Why We Overeat Part 3: Sleep

In part 2 of this series on overeating we discussed how the stress response we live with daily  contributes to overeating. Understanding the stress hormones and fight or flight is important to understanding today’s topic: sleep and overeating.

If you have not done so read Why We Overeat Part 2: Stress, before diving into today’s blog on sleep. Not getting enough sleep is a big stress on the body!

Getting a good night of sleep is vitally important to overall health and well being. Any efforts in the gym,kitchen or life to look, feel and perform better are stalled by not prioritizing sleep. 

If you are consistently not getting enough sleep there is a good chance you are  overeating as a result, and may not realize it.

What is it that causes us to overeat when we don’t get enough sleep ? Is it due to willpower ? hormones ? or is there an evolutionary advantage that is at odds with our current lifestyle ?  Read more to learn the answer!  

Sleep Makes It All Better!

Sleep is a basic human requirement, it is mothers nature’s way of forcing our hand into regenerating and rejuvenating.

Our endocrine, neurological, immune, musculoskeletal and digestive systems all rely on sleep to function correctly. This means every system in your body requires good quality sleep work at its best.

A good night sleep has  shown to increase memory and cognitive clarity, improve stress tolerance, better hormonal profiles, increased immune function, improved athletic performance, increased muscle mass, decreased body fat and better mood and energy throughout the day.

If I could  sell the benefits of sleep in a pill form I would be the most successful supplement producer in the world, living on a yacht, sleeping on a bed of gold coins and eating dinosaur eggs for breakfast.

I am here to tell you the health benefits listed above are not going to cost you a dime. All you have to give up is the mindless TV or facebook  and close your eyes when the sun goes down.

How We Are Designed To Sleep

From the smallest microbes in the soil to the largest elephant on the planet we are all synchronized to the orbit of the planet.

This synchronized orbit controls the light and dark cycles that tell us when we should be awake and when we should go to sleep  known as our circadian rhythm.

We have  special nerve cells in our eyes that detect the level of blue light from the sun. The light from the sun  helps signal to brain, and the body whether we should be wide awake or getting prepared for bed.

As the sun sets at night there is a signal sent to an area of the brain called the pineal gland. That signal tells the brain and body it’s time to start winding down. In preparation for sleep the pineal gland begins secreting the hormone melatonin.

We have a number of uses for melatonin in our brain, but one the biggest jobs is it  decreases the stress hormones that promote being awake and alert.

As we sleep melatonin also enhances the appetite suppressing effect of leptin in the body. Leptin keeps you feeling fed while you sleep, instead of feeling hungry and waking you up. The more you sleep the more melatonin is produced.

Sleep is also a huge driver in the production and timed release of our neurotransmitters. The most notable neurotransmitters regulated by sleep are serotonin and dopamine, and associated with mood regulation.

As you read in Why We Overeat Part 1: Feast and Famine;  dopamine and serotonin both play large roles in driving our behaviors to eat certain foods that hit the reward center in our brain and cause us to want more of that food.

While Serotonin and Dopamine play a role in mood they are also big players in focus, motivation and the ability to concentrate.

Serotonin is converted to melatonin, so by sleeping in alignment with our biological rhythms the body times the release of serotonin so it can be converted into melatonin allowing us to wind down at night and sleep through the night.

We are designed to wake up in the morning light with high cortisol secreted from our adrenal glands.The stress hormone cortisol allows us to be awake, alert and ready to handle stress. We should have declining cortisol throughout the day, with it lowest at night so we can wind down and sleep.

We should also wake up from our sleep hungry with low blood sugar levels, and low insulin (storage hormone) because it has been at least 8 hours since our dinner the night before so blood sugar will be low along with insulin.

A Light Accomplice

Electricity and light provided a new era in which humans could have greater control over our environment. While it lead to many great advances in society, it came with a cost disrupting our circadian rhythm, and sleep cycle.

Electricity gave us renewable, cheap, never ending light. This light was a  way to control our environment unlike we ever had before.

The biggest discovery before electricity was fire, it allowed us to cook food and control our environment in way unlike before.

When you start to control your environment it will also change you if you are able to adapt. We have adapted to the constant light, but not all adaptations are positive ones.

Long hours of artificial light and constant dense carbohydrates register as the longer days of summer. Summer means it is time to eat more and gain body fat.

A New Way Of Living

So What happens when we don’t get enough sleep and how does this impact our appetite and overeating tendencies ? I thought you would never ask!

With a lack of sleep you end up with extremely low energy, decreased willpower, lower cognitive function, obesity, type 2 diabetes, depression, fat gain and hormonal dysregulation.

The unending light registers to the body as as long days of summer. From an evolutionary perspective it is an advantage to eat more sugar and carbohydrates to gain fat in preparation for winter.

These days we live in a constant "summer" according to our biological rhythms, that signal us to constantly eat, and gain fat in preparation for reproduction. 

You are staying up late watching TV or checking facebook instead of sleeping, the excess light blue light suppresses melatonin production.

The extra blue light keeps the stress hormone cortisol elevated much later than it should be, causing melatonin to be low. 

This late night artificial light also interferes with conversion of serotonin into melatonin. We need melatonin production to relax and sleep.

Cortisol And Insulin

High cortisol raises insulin and  means low melatonin. Low melatonin  makes it even more difficult to get to sleep.

The elevated cortisol late into the night means that it will not be raised in the morning when we need it to wake up and be alert. Coffee anyone ?

You use caffeine to help with feeling tired, but it only causes cortisol to stay elevated when it should be reducing throughout the day. This constantly high cortisol makes you feel rushed all the time and in a stressed state.

Cortisol is a blood sugar mobilizer causing higher blood sugar throughout the day. Stress and blood sugar dysregulation both lead to overeating on their own, but there is a lot more to this puzzle.

Our circadian rhythms are supposed to control our insulin production  and stress mechanisms. When we do not sleep enough cortisol stays elevated to help mobilize blood sugar to aid in the stress of being awake longer than we should.

Because you haven’t slept enough the body is less effective at managing blood sugar causing you to be hungry throughout the day and night.

Less sleep means reduced willpower, leading to  more impulsive unhealthy food choices. The thing is you are not hungry, you are tired and stressed out.

Melatonin, Leptin and Ghrelin

Less sleep means less melatonin production. The length of prolactin secretion depends on melatonin production.

If melatonin is disrupted by too little sleep, prolactin will be secreted during the day instead of night time when it should be. Prolactin secretion has a relationship to the satiety hormone leptin.

Leptin is produced in our fat cells  and is used a dipstick that tells the brain what our body fat levels are, and helps regulate satiety.

Ghrelin works opposite leptin and is the hunger stimulating hormone.  Depending on the season, and our body fat levels our appetite will be adjusted to eat more or less through leptin and ghrelin.

When the production of prolactin is pushed into the day, it suppresses leptin’s signal to the brain. Suppressed leptin registers as a lack of body fat meaning we need to eat more.

As a result the brain increases the cravings for carbohydrates and sweets through Ghrelin. Decreased sleep leads to decreased leptin, and increased ghrelin meaning you are going to have an increased appetite

As you get fatter the leptin from the increasing fat on your body makes you leptin resistant meaning that your leptin receptors have been overloaded and do not work properly.

Without the adequate function of leptin,your appetite stays switched on day and night causing you to overeat constantly.

The signals that you are sending your body is that you are living in a constant state of summer with shorter nights and longer days, and stressed out.

The adaptation to the constant summer is to keep your appetite increased, especially for sweets and carbohydrates.

The problem is living  in summer with no winter to balance out the feast and famine is sending the signal to overeat and store fat year round.

All feast, and no famine to balance the equation has lead us to a state of fat gain, type 2 diabetes, obesity, heart disease and cancer.

Sleep Tips

A good starting place to avoid overeating and improve health is to prioritize sleep. When the sun goes down start winding down and have a routine for getting to bed.

Put away the screens at least an hour before bed to start making melatonin and calming down. If you have to be in front of a screen for work get a pair of blue blocker sunglasses. They block the blue lights and allow you to start making melatonin.

Avoid stressful activities and engage in some type of myofascial release such as using a foam roller or lacrosse ball to kick on the rest and digest parasympathetic and help you relax for sleep. Completely black out your room and make your room a little colder, both of these help with deeper more restorative sleep.

If you would like to read on more ways to improve your sleep read my blog post: 10 Ways To Improve Sleep

Fill out the form below if you’re looking for a coach who can help you adopt the simple habits necessary to reach your health, fat loss or muscle building goals.

These habits are based on getting you to your goal in a sustainable fashion that can be maintained, while keeping you accountable along the way.

 

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Why We Overeat Part 2: Stress

Hey folks if you haven’t already read part 1 of this series on overeating: Feast and Famine go ahead and do so to get some context for this post.

In the first part of this series we discussed how hunger works, and the fact that are hardwired for cycles of feast and famine.

Our ability to feast during certain times helped us to survive when dealing with famine. This same reward system that was crucial for overeating now works against us because our evolutionary habits don’t match with our current environment and modern foods.

When it comes to something as complicated as overeating, there are a lot of factors to consider and understand.

Once people understand the triggers for overeating they can work  towards a habit based reduction in the triggers and habits that lead to overeating.

In this blog post I am going to be discussing one of the biggest dark horses in overeating; stress. We have all heard mentions of stress or emotional eating,but Why does stress  cause people to overeat and make less healthy food choices ? Is it more of a mental or physical trigger ?

keep reading to learn more.

What Is Stress ?

Before we dive into the effects of stress lets define what it is,and dispel the myth that all stress is bad. Stress can be defined as a mental, physical or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension.

Stresses can be external such as ( social situations, environmental or psychological) or internal such as illness or a  medical procedure.

As an example building muscle from going to the gym and lifting heavy weights  is a beneficial stress response. Mini challenges to the immune system that allow it to grow stronger and fight off larger infections is a beneficial stress as well.

Certain forms of stress  that are short in duration are good for the body, but the poison is in the dose. Most folks are overdosing on stress daily.

How Stress Works In Your Body

We are adapted to handle infrequent short bouts of intense stress followed by time to rest and recover. Unfortunately our modern lifestyle is one of chronic low grade stressors that happen all day long with no time to recover.

Life requires the body to constantly be checking and establishing equilibrium.This equilibrium is known as homeostasis, for the purpose of this blog we are going to apply this to the  processes of appetite regulation, energy storage and use  as it relates to overeating.

Our stress response is a flow of adaptive changes that start in the central nervous system. This stress response is designed to be intense and  short in duration which causes mental, behavioral and physical changes.

Lets say we encounter a mountain lion on while on a hike. In response to the threat of a  mountain lion the body releases the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol to make the heart beat faster, increase the pulse  and move blood to the extremities to prepare for fighting or running away.

The secretion of cortisol also triggers the uptake of blood sugar into the cells to make sure all your energy can go towards fighting or running.

This stress causes the body to use all available blood sugar stored in the muscles or in the blood stream. The mountain lion sees you and runs away but you can still feel the effects of the stress hormones.

Adrenaline runs it course and is cycled out of the system in a short amount of time.Cortisol sticks around for much longer and signals the body to refuel after the stressful event.

We need to eat  sugar and  pack on  fat to make sure we’re prepared for any future fight or flight events.  

In everyday life a more likely stress is money for bills, traffic or an overbearing boss at work. The response is the same as the mountain lion though.

Adrenaline and cortisol is released to cope with the stress response. Your body doesn’t realize you are not fighting or running away.

The cortisol tells your brain to replenish sugar and store fat  in anticipation of the next stressful situation.  

Our stressed out lifestyle is just like coming across the mountain lion all day long.  We are not adapted to handle this volume of stress, but our body does it’s best  to adapt.

Assume our body has a stress bank, and each time you get stressed you make a withdrawal from the bank. We are all operating in extreme stress debt.

Just the same as any other bank sooner or later you have to pay back what you owe. The  currency we pay back our debt with unfortunately is our health.

Stress and Willpower

As we evolved and our brains grew we developed a larger prefrontal cortex. This prefrontal cortex allows us to set goals and regulate our actions.

This is the most evolved part of our brain that helps us to manage, and delay gratification. The prefrontal cortex helps you resist those sugar cookies because you want to look good for a trip to Mexico.

When the stress response is triggered it inhibits the function of our prefrontal cortex. Your ability to delay gratification and think of long term disappears.

In a fight or flight situation being impulsive is an advantage because your only focus is acting quickly and managing immediate threats.

In this state our body is concerned with improving  mood as quickly as possible, regardless of the consequences.

Someone who has something to live for is going to run much faster than a depressed person. The cravings are also  amplified to make sure you consume the foods that hit the reward center in the brain and elevate mood.

When this impulsive behavior is combined with reduced willpower and a perceived need to replenish blood sugar and elevate mood, it is a perfect recipe for overeating.

If overeating was due to occasional stress it wouldn’t be a problem. Our lifestyle and society is not conducive to occasional stress.

Comfort Foods = Sugar, Fat and Addiction

We are hardwired to crave dense sources of energy in the forms of sugar and fats, and processed carbohydrates. 

After consuming these energy dense foods the section of the brain that regulates stress starts to calm down and relax.

The reward system in the brain is triggered and dopamine is released to improve mood. It is a slippery slope when someone eats a food to feel better, not out of hunger.

Over time the same amount of food doesn’t elicit the same mood response, and the person has to eat more to achieve the feeling they are looking for.

Slight overeating can snowball into binging in an attempt to alleviate stress and feel better. The feelings of guilt and shame only create more stress and a vicious cycle that begins and ends with overeating.

While we are adapted to handle a certain amount of stress, beyond a certain point it damages our health and leads to cravings, drained willpower, impulsive behavior and eating to make us eat feel better instead of because of hunger.

I highly encourage you to find a form of stress reduction to do throughout the day. It can be taking your dog for a morning/nightly walk, writing in a journal, going to a yoga class or doing a form of meditation.

The very last post of this series is going to be dedicated to different methods that can be used to address each of the problems that stress provides.

In part 3 of this series I’ll be writing on another huge component of overall health that contributes to overeating.. stay tuned to see what it is!

Fill out the form below if you’re looking for a coach who can help you adopt the simple habits necessary to reach your health, fat loss or muscle building goals.

These habits are based on getting you to your goal in a sustainable fashion that can be maintained, while keeping you accountable along the way.


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How Break Fat Loss Plateaus

How To Break Fat Loss Plateaus

When it comes to fat loss we have been lead to believe it is a straight line towards your ideal body. Just change how you eat, sleep and exercise to look like the cover model, right ?  

Changing how you eat,sleep and exercise will absolutely lead to initial fat loss, but adjustments will need to be made.

At some point fat loss will stall, and what worked previously will no longer work. At this point it is time to make changes, not abandon ship altogether. Fat loss is a zig zag for most, not a straight line.

In response to stalls in fat loss many people begin to feel frustration and desperation. When you feel this way it is easy to look at common advice to just diet harder and exercise more.

Because a moderate amount of something works well doesn’t mean that more is better, this can apply to exercise and caloric deficits as well.

 

Basics First

When it comes to reducing food intake the body is intelligent, and attempts to keep energy balanced. Less calories in means less calories out.

This translates into a slowing of the metabolism, and less fat being burned. Instead of throwing the baby out with the bathwater and running to the next diet, we are going to tinker in the margins and make some smart modifications.

Here are some areas I have people get honest about where they are currently are:

  • Eating too few or too many calories  

  • Not getting adequate protein intake

  • The amount of stress in your life (sleep, calories and exercise can all be stressors)

  • The amount of sleep you are getting consistently (8-9 hours, black room)

  • Lifting heavy and sprinting a few times a week

  • Frustration with fat loss and scale obsession

  • Track your food intake for a few days and double check your numbers

  • Daily non training activity (walking,hiking, mobility, yoga)

  • Stress reduction practice

After looking the above areas over, and being honest about where you are at if there is one you are not currently doing work on that before adopting the habits later in the post. The above areas will need to be addressed before moving forward.

For those who have a check mark next to each area above I am going to give some basic recommendations on where to start to help you get back on the fat loss train.

I do not know what will work for you you individually so you will have to tinker and see what fits, and what doesn’t. I am here to offer the ideas and what has worked for my clients.

Do not try to adopt all these habits at once, that is going to be another added stress. Pick a few that seem like they fit and work on them until fat loss picks up again.

Zig Zag Calories:I know it seems counterintuitive to increase the calories, but when you have been in a caloric deficit for a long period of time the body adapts to burn fewer calories, because less are coming in.

Start increasing your calories by 100 the first week. Next Week bump up the calories by another 50-150 calories making sure that you're not gaining significant weight.

You should  begin to progressively lower calories again after 8-12  weeks of more calories, or if fat loss begins again.

Protein Priority: With the increased activity and training your need for protein will also increase. Most people do well in the one gram per pound of bodyweight.

A simple action step is to have 1-2 palm sized portions of protein at each meal. An added benefit is that protein is a high satiety food keeping you feeling fuller for longer.

Protein also requires more energy for the breakdown and absorption than fats and carbohydrates, this is known as the thermic effect.

Chew  Your Calories: Look at what you are putting in your coffee, alcoholic drinks per week or the green smoothie you are drinking three times a week.

Calories that we drink add up very quickly without us realizing it. This includes the green juices from health food stores, look at the calories, sugar and carbs it contain. When anyone is looking to reduce body fat or break a plateau I have them chew all their calories. Simple and easy!

Carbs post workout: I’m not talking about the doughnut and ice cream pints you see on instagram. A few potatoes, sweet potatoes, taro or a bowl of fruit post workout will help with recovery , but also by lowering cortisol you will be able to burn a little more body fat.

I would encourage someone to increase post workout carbs by 25-30 grams until you notice progress again. Everyone has a different tolerance to carbohydrates and a great guide to help is Mark’s Daily Apple carb curve.

Take A Deload Week: Instead of being completely inactive for this deload week I like to see folks walking 45-60 minutes a day or going for a few hikes.

Get outside, play and have fun! Dedicate 15-20 minutes to mobility and restoration. This would be a time to address any nagging injuries or mobility issues. Take the dog for an extra walk every day or decide you are finally going to learn slack lining.

Relax : Stress is a true killer of both building muscle and losing fat. Start by dedicating 5-10 minutes to some form of stress reduction. This could be a morning walk, yoga, or meditating.

There is a great guided meditation app for the iphone named Head Space that takes about 10 minutes and is perfect for beginners.

Make Sleep A Priority: 8-9 hours in a pitch black and mildly cold room. Guard it religiously and develop a routine around it. If you have trouble falling or staying asleep read my post on ways to improve your sleep.

Avoid Chronic Cardio: I’m not talking about a few short 20-30 minute recovery runs, but the folks who slog away on the treadmill for 60+ minutes in an attempt to burn more calories.

While you will burn calories you are also pumping out the stress hormone cortisol which causes fluid retention and inflammation.

This long distance running will also dramatically increase appetite, especially for those denser carbs that you burn running.

Sprints: Once you have returned from your deload week begin incorporating 1-2 sprint sessions per week. These are ideally done on the same day as a weight training session.

You can hit a track, hill, rower, exercise bike or prowler for these sprint sessions. They should be 30 seconds of all out max effort combined with active rest for about one minute. Start with 5-7 rounds of sprints per session and increase as you adapt.

Consider Intermittent Fasting: Intermittent fasting (IF) does not work well for everyone, however there many folks  that it seems to kick start their fat loss.

IF is purposely engaging in periods where no calories are consumed and eating your food within a certain time frame. It can be especially helpful for those who are stuck in a fat loss plateau.

There are a number of methods to choose from but most include not eating for a period of 16-24 hours. This time includes when you are asleep.

Typically people stop eating after dinner  around 8pm and go to sleep.When you wake instead of eating breakfast have coffee or tea and eat for the first meal of the day at lunch.

This would be the normal 16-18 hour fast. Other folks go a full 24 hours without eating, this could be a 2pm Tuesday to 2pm Wednesday fast that allows you to fast for 24 hours, but still eat every day

Closing Thoughts

The above tips are a great start for anyone who has a good start on fat loss but it has since hit a wall with fat loss.

Remember that the common idea that you are not working hard enough and need to restrict calories further and exercise more, not only doesn’t work but can wreck your metabolism as well.

By slowing down the metabolism it will make breaking your next fat loss plateau even more difficult.

Instead choose to tinker in the margins and make sure your body is nourished and healthy enough to begin losing fat again.

Once someone approaches their ideal body composition it will require a lot more work and exact science to hit certain marks.

Before you get too down on yourself for not being as lean as you want ask if you have been putting in the work to get there ?

If not, realize that fat loss is not always easy and like anything worth while take consistency and dedication. To achieve sustainable fat loss you need to adopt sustainable habits to get you there.  

Why Diets Fail and How To Succeed

Habits That Stick

A large part of the reason  most people are not  able to follow a plan is they have not developed  habits that stick.

When I say habits that stick I am referring to the default habits that contribute to long term success.

These sticky habits become the new default to fall back on. With continued growth new set points will be achieved closer to the goal.

There are going to be steps backwards, but the person continues moving forward  because they have a new setpoint to work from. They know their goal is only met by moving forward each day.

Everyone these days is on a diet or doing a thirty day challenge, but what happens after that diet or thirty day challenge ends ?

They have reached the top of the mountain after thirty days, but have not built the habits to support this way of life for an extended period of time. Because the habits have not been built people typically return to their default habits.

This is typically where the wheels come off the wagon and there is a binge. The binge results in a return to the old default habits, and weight gain happens again.

After feeling guilty for going back to their old habits the person goes on another diet or thirty day challenge and cycle is repeated.

Each time a person goes through this weight loss and gain cycle they become more metabolism adapts better making fat loss more difficult.

Naturally the person thinks they need to restrict calories further and exercise more, but that is only digging a deeper hole. This cycle is  dangerous  mentally and physically.

When The Perfect Ruins The Good 

If the only thing you have been for the past twenty fives days is perfect and suddenly you slip up. That air of perfection is out the window, and your hashtag privileges are revoked on instagram I hear.

Short term goals should be easy right ?  why couldn’t I be perfect for a month ? insert the other common negative self talk here.This   fosters a very negative mindset, and can create unnecessary stress around food.

I always tell my nutrition clients, we aiming for progress not perfection. Think of achieving  a goal like a run,  it is a marathon not a sprint. You learn a lot from the journey to your goal.

Managing small setbacks allows you to handle larger setbacks with a positive mindset to keep moving forward.

Evolutionary Software

Biologically  humans are not hardwired for long term goals. Our survival from an evolutionary standpoint was regulated moment to moment.

Your physiology is only concerned with keeping you breathing and living until the next moment, hoping you will procreate if you are healthy enough.  

You body only cares about the short term because as hunter gatherers you could  potentially die at any moment. The system that regulates this is the fight or flight stress response.

It is responsible for making sure you get out of that stressful situation alive at any cost necessary to the body. To make the stress hormones needed to ensure your survival your body steals the precursors to all the other hormones. Sorry but low testosterone doesn’t matter if you are dead.

This short term hard wiring is also why you crave sweet foods.The sweet foods provide the feedback to your primal brain that this is a safe, dense source of energy.

We get the signal to eat as much of this food as possible , because it won’t be around for very long once the seasons change.

These are the kind of short term hard wiring that helped our species evolve, however this is not the best system for managing long term goals.

A Better Approach

Make sure that the habit you are adopting is small enough that you can not fail. It should almost be insulting how simple it is.

Instead of trying to complete the habit seven days a week start with  three days a week, think marathon not sprint. Build up over time and work your way up to seven days. Don’t try to start the race the race at the finish line.

The beauty of this approach is that  there is no end date or  abrupt ending. When these challenges and diets end they leave people without another path to follow except another thirty day challenge or diet.

The habit based approach to  health is focused on compacting all the small changes into something much bigger, and learning from the journey along the way. The longer path may be windy and difficult to stay on at times, but it will take you much further if you stay on it.

There is no judgement or perfection prioritized. It is about progress pure and simple. People experiencing smaller struggles and setbacks along the way helps to develop a stronger constitution and an ability to  handle larger challenges.

Keep  yourself accountable to someone else. Enlist a friend to help keep you on track or have them complete the habits with you.

Things such as sending picture messages or making a facebook group can be great for accountability. There are also habit tracking apps as well.

Once you have a habit down and it becomes autopilot, it is time to adopt  a new habit. With my clients I have noticed that most people do very well with a new habit every two weeks.

If a habit is more challenging, lay the groundwork for an extra week to make sure it is solidified before moving forward.

To make sure the habits stay interesting and things don’t get boring  cycle between nutrition, sleep, exercise, stress management. If every habit you adopt is related to nutrition it is much easier to burn out and lose interest. Make improvement to all areas of your life to reap the health benefits.

If you’re tired of working hard, and not getting the results you want, I can help you adopt the simple habits necessary to reach your health or fat loss goals.

These habits are based on getting you to your goal in a sustainable fashion that can be maintained. I’ll be there every step of the way to support and keep you accountable.  

Get on a Strategy Call with me to Discover how to achieve your health or fat loss goals, and make them yours to keep this time around.

Whether you decide to work with me or not I can guarantee you will leave this call with more knowledge on how to achieve your goals.

 

Evolve Nutritional Therapy Strategy Session


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12 Reasons You're Not Losing Weight On A Low Carb Diet

There are many factors that go into sustainable fat loss. These factors go far beyond counting calories, macros or whether you are vegan or paleo.

The fat loss war is bigger than just the diet and exercise portion. It is about the signals you are sending to your body on all home fronts that need to be considered diet, exercise, stress, sleep, lifestyle, genetic factors and your hormonal profile are all contributors to the fat loss war. 

Many people see significant benefits in their ability to lose fat by reducing carbohydrates and sugars. It has proven to be very effective for a lot of clients I have worked with.

However just like any other piece in the health puzzle, what fits someone else and helps them attain their goals may not work for you. We are all bio-individuals and have a number of different needs and factors that make you unique, and one of  kind. A snowflake of sorts! 

The individual needs of each person reaches farther than their diet and exercise regime. Many of these individual factors need to be recognized and planned for when waging a war against body fat.

In this blog post I am going to explain the main reasons beyond lowering carbs that you are not losing weight, and what to do about it. 

Too Much Stress In Your Life

The reality for a lot of people is that a healthy diet and exercise alone are not enough to achieve the fat loss they are looking for. We live in a fast paced world packed with unnatural stress.

Our body recognizes stress as a stimulus which it responds to the same  no matter where it  comes from. Whether you are getting chased by a sabertooth tiger or getting reprimanded by your boss, the body reacts the same way.

This stressful lifestyle puts our body in a constant state of fight or flight causing the release of the stress hormone cortisol.

Chronically elevated cortisol can increase unhealthy food cravings, muscle breakdown, fat storage and makes insulin resistance much worse. Sounds like a recipe for fat gain huh ? 

The Fix: Take a step back from your life and honestly assess how much stress you deal with on a daily basis, and what stressful situations could be eliminated. Adopt a stress management technique such as meditation, journaling, walks outside and deep breathing. These simple steps could help your overall health not only weight loss.

Your Carbs Are Higher Than You Think

It is very common to underestimate how much we eat, and overestimate how much we exercise. There is also the fact that some folks are far more sensitive to carbohydrates than others, and it's going to cause them to lose or gain weight much quicker.

The leaner you are chances are pretty good you can tolerate more carbs without fat gain than someone who is very overweight. 

If your weight loss has plateaued  log your food for a day or two and put it into some sort of fitness tracker like Fitday or My Fitness Pal to see where your carbohydrate intake is and adjust to meet your goals from there. 

The Fix: If you are not a hard charging athlete and are taking in over 100-150 grams of carbohydrates per day  dial back on carbs until fat loss begins again. To enter nutritional ketosis where many find accelerated fat loss go for 50 grams of carbohydrates from vegetables,  berries and other lower glycemic load foods or fruits.

You Need To Move More Throughout The Day

The caloric deficit we create daily with exercise is fairly small, and can become caloric excess with a snack or extra helping of food.

You should not be exercising to burn calories, but instead because mentally and physically there are many benefits.With exercise you will be able to create a better metabolic environment, build muscle and improve your mood and feeling of well being.

Not all exercise has to be a sweat drenched high intensity trip to the gym, aim for three to five hours per week of low level physical activity like walking or hiking.

Lift weights to build muscle mass which in turn improves your hormonal profile and helps to burn body fat in the long run. Use some short interval training or sprints as your cardio, it will boost growth hormone and can help to oxidize (burn) fat long after you are done.

The Fix: Incorporate 3-5 hours of low level walking and hiking along with 3-4 bouts of strength training per week. If you really want to make a push to burn extra fat include a sprint session or two. 

You Need More Sleep

Not getting enough sleep causes people to feel hungrier , have less willpower , blood sugar dysregulation, decreased performance in the gym, difficulty losing body fat/ building muscle and can negatively impact your hormones.

Lack of sleep is a stress on the body that can wreak havoc on our health, especially when trying to perform at an optimal level daily. 

Not getting enough sleep causes the release of the stress hormone cortisol, which is efficient at helping us store body fat. To add fuel to the fire, our largest release of the  muscle building/ fat burning hormone (growth hormone) takes place while we are in the deepest stage of sleep.

Sleep is not negotiable, and is required for health. your results in the gym, work and life will suffer if you don’t get between 7-9 hours of quality sleep a night consistently.

The Fix: Get to bed before 11:00 and shoot for 7-9 hours of sleep nightly. If you have trouble falling asleep clean up your sleep hygiene and start to make a night time routine to help you wind down and get to bed earlier. If you need tips for helping to improve your sleep refer to my earlier blog post “ 10 Ways To Improve Your Sleep”

You Are Eating Too Many Calories

Low carb is an effective strategy for a lot of people, but at the end of the day when you are trying to lose fat calories do matter.

What makes a low carb diet so effective is that it reduces the appetite and naturally makes people consume less calories.

If your fat loss has stalled but you are doing everything else right, look at how many calories you are taking in on a daily basis.

Be aware though that all calories are not created equal, and have different hormonal effects on the body because of the nutrients, vitamins and minerals they contain or lack.

As you approach your ideal body composition the small details become a larger part of the picture. 

The Fix: Take a look at some of the more calorically dense foods in low carb diets like nuts, nut butters and cheese that people can go overboard with ,and reduce consumption. Use a calorie tracker like My Fitness Pal or Fitday and see what your calories for three days are. When going for fat loss shoot for the range of 10-12 times body weight in calories. I am not encouraging anyone to count macros or calories long term, but just for a few days to get a realistic idea of how many calories you are taking in. 

You Are Not Eating Enough Vegetables

Many folks who adopt a low carb diet assume that they should avoid vegetables and fruits because they contain carbohydrates, but this is a big mistake.

Plants are some of the most nutrient dense foods and contain vitamins, minerals and lots of indigestible fiber that help with fat loss. The indigestible fiber you get from fruits and veggies helps you to feel fuller for longer and reduces the cravings.

Make sure to consume healthy fruits and vegetables with every meal and avoid the ‘low carb treats” and bars.

You will need to personalize your fruit intake, because some of them are higher in carbohydrates and will prevent you from entering ketosis. Fruits such as berries and other low glycemic load fruits can fit in the low carb diet because they are lower in carbs and higher in vitamins, minerals and fiber.

The Fix: Consume 1-2 cups of low glycemic vegetables at every meal to give your body the nutrients it needs and keep you fuller for longer. Some vegetables that are lower in carbohydrates and can be enjoyed are: spinach, kale, collards, eggplant, broccoli, celery, bok choy, mushrooms, avocado, tomatoes, asparagus, cabbage, cauliflower, peppers, onion, garlic.

You Are Over Consuming Dairy Products

Even though dairy is lower in carbs it does contain a good amount of protein and like carbs,  protein can be insulinogenic.

Protein much like carbohydrates when over consumed can raise insulin levels. This insulin  causes fat storage.  Even if you have no negative reactions to dairy, consuming it multiples times a day can cause extra spikes in insulin shutting down fat burning capabilities, and stalling fat loss progress.

The Fix: If fat loss has stalled reduce and eliminate milk, cheese, yogurt and cream. Because butter is very low in protein and lactose it will not spike insulin, you can also get Ghee which is butter fat with all the milk solids removed.

You Have Restricted Calories For Too Long

Being in a calorie deficit for too long can create some problems with the metabolism and can slow weight loss. When in a caloric deficit for too long it will slow down the metabolism.

The body is very intelligent and realizes that less food is coming in and in response it becomes more efficient by slowing the rate at which we burn calories to prevent starvation.

To prevent the metabolism slowing down people will purposely spike calories from healthy foods, especially from carbohydrates once a week. This weekly spike in calories sends the signal to the body that we are not starving and to  keep the metabolism humming along.

The Fix: If you have kept your calories and carbohydrates restricted for a long period of time and fat loss has stalled you may want to consider picking a meal or day once a week and  eat higher calories especially from carbohydrates at this meal/day. These should still be healthy foods, this is not a license to crush a dozen doughnuts once a week.

You Are Putting On Muscle Mass

Don’t live and die by the scale, while it can be helpful the scale does not tell the entire story when it comes to losing weight.

When you start to incorporate a more active lifestyle with better sleep and better eating habits  an environment to put on muscle mass and improve bone density has been created.

The great thing about  gaining muscle mass is it will help with fat loss. But because muscle mass is denser than fat,  weight on the scale may stay the same or go up.

The Fix: Take greater stock in other measurements that are not related to the scale. Make sure to keep how you look, feel and perform in your mind. If you staying at the same weight but body composition is changing in the mirror for the better don’t sweat the scale.

You Are Not Being Honest With Yourself

A lot of people will tell someone that they want to lose weight, but their actions do not match what they are saying. Everyone has met the person who tells everyone at a gathering they are on a strict diet.

Twenty minutes later the same person is at the food table stuffing their face with cookies, candy and potato chips. When asked  about their “diet” they explain that they are going to restart it tomorrow.

Months later you run into the same person again and ask them how the diet  is going and they respond saying it didn’t “work” for them. I highly doubt it was that the diet didn't work. That person was not ready for the large change they attempted to take on. 

The problem is that most people are not honest with themselves about what they really want in that moment. Delaying gratification is very difficult and can take years of practice.  

There should never be any shame or guilt around food choices, just consequences. If you value eating four cookies every day more than fat loss or getting healthier that is your personal choice, no judgement. However don’t tell people you don’t know why you can’t lose that last ten pounds.

The Fix: Be completely honest about what you value in your life and why that is important to you. Do not beat yourself up over slip ups. Instead recognize in that moment you valued what you chose over the delayed gratification of staying on course. The beauty is that next time you have the opportunity to make a better choice. 

You Are Eating Processed Low Carb Foods, Not Real Foods

There are plenty of low carb bars and processed foods that can be found in the grocery store. Low carb does not always mean it is a healthy option.

When adopting a new style of eating you have to be aware of the buzzwords that the food industry will use to sell you products.

When switching to a lower carb diet replace those carbs with whole nutrient dense food that comes from nature such as fish, meat, eggs, vegetables and healthy fats.

When reducing carbs it is very important to eat more fats. You are taking one energy nutrient away in the form of carbohydrates, and need to replace it with fats for energy. If you try to go low carb and low fat at the same time you will be starving all the time and feel horrible.

The Fix: Eat nutrient dense whole foods that come from nature such as meats, vegetables, fish, fruits, eggs, nuts, seeds and healthy fats such as coconut products, butter, palm oil, avocados and olives and olive oil.

You Are Impatient

One healthy meal will not make you lean, just like one unhealthy meal is not the cause of weight gain. Changing your lifestyle and staying consistent is the key to the battle against fat loss.

Some people are able to lose fat very quickly while others will lose fat slower. If you are someone who loses fat slowly don’t jump ship after a month saying it didn’t work, you need to be patient and adopt a new lifestyle that includes sleep, exercise, stress management and healthy eating. Diets fail but lifestyle changes do not. 

Adopting new habits can be very intimidating and difficult for people. I like the example of the mountain that is made up of pebbles.

The mountain is the persons goal and the pebbles are small habits that will get them to their goal. Most people want to move the entire mountain on the first day, but quickly get discouraged when the mountain doesn't budge.

What works better is to move a pebble a day, and over time you will move that mountain, but one pebble at a time. Small habits add up to big changes and goals being met. 

The Fix: Be patient and know that it will take time, if you stay patient and stick to the plan the reward of that consistency will be looking, feel and performing your daily tasks better. Given a long enough time to make these changes you can lose weight, but not everyone will look like a fitness model with just these tips. Be honest and realistic with yourself about your habits, and learn to love the process.

If you’re tired of working hard, and not getting the results you want, I can help you adopt the simple habits necessary to reach your health or fat loss goals.

These habits are based on getting you to your goal in a sustainable fashion that can be maintained. I’ll be there every step of the way to support and keep you accountable.  

Get on a Strategy Call with me to Discover how to achieve your health or fat loss goals, and make them yours to keep this time around.

Whether you decide to work with me or not I can guarantee you will leave this call with more knowledge on how to achieve your goals.

 

Evolve Nutritional Therapy Strategy Session


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