Last weekend, I had the great honor of listening to Robb Wolf speak at the annual conference of the Nutritional Therapy Association. You may or may not know that Robb's new book "Wired to Eat" is about to be released in the United States. Many folks in Britain and Canada already have their copies. (No fair, right?)
Robb started his talk by sharing a couple of myths, that we, as 21st century humans buy into all too willingly.
"Eat less, move more."
"Everything in moderation."
If these statements were true, we'd have a lot more lean and healthy people among us. The idea that simply moving more while eating less helps you lose weight and then maintain it is just as wrong as the notion that eating everything in moderation is the solution.
First of all, the body doesn't care about how little you eat while you bust your butt at the gym. I'm a kickboxing instructor. I work out 4 to 5 days a week. But it is only when I dial in my diet to consist of real, whole, unprocessed foods and healthy fats, that I start seeing results.
And everything in moderation is designed to make you fail. There are a couple of reasons for that. First, think of that bag of chips or that donut. Both have added sugars and other crap that make you WANT to have more. You don't want to quit after just 5 chips, because that happens to be a serving size. If you have that donut in front of you, you'll eat that whole thing, not just a serving size. As Robb Wolf put it in his keynote speech, every single study confirms that a lifestyle (paleo, keto, even vegetarian) actually works, while moderation of a crappy diet does not. And if you take the 108 million people trying a diet each year and consider that 4 out of 5 fail, the answer is clear. We have a myth on our hands.
Of course, as a person who actually wants to eat healthy, you are in a bit of a pickle. Boredom of certain foods is actually rooted in our ancestry. We call this palate fatigue. Simply put, you can experience palate fatigue during wine tasting. Too many different wines tried in a short period of time can make your taste buds tired, or as some researchers suggest, your brain grows tired of the similar sensory information. The same can be true for eating the same food every day. Is it any surprise then, that our grocery store shelves are stocked with 50,000 items and 11,000 new items are introduced every single year! All it takes are a few well placed commercials and ads to make you want to try that brand new food, and trust me when I say that you will not want to eat it just in moderation. It won't work.
Secondly, a person eating a healthy diet (say paleo) is still looked at like somewhat of an alien. Walk into a fast food restaurant and buy a burger, fries and large coke, and you're considered normal. Order a bun without a burger, a side salad and a bottle of water and people are quick to call you orthorexic. Think about this! A person trying to eat meat, seafood, vegetables, and fruit is considered somehow abnormal. Don't let that happen to you! You are not abnormal!
That said, boredom of these healthy foods can hit anyone. It takes a committed person to get past it, experiment with new recipes and ingredients, and maybe just find joy in a relatively simple diet. And when all else fails, then... well.... bacon!
I had a conversation with a man who wanted to know more about Nutritional Therapy. This man is in his late 30s, a bit overweight (and not happy about it), a father and businessman. He asked me one question after another. He wants to shrink his belly fat in particular and was hoping for belly shrinking foods.
I explained to him the basics of a good diet. Combine the macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates (as vegetables), and fats. I explained what the body does with the food we eat, how it is converted to glucose, and how fat deposits happen. He listened intently, found out a lot of stuff he hadn't known before.
I explained also that he is a sugar burner right now, and as matter of fact, the vast majority of Americans are. After a lifetime of being preached to about eating low fat diets, we've become quite efficient at burning sugar. I told him that the body can relearn to go from sugar burner to fat burner. The question is, how much does he want it? The truth is that the first couple of weeks may be difficult. He'll experience cravings, maybe brain fog, irritability and in some cases even flu life symptoms, as his body rids itself of the inflammation and all the excess water it stores on a high carb diet.
Then he asked me if it is worth it, cutting out those foods (non-foods) and going through this rough time. My initial thought was to say, OF COURSE IT IS! Instead I asked him this: You are now 39. If you continue as is for the next 10 years, you'll be 49. Look at yourself at 49. Where are you? How do you feel?"
I could see his brain working. I knew he saw himself in front of his inner eye. He imagined life at 49.
After a couple of moments I asked, So, is it worth it?
He smiled. He hadn't thought about it that way. In his eyes, there was just the dieting, not feeling good about it, anxiety about giving up foods he loves. It wasn't about a lifestyle change, it wasn't long term. And he never once thought that changing his ways was a reward, not a punishment.
Where do you want to be in 10 years? In 20 years? Are you happy with where you are now? Can you truly say you feel healthy? Would you like to make some changes, but you feel a little intimidated... or a lot intimidated? There are a lot of resources out there on the world wide web. But sometimes you just need someone to hold your hand and guide you through the process. Hit me up if this is you. And I can tell you one thing, it is most definitely worth it!
I'm writing this post from the comfort of my bed. I caught a virus that left me weak and sick and with a fever. Throughout the past three days, my need for calories has naturally decreased. Firstly, when the body is working on healing itself, there is just not that much room for food and digestion. Plus, you simply do not require the same amount of calories when you're sitting around more or less useless. It is almost 12:30pm as I'm writing this post. I had a delicious breakfast of two eggs cooked in butter at 7:30am. Nothing else... and I'm just now starting to experience a mild hunger feeling. Had I eaten a bowl of cereal, however, chances really are that I would have started feeling hungry a lot sooner.
Why is that?
A bowl of cereal may be close in calories to two eggs cooked in butter, however, it is the macronutrients that make all the difference here.
The three big macronutrients are protein, fat, and carbohydrates. Together, these macronutrients nourish you in the most perfect way (that's assuming you're getting your carbohydrates from mostly vegetables). Each macronutrient has a number of jobs in the body.
Carbohydrates are digested quickly and easily, because they are basically shorter and longer sugar chains that need to be broken down into the simplest form of sugar: glucose. Glucose is the stuff that keeps you running every day. When consumed as vegetables, the breakdown will take a bit longer than when consumed as a processed carbs such as cereal. Carbohydrates help fuel the brain, they provide a quick source of energy, they help regulate protein and fat metabolism, help fight infection (together with protein and fat), lubricate joints, and they provide an ever important source of fiber! (Why do you think they fortify every boxed food with fiber??? You still have to poop!) In Nutritional Therapy, we recommend that about 40% of your daily food intake comes from carbs (the good carbs, not the candy bars and cookies).
Fat and protein get an equal 30% each in your daily need of macronutrients. Again, this is a general recommendation. Each person is different and may have to experiment with their macronutrient intake a little.
Fat (such as butter, coconut oil, olive oil, avocado oil) also provides a source of energy, slows the absorption of other nutrients, is absolutely necessary for adequate use of protein, manages inflammation, and is needed for the absorption of fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K (which in turn help assimilate proteins).
Protein (coming from meats, seafood, and eggs) is the building block of many functions in the body. Enzymes are the catalysts for all biochemical processes in the body. Antibodies help fight infection, hemoglobin is a specialized protein in the form of red blood cells and those carry oxygen, and hormones regulate your metabolism
Back to our bowl of cereal, which is mostly sugar, broken down into simpler sugar with very little protein and fat, even if consumed with whole fat milk. As a liquid, your milk is still digested faster, and lactose is yet another sugar (a disaccharide to be exact). Cereal is practically devoid of anything nutritious (despite the fact, that it's touted "heart healthy" and "fortified" with this, that, and another thing) and is digested in no time.
On a good day, my breakfast would include eggs, some greens, maybe half an avocado and/or a tomato. All macronutrients included, it makes a delicious and nutritious first meal of the day!