It’s that time of year again. Temperatures are warming up, people are looking forward to summer vacations, class reunions, and the dreaded swimsuits are coming out of the drawer.
First of all, let’s nip your attitude toward swimsuits in the bud right off the bat. You are perfect just the way you are. You don’t need to have shame, anxiety, or embarrassment about any part of you, seen or unseen. Wear the swimsuit, beautiful!
Having said that, I know that most of us are interested in improving not only how we look but, more importantly, how we feel and our potential for a long health-span. We would also like to look younger and more vibrant at our class reunions. This involves weight loss–not to achieve an ideal body according to social standards (whatever that is), but to improve how we feel about ourselves inside and out. Our outer appearance reflects our inner health and weight loss is a happy side effect of improving our whole-body health. That way, we can wear the swimsuit, rock the class reunion, and enjoy all of the activities as well.
If you really want to lose weight, whether it’s for health reasons or to fit into last year’s shorts, the key is to reduce insulin. Not counting calories, not eating several small meals throughout the day, not whole grains, protein shakes, or brutal workouts. Insulin. “What are you talking about?” you say. What the heck is insulin anyway?
Dr. Jason Fung, author of The Obesity Code: Unlocking the Secrets of Weight Loss, just wrote a fantastic article that says pretty much what I wanted to say with this post (read it here). He begins his article thusly:
“Here’s a startling truth. I can make you fat. Actually, I can make anybody fat. How? I simply prescribe insulin injections. Giving people extra insulin leads inevitably to weight gain. In type 1 diabetes, when insulin levels are extremely low, patients lose weight no matter how many calories they eat. Give insulin — gain weight. No insulin — lose weight (even to the point of death). The implication is clear. Insulin causes weight gain. Knowing this is crucial, because if insulin causes weight gain, then losing weight depends upon lowering insulin. But instead, we’ve been told to focus obsessively on calories.”
Right. So, if insulin causes weight gain–not just weight gain, by the way, but weight gain in the form of fat accumulation around the middle which is used as an early warning sign for chronic disease–we need to lower it to lose weight. Seems pretty straightforward. Now, how do we do that?
I’m sure everyone by now knows about the three macronutrients that make up our food choices; these include carbohydrates, protein, and fat. In the old days, when counting calories was king, everyone avoided fat because fat contains the most calories per unit. If we look at the effects these factors have on insulin, however, we observe that carbohydrates raise insulin the most (no surprise there); protein raises insulin significantly even though it doesn’t raise blood glucose, but then has an insulin-lowering quality that cancels some of that out (wait, what?); then there is fat which raises neither glucose nor insulin. Makes you have a little more respect for fat, right?
To be clear, we’re talking about healthy fat. Healthy fat does not include the oil that your favorite fast food place has in their fryer. Deep fried stuff is still bad for you. This is a topic to delve into at another time, but it is best to avoid industrial oils altogether. These are corn, canola, cottonseed, soy, safflower, and sunflower oil. Short story, these oils break apart easily and cause aging (eek). Opt instead for real, preferably grass-fed, butter, avocado, coconut, olive, or tea seed oil (or eat them whole). Choosing quality fat is very important and will lengthen your health-span.
Health-span – the portion of your life that is healthy and disease free. Contrast to your lifespan which may be long, but not healthy.
“The question is ‘Are all calories equally fattening’? To which the answer is an emphatic no. Insulin stimulating foods like glucose are more fattening than non-insulin stimulating foods like kale, even if you have the same number of calories.”
So, that 100 calorie pack of pretzels or 100 calories of sugary cereal have more potential to make you fat than 100 calories of wild-caught salmon. Plus, which tastes better and is more satisfying? Eating fat has this great effect of turning off the hormones that make us hungry and turning on the hormones that make us feel satisfied with less. No getting hungry an hour later or needing to eat constantly…which decreases the total calories consumed every day and decreases insulin resistance (read about insulin resistance in the second half of Dr. Fung’s article).
Dr. Fung’s Rules for ‘What to Eat’
- Avoid added sugar — causes insulin resistance and high insulin
- Eat less refined grains — high insulin effect
- Moderate protein — excessive consumption can be fattening (remember how it had the crazy raising and lowering effect on insulin?)
- Don’t be afraid of eating natural fats — low insulin effect
- Eat real unprocessed foods — refining increases insulin effects
How does this all translate to real life? Well, that’s kind of what I do as a health coach. It’s all fine and well to know all of this stuff, but when we take away the bulk of what most people eat–processed food, industrial oils, carbohydrates sourced from refined grain, and sugar–we’re left with a “What can I eat?” situation.
The answer: you can eat everything else. Focus on loading up your plate with non-starchy vegetables drizzled with good fat. At least 2/3 of your plate should be veggies. Here is an example of what I eat in a day:
- Breakfast: Usually Bulletproof coffee, also try a half of an avocado, drizzled with olive or tea seed oil (this is not tea tree oil, by the way, get it on Amazon), and sprinkled with Himalayan salt and red pepper flakes.
- Lunch: A giant salad with mixed greens, crumbled bacon, shrimp, the other half of the avocado, hard-boiled eggs, pumpkin seeds, cucumber, bell pepper, and whatever other veggies I can find. I normally don’t use dressing, because the avocado does it for me, but if I do I use olive oil and apple cider vinegar (vinegar has an insulin lowering effect!)
- Dinner: A moderate serving of pork roast and a heaping serving of roasted brussels sprouts or broccoli drizzled in olive oil and sprinkled with Himalayan salt. Often I will have a square of dark chocolate as well.
- I don’t normally snack, but if I do I have: nuts, seeds, cut up veggies, avocado, or a little bit of cheese.
It should be noted that different people have different levels of insulin tolerance. Some people can eat more carbs than others and not gain weight. I happen to be someone who can’t have many carbs at all before packing on the pounds. Bummer, right? An interesting tip I can also share is that cortisol affects insulin. This is why stress and sleep affect weight gain and loss. Cortisol is naturally high in the morning and decreases throughout the day. Therefore, having more fat in the morning, and saving the bulk of your carbs for the evening–contrary to what you may have heard–is an effective weight loss hack.
If you are ready to put this system to work for you, send me a message and we can set up a free initial consultation. You can be anywhere in the world to benefit from my coaching program, by the way. Most of my appointments are conducted via Skype or Zoom. I can’t wait to hear from you!
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