Tag Archives: blood sugar balance

Overcoming Food Cravings

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Cravings are something so many people struggle with, I used to have terrible cravings every single day – in fact I felt like my entire life was spent battling cravings and hunger! It can be worse when we’re stressed or feeling vulnerable emotionally.

It’s easy to be pushed ‘off the healthy wagon’ when cravings kick in, it really isn’t about willpower, in fact I really don’t like that term. It suggests that we’re not strong enough to just say no, but it’s NOT as simple as that.

Battling cravings can take up valuable brain space and energy when we’re trying to resist them.

It doesn’t have to be that way, cravings do not need to take over your life nor should they! All you need is a little understanding about how cravings work and some solutions for how to overcome them, read on to learn more.

 

CRAVINGS CULPRIT #1:Constant Sugar Highs & Lows in your Bloodstream

When I was in my 20’s my cravings were pretty much insane, and I gave in every single day. I would devour an entire pack of Maryland cookies all to myself, in minutes. I thought this was all down to willpower, and that I clearly just didn’t have any.

Here’s how a typical day looked for me back then:

  • Breakfast: Corn Flakes, Special K, or a croissant
  • Lunch: Jacket potato (quite a big one) with cheese and beans
  • Snack: 3pm – by now I was climbing the walls looking for chocolate or a muffin for the Starbucks across the road from my office, so off I went.
  • Dinner: pasta with tomato sauce and cheese
  • Evening snacks: chocolate/crisps/cheesecake

 

On a diet like this it’s no wonder I was having such intense cravings all the time. Between breakfast and lunch I craved but didn’t give in, between lunch and dinner I craved and DID give in, between dinner and bed I craved and DID give in.

Basically I was eating a diet high in refined carbohydrates that spiked my blood sugar levels initially, and then this was followed by a sharp drop in blood sugar (energy) once the hormone insulin had moved all of the excess sugar out of the blood stream to protect me (and stored it as fat..thanks insulin!) Those sharp drops in blood sugar left me feeling hungry, craving, low mood, lacking concentration, a bit fuzzy – no naturally my biochemistry started craving something to raise my blood sugar again and give me some energy. At this point the last thing you will crave is a plate of chicken and salad or a lovely soup. So you see it’s NOT a case of willpower, it’s your biochemistry. You are not weak and you don’t lack willpower! Refined carbohydrates and sugar are addictive foods, for the reasons I just explained.

Is this resonating with you?

I hope you can now see what I am trying to show you – that cravings can be controlled (eliminated) through the food choices you make all day everyday.

When I first embarked on a diet and lifestyle (permanent) change one of the first things I did was switch all the refined carbs over to their whole grain alternative. That meant replacing regular cereal with porridge, jacket potatoes with big salads, regular pasta with brown pasta (and less of it).

The first thing I noticed was that between breakfast and lunch I had no cravings or hunger and I didn’t even think about food at all until someone mentioned lunchtime was approaching – now this was a first!!

Then I noticed that after lunch at about 3pm when I would usually be craving like mad for some chocolate or a cake, I was a bit hungry but not craven, and I just wanted something healthy and opted for hummus, oatcakes and carrot sticks – WOW again!

I also started to lose the evening cravings for chocolate or crisps.

The problem up until this point had been major imbalanced blood sugar levels due to the sugar rushes I was having from the refined carb foods, so I was riding the blood sugar roller coaster all day, trying to manage my cravings and hunger all day everyday.

Not only do refined carbs cause us to ride the blood sugar roller coaster but so does our serious lack of protein. Most women are just not eating enough at all. Protein is KEY for keeping our blood sugar stable and hunger and cravings at bay. If you look at my diet breakdown above there is near to no protein at all. No wonder I was in such a craven mess every day!

The solution? The key to freeing yourself from cravings is to nourish your body with protein at every single meal and snack, plus good fats, use good quality non-refined carbs, plenty of nourishing vegetables and nuts and seeds that provide the essential minerals we need to help us balance our blood sugar, and plenty of healthy fats throughout the day.

You will enjoy your food (and life!) a lot more eating foods like this and you can create some really mouth-watering meals and snacks.

My life transformed once I discovered the right way to eat for my body. I couldn’t believe the clarity I had every day, the clear head, more balanced emotions and moods, and complete lack of cravings.

If I every skipped out on my healthy breakfast (porridge with nuts and seeds at the time) I really did feel it later on. Before lunch those sugar cravings would kick in again and no matter how I ate all day the hunger just wouldn’t go away. It was always a good reminder to stay with my newly created healthy habits.

 

CRAVINGS CULPRIT #2: Stress

When we’re stressed, our bodies use up more glucose from the foods we eat and more of the minerals needed to keep our blood sugar balanced. So stress can cause us to crave, even if we are eating a healthy balanced diet as mentioned above. So its important to recognize when we might be overly stressed and give our bodies more nourishment to manage the issue.

On super stressed days I know I will need more of the good stuff so I allow for that. I have healthy fat and protein based snacks at hand to have in between meals when on easier going days I might not have needed them.

Stress also increases the hormone cortisol, which sends sugar into our blood stream (because it thinks we need to run away from a tiger), this then signals the release of insulin and so we get the sharp drop in energy that we’d get from eating refined carbs and sugar. So its just more important when stressed to ensure the protein is there and the healthy fats too. Healthy fat helps to keep us balanced as well.

The solution? When you’re stressed make a consistent effort to eat better, stay hydrated and get more sleep and do things that help to bring calm to body and so can reduce the impact of the stress on our hormones (cortisol and insulin), this way we automatically dial down our cravings.

Some things you can do to reduce the impact of stress are:

  1. This short breathing exercise: Find a comfortable position and close your eyes. Take a deep breath in through your nose and hold it. Exhale through your mouth. Again, deep breath in through your nose and hold it. And exhale through your mouth. One more time, take a long, deep breath in through your nose. Hold it. Exhale through your mouth.
  2. Read good fiction or self development books in the evenings instead of watching TV, scrolling on your phone or tablet, or working on your laptop.
  3. Get some yoga into your week whether once or 3 times, anything will help. There are some great online subscriptions out there so you can do it from your own home, if you cant get to a class outside like yogaglo.com.
  4. Cuddles with your pets, friend, partner, kids!
  5. Relaxing in a bath with some lavender essential oil and Epsom salts, dim the lights and just lay there. I like to play a meditation whilst I’m in the bath and just feel myself calm and switch off for 20 minutes.
  6. Go for a walk in nature/green spaces. Listen to some of your favourite uplifting music – a powerful mood changer!

 

CRAVINGS CULPRIT #3: Boredom

Cravings can also be down to sheer boredom, so think on this for a minute. Perhaps you’re so bored in your job every day that you simply want something to spice things up a bit and get you through a draggy afternoon?

If that’s the case should you start thinking about switching to a job you find more interesting?!

If you’re boredom eating at weekends or in the evenings what could you do instead to fill your time? Find a hobby. Could you join a creative group, or a dance class or other fun fitness group? Read something that really gets your attention.

Maybe you could study something you’re passionate in your spare time. I have a friend who was pretty bored and she sat and thought about what she was truly passionate about. She realized that was make-up so she started spending her evenings watching make up tutorials on YouTube and practicing on herself or her housemate. That soon took her away from her cookie jar! Now she’s started a professional course and is planning a total career change!

 

CRAVINGS CULPRIT #4: True Hunger vs. Emotional Eating

There is a difference between true hunger and when we are highly emotional and want to fill our emotions with food. It can be hard to know the difference if you don’t take some time to think about it before diving in to that packet of cookies. Emotional eating can create a never-ending cycle of cravings.

The solution? Awareness is always the first step. By simply making the connection, and following the trail back to the trigger, we become mindful about the underlying feelings behind our food choices so we can regain control.

Need help with snack ideas that will get you kicking your food cravings to the curb once and for all? Click here to get your copy sent straight to your email address today. 

 

With love,

Francesca

Struggle with binges or overeating? Part 2

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In my first installment on binge eating I talked about the most common reason that I see for binge eating, which is….not eating enough food across the day and week. So many women are still following outdated low calorie diets and doing tonnes of cardio in the gym each week. Their daily calorie intake is just falling too short and by the end of the day, week or month (whenever it is for you) this leads to binge eating simply because you are hungry.

When your metabolism doesn’t get enough energy (calories, from the right places) it starts to crave energy-dense food and when you get your hands on it you eat the lot. This is normal physiology, nothing to beat yourself up about. All you’re doing wring is starving yourself. So the first place to start if this is YOUR issue is to start increasing the amount of food you eat each day by adding in more good fats and quality protein.

Today I want to address some of the emotional reasons behind binge-like eating behaviour.

Being aware of your emotional triggers is KEY and the first place to start if you want to address it.

It might be loneliness, anger, frustration, a stress response, sadness, or other. We all have different emotions to different situations and handle them differently.

Sometimes binge eating is fulfilling a particular human need that isn’t being met, the most common ones being love and connection, which is a basic but strong human need.

Start by identifying YOUR emotional trigger, for example is it boredom or loneliness? Are you using certain foods to fill a void?

Once you’ve identified the emotional trigger then start to think about what else you can do to fulfill that need or fill that void.

Before I met my partner I lived alone, which I absolutely loved and didn’t actually want to change, but from time to time I could feel a little isolated because my sister and her children, whom I’m extremely close to live in Ireland, my Dad is a couple of hours away, and we lost my amazing Mum in 2011. So some lonely Saturday nights I could easily find comfort in a giant bag of crisps and whatever else I fancied. But if I just called them on Skype for a chat and a laugh the cravings I THOUGHT I was having dissipated. Other times I would go for a good workout, go for a walk, have a relaxing bath, listen to music, or listen to a podcast or powerful self-development audiobook. By the time I was done I my mind had usually diverted away from the need to binge and I was instead preparing a nourishing balanced meal for myself.

A client of mine, during one of our coaching sessions, identified that she immediately reaches for the office biscuit tin whenever she’s just had a challenging conversation with a difficult colleague in her high-pressured job. As soon as she recognized this she was able to stop herself in her tracks and think about what she was doing. The next time she found herself reaching for the biscuits she made a deal with herself that she would first go for a walk outside then come back in and if she still wanted a biscuit she could have one. She didn’t still want the biscuit when she got back, and this was the case 99% of the time going forward.

Another thing to ask yourself if your binge eating is fulfilling a need that isn’t being met is how can you change your life so that need starts being met in real terms? Sometimes we simply can’t change our circumstances but in some cases we can, if we think hard enough about it there IS a few things we can make happen or change that will improve our situation and remove the need for emotional eating.

So, identify the underlying reason for your binges;

  • Do you eat enough protein and good fats across the day and get ENOUGH calories in? (Click here to read my blog on calories)
  • What is your emotional trigger/s?
  • What need isn’t being met in your life?
  • What else can you do to meet that need that doesn’t involve food or drink?
  • Is there an emotion that you’re trying to suppress with the food you want in that moment? You may not be aware of this at the time but if you can try to sit with your emotion for a while and let it come to the surface, and express itself (e.g. in the form of a long old sob) then you may just find you no long need or want that particular food anymore because all you were trying to do with it in the first place is suppress the scary unwanted emotions. Instead, let the emotions come, sit with them and let them pass through.

Sit down and make a list of things that make you happy and lift your spirits, however big or small. From there see if you can start to incorporate more of this into your daily life, coupled with eating ENOUGH food by way of quality protein, good fats and fibre, and see if this changes your binge episodes for the better.

JOIN THE PRIVATE FACEBOOK COMMUNITY! It’s a group of fabulous women who share similar goals for their health, weight and lives. We support and lift each other up, and I’m in the group doing regular live educational sessions to help guide you through long term habit changes when it comes to your nutrition and lifestyle. Click here to join us!

With love

Francesca

Confused about gluten and dairy? Should you or shouldn’t you?

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There’s a LOT of conflicting information out there about gluten and dairy, a lot of comes from people without the proper knowledge or qualifications to be talking about, whilst a lot of it comes from credible sources, but can you to know the difference? Hopefully that’s where I come in!

When  one of my clients is suffering from digestive issues and they really want to address them once and for all, then the two main foods I suggest they eliminate (usually along with many other suggestions that all work in unison with eachother) are gluten and diary.

I’ll ask them to cut these foods for about 6 weeks, to allow their gut to reset and have some ‘time off’ from having to work hard to digest 2 of the most difficult food to break down.

So you might already know that gluten and dairy aren’t all that helpful for gut health but maybe you don’t really understand why? I hope this helps to clarify it for you.

When it comes to dairy the main and most common issue is the lactose. This is the natural milk sugar found in dairy. Some people lack the enzyme needed to break this type of sugar down (lactase), and that can cause some horrible digestive trouble such as bloating, diarrhoea, nausea, and gas/flatulence. This is basically a result of the undigested lactose in the colon. Note that this is an ‘intolerance’ to NOT an allergy to dairy. A person might lack the enzyme needed to break down lactose due to their genes, or it can be a result of ageing, damage and inflammation of the small intestine or SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth), which can all cause issues in producing the enzyme.

So, you might be genetically lactose intolerant or your issues with dairy might be due to poor diet (typical Western style of refined carbs and low fibre and diversity of vegetables, low healthy fats etc.), chronic stress, alcohol, infections, oral contraceptive pill medications including the oral contraceptive pill and antibiotics.

So, if your intolerance to lactose isn’t genetic then you can reverse the issue by working on your diet and lifestyle in favour of the balance of bacteria in your gut e.g. increasing the good guys and forcing out the bad guys, as well as increasing levels of digestive enzymes.

When it comes to other issues with dairy e.g. immune type reactions like eczema or hives for example, this is more likely to be due to casein which is a protein found in dairy. Immune reactions are not happening within the gut, they’re happening in the blood stream – so this means the protein casein would need to have seeped into the blood stream from the gut in order to cause the immune reaction. So the gut/intestinal wall/lining would need to be ‘leaky’ for this to happen (known as leaky gut or intestinal permeability).

If your gut lining is ‘leaky’ then things can now pass through into the blood stream that shouldn’t be allowed into your body, such as proteins like gluten and casein, bad bacteria, toxic waste and undigested foods particles. These things will cause immune reactions.

So, if you or someone you know are having immune reactions to dairy or gluten (knowingly or unknowingly) then chances are you have an imbalanced gut, because a ‘leaky gut’ is the cause, and the cause of the leaky gut is with dysbiosis (imbalanced gut bacteria) and inflammation.

This is why I don’t really do food intolerance testing, because if the gut is leaky then the test will likely show positive for a lot of different foods, and simply cutting those foods out wont actually address the cause of the problem in the first place. We need to address the leaky gut and then the reactions to certain foods will stop, unless of course its genetic lactose intolerance for example.

Immune mediated reactions to dairy might only be temporary. So, if we can rebalance and re-populate the gut environment with more beneficial bacteria and less bad guys, plus increase digestive enzymes, reduce the inflammation within the gut, and heal the gut lining then we can fix the problem.
There are some great new testing options available for gluten intolerance but as per the food intolerance testing, I would favour simply a trial removal of gluten for 4-6 weeks, whilst also working on rebalancing the gut, and then a re-introduction of gluten to see if any symptoms come back –much cheaper!!

So what are some symptoms of a dairy intolerance (whether genuine or due to an imbalanced gut)?

Well, the obvious signs would be the one’s I’ve mentioned above like bloating, diarrhoea, pain, nausea, and gas/flatulence, immune-mediated reactions to multiple foods (so not just dairy although we are talking about dairy in particular today), but also symptoms of inflammation within the entire body such as:

  • Achy joints
  • Fatigue (this was me in my 20’s and little did I know it was because of gluten!)
  • Foggy head
  • PMS
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Skin issues
  • Weight gain and or trouble losing weight
  • Water retention
  • Asthma
  • Autoimmune conditions e.g. Rheumatoid arthritis, Hashimoto’s
  • Depressions and other mood changes or disorders

The most effective way in my book to find out whether or not you’d do better without gluten and or dairy would be to take them out of your diet COMPLETELY for 4 weeks.

During this work on your digestion and gut health by:

  • Increasing foods that help to build up the beneficial bacteria in our gut like plenty of, and variety of, fibrous vegetables as well as fermented foods – my favourites are fermented vegetables like raw sauerkraut and kimchi, and coconut or water kefir.
  • Possibly supplementing with a good quality digestive enzyme and or hydrochloric acid incase your stomach acid is low (very common!) but its important to get advice from a properly qualified Nutritional Therapist on this.
  • Help the gut lining to repair and reduce inflammation of it by adding L-glutamine, homemade bone broth, and increasing foods rich in vitamin A (organic chicken or beef liver is super rich in vitamin A, then your brightly and darkly coloured fruit and veg too), zinc (good quality red meat and poultry, oysters! plus chick peas and pumpkin seeds), and turmeric, ginger, bromelain (pineapple) essential fatty acids from oily fish to help reduce inflammation.
  • Rebalance your life! Address the sources of stress and how you can reduce their impact. Start getting outdoors in nature more, listen to your favourite music, have relaxing baths, read books, listen to audio books and podcasts that inspire and lift you. Don’t be a slave to your calendar, see how you can strip things back and carve out more time for yourself. Are you over-exercising? Too much of the wrong kinds of exercise can be unhelpful for digestive health and gut lining integrity so address this if you need to. Remember, a body with an unhealthy gut is a body that will struggle to burn body fat.

Then after the 4 weeks (continue with the above for life please!) start to slowly re-introduce gluten and dairy back, but do it one by one. Wait up to 72 hours to check for any symptoms before you re-introduce the other one. Keep watching for symptoms as you SLOWLY build foods back in that you feel you want to bring back in, but if you’re happy without gluten and or dairy then don’t bother bringing them back!

Butter and ghee are usually better tolerated (yay) because they have much smaller amounts of dairy proteins and sugars, same goes for fermented yoghurts and milk kefir, I would just say always go for organic to minimize hormone exposure. Hard cheese usually has less in the way of lactose whereas softer cheeses, yoghurts and milk will be higher in lactose. So, if you re-introduce dairy slowly and type by type, you’re more likely to identify certain culprits and work out whether you can still include some but maybe not all dairy, or none at all and so on.

It’s so important to work on resetting your digestive health with the above steps AND sticking to it for life even once you might re-introduce dairy and or gluten foods back in from time to time. Your gut health should be looked after ongoing not just for a short period, much the same as a detox, we should be doing things DAILY to assist our liver, not just once a year for 7 days!

My stance on gluten and dairy?

I grew up eating pasta, bread, cereal, wraps and biscuits everyday, it wasn’t until I was about 23 when I trialed a month without any gluten and it changed my health and weight that was for sure! I decided that gluten could not come back into my diet on the scale I was used to but that I didn’t want to live without it completely, I’m not celiac so why be so strict I felt. So, I personally avoid gluten for the most part, about 80% of the time, BUT I enjoy a lovely sourdough toast with a weekend cooked breakfast probably about once or twice a month, I don’t say no to a bit of cake when its offered, and I love a good quality pizza or burger out from time to time too. Compared to the amount I used to eat this is nothing, and it doesn’t cause symptoms for me because I’m just not having it often enough for it to. In terms or dairy I have cheese occasionally (when I fancy it) and my cheese of choice is mozzarella, feta and haloumi, and I use organic grass fed butter a few times a week. I use coconut or nut milks and yogurts rather than dairy, and I opt for plant-based protein powders over whey for daily use with the occasional use of (organic) whey protein powder (I use Pulsin), I’m by no means neurotic about anything when it comes to food and nor should you be.

Dairy, your hormonal health and your weight:

So we’ve talked about dairy and your gut health but dairy can also cause or exacerbate hormonal imbalances, which isn’t good news for our waistlines or health. 

Dairy can increase a hormone called insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1) and sometimes also other growth hormones and antibiotics (usually found in non-organic dairy hence why I always say to go for organic if having. If you have hormonal issues or conditions such as acne or PCOS then I would suggest reducing or eliminating dairy as much as possible for this reason, you just don’t need to be adding any more fuel to the fire. Dairy is quite what’s known as ‘insulinogenic’ which means it has the ability to spike our insulin levels rather high and this is thought to be due to the amount of lactose (milk sugar) as well as the dairy proteins. Any foods that spike insulin can cause the storage of fat around the middle, so just something to be aware of if you’re relying on dairy every single day and struggling with your weight.

A lot of people ask me about calcium when we talk about reducing or cutting out dairy. I get a lot of concerned faces asking how will they get enough! Do not fret, there are PLENTY of foods that contain calcium and some even more so than milk. Its just long been drummed into us that milk is the only good source of it.

Here’s a list of calcium foods and the amount per (very achievable) portion size (the recommended daily calcium intake is 700mg):

  • 1 cup of cooked kale – 245 mg
  • 56g of sardines (with bones) – 217 mg
  • 170ml or grams of natural organic yogurt or milk kefir – 300 mg
  • 1 ½ cup cooked broccoli – 93 mg
  • 1 tablespoon of sesame seeds (throw into a smoothie) – 87.8 mg
  • 1 cup of watercress 41 mg
  • 1 spinach leaf – 9.9 mg
  • 30g of cheese 224 mg
  • 1 cup of bok Choy 74 mg
  • 1 cup of okra 82 mg
  • 30g of almonds (about 23 almonds) 76 mg

So there you have it I really hope this has been helpful! I know this was a LONG one so I hope you didn’t drift off and you managed to stick with me.

Jump on a call with me and we can discuss you biggest challenges when it comes to your health and weight, and or gluten and dairy questions! I offer complimentary 40 minute phone sessions so why not take advantage? Click here to book your slot. 

The Calorie Myth

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It’s long been drummed into us that ‘dieting’ is the way to lose weight. By ‘dieting’ I mean restricting calories and or food groups. So it’s no wonder that Britain’s dieting industry is worth an estimated £2billion.

I speak to so many women, friends included, that are struggling to lose weight and whenever they set out to finally make it happen they embark on some sort of fad or restrictive regime, like some kind of weight loss shake for breakfast and lunch and then a ‘normal’ dinner for example. I wonder how these women get through the day!

But I used to be just like that.

Throughout my 20’s (from 19 to 27) I did all the fad diets that were available to me. In fact I spent 8 years being constantly hungry! I don’t think a day went by when I didn’t hear my stomach growl in dissatisfaction from being so empty. I just couldn’t understand why I wasn’t losing weight. Similar to how the women I speak to today are feeling.

The trouble is it’s worse once you get into your 30’s and beyond. What MIGHT have worked in your 20’s will likely never work again past 30, and that’s mainly due to hormonal changes in the female body and also the years spent yo-yo dieting having damaged your metabolism and almost grinded it to a halt.

A lot of people see food simply as calories, and they believe that to lose weight we need to reduce/restrict calories and the weight will drop off. If only it were that simple, and if it were, would Britain’s diet industry be worth an estimated £2billion??

Some people WILL lose ‘weight’ if they restrict calories for a few weeks, BUT the ‘weight’ lost is mostly made up of water and muscle tissue – NOT body fat. Then once you start to eat ‘normally’ again you re-gain that weight plus some extra fat that probably wasn’t even there in the first place!

Why? Because your body thinks you were in a state of famine whilst you were restricting food and now that you are eating more food again it slows your metabolism and stores the now incoming food as body fat for when you next restrict food (think insulation for your precious bones).

We have what’s called a ‘set point’ weight, which is the weight at which your body likes to be at and keep you at. Calories restriction, which works against your metabolism, will eventually cause your body’s set point to rise and then it becomes difficult to lose weight on a deprivational diet, and once food is inevitably increased the weight comes back again, and so on, until you are left pulling your hair out years later wondering what went so wrong!

The answer? Don’t restrict your body of the food/energy it needs everyday in order to support metabolism and to function properly! Instead eat the right types of and combinations of foods that will keep your blood sugar levels balanced, support hormonal balance, gut health and metabolism.

Here is an example using myself. When I was trying to lose weight for the 3rd or 4th time in my later 20’s I restricted my calorie intake to no more than 1,200 calories per day. I was cranky, exhausted, hungry, and miserable every single day. When I had initially done this same regime earlier on in my 20’s it had worked for me and within a month I was looking and feeling slimmer (I now know that was water and muscle weight lost not body fat.) I then read about ‘BMR’, this is our Basal Metabolic Rate which basically means the amount of calories our body needs each day just to rest, or just to be able to ‘keep the lights on’ – it doesn’t include the energy needed to go out to work, walk around, think, make decisions, or do exercise. My own BMR at that time was about 1,480 calories.

So, if I needed an absolute minimum of 1,480 calories per day and I was having a maximum of 1,200 a day then is it any wonder I was feeling so awful; hungry, miserable, overcome with cravings and going on inevitable binges a couple times a week?! I was far from ‘at rest’ every day. I was walking to and from work, doing a 9 hour day in the office where I had to think all day long and make decisions, I was going to the gym after work and walking home again.

The point I am making here is that if my BMR was around 1,480 calories I should have been having about another 300-500 per day (depending on activity levels) to be able to support my metabolism and keep it ticking over nicely.

The result? Loss of water and muscle tissue and gain of body fat.

And that’s when I turned things around, and then took things a step further by studying and training to become a nutritional therapist and health coach so I could change my career and help other women just like me!

I used to be so fixated with the calorie number of foods that I became obsessed with that rather than the type of food the calories were coming from. This is an extremely unhealthy obsession as you’re not interested in the nutrition the food will provide for you but simply the number of calories it provides (we can eat plenty of fat-storing carbs all day and still be within our 1200 calorie allowance).

We need to look at food in terms of how our body will break it down – will it be used for energy, will it provide vitamins and minerals needed to optimise our health, or will it be stored as fat? THAT’S what matters. 

Let’s say someone’s BMR number is around 1400-1500 calories (the amount of calories they need at complete rest only) and they’re eating 2,500 calories per day, plus not exercising or moving much at all, then yes they are likely eating too many calories and will be gaining some weight. So they would need to be in some sort of calorie deficit to be able to start losing fat, but that deficit should likely be around 1800 calories per day NOT the common 1200 we are lead to believe is necessary for weight loss. Plus the source of those calories is all-important. Then once they reach their goal body size they can slowly start to increase calories slightly to a maintenance amount to maintain that ideal weight.

Calorie counting is outdated and it’s an ignorant way to view weight loss. It focuses on quantity and not quality of food, and this is absurd, seeing as certain foods cause the release of our fat storing hormones and others do not – regardless of calories.

calorie-countingDepriving our bodies of calories only leads to an eventual slowed metabolism which causes us to gain the weight back and then some, over and over, unless you get the right advice and finally change the way you eat for good.

Our bodies do not work like a maths equation. There is a LOT of other stuff going on within our bodies that must be taken into account when trying to lose weight.

The dieting industry views food simply as calories, and to lose weight we need to reduce our daily calories (to an alarmingly low number usually anything fro 800-1200 a day) and the weight will drop off. If only it were that simple, and if it were, would Britain’s diet industry be worth an estimated £2billion??

There is calorie counting, which looks only at the number of calories a food provides in relation to the restrictive number of calories allowed in one day, and there is what I call ‘smart eating’ which provides the body with the right amount of protein, fat, and carbohydrates, as well as other nutrients, needed for optimum health – which in turn leads to ideal weight.

Counting calories fights against your body’s ‘set point’ weight whereas ‘smart eating’ lowers your set point weight. 

The quality of our calories is what matters for LONG TERM FAT loss. Improving the QUALITY not reducing the QUANTITY of our food results in reducing inflammation within the body (critical for fat loss), re-sensitizing our cells, and re-regulting our hormones and therefore lowering our set point (that ideal weight your body will want to keep you at).

Yo-yo dieting is something I want to see the back off for everyone. Losing weight shouldn’t be something that happens multiple times a year. Someone said to be the other day that “calorie counting works for me whenever I need to lose weight”, but this person is totally missing the point. If it really did work then they wouldn’t repeatedly need to lose weight. I am all about fat loss that is sustainable, and done in a healthy way that doesn’t damage your health and metabolism long term. If someone is overweight they should first try to identify the root cause(s) of their weight gain, address that, and embark on a way of eating that supports blood sugar balance, hormones, and gut health, and then metabolism and ideal weight is also supported. This is called sustainable FAT loss, no longer calling for yo-yo dieting throughout the year as the weight fluctuates due to calorie restriction and hormonal imbalances (insulin and cortisol) that leads to fat storage over and over again. Once the body’s systems and metabolism are supported through PERMANENT diet and lifestyle changes your ideal weight is maintained.

If you’re looking for a quick fix to lose excess weight then calorie restriction might work but for the short term ONLY and studies show that up to 70% of the non water weight lost from restricting calories comes from muscle. Calories counting slows down metabolism and takes away our muscle tissue – no thank you.  

Eating less and exercise more does not cause long term FAT loss. 

Eating in a way that provides your body with real, whole-food meals that nourish your body and do not cause blood sugar spikes (let’s call this ‘smart eating’) leverages the quality of your calories, which in turn takes care of the quantity of your calories (without the counting!).

Calorie counting doesn’t take a LOT of things into account that are KEY for weight/fat loss, ESPEICALLY for women, such as:

  • Insulin’s activity
  • Cortisol’s activity
  • Estrogen and progesterone levels
  • Grehlin and leptin’s activity – 2 other important hormones for fat storage/fat burning
  • Stress levels
  • Sleep quality
  • Adrenal health
  • Digestive health
  • Macronutrient ratios per meals/snacks (protein fat and carbs)
  • Activity levels and type of training
  • Food quality, nutrition provided by the food, and alcohol intake

Counting calories is not the way to go, what a woman really needs for sustainable weight loss isn’t calorie counting; it’s a diet that:

  • Addresses hormonal and metabolic problems (very likely for most women over the age of 35), thus making sure food is used for energy rather than being stored as fat.
  • Does not make you hungry, stressed, or miserable.
  • Encourages a holistic view of health, rather than nudging you towards unhealthy food choices just because they’re low in one “bad” category (e.g. carbs, fat, calories, etc.).
  • You can see yourself following for the long term.

For example, if you’re calorie counting but still consuming a diet that’s high in carbs not only will your weight loss be less efficient than it would on a low carb diet, but you will also find yourself going hungry. This is due to the decreased effect on satiety that is brought about by the consumption of carbohydrates (when compared to protein or fat).

Calories aren’t created equally. Your body will recognize and treat them differently. Your body doesn’t just digest calories…it digests the minerals, proteins, fats and vitamins in what you’re eating. And if you’re eating a 350 calorie diet dinner v’s a 600 calorie dinner of grilled chicken, sautéed veg, avocado, and brown rice…the second option is the better one for weight loss and management.

It’s exactly why you can eat a big plate of chips and a tub of ice cream with little trouble but can’t so easily eat a decent sized steak – because carbohydrates lead to a spike in blood sugar that makes the body want more of the same, whereas protein (steak) is satiating and stabalises blood sugar, keeping you fuller for longer.

In my opinion, it’s far better to reduce the amount of carbohydrate foods you eat at each meal and snack and focus on getting protein with every meal and snack and some healthy fats plus plenty of vegetables including dark green leafy ones and starchy ones like sweet potato, squash and beetroot for your carb sources over things like pasta, wraps, bread, big white potatoes and white rice, without too much concern for calories. If that doesn’t result in weight loss then you try taking another look at the amount of carbohydrates you’re eating e.g. are you having carb based snacks like lots of high sugar fruits, rice cakes, crisps or toast, rather than protein based snacks like nuts and seeds, boiled eggs, nut butter, plain full fat yogurt and berries? Then also look at your sleep, alcohol intake, stress levels, activity levels and type of exercise (too much cardio and not enough resistance/weights), thyroid health, and gut health. Book a Fat Loss Strategy Call with me today and let’s talk through your key struggles when it comes to your weight and health, and I can get you moving forward in the right direction, we’ll have 40 minutes together and its free. Click here to book your call slot in!

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So, switch the ratio on your plate, for example I love a curry as much as the next person but I am more than happy to swap half a plate of rice for more of the meat and plenty of vegetables and a handful of rice instead. Also pass on the naan bread for example, its just not necessary. The average British person would have the rice, the naan and the potato that’s mixed into their main or side dish, now that’s a LOT of unnecessary carbohydrate and the same goes for meals cooked at home, question the amount of carbs you’re having at meal times and as snacks. That is likely to be your downfall, NOT calories. I’m in no way telling anyone to cut out carbs or follow a super low-carb plan, that isn’t helpful either. I’m simply saying to focus more on the protein, healthy fats, vegetables and lower more nutritious fruit like berries. Then for your starchier carbs opt for root vegetables mainly and some whole grains like oats, buckwheat, quinoa (not actually a grain) and brown or wild rice. Start your day with the protein-rich breakfast such as eggs with bacon or smoked salmon, or a protein and ‘good’ fats smoothie with berries, which is really satisfying and keeps me going all the way through to lunch.

Understanding the effect of different nutrients (protein, carbs and fats and the smaller nutrients within them) on your body is the key, NOT calories.

In a nutshell, the more educated you are on what happens to the food you eat, the more likely you are to eat right. Forget about calories and instead be educated on what happens to the food you eat within your body, stored as fat or burned off. Counting calories does not take this into account and in my opinion anyone that tells someone to just cut calories and exercise more to lose weight needs to do their own research before dishing out advice.

The takeaway point here is that restricting calories is just dangerous, silly and unnecessary. Ideal weight is a natural side effect of being healthy, and this includes having a healthy functioning gut, balanced hormones, quality sleep, and a handle on stress. When we increase the quality of our food and exercise, we can heal our hormones, “unclog” our systems, lower our set points, and get our bodies to burn fat instead of storing it.

It’s the creation of new habits and making changes to your eating style and lifestyle that has the biggest impact and results in long-lasting success.

Before I go here are some quotes from some of the academic research into the effect of calorie restriction on the body in relation to weight.

“The researchers note that animals respond to food shortages by storing energy and gaining weight. Their model demonstrates that when food is in short supply – much like during a phase of dieting – an efficient animal will gain excess weight between periods of food shortage. Surprisingly,” says Prof. Higginson, “our model predicts that the average weight gain for dieters will actually be greater than those who never diet. This happens because non-dieters learn that the food supply is reliable so there is less need for the insurance of fat stores”.

“The best thing for weight loss is to take it steady. Our work suggests that eating only slightly less than you should, all the time, and doing physical exercise is much more likely to help you reach a healthy weight than going on low-calorie diets.” Prof. Andrew Higginson, University of Exeter

 

P.S. Book a Fat Loss Strategy Call with me today and let’s talk through your key struggles when it comes to your weight and health, and I can get you moving forward in the right direction, we’ll have 40 minutes together and its free. Click here to book your call slot in!

Do you ‘fall off the wagon’ at weekends?

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How many times have you heard someone say “I’m really ‘good’ during the week and then I have what I want at the weekend’.

Note: the weekend is 40% of your week.

That used to be me. I spent Monday to Friday (or Thursday) restricing, depriving, being ‘good’, then come Friday I blew out, but that was ok because I’d been so ‘good’ the other 60% of the week, wasn’t it?

I got nowhere. Nothing changed, no results on the outside and I wasn’t feeling any better on the inside.

Why?

I simply wasn’t being consistent, my body never got a chance to benefit from the array of different vegetables and lean proteins etc I was having roughly 50-60% of the week because for the remaining 40% of the week it pretty much took a battering! Late nights, alcohol in larger amounts, plenty of sugar and undesirable fats, not enough water, near to no veg…etc.

Does this sound like you?

The reason I went so buck wild at the weekend with my food and drink was largely due to the fact that I restricted so much during the week that I was left craving by Friday and more than ready for a blow out. Then by Sunday night I was ready to ‘get back on track’ on Monday so I made my little salad to take to work for my lunch and had my bowl of Weetabix or Special K ready for the morning.

I was making huge errors, for years!

What I now know is that consistency is KEY to successful and sustainable weight loss and health.

The 80/20 rule is far more effective not to mention realistic. But what I like even more is concistency 365 days a year.

No, this doesn’t mean the restriction and deprivation 100% of the time, it simply means that 80% of the time across 7 days a week you nourish your body with the fuel that it needs CONSISTENTLY, and 20% of the time across 7 days a week you have a little of what you fancy.

The result? A happier metabolism, a nourished body 365 days a year, a happier you, banished cravings and binge like behaviour.

STAY CONSISTENT AND ENJOY 100% OF YOUR WEEK.

Start each day with a protein based breakfast, even on a hangover, weekend away, holiday, boozy break, etc. My favourites are a power smoothie filled with healthy fats from flaxseed, nuts and seeds, avocado, a good quality clean protein powder and nourishing berries, or scrambled eggs with smoked salmon and avocado. It’s easy to be all or nothing, I get that mentality because I was once there myself. But it doesn’t make sense when you think about it. If you’re having a boozy weekend your body needs a nourishing protein based breakfast ALL THE MORE so why would you scrap it on that day/s? If you have a green juice or smoothie during the week why wouldn’t you have one on the weekend too? If you’re out drinking that night you can still nourish yourself before you go out, and in fact you will need it all the more then. Doesn’t it make so much more sense to stay consistent yet still carry on with your life?

Let’s say you’re on holiday staying in an all-inclusive resort: You can easily have a great breakfast, protein and salad based lunch with plenty of veggies and even some rice or potatoes, plenty of water, nuts (bring them with you!) etc, a healthy dinner choice plus a couple of glasses of wine and dessert. That’s still 80/20!

Let’s say during the week you fancy your favourite chocolate bar, some ice cream, or a glass of wine – HAVE IT!

Just continue with the nourishing foods as well, go home and have a nourishing dinner filled with dark green leafy vegetables and broccoli etc.

Instead of being angry with yourself because you ate something “off plan” when actually all you need to do is draw a line, move on and if anything maybe reduce or skip the starchy carb option with dinner and load up on the veggies.

Celebrate your consistency, don’t live on the 60/40 yo-yo treadmill that gets you no where other than spinning your wheels.

Feel powerful knowing that you’re in control of your appetite, cravings and health because you don’t restrict or deprive, you stay consistent 365 days a year and have a little of what you fancy along the way.

With love

Francesca

Book a FREE Weight Loss Strategy call session with me with me and let’s chat! I would love to hear what your struggles are and where you’re trying to get to, use this time to help me help you start mapping out your road to reaching your goals. Click here to book your slot.

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