In my last blog I spoke about the various roles that Insulin can play in fat loss, especially for women with PCOS related weight gain that usually stems from having insulin resistance.
While I don’t undermine the role of insulin or any other hormone impairment, for that matter, that can lead to excessive weight gain (FYI: I have imbalanced hormones so I know firsthand how my hormones can affect my weight), I stick to my previous argument that there is an over complacency to use hormone issues as the only argument for weight gain re: I’ve found that a lot of women use this as their only reasoning to not consistently try to manage their weight. It honestly saddens me that a lot of women feel like having a hormone imbalance means that losing weight is impossible so let me be clear that this post is not meant to diminish your previous efforts but to inspire hope.
From having dealt with male and female clients of varying age, ethnicity, body types and those with and without hormone issues I’ve found that those that struggled a lot with fat loss over the years were those that lacked an overall plan of ‘attack’ so to speak. They all ultimately found themselves in a repeated cycle of fat loss failure because there was no implementation of structure or strategy to lose the weight; just pure desperation.
Most adopted very short-term plans for fat loss, which isn’t really a fault of theirs as social media bombards us daily with quick fat loss gimmicks. So, let me be one hundred percent honest with you; fat loss isn’t as hard as you think, with or without a hormone imbalance, but keeping the fat off is going to be harder as this will entail an overall long-term approach.
If you’re a first-time fat loss journeyer or you’re strapping yourself onto the saddle for one last attempt, let me share you with the fundamentals of fat loss so that you can implement a successful strategy of your own for your long-term fat loss journey:
1) You NEED to create a calorie deficit.
If you’ve never heard of this term, all this basically means is that you need to reduce the number of calories you consume or burn more than you store. For example: If you currently consume 2000 calories daily, in order to initiate fat loss, you would now need to consume 1500 or find a means in which you burn 500 calories to create a deficit of 500 calories. Calories is just another way to say energy and what we need to remember is that when it comes to energy intake re: what we consume, whatever is not burned is stored as fat. An easier way is probably comparing your stubborn fat area as a fat storage tank. When we go into a calorie deficit we basically begin to use the stored fat as energy thereby reducing our fat storage. Makes sense, right?
I don’t want to trivialize the complexity of fat loss, but the harsh reality is that fat loss literally boils down to calories ALONE for some. Most people have no idea of how much calories they are consuming on a daily and eat in a calorie surplus (the opposite of a calorie deficit and basically means you are consuming more than you burn on a daily and storing fat as a result). Counting calories seems tedious and daunting to many but in order to start your fat loss journey you NEED to know how much calories you are currently consuming and only then you will have an idea of how to create a realistic deficit. If you would like me to show you some easy ways in how you can gauge your daily calorie intake then please feel free to personally message me for a free consultation at email@example.com.
2) Choose a calorie deficit method based on YOUR LIFESTYLE.
Do you know why you lose a lot of weight when you go on one of those ‘juice cleanses’ you see online? Or when you cut rice and bread from your diet? Or when you start doing cardio? There is no other special reason other than the fact that you have now created a calorie deficit. Did you think there was some magical reason? I’m sorry to kill your diet unicorn but all that happened was that you either consumed fewer calories or you burned more energy than you normally do. You unknowingly created a calorie deficit either through dieting (re: creating a calorie deficit by consuming less energy) or exercising (creating a calorie deficit by burning more energy); there was a reduction in energy/calories. That is all.
Now, that, that has sunk in, I’m sure this won’t be a surprise to you that you don’t need to exercise to lose weight. Diet alone as a calorie deficit method will work but, in my humble opinion, a combination calorie deficit approach of diet and exercise is the most effective. The problem is that most people don’t know how to find a balance between doing both and end up going too hard in the gym and crashing quickly by dieting incorrectly. For some tips on creating balance while creating a calorie deficit please check out one of my previous blogs: https://naturalleighblog.wordpress.com/2018/03/12/heres-why-you-suck-at-dieting/
3) Eat SMARTER
What if I told you that you didn’t have to give up bread or even KFC to lose weight? Smart eating is honestly less about being smart but practicing self-control. We have this tendency to eat till we’re over-full or stuffed and this is the first thing that you should stop doing. This is actually quite damaging to the body. Eating till we’re over-full doesn’t leave the body much room for water to hydrate as well as room for the expansion of gases so you can easily digest the food. By over-fulling your stomach, you’ve basically eliminated any room for digestion and water and therefore your stomach has no choice but to expand. A good habit to start practicing is to eat till you’re full or satisfied but not over-full. As a rule, I eat till I’m 80 percent full at every meal and I exercise portion control.
While portion control comes with being aware of calories and serving sizes, here are some tips to follow the next time you eat:
- Drink 6 ounces of water before you eat.
- Use a smaller plate when dishing out food.
- Ask yourself, do I need to eat everything that’s being served, or do I just want it? Do I need to have two scoops of ice cream or can’t I be satisfied with one? Do I need to have a full serving of fries and two pieces of fried chicken or will half a serving of fries and one piece of chicken be enough to satisfy me? Am I going to exercise or eat less in the next coming days to stay within my calorie deficit? Remind yourself that you don’t need to eat everything in one sitting but if you really want it you can have more the next time you eat.
4) Get MORE PROTEIN in your diet
If I had a dollar for every time I told someone to get more protein in their diet and they mentioned that they ‘heard’ that too much can cause harm, I’d be very wealthy. Here’s the thing, too much of anything can cause harm, but when I say to get more protein in your diet I don’t mean that that’s all you should eat. I think it’s safe to say that the most over consumed macronutrient is carbohydrates. To be honest, that makes total sense; carbs is life. No, really, like literally, we get energy from eating carbs. That’s why when I hear people say they cut rice, bread or pasta from their diet I’m like, why? That makes me sad because let’s be real, the best things in life are made of carbs. I’ve always strongly believed that carbs don’t need to be cut; carbs need to be moderated.
When it comes to carbs and calories we forget that what isn’t used as energy is stored as fat and because our diet tends to lean heavily towards carbs (doubles, aloo pie, macaroni pie, fried bake, fries, fried rice etc.) we under-consume protein. People tend to only associate protein intake with sports and athletes but forget that the body uses protein to build and repair tissues. We also need protein to make enzymes, hormones and other body chemicals and protein is an important building block of bones, muscles, skin, cartilage and blood. Lastly, when it comes to fat loss, protein is the most important macronutrient because it helps to fight hunger better than carbs and fats. To say that it’s a vital component of a healthy diet is an understatement. There are several ways to get more protein in your diet, here are a few ways:
- Snack on a little bit of mozzarella cheese (unless you’re lactose intolerant of course)
- Replace those sugar-filled cereals for breakfast and have some egg whites instead
- Have some Greek yogurt
- The next time you’re having a salad, top it with either 3.5 ounces of chicken or turkey breast, tuna or salmon or if you’re vegetarian some beans, like lentil and chickpeas
- If you can’t find the time to get the protein in your meals, then get a protein supplement and have a protein shake instead
- If you’re a vegetarian, I would advise the same with regard to protein supplementation. Trying to find viable sources of protein if you’re a vegetarian can be a struggle and while you can get a good amount from legumes and soy products there are certain things you should be aware of when you’re having too much of both. See my post about when I went vegetarian and some of the obstacles I faced: https://naturalleighblog.wordpress.com/2018/07/02/the-effects-of-a-vegetarian-diet-on-the-menstrual-cycle-strength-training/
5) Manage carbohydrate intake, DON’T DRASTICALLY CUT CARBS
I’m actually getting a little ashamed of plugging my past blogs but if you really want to understand why you shouldn’t cut carbs or drop them too low you should read my blog about my experience when I went too low on carbs: https://naturalleighblog.wordpress.com/2018/01/31/the-c-word/
I’ve noticed that when people refer to carbs they tend to only put it in the bracket of grain-based foods like bread, rice and pasta and starchy foods like potato, peas and corn and forget that most vegetables are in fact carbohydrates. So, when I hear people say that they’re cutting carbs but having a lot of vegetables I’m always confused.
If you’re used to over-consuming grain based or starchy carbs and this makes up most of your daily calories then it makes sense that you would lose a lot of weight quickly if you were to cut this food group from your diet because you would have unknowingly gone into a calorie deficit; cutting carbs therefore wasn’t the reason you lost the weight, but because you in fact went into a drastic calorie deficit.
The problem when you cut carbs or go into an extreme caloric deficit is that you’re one hundred percent setting yourself up for failure. Carbs is responsible for giving you energy as I mentioned before and when you go too low carb you will undoubtedly feel tired very quickly. Added to the fact that when people go low on carbs they also forget about protein and that it keeps them full and therefore end up getting hungry very quickly as well. This is pretty much why they call it ‘crash dieting’ because you end up crashing pretty quickly.
This is why I’m big on the ‘managing carbs’ approach rather than cutting it from your diet because let’s be honest, the success of any diet comes from an individual’s ability to maintain the diet for a long period without compromising the quality of their life. Sustainable, long-term dieting should always be the goal and cutting carbs out of your life is simply not realistic nor smart. I do understand though that trying to find a good balance when it comes to carbs is not the easiest for some, so here’s a tip when it comes to managing carbs via portion control: For every meal (or at least two meals) try to get at least one fistful of vegetables (two fistfuls for men). Vegetables have a decent amount of fiber and fiber also keeps us full longer and comes packed with micronutrients. For grain and starch-based carbs, one palm full (two palm-full for men) can be used as a gauge for each meal. By including the both of them in each meal you get to still enjoy the ‘fun’ carbs and have energy while staying full longer. In addition, this is an easier method than calorie counting and also keeps us from overeating which usually results in inadvertently staying in a calorie deficit.
6) GET FAT in your diet
Well not literally because that would be the opposite intention of this blog but fats in addition to protein usually get a bad rap as well as misrepresentation. First of all, it’s impossible to eliminate fats from your diet as all meat and beans have fat in it. Also, we actually need fat in our diet as they provide essential fatty acids that keep our skin soft and also deliver fat soluble vitamins that are a great source of energizing fuel. All fats are not created equally though, and this is where a lot of the misinformation occurs. Bad fats like saturated and trans-fat seem to get more attention in the media and because of this, people tend to lump all fats as being bad. This is the furthest from the truth. Good fats like unsaturated fats which include polyunsaturated fatty acids and monounsaturated fats when eaten in moderation and used to replace bad fats can help lower cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease. Please note that I said in moderation though. Fats, regardless if it’s good or bad, is quite calorie dense (at 9 cal per gram whereas protein and carbs come in at 4 cal per gram) which means that if you’re trying to lose body fat you should be aware of your fat intake in order to stay in a calorie deficit as it’s quite easy to overeat fats and go into a calorie surplus. Seeing that choosing the right types of dietary fats is a contributing factor in the reduction of heart disease, even though it’s calorie dense, I would say that getting more good fats in your diet should be prioritized as fats, like protein, also keeps you full longer.
Good fats can be found in: Avocado, olive oil, nuts and seeds and fish. If you’re not a fan of fish, like myself, then an Omega 3 supplement can also be very beneficial to include in your diet. Also, when choosing other meats, always choose leaner cuts. In recap, when it comes to fats in your diet: 1) It’s a must, 2) get good fats in and limit bad fats as much as you can and 3) always eat fats in moderation so as to stay in a calorie deficit.
7) MANAGE your sugar intake
If you read my last blog (https://naturalleighblog.wordpress.com/2018/07/21/the-role-of-insulin-in-fat-loss-for-women-with-pcos/) you’d understand that having an excessive amount of sugar in your diet can lead to a host of issues with regard to the body’s management of insulin aka the fat storing hormone. When I tell people to manage their sugar intake it’s for this reason. Having one tablespoon or two in one cup of coffee or tea won’t have an extreme effect on your daily calorie intake but having over 25g of processed sugar (especially for women) every day might begin to cause some damage to your organs over time and may result in the body’s impairment of properly managing insulin. One bottle of soda alone usually has over 50g of processed sugar. Having PCOS or other hormone issues with sensitivities to insulin means that even without excessive dietary sugar intake, your body’s fat storage management is already compromised to an extent, which means that once you’re eating in a calorie surplus the weight gain may seem to come on quicker.
The problem with a lot of high-sugar foods is that they are also calorie dense. This means that they contain a lot of calories in small portions which can lead us to overconsume because they tend to also be lacking in nutrients and do nothing to keep us full so we can easily put ourselves in a calorie surplus. I don’t have a problem with having a sugary snack or two everyday but when you’re trying to lose fat it is important to remember that you need to stay in a calorie deficit.
To be very honest, you don’t need to eat vegetables every day or exercise and you can in fact have a lot of processed sugar and you will still lose fat once you remain in a calorie deficit. But ask yourself, is that smart or good for your body in the long term? To me, how I feel mentally and physically will always trump my body fat goals. I can guarantee that there is no comparison to how you’ll feel when in a calorie deficit on junk food and being in one where you get sufficient macro and micronutrients. You will feel like an utter mess in one body state whereas you will feel alert and full in the other. I don’t have to tell you either which calorie deficit results in a better state of mind. Remember, being skinny doesn’t mean that you’re healthy. I mean, let’s be real, cocaine addicts tend to have little body fat. Therefore when it comes to sugar intake I would advise that you always remember two things: calories and nutrients matter. As with anything else it’s important to create a balance, especially for long term sustainability to your chosen calorie deficit method.
I, like a lot of people, like to have a sugary snack after a meal. I’ve been able to manage my weight and my insulin levels, as a woman with PCOS, by being flexible with my daily dietary sugar intake. With nutrients in mind, I always have an apple or banana or any other fruit for that matter everyday as a way to satisfy my sugar urges. By having a fruit, not only do I get some natural sugar in but fruits are also filled with fiber and a host of nutrients so it’s one of the best ways to snack with benefits. I can also totally understand that a banana can never be a real substitute for when you really want a donut, cake or ice cream, so this is where calories should come to mind when having processed sugar; always portion control. When snacking with anything with processed sugar, I try to manage my calorie intake by choosing snacks that are 100-150 calories or less or I stick within or under the serving size so that I don’t put myself in a calorie surplus. Doing this means I can satify my sugar craving while still managing my weight. When I can’t do either because I’m at a family or work event and the snacks come without labels for example, I simply ensure I exercise the next day so that I burn off the additional calories.
I would really like some feedback if you found the above points helpful, and remember that my consultations are free so if you need more information or help, please feel free to message me at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, if you’d like to see some of the progress of my past fat loss clients then check out my ig account @divaleigh23
“A goal without a plan is just a wish.”