4 Ever Fit Tips – Why so many people consume too many calories & my keto update
Just before Memorial Day, Marcie and I went on a low sugar detox for almost four weeks. It was a great learning experience for me to be on a diet. I say this knowing how many people struggle to lose weight or maintain it. Fortunately, I have a very fast metabolism and have been able to keep my weight within a relatively small range for my entire adult life. I understand that this is not the norm for many Americans, and I found this experience incredibly insightful on many levels. The experience of limiting my food choices on a daily basis is very challenging.
I have said before that life is constantly about decisions and choices. Most of you reading this are fortunate enough to have daily food choices and don’t have to worry about whether you can afford your next meal. This is not the case for many people in this country and around the world. Our overabundance of food choices makes consuming fewer calories extremely difficult. Middle class Americans typically have full pantries and overstocked freezers. The availability of food anytime is a major part of the chronic obesity and diabetes problems that plague our nation.
Over-consumption of calories starts when our bodies become accustomed to the amount of food and more importantly the type of food (sugar, salt, caffeine, etc.) we eat throughout the day. If you don’t have a weight problem or you burn a lot of calories through exercise, you may feel enabled to eat as much as you want. Most often it does not lead to weight problems in the short term. The problem arises when you modify your activity level and/or your metabolism slows down as you get older. If over-consumption has become a habit, it is more difficult to make changes because by now you have created patterns and neural pathways for that behavior. Cravings have become normalized, and your body has expectations to get fueled by food at specific times of the day.
What should we do? Making rules and following them is the only way to be successful in changing your habits. Partially following rules does not work. For example, if you say you won’t eat snacks between meals you have to stick to it seven days a week. If you give yourself a break you will be constantly fighting the desire to snack. If you reprogram your body, it will be significantly easier to avoid snacking. Nike says “Just do it” – I say “Just don’t do it.” The low sugar diet I was on made me recognize my eating habits, showing me that I have cravings and am a patterned eater. It also showed me that these habits can be overcome, but when you allow yourself to give in to the craving one day it becomes more difficult to stop yourself the following day.
Back to Keto: Eating less than 50 grams of net carbohydrates per day was very difficult for me. I did it on some days and felt okay after about the fifth day. The problem I had during exercise was that I had no strength or energy at the start of my workouts. During the workout or run I gradually gained energy and strength but the feeling of dead legs at the beginning was horrible. My body had been programmed to rely on its immense glycogen (sugar) stores. I stayed in the 30-70 grams per day range for about three weeks with a few high carb days. Getting back to lower carb was not too hard after the high carb weekends. Since then I have added some fruit back into my diet and my exercise energy levels are back to normal. They say you can stay in ketosis and exercise at high levels because your body gets its energy from our fat stores. I think my system never reached a ketogenic state for long enough to initiate the conversion at the beginning of exercise.
Here are some great lessons I learned and experienced while doing this that are valuable to share with you.
- You will be ok without eating food every few hours.
- When you eat a low sugar diet you don’t get the crazy hunger pangs that you get when you are constantly fueling with carbohydrates.
- Using a food tracking app on your phone is the easiest way to understand your food consumption. I used https://www.myfitnesspal.com/
- The total amount of calories you eat per day does not matter for weight loss if you are eating low carb.
- Almost all processed food has carbs and salt in it.
- Read your food labels.
- Plan your day of eating.
- You may need to add more salt to food because you need the minerals in the salt to function properly.
- Take daily vitamins, especially your B vitamins.
- Nuts and avocados make great snacks (not necessarily together)
- When you feel hungry at night, go to sleep. Sleep is vitally important. Sugar is instant energy, and when you’re tired your body wants energy.
- Doing this with someone is easier than doing it alone. Get a low carb buddy.
- Eat before you go out so you don’t have to grab something on the go.
- If you are stuck and need food you can always find nuts in most convenience stores or gas stations.
My plan is to give it another try and get into the ketogenic stage to see how I perform during high-intensity exercise. I will add that overall I felt a sense of hunger more often then I normally would have, but it was a less intense hunger than when I am consuming more carbohydrates. The other big observation was that I felt physically very good. I did not have any soreness after workouts or aches and pains in my joints, which I sometimes have. Sugar is said to cause inflammation in our bodies. I will attest that I had much less inflammation while eating a low sugar diet.
Eating a high fat diet may not be as bad for your health as you were told, but before you do anything extreme do your research. If you try a low sugar diet, it is very important to get as close as you can to ketogenesis. If you increase your calorie consumption but don’t decrease your sugar consumption enough you will continue to store sugar, which converts to fat, and you will also store the fat you are eating, which will not lead to the results you were hoping for. As a result of this trial I did lose about 10 lbs. for the first time in my life.
Don’t forget about our Fall Challenge!!!!
I am challenging everyone to participate in a 42 day one-mile run/walk challenge in September from Labor Day on September 2 through Columbus Day on October 14. Try it, and get a family member to do it with you. All ages. Walk a mile or run a mile each day.
Remember, consistency of movement is an important key to staying healthy in both mind and body for a long time.