1 Method for Guaranteed Weight Loss
They say it is never wise to speak in terms of absolutes, especially when you cannot exert absolute control over the input, process, and output of what you are speaking on.
In fitness, sadly enough, there are many trainers who guarantee their clients results. They say things like "lose twenty pounds in sixty days" or "Build five pounds of muscle in a month" in an effort to entice customers to take the leap with them.
Sadly, most of these promises fall short. This leaves clients frustrated, bitter, and often wanting a refund. Moreover, they may be jaded towards exercise and fitness as a whole. This is even more true if they didn't enjoy the experience AND didn't get their desired results.
One should not make guarantees. If you do though, then you better make damn sure you can follow through on your promise!
That doesn't mean I won't though... I live dangerously. I "walk the line".
Simply put, there are some actions that can create change even in the most complex circumstances. These "absolutes" are reliable methods that can be leaned upon as starting blocks, plateau busters, or core tenants that aren't sacrificed even when the going gets tough.
For example - eating less fast food and snacks will help you lose weight.
While fitness information, especially nutrition, is complex in nature and dense in scientific literature - it isn't ALWAYS rocket science. There are some things that when done appropriately will lead to weight loss in even the most frustrating of individuals.
The following tactic is what I feel are the best of these absolutes. In my experience as a personal trainer and nutrition coach - this method will lead to success more often than not.
While I shouldn't have to disclaimer my own blog I will anyway:
This method is highly capable of creating quality weight loss in those who apply it appropriately. However, it is not an exclusive method for continued and exceptional results. More specific measures like calorie cycling, carbohydrate reductions, and increased exercise intensity/frequency need to be employed at some point to see more substantial results.
1. Limit your "Feeding Window"
Rolling out of bed and into the kitchen is commonplace in American society. Satisfying our hunger cravings ranks right up there with falling back asleep, draining the ten gallon jug of water in our midsection, and seeking out any and all forms of caffeine we can find.
I don't blame you either. Food is fuel, and you are waking up after a long fast. It's time to feed the beast.
The problem is when you combine the habit of early AM eating with late PM dinners or snacks. See, your eating window is defined as the amount of time between your first and last bites of food during the day.
Let's say you roll out of bed at a reasonable, but way later than me, 7:35AM. You have to be at the office by 9 and you live life on the edge - AKA you show up at 8:59:54. So breakfast happens at 8. Regardless of what you are eating for breakfast - your first bite is at 8.
A long day, a tough commute and some local take out finds your lap at 9PM. By 9:30 you eat that last bite and prepare to roll into the bed.
13 and a half hours. That is how long you were consuming food.
Now, for why that matters.
Food, although it is a glorious substance, is still a foreign thing to your body. You are quite literally taking something from the world around you and eating it, digesting it, and absorbing it's nutrients into your body for use and organization into human tissue.
It is stressful to your body.
Eating at all hours of the day and night can interupt your circadian rhythm - the critical 24 hour process that your body runs upon. Think of it as the operating system of your body, much like your IOS or Windows operating system for your phone or computer. So many of your body's processes rely on the day/light cycle and your feeding habits to operate.
Overeating, eating for too long, and staying up too late into the night are sure-fire ways to see increases in body fat.
Hunger vs. Appetite
Once more, limiting the eating window can lead to the reaquistion of hunger and satiety cues. A good friend and fellow trainer, Teresa Harris, (check out her site here) puts it like this:
"Hunger is that feeling you had when you were a child and you asked your mother for food".
"Appetite is your desire for food, whether you need it or not"
One is physiological and the other - psychological.
Here is a good NY Times write-up on the eating window from last January. It summarizes a study quite nicely.
The restoration of your ability to decipher between when you need food and fuel and when you are just bored and feeling "snacky" is critical to achieving and sustaining weight loss. Those mindless eating moments such as watching movies, or social outings can be eliminated completely when you are able to listen to your body's signals.
When you begin limiting the window that you consume food to twelve to nine hours you'll be able to better realize your hunger and satiety signals. Furthermore, critical hormones such as ghrelin and leptin begin to stabilize.
Leptin and Ghrelin -
Leptin is the hormone that is reflective of your long-term metabolism. It is critical in maintaining your energy balance on a daily, weekly, and lifelong basis. Your energy balance is defined as simply as your caloric intake vs. your caloric expenditure.
High leptin levels can suppress the appetite, indicate fullness, and aid in limiting excessive food consumption. This in turn can aid very directly in weight loss. Leptin is secreted by your fat cells.
Ghrelin on the contrary is responsible for stimulating your appetite. It tells you to consume food, and to store energy, including fat. It is a very fast acting hormone and very responsive to subtle changes in the diet.
The simple version of this is as follows:
Leptin is released when you sufficiently feed your body, and ghrelin is released when you are fasting.
They act on a sliding scale of sorts. When one is high - the other is low.
Now, on the outside looking in - it may seem logical to make sure your leptin levels stay really high and your ghrelin levels stay low. Since leptin keeps your body "full" and aids in weight loss, then it seems like the perfect solution to needing to lose weight.
The flaw with this though, is as follows:
Constantly stimulating the release of leptin desensitizes your body to the potency of the hormone, thus making its effects a bit mitigated. Furthermore, your body can no longer realize that you are storing too much body fat due to the oversaturation of leptin in the blood stream.
The best way to avoid such an event is to limit the feeding window, so that you are not overstimulating the release of leptin. Shrinking the amount of time that your body eats food is critical to the release of ghrelin.
Now, here is where ghrelin is key. Ghrelin is active when you need to eat and consume calories. When you go periods without consuming food your levels will continue to increase until you satisfy the need for food. However, as ghrelin levels increase the body will start to slow the metabolism. Too much of a gap between meals can really damage the metabolism.
This is why "not-eating" is not an effective means of weight loss.
Yet, a controlled fast, or the simple reduction in time spent eating - can lead to the body utilizing stored energy (see: fat) as fuel. This is good.
Then, when these levels are high and hunger is truly realized - a well timed and healthy meal can completely eliminate ghrelin from the bloodstream, and terminate it's negative effects.
This meal stimulates the release of leptin - the fullness signal, which in turn can lead to the release of more energy (or speeding up of the metabolism) as a result of no longer needing to preserve calories.
I realize this is a bit scientific - and this article from Precision Nutrition can go further into it, but I think it is critical for long term weight loss.
Our bodies are not designed to feed all day every day. If you think of ancestors, even just a few generations back - there were no 7-11's and twenty four hour grocery markets and restaurants.
They were mobile throughout the day and ate those "3 square meals" that many of us were raised upon. Sure, they didn't look ready to walk onto a competition stage, but they certainly had lower obesity, mortality, and cardiovascular failure rates.
Futher back in time we had to hunt our food. For days we may go without food, and at night we would feast with our people. Our Leptin and Ghrelin signals are a very basal-level human function.
Thus, mastering them is critical to losing the stubborn fat we hold now and maintaining a healthier weight going forward!
Final note: Much of this blog reads as a pro-intermittent fasting (IF) write-up. I meaningfully hesitate from referring to the eating window as a fast in this blog. Fasting is a much more focused and intent-filled practice that should be reserved for those who have already mastered the basics of health and nutrition.
Furthermore, IF is still up for debate in regards to its effects and efficacy with females. Many women do not operate well when fasting for extending periods of time and often see issues arise with their hormones and weight management in the long term.
This blog was simply intended to shed light on the very specific benefit of not consuming food in the very typical American window of fifteen to seventeen hours per day.