OK, how bored are you of the relentless weight-loss adverts that are running at the moment? I certainly am and I feel it is shamefully predictable of me to be adding to the new year weight loss hysteria, but I’ve been promising a full-on weight loss, or rather fat loss, blog for some time.
I’ve been putting it off because it felt like such a huge undertaking. However, as I was running around the Devil’s Punchbowl this morning with my mad hound, I was thinking it through and realised the key to making this blog effective is to keep it really simple because there are actually very few key factors to keep in mind if you want to permanently change your metabolism and therefore your body composition.
Below are bullet points that summarise the factors that will allow you to turn in to a fat-burner rather than a sugar-burner i.e. your body will utilise stored energy (fat) for energy production rather than triggering a sugar craving or hunger pangs to make you eat for energy. Making this shift means your appetite, your body composition and your energy levels will change for the better. Most of these points will have been covered in depth in previous blogs so this is a summary of the principles which, if you stick to, will stop the dieting madness and weight loss misery that comes around every new year. By the way, there’s nothing here that’s new or exciting, it’s just healthy eating principles that need not be dull, difficult or inconvenient. So here goes:
- Maintain low insulin levels by keeping blood sugar levels stable: this requires balancing any carbohydrates (sugars, starches) in your snacks and meals with healthy fats, protein and fibre. Never, ever eat a meal or snack that is dominated by grains (bread, rice, pasta, oats, corn, pastry etc.), starchy veg (potatoes, parsnips) or sweet foods including fresh and dried fruit.
- High insulin levels not only facilitate conversion of blood sugar to body fat, especially around the abdomen, high insulin levels also often result in a sudden blood sugar drop resulting in sugar cravings. Also high insulin interferes with your leptin signal reaching your brain. Leptin is the powerful hormone that gives you the message you need to eat less and release more energy, making you more inclined to exercise.
- Avoid foods that have a high glycemic index (GI): this is really the same point as above, as high GI foods make your blood sugar shoot up and therefore trigger high insulin levels. A helpful way to work out high GI foods is to avoid anything, in general, that has been popped, puffed, flaked, shredded, juiced, sugared, floured, ground or instant. There are exceptions, but this is a great general guide. Basically, eat foods as close to their natural state as possible.
- Allow yourself to get hungry: don’t just eat because the clock says it’s meal time – eat if you are hungry, eat slowly, chew well and stop when you’re full. Allowing yourself to feel some hunger, triggers a release of the hormone glucagon, which does the opposite to insulin, mobilising fat for energy.
- Ensure you have regular amounts of healthy fats in the form of nuts, seeds, oily fish, free range eggs, butter, extra virgin coconut and olive oil, fat from pasture fed, organic meats. Having these healthy fats on a daily basis will ensure your brain receives a strong leptin message.
- Dramatically reduce grains, especially wheat: grains are very easy to over eat but very hard to digest. They contain lectins that not only interfere with the absorption of many minerals in your food, they also bind with leptin receptors making your leptin message weak, triggering hunger signals and lethargy.
- Supplement with a high quality omega 3 supplement: fish or krill, not plant source. This essential fat will support fat mobilisation and hormonal balance, key to weight loss and improved mood.
- Keep well hydrated: small regular amounts of water, with lemon juice for added benefits is key for energy levels and appetite control.
- Never drink alcohol or caffeinated drinks on an empty stomach as this raises insulin levels.
- Eat plenty of fresh vegetables as well as pulses like lentils, butter beans and haricot beans as they are high in fibre, which keeps you feeling full, while containing great levels of nutrients. If you are deficient in vitamins and minerals, you will get food cravings and find it hard to feel satisfied even after eating a big meal.
- Allow yourself to have a little splurge one day a week: this is not only beneficial from a psychological perspective, it also makes it easier if you know you’ve got an occasion, meal out etc. where you may want some greater flexibility, and it also boosts metabolic processes and ensures that a strong leptin message is received in the brain.
- For a significant boost to fat loss, undertake High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) to rev up your metabolism and combine this with resistance training for muscle building as muscle is very metabolic.
There are some essential psychological factors that will determine your success:
- Manage your stress: if you are constantly stressed out, you are metabolically charged for fat storage. Also, your quality of sleep will be negatively affected which further adds to fat storage.
- Make eating well a positive decision not a form of punishment: if you want to eat something that you know is not healthy – if it is sugar laden and highly processed for example, make sure you are very clear with yourself why you want it, what purpose it will serve, and how you will feel afterwards. The key to long term health and weight loss is wanting to eat well and stay away from the ‘bad’ stuff, making it a positive choice not to eat the bad stuff rather than feeling like it’s a punishment and that you are missing out on something and being deprived by not having it.