Check out this exclusive interview with NY Times best-selling author and featured speaker at the upcoming Women’s Wellness Conference™, Dr. Alan Christianson, NMD, and discover:
- The #1 early indicator of death (that even tops smoking and obesity) that will shock you.
- The role stress response plays in weight gain and why it is crucial to develop both physical and emotional adaptability.
- Why an ever-increasing toxic burden is making it much harder to lose weight and get a good night’s sleep.
- Dr. Christianson’s special tips for having the best sleep EVER and much much more!
Transcript of “Why Some People Struggle to Lose Weight, Part 2”
Rebecca Gauthier (RG): Can you talk about some sleep strategies our listeners could put into place to help them with overall good health but also to help their adrenals?
Dr. Alan Christianson (AC): For sure. The first one is to do it! (Laughter)
RG: Sometimes easier said than done, quite honestly. (Laughter)
AC: Well, so, the next question I ask in response to that is if someone can’t sleep or they won’t sleep? They are two different things.
You know, some people won’t sleep, they’ve just not prioritized it. There is an old idea that, “Huh. If I stay up a little later…if I get up a little earlier…I can get more stuff done,” and now the data is so clear that no, you can’t. You can spend a few more hours spinning your wheels, but you actually aren’t getting useful things done.
I was reading a great book talking about how among all the top executives it was once a badge of honor to talk about how little sleep someone could go on. But now it’s a badge of honor to talk about how much sleep they get, because they’ve figured out that the more you’re sleeping, the more productive you are. It’s the exact opposite of what we were taught.
So, that’s the first part: If someone WON’T sleep you have to realize that if you’re not sleeping because you’re trying to get things done, that actually doesn’t work. (Laughter) It’s the opposite!
Then, there are those that can’t sleep and you know, oftentimes it’s simple strategies.
Our brains are regulating that cortisol timing and one of the biggest cues that tells our brains when it’s time to wake up and go to sleep is just what kind of light we’re around. You know, how intense the light is, and whether it’s the golden reddish-amber hues of sunset or the more bright, vivid bluish hues of dawn. Our indoor light is closest to the light of dawn, but it’s not the same intensity.
So the hard part is that with indoor light, and also light from computers or whatnot, our brains don’t really get “morning” versus “night”. So, an easy first step is getting some light outside in the morning. A half hour of sunlight within an hour of waking tells your brain for the whole day, “Okay, now it’s time to wake up and in about another 16 hours it will be time to go to sleep.” So, that’s a simple trick.
RG: So, what about screen time? What do you advise your patients? By when is the cutoff for screen time?
AC: You know, definitely an hour prior to bedtime. A trick you can do too, along with being off computer, television screens, is to use a red light. That’s a closer replication of the light at sunset.
There are red light bulbs available on amazon.com or anywhere you’d get lightbulbs. Just put those in your reading lamp and make it a habit of about an hour before bed, shut off the computers, TVs, and just turn on that red light and, you know, read a normal book, and unwind. Go through some rituals and that will really clue your brain into thinking, “Okay, now it’s nighttime. Now it’s time to shut off cortisol,” and you sleep more effectively because of it.
RG: It seems like cortisol is something that just keeps coming up again and again when it comes to good adrenal health and you mentioned in your book that a bad cortisol slope is more dangerous than smoking from a study called, “The Whitehall II Study” that took place in 2011.
Can you talk a little bit more about what a cortisol slope is, what that means, and how we can just really take care of our cortisol so it works for us instead of against us?
AC: You know, the book was educational for me as well. (Laughter)
I learned a lot writing it and researching it. I had the general ideas, but when it got really deep into the literature, I was amazed.
So, that particular study. I was in the room that I’m in right now talking to you. This is my studio, my work-study space, and this was several years ago when I was compiling the manuscript. It was late at night. I was neglecting my sleep. I was not sleeping because I thought I was going to get more done and I stumbled across this study.
They tracked British civil servants between 2002 – 2006 and there were roughly 4500 people, men and women, a pretty big distribution for adults, mostly in their later 20s to later 60s; a big, big range. They did a lot of gathering of data of what someone weighed, what their blood pressure was, their cholesterol, questionnaires of do you smoke or not?
They also measured their morning cortisol versus their nighttime cortisol, and the morning should be high and the nighttime should be low. You can imagine that going into a line that drops down as you go to the right. They call that “The Cortisol Slope,” and then they just watched over the years, you know, who died unexpectedly. Then they went back afterwards and said, “Oh, okay. What were the things that we measured that best predicted that unfortunate outcome?”
It blew me away because people who were otherwise healthy – they were non-smokers, and lean, and had no issues with blood cholesterol or blood pressure – but they had a problem with their cortisol slope. They were not stress-resilient.
They were dying faster than the stress-resilient smokers that had a good cortisol slope. So, that adrenal rhythm predicted death more so than smoking status did!
I saw that and was like, “Oh my goodness.”
I was under the belief that I think a lot of us were that, you know, I didn’t smoke. I wouldn’t do things that were overtly dangerous for myself. But I’d push it a little bit here and there and skimp on self-care, skimp on sleep, and I thought, “Hey, I’m healthy enough, this really shouldn’t matter.”
The data suggested otherwise. The data suggested, “No, that’s probably the biggest thing that matters.” So, that left a strong impression on me.
RG: And, it was more than obesity. In your book, I think it said normal cortisol slope total deaths was 138, smoking was 136, and then obesity was 133. So, it even surpassed obesity.
AC: Yeah, it was worse than anything for total death risk.
RG: Maybe we could talk about obesity for just a moment because it’s something that you spent a lot of time researching and, you know, there is obviously a huge crisis going on in the world right now with respect to obesity.
I listened to an interview that you did and you mentioned how back in 1990, in Mississippi, the obesity rate rose to 15%, which was astonishing then, and then ten years later, by 2000, 15% was no longer the highest for the country. It had become the lowest.
RG: They had to rewrite the whole color code and now you’re saying that no state is lower than 20%.
AC: It’s pretty shocking, and you know, the big dogma about obesity, I think, is part of what holds us back. The dogma is that, forgive me for being crass, but that people are “fat and lazy.” That’s what we’re taught, and that’s what people are told to believe about themselves. The data…the data just does not support that.
There are no credible scientists that think that obesity comes about from bad behavior anymore and numbers like that make it very clear.
So, yeah, the rate of obesity has gone up from where it was quite rare, like in the 1990s where it was a small minority, to where now it’s the majority. The predictions are that by 2030 we’re expecting some states to be at 2/3 obesity.
AC: The other thing, people often think, “Okay, these are Americans,” with a lot of judgements against us. No, this is global.
The predictions are that by that same timeframe, the majority of the adults on the planet will be obese. There are some freaky numbers that I have not put out in a formal way, but I’ve done some math and calculations. If you add up on planet Earth, all the major wars since the year 1800, so World War I, World World II, Civil War, Persian Gulf, you name it, every single one. Think about just the tragedy of all the lives lost and think about the economic impact of all the costs. You can actually make numbers out of all of those. Like, what is a rough estimate of how many died and how much was spent on all the wars on all the planet?
What we’re projecting in the next decade from obesity is bigger numbers for both. It’s more deaths and about six times the cost for healthcare, more than any war from 1800 until now, and the rate of increase that we are seeing and also the way we are seeing it show up among animals in controlled environments, it has nothing to do with behavior or will power. It’s our bodies collectively being driven into this storage state, and it’s a survival mechanism that is no longer helping us.
The problem is that our strategies of blaming people and saying, “Hey look, you’re screwing up. You’ve got to try harder. You’ve got to starve yourself and you need to go do a lot more exercise than you are used to.” All of those things just worsen the stress response. The shame and the blame, and the big radical drops in food intake and the big increase in activity, all those things make the core problem worse.
That’s why I’m so jazzed to get a brand new message saying, “No. You don’t need to beat yourself up. You’ve got to actually soothe yourself and take care of yourself and make your body feel better. That’s the way out of it all.”
RG: In going back to the three factors you mentioned, the processed food, the polluted world, the pressures of daily life, how do you protect yourself environmentally from so many pollutants?
For myself, I live north of Los Angeles and because of the drought going on here in California, we have a very big, beautiful park, which in the middle is a school, and so part of the solution to not have to water the park was to go and completely spray it with Roundup®.
AC: Oh boy.
RG: Multiple times, which is what they did. They sprayed one day and then all the neighbors found out what was happening and we all rose up against the Park and Recreation Department and demanded that they never spray Roundup® again, but that is something that is so common and it’s just everywhere.
How do you protect yourself knowing that that toxic load is just everywhere?
AC: You know, it’s pretty wild, but that Roundup®, there is a breakdown product from it called 2-4-D and it’s a pretty toxic pesticide metabolite that stores in our fat tissues. Well, if you went down to Antartica and you cut a mile deep in the ice and you took a core sample from that, you can find 2-4-D in that ice sample. Yeah, so there is no…nothing….
RG: Glyphosate, right? Which is linked to autism.
AC: Yeah, there is nothing completely clean, but there are two sides to it. There are two sides to toxicology. There is what is coming in and what is going out. Those are the two big things we think about and we can’t completely stop what’s coming in but we can lower it.
You know, our biggest source actually is air. Indoor air. That’s like the biggest bomb of waste that we take in. You could be next to a place that’s polluted. You could be next to Three Mile Island and being inside with your windows closed is more dangerous air than it is having the windows open.
RG: Really? Because I closed all my windows when they sprayed the RoundUp!
You know, whenever you can, keep your home open so it offgasses. Air purifiers make a huge difference and just minimizing what’s coming in that you are breathing, that’s huge.
But the other big part of it is what’s going out of your body and the biggest factor there is just good, good hydration.
You know, you were asking me the question about what to do and I was taking a drink of of distilled water out of a steel flask.
Hydration is one of the biggest ones that’s important and underutilized. We’re eliminating liquid waste from urinating, from being well-hydrated, but also from sweating. So dry saunas are wonderful for your body.
I live in the Sonoran Desert and we don’t need no stinkin’ dry sauna! (Laughter)
We can go just outside and sweat pretty regularly. Sweating, a good sweat on a daily basis, is huge. Hugely cathartic.
The other big elimination of waste is breathing. Deep breathing. Diaphragmatic breathing exercises. All aerobic activities. Just speeding up respiration you end up turning over much larger amounts of polar compounds and many alkaloids.
And then the last big thing is just our liver, our bile, and our bowels. So regular, complete daily bowel movements, high amounts of fiber in the diet. Many fibers have been shown to have properties that are powerful for trapping waste in the stool and making them not reabsorb back into our bloodstream.