The one thing I hear most often from my clients is that grocery shopping has become an overwhelming experience. Every day, there seems to be new data on a magic food from the himalayas we NEED to eat for fat loss or new must-have supplements that will catapult us into the body of our dreams.
If you read a dozen health articles on a daily basis like I do, it gets confusing right? Who do we listen to? What's right and what's marketing?
We can get so overwhelmed with the suggestions for eating for fat loss, muscle gain, gut health, hormonal balance, cancer evasion, stress management, foot health (ok, that was a stretch) that we get into a little paralysis by alongside and instead, just go head first in bags of salt-and-vinegar chips. No fun.
Focus us on the big rocks of eating for fat loss and don't worry about the rest. Getting competent and consistent begins with simplifying.
The 7 big rocks of eating for fat-loss.
1. Get more protein.
Building lean muscle mass is an essential component to fat loss. The more muscle we have, the higher our resting metabolic rate, the more we burn while at rest. Many diet programs concentrate on weight loss, irregardless of where that weight is coming from (muscle loss). Smart fat-loss programs concentrate not only on burning fat but on building muscle. Protein is essential for muscle repair and growth. Focus on getting 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight every single day. Though I'm not an advocate of excessive calorie counting and food weighing, I do suggest that you write down what you eat for a few days on your current diet to get an idea for how it levels up to this daily protein goal.
2. Understand 'food buckets'.
Those who know me will know that I'm not keen on tracking macronutrients, to the same degree that I don't like a food scale on my counter or a food journal next to me at all times, or for my clients for that matter. But, I've done a lot of trial and error to get to this point, understanding what works for me for many different phases of my training. I believe there's a more intuitive and sustainable (and kind!) ways to identify what types of foods sustain your energy, control your hunger and curb your cravings and frankly, it takes a little time. I coach this as part of my Find Your Fat-Loss P.U.L.S.E. methodology of my fat-loss lifestyle program. But, I encourage you to have an awareness of the foods that make up your diet and which macronutrient category they might fall into. Macros are the essential components of a human diet (protein, carbohydrates and fat) for our bodies to function properly. We should get 45-65% of your daily caloric intake from carbohydrates, 20-35% from fat and 10-35% from protein. But, aggressive marketing might lead us to believe that foods have more fat-burning potential than they really do. Start looking at labels and mentally compartmentalizing which macro bucket the food will fall into. For example, peanut butter has 16 g of fat, 6 g carb and 8 g protein. Yes, it has protein but it's in the fat, not protein, bucket. Meaning, don't overdo it!
3. Become aware of YOUR hunger cues.
A diet may tell you to start your day with oatmeal and berries but if that meal spikes your blood sugar and makes you hungrier for your next meal sooner, well, perhaps for you, eggs and veggies are the right start to your day. This is why I do not focus on calories with the woman I work with. There's about 250 calories in a bagel and the same for a 3 egg omelet with a slice of bacon. I had a bagel last weekend with smoked salmon and all the fixings and let me tell you, I could have had another about two minutes after finishing my meal. You see, just a bit of protein on my bagel with the salmon was not enough to satiate me. I perform better on high fiber, high protein meals. What works for YOU? Which brings me to...
4. At meal time think "fiber & protein first".
Foods with high, water, fiber and protein are filling and satiating and should have the first and largest spot on our plate. If I could give you only one piece of advice on what to focus on to have a fat-loss diet, I would say focus on eating more vegetables and protein. Roasted and sautéed veggies, leafy salad greens, even blanched if you like that sort of thing, are nutrient packed with essential vitamins our body needs. More importantly, though, vegetables and lean meats fill us up and leave us satisfied where high sugar foods may fill initially us but they spike our blood-sugar and leave us looking for more only a short time later (another bagel, anyone?).
5. Learn Metabolic Effect's label rule.
Remember when I was talking about macros? The ME label rule was a game changer for me to decide which snack at the interstate rest area was my best choice for my fat loss diet. In fact, I would eat Cliff Bars like a champ until I applied the ME label rule and realized they were simply glorified candy bars (which of course, sent me back to when I was 12 and choosing candy from the local convenience store and I chose licorice because it said it was a "Fat-Free Food" on the label - LOL). Here's the label rule: find the carbohydrate total on the nutrition label and subtract fiber and protein from that. If you're left with a number that's under 10, it's a great choice to give you energy, satisfy you and control your cravings.
6. Date the right carbs.
You know how some relationships drain the hell out of you and take you off course, even when they're fun as hell? Maybe an ex-boyfriend or girlfriend fits the bill on this description. Well, you're not going to stop dating entirely right?! We just need to find the right type of relationship that make us happy and keeps us on path to our goals in life. The old way of dieting is to eliminate carbs completely from our diet, only to send us right back to what we eliminated in the first place. This, admittedly, is hard but I want to give you a few things to focus on. First, try to limit packaged carbohydrates like snacks, cereals and breads. If you start to look at labels and listen to yourself, you'll start realize that when the protein and fiber is low and carbs and fats are high (which is why they're so tasty!), your hunger and cravings suffer. Eating carbs earlier in the day, focusing on fibrous options like sweet potato, oats, apples and strawberries and focusing on veggies and protein at mealtime first with a couple bites of fibrous carbs on the side, are all ways to re-prioritize carbs to work for you. Little known fact: you actually need carbs to build muscle so when your goal is to increase lean muscle mass, dating the right carbs are key for you.
7. Don't wait to eat.
It's common for serial dieters to get through the day quite comfortably on a new diet, but at night, the cravings and hunger hits. Try not to get caught up at your workspace or in your day to day activities that you forget to eat. Eating every few hours allows us to stay in control of our hunger and cravings so that when evening hits, they don't spike. Psychologically, this is where we tend to walk ourselves into a trap thinking "I've done so well all day, so this snack won't hurt!". Focusing on eating every few hours, whether that means 4 meals or 6 is a key component to eating for fat-loss (and making sure we fuel our workouts).
That's plenty of enough to think about, and practice, as we sample and edit our diet to keep us on path to our goals, right? It's a process to build our personalized fat-loss lifestyle and it takes practice, which is why I advocate to go ahead and sample some kumbucha, talk to your doctor or coach about supplements, research the right oils to work with at certain cooking temps, but please, focus on the big rocks of fat loss first. Put your time and energy here first...on the big rocks of fat loss.
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