“Hang on a minute. Eat as much as I like to lose weight…that’ll never work!!”
When I’m coaching people I instantly assure them I wont be starving them or forcing them to eat just bars or shakes, in fact often one of the first things I do is tell people to eat more!
Well there are several reasons:
Most people, despite eating too much are under nourished.
They eat food which has almost no nutritional value and so their body is always critically short of the building blocks it needs to properly repair and build itself. As a result it constantly cries out for more nutrients (ie keeps you feeling hungry) so you keep eating.
This is one of the mechanisms by which often eating more (especially if this isn’t your first time losing weight) can really help, because by eating plenty of nutrient dense food your body is getting all the nutrients it wants, and after a while switches off the hormones which are making you hungry, naturally.
Most people have a fundamentally flawed relationship with food…they are terrified of it.
By showing you that you can eat as much as you like (as long as you are eating the right stuff) whilst still losing weight and feeling great you reset your brain and your relationship with food. Food becomes your friend as you fully understand its effects on your biology.
The fact is we’ve been getting this backwards for years. Let me explain.
Calorie restriction is the most common model for weight loss, eat less calories, put on less weight. Simple, easy to remember and for most people flawed to the point of being downright dangerous.
Why do I say for most people? Well we have to take in to account the amount of times you’ve lost weight in the past and your age. Weight loss causes structural changes in the body which actually makes losing body fat HARDER the more you cycle weight up and down. Old fat also requires different techniques to shift than young fat as it too is very structurally different. So while calorie restriction works great for a young person losing weight for the first time who doesn’t need to calorie restrict for years on end, it almost certainly will not work for an older person or someone who has been cycling weight up and down for years.
When the body is calorie restricted for a long period of time it thinks it’s heading into an ice age or at least a period of famine where food is going to be scarce. So it does some very clever things to prepare for this.
- It lowers your Base Metabolic Rate (BMR).
Your BMR basically tells you how many calories you will burn at rest in a day. Let’s use Anne as an example, Anne has a BMR of 2300 and is on a calorie restricted diet. When you calorie restrict your body lowers your BMR so that during this period of famine (which it thinks you’re currently experiencing) you don’t need to eat as much to survive. So after 3 months of calorie restriction Anne now has a BMR of 2100.
Clever. In an Ice Age.
BUT this has a major consequence when we are trying to lose weight and KEEP IT OFF in the modern world.
As now Anne has to eat 200 less calories a day just to stay at the same weight.
And here’s the real kicker. When Anne comes off the diet, her BMR doesn’t automatically readjust back to what it was.
So she puts weight on even faster as her BMR is now lower than it was before she started the diet.
We still don’t know how long it takes for the BMR to reset to normal or if it ever does (I can tell you it does as I’ve seen it in my clients but it means following a metabolic reset program like the NTX Program to do it) the current studies have followed people for 6 years after a calories restricted diet and still didn’t see their BMR return to normal.
2) Calorie restriction increases hunger and stress hormones.
Extended calorie restriction also leads to an increase in Ghrelin, the hormone which makes you feel hungry. The body does this to prime you to eat absolutely anything which crosses your path (remember it thinks you’re headed into an ice age and so that beetle which just ran out in front of you now looks like a tasty snack) When combined with your lowered metabolic rate this increased hunger spells disaster when the diet ends.
It also makes the actual diet hell as you are constantly starving and having to use willpower to resist eating.
At the same time it creates within you a very complicated relationship with food. One where you see food as the enemy and something to be fought against and defeated, rather than a source of fuel and nourishment.
But these aren’t, in my opinion, the worst side effects of calorie restriction. That honour is reserved for the fact that calorie restriction actually increases cortisol, the stress hormone.
Why does it do this?
Because it thinks you’re starving so it pumps you full of cortisol to give you the energy to get off your ass and go find something to eat.
Now stress in any form is public enemy no 1. This is due to many reasons but let’s investigate just 1 here:
As cortisol levels rise so does blood sugar, which causes the body to release insulin, which causes fat to be stored…
Do you see why calories restriction is absolutely NOT the way to go.
Ok so how can eating as much as you like be the answer?
By giving my clients a correct, nutrient dense food plan and telling them to eat as much as they like, rather than thinking it’s heading into an ice age their body believes it is living in a land of plenty. A land where highly nutritious fuel is abundant and easily found.
As this happens the body naturally reduces Ghrlein as it isn’t having to convince you to eat anything and everything as food is plentiful.
It reduces cortisol, as it’s now receiving all the nutrition it needs.
Crucially it realises it doesn’t need all these reserves of energy (fat) as insurance against the coming Ice Age and so starts shedding fat, despite the fact that you are eating more than ever.
By eating as much as you like and never going hungry, especially in the early stages of the program we also convince your brain that it isn’t going to starve (therefore reducing stress even further) and crucially rewire your relationship with food, so now food isn’t the enemy to be fought but an ally which can be used as a tool to give you the results you desire.
We also find that after a week or 2 you naturally reduce the amount you’re eating as your body rebalances and now it’s getting all the nutrition it needs cravings and hunger pangs disappear.
Storing fat is the bodies mechanism of protecting you against the impending doom of an ice age or other crisis, by showing the body it has nothing to stress about we literally watch as it sheds fat effortlessly and you feel great in the process as you’re getting all the nutrients you need.