Many of my clients come to me wanting to lose body fat, whether to help with a medical condition, increase their energy and quality of life or for aesthetic reasons. It can be a difficult and even painful process, especially for women and especially as we get older. We want to stop making and storing fat and burn it instead. But how do we do that? It can be confusing to know what to do with so much misinformation out there, including “expert advice” and FDA guidelines that are often not supported by research.
We have to stop eating foods that increase our insulin secretion. The job of insulin is to shuttle glucose into the adipose cells to be made into fat. Every time we eat foods that stimulate insulin secretion, we put ourselves in fat-storing mode. When we don’t eat or when we eat foods that do not increase insulin, our bodies can start burning fat. But as soon as we eat something that jacks up our insulin, we’re kicked out of fat-burning mode.
There are two simple concepts that can keep you in fat-burning mode longer and, in time, make your body more metabolically flexible (happy burning both sugar and fat – whatever’s available), thereby reducing appetite and cravings and comfortably giving you all of the energy you need when you need it. In other words, you don’t need to suffer to lose body fat. You just need to change up your routine a bit.
The first concept is intermittent fasting. We all fast for about 10-12 hours or so throughout the night, which is about the amount of time it takes our bodies to run through our sugar stores and be hungry to break our fast (breakfast). Go longer than that without eating, and your body will have to burn the fat it has on board for energy. Research shows that the more you allow yourself to go a little longer (say, 16-20 hours) without eating anything that will stimulate insulin, the more metabolically flexible you will become. If you’d like to try this, I’d recommend that you ease into it and make your eating window during times that you’re most likely to want to eat. I usually fast for 16-20 hours each day and just skip eating in the morning because my body has never felt good when I’ve fed it in the morning. I just have some coffee with a little heavy whipping cream in it, then I do my workout fasted and wait a few more hours to break my fast.
Doing a workout fasted works for me because I feel better working out without anything in my stomach. I burn more body fat that way, too. Waiting a few hours after working out to start stimulating insulin secretion also helps me burn more body fat. Again, this is something you can work up to if you want to try it. As always, listen to your body and do what makes it feel good.
I typically break my fast between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. with a bowlful of raw greens and some kind of casserole on top. I love casseroles and make vegetable-based ones with some meat and lots of healthy fats. Then I throw some more healthy fat on top. A couple favorites are arugula topped with steak and mushrooms in a balsamic cream sauce, with brie on top (see my previous blog post for the recipe) and nacho chicken casserole over baby spinach with guacamole. I mix it up so I don’t get bored and get lots of different nutrients. You’ll notice that I don’t eat any high-carbohydrate foods.
This is the second big concept of becoming a fat-burner: eat fewer carbs. When you eat high-carb foods, like grains, beans and fruit, you make a lot of insulin and increase ghrelin, the hunger hormone, while decreasing leptin, the hormone that tells us we’re full and don’t want to eat anything. Obviously, it is easier to start burning fat when you don’t eat as much carb, and it’s also easier not to overeat because eating low-carb decreases ghrelin and increases leptin. If you want to transition to this way of becoming a fat-burner, I’d recommend you do so gradually so your body doesn’t freak out that you’re no longer giving it jet fuel every 2-3 hours and are going to start burning body fat instead. That freak out happens when your body thinks it’s starving because you’ve made such a big change so fast. Ease into it and be comfortable. Find foods you love and make them low-carb while increasing your consumption of healthy fats.
I’ve recently had a significant amount of body fat to lose following a series of injuries that vastly decreased my ability to exercise – and then going into perimenopause at the same time. Double-whammy! After many failed attempts to reduce body fat long-term, an endocrinologist suggested I transition to a ketogenic diet. She’s on it and she prescribes it to her patients for a host of medical issues relating to insulin. There is a great deal of good research backing up this position (and a recent huge study from the Lancet that contradicts it, but this study is fatally flawed in multiple ways and should not be given an iota of credence, in my professional opinion as a researcher). In the several months that I’ve been focusing on reducing my insulin response, I’ve only lost 12 pounds, but that’s because I’ve been able to exercise more and have put on heavy, lean muscle (muscle outweighs fat 5:1) and lost a lot of fat! I know this because I’ve lost an inch off of each arm and each leg, 4 inches off of my chest and waist, and 3 inches off of my hips. Whenever I eat something that bumps me out of fat-burning mode, I’m back into it remarkably fast. My body has adapted to using fat for fuel and absolutely loves it! When I eat high-carb foods now I wake up the next morning feeling hung-over. When you clean up your eating, your body tells you what it doesn’t want.
Want to find out more? I’m happy to help you with a plan to ease into becoming a fat-burner in a way that makes your body comfortable and energized. Just make sure you talk to your doctor first to make sure that it won’t complicate any conditions you may have. Leaning out doesn’t have to be painful, with feelings of deprivation and suffering. It shouldn’t be anything but comfortable and rewarding, in my opinion. You should feel better, happier and more energetic every day, because, when you do it right, you’re giving your body what it naturally wants. Concerned about not being able to give up your favorite high-carb foods? No worries – the hypno and NLP that I do can make that easy, too! Feel free to schedule a free consultation if you’d like to learn more.