In my last post I talked about how ‘Less can be more’ when it comes to training and that it’s not necessarily the amount of time spent exercising that revs our body into a fat burning fitness machine, but the way we exercise.
The aim of that last article and this one is to challenge the traditional belief that getting fit, lean and healthy, is not just about ‘calories in versus calories burnt’ – not to say this is totally false, but there is just so much more to the equation.
Granted, the over consumption of food (particularly processed crap) and an inactive lifestyle spent mostly sitting on ones derriere, is a ticket to the undesirable destination of increased fat gain and ill health. For someone that has consistently followed that kind of lifestyle, adopting the approach of increased activity and decreased junk food will almost certainly give positive results. However the ‘calories in versus calories burnt’ formula works by the law of diminishing returns when it comes to budging those last 5 to 10 kilos and the old plateau scenario kicks in.
Plus there is in the effect on your overall health that is to be considered. I discussed in part 1 how too much exercise (particularly cardio) can cause ill effects on your health and metabolism such as increased cortisol and injuries, general wear and tear on your body and possible adrenal fatigue. Now I’ll chew the fat with you about why viewing your nutrition purely by amount or calorific value can also hoodwink your health, well being and fat loss goals.
So the whole ‘more can be less’ food thing – what am I getting at? Well, if your mission is to shift those final few kilos in a sustainable way, whilst optimising your health, then by shifting the focus from just the amount of food, to paying more attention on some other key areas of your nutrition can kick start your metabolic engine, improve your health and say adios to those loathed love handles.
Calories are not created equal
I’m sure on reading that many of you may disagree and say a calorie is a calorie is a calorie. However, if I give you example of a 450 calorie large chocolate muffin and a 450 calorie dinner of salmon fillet, broccoli, spinach and some baked sweet potato wedges. Would you still say those calories were equal? If you answered yes to that question then you need to get the point of this post more than anyone. It’s not just about the number of calories in the food but the nutrient value of the food and what those nutrients do for our body. It’s about considering the nutritious goodness in the food you consume, and by that I don’t mean a list of prescribed benefits on the side of packet (as an example think sugary processed cereals that seduce you by saying they provide you with however many % of your daily vitamins and minerals, are low this and high that, but don’t point out the chemicals, preservatives, sugar and other nasties they may potentially contain – sorry will get off my soap box now).
Restrictive diet / calorie effect
The diet industry is one of the best examples of a highly successful, unsuccessful industry. Think about it, – if these diets worked for everyone then the industry would put itself out of business pretty quickly. Instead millions of people all over the world buy into commercial diets every year. Geek fact alert: in 2006 the diet industry in the US alone was estimated to be US$48 Billion, I’m no Donald Trump but even I know that is some hefty wedge right there.
If you’re trying to lose weight and have got stuck in the ‘restrictive diet’ trap, chances are things haven’t worked out well for you in the long run. If you significantly reduce your food intake for a sustained period of time, your body’s smart arse, in-built chemistry set thinks you are in a famine and it kicks into starvation mode to protect you. This includes slowing your metabolism right down (to hold on to any fat reserves you have remaining), making you hungry (telling your body to go out and find food), and raising levels of your body’s fat storing enzymes (making your bod O for awesome at storing fat when you eventually start eating normally again). Your body will happily remain in this state until you are carrying at least as much (but probably more) body fat as it is used to having pre-diet.
I have talked in a bit more detail before in a previous post ‘Can’t Diet, Won’t Diet, Don’t Diet’ but in nutshell STEP AWAY from diets that seriously restrict the amount of food you are eating as no good will come from them. Instead of depriving your body of calories, a better approach is to focus on nourishing, unprocessed, fresh, whole foods that will fuel your body to optimum health and hence optimum body composition.
Keeping fuelling the furnace
One of the key concepts that any decent weight loss coach or trainer will be advising is frequent eating. This flies in the face of the commonly held ‘I should eat less’ diet approach. Eating the right foods in small to moderate portions regularly throughout the day makes your body’s inner chemistry set very happy. This approach allows your body to let go of stored body fat, safe in the knowledge that great, nutrient dense food is never far away. Fail to feed it and you are back into starvation mode (back to the point above).
A great analogy that I picked up and quote regularly is that our metabolism is like a furnace and to keep that furnace burning strongly you need to keep adding moderate amounts of appropriate fuel at regular intervals. If you skip meals or eat infrequently you risk letting the fire die right down and then when you do eat (usually something pretty epic in proportions because you’re ready to eat your own knuckles after skipping a meal) it’s like throwing a massive great tree trunk on the few embers left and your metabolic furnace struggles to burn through the fuel.
Balancing the protein, fat and carbs
Many traditional approaches to ‘eating healthily’ in the Western world follow low fat, high carb (grain) philosophies. You only need to look at the USDA food pyramid that most of us are familiar with to see this. I wonder if it’s simply coincidence that the US Department of Agriculture would develop a dietary guide, with carby grains (it’s chief product), forming the bulk of an individual’s daily food intake – anyone else find this just a tad suspicious or is just me being a conspiracy theorist. Interestingly, the worldwide obesity epidemic has occurred since a lower fat, higher carb approach has been accepted by the masses.
At the other end of the pyramid (meaning you eat as little as possible) are fats, oils and sweets. While I agree with sweets being minimised in a healthy eating plan, I have to dispute the fats and oils part. There are numerous sources of healthy fats that promote great health, and support fat loss efforts if eaten in appropriate quantities. No nutritionist I know of would argue the fact that salmon, raw nuts and seeds, avocados, olive oils and organic free range egg (yolks) etc have health benefits (unless they are one of those dodgy looking docs that they post on adverts for the latest fad diet made to look authentic with addition of a white coat and stethoscope round their neck). Also now becoming more mainstream are coconut oil and butter, coming out of the naughty corner after being much maligned for years (I’m a fan of both). I’m not advocating going to town on these foods, but they should feature daily alongside plenty of veggies, frequent protein serves and small to moderate amounts of carbs. Here is an alternative food pyramid (based on the Paleo way of eating) that I think hits the mark a lot better.
I tend to follow this philosophy majority of the time, although I do include of raw dairy, and small amounts of pulses and grains (oats, quinoa and corn), but 80%+ of what I eat follows the Paleo principles (please don’t arrest me paleo police for sticking religiously to the rules but I do love your way of eating).
In summary, if it’s done right, more can definitely be less when it comes to nutrition. Here are my top 4 ‘more can be less” nutrition tips:
- More calories, in the form of healthful, nutrient dense food will always trump fewer calories of junk food
- Restrictive diets almost never work in the long term. Again, a higher volume of quality food, along with a smart exercise plan, will be far better for you than starving yourself for a few weeks
- Eating more often throughout the day will keep you primed for burning body fat if that is one of your goals. Fuel your body frequently and keep your furnace burning brightly.
- Keep the emphasis on more protein and fat, along with less starchy carbs to enable your body to get the right balance of fuel and nutrients, stop you getting hungry, keep your hormones perfectly synchronised and your metabolic engine revving – brumm brumm.
Every topic I mention in my blog comes from my own journey of discovery. I’ve made the mistakes, or had the misconceptions that led me negative results, but through this process went on to learn some real diamonds when it comes to improving my body and health. I’ve gone from ‘kebab Lotty’ who thought that restrictive diets were the way to slim down (even though I never managed to follow one because I love food way too much). I then went on to become ‘cardio bunny lotty’, living a daily carb fiesta and kidding myself it was all about hours spent sweating up a storm that bagged future fitness and calorie credits in the bank (not anymore).
So I guess what I’m saying is I’m not just talking the talk, I’ve walked the walk. I’m also not standing on a pedestal preaching – I’m just sharing what I’ve learnt works, for me anyway and if you can take anything useful from it that enhances your health, life and wellbeing then that is absolutely fantastic and serves one of the main purposes for me doing this blog.
I love my food – always have and always will. It’s an important part of my life, I find it a beautiful thing quite literally and love to savour and enjoy each meal or morsel I eat, it’s what fuels us and gives us life.
For those of you that are interested here is an example of a typical days eating for me. I don’t profess it to be perfect but I feel good on it and it seems to work well for my body. As you will see I in no way skimp on amount but the content is reasonably good and I still allow myself some treats (in a healthier version). I refuse to eat in a way that feels restrictive or makes me hangry (the irritable mood that comes about when you are hungry and feel deprived of tasty goodness). The main things I try to avoid or at least keep to a minimum are sugar, gluten and processed foods. Cutting out sugar in particular has made a major difference to how I feel and look. Having said that every now and then ‘Kebab Lotty’ comes out to play and I’ll go out and indulge in whatever appeals, washed down with some delicious chilled wine or a cocktail or 2 and I totally enjoy it when I do…… but that is definitely the exception not the rule. It’s the things that we do every day that make a difference to our health, body and fitness, not the things we do occasionally.
|4.45am (before workout)||Cup of black filter coffee or Chai Green Tea
Small handful of walnuts
|7.45am (Post Workout)||I’ll drink a cup of warm water with half a squeezed lemon and apple cider vinegar in the morning about 10mins before my brekkie.I rotate depending on what I fancy between-
Plus a green or peppermint tea.
|10.30am||Long Machiatto or long black with cinnamon and a homemade sugar free morning tea snack such as
|1pm||Lunch is either
|4pm||Snack – typically either
Earl Grey, Green or peppermint tea.
|7.30pm||Dinner is normally some sort of protein and non starchy veg like
To name but a few of the tasty delights my wonderful hubby Brett (Turnidge Resident Chef) cooks up for me.
Sometimes a small dessert of something like
I also drink between 2 to 3 litres of water a day which I try to sip between, rather than with, meals (so as not to dilute digestive enzymes). This is something I have to work hard on as I find it easy to forget to drink enough when I’m busy.
*These recipes can be found on the facebook page but I will also post on my blog next week.