Remember when you were a kid or a teenager and seemed like you could eat anything and stay thin? You had Cap’n Crunch or Fruity Pebbles or Pop-Tarts for breakfast? And you ate ungodly amounts of candy, chocolates, Honey Buns, TastyCakes, or Little Debbies, Snickers, ice cream, Doritos, Funyuns, McDonalds etc. the list goes on! As we get older, we can’t eat that way anymore. You will hear people all the time say “if I even look in the direction of a cookie, I gain an inch around my middle.”
Or maybe you have a friend or family member, in my case it’s my husband, that can eat anything and not gain weight. Don’t you hate those people? Many people think it’s because they’re less active than they were when they were a kid or a high school athlete. Some people think their genetics have predestined them to be heavy forever. But (Good news!) while there’s some validity to the genetics view, they play a different role than you probably think and can be manipulated to some extent.
So what happened? How come we were able to eat an entire family sized box of Pizza Rolls and we can’t now? Or what’s the difference between you and those people we hate?
In one word: hormones.
So many people live and die by calories, but concentrating so heavily on limiting calories is akin to your doctor only treating the symptoms of an illness, rather than the disease itself. Calories don’t tell your body whether to lose or gain weight. But your hormones do. Hormones are the real MVP. They are the ones that tell your body what to do with the calories you put in, whether to store them as fat or burn them as fuel, or sometimes the body ignores them all together. The hormones are the ones really running the show.
Your hormones even regulate your appetite. Think about how your body is biologically designed to work. Your body is incredibly intelligent. It adjusts and adapts to the conditions it’s in. When there is famine, it slows your metabolism or the rate at which you burn food and it holds on to fat until it’s given the signal there will be abundance again. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could just tell our bodies that we now live in a world of abundance? This is why when you go on a diet, you have a granola bar for breakfast, your Lean Cuisine for lunch, and a 100 calorie cookie pack for a snack and by the time you get home you are ready to eat your family out of house and home. Your body thinks there is famine! It’s crying out for food. By limiting your calories, you are sending your body the exact opposite message you want to send it and creating your own famine situation. So although, yes, if you restrict calories long enough, your body has no choice but to shed some pounds. However, your body will prioritize burning muscle over fat in times of extreme famine, which is pushing you even further in the wrong direction, further slowing down your metabolism.
So what to do instead? We need to feed our bodies. We’ve been told our whole lives that in order to lose weight, we have to count every calorie or eat low fat and so on. Many people continue to eat the way we were brought up as kids or maybe upgraded to adult versions of our snack cakes in the form of granola bars and Lean Cuisines and at some point our body rebelled against us and we can no longer get away with it. It’s tanked our metabolisms. What we need to focus on is eating more foods rich in phytonutrients, vitamins, minerals, trace minerals, etc. the things your body actually uses on a cellular level that will communicate with your hormones and let them know you are in a state of abundance. This list includes fruits, vegetables, leafy greens, nuts and seeds, whole proteins, legumes, healthy fats like olive oil, coconut oil and avocado. Choose life giving foods instead of the processed things you enjoyed as a kid more often and consistently to heal your metabolism. Then your body will be able to better handle the times you want to indulge with some Pop-Tarts or Cinnabon for breakfast and even so, you will love the way you feel so much more, times you want to indulge will be fewer and further between.