For many of us ladies it’s that dreaded week where the jeans are feeling tighter and our energy levels are below par after a month of late nights and a little extra everything. Whilst here at Fitter Food we emphasise health as our main priority, many people are looking for fat loss advice specifically. So as a man/woman team we’ve got lots of experience in adapting our principles to suit the fat loss goals of men and women. Here are a few tips for the ladies to focus on when setting a fat loss goal.
A study published this week discovered that men are better at dieting than women! Apparently they have more willpower and a greater ability to sustain their results. Hmmmm…. whilst this maybe the case I would argue the outcome is not through a lack of willpower but more because women are so much harder on themselves. There’s a great deal of pressure on women to conform to the images of perfectionism thrown at us on a daily basis by the media and rather than approach a sustainable solution to health we often end up caught up in diets and fat loss fads that are simply too strict, unrealistic and ultimately unsustainable. We’ve written before about avoiding the the crazy diets and detoxes on offer this week, and as fans of paleo nutrition we’ve offered guidance on how women can adapt Paleo nutrition for fat loss. Even though you know this already there maybe some simple steps you are missing. The following five tips relate to practices and principles you may have overlooked that you could implement easily from today. Each will nourish both your mind and body and will support long term fat loss by making you feel happier, healthier and more energised overall.
1. Be Pescetarian – ish
Whenever we put together meal plans for clients or online programmes we make a point of increasing fish and seafood consumption for both men and women. However, one observation we’ve made is that women tend to feel much better and obtain better results following a predominantly pescetarian diet. Of course men benefit too from including lots of fish and seafood, yet women more so – possibly because these foods are high in nutrients women are likely to be deficient in especially proteins, iodine, vitamin D and selenium.
Fat loss is largely about optimising hormone function and cellular communication. Us ladies are a little more complicated when it comes to balancing hormones, we have more cycles and surges than the blokes that need to be accounted for. Fish and seafood is packed with nutrients that improve hormone health – the most obvious being omega 3 fats found in oily fish. These are an important component within the cell membrame (outer layer) and allow nutrients to pass in and out of the cell and improve our ability to listen to the hormone insulin. They are also rich in iodine, zinc and selenium which are integral to optimal thyroid function (the gland that controls metabolism).
Fish and seafood are also an excellent source of B vitamins which play an important role in metabolic functions. B vitamins are depleted by gut infections (especially yeast overgrowth), alcohol consumption, smoking, the contraceptive pill, stress and exercise – something many of us ladies have all experienced at some point in our lives. B12 in particular is essential to help transform fats and protein into energy. Oxygen is necessary for many metabolic reactions to take place within our body’s cells and vitamin B12 along with folate (another B Vitamin) are important in the production of red blood cells (erythrocytes) that carry oxygen from the lungs to each cell in the body. A vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to impaired red blood cell formation which subsequently means a lack of oxygen being transported around the body causing poor metabolism within the cells and low energy levels. The table below details some of the best sources of B12 and the first four are fish!
Fish and seafood are also lighter digestively. A huge majority of women we work with have suffered from some form of digestive dysfunction or symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome at some point (often continually driven by hormone imbalances, contraceptive pills and stress). We find many women comment on the fact they feel it suits their digestive system more once they get going with more fish in their diet. We still include poultry, red meat and vegetarian meals across a weekly menu of course, but fish and seafood are the focus. As an aside many women benefit from taking hydrochloric acid support either as a supplement (like Metagest or Nutrigest) or by adding apple cider vinegar to their meals when they do eat heavier, red meat dishes as this helps break drown the protein and improves the absorption and assimilation of the essential nutrients.
In terms of sourcing these proteins quality is paramount and your fish and seafood should be wild where possible, especially shellfish and fatty fish. Farmed fish are treated with antibiotics, grain fed (so lower in omega 3 fats) and often diseased after being kept in overcrowded and unnatural conditions. Of course there are toxins and pollutants in the sea, however, the Environmental Working Group has an excellent guide to eating seafood and the risks. As you can see sardines are a true superfood for women in that they are low in environmental toxins due to the fact they are a small fish and superbly rich in omega 3’s. If eaten with the skin and bones they also provide a great source of the amino acid glycine and minerals calcium and magnesium. Wild or tinned salmon and anchovies are also good choices. In terms of other fish and seafood, get reading labels and ensure they are wild caught and sustainably sourced. Avoid frequent consumption of large predatory fish, including tuna, shark, marlin and swordfish which accumulate mercury.
Some quick Fitter Food ways to cook fish or seafood are:
2) Wrap in a parcel of greaseproof paper with olive oil, fresh herbs, sliced olives, peppers, courgettes, cherry tomatoes, wedges of lemon and crushed garlic cloves.
2. Walk Daily
Many of us are guilty of prioritising exercise over movement. We kick off the week booking in our spin class, yoga or Crossfit sessions which is awesome but we often neglect our body’s need for daily movement on a simple level – which is madness when you think it’s more accessible and affordable for a start. We’re all for labour saving devices these days and often hire someone else to do the daily jobs when actually a bit of walking, gardening, cooking and housework is what our body’s need. After all, you’re on your feet and staying active – it’s how our grandparents kept trim.
Remember fat loss is about hormones and our insulin health responds to us being physically active…often! Studies have shown that even if you’re dedicated to ticking off your 3-4 weekly gym sessions but spend the majority of your day sitting you are still predisposed to insulin resistance and the muffin top that comes with it. One of the biggest changes I’ve implemented is favouring consistent daily movement over any gym sessions and classes. One unexpected benefit has been the positive impact on my energy levels and mood. As humans we’re designed to be outdoors, it gives us an endorphin hit and lots of essential vitamin D.
Make it a goal to walk around 10,000 steps a day, it takes around 90 mins to 2 hours which is pretty feasible if you think 30 minutes before work, in your lunch hour and on your way home. If you can’t hit your target, don’t sweat it just do what you can, when you can and pencil in some long walks for the weekend.
3. Ditch the Mobile
Women are terrible for not taking time out to switch off and stay still. I appreciate it might sound like I’m contradicting point two a little here but I’m talking about giving your mind a rest, it’s so important to have some down time in your day and look at something other than a screen. Mobile phones are notorious for making this impossible as the moment you have a second to stop you jump on that phone and start texting, Facebooking, emailing, Tweeting…anything other than just sit and empty your mind. What’s worse is often something you see or read might unsettle you or wind you up in some way.
Why is this significant when it comes to fat loss? Because stress and anxiety have a huge impact on our hormone health so once again will compromise any clean eating and training programme. We talked about this in-depth at our Fitter Food Academy event back in November. Chronically elevated cortisol will encourage insulin resistance and increase the activity of an enzyme known as lipoprotein lipase (LPL) which increases fat storage, especially around the middle. Further more keeping our mind racing and chattering all day long often impacts our sleep which is also hugely important for fat loss and insulin health.
Start having a digital detox; leave your phone at home when going for a walk or meeting friends or family (have a real conversation instead!). Try and switch off your phone when you get home or at least leave it in another room and certainly don’t got to bed with the bloomin thing! Consider deleting emails and social media apps from your phone so at least it can become just a phone again. It’s so unnatural for us to be so connected with the world 24/7 and whilst you have responsibilities try and manage your time dealing with them and keep to your word. Avoid those “I just need to quickly check something….” moments as that could easily lead to an hour or two scrolling through your newsfeed. The more time you spend on a mobile chances are the more it’s hindering your health and fat loss efforts.
4. Be More Selfish
This may not apply to you but it certainly applies to most women I work with and support. Us ladies are innately selfless and it’s in our nature to want to look after others. We often put the health, happiness and wellbeing of the people we love before our own. Recently, Gwyneth Paltrow explained that the whole “conscious uncoupling” last year was actually a result of her having grown weary of “taking care of everyone else.” Whilst I’m not suggesting you uncouple from anyone you love you could perhaps take a few steps to invest a little more in yourself.
Dr Mark Hyman recently wrote a fantastic article on this called “Is your kindness is killing you?” sounds harsh but with many people it’s potentially true. He explains:
“It’s all about fear really. Being nice and saying “yes” when I mean “no,” or not telling people when I am disappointed, or not holding them accountable for things they agreed to or should be doing, at work or in my personal life, causes me all sorts of problems. First, it makes me unhappy, sleep poorly, angry, irritated and the stress it causes me makes me feel tired and icky. And it creates more messiness in my life. It always backfires.”
You maybe questioning how this relates to fat loss, well it’s highly relevant as trying to control people (even with the best intentions) or consistently please them is stressful, time consuming and exhausting – often leaving you with little energy, time or enthusiasm for yourself. We’ve had lots of people comment in our online groups that they are so knackered after running around after their family/colleagues/friends all day they resort to a can’t be bothered option for dinner and skip the gym. Essentially they placed themselves and their needs last on the list. The other pattern we often see with this type of self neglect is that it can also drive us to seek comfort in unhealthy habits: commonly caffeine to keep us going in the good fight, a glass of vino to calm us down and a slab of cake when the going gets really tough.
Here are just a few steps you can take to put yourself first and protect your emotional wellbeing:
1) Learn to say “no” and step away when being dragged into arguments, situations and dilemmas. By all means support people but understand your own limits and needs and distance yourself when something is beginning to impact negatively on your health.
2) Factor in some YOU time every week where you can either spoil yourself shopping, enjoy an Epsom Salts baths, have a massage, watch your favourite TV programme or just put your feet up with a magazine.
3) Take up a hobby or skill that gets you out and away from your responsibilities each week and takes your mind off your daily worries. Try rock climbing, gardening, painting, singing or doing puzzles as just a few to consider.
4) Be honest with people. If we communicate our feelings and objectives more coherently people understand our actions and needs better, plus they’re more likely to listen, possibly take notice and barriers are not crossed as often.
5. Sensible Supplements
Nutrient deficiencies are pretty common and many of our lifestyle choices will further exacerbate these. Supplements are all the rage and whilst we believe nutritional supplements have their role it’s easy to get carried away and neglect the obvious: nutritious food, daily exercise, sound sleep and stress management. If you are working on these and ensuring you do your best there are some supplements you might want to also consider. The most common nutrient deficiencies include magnesium, vitamin C, vitamin D, Iodine, selenium and zinc. Many women usually need to add a B vitamin complex to the list as the contraceptive pill, gut infections, smoking, alcohol, stress and exercise deplete these. It’s worth investing in a B complex that includes b vitamins in their active form, some people have a genetic mutation that impairs their ability to convert folic acid into folate, you can test for this with 23 and Me or DNA Diet or simply opt for a supplement that includes folate not folic acid (often labelled MTHF).
Ensure all of your supplements are pharmaceutical grade not a high street brand. In our opinion reputable brands include Solgar, Nutri Advanced, Allergy Research, Biotics, Designs for Health, Higher Nature and Nature’s Plus. It’s always wise to consume lots of multivitamin foods like eggs and organ meats (try some liver pate) but you might also wish to consider a multiviatmin as a safety net against deficiencies. Some practitioners advise taking one every 2-3 days to keep your body in balance or some are designed to offer lower doses and be taken more frequently. We’re currently using Designs For Health Complete Multi. We recommend most people take a probiotic as our modern lifestyles pose an ongoing challenge to the balance of bacteria in our gut and brands like Prescript Assist, Symprove, Culturelle and Ecodophilus all have some good studies to support their efficacy. Supplements are expensive so it’s worthwhile ensuring you have optimal digestive function to absorb them, check out our Good Gut Guide to run a basic review of your digestive system.
So there you have five simple fat loss tips! There’s much more I could say but I’m in danger of writing pages so I’ll leave you with some lasting bits of advice that have certainly helped me:
- Drink green tea daily
- Be consistent with carbohydrate consumption
- Strength train 1-2 times a week
- DON’T DIET!
- Be happy