It’s that time of year when the world goes “Beach Body Crazy”.
Of course it can be pretty hard to not feel a certain longingness to flaunt a toned body when our society is so obsessed with physical attributes.
Put aside the fact that a lot of the images we see in the media are not real, having had the support of some tech wizard and the mighty Photoshop pen.
Feeling good poolside is very different from a desire to look like a Photoshop model and let’s face it- there is no such thing as a beach body…your body is your body, summer, winter, spring and autumn. Feeling good inside and out is a 365 day option; not just for two short summer weeks. Ok…rant over.
If you have been thinking that you want to shed your winter pounds (those extra pounds that layered up when you started hibernation and eating over the winter) I want you to think differently about how you approach your weight loss this year.
In the interest of full disclosure I will say that I am more of an advocate to Gaining Health , not Losing weight. But I live in the real world and I know that there are times when we all want to trim down and tone up.
For decades now we have been told that when it comes to weight loss you need to count calories and then reduce them.
Put less in than you use up and hey presto!! you lose weight. It’s the perfect equation…except that it isn’t!
Playing the calorie counting game doesn’t work in the long term -it may do more harm than good as you can actually gain weight and upset the hormones that control your metabolism, your sleep patterns and even your sexual appetite!!
Why Counting Calories Doesn’t Work
All calories are not created equal.
For example you want an afternoon snack and you have budgeted about 250 calories. What to have?
How about a chocolate bar? A Mars bar has 260 calories or a Kitkat is even better at only 230 calories. Or how about a boiled egg and half an avocado coming in at 270?
The chocolate bar will give you a real rush, your blood sugar levels will be flying for about 30 – 40 mins then you will feel totally flat as you crash and burn. Your insulin levels will be sky high coping with the sugar. You are also training your brain to respond to sugar and in doing so, setting yourself up for a lifetime of sugar addiction.
The Egg and Avocado option, though not as attractive from a calorie perspective, is full of good fats and proteins. The energy is slowly absorbed, avoiding those blood sugar and insulin spikes. You will literally feel fuller for longer and you will have had the vitamin, mineral and antioxidant boost from this snack. It’s also much less likely to have you chewing your arm off on the journey home from work or craving carbs in the evenings.
Choose the chocolate and you could have saved yourself 30 calories, but you will most likely eat much more than that to climb out of the sugar crash.
It’s not about the amount of calories but rather the type of calories that you are choosing to consume.
You May Be Tempted to Eat “Fake Food”- The saviour of any calorie counting diet plan are the artificial sweeteners, and processed foods.
“Need an afternoon snack? Why not enjoy our chocolate flavored yogurt with mini crispy balls on top for only 99 calories!!!”
Well, before you tuck in take a quick look at the ingredients list. Does it read like a chemical experiment?
Are there lots of words you cannot pronounce and have no clue what they are? You are consuming chemicals, chemicals which fool your brain into thinking you are eating real food. Yes you have only consumed 99 calories but you have consumed a whole lot more “stuff” that messes up your metabolism and endocrine system.
Hormones Regulate Metabolism, Not Calories
This is a good time to give a quick plain English explanation of metabolism.
We tend to think of metabolism as a furnace that gets switched on or off depending on what you eat and how much you exercise. But actually, it is much more than that.
Metabolism, is actually hormonal reactions in your brain, your gut and even your fat cells that tells the body what to do with the energy you have consumed. Burn it as energy, store it as fat or use it to build muscle-it is more about what type of food you eat rather than the calories intake that makes these reactions.
When you eat Fake Food or very low calorie food you aren’t giving your hormones much to work with and so your metabolism rates soars down.
You might lose weight this week and then having eaten a few higher calorie food the next you put on 3 or 4 pounds!!
How did that happen?
Well your metabolism’s is out of whack. You need start eating real clean food all the time…no exceptions and no exclusions. Your hormones will love you for it and so will your waistline.
When You Count Calories You Stop Listening to Your Body.
We have all done diets. Day after day of having a fixed reduced calorie intake goal. “Today I’m eating 1,200 calories” and so you plan the day out, splitting the calories into manageable portions.
Picture the scene, you are sitting down to dinner with your calorie counted portion and towards the end of the meal you start feeling full. But you still have all those calories left on the plate that you allocated, it would be a shame to waste them…so full or not,most people keep eating and clear the plate. After all they are still within their calorie limits, so no problem right????
Firstly, when you start feeling full that means exactly that-your stomach is full. Which means that you are ever so slightly stretching your stomach. So the next time you eat, you find that you need to eat just a little bit more to gain the same feeling of fullness, then the same thing happens the day after and the day after… before you know it your stomach has stretched and you cannot seem to find that same feeling of fullness you once did.
Admittedly you are not very likely to stretch your stomach on a diet of lettuce leaves, but the problem with diets is that they never last…never! And once you have created the habit of always eating until you are full you continue this habit with the higher calorie foods, consuming the same sized portions of food that will now stretch your stomach and are stored as fat.
You Can Become Obsessive About Food
Viewing foods only in terms of their calorific value encouraged disordered thinking about food. You can so easily become obsessed about hitting the lowest number of calories per day or working out to burn off as many calories as possible…leaving yourself under nourished and over exerted. What you fail to see is the real nutritional value of the food. Most often, choosing a high calorie whole food is a better option for your waistline. Note the word whole food, we are talking organic meat and dairy, fatty fish, avocados, nuts, seeds and great oils…not donuts and junk.
What’s the Alternative?
My top tips when you want to tone up and trim down are pretty simple..Nothing to count, measure or weigh.
Eat Whole Foods…cut back on the starchy foods and increase the lean proteins and lots of green. Green is Good!
Eat Only When You Are Truly Hungry…get out of the habit of eating when you are bored, stressed or upset. Learn to listen to your body, listen out for the signs of real hunger.
Never Skip Meals, (if you aren’t hungry after about 4 hours or so are you listening to your body?) You will probably eat about 4 times a day, about every 4 hours or so, this is about how long it takes for your body to use up the energy you have given it along with some of your fat stores.
Keep yourself Hydrated…don’t confuse hunger with thirst. Stay hydrated all day, your skin, hair, eyes and waistline will love you for it.
Move More Every Day…there is no getting away from it. You do need to move. Aim for about 20 – 30 mins of activity every day to help control your blood sugar levels.
Get Your Rest….sleep helps to reset all those important hormones; meaning your energy levels and hunger levels are better balanced during the days.
Relax… your body is already beach ready. When you make the decision and choose to nourish your body and mind with real whole foods, enjoy moving your body and feeling how strong it is-your confidence to peel off those extra layers will be right there.
Good luck getting your body beach ready. Let me know what works for you!!