The Secret to Weight Loss

I’ll never forget the first time I picked up a kettlebell. It was January 16, 2006. I was out of college and for the first time wasn’t on a sports or dance team and had a job that required a lot of sitting. What was I to do? So I started going to the local LA Fitness 12 hours a week – running on the treadmill and doing lightweight dumbbell exercises. But none of it made sense. I never lifted like that in real life and the ground sure didn’t move underneath me on the off chance I ever ran outside. What gives?

Then I read all the books like “Fitness for Dummies” and they contradicted each other. The more I read, the less I understood until I moved to San Diego and stumbled upon a kettlebell gym. During my first intro class the heavens opened up and non-sports exercise made sense for the first time. Pick up heavy things and you get strong. Who knew?

I wanted to tell everyone. All I talked about was kettlebell training. I moved across the country and opened a kettlebell only gym that I ran for 8 years. I got TWO kettlebell tattoos. I was (and still am) passionate about how full body training can empower people by making them strong and help them reach body composition goals. The kettlebell is not the only tool to do full body training with, but it’s my preferred method and I still spend a good portion of my life helping others get strong through kettlebell training.

Two weeks ago – for the first time in 12 years – I had another moment like that….

There are certain truths that I have always known about nutrition. One is you can’t out exercise a bad diet. I am certified in Precision Nutrition, but have never marketed this part of my expertise because I didn’t think people wanted to hear it. My advice – although solid – seemed too unconventional and “Fad-like” although I knew it to work. I have been writing distance coaching programs for years to prepare people for the StrongFirst Kettlebell Certification, help them reach strength goals, or help them cross train for endurance sports. But I have never marketed weight loss. I have said (and will still) that I can help you improve body composition through strength training but I have never in my life said I help with weight loss…. until now.

Two weeks ago I read two books by Dr Jason Fung and they tied together all the truths to one simple fact: Insulin is the culprit in weight gain. If you want to lose weight and keep it off, you MUST reduce insulin.

There are MANY ways to lower your insulin set point and the quickest, most powerful, and least expensive is through periods of fasting – even short ones where you never go even an entire day without eating a real, filling meal. Here is an infographic on different types of fasting:

 

A Calorie is a Calorie? Not exactly.

Today I want to talk about a common misconception in the nutrition world and that is that – contrary to popular belief – all calories are not created equal. People say, “A calorie is a calorie” but that is like saying, “A dog is a dog.” Yes, a dog is a dog but in December, huskies are pulling sleds in Alaska and chihuahuas are wearing a sweater by the fireplace.

Yes, “A calorie is a calorie” but that doesn’t mean that it creates the same response in the body. A calorie of olive oil will not create the same response as a calorie of gummy bears. I’ve been reading a lot of Dr. Jason Fung’s work lately and am convinced that we have it all wrong. Calories don’t cause weight gain, insulin does. We need to stop being low calorie and start being low insulin spikes.

In Dr. Fung’s book, The Obesity Code, he talks about a study a British personal trainer did on himself. Sam Felton set out to prove there is more to the story than “calories in, calories out” and increased his caloric intake to 5,794 calories per day for 21 days. He did this with a natural, low carb/high fat diet of natural unprocessed foods. The “math” (3500 additional calories=1 lb gained) says he should have gained 16 pounds in those three weeks. He only gained 2.8 pounds and actually LOST 1 inch from his waist. This means he gained lean mass, not fat!

Some people said that he was simply a freak of nature and it would not be that way for everyone, so Sam did the same experiment with 5,794 calories per day but with a standard American diet of highly processed refined carbohydrates. In the same amount of time, he gained close to the pounds the “math” said he should (15.6 pounds) and gained 3.6 inches on his waist. There was a dramatically different effect on the same guy with the same number of calories. So yes a calorie is calorie but all calories do not create the same responses in the body.

This holiday season and in the New Year when all the resolutions happen, make sure that your resolution is not to lower calories but to choose better calories.

My 5 Holiday Eating Strategies

Ah – the most wonderful time of the year is beginning! From Thanksgiving to Christmas the average person gains 7-10 pounds. We KNOW this, but we do it anyway. Most people do absolutely nothing to stop it. So why is this?

We tend to use special occasions as an excuse not just to overindulge but to binge. It’s your birthday (or the day after or the week of)? Cake for breakfast becomes perfectly reasonable. Halloween? A dozen mini chocolates? Totally acceptable (they’re mini after all, right?)!

The problem with this season is that there isn’t just one special occasion here and there. Between the DAY of the holiday itself, the numerous parties, work functions, and so on, many days become a special occasion where we apply the “anything goes rule.”

Aside from Intermittent Fasting (which you’re going to be hearing more from me about) what I’m sharing below are the tools I personally use to enjoy a guilt-free, waistline-friendly holiday season…

  1. Approach the big holiday dinners with an abundance mindset – this applies to any holiday really. The truth is, there is nothing truly special about holiday meals aside from the people we share them with. We live in a first world country where the foods we want are at our fingertips 365 days per year. So, in reality, you could have Thanksgiving in part or in whole at any time. When you approach food with an abundance mindset, it’s a lot easier to practice holiday levels of moderation.

 

  1. Expect, accept, and embrace over-indulgence – It would be completely unreasonable for me to sit and lecture you on not over-indulging. Especially because I’ll likely be doing it myself! A key for me is being ok with it, not wracking myself with guilt because I knew it was coming! Heck…I plan on it – not to the extreme, but I’m not going to practice my normal rule of eating to 80% full. The damage stress does and the way it affects hormonal balance (and ultimately how much body fat we have) is far worse than having one big meal – so go enjoy it!

 

  1. Fill your plate with protein and veggies first, then add tastes of all the other goodies – I’m totally ok with you overdoing these two food groups (see point above). But when you strategically fill your plate with the better stuff, you’re obviously going to be better off. Even a plate of broccoli isn’t good for you when you’re in caloric excess, BUT it’s going to take you much longer and with much more food to reach that point when you maintain focus on protein and veggies with smaller tastes of starchy carb-rich dishes and desserts.

 

  1. Plan to move – whether you go for a hike with your family, get a hard strength workout, or simply take a 20 minute walk, vow to do something to get your body moving before the big meal! You’ll feel much better all day for it!

 

  1. Splurge only a handful of times – A holiday is a short period of time…not an entire season, so this bit of advice is two-fold. Plan to splurge only on the actual DAY of the holiday (or whichever day you celebrate) and only once during that day. No need for a full blown excess at every party. Sure, it tastes good, but you’ll feel completely miserable and be working to undo the damage for weeks to come!

So, there you have my top 5 holiday strategies! I promise if you apply these, you’ll be a lot less likely to end up in the category of people who gain weight over the holidays!