Its that time of year when the world goes “Beach Body Crazy”.
Of course it can be pretty hard to not feel a certain pull of beach body worthiness when our society is so image obsessed. Put to one side for a moment that a lot of the images we look at in our media are not real, having had the support of some tech wizard and the mighty Photoshop pen.
But if you are hitting the beach or poolside this year then it’s quite natural to want to feel good.
Feeling good poolside is very different from a desire to look like a Photoshop model poolside and just to be clear, 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 option not just for two short summer weeks. Ok…rant over.
But if you have been thinking that you want to shed your winter poundage (those unwanted pounds that have crept on since you layered up and started hibernation eating over the winter) then 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 much more an advocate of 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 and even in the short term it may do more harm that good as you can actually gain weight and upset the hormones that control your metabolism, your sleep patterns even your sexual appetites!!
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’s 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 so set yourself up for a lifetime sugar addiction.
By contrast the Egg & Avocado option, while not as attractive from a calorie perspective of is full of good fats and proteins and so 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 sweetners, and processed foods.
“Need an afternoon snack? Why not enjoy our chocolate flavoured yoghurt with mini crispy balls on top for only 99 calories!!!”
Why not? 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 is much more than that.
Metabolism in your biochemistry, its 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 its your hormones that dictate that and its much more about what type of food you eat rather than the calories composition 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 gets sent into free fall.
You might lose weight this week and then having eaten a fewer 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 you waistline.
When You Calorie Count 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 calories counted portion and towards the end of the meal you start to feel 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 budget so no problem right????
Firstly, when you eat to feeling full that means exactly that, your stomach is full. Which means that you are every 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. Often times choosing a high calorie whole food is a better option for your waistline. Note the word whole food, we are talking organic meat and diary, fatty fish, avocados, nuts, seeds and great oils…not donuts and takeout.
What’s the Alternative?
We our top tips at The Body Retreat when you want to tone up and trim down are pretty simple..and nothing to count, measure or weigh.
Eat Clean Whole Foods…cut back on the starchy foods and increase the lean proteins and lots of green. Green is Good!
Only Eat When You Are Truly Hungry…get out of the habit of eating. Don’t eat when you are bored, stressed, 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 or so hours, 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 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 those all 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 that it’s ok, but you now choose to nourish your body and mind with real whole foods, enjoy moving your body and feeling how strong it is, how much it can do then your confidence to peel off those extra layers will be right there.