(or) How I Lost 60 Pounds by Turning my Body into an Efficient Furnace
Calories in and calories burned. It’s that simple, right? Forget all the “tricks” to weight-loss, you can’t fight common sense, right? We’ll see about that.
After failing at every diet under the sun, I realized what’s missing from (what seems like) common sense is how we burn calories: our metabolism. We all know people who consume a ton of calories, don’t exercise and are still thin. That’s what I’ve been striving for—to become a naturally thin person. So that I can save you all the time and anguish I spent figuring this out, I’ll explain how I’ve succeeded in turning my body into an efficient furnace. With my body now working for me, I have so much more freedom with what I eat and can maintain a healthy weight without dieting.
(If you just want the list, skip down to the bottom of the page).
I learned from the Atkins Diet that when we don’t eat any carbs, our body is tricked into believing it is starving and will burn stored fat. This process, called ketosis, showed me that there was more to the calories in/calories burned premise. The diet also helped me understand that calories from fat, protein and carbs are processed differently by the body. In short, sugar and refined carbs pack on pounds quickly. Put aside any reservations you have about the Atkins Diet (I share them as well), it was the catalyst to helping me understand that how the body burns calories may be more important than how many we consume and how many we burn.
I learned from the book Body for Life the benefit of working out an empty stomach in the morning. When my body starts burning calories, in the absence of carbs, it goes for the stored fat. If I eat a banana or drink a Mountain Dew before I work out, it has to burn through those carbs first before it starts burning fat. Along those lines, muscle burns fat. Since muscles are “hungry”, adding muscle mass to my frame made it burn calories much quicker. Moreover, quick-burst cardio (no more than twenty minutes, or even better four minutes of sprints) in which the heart-rate goes above eighty percent of maximum is the most efficient way to exercise. Even though the treadmill tells me how many calories I’ve burned while I’m on it, it doesn’t calculate the changes in your body chemistry—which impact how many calories you burn when you’re off the treadmill.
I learned from fasting that when insides are clean, my organs work better. Over the past four years, I’ve done seven fasts that lasted between seven and fifteen days. Think about the fuel efficiency of your car if you never changed the oil, the filters or adjusted your tire pressure. By flushing the toxins from my system, I now digest my food better and soak up more of the nutrients. Along those lines, having a healthy gut allows me to maintain solid digestion and elimination. I take a probiotic and have a shot of aloe vera juice daily in addition to taking digestive enzymes before a meal. Lemons, ginger, turmeric and cayenne are also great detoxifiers and easy to add to tea or hot water.
I’ve learned that when I eat is also critical. I used to snack so much late at night that the drive-thru clerk at Jack in the Box knew me by name. I’ve heard a million times that it’s not good to eat late at night, but what finally allowed me to stop is by not denying myself during the day. I usually eat my biggest meal for lunch so that my body has plenty of time to digest and burn off the food. The difference between going to sleep with a full belly and empty one is the difference between storing fat and burning fat.
I’ve learned that it’s more important to add than subtract foods. One of the reasons most of us over-eat is that our bodies don’t feel full when they are deprived of nutrients–and eating a bag of potato chips or a dozen Big Macs doesn’t provide them. Even worse, denying myself food as part of a diet sent a signal to my body to store fat. The biochemistry behind that premise is the very reason most diets fail. Now, every day, to make sure my furnace burns, very simply, I eat when I’m hungry. As for nutrients, I make sure a get my fill of Omega-3 by eating flaxseeds and fish oil. For calcium and iron, in lieu of dairy, I eat sesame seeds (I grind them and the flax seeds and add to a smoothie or salad). I also make sure to eat leafy greens and protein (either organic grass-fed meat, fish, spirulina or hemp). To get my fill of Vitamin D, I spend at least twenty minutes outside to soak in the sun. When I get my basic nutrients, my body has what it needs to metabolize.
Last night I went out for Chinese and drank wine. I didn’t fret because I knew that I already had my nutrients for the day and that I’d be able to eliminate anything my body didn’t need. I’ve also learned to dispel the myth that fat makes you fat. By eating a lot of healthy fats from seeds, nuts, avocados, olive oil and grass-fed organic meat, my body has become more proficient at burning fat.
I’ve learned that stress makes me fat. All the scientific words like cortisol (the stress hormone) and the fancy terms like “flight or flight” can get a bit technical, but I know that “holding on” emotionally leads to holding on to body weight. I make sure to breathe deeply and practice gratitude. This is one you have to live to really get, but I know it works for me.
And since we’re talking about a leap of faith, the last secret weapon is the power of the mind. Jon Gabriel, the author of The Gabriel Method, went from 409 pounds to 184 pounds through visualization. By creating a picture of my ideal body, my mind and body started working together. Along those lines, I have been always been able to trace gaining weight to my life being out of balance and living without passion. As if he were addressing me directly, Gabriel wrote, “Having something that you love doing is a gift from the universe and you’re rejecting it. As a result you struggle, you yearn, and you starve.” When I started living life more from my heart, my body stopped holding on to excess weight.
Back to the calories in/calories burned debate. First of all, it’s a tough way to live. Counting calories is annoying and unsustainable. Do you need to hear any more statistics on how Americans are dieting more and getting fatter to know that the calories in/burned premise is flawed? Spending an hour a day on the treadmill is a grind and most of the research shows that it’s counter-productive. If you’re like me, you want to maintain your ideal weight and enjoy your life. The guilt, the stress, and the denial of counting calories not only feels like a chore, but all the science is now pointing to the fact that it doesn’t work!
Yes, I do pay attention to what I eat (though I don’t count calories). And yes, I exercise (though it doesn’t feel like a chore). But what has allowed me to lose sixty pounds and eat in a way that feels free is that I’ve turned my body into an efficient furnace. Rather than deny myself certain foods or rely on willpower to maintain a regimen, I’ve used techniques that allow my body to naturally do the work. To review, I’ve done so by:
- Working out an empty stomach in the morning and limiting refined carbs.
- Building lean muscle mass through weight lifting, power yoga, pushups, etc.
- Doing short, quick-burst cardio that gets my heart racing.
- Detoxing my body so my organs are at maximum efficiency and digestion is maximized.
- Maintaining a healthy gut with probiotics, aloe vera and digestive enzymes.
- Eating my biggest meal for lunch and eating minimally at night.
- Getting my basic nutrients daily including fiber, healthy fats, Omega-3, and Vitamin D.
- Minimizing stress through breathing and practicing gratitude.
- Visualizing my ideal body and making choices that allow me to do what I love every day.
Today, I was soaking in a beautiful beach day on my bike when a woman told me that my tires were nearly flat. I added some air and, just like that, I was moving faster with less effort. That sums up why I focus less on calories and more on how they’re burned. I did less work, had more fun and got better results. Build that efficient furnace and you’re on your way to being naturally thin.
Mark Sisson, the author of The Primal Blueprint, has great info on nutrition and efficient exercise, including the pitfalls of “chronic cardio.” http://www.marksdailyapple.com/
The author of The Gabriel Method, Jon Gabriel’s website shares how you can lose weight without dieting. http://www.gabrielmethod.com/
I did my first fast at Spa Samui in Thailand and lived near the resort for more than a year. http://www.thesparesorts.net/
I can’t endorse a place I’ve never been to, but I have heard good that OHI in San Diego is a good place for detox. It’s relatively affordable. http://www.optimumhealth.org/OptimumHealth/OhiSanDiego/ohisandiego.htm