If you have followed Fitter Food for some time now you’ll know that we’ve been going on for years about the essentials of fat loss which include eating nutritious food, moving daily, exercising a few times a week, sleeping soundly and managing stress. All of these support optimal hormone health and the body’s natural mechanisms for healthy weight management. Everyone needs to master the basics before they progress to more advanced protocols. However, we also acknowledge that some people’s bodies need an extra nudge to get results or maybe your fat loss has stalled a little. The following are just a few simple steps you can implement that can kick your metabolism into action.
1) Lower Food Reward for 80% of Your Intake
There are some great studies to support the efficacy of adapting food reward to address issues with hormones that regulate fat loss, appetite and satiation (our sense of fullness). The human body has a reward system programmed to seek pleasure in activities like eating. This powerful reward system can often override our perception of real need. A good example is after dinner you may not feel hungry and won’t accept a second serving of broccoli, however, if someone puts a bowl of sticky toffee pudding in front of you that’s a different story, the reward system in your brain remembers how good this pudding tastes and urges you to dig in.
Stephen Guyenet, an obesity researcher, has some great blogs covering the subject of food reward and how the food industry has been analysing the combinations of ingredients that act on the reward centres in the brain and drive us to over-eat, helpfully bumping up their profit margins in the meantime. Many foods developed by the industry disrupt the hormones insulin and leptin which are part of the communication lines that regulate fat mass.
In our second book we outline how hormones are part of the decision-making process that goes on within the body to decide whether we have excess fat to burn or need to store more fat. They influence our appetite and satiety hormones and our metabolic rate. Ideally we want this system to work effectively and manage our body composition healthfully rather than having to constantly rely on willpower and self control to avoid over eating. Lowering the food reward of the majority of your meals will support this system. Salt, fat and sugar is a particularly lethal combination that overrides our hormonal mechanisms, we find these three ingredients together completely irresistible and are thus likely to over consume foods that contain them together. You can further understand the impact of food reward by conducting this mini experiment:
Step 1: Take some plain, boiled new potatoes and eat as many as you like, you’ll probably manage a handful before you feel like you’ve had enough. There are few ingredients to act on the reward system with plain potatoes.
Step 2: Repeat the exercise and this time slice the potatoes into chips, pan fry or oven bake in butter, before serving add salt and a good dollop of tomato ketchup. You’ll likely find that you have absolutely no ‘off‘ switch on this occasion!
If you’re struggling to regulate appetite and implement portion control, the absolute first step is to stop eating processed ready meals and food items, as you can guarantee more salt, sugar or fat has been added to increase palatability. The next step is to reflect upon your weekly meals and look how you can lower food reward. I’m not suggesting you live on boiled potatoes, there are ways to enjoy tasty food but simply adapt how you cook and serve them that doesn’t make them hyperpalatable. Here are a few useful steps and tips to help get your natural appetite and satiation signals back under control :-
- Swap your proteins for those you’re not crazy about, usually this means less pan-fried bacon, sausages or chorizo and more slow cooked meats, fish and seafood
- Steam and boil carbs where possible rather than bake or fry or in fat, dress with lemon juice and vinegar (which helps to improve insulin response to carbohydrates)
- Eat whole nuts rather than nut butter
- Top your porridge or yogurt with berries and cinnamon rather than adding honey or other natural sweeteners
- Increase the cocoa content of your chocolate which means less milk and sugar, start at 60-75% and increase up to 90%
- Eat fruit rather drinking smoothies and juices
- Put dairy on the ‘occasional’ list. We love dairy but melt cheese on anything and it becomes divine! Try removing milk and cream from drinks too.
2) Eat Nature’s Fat Burning Food
Our body requires a number of micronutrients including B vitamins, magnesium, omega 3’s, iodine, selenium and zinc in order for our metabolism to function optimally and our body to be able to burn fat for fuel. A simple way of ensuring your have sufficient amounts of these micronutrients is to eat the following:
1) Wild salmon or sardines 3 times a week for omega 3’s, iodine and selenium. Seaweed is a good vegetarian source of iodine and omega 3’s.
2) Raw egg yolks – take 2 daily in a fat loss phase.
3) Liver – you can cook liver and chop into small capsules pieces and freeze then have a couple a day or grate into a burger mix or soup.
3) Change Your Eating Window
Many of the studies on intermittent fasting and the benefits for weight loss are generally suggesting we alter our eating window and restrict it to around 8-10 hours. Over the last few decades we’ve become a nation of grazers, repeatedly informed that eating little and often keep our blood sugar levels stable. However, usually we’re eating and our hormone insulin is storing nutrients rather than encouraging us to rely on stored body fat for energy.
If we extend the gaps between meals and the period we fast overnight we can increase the time spent in fat burning mode. We strongly feel fasting should be more personalised, too many people jump onto the bandwagon of 5:2 or only eating between 12pm and 8pm.
We all have different lifestyles, training routines, stress levels that will influence how effective fasting is for our health and body composition. Most of the fasting studies available have been completed on men, and my experience with female clients is that fasting taps into a complicated history of dieting, food restriction and bingeing and often doesn’t seem to offer the same benefits.
However, what most of us can do is Implement a 12 hour fast overnight. The next step might be to have your evening meal a little earlier to increase the overnight fast and stop any late night snacking OR have breakfast a little later and maybe throw in a fasted training session first thing in the morning, be sure to have some good scoff ready to break your fast.
4) Do The Opposite…
…of what isn’t working! So many people get stuck in a nutrition or exercise rut because it once helped lose weight or ‘insert name here’ got awesome results following it. We all need to be a little more intuitive about our health and be ready to accept if we keep doing the same thing, we’ll likely experience the same outcome. Some people get great results eating between 12-8pm, some feel awesome on a low carb diet or carb cycling, others experience weight loss reducing fat intake. It might take time to establish what works for you but don’t be scared to completely change things up and do the opposite.
If you understand how the body truly works to regulate fat mass you will come to understand that so many factors are relevant and need to be considered. You can experiment and play around with your macronutrients or expand your nutritional intake a little. It’s also worth double checking that your lifestyle choices including stress management, sleep health and your relationships are not derailing your efforts.
5) Invest In Yourself
Rather than punishing your body with restrictive diets and exhausting exercising routines why not make the decision to change for good by educating and empowering yourself with all the knowledge and know how on fat loss. A huge part of our Fitter 16 lifestyle transformation plan, which launches in January 2017, is about offering you expert guidance on nutrition, exercise, stress and sleep so that you can understand the WHY as well as the HOW and can therefore sustain these principles for life. Find out more about Fitter 16 here.
If you haven’t yet got a copy of our latest book, Fitter Food: A Second Helping then if we may be so bold it’s really worth picking one up. We’ve detailed all the essentials including; hormones and body composition, carbohydrate intake and timing, the role of exercise in health and even some important fat loss principles you may not have considered, like good digestive health, anti-inflammatory living and stress management. Plus there are over 150 recipes that help you put all the information into action so you’ll be educated and also enjoying some delicious Fitter Food!