I eat really well, so WHY am I still overweight?
Do you consider yourself a pretty “healthy” person?
Would you say your diet is pretty clean and whole foods based?
And even though you eat relatively well, are you still a bit perplexed as to WHY you are carrying around that extra weight that just won’t budge?
Nothing could be more frustrating than thinking that you’ve made all the changes you need to your diet and are eating well, being intentional about it and still things don’t shift the way you want them to. Why does that happen?
I wanted to write about this today because often (about 80% of the time) when clients come to meet me for the first time, even after years of exercising regularly, they feel frustrated that their outside doesn’t match all the work they are putting in.
I often hear these exact words:
“Nutrition isn’t my problem. I eat primarily a whole foods diet, so why am I still overweight?
I must not be working out enough…. or
It must be hormones!”
Well … that may be true. But let’s dig a little here.
There are a lot of things at play here but I am going to break down WHY “eating healthy” can be a little misleading and actually cause you to GAIN weight.
What?! Yup. But wait. Read on as I explain…
Is it enough to just look up healthy recipes online and think that that’s going to change the way your body looks?
Well there are a few things I want to address here. While there are many many things we can dive into, I’m going to address a few of the top three myths I think create the most problems. It’s certainly true that hormones can have a tremendous effect on our bodies ability to burn/store fat. It’s also true that hormonal function can affect our energy levels (it’s supposed to), too many people jump to blame ‘hormones’ without going through some basic understanding first.
This recently came about because I was putting together recipes for one of our 28 day challenges. As I always do, I was on the lookout for delicious new recipes that are satisfying, meet my energy levels to match my workouts and keep me lean. It CAN be done and it certainly is simple to do, but sometimes when I look through cookbooks, pins, recipe posts online, or visit restaurants and health food stores – this can become overwhelming and way more complicated than it needs to be.
Here are three myths we need to debunk in order to really understand what’s going on.
MYTH #1: EATING HEALTHY FOOD IS ENOUGH to lose weight
Why it’s a PROBLEM:
We don’t pay attention to what is going on our plate:
You need to understand WHAT is actually going on your plate. While YES you want to move towards WHOLE food as much as possible and even eat 100% whole foods, you need to understand that macro nutrient Balance matters!
That means understanding HOW much energy (carbohydrates), lasting power and muscle building (protein) and brain/hormone function (healthy fats) is going on your plate at meals. This often leads us to overeat one nutrient and not eat enough of another.
For example – and I am not knocking vegetarian cooking here- but one of the most common things I see is people trying to eat a ‘healthy’ vegetarian dinner.
A typical meal may consist of grains, beans and tons of veggies with olive oil and nuts. Well, that IS Healthy and it IS delicious but… Wow! Well that meal is very ENERGY dense which means if we don’t burn it off, we will store it!
Having a good understanding of macro nutrients and balancing them is key when it comes to changing the way your body looks.
We don’t eat for our goals!
Each one of us is different – different sex, different age and different energy needs. If that is true then it should also be true that each one of us will have different needs when it comes to what we should be consuming to give us consistent energy to match our output.
That means if you are highly active and play sports or train more often, you will naturally need to consume more energy than someone who sits at a desk for 8-10 hours per day. This is something to consider when meal planning for the day. You can still make a ‘staple’ that everyone can enjoy, but how you build around – side items and portions – should be based on what you want to achieve.
Do you play sports? Want to improve performance and strength?
Do you work a desk job? Is your goal to drop belly fat?
Is your goal to reduce pain and joint stiffness?
All of these are great questions to ask yourself as you plan your meals!
MYTH #2 IF ITS NATURAL and WHOLE it’s OK
Why it’s a PROBLEM:
Sugar is Still Sugar. Which means it causes problems. Simply put.
I hate to break it to you but raw honey, maple syrup, agave nectar, dried fruit – dates, figs, cranberries mangoes, bananas etc are all super high in simple sugar. That means it hits your bloodstream fast and is quickly digestible. These simple sugars break down rapidly causing blood sugar fluctuations and increased insulin production.
While this can be a healthy ‘recipe’ it can also be a recipe for extra belly fat. Many yummy looking bars, trail mixes, healthy dessert options, smoothies and bowls are often loaded with way too much ‘healthy’ sugar. Often dried fruits have additional sugar added to enhance the flavour and draw out the water. Keep in mind 1/4 cup of dried cranberries has 38g of sugar. That’s about as much as you find in a can of pop or juice! Yes they have some fibre but you are much better off eating the entire fruit and limiting total sugar for the day.
Yesterday I was out to eat and a delicious chick pea salad, loaded with some of these items + the dressing was a WHOPPING 2600 calories!!
That’s scary especially since it seems like such a logical choice!
What did I have instead? A fried egg with avocado, turkey and 1 slice of toasted rye. Much better at only 8 grams of sugar and 25 grams of protein. Still whole, still healthy – just different.
Food labels can be misleading!
Arsenic is natural. So is petroleum. That doesn’t mean we should eat it.
Food Manufacturers also spend millions of dollars on incredible advertising and marketing. Beware of packaged items labeled “natural”. Often foods contain “natural” colouring, fillers and additives.
If you are still purchasing packaged foods, check the label and make sure it is truly 100% a complete food. Example: Tomatoes, basil, garlic, oil and salt.
MYTH #3 EAT LESS and WORK OUT MORE
Why it’s a PROBLEM:
You can actually SLOW down your metabolism. Chronic dieting and sticking to a low calorie diet makes your body smarter! You body is physiologically designed to adjust how it utilizes food in order to keep all your vital organs functioning.
If you constantly switch in and out of ‘deprivation’ more or restrict calories, over time your body will do what it is supposed to do: lower it RMR (Resting Metabolic Rate) to conserve energy. This means that it will burn through the fuel much slower. Now we have a problem because if and when we do go ‘off’ plan, we see a huge weight gain and are shocked! So there is nothing wrong with your metabolism. It’s doing it’s job.
Your body needs to learn to trust you again. If you have been restricting calories for years you can slowly bring your RMR back up a bit but it will take time and patience.
In addition – when we OVER exercise in an effort to lose weight AND under fuel we have the same problem PLUS the added element that now our body is put under the added stress of the exercise. Remember exercise IS stress. We need some stress and it takes pressure to create change, but too much stress, which not enough recovery through rest and proper re fueling can actually harm us.
This state puts your body into ‘survival mode’ and again, your body does it’s job by burning LESS calories during exercise and metabolizing food slower.
Phew! That was a lot off good information. Hopefully not too overwhelming.
If you are looking for more clarity, more direction and more support reach out to us and let’s have a conversation. Our health coaching programs combine the right amount of exercise and nutrition with lifestyle coaching to meet your goals today. We also get that it has to be sustainable and enjoyable in order to stick!
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Here’s to your optimal body and health – Christine Line