“I’m going to starve myself and be completely miserable so I can drop ten pounds and kind of like the way I look for a few months before giving in and eating like a real person, allowing those same ten pounds to magically reappear with some extra ones as a bonus,” said no woman ever.
And yet…think of how many women live that way. Perhaps even you do. If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over while expecting a different result, then dieting is pure craziness. It simply doesn’t work.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to feel good in your skin. I often argue that it’s not your size or shape that prevents that. It’s how you feel about your size/shape. You have the power to shift your thoughts towards acceptance and appreciation regardless of the shape you’re in. I believe that’s a vital step towards wonderfulness.
Yet who doesn’t want to optimize their body—or even just boost it a bit? My clients often counter my body-acceptance argument by saying that they want to be able to touch their toes without their bellies getting in the way. They want to easily find fun clothes that fit. They don’t like how much energy it takes to carry around an extra five or ten pounds of body fat. They’re tired.
That’s legit. And it’s one of the main reasons I work as a health coach. I want to help women feel wonderful—and what they’re describing to me is the opposite of that.
But still I counsel: Don’t diet. Just don’t give into the madness. Not only are diets not sustainable, but by participating in them you’re setting yourself up for less metabolic flexibility. That means that over time it will be increasingly more difficult to prevent your body from accumulating fat. You’ll have to eat less and less, which isn’t nourishing, energizing, healthy, or pleasurable. That’s no way to live.
So if you’re not going to diet, what do you do?
Follow these 6 Nourish Facet guidelines to optimize your body shape
Drink 2 glasses of water first thing in the morning
You haven’t eaten since dinner the night before, but guess what? Your body is eating, anyway. Really! And that’s a very good thing. It’s in autophagy mode, which is the natural metabolic process when your body scavenges for old, diseased, or damaged cells to eat before using the resulting molecules for energy and to make new cells. It’s the ultimate recycling program—your body is eating itself (auto = self; phagy = eating). Without it the build-up of gunk will speed up your aging process as well as make you fatter, sleepier, and more brain-foggier (pretend that’s a word).
You know that your cells need water to function properly. This is especially true during autophagy. While you could get up repeatedly during the night to hydrate, disrupted sleep isn’t good for your health or energy. That’s why I urge you to drink two glasses of water in the morning before you eat anything (eating stops autophagy). Feel free to have your coffee, too, as long as it’s black—even milk is technically “eating.” Drink your water first!
Give yourself at least a 12-hour eating break
Another way to help your body stay in autophagy mode and increase your metabolic flexibility is through Intermittent fasting. You’re made to fast. You have evolved over millennia doing it and it’s still hardwired into your biology. But if the word “fasting” gives you heart palpitations, call it an eating break instead.
When you eat within a certain time period, or “window,” you naturally won’t be eating the rest of the time. That’s all that fasting is. However, if you’re like most Americans, you’re probably eating practically the entire time you’re awake. That’s a huge window! Don’t feel bad—you’ve been erroneously told to do this for your health—and the food companies love you for it.
Try this instead: Let’s say you finish dinner (and dessert) by 9:00 p.m. Then don’t eat breakfast until at least 9:00 a.m. It’s that simple. Of course you can wait longer (or skip breakfast entirely, if you’re not hungry!). Remember that cream/creamer/milk in your coffee counts as food, but drinking it black before your 12-hours is up is absolutely fine.
Focus on vegetables, fat, and protein
Those first two guidelines were about not eating. They’re very simple to understand and to implement (simple doesn’t necessarily mean easy, of course). Trouble happens when you try to figure out what to eat. And how much. But honestly, keeping this super simple is best, too.
Imagine your meal: Does it have vegetables? Does it have healthy fat? Does it have protein? If you answered yes to all three, wonderful. That’s all you need to know. Enjoy!
How you can complicate things:
Do you need to have vegetables at every meal? No. You can swap in some fruit at breakfast, if you prefer.
What is healthy fat? Read this, but basically you can make olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, and butter your go-to standards.
Is animal protein okay? Yes. Try to get it from pastured animals or wild-caught fish.
How much should I eat? How hungry are you? You don’t need to overthink this. Start flexing your intuition muscle by listening to your own hunger signals and stop before you’re stuffed. Leaving the table hungry isn’t going to help you and it’s no fun, either.
Starchy carbs are best at dinner
You may feel like you need starchy carbs for energy during the day. Or perhaps a meal doesn’t feel satiating enough without a side of starch. In both of those cases, I’d urge you to try adding more fat first and seeing how you feel. Often as you develop greater metabolic flexibility, you’ll naturally want less carb-heavy foods. But some people are simply going to need more carbohydrates than others.
Carbohydrates, in general, help feed the beneficial bacteria in your gut. In turn, those little bugs help your body produce serotonin. Serotonin is a calming neurotransmitter, perfect for creating a sense of ease and lessening anxiety. Because of this, it can also help you sleep more soundly, which is why I encourage you to have it at dinner. (Avoiding starchy carbs during the day may help you avoid any post-meal slumps!)
Many people like grains and legumes for their starches. If they don’t cause stomach or blood sugar issues for you—or lead to cravings—then enjoy them. In general, though, I encourage people to get their starches in vegetable form, particularly in roots and tubers.
You don’t need to snack—but you do need to keep hydrated
If you feel hungry between meals, first make sure that it’s not boredom, procrastination, or habit that’s triggering your hunger pangs. If they’re real, go ahead and eat something. Eventually, as you optimize your meals to fuel and satiate your particular needs, you’ll be able to go many hours without eating. There’s a lot of freedom in that.
You will need to figure out how to stay hydrated during your day, though. Keep a non-plastic, refillable bottle with you if you don’t have regular access to water. If you need to buy some at the store, try to find it in glass bottles.
Enjoy a small treat after lunch and dinner
Now I’m not saying you must eat a treat after lunch and dinner. If you honestly don’t want one, skip it. Just don’t feel like you need to deprive yourself of all things delectable because you want to firm up your bottom line.
There are a couple of things to keep in mind with this guideline, though. Don’t eat your personal trigger foods, whether they’re sweet, salty, or even “healthy” for you (so-called “energy” or “bliss” balls are my downfall). Whatever you do choose to indulge with, experiment with eating a smaller amount than usual—even if it’s just a smidge less. Since we eat with our eyes as much as our stomachs, you can adjust to being satisfied with less but give it time.
My top recommendation for a treat is dark chocolate. The higher the cocoa content, the less sugar you’ll be consuming, so look for ones that are 80% or higher. If you try one that’s too bitter, sample another brand. Chocolate beans from different areas have very different flavor profiles. That said, I love Endangered Species Dark Chocolate with 88% cocoa (it has the black panther on the label) and have converted many a dark-chocolate abstainer to its charms. Enjoying an ounce of this (which is a third of the bar) totals 3.3 grams of sugar. Considering there’s 4.2 grams of sugar in a teaspoon, this is a delicious and healthy option. In contrast, if you were to eat the Endangered Species Dark Chocolate with 72% cocoa (aka the “chimp chocolate”), you’d get 8 grams of sugar in an ounce. If you still prefer the chimp chocolate (or other lower cocoa percentage bars), eat a smaller amount.
Other great treats are plain full-fat yogurt (sweeten with stevia and a dash of vanilla), nuts, or fresh/frozen fruit.
You really don’t need to complicate it more than that. If you follow these guidelines for a few months, you’ll notice your body fat start to melt away as your energy begins to amplify. Keep with it and the results will get better and better.
And here’s the thing: You can eat this way forever. It’s not a fad diet that’s going to wreck your health and metabolism. In fact, it’s as great for your brain, skin, overall health and your energy levels as it is for your waistline. Plus, you can eat this way anywhere. It’s completely adjustable and individualized and it can be as delicious as you can make it.
In other words, what are you waiting for?