BIO-INDIVIDUALITY. Say THAT ten times fast! (Kay, don’t really.) 😉 What does this even MEAN and WHY is it so important? First, here’s an example of this lovely word, and tell me if you can relate. You and a friend BOTH decide to follow a plant-based regimen for two weeks. You both weigh the same AND you each eat the EXACT same foods (as each other) for those two weeks. At the end of that period, she’s lost a boat load of weight and you’ve lost two pounds. THAT my friend, is bio-individuality! Read on, cuz this is cray!
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When it comes to dieting and weight control, people can differ tremendously! What works for YOU can be ‘poison’ for someone else.
Over the years, especially when learning about diet theories (i.e. paleo, veganism, carb cycling, low carb/high fat, high carb/low fat, whole foods plant based, whole foods plant based NO OIL…. YOU NAME IT!) I was (am) my own best guinea pig. I need to know first-hand how food(s) affect ME if I’m going to be dishing out advice to others about optimal health and weight loss/maintenance. Boy did I learn about bio-individuality! There are definitely some ‘tricks’ that work for everyone, but even THOSE need to be tweaked according to the individual, and I’m going to get to those tricks in a minute.
A few months ago I picked up a book I had read years ago called The McDougall Program for Maximum Weight Loss. I remember really liking the whole idea of this book because it focused on eating REAL food (nothing processed, no junk!) but really eating as much as you wanted, as long as it was plant based. The book explained how you should only eat veggies, fruit, beans, lentils, whole grains and unrefined flours – I’m over-simplifying. It’s a long book, but you get the jist. This book really speaks to my overall philosophy of following a (vegan) whole foods plant based diet as much as possible (with the exception of my desserts that freakin’ call my name WAY TOO OFTEN, but that’s a topic for another day. OY!)
Meanwhile, I know so many people who LOVE this book and have had great success eating this way. But guess what! I gained 8 pounds in just two weeks following this guideline. Yup. And eight pounds on a 5’3″ frame SHOWS! I was not pigging out. I was not eating past feeling full. I had three meals, a couple-few snacks a day, and all well within the guidelines of this book/philosophy that most people swear by. Bio-individuality. My body freaked – AND SO DID I, 😯 . Oh, and to make matters worse, I had to get on a plane and take my new figure to Florida to don a bikini with my gorgeous sisters. Think that didn’t suck?
What’s my point? I have one, I swear. Bio-individuality is real. There isn’t really a cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all path. Yes, cutting calories will effectively provide you with weight loss. But even THAT is different from person to person. Even if two people are the same height and weight and go on the same calorie-restricted diet, it is likely they won’t lose at the same rate. I’ve had clients follow my advice and not lose a pound for weeks, and then BAM! They’re shedding weight like crazy! And others who shred major poundage in the first week! People’s bodies shift into fat-burning mode at different rates due to their individual internal environments. Things like gut micro biome effect health and weight. People also have sensitivities to some foods that they may never even KNOW about. Also, adjusting from the way they ate previously to a new healthy diet may take some time for the body to catch on, depending on where you came FROM. I think the reason I GAINED 8 pounds following a WFPB (whole foods plant based) diet that included unlimited healthy carbs is because of the way I ate BEFORE, which was definitely lower-carb. Adding the carbs from fruit and grains and legumes, as healthy as they were, put weight on me. Someone else who maybe came from eating a lot of processed, sugary foods would probably lose weight immediately on a WFPB diet with healthy carbs.
So that said, let me tell you what works!! Again though, bio-individuality comes into play here for sure. You maybe already know that A) carbs are the first energy source your body goes to for fuel. and B) carbs that aren’t burned for energy/fuel, are stored as fat. Even healthy carbs. If you overdo on your healthy brown rice, it’s gotta go somewhere!
I’m assuming you know that eating white bread, white pasta and rice, etc. is basically the same thing as eating sugar, right? So eating sugar in any form will spike your insulin ALSO causing you to store fat. Suppose you work out like crazy and have awesome muscles! No one is seeing those muscles if they’re surrounded by fat. GET RID OF THE SUGAR, lower the carbs – and you’ll lose the fat. That much should go without saying, right? I hope so. I’m not just talking weight here though. It’s for your health, and being overweight is obviously indicative of bad health. Sugar also causes inflammation which leads to a gazillion bad diseases and premature aging, etc. Any time you spike your blood glucose (by eating sugar or processed foods mentioned above that your body recognizes as sugar), you are causing spikes in insulin. When you spike insulin, you are priming your body for disease and fat storage. (Remember my blog post on the glycemic index and how important it is to NOT eat foods that are high on the GI – in order to AVOID spikes? Go back and read that if you haven’t already 😎 )
So what do you do? And HOW? It’s confusing! Obviously stay away from the above foods as much as possible. You need to test yourself with carbs to see how much you can eat a day yet still feel energized. My suggestion is no more than one piece of WHOLE FRUIT a day (not just juice, whole thing with fiber in tact. This will slow down absorption and NOT spike insulin). Everything else should be veggies (raw, sautéed, roasted, baked) and protein which I’ll talk more about below – with low or no sugar type sauces. Hot sauces are great for this – and use a lot of herbs and spices, and veggie broth for cooking. Cut back on root vegetables (carrots, turnips, potatoes, rutabagas, squashes) if you want to see a faster loss. Rarely if at all, should you have nuts, avocado, cheese – and only in very small quantities. Although good for you, these are very high in fat.
Start off with about a half of a cup of carbs 3 times a day (brown rice, lentils, beans, sweet potato, quinoa). If you feel great, try skipping a day of those carbs every few days and only have a piece of fruit (which is a carb) for breakfast with a large glass of lemon water (you can cut fruit and put it in non-fat Greek yogurt….. see my bit on protein below) in the morning and great big salads or veggie stir-fries (minus the oil) for lunch and dinner – with protein (again, read about protein below). Snacks in between can be raw veggies and a protein powder drink, or veggies with a few bites of tempeh….whatevs! If you cut back on carbs, YOU WILL LOSE WEIGHT, guaranteed! Find the least amount you NEED to feel energetic still, and stay at that point. Again, once you find that point, skipping days (of the carbs) even two in a row, is totally fine because you have carb stores and when you burn thru those, you’re burning fat baby!!
HERE IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING!!! You NEED protein! Not protein with fat (this isn’t Atkins!), but lean protein. This will preserve your muscle while you burn only fat, and give you that awesome toned muscular look that we all love. Seriously, when you cut carbs (to as little as you can tolerate) and have enough healthy lean protein, (and tons of yummy veggies) you won’t believe the results. (I sound like a commercial, but I’m not selling anything. For real.) Try to get in 100 to 150 grams of protein a day. Some examples are eggs (you can put 6 hard boiled eggs in a salad, minus three of the yolks for about 36 grams of protein), lean meat (a five ounce grilled, boneless and skinless chicken breast is 30 grams of protein), protein powder, tempeh, tofu or Greek, non-fat plain yogurt (not nuts because it comes with tons of fat). Use MyFitnessPal to see protein values in foods. And keep your protein low in fat, carbs and cals! Some tofus and tempehs can be high, so feel free to message me if you want to know the brands that I use. They are not all created equal. Powders are convenient too once in a while!
So this was a lot of info and I’m not sure anyone even made it to down here, but if you did, congrats! You’re a trooper!!! I can go on and on about this subject because it’s ridiculously effective – but it is SO important to know that bio-individuality will dictate how much you can/should cut back on carbs. Listen to your body. Feel free to message me with questions/comments – and good luck! In about two months (hopefully!) we’ll be wearing shorts here in Cleveland! YIKES! 😯