I get emails and private Facebook messages every single day with people asking the same type of question: “Is fruit OK to eat for fat loss?”, “How many calories should I be eating?”, “How many times each week should I workout?”, “Can I eat peanut butter and still lose weight?”
I do not have the answers to any of those questions. No one can answer those questions except YOU. There are lots of people in the diet and fitness industry who will take your money and tell you exactly what to eat, when to exercise and how. They’ll tell you what’s off limits, what’s fair play and answer the above types of questions all day long. I have an issue with that.
Have you ever used a GPS system to get some place? You diligently follow the prompts – the automated voice directing your every turn. Get off course? No problem. You keep going down the wrong road until you’re rescued by “recalculating!” and then you obediently turn and merge only as you’re told. You arrive at your destination and have little idea how you got there or how to get back. You hardly noticed the scenery or the road conditions; you were too busy focused on the careful turn-by-turn directions. You certainly couldn’t get back without similar assistance.
Following someone else’s food and nutrition rules is a lot like that – you put your head down and follow someone else’s rules. Unfortunately, you don’t have the benefit of “recalculating!” to save you if you get off course. Sure, there’s benefit to basic guidelines for fat loss nutrition. But they are only a benefit if you realize they are just that – guidelines. They only “hard and fast” fat loss rules are the ones you create as you learn your body and how you respond to different types of food. Following someone else’s prescription can backfire – it can prevent you from developing the awareness of your body, your hormones and your needs that is ESSENTIAL if you want long-term success.
Our bodies are different. What works for me might not work for you. You might tolerate certain foods that I can’t. You might be able to enjoy fruit and peanut butter every day and lose fat while I can’t. If you have these types of questions let me answer you this way: I can act as your compass but not as your map. I can point you in the right direction based on my personal experience, education, and research but I cannot draw you a turn-by-turn map for your fat loss journey. That’s YOUR job. When you understand the general direction in which you need to go for both health and fat loss, you’re the one who has to see how the smaller details work, or don’t work, for you. You’re the one who has to pay attention to how foods, lifestyle factors and workouts impact your results, your hormone balance, your energy, mood, hunger and cravings. That’s your job.
To be successful in achieving fat loss that you effortlessly maintain for life, you need to pay attention. YOU need to chart the course. As you get further and further into your journey, it needs to become increasingly customized to what works for you. You want to follow a course by compass, not by map. Set out to find your own answers to questions like:
- What foods satisfy my cravings?
- What foods send me into a downward binging spiral?
- What foods keep me fullest, longest?
- What foods give me the most energy?
- What foods do I look forward to eating?
- What are the most manageable foods to prepare?
- What are the most convenient and satisfying snacks?
If we polled 100 people who have lost 50 lbs or more, I bet they’d all have different answers to those questions and guess what – none of them are wrong!
Here are a few things I learned about my own food preferences and unique fat loss factors that I really could NOT have learned if I had been following someone else’s plan.
- I am very sensitive to carbohydrates. Not only do they NOT give me energy, they do not fill me up and they make me retain a significant amount of water. I can eat carbohydrates, but my fat loss results are best when I only include them in my last meal of the day.
- Dietary fat increases my energy and keeps me full. Starting my day with fat (usually in the form of MCT oil in my coffee) satisfies my hunger, keeps me full for hours, gives me energy for my workout and improves my ability to focus.
- Volume is my friend. I eat a lot of green, fibrous veggies like brussel sprouts and cabbage. Its not uncommon for me to have as much as 2-3 cups at each meal. It takes me longer to get through my meal and fills me up.
- I need to limit my protein intake. Yup, I said it. For months I was overeating protein. Any food, in excess, will prevent fat loss. I was overdoing it with the protein. I have to be careful of this one.
- Bars are a major trigger for me. It’s hard to have just one. I’m better off avoiding protein bars completely and if I do have one I won’t buy a box, I’ll just buy one.
If I were to try to map out your entire fat loss formula, I’d be doing you a major disservice in the long term. The better you know your body and your individual response to food, stress and exercise, the more effective you will be at achieving your fat loss goals and maintaining them for life. Dig in, do the work, pay attention to your body and find those answers for yourself.