Eat Less Exercise Less? Won’t I be Starving?
Since we can’t easily measure the hormone levels in our body, we need to find an easy bio-feedback mechanism that helps us adjust our eating and behaviour. Jade’s mantra is “Keep your SHMEC in check!”
SHMEC stands for Sleep, Hunger, Energy, Mood and Cravings.
The beauty of this approach to balance your hormones is that during ELEL, when calories typically stay at around the 1000-1200 calories per day, monitoring SHMEC allows us to stave off real hunger. Our body happily burns fat for fuel at a low calorie supply for some time. When our SHMEC gets out of check and we approach the outside limit of that time period, we know it’s time to move onto EMEM.
So I do the following:
During ELEL, I have a shake for breakfast with 60 grams of protein in the form of powder. I try to rotate my shakes because I have some leaky gut issues. So one day I use PlantFusion, the next VegaSport, the third day Goat Whey powder. The vegan powders are sweetened with Stevia and I add some vanilla extract and Erythritol to the Goat Whey powder - not ideal but it tastes good and that guarantees that I use it. I just threw out a 2.5 kg bag of some plain plant protein powder which tasted yuck and I had it for so long that bugs got into it. Gross!
For lunch you either have another shake or a salad with lots of protein (around 6 oz most of the time). Dinner is a plate of food with roughly 50% vegetables, 40% protein and 10% carbs. I like to eat as Primal or Paleo as I can so my carbs tend to be sweet potatoes, maybe some rice or a sweet fruit for dessert. I always cook enough protein in the evening to have leftovers for my salad the next day.
How to Balance Your SHMEC?
This is a very intuitive approach. No counting carbs or calories necessary. Stick to 3 meals a day, 1 or 2 shakes and one proper meal. Listen to your body. The shake should last you minimum 4 hours. I set my iPhone alarm to make sure it does. If it doesn’t and you start to get cravings or hunger, start playing with ingredients.
How this works is deceptively simple. You see how each meal agrees with you and if you find that you are hungry, develop cravings or any of the other SHMEC indicators are out of whack, change it up.
- Add some more protein, water or fibre;
- If that doesn’t work, add some fat like a tbsp of MCT oil;
- If that doesn’t work, leave the fat out and add some starch like some sweet fruit (3 bites or 1/2 cp);
- Add both fat and starch back in (5-10g);
- As a last resort, add some snacks.
What really works for me is this: I have my shake in the morning and set an alarm on my iPhone for 4 hours. I aim to not eat before the 4 hours are up. Sometimes I get hungry a bit sooner and try to tough it out. That’s fine too. I’ll talk in my next article how to get through really bad cravings, but for now assume you can last between meals.
In the evening, assess how it went throughout the day. You’ll know after a few days how your body responds and when things start to change. Maybe you don’t sleep as well or your mood becomes unstable.
This is the process that Jade recommends - try to follow it initially in order to see how your body responds. After a while, you will intuitively change it up as required. After each change, listen to your body and see if your SHMEC is in check. If it isn’t, move onto the next step!
- First, add some more protein to each meal. More protein powder in the morning, more chicken to your lunch salad, more meat at night;
- If you feel that your SHMEC is still out of balance, add some fibre to each meal: apple pectin with your shake, maybe some blueberries with your salad and increase the amount of vegetables with your dinner.
- If that doesn’t work, the next day add a tablespoon of MCT oil to your shake, some more olive oil on your salad, some butter to your dinner.
- If your SHMEC is still unstable, leave out the additional fat and add some starch instead. That means adding some sweeter fruit to your shake, a slice of rye bread or some beans with your salad and some extra rice (maybe 3 bites or 1/2 cup) for dinner.
- Still can’t get SHMEC balanced? Add fat back in;
- As a last resort, add some snacks into your day - a spoonful of peanut butter by itself or dip some veggies into it.
Keeping a little food diary works really well - not to obsessively note calories or macro ratios but to become aware of what works and what doesn't. For example, I found out that if I do Crossfit in the evening and not eat anything after because I don't feel that hungry, I can't control cravings the next day. I'll have a huge breakfast and eat continuously until dinner. If I eat something after the workout, even just a protein shake, I'm much better at controlling SHMEC the next day.
Eventually, you will find a way to balance your nutritional needs with your hormonal feedback. This approach works so well because you can quickly adapt it whenever your hormonal state changes. Periods, menopause, andropause, working out hard or little - you will learn to adjust your eating to suit your hormonal state.
In the next blog post, I’ll tell you to I deal with cravings. There are some great strategies and supplements that really help with the dreaded sugar cravings!
As always, please let me know what you think about the post below!