"Instead of thinking that exercising is just another thing you have to do, think of it as an opportunity to take back your time."
Naomi WhittelNew York Times Best Selling Author, Glow15
While fitting into your skinny jeans is always a welcomed sign you’re doing something right regarding your exercise routine, it’s not the only sign. In fact, it’s possible to lose weight and be unhealthy too. So I want to share my favorite ways to assess if your favorites moves are working for you.
Sleep: At night, your body flows in and out of different sleep cycles. It typically goes from light to deep sleep, back to light sleep and then into REM sleep and then the cycle repeats. When you’re exercising the right amount for your body, (and this could change daily so you need to adjust your exercise to meet your specific energy for each day) you will have greater REM and Deep sleep which is crucial for recovery. A body that’s over or under utilized may not slip into the right amount of sleep and thus feel groggy and unrested in the morning.
Appetite: The thinking that calories in and calories out will balance weight is outdated. The new science shows that hunger is hormonally driven. So exercising yourself out of a bad diet is futile – you can’t “burn” off your lunch. However, when you do rev up your metabolism, your body will want to adjust the “loss” by increasing your appetite. So if you want to know if you’re adding enough of the “good” stress exercise provides (more on that here) look at your appetite. If it has increased after doing autophagy –promoting workouts like HIIT and RET, that’s a good sign you’re doing something right. Don’t overeat after a stellar workout though – instead refuel with 4 – 6 ounces of hunger zapping protein.
Cravings: The right type of exercise will not only get your circulation flowing but when it does, you’ll also receive the benefits of increased neurotransmitters – the feel good ones like adrenaline and dopamine especially. These feel rewarding and that is big for anyone with cravings! At the root of many cravings is really an imbalance in the dopamine reward system in the brain. Who knew exercise was better than any attempt at willpower? Now you do!
Energy: Steady energy levels all day are what we all want right? When you first wake up in the morning your natural caffeine, otherwise known as your stress hormone, cortisol is at its peak. In fact, cortisol is what wakes your body up in the morning. The issue is when cortisol drops, so does your energy. The key to maintaining even energy levels is to design your lifestyle with the kind of diet and exercise that supports steady cortisol levels. Luckily, I’m a fan of feeling good all day so I’ve mapped out the program in my new book, Glow15 to include Nobel Prize-winning science that supports how to eat and exercise for perfectly sustained energy all day long.
Mood: Are you happy while exercising? Exercise should be fun and not feel boring. If you look forward to exercising and feel happier afterwards this is a great sign you’ve found a type of exercise that’s working for you.
Schedule Changes: When you start adjusting your schedule to fit in your favorite class or meet up with your girlfriends to workout together, this is a great sign you’re in a good groove. Sometimes you need to “pencil it in” to make exercise part of your day. That’s okay – check it off your to – do list and before you know it you’ll be making excuses to exercises instead of reasons why you can’t!
Skin: When you do a certain type of exercise called HIIT, you oxygenate your skin and bring increased blood-flow to the surface which helps provide a natural glow. HIIT involves working until you’re out of breath in short bursts. This is beneficial because that limited deficiency of oxygen activates autophagy. The reason why this works so well is that our bodies cycle through anaerobic exercise in which we’re deprived of oxygen; the scientific term for this is hypoxia. When you feel out of breath after pushing yourself, that’s your body trying to get oxygen. Think of a good HIIT session like a restorative facial – except that this exercise doesn’t leave you with leftover marks from uncomfortable extractions!
Belly Fat: The combination of the hormones insulin and cortisol can increase your belly fat. But when you increase your lean muscle mass, you utilize your insulin properly and decrease unnecessary circulating cortisol. If your exercise routine includes resistance training such as Pilates, yoga, swimming, weight training, or classes like Bar Method where you use your body to strength train (and dance!) you’ve likely noticed a decrease in belly fat. Keep going! If you haven’t incorporated this type of exercise into your routine yet and want to get ideas, look here.
Your Monthly Cycle: If your cycle is comfortable, regular and you don’t experience abnormal amounts of pain or discomfort, acne, cravings, or changes in weight, energy or sleep, this is a sign your exercise (and the kinds of foods you’re eating too) are working for you.
Biomarkers For Health: The right type and amount of exercise will help push your biology in the right place. Building muscle through RET and building your mitochondria (your energy powerhouses within your cells) are important for disease prevention. Biomarkers for health such as blood sugar, blood pressure, total cholesterol, triglycerides, HDL and LDL levels may also improve.