A few weeks ago, I got to be on the “Toast & Jam” podcast to talk with Jessica Irgens about counting calories, my pet peeves, alcohol (duh), and lots more. Yes, this is “technically” a podcast for Registered Dietitians, but honestly, anyone who’s interested in learning more about health and nutrition can enjoy it. No crazy technical terms here.
But if you are an RD…YOU CAN GET A CEU IF YOU LISTEN TO THIS PODCAST. Just listen to the podcast, enter your email here, and take a quick quiz. That’s it.
I’m including some excerpts from our conversation, but you can listen to the whole episode here or search for it on Apple Podcasts.
Jessica Irgens: What is the thing you see that people can do longterm?
Me: I think it has more to do with what you’re focusing on than what you’re actually doing. Honestly, there are so many different diets out there and so many different ways to go about losing weight, and most of them work – it just depends on the person and what works best for you.
But I think that you have to be in the right place and make sure it’s something that can be sustainable longterm. So, what I would do is I would get my clients to focus on increasing their metabolism instead of decreasing their calories…And there’s a variety of ways I do that. Focus on eating protein, healthy fat, and fiber instead of focusing on NOT eating X, Y, and Z, lifting weights because putting on muscle helps increase your metabolism…
But then, in addition to that, the other key that I’ve found is really helping people navigate things like going out to eat, going on vacation, traveling, drinking alcohol…And so many diet programs focus on the routine, the Monday-Friday, Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner. And this can work really well if you have a very structured life, but when happy hour rolls around, what do you do? And so, I focused a lot on that with my clients. And the combination of those two things (what to eat vs. what to NOT eat), plus what I call “real life” – how to live your real life eating in a way that can help you continue to help you lose weight and burn fat or maintain weight.
JI: Do you ever have your clients count calories at all or keep track?
No, I really don’t. I just have them make sure they get their protein, fat, and fiber at every meal. And it’s not because I think calories completely don’t count – they do – but I have just found that when they focus on the calories, they just get too bent out of shape about it and what it does is it prevents them from really being able to tune into their hunger hormones that are built-in and help us regulate our appetite.
We literally have hormones that say “okay, stop eating because you’re at an even energy level right now and if you eat any more, you’re going to gain weight.” …So, I get for a lot of clients this is really scary. They’ve done calorie counting for a really long time and they’re like “well how am I gonna know? How am I gonna know I’m in a calorie deficit?” And I promise you, your body knows what it’s doing and if you fill up on these really nutrient-dense foods and your body starts getting more into a fat-burning mode instead of a fat-storing mode, that weight is just gonna start to come off, and you just have to trust the process.
JI: What is your biggest pet peeve when it comes to nutrition information or diet “buzz words” or diets in general?
I think it’s just the obsession over certain words. Gluten-free, all-natural, low-fat. Those words get slapped onto labels and we think they’re healthy and good for us because of the marketing. Just because something says “gluten-free” doesn’t mean it’s good for you…But that’s not the consumer’s fault. That’s the marketing…Like “OMG, this is non-GMO.” Great, it’s still a processed food that’s full of carbs and sugar. Just because it’s non-GMO doesn’t mean it’s healthy.
JI: Say you’re somebody that drinks. Is there a drink that’s better than others as far as not promoting weight gain?
So, anytime you’re introducing sugar with alcohol, you’re gonna be getting into trouble, because what a lot of people don’t understand is our bodies actually don’t to store alcohol as fat, so that’s not really the issue. But our bodies love to store sugar and excess fatty acids as fat. And when we’re combining that with alcohol, it gets even more tricky because your metabolism will slow down. Which makes sense because when you’re drinking alcohol, your body is trying to clear the alcohol because it’s poison. So everything kinda slows down, including your metabolism, so you’re much more likely to store sugar, for example, as fat.
So, a very basic rule of thumb, of course, is “don’t add sugar to your alcohol.” …Even a margarita, for example, you go somewhere and order a skinny margarita, it’s usually still tequila, agave, and lime juice. This is my hack: ask for no agave, a little bit of orange liqueur (yes, this still has a little bit of sugar, but it’s not going to be nearly as much as the agave they’re adding), with fresh lime juice. And you’ve got a low-sugar margarita, and it’s delicious.
JI: Can you give us an example of what you typically either eat yourself or what you recommend people to eat? Like maybe a sample breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
For breakfast, I love eggs. I usually do a couple of eggs, yolk and all (especially now that I’m breastfeeding). I add a little cheese to it, some avocado, and then some sort of veggie. I usually have some sort of frozen vegetable that I make every week and then I’ll just add them in…
For lunch this week I did a little piece of salmon with raw broccoli, cherry tomatoes, some bacon, and like a quarter of an avocado. And then I had my ranch dip that I make all the time, mix that all in. So it was kind of like a salad with no lettuce with the salmon on it.
And then dinner this week I made a bunch of frozen veggies and sautéed some shrimp in butter. Mix those together, add an avocado on top, and that’s about it.
For snacks, I’ll do either hard-boiled eggs or nuts. Sometimes, I’ll have fruit if I feel like it.
JI: So, what are some of the benefits of collagen? I know that’s kind of a big thing right now people are getting into.
Yeah, collagen is awesome. I like it for a few different things. It’s great for your gut health…If you have a lot of damage to your gut and you’re taking probiotics, that’s amazing. But all you’re doing is adding good bacteria to a damaged gut. So you also want to heal what damage you already have done, and that’s what I see people doing a lot. They’re taking a probiotic, but that’s all they’re doing. But taking something like collagen can actually help heal permeability you have in your gut…It’s great for your hair, skin, nails…It’s also really good for your joints.
JI: Do you have any words of encouragement you’d like to leave us with?
I think just being able to step outside the box of what we typically think about when we think about weight loss and how to lose weight and taking things away, taking away carbs, taking away calories. Just put that aside for a minute. Just don’t do that for even a day and start thinking about what you can add to your life and add to your diet.
For anybody listening, if you’re not already doing this, tomorrow when you wake up in the morning I want you to think “protein, healthy fat, fiber. I’m gonna get it on my plate for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.” That’s it. And see how you feel. Just do it once, don’t count calories, don’t count anything, delete MyFitnessPal for a day. Because I think if that can make you feel good and lose weight and change how you think about food, that’s why I really do what I do.
You can follow Jessica Irgens on Instagram for more at @jessica_irgens