Wanting to lose weight? You might be thinking you need to eat fewer calories. And while this has some truth to it, it’s actually something I highly recommend you don’t focus on for weight loss. (mind-blowing emoji)
This is a bold statement and it always ruffles the feathers of doctors, trainers, and other professionals in the health and wellness industry. Why does it put people in a tailspin? (eyes spinning emoji) Because it’s the tale as old as time: “eat less and move more to lose weight.”
But you know what? If you’re reading this, you’ve probably tried this before. Many times! You’ve followed a diet, you cut your calories, you did all the right things. And it worked….until it didn’t anymore.
Why do we keep returning to the same methods for weight loss over and over and over again?
I honestly don’t know at this point. But I do know what can work for you instead:
1. Focus on your hormones instead of calories
What hormones do I mean exactly? Well, we could really go down a science rabbit hole here, but the main ones I want to put on your radar are insulin and glucagon.
These hormones are the main influencers of our blood sugar levels, and, yes, even if you’re not diabetic, you absolutely should care about your blood sugar.
Blood sugar levels in the body directly impact our energy, cravings, and ability to burn and store fat. It’s a main character in the weight loss process.
Insulin is a fat-storing hormone that allows sugar from the blood to enter our cells. Every time you eat in a way that significantly increases your blood sugar levels, your body needs to use insulin to handle that situation and bring blood sugar levels back to normal. **Your body cannot burn fat at a time like this.
So what does it mean to eat in a way that significantly affects your blood sugar levels? It means eating too many carbohydrates sources at a meal, especially without adequate protein, healthy fats, or fiber. It also means consuming too many added sugars from beverages, alcohol, sweet treats, and more. (AKA: the typical American diet with high carbs meals and sugar kind of everywhere)
The other hormone, glucagon, is a fat-burning hormone and allows us to use stored fat and sugar for energy. When you eat in a way that keeps blood sugar levels nice and steady, your body is able to use glucagon more often and stay in fat-burning mode. Sweet.
Keeping your blood sugar levels really happy throughout the day means eating carbs in a balanced way. Your meals need to contain lots of protein, healthy fat, and fiber. We actually refer to this method of eating as PHFF (protein, healthy fat, and fiber).
If you’re solely focused on calories in / calories out, you’re probably not thinking about your blood sugar and your body’s ability to stay in a fat-burning mode. You can eat fewer calories, but are you still spiking your blood sugar all day long? Are you causing yourself to have crazy cravings from blood sugar irregularities? Are you ravenous because your protein intake is too low at meals?
You can eat fewer calories, which sounds simple enough, but you’re making your weight loss journey a HECK of a lot harder. When thinking about your hormones (AKA: blood sugar balance) you’re ensuring that you stay satisfied, have stable energy, have pretty much non-existence cravings, and actually help your body burn fat!
So which would you choose? Stressing about calories or eating for happy blood sugar?
2. Eat more food, less often
It sounds weird, I know. But the whole “eat low-calorie meals and snacks all day” thing is just not helpful for weight loss.
First of all, you’re going to constantly be hungry every few hours and thinking about food all freaking day long. Don’t get me wrong, I like food, but I don’t want to think about it every waking hour. I’ve got other things to focus on! I know you do too.
Eating this way is also constantly requiring your body to utilize insulin (remember that hormone?) to maintain your blood sugar levels from all your little meals and snacks all day. Remember how every time you need insulin you essentially can’t burn fat very well?
What if you did this instead: eat three solid, balanced meals. I’m talking meals with at least 30 grams of protein that keep you full for at least 4 hours. Yes, 4 hours. This also means your meals are probably going to be at least 500 calories or more. Shocking, I know.
We need to be eating enough calories and your little 300-calories meal and 100-calorie snacks are not cutting it. Your metabolism needs enough fuel to the fire, otherwise, fat burn is simply not a priority, nor even possible.
And this makes sense, right? You’ve done the diets and keep decreasing your calories until you’re at a point when the scale doesn’t do anything. It might even go up, even though you’re eating very fewer calories (like under 1,200-1,400 calories). What the heck.
Weight loss always happens at first, but our metabolisms are smart and they adapt. They learn to hold onto energy because they are not getting calories on a regular basis. Fat loss you want? Nope. Can’t do that right now when you’re fueling yourself for the needs of a 2 year old.
So, back to eating more at your meals – not only does this ensure you’re fueling your body properly for a happy metabolism, but it also helps you feel so much more satisfied! You’re not thinking about food all the time (fewer cravings and snacking) and you have way better energy to move! (getting more steps in and having good workouts).
Eating 5-6 small meals a day does not rev your metabolism. So shift to 3 solid nourishing meals. To understand this a little bit better, check out this blog post.
*and yes, snacks are ok too! But the goal is to stop eating every few hours because you’re not eating enough in the first place
3. Create a new lifestyle, not a 30-day plan
Yes, cutting calories will work temporarily (we know this), but, again, I can bet you’re still with me reading this post because you’ve done this before and it didn’t work long-term.
Instead of the hyperfixation on decreasing your calories, think about the changes that you can stick to forever. Like literally for the rest of your life. Can you eat less than 1,500 calories for the next 20 years? 50 years? Can you track your calorie intake forever to keep the weight off? ….no.
What’s a better approach? Create habits and a lifestyle that become your new normal. You’re not doing crazy things out of the ordinary for a short period of time. Because what always happens as soon as you stop? You gain the weight back.
What can you do instead of following another diet for 30 days? Take the time to learn how your body actually operates at the metabolic level. Learn what habits are truly beneficial for successful fat loss. (turns out that cardio is overrated, sleep really does matter, and you can’t ignore your stress).
This team of dietitians here at Metabolism Makeover is all about teaching you instead of telling. We teach our clients the “behind the scenes” about their metabolisms that we simply weren’t taught. It’s so much more than just eating less to lose weight. Our metabolisms are like an ecosystem and things must be in harmony.
What does teaching instead of telling also do? It empowers you and helps you understand that your goals are never going to happen if you keep turning to quick fixes. Your goals happen when you create a lifestyle that supports your body’s true needs in all areas (and not just your nutrition needs!). This is about whole-body healing. Calories are a small slice of this hypothetical pie.
So speaking of teaching, we have a signature program and it runs a few times a year. If you’re ready to ditch the traditional weight loss method and try a biology-focused approach instead, it’s time to get on the waitlist for Metabolism Makeover.