Do you ever get sick of the struggle to take control of your body and your health? Do you follow all the rules but it never quite seems to work? Are you struggling to have stable energy despite exercising regularly and eating well?
If you answered yes to any (or all!) of those questions, I can definitely relate. People often see the way I look and act and often assume that it’s always been easy for me to stay in shape; that I must be genetically lucky or perhaps I simply never indulge in so-called naughty foods!
The truth, of course, is that it’s not that simple. Firstly, I do indulge (how could a girl live without chocolate, cheese or wine I ask you?!), and secondly – I haven’t always looked this way. And I certainly haven’t always felt the way I do now, which is mostly very energised and passionate about life.
Following the Rules of Conventional Nutrition
I learned the hard way that following conventional nutritional and health advice doesn’t work, and it was a lesson that affected me both personally and professionally. In 2005 I’d been a personal trainer for 5 years, and I was overweight and miserable. I wasn’t huge by any stretch of the imagination, but I certainly didn’t look the part. More importantly, I felt awful. I was eating really well as well! Or so I thought.
When I look back now I can barely believe that I used to think it healthy to live on a diet centred around whole-grains, lean proteins such as egg whites, chicken breast or tuna, low-fat dairy products (of course!), and minimally processed starches for energy. A typical day for me included bircher or untoasted muesli for breakfast, fruit and low-fat yoghurt for snacks, and tinned tuna with corn, kidney beans and avocado for lunch. Dinner was your fairly standard meat and veg with some kind of whole-grain starch.
These days I would never recommend that sort of diet to a fat loss client – and I wouldn’t recommend it to you either.
Time To Ditch The Conventional Nutrition Books
It was round the middle of 2005 that I noticed a colleague of mine start to noticeably become leaner. Not only that, but he was becoming annoyingly energised. To the point where he would – quite literally – bounce into morning meetings. Whatever he was doing, I sure wanted to know about it!
Of course as with anything that seems too good to be true, there was a catch. The method my colleague had taken to transform his body was one based on ‘paleo’ eating. It was all about getting back to basics with health and nutrition, and the results certainly spoke for themselves. The catch was that it was a little too back to basics for my liking! This guy was eating meat for breakfast for heavens sake! There was no WAY I was going to be walking down the street to work at 6am chowing on a lamb chop and nor did I want to have to explain weird eating habits to other trainers at work.
Besides – everything I’d been taught told me that the way I was eating was correct. Maybe there was just something wrong with how I was doing it? Perhaps I just needed to exercise more?
How To Eat For (True) Fat Loss
In the end, of course, I just couldn’t resist something that was clearly so effective. Another way to look at it was that my desire to lose weight and feel better eventually overrode my concerns about what people thought!
The best part was that within weeks – if not days – I noticed such a significant change in the way I looked and felt that I honestly stopped worrying about other’s opinions and may have even been guilty of preaching at them about my exciting new approach. My clients were somewhat bemused at first, but they trusted me and were willing to listen. I guess my results spoke for themselves as well 🙂
Some of the principles I now follow and teach my fat loss clients include:
- Meet your protein goal. If there’s one thing you can do to dramatically influence your body fat levels it’s to eat more (good quality) protein. You can determine your protein goal by multiplying your lean mass body weight (body weight minus your body fat) in pounds and then by 0.9-1.5g for women and approximately 2g for men. It’s important to include a variety of protein sources from animals as well as some plant protein. Wild meat in particular is excellent for fat loss as well as brain health.
- The carbohydrate conundrum. Let me cut to the chase: my clinical experience has shown (and the experts I respect teach) that 75% or more of the Western world is NOT tolerant to a moderate carb diet, let alone a high one. I definitely don’t advocate cutting carbs OUT, but most people can easily lose body fat and actually increase their energy by switching the starch for more protein and good fat. A good rule of thumb is to get 80-90% of your carbs from (mostly green) veg, and just the remainder from starch and fruits.
- Smart fats. One of the biggest myths still perpetuated by the health industry is that fat should be feared. Trans (processed) fats, of course, are definitely not your friend, but did you know that good quality organic saturated fats actually contribute to your cell and hormone development and even help you burn fat faster? That’s right – fat can make you lean! The way I now eat and coach my clients to eat is to include some ‘smart’ fats at each meal. Good examples include nuts and seeds, small oily fish, avocado, coconut oil/milk/cream, organic cream and butter, macadamia nut oil, and ghee. Those are just a few of my favourites!
- The traps of healthy snacking. This is an area close to my heart – when you enter the paleo lifestyle you’ll find a virtual plethora of healthy and incredibly delicious snack ideas. Raw chocolate/avocado cheesecake is one of my favourites. Just a word of warning – it’s all too easy to get carried away with healthy snacking and, as a result, not consume adequate protein and green veg for fat loss. Keep the snack-type foods to 5-10% maximum, and try ‘snacking’ on leftover real meals instead! Your belly will definitely thank you.
Of course all that being said, old habits do die hard. Sometimes I still feel like I have a special ‘chocolate-time’ alarm clock that goes off in my head after dinner, and the same applies with red wine! There’s even a small part of me that looks around a crowded restaurant now and then and wonders why I can’t just be one of the blessed ignorant working my way happily through the bread basket.
Until waking up the next morning and realising how yucky I feel when I do eat that way of course 🙂
Is This Really What It Takes To Be Lean?
You might say that in a perfect world we should be able to eat all things in moderation and naturally select what our body most desires in the moment of hunger. But it’s not a perfect world, is it? Food quality, food choice, environmental toxins, stress … these are all things which impact your ability to feel and function your best.
The reality is that if you want to live with exceptional health and energy, and yes even create an exceptional body to do that in, then you do have to live differently to the rest.The good news is that this doesn’t have to be overly noticeable to the rest of the world if you don’t want it to be, and it also doesn’t require long-term sacrifice from you. It might seem that way at first, but I promise the motivation definitely comes from within once that image in the mirror starts changing!
At the end of the day it’s fine for you to choose to keep following the conventional rules. There is no right or wrong here. But what you do have to recognise is that you have the power. And whether you like to look at it this way or not the truth is that choosing whole foods as close to their natural state as possible gives you the power to look incredible and feel even better.
Which means a heck of a lot more to me than getting to ‘fit in’ or even ‘eat all things in moderation’ just because I ‘should’ be able to. How about you?
And Remember –
Life is Now. Press Play