Blog Post by Coach Julie
NCI Certified Nutrition Coach L1 and Certified Mindset Coach
Many people embark on a weight loss journey and find themselves quickly shutting down their own progress because they are overwhelmed. Ambitious goals are fantastic, but if you’re overwhelming yourself with monumental goals, chances are you are going to experience paralysis by analysis.
While I agree that having a goal and having a plan to reach that goal is integral, if we are at the starting line and using binoculars to view the finish line, without looking at the path, you’re setting yourself up for failure.
Set your goal. Create a plan. Then . . . Solve for Thursday. I know that sounds crazy right?
So here’s the deal . . . I borrowed this principle from one of my mentors, Dr. John Delony. He actually said, “solve for Tuesday.” He was referring to marriage and how to make your home feel the way you want it to. He stated that rather than looking so far down the road, look at how you want the average Tuesday to look. When you come home from work on a typical day, how do you picture that? What’s your ideal evening look like when you walk in the door? How’s it feel? When you have that “average Tuesday” figured out, all you have to do is create that, day after day.
I believe the same principle applies to weight loss. Once you have your goal set, you will start working on the path that leads you to that goal. This path should include small daily goals. Basically, what do you want a typical day to look like on the way to your goal?
Do you want to wake up every day and go on a walk?
Do you want to have a certain breakfast?
Do you want to pack your lunch for work everyday?
Do you want to allow yourself a small treat at the end of every day so you’re making progress but don’t hate your life?
If you “solve for Thursday” and repeat that solution, you remove the guesswork and the distractions that could throw you off plan. Keep it simple. The military uses the acronym, KISS, for a reason. There is no reason to over complicate and over think things. Break it down to daily goals and hit those 80% or more of the time, and you will hit your goals.
Here are 3 mistakes every woman over 40 needs to avoid.
Technically, these are 3 mistakes everyone who wants to improve their body composition and get leaner needs to avoid.
But women are more sensitive to stress so they can't get away with as much.
It's not fair but it does make sense from an evolutionary standpoint. Women are more important to the survival of our species than men. Ya know, the whole baby carrying thing.
Anyway, in no particular order...
Mistake #1. Fasting or "skipping breakfast" - let's first put to bed the myth that fasting is superior for fat loss. It's not. Fasting isn't even a nutrition protocol. You can fast and do keto, you can fast and track macros, you can fast and eat 10,000 calories per day.
The fasting cult followers say that if you condense the feeding window, you're more likely to eat less because there's less time to eat. Certain things sound good in theory but don't hold up to real life application.
Fasting is one of them. Studies show that people who fast tend to eat a lot more later in the day and it's easier for them to over indulge. They also report higher hunger and cravings. And there are certain metabolic disadvantages that can occur due to fasting.
This is especially true in women over 40 who are more sensitive to stress. Cortisol is highest in the morning and fasting is a stress on the body (lack of energy coming in). During the season of life when hormonal changes are happening, it's not the time to disrupt things even further.
My recommendation: wake up and eat within an hour of getting out of bed. Make it a high protein breakfast and a well balanced meal (with some carbs and fats) to reduce cortisol and keep blood sugar stable.
Mistake #2. HIIT / Group Classes / Cardio - this is a dose dependent thing but based on experience in working with hundreds of women over the past decade, a lot of individuals overdo it when it comes to this style of exercise.
I'm talking about OrangeTheory, F45, bootcamps, HIIT, cardio, etc. Anything where the main goal of the workout is basically a manual "calorie burn" and you often feel rewarded with a pool of sweat on the floor.
Now, before you stop doing all forms of cardio, there's absolutely a time and place. Improving your cardio capacity is great for overall health. Sweating is a wonderful thing.
However, it's easy to get hooked on the feeling. Or high on believing. Wait, where was I? Oh right.. too much cardio.
This style of exercise is not exactly great for your metabolism or hormone health. It's a stressor like any form of exercise (increases cortisol) but it doesn't come with a metabolic advantage like lifting weights does. Because you're getting more efficient with calories each time you do that same workout or form of cardio.
That means the calorie burn gets less and less. Not only that, but studies show that HIIT and cardio can drive hunger and cravings up and our bodies also subconsciously move less throughout the day to compensate for the calorie burn that occurred during the workout.
My recommendation: this style of training is not great for body composition improvements. If you want to get leaner, do some form of resistance training as the foundation of your workouts. Use cardio in smaller doses and be sure to pay attention to recovery, hunger, and cravings. Notice how you're impacted when you work out like that.
If you're training to get better at cardio (like running a marathon or ironman etc) then you'll obviously need a much higher level of frequency. In that case, you better be prepared to fuel appropriately to counter balance the amount of stress you're putting on your body.
Mistake #3. Dieting too frequently / too extremely / unsustainably - once again, this is a problem across the board but when you're more sensitive to stress, it becomes an even bigger issue.
Dieting is a major stressor on the body. Consider that your results, your metabolic health, and your hormone health are all dependent on having the appropriate resources to meet the demands you place on your body.
Food / energy is an important resource. Recovery is a resource. Sleep is a resource. Self-care is a resource.
Dieting impacts all of the above. You're removing energy, impairing recovery, making it more difficult to get adequate sleep, and potentially sacrificing self-care.
A lot of women get frustrated when they're told to basically starve themselves and then don't see progress. Why don't they see progress? Because the diet is too extreme and your body fights to preserve energy.
Think about it like this.. do you really want a fast and effective metabolism when very little energy is coming in? Of course you don't. You'd starve to death quicker.
So your body adapts by down regulating metabolic function, suppressing certain systems in the body like immune function, sexual function, etc.
The more frequently you diet, the more stress you place on your body. The more extreme your diet is, the more of a stressor it is. The more you try to be perfect, the more unsustainable the results are.
My recommendation: diet smarter, not harder. Have a dedicated fat loss phase that lasts about 12-16 weeks (the timeline will be highly dependent on the individual). Keep it very moderate and if you're going to be more aggressive, you better damn well have recovery and stress management on lock.
Eat mostly high quality foods and incorporate things you love in moderation each day (or at least each week). Avoid the half in, half out approach where you kinda sorta diet but then indulge and want to keep dieting forever.
Unfortunately, these 3 mistakes are insanely common.
In fact, they're often all done at once.
Almost daily I speak to women who are trying to fast, eat 1200 calories, and are doing a whole bunch of cardio or HIIT.
When you reach that season of life when hormones are changing and sensitivity to stress is higher, it's important to focus on some foundational habits that go a long way in your overall health and body composition.
Food quality should really be a primary focus. It's incredibly important for hormone health.
Walking is like the gift that keeps on giving. Do it frequently.
Protein is your best friend. Eat lots of it.
Muscle is your metabolic gold. Preserve it. Build it.
Sleep and stress management are non negotiables. If anyone gets in the way of your sleep and self-care, you have permission to Will Smith them (is that still a reference? Probably not. But I'm using it anyway).
Above all else, prioritize yourself. I just spoke to someone this morning who said that she's spent 45 years of her life putting everyone else first. She said that she's always made financial decisions based on everyone else. Rarely ever herself.
Finally, it clicked. She said, enough is enough. I'm worth it and I deserve to be happy and healthy. The most impactful thing she said in our conversation was...
"It doesn't do anyone much good if I lack confidence in myself and feel miserable in my own body. I deserve to feel good and look good."
Without a doubt. You don't have to put your own goals on hold for the sake of everyone else. Not only do you deserve to look and feel how you want but the people you care about the most deserve the best version of you.
And that requires prioritizing yourself. Investing in yourself. And spending your time accordingly.
If you don't know where to start, simply ask. I can always point you in the right direction.
Much love, Kayli
Blog Post by Coach Julie
NCI Certified Nutrition Coach L1 & Mindset Coach
In an interview with Vegan.com, Virginia Messina, MPH, RD, commented on her disdain about the documentary “What the Health.” She said, “As a vegan health professional, I am sometimes mortified to be associated with the junk science that permeates our community. . . . I’m disheartened by advocacy efforts that can make us look scientifically illiterate, dishonest, and occasionally like a cult of conspiracy theorists. I wish What the Health had stuck to these kinds of observations and supported them with an informed discussion of the evidence. Instead, it cherry-picked the research, misinterpreted and over-stated the data, highlighted dubious stories of miraculous healing, and focused on faulty observations about nutrition science. Most of the misinformation in the film is due simply to a poor understanding of nutrition science and research. But some moments struck me as overtly dishonest.”
Vegan diets have clout, especially if you're pursuing them for moral reasons. Many people that take on vegan diets have been doing so to try and honor animals and protect them from inhuman treatment. That is a very good reason to transition to the vegan lifestyle. The way you eat, however, does not determine your moral character. Should you choose to use your nutrition as a way to express your beliefs and values, I think that's great. That does not give you permission to judge people that don't hold the same views as you. I, also, believe in the moral treatment of animals and am a huge animal lover. However, I feel better eating animal products and I do my due diligence to only source my animal products from sources that treat the animals in humane ways.
The problems that have arisen from this new vegan movement are blatant fear mongering and dogma. We have seen a radical portion of the vegan population touting claims that meat causes cancer, fat leads to diabetes and sugar is not unhealthy. These claims are inherently false. These radicalists have cherry picked information in order to incite fear in people in order to "recruit" more people to their way of life. Time Magazine wrote an article breaking down all of the false claims that were touted in What The Health. The film did get some elements correct, it wasn't complete bullshit. However, they definitely overly inflated a lot of their claims to try and claim their dietary lifestyle was far superior and healthy to other dietary modalities. If you're interested in another great article debunking the film, I would check out this great article on Vox. The article refers to the film as "sensational" and I couldn't say it any better.
You can read the full article yourself at Vegan.com. The point is, you cannot take one piece of material as gospel. Especially when the people funding and creating the piece have a bias. Usually if there’s a bias, there is also fearmongering, cherry picking, and a ton of dogma. There are perks to plant based diets for SOME people. That doesn’t make it right for ALL people. Not ALL meat causes cancer. Sugar DOES cause health issues. Fat does NOT cause diabetes. Always do research and check all of your sources. Look at both sides. To be honestly open to learning and growing as a person, you have to listen to both sides and take them both seriously. Otherwise you are deciding on something with a bias rather than a decision rooted in education and evidence.
Blog Post by Coach Julie
NCI Certified Nutrition Coach L1 and Mindset Coach
Artificial sweeteners have been the bastard of the nutrition and fitness industry lately. They are getting the blame for cancer, gut health issues, disordered eating and blood sugar spikes. But what is the truth about artificial sweeteners.
The three most popular artificial sweeteners on the market today are: aspartame, sucralose, and saccharin. These sweeteners are often found in popular foods that have been reformulated into a “zero sugar” version which often results in a reduced calorie option of the popular alternative. For example, I enjoy Sprite Zero because it offers a “treat” with dinner for zero calories where a can of Sprite is about 120 calories. Sprite Zero contains aspartame to give it the sweet flavor without the calories mounting.
These sweeteners have been on blast by the media about their “harmful” effects for years. The issue with media, is that it is almost always sensationalized to gather attention. Clicks and shares usually mean income for news media so you will often see stories overly sensationalized to garner more attention. You can see this very clearly in the amount of stories on news outlets about terrorism and violent crimes. It has created an attitude that the world is a super dangerous place, but actual studies have shown that crime has been down the last several years.
The WHO (World Health Organization) came out a few years ago and said there MAY be a link between artificial sweeteners and cancer risk. This simple, yet uncertain claim has sparked the media firestorm that has created a line in the sand between nutrition researchers and cherry picking, media outlets that are trying to boost their bottom line. In an great article by Mike Matthews of Legion Athletics, Mike shows a great graphic on where the WHO categorized artificial sweeteners. He stated, “The WHO is placing aspartame in Group 2B. Thus, according to the WHO’s assessment, aspartame is about as likely to increase your cancer risk as aloe vera, carpentry, and eating pickled vegetables.” I’m not real sure about you, but if I find joy in one Sprite Zero per day, I feel relatively safe doing so.
There have been recent studies lately that are showing that there is NO association between these sweeteners and cancer. In a recent news story on Barbend, the study has dispelled the WHO’s previous claims and actually shown that zero calorie sodas may be beneficial for health if it’s used to replace regular soda for weight loss because it aids in weight loss and reduces the overall sugar intake.
The other big concern surrounding artificial sweeteners is their effect on gut health. There have been small sample studies done in rats on the effects of sweeteners on the gut microbiome. The issue is, rat studies don’t always translate well to humans. Most of these studies were feeding the rats toxic amounts of sweeteners that would translate to obscene numbers in humans. A recent article on StrongerU as well as an article on BioLayne, show the limitations associated with the rat studies. Overall, the studies on gut microbiome have been widely inconclusive.
Some social media influencers have argued that these sweeteners promote obesity by increasing cravings. Here’s the thing, this argument also has no conclusive evidence of this. As a nutrition coach, I believe if you maintain a 80-20 diet in nutritious foods and use these zero calorie foods and drinks as a “treat” that subs for the higher calorie options, you’re going to be just fine. I don’t believe that these foods drive cravings more than any other food option. Realistically, this argument could be made about most highly processed, higher carb foods, they also tend to promote cravings because carbs do not offer the satiating effect you receive from protein.
With all of the recent research, I’m not willing to tell any of my clients to stop choosing zero calorie sodas over regular sodas. I would caution that too much of any good thing can be a bad thing. The studies have not shown conclusive evidence of causing harm in small amounts. If you are drinking obscene amounts of these sweeteners, we need to have a different conversation because I would assume you’re having health issues. Those issues would be associated with dehydration NOT the artificial sweeteners. Overall, the benefits of artificial sweeteners far outweigh the potential risks, if used in a reasonable amount.
I didn’t realize I did this until recently.
A fat loss coaching client asked me how to know when they’re “overeating” or if they’re just simply… enjoying a meal.
When they’re dieting, when is it “right” or “wrong” to have that burger and fries they’ve been craving?
Or to go off plan for a day because they're taking their kid to an amusement park?
Or to enjoy a shot and a few drinks with their best friend?
Basically, how do you balance the gray area of enjoying life and staying on your diet?
I emailed them back and said there are two ways I look at meals:
1. Priority = Fitness Goals
I only see it as “overeating” if your intention for that meal is to stay on track with your diet because fat loss/health is a higher priority to you in that moment. Therefore, you’d be “overeating” simply because you had a calorie goal you wanted to hit, but this meal pushed you over. It’s NOT good or bad, it’s just what happened, objectively.
NOTE: you can also "fit in" these high calorie meals and stay on track with your goals.
2. Priority = Enjoyment/Life Satisfaction
I don’t think it’s overeating if your intention is to enjoy the life experience of eating that meal with friends, your S.O., or by yourself. Then it’s just simply… eating. You decided that fat loss isn’t as important to you for this meal, and that’s ok, so you shouldn’t feel guilty because you aligned your actions and intentions around what YOU thought was most important.
So over these next few weeks, give yourself permission to commit to one, but neither are “right” or “wrong.”
The whole point is to make sure it’s a conscious choice, not an impulsive one.
Take inventory on what’s most important to you in that moment, act on it, then move on with your life.
Hope you found this helpful.
P.S. I'm really enjoying this article on "How to Do Great Work".
Today's blog consists of 3 of my favorite tips I've accumulated over my years as a fitness coach.
→ Tip 1: Reverse psychology "hack" to make better food choices
One of the best ways to do this is by focusing on inclusive habits instead of exclusive habits.
Inclusive habits suggest adding to their diet (adding protein, adding fruits and vegetables, adding water).
Exclusive habits suggest taking away from their diet (no more carbs, no more fats, no more desserts).
It's a subtle difference, but makes all the difference psychologically⏤nobody likes to be told what they can't do.
→ Tip 2: Three Ways To Remain Athletic As You Age
1. Prioritize soft tissue and mobility work. Too often, we can start doing these once we already feel pain. But if we stay proactive and implement just five minutes each day of foam rolling and mobility drills, we'll keep that athletic edge over time.
2. Incorporate single-leg exercises. This doesn't mean compound lifts like squats and deadlifts don't have their place. But lunges, split squats, step-ups, and single-leg RDLs all need to be included for a well-rounded athletic program. Running, jumping, cutting, transferring power ⏤ getting stronger on one leg will help all of these.
3. Lift FAST on the concentrics. You can use explosive movements like kettlebell swings or the olympic lifts, but you can also just make sure every rep you do is performed with a controlled, powerful concentric component of the lift. Moving fast will keep you fast.
→ Tip 3: Five “hacks” to eat more protein
1. Eat your protein first (in the day and in your meal). Protein is the most satiating macronutrient, so you’re less likely to overeat with this strategy. But on a daily scale, this same tactic can work by front loading protein at breakfast when your hunger is high.
2. Add a whey protein shake before the meal when cutting. When cutting, you can blunt some of your hunger going into a meal by having a half to full serving of whey protein before diving into your food. This also ensures higher quality protein at each meal.
3. Eat protein more frequently. It’s hard to consume large amounts of protein in one to two sittings. So breaking up your total daily protein goal into more meals and snacks will make the goal easier to achieve. For most, three meals and one shake works well.
4. Have a protein shake after training, upon waking, between meals, or before bed. Most people already include a post-workout shake, but it’s helpful to start doing if not. People also assume you should only drink shakes on workout days, yet they can provide a quality protein boost any time of day.
5. Build your meals starting with a protein source. Essentially, every time you’re about to eat, think to yourself, “what is my protein source going to be?” Then base the rest of your meal/snack around that decision.
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Have you ever been told the reason you’re not losing weight is because “you’re eating too little”.
If so, I am also sure you have been told your body has gone into “starvation mode”. Where people tend to explain it, as your body is holding onto all your body fat because you haven’t been eating enough calories.
Spoiler Alert: I’m here to explain to you why this is in fact a myth.
As everything you hear in the fitness and health industry there is a sliver of truth behind this statement. In fact, I myself am guilty of using this phrase in the past. Thankfully I have continued to learn and research the science of our metabolism.
Next let's break down the common definition of “starvation mode”.
What is Starvation Mode?
Starvation mode is not a scientific term. It is a popular phrase used to imply that when you cut calories too low, your body goes into a protection mode, slowing your metabolism and calorie output so that you stop losing weight.
This concept is rooted in your body's survival mechanisms. If you ever found yourself without food for long periods of time, it would not be beneficial for your body to continue to burn calories at a normal rate; instead, your metabolism would shift to preserve as much energy as possible to prolong your life. But starving to death is not quite the same thing as dieting and you will still lose weight in the process of wasting away without food.
How Long Can You Survive Without Food?
With access to water and electrolytes, your body can survive for quite some time without food, depending on the person and how much body fat you have. Some research suggests that you can go more than a month without food. And in some religions, long fasts are commonly practiced with potential health benefits.
Starvation mode is not a real term, but metabolic adaption is, and it’s a known phenomenon. How drastically it affects your weight loss progress is another story.
Your body can compensate for decreased calories by slowing your metabolism down as much as 30% through adaptive thermogenesis. But the effects of adaptive thermogenesis are typically short-lived, and for most the difference could be as little as a 5% decrease in basal metabolic rate (BMR), and it does not indicate a damaged metabolism.
So what is the verdict?
In all of the studies referenced to support starvation mode, weight loss was a factor. And it is crucial to note that any weight loss can cause you to have a lower BMR - since it just takes less energy to move around a smaller object.
Why You're Not Losing Weight and How to Fix it
If you find that you’ve hit a weight loss plateau, it does not mean you are in starvation mode. Some more common factors are likely at play, including the following:
You're Not Tracking Your Food Intake
It's pretty impossible to know if you are in a calorie deficit if you aren't tracking your food intake. Before assuming something else is at play, keeping an accurate food diary is the best place to start.
Even if you've been tracking, take a look at how diligent you are being with this habit.
You can also use your tracking app to get weekly calorie and macro averages - this is the best way to see how well you’ve stuck to your diet consistently, as well as where you could use some work.
You're Not Eating the Right Amount of Calories
Typically, if you aren't losing weight, you are eating more calories than you think. Or if you've recently lost weight, you likely have a new maintenance calorie amount and may need to eat fewer calories to continue losing. This is why many popular weight loss plans will use a phased approach to cutting, helping you to stay in a calorie deficit and continue losing weight with incremental calorie cuts.
Start by figuring out how many calories you need to eat a day to maintain your current weight and then calculate your new weight loss calorie needs from that starting point.
You're Always on a Diet
It might also just be that your body needs a break. If you've been dieting for more than a few months, it might be time to give your body time to adjust to your maintenance calorie level. Jumping from one diet to the next and constantly trying to cut calories can do more harm than good. It is much easier to stick to a diet and continue to get results if you understand how to maintain results in the first place.
Been on a really low-calorie diet for a while and scared to add calories back in? Try upping your intake a few hundred calories a week to start, until you reach your maintenance level. And then stick to your maintenance for at least a month to give your time to adjust and reset your metabolism.
You're Too Focused on the Scale
Oftentimes dieters are focused solely on fat loss, but their total body composition is crucial to getting better results and making them stick. Not to mention, if you are cutting calories too low for too long, you’re at risk of losing precious calorie burning tissue - your muscle.
Gaining muscle is essentially the opposite of “starvation mode”. Your muscle mass is the biggest determinant of your metabolic rate, and the more you have, the more you can eat and maintain your weight. Plus, muscle is the tissue behind that lean, toned look most of us are striving to achieve in the first place.
While muscle growth is typically achieved through weight gain, which would ultimately increase your metabolism even further, it is possible for some people to build muscle in a calorie deficit. But at the very least, you should be focused on protecting your muscle while dieting.
To keep your lean mass intact while dieting, be sure to incorporate the following:
What are the Minimum Calories for Weight Loss?
While starvation mode may not technically exist, starving yourself to lose weight is still not recommended. A very low-calorie diet may work at first, but it’s likely not going to do you favors in the long run. It can be dangerous for some people, lead to disordered eating habits, and does not typically lead to sustainable results, since most people do not change bad habits once they resume eating again. In addition, extreme dieting is impossible to maintain, causing painful hunger cues, irritability, mood swings, decreased energy, poor concentration, and sucks your willpower dry, all of which makes sticking to a diet that much harder.
Instead, stick to a more attainable approach to dieting with no more than a 15-20% decrease from your estimated daily energy needs. Slow and steady weight loss of 0.5 to 1% body weight per week is much easier to keep off and you will be much happier and more successful with a more measured and sustainable diet plan approach.
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Kayli is a certified personal trainer and online coach that specializes in fitness, wellness, nutrition, mindset, mobility and everything in between.