I’ve discovered, quite by accident, one of the most important weight loss tools around….it’s called sleep. Now, I have heard that sleep is essential to your health but who knew it actually helped you feel stronger, thinner and less bloated.

Now, as you know, I’m not a doctor but training for the marathon has forced me to face my body and how it works like never before. I don’t think I’m much different than most people when it comes to sleep: On average I was getting around six hours per night. But trust me when I tell you that when you run 16 miles at one time your body needs more than six hours. And that got me thinking….

How much sleep does my body really need for me to perform at its peak?

Well, the answer surprised me since I thought I was doing pretty good in the sleep department but I have come to realize, like most people, I have probably been sleep deprived for years.

For one month I forced myself to get eight hours of sleep and the first thing I noticed was a reduction in bloat throughout the day and soon after, my stomach area was flatter (and I hadn’t been doing sit-ups). After one month, I felt stronger, thinner and more beautiful and the only thing different had been my sleep intake.

Now, when I don’t get my full eight hours I can tell the difference immediately. It’s almost scary how quickly our body goes into crisis mode and that is exactly what happens when we aren’t getting the sleep we need to be at our best.

During the holiday season, I invite you to give yourself the gift of sleep. Forget those extravagent decorations. Let go of baking five dozen cookes. Surrender to less than perfect and get some hard-earned sleep. Your body will thank you. And I know, just like me, you will be thanking your body, too!