1. Insulin needs to stay in check if our body is going to release fat from storage. We keep insulin in check by only sparingly eating starches (rice, potatoes, etc), and sugar (muffins, donuts, cookies, ice cream, etc). When we do eat starches, focus on high quality, gluten free options like root vegetables, quinoa, brown rice. Starch is best eaten (1/2 cup) post-workout and at dinner. Try to avoid it during the first half of the day.
2. Focus on consuming fat-burning foods as often as your body needs them. Fat burning foods are protein (especially grass-fed meat, wild caught fish and pastured eggs), fibrous veggies (lightly steamed or roasted broccoli, kale, spinach, green beans, etc), and healthy fats (butter, coconut oil, nuts and nut butters, raw grass fed cheese if tolerated, etc). Listen to hunger signals and feed your body before you get starving. If we get too hungry, our body will overcompensate during the rest of the day. This could lead to cravings and uncontrollable late-night eating. That being said, when we eat meals with clean proteins, fibrous veggies and high quality fats, we should not be hungry every 2 hours. If that's the case, then there is an issue with the amount you are eating. Aim for 3 meals a day and only add small snacks as needed.
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. We need to avoid foods that we have discovered are inflammatory to us (foods that cause water retention, sluggishness, bloating, etc) such as gluten, sugar, conventional dairy, processed foods, vegetable oils, foods high in pesticides and other toxins. When we eat in a hormonally balanced way, our body can use fat as a fuel source instead of relying on sugar. 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. Balanced hormones is very important but calories still matter. Don’t expect to lose fat if you over eat fat burning foods. We still need to create a caloric deficit each day 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. Our bodies are built to move so try to log 12,000 steps or more per day. Never stay sedentary for too long. This alone can imbalance hormones. 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 from the early 90’s?). This only works in the short term and does more harm to your body than help. Weight regain is almost guaranteed with this type of low calorie crash dieting.
5. Exercise to build muscle, not to burn calories. What I mean by this is that short, intense workouts with heavy weights 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. When we put ourselves through a workout in which our muscles burn a ton and we get breathless and sweaty, this signals our body to produce lots of human growth hormone at night when our body needs repair. Human growth hormone is key for building and maintaining lean muscle as well as burning body fat. Steady state cardio such as jogging or the elliptical does not result in the same human growth hormone production as intense weight training and can even end up in folks losing muscle mass and gaining fat.
6. Stress has a major fat-storing effect. Stress can come from lack of sleep, financial troubles, a bad relationship, being too busy, overexercising. Regardless of where it comes from, stress is detrimental to our health. I learned this first hand when I got diagnosed with adrenal burnout due to my high stress lifestyle. If you have stress in your life, it is imperative that you incorporate restorative activities into your life on a daily basis: naps, leisure walks outside, baths, reading a good book, stretching, deep breathing, massage. These things are extremely important for good health. Our stress hormone, cortisol, can be of great benefit when burning body fat but only when it is not chronically released. To much cortisol = belly fat storage.
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. This body will not burn fat efficiently. Heal your gut by eliminating foods that inflame you (any or all of these: gluten, dairy, night shades, sugar, alcohol, GMO foods, processed foods, soy, corn, vegetable oils). Stick to the foods listed in #2 and add probiotics, prebiotics and bone broth to your daily nutrition. These have a soothing effect on our gut. When our gut is healthy and we are eating in a fat burning way, fat loss often comes effortlessly.
8. A quote from my high school softball coach applies here: “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.” Eating clean 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.
9. Remember it takes 10,000 hours to be an expert at anything. The guys at Metabolic Effect taught me this. That means we still have lots of practice ahead of us in order for us to feel like eating this way is second nature. You will fall off track (for a day, or a week or even months). It’s not about falling off track, it’s about getting back on track each time and staying on track a bit longer. Be patient with yourself and trust the journey.
10. Find ways to enjoy eating like this. That means learn a great coconut flour muffin recipe, Paleo chocolate chip cookies and other recipes that feel like treats but really just help keep you on track. Also, strategic treats and cheats are important both mentally and physically for our bodies. I
t is way better for fat burning to have one or two cheat meals per week than it is to have little cheats each and every day.
Remember, we all fall off of the healthy eating bandwagon. Do not see that as a failure but another opportunity to get back on track. Use the suggestions above to re-focus your nutrition and start burning more body fat today.