There is No Such Thing as Keto – Or Any Diet – “Freedom”

There is No Such Thing as Keto – Or Any Diet – “Freedom”

In recent months, there has been a resurgence of diets I had long thought were old, buried news.

I am speaking specifically of ketosis and of fasting. In ketosis, the goal is to eat so few carbohydrates that the body produces ketones as an alternative fuel source. In fasting, you simply stop eating.

Both of these dietary practices are aimed at reducing insulin and blood sugar levels as much as possible. This is supposed to predispose the body to “fat burning mode.”

These methods appear to actually be helpful to some people. There can be substantial health benefits to both ketosis and fasting for certain groups of the population. People who have very high body fat percentages and are insulin resistant may benefit—at least in terms of their body fat percentages–from fasting. Ketosis may also benefit people who have dysregulated insulin levels, but it also has the unique benefit of being able to help people with certain kinds of cancers and neurological conditions. I do not deny the potential potency of either of these diets, given the right clinical needs and application.

(You can read more about the physiology of ketosis in this post here.)

But I would here like to address the concept of freedom.

I have recently heard people call bboth fasting and ketosis “freedom.” You can read a post about it and fasting, here, or a whole book on ketosis and freedom, called Keto Freedom, here.

I do not mean to detract from the worthiness of each of these people and what potential they have to offer many people. But I do wish to shed some light on this whole “freedom” thing.

Two ways to define freedom

There are, so far as I can best tell from my philosophical training, two primary ways to define freedom. One is as freedom from something; the other is as freedom to do something.

Freedom from something is what we find most common in discourse about restrictive diets.

In talk about ketosis, fasting, and other kinds of dietary (including paleo) freedom, advocates walk around talking about how great their freedom is. People are sometimes confused. The word “freedom” is very appealing. Yet what kind of freedom are the gurus talking about? When pressed, they typically that their diets enable them to achieve freedom from some symptom. (Sometimes they say the diets provide freedom from negative body image or disordered eating, which while not impossible is also kind of ludicrous.)

Ketosis is “freedom from blood sugar swings.” Intermittent fasting is “freedom from obesity.” Paleo is “freedom from gut distress” or etc.

These are all important points. It is great to finally be liberated from health concerns that have dogged you your entire life. I know this quite well, as I have suffered from many chronic symptoms such as generalized anxiety disorder, insomnia, acne, PCOS, and migraines throughout the course of my life.

But this concept of freedom is actually not the most popular one. It’s not the one that makes immediate sense to people.

The most popular idea of freedom is the one in which we have degrees of freedom with which to act. For example, most people intuitively understand that people in the USA have more freedom than people in North Korea. People who are not incarcerated have more freedom than those who are. People who have so much money they don’t have to work are more free than those chained to minimum wage 9-5 jobs. This is because they have more options and abilities due to their circumstances. They are more free. 

If we analyze diets in terms of this kind of freedom, we come up with a spectrum. On one end – the most free end – people eat whatever they want, whenever they want. On the other far end are highly restrictive diets, ones that require a lot of control and very few options.

I would argue that  there is almost nothing less free than ceasing to eat for several days or periods at a time, as is what people do when they fast.

Perhaps worse, and more importantly, there is almost nothing less free than ketosis. There is almost nothing less free than having to pee on a stick to determine if your diet is “pure” enough.

Any time you go on a diet, and deliberately restrict the kinds of food you can eat, you limit your freedom.

If you give yourself a rule that you cannot break, you limit your freedom.

If you give yourself a set of acceptable foods and feel guilty if you eat outside of it, you limit your freedom.

If you struggle at all with your body image, your self love, your sense of self worth, or your love and forgiveness for yourself as a result of the diet you’re on, you limit your freedom.

Yes, I believe there are psychologically healthy ways to limit the food groups you eat. Yes, I think focusing on whole, natural foods is probably best for health. Yes, I do think certain health conditions such as leukemia and neurodegenerative disease (both possibly helped by ketosis) can call for severe measures. Yes, I do think weight loss is an acceptable goal given that it is done well on both physical and psychological levels (as I attempt to do here).

But I do not think we should ever make the mistake of calling a diet freedom – unless of course we are very clear from the outset that it is freedom from, not freedom for. To call a diet “freedom” is to do psychological health and real honest-to-god freedom a serious disservice.

If you seek any of these things:

Self love

Body acceptance

Overcoming an obsession with food

Overcoming cravings

Eating intuitively

Eating guilt-free

Then I would never recommend a set of diet rules – and again, especially one where you can’t eat for days or one where you have to pee on a stick —  to help you.

I would recommend instead doing the hard, psychological work of sitting down with a friend, a therapist, or a pen and paper and digging deep into your heart. I would recommend discovering and deconstructing the demons that haunt you. I would recommend learning to embrace body fat as a natural part of what it means to be a human being – of what it means to be an animal – of what it means to be you, in your skin, nourishing your body the best way you know how.

Ketosis and fasting may be many things. They may even liberate you from serious health conditions. But if we want to have an honest discussion about what these kinds of diets can do for us, we need to stop calling them “freedom.” They are pretty much anything but.

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So, just as a heads up - some links above may be my affiliate links, which means I get a small commission if you click on it and make a purchase. Doing so is no additional cost to you, but helps me tremendously. Your support is SO greatly appreciated, so thank you in advance if you choose to do so. Check out my entire disclosure to know exactly how things work.

Ketosis is back: The resurgence of a miracle cure?

Ketosis is back: The resurgence of a miracle cure?

In 2012, when I began writing this blog, the paleosphere was what I am now thinking of as  “old school paleo.”

Paleo bloggers then focused on leanness, fitness, biohacking, and generally being a hard guy (taking baths in ice water was a thing). We were told to never eat legumes or other carbohydrates. We were told that it was better to starve than to have a meal that wasn’t paleo. We were admonished to never snack. We were told that fasting was a lifesaver, and ketosis, a miracle.

But in the years since 2012, in small part due to my own advocacy and in large part due to the wisening up of the whole sphere, paleo leaders opened their eyes to the larger picture. They realized that women’s bodies might need some more calorie nourishment than men’s. They realized that carbohydrates can sometimes be helpful – and eventually appeared to embrace them entirely. They realized that fitness is different for everybody, and maybe some people should do less of it. They recognized that body fat percentage doesn’t dictate the quality of someone’s health. Major parts of the paleosphere relaxed into an atmosphere of love and encouragement and relaxation.

All of this means that I was very surprised rounding the corner  into 2017 when all of the sudden everybody was talking about fasting  and ketosis again. I will write about fasting in another post. Today, I will focus on the return to ketosis. I will talk about what’s bringing it back, and then re-examine what this can mean for your body and your mental health.

What is ketosis?

I am going to steer clear of giving you a long, technical definition of ketosis. I do however think it’s worth learning the biochemistry if you plan to experiment. In that case, I highly recommend Dr Peter Attia’s posts or Dr Chris Masterjohn’s.

In short, ketosis is a state the body enters when there is an excess of molecules called acetyl groups over oxaloacetate. This happens when there is a shortage of glucose supplied to the metabolic processes that create energy–ie, when you eat a very low carbohydrate diet. Yet interestingly enough the body will also produce ketones when medium-chain fatty acids enter the metabolic processes. Most people do not know this, but it’s very important, and I will return to it later.

So then, when there is this excess of acetyl groups relative to oxaloacetate, the body produces something called ketone bodies. Ketone bodies come from fatty acids that the body has liberated from fat tissue, which can be used as an alternative fuel to carbohydrates. This is important because the body (and specifically the brain and heart) literally need carbohydrates or ketone bodies in order to function. When carbs are gone, basically, ketone bodies step in to do their work.

People typically achieve ketosis by fasting or by eating diets very low in carbohydrate (high fat, moderate protein). This calls for at least fewer than 50, and maybe more like 20, grams of carbohydrate a day. This depends on your age, body type, activity level and the like.

You can verify how deeply your body has gone into ketosis by peeing on a stick, which reveals the level of ketone bodies being circulated in and used by your body.

Why do people do ketosis?

The supposed health gains of ketosis are different depending on who you ask. Some will call is a miracle that cures all ailments, some will be more circumspect.

In general, there are two many categories of benefits that people talk about: metabolic health and weight loss, and performance gains. There is some truth to each of these categories.

For metabolic health and weight loss, ketosis can be helpful for people who struggle with insulin resistance. Now, to be clear, ketosis does not cure the underlying problems that cause insulin resistance such as poor gut health and inflammation. 

But ketosis can provide a way to circumvent the issue. If insulin levels are chronically high and you eat a moderate carbohydrate diet, you may find that you never lose weight, because the body always has a surplus of sugar to burn instead of dipping into its fat stores, which it really only does once the body’s glucose and glycogen stores have been burned through. If however you keep your body’s carbohydrate intake to an absolute minimum, it will more consistently be able to reach into fat stores to burn fat (and make ketones to burn), given that there is a caloric deficit. This is something everybody, and especially ketosis aficionados, should keep in mind; calorie deficits need to be present in order to lose weight.

This being said, there is debate about whether or not there is a “metabolic advantage” to being in a state of ketosis. It is possible that, given how much energy it takes to create ketone bodies, the body actually burns slightly more calories in ketosis than otherwise. Unfortunately this matter is not altogether settled. Though it is worth noting that even if this is the case, the difference is relatively small. For the most thorough discussion I’ve seen of this issue in a blog, see Dr Attia’s write up here.

Ketosis may provide metabolic benefits. They include: 

-Regulation of blood sugar levels for people who are sensitive to blood sugar swings (as the body produces its own blood sugar in a state of ketosis so there are fewer fluctuations)

-A reduction in circulating insulin levels for those who were previously insulin resistant; an increase in insulin sensitivity

-Potential weight loss due to increased insulin sensitivity and ability to burn fat

-Potential weight loss due to decreased caloric intake from eliminating an entire food group

The other main category of improvements people discuss have to do with performance. Many people say they think more clearly or have more mental or physical energy while on ketosis. This does not seem an altogether unreasonable claim since the brain burns ketones efficiently, and ketosis can help keep blood sugar levels stable.

Importantly, however, I would like to draw attention to the fact that the adrenal glands can get involved in ketosis – as they play a role in regulating blood sugar, among many other things. When the adrenal glands are active, typically cortisol, adrenaline, or norepinephrine (or any myriad of other stimulatory chemicals) are released into the bloodstream. Norepinephrine, notably, is released in a state of fasting at 2x the rate of regular body metabolism. This can create great feelings of energy. And it can help preserve muscle mass. But it is important to note that it can also lead to disruptions to circadian rhythm, or a feeling of being over-wired.

Specific Health Conditions

Finally, there are also specific health conditions for which ketosis appears to be therapeutic. Certain neurological- and degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, dementia or Parkinson’s may be helped by ketosis, as may seizures and chronic migraines. Ketosis can also starve tumors which thrive on glucose as a fuel source, and therefore be helpful for cancer, specifically that of the brain or blood.

Importantly – we should be clear about which types of benefits we are chasing

So you may decide that ketosis seems like a good idea, something worth trying. But it is important to note something that often goes neglected in conversations about ketosis: there is more than one way to achieve the presence of ketone bodies in the blood. In fact, there are two main ways, and they correlate to the two different types of benefits discussed above: the metabolic, and the performative.

The traditional way of achieving ketosis is to eat a low carbohydrate diet. This has two types of benefits: 1) it can increase insulin sensitivity and can therefore help remediate insulin insensitivity and diabetes. It can also help stabilize blood sugar, and, importantly, if one is eating fewer caloriess since one’s diet is almost 100% fat, then one will be in a  calorie deficit and may lose weight. 2) Ketosis can increase mental performance given that ketone bodies are produced as a result of carbohydrate restriction.

But there is another way to achieve ketosis. You can get ketone bodies into your bloodstream simply by consuming MCT oil. Chris Masterjohn addresses this masterfully in this podcast (linked to transcript). I stated earlier in this post that ketosis is widely misunderstood as a result of low carb dieting. While low carb dieting does lead to the acetyl group excess over oxaloacetate in the fuel burning process that leads to ketosis, so do medium chain fatty acids. So if you cook with or add MCT oil to your diet (coconut oil contains MCT’s but is far from 100% MCT, so if you’re looking for a ketosis effect it may be wise to purchase an MCT oil such as this one), you can achieve the performance-enhancing effects of having ketone bodies in your bloodstream without subjecting your body to the rigors of a low carbohydrate diet.

Exogenous ketones

You can also get ketone bodies into your bloodstream by consuming exogenous ketones. This is a fancy way of saying “eating ketones.”

In fact, exogenous ketones are I think a big part of why ketosis has made a come back in recent months. There has been an explosion in the market for selling ketone bodies, especially with MLM schemes. I can’t tell you how many facebook posts I see from paleo friends talking about how great their exogenous ketone supplements are. I am sure they really are. But it is also a part of an industry wide boom, so I’d step very carefully about choosing a brand and making sure you know what you’re buying into.

Importantly, if you take exogenous ketones, a) know that you are taking exogenous calories as ketones are calories, and b) know that you will be getting the performance enhancing effects of ketosis but not the insulin sensitizing effects of a very low carbohydrate diet. I do not caution you because I think this is a bad thing. In fact, this is a great option for many people, as I do not think the low-carb aspects of ketosis are important to strive for unless it is an experiment you choose to conduct for the sake of managing diabetes or etc.

How to achieve ketosis performance gains without sacrificing metabolic health

I talked at length before about how low carb ketosis poses potential metabolic gains. This is especially true for people who suffer from diabetes or insulin resistance and/or also have high body fat percentages.

But I would be remiss if I did not also point out – especially as Paleo for Women – the many different groups of people who may be hurt by ketosis.

Women of reproductive age who are attempting to conceive or are pregnant should probably not undergo low-carb ketosis, as carbohydrates play an important role in A) pregnancy, and B) assuring the hypothalamus that the body has been properly fed. In fact, insulin is actually an important satiation hormone. For women who want to conceive, it may be best to err on the side of caution and make sure you get bountiful carbs.

Women with sensitive reproductive systems may want to step carefully. If you have a history of low hormone levels, hypothalamic amenorrhea, dieting, or irregular menstrual cycles, the hormone changes invovled in low carb ketosis as well as the uptick in stress hormone levels may hinder your reproductive hormone production.

People (mostly women) with sensitive thyroid systems may also be in jeopardy from low carb ketosis. Ketosis is well known to downregulate thyroid production. T3 (the form of thyroid hormone that is actually active in cells) decreases, and reverse T3, a molecule that blocks the activity of T3, increases. Ketosis advocates may bend over backwards trying to make this phenomenon seem hunky dory, but I would advise anyone with thyroid issues to step carefully around ketosis. If you have clinical hypothyroidism I would consider consulting a doctor first.

People with adrenal issues or a lot of stress. Adrenal glands may become more active with low carb ketosis, which can exacerbate  feelings of being wired, stress, and all the attending symptoms that come along with it.

People (especially women) with sleep issues. Low carb ketosis may up-regulate the production of stress hormones, which can have a negative impact on sleep.

In general, low carb ketosis is another stress on the body. For people who can handle that stress – it may go off without a hitch. But  if your body is predisposed to adrenal, thyroid, or hormone issues, you may wish to at least step carefully.

What about my psychological health?

I will be publishing a post on the concept of “ketosis freedom” next week. In the meantime, it stands to note that this is obviously a highly restrictive diet. If you have a history of punishing yourself for falling off the wagon, feeling guilty about food, engaging in cycles of over- and under- eating, or confining yourself to strict dietary rules, I would not recommend ketosis. In order for someone to truly achieve wellness, then psychological health must be prioritized, perhaps above whatever ketosis-based goals you may have (and of course this varies by the individual. If you have brain cancer then please feel free to try ketosis regardless of how much you love your body).

All of which is to say that…

Ketosis is very complicated. It has a common practice of very low carb dieting that has been shown to benefit some people, but it certainly does not benefit everybody. It is different for every person – so if you decide to try it, please simply be aware of potential pitfalls that may result and adjust your diet accordingly.

You can also achieve ketosis a less well-known way, which is by consuming a tablespoon or two a day of MCT oil. If you are seeking simple psychological and physiological performance gains, and are not trying to starve your body of carbohydrates, then this may be a much more safe route with which to experiment. (It would also be compatible with recommendations I make in my program for weight loss – in which you can choose to be low carb or low fat Weight  Loss Unlocked.)

In the end, however, ketosis may be good for some conditions, but is not good for everybody. Every time a new fad roles around, it is best to step around it with caution, as hype (at least in my experience of observing the health world) typically vastly overemphasizes actual results. The only way to truly know if a diet works for you is to try it – but also to do so armed with as much healthy skepticism and and self-awareness as possible.

 

 

 

 

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So, just as a heads up - some links above may be my affiliate links, which means I get a small commission if you click on it and make a purchase. Doing so is no additional cost to you, but helps me tremendously. Your support is SO greatly appreciated, so thank you in advance if you choose to do so. Check out my entire disclosure to know exactly how things work.

3 Reasons To Track Your Food

3 Reasons To Track Your Food

If you know me, you know I’m not big on the calorie-counting and tracking mania of the rest of the diet world.  I prefer to let people figure out their health intuitively, eating whole, healthful foods that make them feel good.  

But in some circumstances I actually think tracking may be a good idea.

There’s no one size fits all way to know if tracking might be a good choice for you.  You know yourself best.

But here are 3 reasons you might consider tracking food intake.

#1 Micronutrients

Even if you’re eating paleo, you may not be getting ALL the nutrients required for health.  

Ever monitored how much potassium you’re taking in?  I can almost guarantee it doesn’t meet the recommended daily allowance.  

Now, I’m not about perfectionism and strict rule following.

But micronutrients are just as important, if not more important than macros.

Instead of worrying about what exact percentage or gram amount of carbs you’re eating in a day, how’s about worrying if you’ve got your daily allotment of vitamin C, or the B vitamins, or (gasp!) fiber!

You might be surprised.  In fact, I’m pretty sure you will be.

Because if you’re not downing tons of non-starchy veggies and leafy greens you’re not getting as much as you could.  And if you’re not going to make it a priority, it might be time to start thinking about the dreaded multivitamin to help prevent nutrient deficiencies.

I recommend this one in my post on multivitamins which you can find here

#2 You’re having trouble losing weight

I’m a huge proponent of eating a naturally healthy diet and being moderate about the crazy counting calories stuff.

My program Weight Loss Unlocked works for a lot of people by helping them make healthful food choices without really having to count anything.  But some people just have trouble with this method.  

Did you know the average person underestimated their caloric intake by about 30%?  

That number can rise even more if the person isn’t tracking calories.

And while I agree that calories are not the end all be all of weight loss, and certainly not of health, you can’t eat 3000 of them as a fairly sedentary person a day and expect to lose weight.

I don’t care if you’re eating cake or coconut oil, too many calories are going to derail your efforts.  

This is where tracking can help.

Take a week and see where you’re at.  That can give you a better idea of where you’re eating too much and where you’re just right.

Then try tracking a week at a more appropriate calorie count for weight loss and be mindful of how it feels.  Then, when you stop tracking, you’ll have a better idea of what the right amount of food should feel like.  

#3 You’re gaining weight or aren’t feeling well

Weight gain can be caused by a number of factors- hormones, water retention, medications, etc.

But if you have been gaining weight inexplicably, you haven’t done anything differently, or don’t feel you have, tracking your food intake may be helpful.  

Perhaps you’re eating the same number of calories but have increased your carbohydrate count.  If you have insulin resistance, this could cause weight gain.  If you don’t, it could be water retention.

Maybe you feel like you’ve been eating the same, but are forgetting about those dark chocolate squares you sneak in throughout the day, or that new post-workout drink, or those new fat bombs.  

Excess calories could be causing sneaky pounds to build up.  

Maybe it’s just the second half of your cycle, maybe it’s constipation, it could be anything, but sometimes excessive weight gain can indicate an underlying problem.  

If you track your intake and nothing is outside of normal, and the weight keeps packing on, it could be a thyroid problem or a side effect of a medication, or any number of issues.

You can use this information when you see your doctor, and you’ll be one step ahead of the curve.

Likewise, if you aren’t feeling well or are having increased anxiety, depression, or blood sugar crashes, tracking food intake alongside your mood after eating can help you pinpoint possible issues or trigger food/times.

Same thing goes for having digestive issues.  If you know what you ate and at what time, it’s much easier to figure out intolerance. 

Mindful eating is a skill.  And it’s best learned in the context of normal hunger and satiety cues.  

If your insulin is out of whack or you’re carrying a lot of excess weight, or have any kind of health condition or medication that interferes with your hunger cues, mindful eating is going to be remarkably difficult and could lead to feelings of failure and lack of results.

Nutritionists and nerds alike love the website cronometer.com.  It gives you WAY more detailed micronutrient values than other apps like My Fitness Pal, though that is a great choice for busy people because it has an app.

Whether you choose to track or not, I hope we can all learn to be respectful of what works for us as individuals.

If mindful eating isn’t right for someone right now, they certainly don’t need to be judged for that.  And likewise if counting calories is mentally unhealthy for someone, they deserve respect and support as they follow the natural cues of their body.

Do you track food intake?  Why or why not?  What site do you like to use?

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So, just as a heads up - some links above may be my affiliate links, which means I get a small commission if you click on it and make a purchase. Doing so is no additional cost to you, but helps me tremendously. Your support is SO greatly appreciated, so thank you in advance if you choose to do so. Check out my entire disclosure to know exactly how things work.

Is weight loss harder the older you get?

Is weight loss harder the older you get?

Does it get harder to lose weight the older you get?

For many women who have already reached this point in their lives, the answer is an obvious YES.

Yet the question still remains of why this is the case, and if it is absolutely necessary. What is the science behind it? Can you avoid weight gain? How much of a challenge is it to keep the same shape and weight as before?

As it turns out, the answer is a bit unfortunate. There are real biological events that happen in your body as you age – particularly as a woman – that naturally lead to weight gain. But, fortunately, the more we know about them, the more equipped we are to take counter measures.

Here are the 4 most important reasons women in menopause gain weight:

1. Estrogen regulates appetite and fat storage

Arguably the most important facet of weight gain in menopause is decreased estrogen levels.

Estrogen receptors are located all throughout a woman’s body. They are particularly concentrated in the brain. This is important, because studies have shown that one type of estrogen receptor–estrogen receptor alpha (the other type is estrogen receptor beta)–plays an important role in energy homeostasis. That is – estrogen regulates how much energy your body burns.

In 2007, in a series of animal experiments described at the 234th national meeting of the American Chemical Society, researchers demonstrated how important estrogen is to the regulation of food intake, energy expenditure, and body fat distribution.

Professor of Psychiatry Deborah H Clegg led a group of researchers investigating two ER-alpha rich portions of the brain. There is a part of the brain called the ventromedial nucleus. This area has been long recognized to play a role in energy regulation.

Clegg and her colleagues used a new laboratory technique called RNA interference. This enabled them to deactivate the ER-alpha receptors in the ventromedial nucleus (but not other parts of the brain) in rats. When they did so, the animal’s energy levels and metabolic rates plummeted. The animals also developed insulin regulation issues, an intolerance of glucose, and weight gain, even though their calorie intake remained the same. 

This is so important it bears repeating:

Without estrogen in the ventromedial nucleus, rats ate the same amount of food as normal but developed severe weight gain, glucose issues, and low energy. Without estrogen, keeping everything else the same, they gained weight.

Plus, their weight was not evenly distributed. Instead, it went directly to the visceral, or abdominal area of the body. This area is linked to a much higher rate of inflammation and disease than fat in other locations.

Lowering estrogen activity in the brain throughout menopause and after has the same effect on women: the body natural starts to burn less fat, and to keep storing it in places like the abdomen.

2. Estrogen and progesterone combat insulin and cortisol

As I discuss at length in my program for weight loss, Weight Loss Unlocked: The Paleo Woman’s Solution (check it out here) – estrogen and progesterone play important roles in modulating insulin sensitivity.

Importantly, estrogen helps make you more insulin sensitive. As estrogen levels drop in menopause, this can be a big problem for keeping fat storage to a minimum, and especially around the abdomen, where it can be a health concern.

Importantly, estrogen and progesterone also help modulate cortisol levels. When estrogen and progesterone levels fall during menopause, it’s entirely likely that over time, the body shifts toward storing fat when calories are high (as opposed to building muscle), and reduces the amount of fat burned when calories are low (and burn muscle instead). This is an effect both of reduced cortisol suppression as well as reduced insulin sensitivity.

3. Muscle mass deteriorates more quickly than it used to

Oxidative stress, inflammation, and inactivity are important reasons that muscle mass decreases as women age.

Yet estrogen is also quite important. Estrogen helps move calcium into bones and therefore supports a strong skeleton.

Estorgen also helps build muscle.

Now, this might not make a lot of sense, since body builders are always talking about the importance of testosterone. Yet even male body builders recognize the importance of estrogen. The body needs a certain amount of estrogen to maintain androgen (male sex hormone, like testosterone) receptors, which then go on to stimulate muscle growth. Furthermore, estrogen receptor beta appears to encourage muscle growth itself. The process of muscle loss while aging – called sarcopenia – has been shown to be slowed by estrogen treatments (and estrogen receptor beta activity) in rats. Interestingly, these muscle-stimulating affects occur in both male and female mice.

4. When exercising the body doesn’t burn as much fat as it used to

Unfortunately, due to declining muscle mass and insulin sensitivity both, it becomes harder for the body to burn calories during workouts.

This is unfortunate, but  also not without its solutions. Women who switch to high quality weight-bearing exercises (which you can find, or example, in Noelle’s amazing Strong from Home workout program) do maintain muscle mass, and therefore high quality, effective workouts. They just have to good about it. This is partly why I recommend Noelle’s program so highly – it helps you craft a fitness plan that is the perfect amount of cardio, weight training, and challenge for you. 

You can be sure that the more you focus on maintaining muscle mass, the more intense and beneficial your workouts will be.

What to do about it

As I just mentioned above, you can help preserve the efficacy of your workouts by choosing ones that focus on lifting heavy weights. You can get an awesome program designed just for this purpose with Noelle’s wonderful Strong from Home

You can also do everything you can to keep inflammation to a minimum. This will help keep your body from building up stress hormone levels and storing fat in your abdomen. This means eating a nutrient-rich, anti-inflammatory diet full of organic vegetables and fruits, organ meats (here’s a supplement in case you do not like to eat liver), eggs, fermented foods (on this page are my favorites) and the rockstar superfood cod liver oil can go a long way.

Finally, you can work on supporting your estrogen levels. I do not recommend hormone replacement therapy. Sometimes, a small dose for a short period of time can work great as an interim fix. But  in the long term, it is probably best to focus on supporting estrogen with simple diet and lifestyle choices. You can do this getting plenty of high quality carbs (such as fruits and starches) and fats (such as olive oil and coconut oil) which can help boost estrogen production.

You may also be served by playing with your intake of phytoestrogens. Phytoestrogens are estrogens found in plants. They occur in high doses in soy and flax, and in lower but still sometimes effective doses in legumes such as black beans and chick peas. For some people they hurt estrogen production, but for many women in menopause it can actually help. Start with a small dose, such as a bowl of chickpeas or hummus, once a day to see if it helps make a change.

I talk in more depth about the effect of hormones on weight maintenance in my manual for permanent weight loss for women, Weight Loss Unlocked: The Paleo Woman’s SolutionIf you’re looking to find a way to keep losing weight as you age, this may be a great resource for you. Plus, it’s 100% risk free – you can try the plans without any hassle or risk. Check it out here.

Importantly, I personally have not gone through menopause! Everything I’ve shared here I’ve learned through research. Please if you have any comments or ideas or experiences share them below!

 

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So, just as a heads up - some links above may be my affiliate links, which means I get a small commission if you click on it and make a purchase. Doing so is no additional cost to you, but helps me tremendously. Your support is SO greatly appreciated, so thank you in advance if you choose to do so. Check out my entire disclosure to know exactly how things work.

The right way to set weight loss goals

The right way to set weight loss goals

I’ve been a blogger the natural health scene for several years now. This means that I have seen half a dozen New Years celebrations come and go. As I have done so, I have helped usher literally thousands of people through their New Years Resolutions.

Some have done amazingly well.

Many, unfortunately, have not.

There are many reasons, I think I have learned, as to why. There are many mistakes that people commonly make. Yet one of them is the most glaring to me, and also one of the easiest to fix.

This is the mistake:

People set weight loss targets – or goal weights.

Why is this a problem?

Setting a weight loss goal, say, of “I am going to lose 30 lbs by June of this year” or “I am going to finally reach my goal weight of 130 lbs” makes it harder to lose weight and keep it off. 

It tends to keep your mind focused on the number on the scale. This draws you into making comparisons, judging your progress, and obsessing over how well you are doing. You may end up focusing on your appearance. This is bad because it keeps you away from the healthier and more sustainable alternative, which is to focus on other benefits of eating healthy and losing weight  such as gaining energy, developing fitness, and freeing yourself from common complications of heavier weights such as joint pain.

When I was at war with my body fat for the first twenty or so years of my life, I constantly focused on my goals. I measured my hips with a tape measure after every workout. When I did that, I noticed immediately if I had done “good” – that is, if I went down a half an inch. This was cause for celebration – which might lead to me feeling confident and eating some ice cream (here’s a link to the good stuff). I also noticed immediately if I had done “bad’ – that is, if I went up half an inch. This was cause for frustration and disappointment, which might lead to me feeling terrible and eating ice cream. Even if I resisted eating the ice cream for a while, it always won in the end.

When i was finally successful at reaching and maintaining a healthy weight that felt good on my bones – I had done so because I stopped obsessing over my goal. I stopped day dreaming about where I might be some day. I know that sounds weird – if I didn’t think about my goal, how could I be motivated? But trust me.

What I did was focus on a system. I decided to think about health. I decided to eat well. I developed a plan (which I describe at length in my manual for weight loss, Weight Loss Unlocked: The Paleo Woman’s Solution) and I followed it. I might have vaguely noticed my “progress”, and I do still vaguely keep track of my size — mostly by whether or not my clothes still fill — but this was not my obsession.

It was okay for me – and it would be okay for you – to distantly keep an eye on how you are doing. But that is entirely besides the point. If you start on a program that you trust, and know that it is rich in health benefits no matter your size, then it is good for you, and it is the system worth focusing on, not the goal.

Don’t think about where you are going, or what you want your body to be. That would be focusing on the destination. Instead, think about the how of your every day life, and the benefits that it is bringing you on a day to day basis. This would be focusing on the journey. Sure, you might drop weight  in the long run, but in the short run are you not experiencing  better sleep, clearer skin, less painful menstrual cramps, or anything else?

The key to losing weight is dropping the obsession over losing weight. This doesn’t mean you can’t try, or shouldn’t care, which I talk about at length in this blog post: My 6 Favorite Reasons for Losing Weight. What is does mean is that the goal is best as secondary, in the background. Implementing a system, doing it well, and enjoying the benefits along the way is the best way to keep yourself both mentally and physically happy as you move into a new year and a newer, more energetic, more alive you.

If you do happen to be looking to lose weight in a sustainable, permanent, and healthy weight this year, I personally have had great success – as have many of my clients and my audience – with the methods I explain in Weight Loss Unlocked: The Paleo Women’s Solution. If you are possibly interested but not sure, don’t worry. You can try it on for size and if you don’t like it you’ll get

All my best and love to you on your new years journeys, whether they be weight oriented or not. Other great suggestions, and ones that I am personally thinking much about, might be committing yourself to more service, donating more money, or finding  and developing your passions.

 

 

 

 

 

Implement systems; not targets. Don’t think about your goal, think about

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So, just as a heads up - some links above may be my affiliate links, which means I get a small commission if you click on it and make a purchase. Doing so is no additional cost to you, but helps me tremendously. Your support is SO greatly appreciated, so thank you in advance if you choose to do so. Check out my entire disclosure to know exactly how things work.

New science on fat shaming

New science on fat shaming

The health care system in the UK is becoming overly expensive and overly burdened, almost to a tipping point.

So now – in an effort to stay afloat – nearly a third of UK hospitals are now denying health care to patients with a BMI over 30.

These hospitals have restricted knee, hip, and other lower body replacement surgeries from obese patients and active smokers, saying that the interventions are “wasted” on the obese.

There are so many unfortunate things about this scenario. One of them, however, is in my opinion the worst of all.

It’s that they might actually be making the problem worse.

Why? Because

Fat shaming causes overeating.

This is something we have been saying here at Paleo for Women for a very long time (read my book on it, here).

Four years ago, I wrote a post on what I call the ‘binge-restrict’ pattern of overeating. This is what happens to people who are fat shamed.

When fat shamed, you feel guilty about your body. This motivates you to starve yourself. You “eat clean.” You do a bunch of whole 30s. You might even “feel great.”

But after a while it wears on you. You begin to obsess over what you’re restricted from. You feel hungry and irritable all of the time, perhaps. And you develop very, very, very strong cravings.

So then you ultimately (and inevitably) fall off the wagon, and overeat.

This makes you feel guilty again, so you starve yourself again. Then you develop cravings again. Then you overeat again.

And again, and again.

Restricting food intake has drastic consequences, especially with an unhealthy mindset.

This is exactly what happens with “obesity awareness”

The more that our culture shames people for the size of their bodies, the more we doubt themselves.

The more we doubt themselves, the less capable we are of making changes that focus on health instead of weight loss.

And the more we doubt ourselves, the more we hate our bodies, and resent our bodies, and therefore develop unhealthy relationships with food. We fall into binge and restrict patterns.

Here at Paleo for Women, I often talked about this phenomenon as though it was definitively true. And I did believe that it was.

But now we know more certainly that it is, and that it affects our society on a broad scale. It didn’t just happen to me. It didn’t just happen to Noelle. It didn’t just happen to you. It happens to cultures as a whole.

It is happening to the world.

With such big players like the UK and US health care systems at bat, there is a lot at stake.

The science

This article interviews Researcher Eric Robinson regarding his study of obesity awareness. He says of obesity and the intentions behind it that:

““There is quite a substantial body of research showing it is not really very much fun being an overweight person in this climate,” said Robinson. “It is a stigmatised condition. Realising you are an overweight individual is in itself likely to be quite stressful and make making healthy choices in your lifestyle more difficult.

“It is a tricky finding for public health intervention work. You would hope that making a person aware they are overweight would result in them being more likely to change and lose some weight.”

 

What Robinson and others instead found is that, from a study of 14,000 adults in the US and the UK, perceiving yourself as overweight actually has the opposite effect. Thinking you are overweight doesn’t incentivize you to lose weight.

Instead, it is strongly associated with weight gain. And this is entirely independent of people’s actual size. It has everything to do, instead, with their own perceptions of themselves.

In the study, the authors write that, “Individuals who identified themselves as being ‘overweight’ were more likely to report overeating in response to stress and this predicted subsequent weight gain. These findings are in line with recent suggestions that the stress associated with being part of a stigmatised group may be detrimental to health.”

So now we know. This happens to people. It wasn’t just me. It isn’t just you. It’s all of us. It’s a part of how we work. It is basic human psychology – that we do, for any number of reasons, overeat in response to negative body image.

But what do you do about it?

You may find yourself then in a bit of a Catch 22. If you already have these feelings about yourself, what do you do?

Does this study actually help? Can it help you choose love, or self-acceptance, or weight loss for the sake of health or energy, instead of for validation?

I think that it can. It can affirm your humanity. It can provide proof for your suspicions. It can help you throw off the condemnations of people around you, and perhaps start looking for ways to stop thinking of yourself in a negative light.

You may want to sit down and think seriously about the relationship between your size and your health. “Health” is no longer a good excuse to starve one’s self. As it turns out, the relationship between health and weight is much more complex than we ever thought. It is totally possible to be healthy and to be overweight.

You may also want to think about the “health at every size” movement. Since it is possible to be healthy at any size, becoming a part of a community of people focused on living well instead of restricting food intake could be great for you. I wrote about  why I love Healthy At Every Size in this post.

You may also want to consider thinking about food intake in terms of setting minimums, not maximums. In this post, I describe the way that I like to do macronutrients. Instead of saying “only 100 grams of carbs a day” or “only 50 grams of fat a day” or “no more than 1800 calories a day” I set minimums: “at least 100 grams of carbs a day,” I say. “At least 50 grams of fat.” “At least 2000 calories.”

You might  also want to think about fitness in a new way. Many people do work outs because they have to, because that’s what you do in order to lose weight. But what if you engaged with fitness because it was fun…because you found an activity that makes you come alive? I talk about that a bit in this post on why I will never run a marathon.

I have provided a few of our resources in the paragraphs above that I think could be helpful for your relationship with your body fat percentage, whatever that may be. Of course it is all insufficient – our need for self-affirmation and love in this society is truly never ending. So perhaps I should just leave with this thought:

They may that you are not enough. You may sometimes feel like you are not enough. But what you are is beyond enough. You are acceptable, and then some. You are a powerful human being with a body that lives and breathes and thrives no matter how rocky your relationship has been in the past, no many how many hardships it has been through. You are a body that is strong and lovely and your home, and seriously screw any body, any resource, any lingerie company that may make you feel otherwise. You can be healthy at any size, and you deserve it as much as you might deserve anything. You deserve to be nourished more so than anything, to let food be your friend, to let your body be your friend. Your body really does love you. All you have to do is let yourself love it back.

<3

 

 

(“Your body is a natural body with natural needs, that, when loved properly, loves you right back” is actually the “golden rule” of our community’s best-selling manifesto, Sexy by Nature. Check it out on Amazon!)

 

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So, just as a heads up - some links above may be my affiliate links, which means I get a small commission if you click on it and make a purchase. Doing so is no additional cost to you, but helps me tremendously. Your support is SO greatly appreciated, so thank you in advance if you choose to do so. Check out my entire disclosure to know exactly how things work.