My experience tells me that you can lose weight without being hungry all the time and without spending hours trying to sweat off your last meal.
I used to think that a calorie was a calorie and that all you needed to do was eat less and move more. I don’t know about you, but I struggled with the eat less part (I hated feeling hungry all the time) and even during those times where I consistently worked out I never made much of a dent in the extra pounds.
Over the years the pounds gradually started to add up. Nothing too dramatic, just a few pounds a year. I was probably about 25 pounds overweight but still thought that I was pretty healthy.
My go-to diet had a lot of grains, (the whole heart healthy thing) – quinoa, steel cut oats, whole wheat, couscous, and then fruit, veggies, lean meats and my biggest weakness – ice cream. I had a serious sweet tooth.
On those days that I worked out hard—like after lifting weights for 30 minutes killing it on the elliptical or stair master and burned a bunch of calories— I was convinced that I’d earned a larger bowl of ice cream as a reward.
In 2011 I found out that I wasn’t as healthy as I thought, I had heart disease.
A friend suggested that I check out the Paleo diet and since what I had been doing wasn’t working I figured I might as well give it a shot.
The basic premise of the Paleo diet is that for the first 2 ½ million years our distant ancestors were hunter gatherers and ate things like wild game, seafood, birds, eggs, bugs, plants, seeds, nuts, roots and tubers, fruit and honey.
Agriculture only came along about 10-12,000 years ago and processed and highly processed food maybe 50-75 years ago. Think of it like all human and near human existence is like a football field.
We have been hunter gatherers for 99 ½ yards of that football field and agriculture and civilization happened along on the ½ yard line. Our metabolism and our basic genetic blueprint were forged during those 99 ½ yards. So, for all practical purposes, we’re really still hunter gatherers—just with better furniture.
A Paleo diet isn’t about trying to duplicate what a hunter gatherer ate, it’s more about using the lens of evolution to make better eating and lifestyle decisions. It’s about taking some of the frustration and hassle out of getting and staying healthy.
Because our Paleo ancestors never knew where their next meal was coming from we’re optimized to survive food scarcity. It’s why we pack on the pounds when we over eat – those extra pounds might have saved us during Paleo times. And it’s also why we’re attracted to sweet things – things like fruit were only available during certain seasons and we needed to put on the weight when it was available because winter was coming and food would be scarce.
I realized that having a sweet tooth might have saved me as a cave man but it was screwing me today. If I was living in Paleo times my access to sweet stuff like fruit or honey would have been extremely limited. Plus, the Paleo version of me had to work his ass off just to avoid starving to death or getting eaten by a bear. Today sugar is in everything. Look at a can of tomato sauce – sugar. Most chicken broth – sugar. And fruit is shipped in from all of the world and available year-round.
My wife and I both switched to a Paleo approach to eating and when we adopted a lower carb version of Paleo we discovered that weight management was amazingly straight forward.
No calorie counting.
No hours of trying to sweat off pounds.
No brain fog.
No mid-day energy crash.
We just eat real food.
Chicken, beef, pork, lamb, lots of seafood, eggs, tons of vegetable – that’s the easy stuff.
Here’s the stuff that we had to pay attention to: A cup of almonds.
It has more calories than a 16-ounce Sirloin.
More calories than 11 eggs
More calories than 9 cups of blueberries.
And remember my goal was to avoid having to count calories and measure things.
Nuts just have the magic combination of fat, carbs and protein that make them easy to overconsume and they’re energy (calorie) dense. Normally nature provides a little impulse control by forcing you to shell each almond, but we’ve conveniently removed that obstacle.
And I can tell you from first-hand experience that if you combine almond butter, unsweetened coconut, dark chocolate and unsweetened frozen cherries in a bowl it’s a recipe for some major over-indulgence. And since I don’t possess enormous willpower, I learned that I needed to take that combo out of my rotation.
These days, a dessert for me is some berries and unsweetened full fat yogurt. I don’t have to be super human to avoid over doing it.
Here’s what else I figured out – most of the prepared food that you buy is engineered to bypass your impulse control. It’s called hyper-palatable food.
It’s why you can sit down and eat slice after slice of pizza or eat chips and salsa or chips and queso until you’re ready to explode.
Try to choke down a tablespoon of plain sugar. You’re certainly not going back for seconds. But turn it into brownies and ice cream and that’s a completely different story.
All of this is what convinced me to become a health coach. I wanted to help people navigate this stuff and to stop beating themselves up because they were losing a rigged game. Trying to eat less of something that was designed and tweaked to be irresistible is like bringing a knife to a gun fight. It’s why so many people fail with an “all things in moderation, just eat smaller portions” approach.
Here’s the good news:
There’s a leaner, stronger, more resilient version of you that’s a lot more accessible than you realize. It’s part of your basic primal wiring – you just need to know how to have that wiring work for you instead of against you. My job as a coach is to help you successfully discover and unleash that version of you and to do it in a way that’s doable, sustainable and enjoyable.