Typically when I tell someone what I do for a living (teach women to live their version of the L.E.A.N. Life – a Lifestyle of Efficient exercise and Automated Nutrition), I inevitably get the rundown of what they are eating to get in shape or lose weight.
Which I love!
I love talking about this stuff (obviously), but a lot of the time I hear the same things. For example: “I have Kashi Go-Lean Crunch and blueberries for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch, chicken and brown rice for dinner with a side of veggies, and I snack on granola bars, cheese sticks or fruit”.
Sounds healthy enough right?
And it is healthy. But if this woman’s goal with her diet is to lose body fat, and she’s not getting results by eating this way – there are definitely some changes she can make.
Nutrition. Fat loss almost always comes down to nutrition, and it’s not just about calories, it’s about the hormonal response we get when we eat certain foods, because hormones play a HUGE role in fat burning as well as fat storing.
So let’s talk about this woman’s breakfast. I’ll give you a quick non-sciency overview of what’s going on hormonally.
What happens after she eats her bowl of cereal and fruit is that she will get a huge blood sugar rush from the cereal, giving her body a quick burst of energy. Insulin is released into the bloodstream to lower blood sugar. Because there was nothing in her breakfast to help stabilize her blood sugar (like protein or fat), her blood sugar will drop just as fast as it went up, and most likely leave her with feelings of low energy and cravings within a couple hours of her breakfast. Her body knows what will raise her blood sugar and give it a quick burst of energy again, (carbs) and the whole cycle happens starts over. She reaches for her granola bar.
If Insulin is around too much too often (like if you’re eating carbs all day long), our bodies will become resistant to it. And not only that, it will be really hard for us to burn body fat due to the fact that glucagon (the hormone responsible for letting fat leave our cells to travel and be burned) won’t do it’s thing if insulin levels are always super high….
There is absolutely nothing wrong with eating carbohydrates. You NEED them, especially if you are an athlete or exercising for performance. They are essential for energy, for muscle building, for brain function and so so much more, but getting rid of processed carbs (pretzels, granola bars, cereals), and focusing more on high fiber carbohydrates like non-starchy vegetables and non-sweet fruits, lean proteins and good fats, can go a long way when your goal is reducing body fat.
Here is what I would suggest:
Switch out the cereal, skim milk and blueberries for something a little higher in protein, like eggs and veggies or a protein shake with spinach or kale. The added fiber from the veggies along with the protein will keep her full far longer than the cereal and won’t have her craving a granola bar in two hours.
And you don’t have to have just 1 or 2 eggs….there’s not a ton of protein there. Have 3 or 4 and see how you feel, or have 2 eggs and 2 egg whites. That’s another thing I hear a lot of: “I tried having an egg for breakfast and I was starving!” No shit! There’s only 6grams of protein in an egg. I’d be hungry too! I’ve found that I need at least 25grams of protein at breakfast. Actually, I have 36 grams pretty much every day in my protein shake. For me I found that once I upped my protein and added some greens to my morning shake, I was fuller for a lot longer.
For lunch, I would suggest switching to a large salad topped with some protein (don’t be afraid to eat more than 4oz! again, some women just need more to feel satiated) and add in some good fat as well (almonds, olive oils, avocado). Good fats are also awesome, but they are high in calories. We’re looking for both hormonal balance as well as a caloric deficit, so if fat loss is your main goal, take it easy with the good fats – you probably don’t want to eat 3 avocados a day.
Her dinner looks great! When I’m just starting out with clients, I like them to have their high quality starchy carbs (brown rice, quinoa, sweet potato, oatmeal, oat bran to name a few) post workout when they are more insulin sensitive – so assuming this was post workout – this is a perfect choice! Eating carbs after a good heavy strength workout will ensure that they are being put to good use, going toward replenishing what we just depleted, and not being stored as fat.
What about snacks? We love snacks don’t we?! I used to feel like I couldn’t leave the house without food on hand. God forbid I get a little hungry…wouldn’t that mean my metabolism will slow down and I’ll lose all of my muscle mass?
I joke that I went a few years without actually getting hungry. I would eat when the clock turned 7,10,1,4,7 – regardless of hunger. It was what I thought I was “supposed” to do for fat loss. And while that works wonders for some people, it’s definitely not the rule. Eat to match your hunger. If that is 4 hours between meals, that’s great! But, if you find that you are ravenously hungry and end up overeating at your next meal because you waited to long, then snacking in between meals may be a good option for you and you should definitely have some snacks on hand.
So for snacks, I suggest choosing foods that will help stabilize blood sugar. If you want fruit, pair it with a protein or a fat. A couple great choices are an apple with almond butter or a protein shake with frozen berries.
I would suggest focusing on only ONE change at a time, until it becomes routine, until it becomes more of a habit than anything else, until it becomes AUTOMATIC.
Maybe start with breakfast. Once she’s got breakfast down, then move on to switching up lunch or changing up her snack options. Focusing on changing too much, too soon, typically leads to feelings of overwhelm and discouragement. Instead, focus on all of the small steps and wins along the way.
Awareness is key. Start realizing HOW your body feels after eating certain foods. Do you have more or less energy? Do you get cravings for something sweet soon after? Paying attention to these biofeedback tools go a long way. I know for me, knowing that I’m going to feel like a slug after I eat a bagel, makes saying no to bagels so much easier. But it took some practice in awareness before I even noticed anything.
And the bottom line? What works for one person, may or may not work for the next. So listen to your body’s cues and think about fueling your body with foods that will work for you, not against you!
I would love to hear your thoughts on this. Have you changed the way you eat due to becoming more aware of how your body reacts to different foods? Let me know on my Facebook page 🙂