For a few generations now we've just been getting fatter and sicker, and I know the cause.
I think we can all agree that if something isn't working, you need to change it. Heck, I'm in the business of coaching people through change. One of the first and most vitally important changes I get a person to make is to immediately drop all belief in the following pieces of conventional wisdom that simply have not been working:
Calories In/Calories Out
Exercise as a Weight Loss Tool (Eat Less, Move More)
Food Journaling/Fitness Tracking
Eating Every 2-3 Hours
Waiter: And how would you like your steak done, ma'am? Me: Medium-rare and palm-sized please.
Outdated Diet Dogma to Wipe from your Hard Drive
All of my nutrition protocols and programs attempt to reframe how we understand what food does in our bodies. Whether you're on a plan for weight loss, optimal health, or physical performance, the sooner you can get this hogwashery out of your head, the better.
If calories in and calories out were the key to keeping grips on our weight, I can say with absolute certainty that we would not be in the situation we’re in, as a culture. I’m not even talking about obesity, diabetes or heart disease. I’m referring to the “epidemic” of generally overweight people who are absolutely bewildered as to what to do. Who keep trying things that only offer short-term help.
Virtually every client I’ve ever had has gone on an extreme calorie restriction program. “It worked,” they say, “for a while. But then I gained it all back.”
Counting calories leads to restricting calories and that leads to hunger and hunger leads - biologically - to eating! The key to effortless weight loss isn’t restricting calories. It’s managing hunger.
This really threw us for a loop; it seemed to make sense: eating fat will make you fat. Only, the complete opposite happened: once we stopped eating fat, replacing fat foods with fat-free ones, we just continued to get fatter.
Eating lean foods won’t successfully make you lean, because you will be very, very hungry. It’s, for my money, at the root of why diets don’t work, and goes back to the folly of calorie counting: lean eating leaves us undernourished at the cellular level, and when our cells are starved, the body sends out a hunger signal that you will have a very hard time ignoring.
Not to spoil the surprise, but eating fat is one of the ways we can quieten the call of hunger.
Exercise for Weight Loss
AKA, “Eat Less; Move More.” I love exercise but I do not believe it is an important weight loss tool. As such, my weight loss program does not have an exercise requirement built in. In fact, depending on where you already fall on the exercise spectrum, I may ask you even to dial the exercise down (overtraining is a stress on the body and I need us to dial down excessive stress in order to get the body ticking again).
Exercise is amazing for physical fitness and I encourage it for that reason. Maybe once you’ve lost some weight you’ll feel more inspired to get out and lift some weights, join a class, take up a group activity - whatever. That would be a tremendous side benefit, but it is not a necessary part of this weight loss program.
With my program, however, you can lose weight in the absolute absence of exercise.
My biggest problem with portion control methods is that they're fussy. Whether you’re specifically measuring portions or just generally “eyeballing” them - either way, you’re spending way much more time worrying about how much of what you’re eating than any other animal on the planet.
I don’t want anyone to have to weigh, measure or worry about how big or small their food portions are. I want us, instead, to understand the foods that support us, and I want us to reconnect to true hunger and satiety signals - the original, biological, “portion control system” that our species evolved with.
Food Journaling/Fitness Tracking
You are more than welcome to continue wearing your FitBit. If you enjoy entering your foods into My Fitness Pal, go for it. But I will never ask to see that information and I, as your nutritionist, don’t even really care too much about it. And someday I would hope that you would stop caring too. Life is too short to have every morsel of food and step of activity tracked and chronicled and put into a spreadsheet. I don’t think it’s a happy or healthy way to interact with food or exercise and I’d love to see it go away.
Instead, I am going to get your body’s fuel partitioning system working so that you can use food better as fuel.
I offer meal plans as an extra-fee add-on to my programs. I really don't like doing them, full disclosure. They are not, and will not ever be, a part of my regular nutrition services because I don’t agree that it helps with sustainable health or weight loss, and it sure as heck doesn’t help with achieving an effortless relationship with food. If I tell you specifically what to eat and when… then what lifelong lessons have you learned? Rather than dictating what to eat, I want you to instinctively KNOW what and when to eat, like every other animal on the planet.
I don’t put people on plans. I give them an education. A new set of rules to try out, based on biology and supported by science.
This is the notion that if we don’t continuously feed our body, it will sense a threat of food scarcity and go into calorie- or fat-hoarding mode in anticipation of starvation. Much like the theory that “by the time you feel thirsty, you’re already dehydrated” this really makes a mockery of the amazing machinery that is the human body.
The human animal experienced many periods of scarcity in terms of food (and water) during our evolution, and we didn’t get fat or dehydrated. The body has very precise mechanisms to ensure that the wheels don’t fall off if we don’t have a perfectly portioned meal of chicken breasts, steamed broccoli, and exactly seven almonds every three hours.
Give the body a little more credit. It doesn’t need us to micromanage its starvation preparedness. A great way to avoid feeling starved is to effectively manage your hunger signalling and fuel partitioning, which we will endeavour to do straight out the gate.
Eat Every 2-3 Hours
I am apologizing on behalf of the entire fitness industry which led itself to believe that it was in any way qualified to coach people on nutrition. The fitness industry told people to eat every 2-3 hours for two silly reasons::
1: “Keep the metabolic fires stoked.”
This theory suggests that if we are always metabolizing food - like, literally, ALL DAY LONG - then our metabolism switch is always in the ON position and it means we’ll just burn and burn and burn and… sigh. Honestly, it’s like a 7-year old kid made up this theory. Bro science perpetuated this myth because once people started eating every three hours they found they were very very hungry all the time. “My metabolic fires are totally stoked, that’s why!” No, you’re insulin resistant; that’s why.
Metabolism is not a switch; it’s an extraordinary machine that keeps us alive (that’s right: your metabolism isn’t just there to help you get bikini ready for your beach vacation). I strongly believe in conditioning the metabolism to be a more efficient and effective machine, and I do so by giving it the due respect it deserves. It’s complex, it has a lot of moving parts.
2: Pre-emptive eating
In order to avoid eating too much at meal times, snacking in between meals was encouraged so as to dampen hunger. Meal-snack-meal-snack-meal-snack. *pop* <-- that was the sound of my head popping off, or my pants button popping off from just eating alllll day long even when I'm not hungry - take your pick.
Maybe it’s just me (admittedly, respecting hunger signalling is one of the cornerstones of my business, so I probably get more worked up about this than most people), but this whole philosophy seems pretty messed up - borderline disordered - when you see it written on paper. If you take nothing else away from this missive, take this tip away with you: do not eat unless you are actually hungry. Feeding your body when it is not specifically asking for food sends very confusing signals to your insulin function and the cells that rely on it to feed them.
Hunger and satiety mechanisms exists for a reason: to tell you when you are ACTUALLY hungry at the cellular level, so that you know when you need to feed yourself, and how much. When it works properly, appetite is a flawless, effortless system that we have broken by trying to ignore, trick, or manipulate. This is at the heart of the dysfunctional relationship with food and appetite that I’ve personally witnessed in my 20+ years in health and fitness.
My boy, Menno Henslemans (just kidding - he has no idea who I am) is a bodybuilder, fitness model and respected fitness nutrition researcher who arrived at this conclusion in his blog post, Fitness Nutrition is a Scam:
“CONCLUSION: There is no such thing as a miniscule window around your training sessions where you have to consume protein or lose out on your gains.”
For my money, fitness nutrition, macronutrient ratios (“If It Fits Your Macros”), nutrient cycling, macro timing, and the like are a waste of time and energy, because the body already knows how to fuel itself for optimal performance - it’s been doing it for millions of years. You just need to get out of its way, basically, and it’ll get ‘er done for you. Our bodies are designed to accomplish athlete feats without requiring pre- or post-nutrition.
For muscle hypertrophy and people training toward body recomposition goals exclusively (people looking to “get swole” and/or super ripped in the gym) there is a tiny amount of research to kind of support pre-workout carbs and post-workout protein. Not enough research, in my books, to make all this fussiness worthwhile.
Food doesn’t exist in groups. It was put into groups by the government as a means to help us understand how to eat a balanced diet. But, that didn’t really work so well, did it? We are fatter and sicker than ever, and have been getting fatter/sicker ever since the Food Guide was invented a few generations ago.
A “balanced diet” is important to me in the sense that we need to try to get a balance of effective fuel, as well as vitamins and minerals. But eating from all the four “food groups” is… well, it’s just kind of made up.
There is at least one food group, if not two, that have caused us more harm than good. These are the food groups that don’t technically exist in nature; we created them and decided to feed our growing global population with them because it was easy and accessible. Like most nutritionists, I’m going to ask you to eat a whole foods diet. But my version of “whole foods” is: foods that actually exist in nature.
“Everything in moderation" is simply not true. I have pinpointed some foods that, according to a great deal of research and empirical data, are making us fat, sick, inflamed, allergic and autoimmune. Eating those foods in moderation does nothing but prolong the suffering. In order to heal the body from these foods we need to get them out, completely.
Moderately consuming inflammatory foods is like moderately consuming small doses of poison. The body still recognizes it as poison and responds accordingly. We need to mellow out the body’s response to the poisons that we continue to consume “in moderation” by absolutely eliminating them.
Freedom from Food Fixation: It's What I Do
Can you imagine living a life with a relationship with food so effortless that all of this mind-bending and time-consuming food fixation just goes away? My absolutely favourite thing to do is educate people on how the body uses food, functionally. You can get started with me right away by filling in my online Intake Form.
Achieve an effortless relationship with food.