Getting “Back On Track”

Time to get “back on track” with eating and exercise? What if we just toss out the track?!

  • being “on track” is good & “off track” is bad
  • the only way to manage your weight is to stay “on track”
  • when you slip from the track, you’ve “failed”
  • when you “fail”, you may as well fail some more since you’ve already “ruined” it

Instead of that ball of stress, what if you could experience this?

  • trusting your food decisions with confidence, contentment, & satisfaction in ALL situations
  • choosing a little bit better choices when you can and not worrying about eating “good” or “bad” foods; I.E. eliminating guilt
  • reducing deprivation which in turn reduces urgency to eat more
  • noticing your hunger and fullness cues and getting used to listening to them without thoughts of deprivation, scarcity, or incompleteness creeping in
  • shifting your perception and feeling of “full”
  • focusing on what makes you feel good while also still enjoying treats, dinners out, pizza nights, parties, etc

When practicing any other new skill, you don’t expect perfection or feel “off track” when you do it wrong. You don’t start playing the guitar Monday morning and throw your hands up by noon when you can’t play a whole song perfectly yet. And then vow to play the song perfectly the next morning, Monday, or Jan 1st to get “back on track”.

You don’t start playing the guitar Monday morning and throw your hands up by noon when you can’t play a whole song perfectly yet.

Why do we expect that level of perfection with eating, living, and moving to reach our goals? Every bit of practice counts (just like when learning the guitar). That alone proves there’s no track to get back on, just taking actions, gathering information from a place of compassion and curiosity (not self criticism!), and finding out what feels good to you. Rinse and repeat.

Many people are quick to chalk up my ability to enjoy desserts and bread simply because I workout a lot. Without the above skills, I still struggled to keep from gaining weight, and still gained in times of stress. After about a year of practicing, I simply don’t gain anymore, even when I stay in my pajamas most of winter break and eat extra goodies.

With less time commitment, and with the right movements, eating behaviors (and thoughts that lead to those behaviors), and amount of rest, you too can eat all-the-things again, worry free.

Meet my pals, Dieticia and Freeda, to see the difference:

Dieticia: “I guess I’m stuck having fast food for lunch again today with my crazy schedule.”

[orders a super burrito, eats it quickly due to feeling guilty/bad – doesn’t want to feel that way so she gets it over with quickly – while vowing she’s going to stop these “bad” eating habits leading to a feeling a deprivation and scarcity.. better eat it all now. Then she feels gross and bloated (eating fast creates more swallowed air and less time to digest) which leads to feeling anxious and bad about her inability to eat “right”.. <exasperated sigh>]

“I’ve gotta stop ordering these types of lunches. I’m going to plan out healthy lunches for the rest of the week when I get home.”

[gets home and figures she might as well enjoy some “good” food for dinner since she’s starting her new healthy eating tomorrow – plus it helps calm her anxiety about all this, especially the fact that she’s tired and already feels defeated with having time to plan a healthy lunch… feeling defeated and frustrated]

Freeda: “I’m going to have fast food for lunch today cause I’m swamped and can’t find time for anything else, and I want to keep feeling good and energetic and not leave myself overly hungry when I get home from work.”

[orders a super burrito, ends up eating half of it, which feels pretty filling because she eats it slowly, really enjoying it – and has gotten used to desiring that little bit less pushed out/full feeling – feeling no guilt about her decision to get it too, then wraps up the rest to eat later in the afternoon.. or dinner.. or the next.. no urgency, it’s best when she’s really got an appetite for it.]

“Yum, that felt good – I’m not bloated, gassy, tired, or overfull. I’m gonna tackle that project I’ve been putting off.”

[notices how energetic and therefore motivated she feels from a satisfying meal that didn’t bog her down. then spends the evening enjoying her dinner, not worrying about being off track from lunch. Feeling content and physically good, she even decides to take a little walk after dinner and then do a few stretches, all in about 20 minutes, leaving her feeling even better.]

How you think about, decide upon, and interact with food and movement choices makes a HUGE difference in how you feel and what results you get.

Same scenario, perceived, dealt with, and leading to very different choices, behaviors, and outcomes. How you think about, decide upon, and interact with food and movement choices makes a HUGE difference in how you feel and what results you get.

After receiving my Level 2 Precision Nutrition Coaching certification in mid-2022 and running two shorter group coaching sessions prior to that, I’m ready to begin an ongoing group coaching program where we’ll practice these skills, slowly, with lots of support, accountability, education, introspection, and community.

Learn more about my M.E.S.H. With MelzaFit Coaching Group here <insert link>


Home ME vs Vacation ME: 7 Ways To Feel Better & Lose Weight

A while back, I polled Facebook friends about weight loss vs weight gain on vacation and the vast majority of responses were maintenance or loss. Every time I go on vacation, I either maintain or lose weight, something I have constantly struggled to do at home. Yet it never fails that I feel I’m overeating on vacation only to find that I come back the same or less weight. I’ve been paying attention to this for a while now.

Let’s compare home me to vacation me:

1. Procrastination
Home: Food is favorable to tackling “hard” tasks and lack of energy at the end of the day contributes to going for second’s rather than moving on. I find it hard to stop when I’m satisfied because I don’t want to deal with my to-do list afterwards. Basically, my stress level is higher.
Vacation: Food is fun and all, but when I’m satisfied, I’m ready to move on and do something fun. I feel light and unburdened with a lower stress level.

The Fix: Work in small things that get you excited and focused without feeling guilty that you’re not getting something more pressing or productive done. In other words, allow planned de-stress time. My type A self likes to find something that’s still productive, but that I enjoy a lot, such as searching for cool future vacation ideas or organizing my clothes. Maybe those things sound daunting to others and maybe your type of relaxation is some TV, reading a magazine, or playing a mindless game on your phone (which I occasionally do too). Then do those things! Particularly when you’re feeling anxious and overwhelmed by your to do list, but you keep finding yourself procrastinating in front of the fridge instead. After deliberate rest and mental check-out time – even just 15-20 minutes, it’s usually easier to find the energy to get something more pressing done.

2. Shoveling It In With No Plan
Home: Less planned out meals leave me randomly grabbing food when I’m hungry, when my kids are hungry, and when I feel bored or low energy. Food is in front of me more often.
Vacation: We all eat somewhere together at the same time, automatically making things more planned. There’s a designated time to eat so there’s thought put into where and what to eat.

The Fix:

Sandwich full of veggies & flavor (salt, pepper, cayenne) along with meat & cheese = meal satisfaction!

Paying attention to your physical hunger and taking the time to think through balanced meals really makes a tremendous difference. This has been a big goal of this challenge; building the habit of taking the time to get veggies along with fats and protein, and add whole grains at times too. An added bonus for me has been stopping to create the whole meal before taking a picture. The mental satisfaction of seeing a satisfying, multi-colored, varied meal in front of me (kind of like you get at a restaurant) has been amazing! I may continue to take pictures of my meals and share them with someone after this challenge to keep me accountable to planning out a meal rather than shoveling randomness in. Before this challenge, I wasn’t paying attention to making sure meals were balanced. I now keep a container in the fridge for all my cut up veggies so it’s easy to grab (and then replace from the veggie drawer when things run out). Going to the store to stock up on veggies feels better too because I know I’m going to eat them instead of throw them away rotten. More veggies have made me more regular, more satisfied, and actually wanting and enjoying them more often.

IMG_3088 (1)
What I would have eaten before is just on the left. Taking a few minutes to chop and pile those veggies on top of the chicken sausage.. SO much more satisfying & fulfilling, visually & physically

3. No Time To Enjoy Food
Home: I often eat standing up, in a rush, due to crazy schedules (a.k.a. running late)
Vacation: I mostly eat in a relaxed state, seated at a table with other non-stressed companions, while discussing fun things.

The Fix: Think of food as the medicine that it is and feel good about taking time to make it satisfying (as per above). Eating in a relaxed state can offer you some of that mental check-out time you need during your day so that other tasks don’t feel as daunting.

4. Junk Food Guilt
Home: I’m more likely to feel guilty for eating too much dessert.
Vacation: I feel dessert is a deserved treat and enjoy it. (and remember, I come back from vacations the same or less weight.)

The Fix: Stop the guilt. Decide to enjoy some indulgences on purpose and feel good and in control of your decision. It keeps you satisfied and sane.

5. Sitting Duck
Home: I do more scheduled workouts, but I otherwise sit a lot (at my computer, like right now writing this blog post).
Vacation: I do less scheduled workouts, but I otherwise move a lot without it feeling like effort or something I need to find time for (walking as a form of transportation and just recreating more; biking, paddling, swimming, skiing, hiking, dancing, etc, not to mention loading and unloading suitcases to/from cars and hotel rooms)

The Fix:

Recently bought this but still need to set it up under my desk.

Look for ways that movement can fit into your life on top of planned workouts. It really does add up. Vacation-me proves it. Plan one activity or place to walk to each week and make that a habit first. As far as planned workouts go, find a buddy if doing it on your own isn’t happening. Accountability, which leads to more consistency, is THE biggest factor to success.. far, far bigger than finding the perfect workout plan (hint: there’s no one perfect workout plan!). Getting an activity tracker so that you can see how much movement you’re working into your day can really help.

Also recently bought this and still need to set it up on my treadmill.  Baby steps folks … at least I bought them!

That’ll motivate you to park the car farther away, get up and pace while you’re thinking, get up to grab water more often, maybe throw in an extra walk after dinner to get to your goal. Other options include a surf-shelf (attach a little “desk” to your exercise machine so that you can walk slowly while working on your laptop) or a Desk Cycle (little pedals under your desk to keep you moving while you work). These things might seem like they’d make work hard to concentrate on, but find a speed that allows you to concentrate (super slow is still more movement and better for your brain, blood flow, joints, and metabolism than sitting totally still!). If even super slow doesn’t work, give it some time and you’d likely adapt (as you do to anything new with practice) and come to even need the movement to concentrate better.

6. Tied To The Scale Number
Home: I weigh myself almost every day.
Vacation: I never look at a scale.

The Fix: There’s 2 sides to this coin. Studies have shown that weighing yourself daily is a nice way to check that you’re not going in the wrong direction and overall helps people maintain weight. You have to know how to ignore the noise, however. Weight is going to jump around and you can’t look at what you did yesterday and what your weight is today and determine whether you’re doing the right thing. If you’re able to use it as an added, separate general gage and not let it discourage you, weighing daily can work. Either way, focusing on how you feel, look, how your clothes fit, whether your digestive system is regular and healthy, and wether you feel energetic or lethargic are all way more important measures. I do notice on vacation that I tend to pay more attention to all of these things, because it’s what I’ve got without the scale reading. And it works. Though I still have my habit of weighing daily (and using Beeminder to track my weight), I’ve gotten better at paying more attention to all those other things and it makes the varying weights affect me less mentally. When I’m up a little, I just think, “no biggie, just focus on feeling great and keeping away from the over-full feeling when you eat. And hey, my “up a little” is less than it use to be so if that’s my new high point, I’m making progress!” Positive, positive, positive!

7. Busy By Day, Guilty Failure By Night (this is not me, but it’s the opposite of #1 and likely effects of lot of people with long work days away from home.)
Home: You get so busy at work that you don’t (or barely) eat all day, only to find yourself ravenous and wiped out mentally and physically when you get home, leading to strong drives to overeat junk and move as little as possible.
Vacation: The complete opposite of all that!

The Fix: IMG_3502Prepare snacks and/or lunch ahead of time so that you have the food ready to grab at work. This is easier said than done, but start small with one thing you know you can succeed at. Remember, consistency with one habit by far beats out a “perfect” plan that overwhelms you and you won’t stick to. Think of one snack you can put together easily and start with that. Put alarms in your phone to remind you to prepare it around dinner time for the next day and to remind you to grab it on your way out the door in the morning. Here’s an idea: get a container and pre-cut a bunch of veggies over the weekend. Each work day, throw a big handful of veggies in a container and hummus in another (I just discovered that the tub of hummus from Costco tastes awesome). Boom, perfect snack. Want a little more? Quickly slice up some cheese (or get cheese sticks) and throw that in too. Let me know if you try it!

Here’s some anecdotal evidence that these fixes can make a difference. Other than a few concerted efforts over the past two years where I lost some weight and mostly kept it off, I’ve struggled to continue to see progress or maintain easily enough. However, since the start of 2017, I’ve found it significantly easier to maintain and even drop some more weight. I was another pound down at the start of this challenge and am another 3 pounds down from there. I feel more confident about continuing to go in the right direction as well. By incorporating the mental and physical changes above, it has been easier to maintain and lose weight.

I know I just threw a lot of ideas at you. Find just one you don’t already do that gets you excited (because you feel like it’d be easy to incorporate) and practice it for a couple weeks. Then come back to this post when you feel like you’ve got that one under your belt, and try another!

For the M.E. Challenge: One new bonus point starting Wednesday, April 26th – the Non-Zero Bonus. It’s another simple incentive-style bonus. Any day with no zeros earns a bonus point. In other words, get at least one workout and at least one veggie-full meal and you earn a bonus point that day.

H.I.I.T. Gets You Fit

You know how cardio machines have those pre-programmed workouts to choose from and one is the “fat loss” program at a nice, steady moderate pace? That is so backwards, I’m hoping I just haven’t noticed they’ve done away with it by now. I’ve ignored them too long to know. High intensity intervals is the way to burn fat, folks! And it takes way less time! The confusion came from the fact that our bodies burn a higher percentage of calories from fat at lower intensities, so we’ve associated long cardio sessions with fat loss. But percentage is the key word. The primary source of energy when you’re on the couch is fat (5k to couch program, anyone? … wait, that’s backwards…). The problem is we’re burning so few calories at rest that a large percentage of practically nothing is even closer to nothing. But with high intensity, even with just a few 30-second intense intervals, this starts to happen:

Maintain/build lean muscle without storing fat: Burning more calories and working muscles harder means that the next intake of calories will go to muscle growth and glycogen stores rather than fat. You’ve basically freaked out (stressed) your body during those intense moments and it’s going to need to repair and adapt, using up more fat stores/increasing metabolism to do it. Note that all the metabolism boosting hormones increase in response to an exercise stress on the body.  Additionally, more of the structures in our cells that oxidize fat (mitochondria) will be created to help us adapt and deal with future intense bursts of movement (just like muscles adapt and get stronger when we stress them… and another reason weight training is great for fat loss … it’s very similar to high intensity interval training). It was those who could make these adaptations well that survived saber tooth tigers and we’re all those people’s ancestors, after all.

After burn: After a high intensity interval workout or even a moderate workout with some intense intervals thrown in, which already uses more calories than steady state, there’s also something known as EPOC (Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption) and it can add 6-15% more calorie burn over within a few hours after a workout. But even more, the 24 hours after a workout yield a higher burn rate as well. The more intensity, the more after burn. And that really adds up. Study after study comparing regular steady-state cardio to high intensity intervals shows significantly more fat loss from HIIT.

So what’s “intense”? The biggest benefit comes from reaching 85-95% of your max, even if just for 5-seconds! No heart rate monitor needed. Simply get to the point where it feels very hard and you can barely converse. Boom. Fat done.

Benefits of High Intensity Interval Training (H.I.I.T.) include:

  • fat loss while retaining lean mass
  • improved cardiovascular fitness
  • increased exercise tolerance
  • improved fat and carbohydrate oxidation in muscle cells (from those mitochondria)
  • improved mental toughness
  • challenged fast twitch muscle fibers, great for strength, power, and looking cut
  • easier on the joints with less pounding time
  • improved blood sugar control
  • improved elasticity in arteries
  • increased ability to use oxygen and insulin effectively
  • improved symptoms for those with diseases such as Parkinson’s, Diabetes, and COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease)

Ok … so how do I actually do HIIT?
Easing into it is best. If you haven’t exercised at all in a lomg time (no one in the challenge meets this!), build up a base level with some steady state workouts first. Start by adding a few hard/very hard (for you) intervals of 5-30 seconds into a workout. An interval can actually be anything from 5 seconds to 8 minutes. The higher the intensity, the shorter you’ll make the interval. A 1:1 ratio of work to rest works well, but starting with a 1:3 ratio might be best – since you’ll need longer recovery from the hard intervals at first. Here’s some examples:

  1. Going up and down stairs is interval training. The up is the intense interval (assuming you’re not doing it too slowly) and the down is the recovery period.
  2. Let’s say you’re taking a walk. Speed walk with lots of arm swinging for a minute, then return to normal speed. Or go into a jog for the hard interval. Repeat a few more times (do more intervals and closer to 1:1 ratio, such as a minute hard, a minute moderate, etc, as you get more fit).
  3. While weight training, throw in 30-60 seconds of jumping jacks, burpees, high knee marching/in place running, or just dance vigorously to some music, between every couple of weight exercises.
  4. On your run, do a short sprint (something between 5-30 seconds to start) and repeat that every 4-6 minutes. Or start by trying just one sprint during your run, maybe at the very end. Imagine finishing your race strong!
  5. During any cardio workout, whether it’s elliptical, bike, walk, jog, run, swim, you name it, try adding some descending intervals. After you’re well warmed up, do a 40 second sprint. A bit later, do a 35 second sprint. Then 30, 25, 20, 15, 10, and 5. (That happens to complete the 3-minute total high intensity interval time required for a bonus point, y’all. You can thank me later.)

The possibilities are endless. Have fun with it and share your ideas with the group!

Previous Bonus Point Changes

GRAINS: the same applies as far as 1st ingredient or 2 of the first 3 ingredients needing to be whole grains. The change comes in that there can’t be any sugar (or form of sugar) or vegetable oils (other than palm and coconut) in the top 5 ingredients. There also cannot be any processed soy ingredients at all. If you’ve homemade a grain product, check with me. Please posts pics of grain ingredients again (no need to post Dave’s bread or whole oatmeal or quinoa though) to help me make sure it qualifies.

TIMING: Eating whole grains with your point-earning meals within an hour after working out can now only count after a longer workout (25 or more minutes).

RESISTANCE: This one is being simplified. Short workouts (8-24 minutes) have to be 100% resistance for a bonus point and longer workouts have to be at least 25 minutes of resistance for a bonus point. You can only get 4 resistance bonus points per week since muscle changes only come during the rest days between resistance workouts, not when you’re doing them. Therefor, do non-consecutive days for working the same muscles.

HIIT: Any time you do 3 total minutes of high intensity cardio intervals in a workout, it’s a bonus point. You can break that down however you like. One 3-min interval all the way to 36, 5-second intervals, as long as you’re getting to a “very hard” level for you, meaning you can barely converse during and just after each interval. This bonus will also have a max of 4 allowed per week in the interest of not overtraining.

DURATION: If you do a 90+ minute workout – AND IT INCLUDES AT LEAST 3-MIN OF HIIT – you get a bonus point. Becuase that’s just badass. And because you’re kicking sedentary behavior in the butt with that length of workout and it should be commended. I won’t put a max on this one, but please don’t overtrain to try to get points!

Carbs … Evil or Superfoods?

It’s a trick question. They’re neither. They’re just one important part of the balance of macronutrients and movement we need for optimal health and metabolism. Too much or too little of anything will have ill effects and getting the whole food version over processed versions will always be superior. But what’s the one thing aside from exercise for most, that people focus on when they want to lose weight? Cutting out carbs! I mean, everyone knows carbs just spike insulin, the fat storing hormone, right?! Ready for the bigger picture? More of the *whole* story?

Low-carb diets definitely succeed in eliminating the very processed, nutrient-void carbs like cakes, pastries, cookies, etc, which is great and a big reason why they work, but is there a downside to restricting carbs too much, even the healthy ones like whole flake or steel cut oats, amaranth, quinoa, millet, wheat berries, barley, and wild rice? Here’s what happens when there’s not enough carbs:

Thyroid Hormone T3 and Reverse T3:
T3 is the most active thyroid hormone and is very important for regulating blood sugar and metabolism. Reverse T3 is a hormone that inhibits T3. Too few calories and carbs lowers T3 and increases Reverse T3 (meaning T3 is further inhibited). Low T3 levels can even lead to constantly being cold and feeling sluggish. Ketogenic diets (very low-carb) can reduce T3 levels as much as starvation!

Cortisol & Testosterone:
With too few carbs, research has consistently shown that cortisol increases and testosterone decreases. That means higher stress and less metabolism boosting hormones. That means less muscle and more fat. A study showed that those eating a low carb diet (30% of calories from carbs) had a 42% drop in their ratio of cortisol to testosterone while the control group (who ate 60% of calories from carbs) had no change in these hormones. Too few carbs causes the opposite of what we’re going after.

Women’s Hormones:
The disruption of hormonal balance with too much carb restriction can especially affect women. Our bodies seem to be more sensitive to carb intake, likely due to needing body fat and nutrients for pregnancies. The hypothalamus, pituitary, and adrenals regulate everything and when cortisol (stress) is up, hormonal levels of estrogen, progesterone, leutinizing hormone, follicle stimulating hormone, and prolactin are thrown off balance even more, which can lead to symptoms all very indicative of menopause: stopped/irregular period, more body fat (especially around the middle), lower fertility, anxiety/depression, bone density loss, blood sugar swings or hypoglycemia, chronic inflammation, fatigue, and disrupted sleep.

The pancreas is always secreting a low level of insulin. It doesn’t exist to simply fill up our fat cells when we eat carbs, but unfortunately that’s the only part of the story we hear and it fuels the idea that carbs are all bad. Insulin exists to help transport nutrients in the blood stream – not just glucose (sugars) but also amino acids and blood fats – into our cells, as well as stimulate protein synthesis. Insulin is an anabolic hormone, meaning it “adds to” rather than “breaks down” (catabolic). By not triggering the release of enough insulin (i.e. too low-carb), you are thwarting your body’s ability to build muscle tissue and instead causing a catabolic (break down) state with your hormonal balance. So while it is true that insulin can “add to” fat cells, it can also “add to” muscle cells and the higher your cells’ sensitivity to insulin, the more nutrients will be transported to them. So what increases insulin sensitivity? regular exercise, especially resistance training, increasing wholesome foods from all sources, daily movement, adequate sleep, Vit D, and limited caffeine. An insulin surge post workout, especially a resistance workout, is your friend and that means wholesome, whole grain carbs are your friend as well. Studies actually show that you can basically slam protein shakes by the hour and still lose muscle mass if there’s inadequate carb intake (not to mention gaining fat from way too many calories from a zillion protein shakes, so don’t try that at home, folks).

Balance is KEY. Is it true that too many carbs will cause excess fat gain, especially from more processed sources? Of course, but so will too many fats and too many proteins. In fact, one added reason is that we absorb more calories of energy from processed sources of carbs since the breakdown has already begun. If our bodies have to do more of the breaking down themselves, we still fill up with the bulk but don’t absorb as many actual calories from the food. Too few carbs can cause muscle loss and a host of other hormonal problems that lead to a diminished metabolism among other things. Any diet out there that only tells one piece of the whole story and fixates on that as the key to all-mighty weight loss and health has lost the big picture, which is very important and continues to be enhanced with further research.

If you’re wondering why the heck low-carb diets work so well, there’s several reasons. For one, most any restrictive diet will work in the short term, but results don’t last eventually. Secondly, low-carb diets cause people to cut the processed carbs and that alone helps with health improvement and weight loss. Lastly, when you’re restricting carbs, you tend to make up for it with more protein, a healthy change. Another study looked at whether low-carb diets work due to lower carb content or increased protein content. There were four groups, two with normal protein levels (one normal carb, one low-carb) and two with high protein levels (one normal carb, one low-carb). It was the two with higher protein levels who lost the most weight showing that the restriction of carbs wasn’t the determining factor for weight loss.

Carbs are especially important the more we exercise, and even more so immediately following exercise, especially resistance training. Muscles are especially broken down and in need of repair to build up and get stronger. After a workout, elevated insulin is key to replenishing muscles by transporting nutrients to them, both glucose and amino acids. Eating protein after a workout does us much less good if we haven’t also eaten carbs (whole grain sources) to trigger more insulin release so that a transport will be available to replenish those muscles cells. It’d be like planning a fabulous tropical vacation, but forgetting to actually buy the flight, a crucial part in the whole plan! All the pieces have to come together to make the magic work. We’re never going to outsmart our complex systems by picking and choosing good and bad foods out of context.

BONUS CHALLENGE POINTS begin WED, MAR 15 (start of week 3)!
Earn a bonus point for:
1. any day that you add a whole grain source to at least 2 of your meals (must be added to a meal, not eaten separately) (ideally, simply getting food with whole grain flour in it, for instance, wouldn’t count, but I’m going to allow that. However, the 1st 3 ingredients – if there are that many – must have the word “whole” in it. I highly recommend Dave’s Killer Bread with many whole grain sources in it! Also, only steel cut or 100% whole oats, no quick/2-min oats. You must post a picture of the ingredient list along with your food pic!
2. adding the whole grain source to a meal that is within one hour after exercise (please post exercise and meal pics together for this bonus point, noting the time the workout ended and the time the meal began)!
3. any workout that is primarily (more than 50% of the time) resistance training (max of 4 allowed per week) – if your muscles had to resist against a force, it counts! I’ll be the judge!

Those Elusive Weight Loss Goals & My Move.Eat. Challenge

Let’s consider how our bodies actually maintain, lose, and gain weight; the good ole’ metabolism … or the hormonal responses that control our rate of energy (food) use by controlling our appetites, cravings, and the desire to move or rest (energy levels), all in order to keep body weight stable and us ultimately alive. Humans, like most animals besides those that hibernate or live in frigid temperatures and need blubber to survive, are naturally lean under natural circumstances. How is it that we didn’t spend time thinking about diet and exercise just over 50 years ago, yet remained naturally lean, whereas today we put great efforts into manipulating diet and exercise and remain more overweight? Maybe manipulating diet and exercise isn’t the answer.

Let’s start with an analogy between two of our body’s systems; the circulatory system which helps keeps a certain level of oxygen in our bloodstream and the endocrine system (hormones, metabolism) which helps keep a certain level of fat stores in our tissues. Let’s say we want to lose extra oxygen, the same way most of us want to lose extra fat.

Friend 1: Wow, you look great, what are you doing to lose oxygen?
Friend 2: There’s this great low-breath plan I found, you should try it!

(tries low-breath plan for 30 seconds and is astonished at the results!)

(1 minute later)

Friend 2: Hey, are you still doing that low-breath plan? I stuck with it for a while, but I’m super stressed right now and started breathing more again.
Friend 1: Yeah, I fell off the band-wagon too. It’s so hard! I need to get back on that plan. Hey, wanna do it together? Let’s start Monday!

Let’s repeat this conversation with fat loss:

Friend 1: Wow, you look great, what are you doing to lose weight?
Friend 2: There’s this great low-carb plan I found, you should try it!

(tries low-carb plan for 30 days and is astonished at the results!)

(1 month later)

Friend 2: Hey, are you still doing that low-carb plan? I stuck with it for a while, but I’m super stressed right now and started eating more carbs again.
Friend 1: Yeah, I fell off the band-wagon too. It’s so hard! I need to get back on that plan. Hey, wanna do it together? Let’s start it on Monday!

Why does that sound so normal when it’s about weight (fat) loss and so ridiculous when it’s about oxygen levels? It’s just as much not our faults that we “fall off the band-wagon” with restrictive diet and exercise plans as it is that we start breathing again after holding our breath! What’s that? NOT our faults?! Wait… when’s the last time you felt bad that you couldn’t stick with a healthy/clean eating plan or workout regimen? Sound familiar? Our bodies force fat re-gain to happen after deprivation just like they force intake of oxygen after deprivation. It’s biologic survival. We can’t tell on the longer time scale of body fat loss and gain, so it seems like our fault … we just didn’t have enough “will-power” or “discipline” and if we start again (on Monday!), we’ll stick with it and finally lose all the extra weight THIS TIME!

It’s not just you being weak when:

  • soon after you restrict a certain food group or eat too few calories on a diet, you start to crave and obsess about those foods.
  • you uncontrollably overeat at night after not finding time to eat all day.
  • you feel lethargic and the thought of doing a workout seems daunting.
  • you just want to sit down and don’t have the energy to pop up and take care of chores.

These are simply ways that your body is dealing with the current conditions. When we restrict calories and feel hungry, our bodies have no choice but to react with hormonal responses that increase appetite and decrease energy levels… and these drives are STRONG and get stronger the more “in danger” we are… of perceived famine and hibernation.

So how did our ancestors stay trim? Well, they moved and ate at regular intervals as a natural part of life. They weren’t going to bootcamp 3x/week and then resting up otherwise. They just spent all day standing, bending, lifting, crouching, carrying, pushing, hauling, gathering, cleaning, gardening, and so on – they got plenty of N.E.A.T. (non-exercise activity thermogenesis). This whole complicated system works synergistically and accurately when movement happens often, wholesome foods from all 3 macronutrients (protein, fat, carbs) are consumed regularly, and our exposure to sunlight (or any blue light) happens during waking hours while sleep in complete darkness happens during sleeping hours. Those are the natural circumstances in which people remain naturally lean. That more recently invented thing called “exercise” helps us mimic movements that our bodies need and don’t get nearly enough of anymore with modern lifestyles, but it’s not enough to make up for actually having to move and physically work all day. We don’t have time to workout all day, but we can find ways to add movement into our daily lives and that can really make a big difference. Just compare the 300-500 calories burned in a typical exercise session vs the 1500-2000 calories burned by simply standing rather than sitting all day! Not moving, just standing.)

Our ancestors also didn’t have the option to buy foods engineered to taste ridiculously good while not actually providing the cells with enough real nutrients. Processed foods have disrupted the natural state of our metabolisms. It’s no coincidence that we can accidentally eat the whole bag of potato chips, but never accidentally eat the whole bag of carrots. Our bodies signal us to stop because our cells get what they need. Does that mean you can never have another doughnut, cookie, or chip? No, it just needs to be an occasional treat and not in your everyday environment. These foods exist and they’re tempting (though much less so when they remain on the store shelves!), hitting the pleasure center of our brains hard and that’s no accident. Pockets are being lined with that strategy so these foods aren’t leaving our environment any time soon.

The hormonal response to our cells not getting enough nutrients is to make you lethargic and tired (to slow you down so you conserve energy) and to give you cravings and make you hungry (to get you to seek out those nutrients). Viscous cycle, huh? Dieting exaggerates this viscous cycle and that’s exactly why it’s inevitable that you put on more weight than you started with after quitting a diet. So why do we keep dieting? We’re into immediate gratification, for one. Nobody wants to lose their weight slowly over a year or more, they want if off before their beach trip in a couple months!

The final thing our ancestors had going for them was having their circadian rhythms on track. When the sun went down, it was time to get plenty of restorative, metabolism boosting sleep. (Did you know that one of our biggest surges of growth hormone – a huge metabolism booster – happens during our deep sleep stages, but can be disrupted if our body is still dealing with digestion from late night food intake?) Nowadays when the sun goes down, it’s time to stare at screens that mimic bright daylight and sit still some more! Gah!

So the next question is HOW. How do we begin to mimic the lifestyles of yester-year as much as possible to get our bodies to naturally head in the correct direction with weight and metabolism? We slowly make changes that take us in the right direction, truly establishing new habits along the way. We don’t do a big overhaul and expect to stick with it, because that’s too hard and will backfire. Changing habits is a learning process and it should be expected that to truly learn something new takes time, but most definitely can be done! Any new skill takes time to perfect and needs lots of practice. Shifting your daily habits is a new skill. Allow it to take time. Embrace the small, actionable changes you’re making as big wins… because they are. Congratulate yourself for them. Out loud. Each one makes a difference – you won’t notice it right away, but it will come. You’ll notice you feel better, have more energy, and are generally happier pretty quickly, but those other changes you’re looking for will take time. When you hear all those annoying, seemingly unimportant little tips like “park further away”, “take the stairs instead of the elevator”, “take a 15-minute walk after dinner”, or “eat slowly and wait 20 minutes to see if you’re full”, and you’re thinking, oh come on, I just need to get serious and workout for real and stop eating all this crap, think again. Where has that all-or-nothing approach gotten you? Happiness, bliss, and the lean body you’ve always wanted? Then why are you reading a blog about your elusive weight goals and a challenge you can join? Those tips aren’t about the measly few extra calories they might burn, but rather the ripple effect of your hormones driving your energy level up (meaning you move more throughout the day without thinking about it, unconsciously burning even more calories than you can ever count/calculate), and your appetite down (meaning it’s less likely you’ll feel hungry or if you do, you’re more likely to crave more wholesome choices). It’s a snowball effect that goes far beyond conscious calories in, calories out even though the fundamental bottom line is exactly that.

If you join The M.E. Challenge, you’ll not only get accountability by posting your “Sweaty Selfies” and “Colorful Closeups” to show your movement and your wholesome fruit and veggie eating the group (surprisingly motivating!), but also follow me through a gradual process of habit development that will take you in the right direction with your weight management with less effort and definitely no deprivation.
What’s included?
-Twice-monthly blog posts about fat loss, icluding 1-2 key habits to practice for 2 full weeks at a time plus opportunities for bonus points!
-Weekly video demonstrating stretches you can do throughout the day to alleviate aches and pains (and increase N.E.A.T.!)
-Bonus challenges every 2 weeks that help you achieve the habits you’re practicing
-Prize money to the top 6 point-earners (1st place 18% of the pot, 2nd 15%, 3rd 12%, 4th 9%, 5th 6%, and 6th 3%. With just 15 participants, 1st place is already $211!)