Thursday, March 13, 2014

Becoming a Fat Loss Nutrition Detective ...

Bio individuality in terms of your health, fitness and weight loss is the key to your health and fitness success.  There is no one way, there is simply YOUR WAY.    

And your way will be different than your best friend’s.  And therein lies the key ingredient. 

But how do you figure out YOUR WAY?

Let me go ahead and give it to you right up front.  Trial and error.

I’ll expand, of course, but I know many people don’t like that answer.  Human nature DOES NOT like uncertainty.  We crave answers and solutions to our problems.  Psychology research tells us that certainty is one of the key needs of the human brain.   Which is why we seek something to believe it, and look for the one single way.

But there is not a single or right way.  There’s YOUR WAY, and that takes trial and error, ebb and flow to discover it.   

Insight versus action 

To get started on the process of finding what works we need to let go of some old ideas and beliefs that may be keeping us stuck. These include:
  • That weight loss is linear, consistent and predictable. Weight loss is none of these things. The belief that it is will simply lead to disappointment.  Our expectation should be the opposite of linear. 
  • That being perfect is even possible or desirable. Perfection is a myth and even it were achievable there is no way to learn if we never make a mistake.
  • That failure is not helpful. Failure is THE most important aspect of change.  The harder and more frequently you fail, the more quickly and thoroughly you learn the lessons required to grow.
  • That information is the same as transformation.  Information plus learning is education.  Education plus experience is wisdom. Wisdom applied towards change is transformation. Learning, education, experience, application all involve action. Action is required. To discover what works for YOU, what will deliver the results YOU want, requires that we stop looking and start doing.
What to do. Structured Flexibility 

Structured flexibility is the way to think about this.  We need enough structure to get started, some basic guidelines.

You need to understand roughly how many calories your body needs for your goals (weight loss, maintenance, weight gain).  This is ALWAYS a good ballpark, it will likely be adjusted upwards or downwards a bit, and gives you a yardstick from which to measure.  But calories should NOT be your primary focus.  Here's the Harris Benedict Calorie Calculator to ballpark your calories for your goal:  

More importantly, we need to eat foods that are high in water, fiber and have sufficient protein.  These foods give us the BEST opportunity to keep energy flowing, and they reduce hunger and cravings.  More info on these foods here: 

Once you ballpark your calories and START eating fat loss foods, trial and error begins – you’ll use the response of your body to adjust and tweak your approach. 

Biofeedback & Results 

With the above structure in place, now we must become more like a detective than a dieter.  We need to pay attention and digest the “clues” the body is sending.  These clues provide feedback on whether the approach is working.  There are two main feedback scenarios you can pick up on. 

1) Biofeedback.   

The body is constantly feeding back to you in the form of sensations.  Hunger, energy, cravings, vitality, mood, digestion, sleep, workout recovery, etc.  All of these tell you how your metabolism, and the hormones that power it, are functioning.

The most useful biofeedback sensations for dieting is the trio of hunger, energy and cravings (HEC, pronounced “heck”). If your HEC is in check, then you have a strong indication your hormonal metabolism is burning fuel, especially fat, efficiently.

This should be assessed throughout your day. Rank the parameters on a scale of 1-10 with 10 being high and one being low.

This is a great way to subjectively understand your metabolism in real time.  And is one of the only tools I have found that allows you to figure out if your lifestyle factors are helping or hurting your progress. 

2) Results. 

It is possible, but rare, to have HEC in check when you are eating anything and everything included in the standard American diet.  Which is why we also need to correlate this with results.

It is a huge mistake to just use weight loss to assess.  We need to know not just the type of weight we are losing, but also where we are losing it.  A combination of weight, inches and body fat is best.  This is the tool we provide before and after every 4 week program, and it is the highest standard of body change measuring.  Another very good option is to find a favorite outfit that may be a little snug right now.   Every 3-4 weeks, try on that outfit to gauge your progress.  If it is fitting better, you’re on track.   

Putting it together. The AIM process 

Once you have the above pieces of information in place, you can begin the process of tweaking.  I refer to this as the AIM process:
  • Assess. Check in with HEC & body composition (or your favorite outfit) results.
  • Investigate. Like a detective, analyze the results. Was HEC in check or not? Did you lose fat or not?
  • Modify. Based on your investigation above, modify your approach.  Click here for a step by step approach on modifying your approach.
This process is NOT quick and easy for most.  It is, however, the path that will give you the results you desire.  There is NO ONE WAY, yet everyone can find their OWN WAY following the information above.  Learning, education, experience, application by taking consistent action.  Moving from seeking the one way, or the next way, toward action is your TRUE secret to success! 

Brian Calkins NSCA-CPT, ACE
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