eggplant and bake for 30 minutes until crisp and golden brown.
5. Combine spinach and ricotta cheese. Heat for 1-2 minutes on nonstick skillet, until spinach wilts. Set aside.
6. Arrange 2 slices of baked eggplant on each sandwich thin. Top each sandwich with ¼ cup mozzarella cheese, 1 teaspoon parmesan, ¼ of the ricotta-spinach mixture and ¼ cup sauce. Bake sandwiches in oven until cheese melts, about 3 minutes.


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