We are told that “eating less and exercising more” is the secret formula to losing weight. You may have also heard about calories in vs. calories out – a simple way to tell if you are going to lose weight.
You’ve been following these known “rules” for months and are still not seeing results, and this has left you frustrated and ready to park yourself on the couch and eat chocolate cake for dinner. Please hold off on that idea and consider a different approach. Have you considered that your calorie intake might be too low?
Why does this matter?
Mark MacDonald sums it up in his book “Body Confidence”1:
“There are two main philosophies in nutrition: dieting and blood sugar stabilization. One is a catalyst that leads to what we call the Yo-Yo Syndrome (weight loss followed by weight gain in repetitive cycles), while the other creates an internal hormonal balance within your body that ignites your metabolism to optimally burn fat.”
Initially, a calorie reduction will cause you to lose weight. However, you are not only losing fat, but also valuable muscle tissue. Loss of muscle tissue decreases your daily calorie burn, and ultimately lead to reaching a plateau. In this case, eating less does not equal losing weight long term.
So what can you do?
The answer is blood sugar stabilization (i.e. eating more frequent, balanced meals). Our bodies need to maintain a state of homeostasis (balance), and they do this by releasing hormones into the blood stream to keep blood sugar levels in range. Insulin is released in order to lower blood sugar levels, and glucagon is released to raise blood sugar levels.1
The problem with infrequent eating, and calorie reduction is that between meals: (1) your body will start to break down muscle as an energy source, and (2) when you do eat again, the energy from the meal will likely be stored primarily as fat.1
So how can you lose weight by eating more? I’m glad you asked!
There are three steps to creating a nutrition plan that works to stabilize blood sugar, release your bodyfat and keep it off long term.
First, drop the notion of eating “3 meals a day”. With blood sugar stabilization you will be eating more frequent meals starting with breakfast within an hour of waking. Then you will add meals every 3-4 hours up until about 1-2 hours before bedtime. (Yes you can eat before bed!)
Next, and most importantly is the macronutrient composition of the meal: protein, fat and carbohydrates. To create a balanced meal, your plate should contain a “palm-sized” portion of lean meat, such as turkey or chicken breast. Then add a small portion healthy fat, such as avocado or olive oil – about the size of your thumb. Finally, the carbohydrates (if from grains) should equal about the size of your closed fist. Vegetables can be eaten in even greater quantity and can be used to increase satiety due to the fiber content. 1
Lastly, the calories per meal matters. For women, and ideal “meal” is between 250-300 calories and for men the meal should consist of 350-400 calories.
Now, let me show you how easy it is to eat more and lose weight! Below I’ve created a sample meal plan for both women and men, just keep in mind the men will have about an ounce of protein and carbs to get the calories into the 350-400 range.
- Breakfast: ½ cup steel cut oats, 4 egg whites, 1 tbsp flax seed
- Snack 1: ½ cup cottage cheese (2%), ½ cup strawberries
- Lunch: Grilled chicken breast, broccoli and brown rice
- Snack 2: low-sodium, sulfate free deli turkey breast, 1 small pear, 8 cashews
- Dinner: Salmon, brown rice and asparagus
This change in mindset will not only make a change in your body, but it will also provide more energy for your daily life. Let’s stop restricting and cutting back, when we can actually eat more food and still lose fat!
Camy Kennedy, ISSA, INBFC
Nutrition Coach and Fitness Trainer