Feasting for Fat Loss
Ever since dieting became part of general small talk, it has gained the reputation for being a period of deprivation and struggle. This has caused most of us to believe we're stuck in an impossible situation where we want to achieve a fit and healthy body, but also avoid unnecessary pain and suffering and therefore have to choose one over the other.
I don't believe we have to. I think there are 5 things we could change to how we eat that will allow us to see actual maintainable weight loss without much difficulty or deprivation.
Reduce inflammatory food
Reducing inflammatory food from your diet will inevitably result in quick weight loss. By eliminating it, your body will get the chance to heal from systemic inflammation as a result of the oxidative effects of these foods. Apart from the quick drop in weight after a few days or perhaps a week or two, you can also expect to see clearer skin, more regular bowel movements, sustained energy levels, and reduced cravings. A complete guide to eliminating processed and inflammatory foods from your diet can be found here. But for now, a good place to start would include the following:
Sugar - highly processed and nutritionally devoid substance that also inhibits your immunity
Partially hydrogenated vegetable oil - these oils are highly susceptible to heat, light, and air and are exposed to all three during their processing, which further increases your chances of oxidation and chronic inflammation.
Grains - vegetables and fruit will offer you more vitamins, minerals, a sufficient supply of fiber, and a lot fewer carbohydrates (carbs drive higher blood sugar levels, which drives increased insulin, which drives fat storage) than you will get from your "heart-healthy" sugar-laden, anti-nutrient filled bowl of cereal
Legumes - a little less offensive than grains, but containing the same types of anti-nutrients along with a significant amount of carbohydrates, makes legumes particularly problematic to those who experience digestive sensitivities.
Eat real food
Looking at your bare pantry cupboards after the severe elimination of step #1, you probably think I was being ironic when choosing the title for this blog post. But, fear not, the feasting is about to commence. After getting rid of everything that was keeping you from becoming the fittest, leanest, strongest, and healthiest version of yourself, you must be ready to fill the available space with food that will help you obtain it.
Before giving you a list of what food to buy, consider where you will be buying it. What vendor will bring you closest to the origin of your food? Do you have a few local suppliers that can provide you with fresher, perhaps even cheaper, and better quality options that you might get at the general supermarket? What about trying out a farmer's market?
Now, though, the question is, what to buy? (Quick tip: do you need an ingredients list to see what it is? Then it's probably not good for you)
Vegetables - colorful, locally grown, and/or organic
Meat, Fish, Fowl - emphasize local, pasture-raised or certified organic
Healthy fats - cooking with animal fats, avocado oil, butter, and coconut oil; while eating/dressing your food with avocados, coconut products, nuts, seeds, and their butter, olives, extra virgin olive oil
Fruits - local, fresh, high-antioxidant (berries are #1 here), choosing organic when it comes to the dirty dozen
* The Dirty Dozen
The 12 fruits and vegetables that are more susceptible to pesticides even after they are washed
Strawberries; Spinach; Kale, collard, and mustard greens; Nectarines; Apples; Grapes; Bell and hot peppers; Cherries; Peaches; Pears; Celery; Tomatoes
* The Clean 15
The fruits and veg that have little to no trace evidence of pesticides and are much safer to eat
Avocadoes, Sweet corn, Pineapples, Onions, Papaya, Sweet peas (Frozen), Asparagus, Honeydew melon, Kiwi, Cabbage, Mushrooms, Cantaloupe, Mangoes, Watermelons, Sweet potatoes
High-fat dairy - full-fat milk, cream, and yogurt, aged cheese, fermented dairy (kefir, sour cream)
Nutritious carbs - Sweet potatoes, squash, quinoa, wild rice
Dark chocolate - 75% + cacao content
Herbs, spices, and extracts - check the ingredients list for added sugars, preservatives, colorants, and fillers to avoid
Supplements - Multi-vitamin, Omega3, Prebiotics, Probiotics, Protein/meal powder, Vitamin D3, Vitamin K2
Set the table
When I think back to eating meals at my grandparents' house, I remember that she would always lay the table with care and precision: tablecloth, porcelain plates, knives and forks, and everyone's favorite condiments. There was something special in the anticipation of seeing her do that. I would get excited about the meal we were about to enjoy, the friendly banter, sometimes deep discussions that will ensue; and always somewhat of a celebratory experience each time we would sit down at that table. Your whole focus during your time at that table would be on the food and the people you enjoyed it with. And by the time you leave that table, you would feel completely satisfied, physically yes, but also emotionally, spiritually, and intellectually.
We sometimes miss out on this whole-person dining experience, living in the fast-food, stress-filled modern world that we do. But it is possible. With conscious effort, we too can cultivate a specific time each day where we stop; focus on the people we love and the food we enjoy, and have a meaningful, edifying experience that will not only serve us in building a healthy body, but also healthy relationships.
I understand this won't be possible for all of us, all the time, but I would like to urge you to consider the available time and opportunity you have to prioritize this whenever possible.
I'll leave you with some sound advice given in Mireille Guiliano's book "French Women Don't Get Fat:
Eat only at the table, only sitting down
Never eat out of cartons
Use real plates and decent napkins, if you have them - to emphasize the seriousness of the activity
Eat slowly, chew properly
Do not watch tv or read the newspaper (I'll add any electronics for that matter)
Think only about what you are eating, smelling, and savoring every bite
Practice putting down your utensils between every few bites, describing to yourself the flavors and textures in your mouth
Examine your satiety signals
This topic includes various situations where you might experience hunger/satiety. First, there is the time you are actually eating and to know when you feel satisfied enough to stop. Then there is the time between meals when you might experience hunger or cravings and want to reach for a snack. And the final part is when you have been fasting since your last meal and are considering breaking your fast to have your next meal.
Meals: Eating until uncomfortably stuffed is not a new sensation for many of us. This usually happens when eating without awareness, being distracted by the TV, something you're reading, or scoffing something down in a hurry without regard for what (and how much) you are consuming. A good practice would be to slow down and focus and if it can't be practiced with sufficient care and attention, to perhaps postpone your eating window (fast) until a later time, perhaps when you can be more attentive and responsible for what you are consuming. Who knows, you might even end up enjoying it more.
Snacking: Feeling hungry or experiencing cravings between meals usually raises red flags for me. Have you been eating enough at your previous meal? What did you eat? Protein and healthy fats have particular satiating qualities which might prove to help you hold out until your next meal. Have you eliminated grains, sugar, and legumes from your diet? This food significantly spikes your blood sugar levels, which in turn sparks an insulin response. The insulin transports the glycogen (the storage form of glucose - from carbs) into liver and fat cells, which drops the blood sugar remarkably, leaving you craving sugar, and with little energy.
Fasting: Once you've eliminated food that plays havoc on your digestive system and your hormones (keeping you feeling hungry, constantly craving, and with fluctuating energy levels); and have replaced it with whole foods that keep you feeling full for longer; you won't experience such a dramatic hunger sensation that you might have taken as normal, until now. You might realize you are hungry but if the situation doesn't permit it, you can carry on and extend your eating window until a bit later with no hassle. When you do decide to eat, Mark Sisson from Mark's Daily Apple has coined an acronym that comes in handy when you should consider and this is to eat WHEN:
When Hunger Ensues Naturally
Track your numbers
I don't believe it's particularly necessary to track your macros, your calories, or your weight for that matter. Especially if you are seeing improvements in your health and the results you were hoping for. But, if this is not the case, numbers can serve the purpose of telling you where you can make improvements and how you are making progress towards your goals.
Macros: There are many different food tracking apps on the market today, making it easy to track your macros, calories, and weight, among other things, on the go. To determine your macros
Protein: adequate protein intake is critical for healthy metabolic function and the preservation of lean muscle mass. You need to obtain an average daily intake of around 1.5 to 2.2 grams per kilo of lean body mass. To calculate lean body mass, you first need to estimate body fat percentage. If you have a recent DEXA scan, use that. Otherwise, use the Navy body fat method and one of the many online calculators. Multiply your body fat percentage by your total body weight to determine your fat weight. Then, subtract that number from your body weight to get lean body mass. For example: # kg of lean body mass x 1.5 grams = x grams per day.
Carbs: For lifelong health, weight management, and disease protection, the average person needs no more than an average of 150 grams or less per day. High-calorie burners, such as competitive athletes, who already maintain ideal body composition can probably consume somewhat more with no ill effects because the glucose will go to meet immediate energy needs and fill glycogen stores. For effortless weight loss, a recommendation of 100 grams or less per day would be suggested; while keeping under 50 grams would support rapid fat loss and cognitive benefits via Intermittent fasting and ketosis.
Fat: Recommended fat intake is generally not an absolute number unless specific calculations are performed to lose a certain amount of body fat over a certain period. Rather, fat intake should align with obtaining dietary satisfaction at every meal. Although high-fat foods are calorically dense, they have a high satiety factor and do not stimulate an insulin response.
Calories: Calories-in versus calories-out is a flawed and oversimplified scientific model that has been used for decades to convince people that eating less and moving more is the only way to lose weight. But seeing that your BMR (basal metabolic rate) decreases or increases according to your caloric intake, makes this a losing battle from the start. Calories become important to track once you have improved the quality of the food you consume. Food that improves your insulin sensitivity and keeps your insulin response relatively low therefore improves your ability to burn fat. For example, the same amount of calories from broccoli vs. a chocolate bar would have a significantly different impact on your fat-burning potential as well as your satiety levels from those calories. Bottom-line, because of the natural fiber, nutrients, and enzymes contained in whole foods, you will feel full sooner, prompting you to eat less and with the added benefit of keeping your insulin spike much lower, therefore keeping you in fat-burning mode for longer.
Weight: Whether or not, and how often, you track your weight on your bathroom scale will be determined by your relationship with it. Some people get triggered by whatever data they encounter there - throwing in the towel when the scale moves upward or justifying a binge when the scale goes down. If you see the number on the scale as just that, a number - one form of data that gives you information towards if you are on track or not. I would however suggest you combine this with body measurements, a full-body selfie - and perhaps keeping track of your SHMEC (a term used by Dr. Jade Teta - see below for an explanation) to get a more holistic view of your progress.
SHMEC: Sleep - Hunger - Mood - Energy - Cravings
By following these steps you will end up establishing an effortless relationship between food and fat loss. Losing weight can be difficult, but it doesn't have to be.
Let me know in the comments what step, in your experience, you have found the most success with.