Living Outside The Box Born-Again Techo-Geek Renaissance Man

5Nov/150

Weight Loss: Calories Vs. Nutrition

One of the things you're going to have to deal with if you're out of shape is slimming down and getting rid of unwanted fat. This is probably the least fun part of the ForgeFit process, but it's also one of the most important.

Almost everybody understands that obesity is directly tied to more diseases and health problems than you can count. Therefore, if you want to be healthy, you need to get rid of the excess fat. You will feel better, look better, and your body will be able to function correctly, without fighting itself just to stay alive.

I'm not here to convince you of the importance of weight loss. Everybody knows that.

I'm here to convince you that this is where the Forge mindset will change your life. You see, losing weight is a simple game of input versus output. If you burn more calories than you eat, then you lose weight. Pretty simple.

But when you factor in the hunger pains, cravings, nutrition, and all the other things going wrong in your body, it seems like an insurmountable task. "Who can lose that much weight?" you might say. "They're cheating, it can't be that simple!" People wave their bag of chips in the air and shout, "Being thin is hard!"

If you allow your food cravings to emotionally run your life, then yes, losing weight will be almost impossible. Remember we talked about those Intrinsic motivations? Without that, you can't lose weight and keep it off. Lapband surgery, fad diets, starvation, and so on are all External motivation. However, without changing your underlying thinking about food and calories, you will go right back to your old way of eating, and the weight will come right back.

So how do you get motivated to lose weight, and keep it off?

First, let's look at the way your body treats hunger. Because let's be honest, if you weren't hungry, it would be easy to get thin, right?

Your body needs two things: energy, and nutrition. You have to have both. But you already have one of them in spades!

Nutrition

By nutrition, I mean the building blocks your body uses to function: chemicals and nutrients that are required for your body to repair, replenish, signal, and work correctly. Vitamins, enzymes, minerals, essential fatty acids, proteins, clean fats, and so on. When you think of "eating healthy" these are the things you want to consume. The more processed your food is, the less of these things it has (and coincidentally, the more inflammatory things it has). Can you live without them? For a time, yes, but eventually your body will start breaking down and functions will stop working correctly without the proper building blocks. You will get sick and you'll develop all sorts of health problems.

Energy

This is just calories. Things your body converts to glycogen for your muscles to burn, nothing more, nothing less. You have to have energy, too. In fact, the average male burns 1800+ calories a day if they just sit there and do nothing. But the real secret is this: unless you have less than 10% body fat, you already have all the calories you need for days.

Think about it. What is fat? Stored calories. More specifically, White Adipose Tissue exists to store energy. It serves no nutritional value, and can't be used for anything except releasing energy into the blood stream. So the only way to get rid of it is to use it up.

Hunger Games

What is hunger? It's "a sensation that represents the physiological need to eat food." But what most people don't know is that hunger reflexes can't differentiate between nutrition and energy.

What happens is this: Your body needs nutrition. Studies show the majority of Americans don't get enough nutrients. So your hunger reflex says "I need something!"

Then you eat a meal with almost no nutritional value. McDonald's, or frozen pizza, or a bag of chips. These things have calories, but no nutrition. These are called, aptly enough, Empty Calories. And your body didn't get what it needs, so guess what happens? You still feel hungry. If you eat too much nutrition, your body just passes it through, but it stores extra energy as fat. This is why juicing has gotten so popular. You get all the nutrients, but super-concentrated, with a minimum of calories.

When you realize hunger is just a physical response, and you understand that physical responses can 1. be misleading, and 2. be retrained, then you become in control of your body again.

When I was losing weight, I ate 1200 calories a day, and burned about 3,000. I'll admit I didn't eat the healthiest foods, but I did eliminate all foods with added sugar, and ate whole foods as much as I could. The important thing was getting my calorie count under 1500. Second was making sure I had enough nutrients to stay healthy.

I discovered after a few days that my hunger pains would kick in strongly at regular intervals- just as they'd been trained to do. My stomach would growl, then it would hurt. I'd drink a glass of water, and after about 10 minutes, it would go away. Seriously, 10 minutes. My body received the message that it wasn't going to get anything, and the reflex shut down for a few hours.

I knew that the hunger pain was just a reflex, and that I had 40 pounds worth of calories stored in my body to use. I wasn't going to starve. I wasn't going to pass out. Sure, when your blood sugar levels drop, your body takes longer to burn fat. You can actually feel it when it happens. It's like everything gets shifted into low gear, and your body starts waking up those adipose cells to release fat. It takes a while, so you don't feel all peppy and full of energy, because instead of glycogen in your blood, you're converting fat back into energy.

How Did It Work?

After a few weeks of that, I was familiar with the feeling and could easily shut it down, knowing I wasn't dying and my body would just switch to burning fat. And the weight began dropping off like crazy. One pound is about 3500 calories, so you can do the math. With riding my bike, I was steadily losing 3 to 5 pounds a week.

But once I got closer to my ideal weight (less than 20% body fat), I noticed a change. Instead of my body converting fat when I ran out of glycogen, I would go into a state known as "Bonking" or "Hitting the Wall." This happens when your liver can't keep up with fat conversion fast enough, and your muscles literally shut down.

First, I'd feel the usual hunger growls, then pains. I'd drink water, and the pain would go away. But then my hands would start shaking, and I felt like everything was just too heavy to pick up.

The solution was to keep a snack handy at my desk, so when I would begin to "crash" I'd just grab a handful of mixed nuts, and within 5 minutes, I was good to go for another hour or two until it was time to eat. Over time, this reflex also got easier to deal with, as I because very aware of when it was happening, and could grab a handful of something (maybe a slice of apple, or some carrot sticks) to regain control.

Things To Consider When Eating

Here's some things to keep in mind when trying to lose weight:

  • Count calories, and pick a rotating menu that doesn't change, so you only have to do it once.
  • Exercise to maximize your calorie deficit.
  • Make sure you eat unprocessed, natural foods to maximize nutrition and minimize calorie intake.
  • Avoid inflammatory foods to aid nutrient absorption (will cover this more in the future).
  • Understand your hunger reflex is trying to tell you it needs nutrition, so don't feed it empty calories!
  • Water, water, water, water. Your body needs water to function and absorb nutrients correctly. If your urine is yellow, drink more water.
Conclusion
If you eat 1200 calories of nutrient-rich whole foods, and do some mild exercise, you will feel better and lose weight. You will also be hungry, but that's okay. Your hunger reflex will make you think you're dying, but it's all lies. If you get your nutrition, your fat stores will more than cover the need. Drink water, shut down the hunger reflex, and embrace the suck. It takes a little work to set up a menu, but you know what? I ate the same 3 meals, every day for weeks. I counted calories once, and ran with that. You are capable of surviving without food for weeks. This is a simple fact. Take advantage of your body, feed it only what it needs, and take control of your life again!

Posted by Jeff Hendricks

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