Changing my eating habits has been such an amazing journey for me. I want to share with you 8 things I’ve learned about eating for sustainable fat loss.
1. Insulin needs to stay in check if our body is going to release fat from storage.
Insulin is a storage hormone and when it is present in our bloodstream, we are way more likely to store fat and build muscle than we are to burn fat. We keep insulin in check by only sparingly eating starches and sugar. The amount will vary for everyone but usually keeping your starchy/sugary carbs below 100g per day is a good place to start.
2. Focus on consuming fat-burning foods as often as your body needs them.
Fat burning foods are foods that are anti-inflammatory, non-insulin releasing and keep our hormones balanced. Examples are lean protein (especially grass-fed meat, wild caught fish and pastured eggs), organic non-starchy veggies (lightly steamed or roasted broccoli, kale, spinach, green beans, peppers, cucumbers etc), starches as tolerated (sweet potatoes, carrots, quinoa, etc) and healthy fats (butter, coconut oil, nuts and nut butters, etc). Listen to hunger signals and feed your body before you get too hungry.
3. Balanced hormones allow your body to burn fat.
By eating the way we listed in #2, your body will have a balanced hormonal profile. This will allow you to use fat as a fuel source instead of relying on you next sugar fix. It takes about 3 weeks of eating as listed in #2 to become an efficient fat-burner, especially if you were eating a Standard American Diet before.
4. Calories do matter…but hormones matter more.
Don’t expect to lose fat if you over eat fat-burning foods. We still need to create a deficit in order for our body to burn fat. That deficit is best created by appropriate portions at meals, a few intense workouts per week and more general movement on a daily basis. But also, don’t expect a caloric deficit to always result in fat loss, especially if you are eating inflammatory foods like sugar and gluten (remember the cookie diet?). An inflamed digestive tract might allow you to lose weight in the short term but will not allow for sustainable fat loss. Only an anti-inflammatory diet can help with this.
5. Exercise to build muscle, not to burn calories.
What I mean by this is that short, intense workouts with heavy weights, sprints and lifting to fatigue is waaaaaay better at making your body burn fat than training for a marathon. Strive to use heavier and heavier weights and build more lean muscle. Muscle is the fountain of youth when it comes to aging. The more muscle we have, the better our quality of life will be and the faster your metabolism will be. Exercising to burn calories (ie-long distance running all the time) can cause us to burn muscle and actually slow our metabolism down. It can also produce the stress hormone cortisol which can easily prevent fat loss when over-produced.
6. Stress has a major fat-storing effect.
Stress can come from lack of sleep, financial troubles, a bad relationship, being too busy, over-exercising. Regardless of where it comes from, stress is detrimental to our health. I learned this first had when I got diagnosed with adrenal burnout due to my high stress lifestyle. In a matter of one year, I bought a new house, got married, tripled the size of my business, lost a loved one and had a baby. I have always had the type of personality that has let me face stresses with an “Ok, just need to push forward and move on” attitude. This led to a state of complete exhaustion that took me a full year to recover from. If you have stress in your life, you need to also incorporate restorative activities: naps, leisure walks outside, baths, reading a good book, stretching, deep breathing, massage. These things lower our sympathetic, fight or flight, stressed out state and allow our relaxing, restorative self to heal our bodies. This, in turn, allows us to be better fat burners.
7. Heal your gut in order to burn fat and be healthy.
If our digestive system is inflamed, we will not burn fat, our immune system will be out of whack and it is easy to get frustrated with our fat loss journey. An inflamed body is a body on its way to disease and chronic illness. Chronic, low grade inflammation is the underlying condition of nearly all disease states including arthritis, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease and cancers. An inflamed body will not burn fat efficiently. Heal your gut by eliminating foods that inflame you (any or all of these: gluten, dairy, sugar, alcohol, GMO foods, processed foods, soy, corn, vegetable oils, nightshades). Stick to the foods listed in #2 and add probiotics, aloe vera, ginger, turmeric and coconut oil as much as you can. These have a soothing effect on our gut and on inflammation.
8. A quote from my high school softball coach, Mr. Falvo, applies here: “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.” Eating in a fat-burning way takes time and effort.
The more prepared you can be, the easier it will be to stay on track. When we are not prepared, we have to rely on our willpower which will never work for us in the long run. Always have easy snacks around (nuts, nut butter, protein bar, hard boiled eggs, Sami’s crackers, beef jerky, canned tuna or chicken, cut veggies and guacamole, dark chocolate, etc). Learn a few “go to” recipes that are easy to make in a pinch. Take Saturday or Sunday and cook for the week. This in it of itself will go a long way.
So, that’s my journey in a nutshell. I hope this helps keep you motivated and on track. Remember, health and wellness is only as far away as your next meal or snack.