There is so much information available about “how to eat right.” With the wealth of info that is out there it makes diet-hopping pretty easy to do.
Diet-hopping: To frequently bounce like Tigger from Winnie The Pooh from one diet to another. Convinced that it is not working fast enough, is too difficult, or was only a temporary solution to begin with.
The word diet in itself has such a negative connotation to it. When you hear it what are some of the first things you think of?
- Deprivation: Not being able to eat certain foods that you love.
- Temporary: “I’m on a diet.” Typically has a short-term goal behind it. Fitting into an outfit or getting ready for beach season for example. When someone is on a diet they are typically only on it for a short period of time and then it’s back to eating whatever soon there after.
- Boring: Many think that a diet consists of chicken and broccoli… over….over….and over again.
- Starving: Always being hungry. ALWAYS.
- Anti-social: When you think about being on a diet do you think about not being able to go out. Eat with friends and family or having to avoid other social situations?
Man, that is no way to live. There are 5 big tips you can apply whether you’re a vegetarian, Paleo, or following some other nutritional approach that will guarantee a healthier, happier, and more limitless you.
DIETS… DON’T BOTHER
First things first. Don’t waste your time going on a diet. If you’re embarking on a nutritional approach that you don’t plan to stay on for very long or do not think you can keep up for very long than don’t bother with it.
Aside from that diets actually make you fat. Your body has a build in defense system to keep you from starving.
Back in the day our ancestors never deliberately cut calories. They were to busy hoping and praying they would get the chance to eat that day. Food was scarce and each day was a crap shoot whether or not they would be able to eat. To combat this the body developed a system to keep our ancestors from starving to death.
One of the big playa’s in this system are your fat cells. When fat stores get to low your body sends a message to various hormones (more in a few on this) in the body in order to slow down metabolism, slow down fat loss, and make you hungry as hell in order to get those fat stores back up. Yep, the very thing you want to go away doesn’t even want to. Those damn fat cells try to stick around as much as possible in order to keep you safe. So fat is not actually just used for energy. It actually acts as a mailman, delivering important messages to hormones in your body.
Now without getting all kinds of Bill Nye Science Guy on you, here is how this system works. It’s a pretty basic system actually. Your hormones are essentially playing telephone with each other delivering message after message.
1. Leptin is produced by the fat on your body. When fat stores get to low the hormone leptin sends a message to a gland found in your noodle know as the hypothalamus.
2. If there is enough fat on your body the hypothalamus keeps your metabolism and hunger at bay If there is not enough fat on your body this is when the hypothalamus freaks out.
3. As your fat cells start to shrink the hypothalamus panics. “Oh shit!” It says. We’re not getting enough calories and are losing fat like crazy. We’ve got to slow this bad boy down. So that is exactly what it does. The hypothalamus sends a message to the thyroid gland saying “slow down the metabolism dude, I think we’re starving.”
4. Next your hypothalamus will increase your appetite. It wants you to eat, eat, and eat some more in order to replenish some of those fat stores so that you can stay safe if food is scarce again. So what you’ve got now is a slower metabolism and an appetite that rivals those from the movie “Alive.”
5. This is where it gets crazy. The reason you hit a plateau in your weight loss efforts are for the reasons given above. A slow metabolism and an increased appetite lead to less fat loss. Guess what most people do when fat loss slows or hits a plateau?
Most cut more calories from their diet and start to exercise even more. All this does is slow the metabolism even more and make your appetite even more ravenous.
The reason most people re-gain the weight they’ve lost and then some is because the body just went through a famine and is worried it will happen again. The minute you start to eat normally the body hoards away the calories as fat stores just in case you decide to “diet” again. The more you repeat this cycle the worse off your body and metabolism are and the more fat you will accumulate and store over time.
NOW HERE’S THE GOOD NEWS
Just as your body doesn’t want you to get to skinny it also doesn’t want you to get to fat either. Remember, our ancestors had to stay in tip-top shape in order to run from predators, chase their food, and run from the opposite sex 🙂
When your body senses a few to many calories coming in and fat storage is starting to increase the body responds in a similar manner as when you are not eating enough. It sends messages throughout the body to speed up your metabolism and decrease your appetite so that fat cells shrink to a certain set point.
Now I know what you might be thinking. My body (leptin, hypothalamus, and delivery system) must be broken. In actuality, that might be true. The delivery system in which leptin tells the hypothalamus how much fat you have on your body can in fact be busted.
A few ways in which your messenger system can be broken:
2. General overeating. Eating too fast, too much at one sitting, not giving the body time to feel full.
3. Excessive exercise. Over-training can be a hell of a stressor on your body. Poor food choices, bad sleeping habits, combined with hours and hours in the gym can cause your hormones to get all out of whack.
4. Lifestyle stressors. As mentioned above, lack of sleep, environmental, job, relationship, and other lifestyle stressors can really mess up your body’s ability to relay the fat burning message.
There are a few others as well but those are the main culprits.
THE STARVATION SYSTEM
When your body thinks that your fat stores are too low or the message isn’t being sent to the hypothalamus that everything is a-ok a hormone known as cortisol gets jacked up. Cortisol is a stress hormone in the body that essentially helps to store fat and break-down muscle (with that said it does have some positive affects as well.)
When your cortisol gets all pumped up a hormone in your stomach known as Ghrelin and another in your brain known as NPY increase your appetite and force you to crave high energy foods like carbohydrates and sugar that mess with your blood sugar and promote fat storage.
Sean Croxton of Undergroundwellness has a wonderful passage in his book The Dark Side of Fat Loss simplifying what was just outlined.
The starvation defense system: By the numbers
1. Leptin declines due to reduced fat stores, or is perceived to be low due to leptin resistance.
2. Low leptin inhibits thyroid hormone conversion, thus slowing metabolism.
3. Low leptin increases cortisol, which stores fat and burns muscle.
4. Low leptin increases NPY, which makes you crave carbohydrates (the bad kind).
5. Low leptin increases ghrelin, which makes you hungry.
6. Your slow metabolism makes you want to sit on the couch all day.
7. Your appetite is raging. You lose control and eat everything in the fridge.
8. It’s over! Weight loss program broken.
9. Your body feverishly stores fat to replenish its stores.
10. Your body stores extra fat just in case you ever feel like inducing another famine.
11. At some point you go on another calorie-restricted diet.
12. Back to Step One.
I highly recommend picking up Sean’s book if you are interested in learning more about the science behind fat loss.
We just covered a ton of information together. I know it can seem a little overwhelming. But if you take one thing from what we’ve discussed thus far please have it be this.
You can not outsmart your body.
FIXING YOUR SYSTEM AND SETTING YOURSELF UP FOR SUCCESS
By now you just might want to know what approach is best in order to keep your messaging system, hormones, and all that good stuff in check so that you body can run optimally and drop body fat while increasing lean muscle.
Well, there really is no one size fits all approach. Certain populations have thrived on a higher carbohydrate diet like the Okinawa’s. While others fared well on high fat, moderate protein, and virtually no carbs like the Inuit tribe. You’ll have to experiment a little on your own to find which foods your body responds best to. However, there are some basic principles that we could all stand to apply in order to achieve success.
Definitive guide to eating well
Take advantage of this free document I created: Definitive guide to eating well. It will go along with the following 5 tips.
1. Focus on quality first and then quantity.
The biggest S.O.B when it comes to screwing up your hormones and keeping your body from losing fat is insulin. When your blood sugar is out of whack so to will the delivery system we talked about earlier along with the fat burning process.
One way to make sure that your insulin stays in check is by emphasizing real foods. What is real food? To me that means items with less than 3 ingredients on the label and those ingredients you must be able to pronounce.
The best approach is to buy food with one ingredient and one ingredient only. Free-range chicken, grass-fed beef, broccoli, asparagus, coconut oil, and olive oil would be great examples. Download the Real Food Chart for help with food selection. You’re body is looking for nutrients when you eat and not simply to feel full. If a limited supply of vitamins and minerals are supplied your body will continue to crave carbohydrates, sugar, and other foods that enter the system quickly but provide little benefit.
Fill your plate with mostly veggies and one to two palm sized servings of a protein source like lamb or salmon. Add a 2-4 tablespoons (for a man) or 1-3 tablespoons (for a woman) of a healthy fat like coconut oil and you’ve got yourself a healthy meal that will keep your blood sugar stable and appetite at bay.
Big tip: Swap grains with greens. If you are used to eating a sandwich for lunch opt for a big ass salad or a lettuce wrap.
2. Slow down and eat mindfully
It takes a good 20 minutes for your belly to let your head know you’ve had enough to eat. Plus, eating to quickly can impair digestion and even affect blood sugar. When you slow down you are less likely to overeat.
When you eat, simply eat and enjoy your meal. Close your eyes while you chew and concentrate on the flavors. Use chopsticks instead of traditional utensils to slow you down. Hell, eat with your opposite hand if you have to. When it is time to eat, try to only do that. Avoid the TV, computer, or any other distractions. However, if you do enjoy reading while eating (guilty as charged) try taking a bite and then reading a page. Keep alternating until you’re done.
3. Limit snacking
Wait a minute… I thought I was supposed to eat 6 small meals a day to keep my metabolism running high? Well, that isn’t exactly true. When it comes to meal frequency I suggest doing what works best for you. Personally, my schedule does not allow for me to sit and eat good whole food meals mindfully 5-6 times per day (nor do I like to eat that much). I prefer to eat three to four times per day.
A major problem with snacking is that it usually leads to poor food choices that can affect blood sugar. Instead of nutritionally dense meals containing plenty of vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, protein, and vegetables, most snacks consist of limited nutrients and are usually carbohydrate heavy.
Try focusing on eating meals throughout the day as opposed to snacks. You may need to schedule them at specific times depending on your schedule but if possible, just listen to your body and when you are hungry eat and when yo are not… well, do not.
If snacks are something you need to include try to emphasize fats as snacks as opposed to carbohydrates or even protein. Fats give a neutral response to your blood sugar while carbohydrates and protein both can elevate it. Good snack choices would include a handful of macadamia nuts, a spoonful or two of coconut oil, or maybe some hard grass-fed cheeses (if you tolerate dairy well).
4. Water water everywhere – so lets all have a drink!
A sure-fire way to screw up your blood sugar and add extra calories to your day is through liquid calories. Stick with water, unsweetened tea, and black coffee (no more than 1 cup per day and before noon). If you need a little variety to your water try adding lemon, lime, chopped berries, or mint leaves.
Watch out for sneaky calories like creamers, sugar, milk, and other additives to coffee and tea. Steer clear of juices as well. If you want orange juice just eat an orange.
5. Be Richard Branson. Be prepared
A major downfall in most nutritional approaches is simply not being prepared. I understand that you’re busy and often your nutrition is the last thing you want to worry about. But I’ll say this – make the commitment and be consistent when it comes to your health.
Taking the time to eat properly, rest, exercise consistently, and daily de-stressing practices like yoga, tai-chi, and meditation really go a long way. Sir Richard Branson himself calls exercise and nutrition his ultimate productivity hack.
By taking care of your body you’ll have more energy, be more confident, and much happier.
Being prepared doesn’t have to be difficult or be extremely time-consuming. I created a kitchen make-over document for you to rid you and your family of not so healthy foods, supply proper utensils and cookware, and stock your fridge with nutritious goodies.
You don’t have to be Bobby Flay in the kitchen in-order to create healthy meals. A good strategy is to pick 5-10 go-to recipes that are quick and easy for you to create. Wear those bad boys out and when you get sick of them find another 5-10. Here are two great cookbooks from pals of mine.
However, in all honesty all you need is a protein, a veggie, and a healthy fat. Toss in some spices of your choosing and you are off to the races.
Get into the habit of cooking in bulk. Take a look at your schedule. Most of us have an hour or two to spare on Sundays. Spend this time prepping enough meals to get until at least Wednesday. Then on Wednesday, spend a little time that evening while watching your favorite show, or chatting with loved ones to prepare meals for Thursday and Friday. If you have kids or are married this is a great opportunity to do something fun together and discuss the importance of taking care of the body.
Take pictures of what you make. Be proud of your work 🙂
WHERE TO GO FROM HERE
Practice makes perfect. So yes Allen Iverson… I’m talk’n about practice. The five tips above are some very basic strategies you can start to apply TODAY in order to make gains towards your health and fitness goals.
However, sometimes it can be a little overwhelming to tackle too much too soon. Try practicing one tip per week. After five weeks you will successfully have achieved five healthy habits. Then, all you’re left with is consistency.
You got this.
What do you struggle with most when it comes to developing health habits? How can I helps? Post below or contact me directly.
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