Diet Survivor Goes Paleo

A Lifestyle Not a Diet

Tag: hormones

Won’t I Be Starving? How to Balance Your Hormones


Are you plagued by stubborn fat? Low calories, low carb, low fat - nothing works? Are you convinced that your metabolism is broken?

Drs Jade, Keoni and Jill Teta as well as Dr. Jill Coleman address the reasons why weightloss becomes more difficult as we get older - it has nothing to do with willpower and all to do with our HORMONES!

I took more than 30 pages of notes at the Metabolic Effect Summit 2015 in Manchester. Find out why the inability to lose fat is NOT YOUR FAULT and what you can do about it!

Get your Notes here!

Eat Less Exercise Less? Won’t I be Starving?

PlantFusionSince 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:

VegaSport 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?Goat Whey Powder

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.

  1. Add some more protein, water or fibre;
  2. If that doesn’t work, add some fat like a tbsp of MCT oil;
  3. If that doesn’t work, leave the fat out and add some starch like some sweet fruit (3 bites or 1/2 cp);
  4. Add both fat and starch back in (5-10g);
  5. 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!

Why Can’t I Lose Weight?!? – 5 Laws of Metabolism (Part 1)


Are you plagued by stubborn fat? Low calories, low carb, low fat – nothing works? Are you convinced that your metabolism is broken?

Drs Jade, Keoni and Jill Teta as well as Dr. Jill Coleman address the reasons why weightloss becomes more difficult as we get older – it has nothing to do with willpower and all to do with our HORMONES!

I took more than 30 pages of notes at the Metabolic Effect Summit 2015 in Manchester. Find out why the inability to lose fat is NOT YOUR FAULT and what you can do about it!

Get Your Notes Here!

#1 - Metabolic Compensation

You know this feeling? You're doing EVERYTHING right and the weight just won't come off? And when it does, it usually comes back really quickly?

Chances are you're working against your metabolism without even knowing it. This has nothing to do with willpower and all to do with hormones and your body's finely honed survival mechanism.

Source: Wikipedia

You can't fight against your body. Your ancestors have survived through millenia of food shortages and ice ages, through being preyed upon by predators far stronger than them. They've passed these awesome genes onto you and you should be proud of being the end result of generations of survivors.

This is the first of a series of articles explaining how our metabolisms actually perceive dieting and exercising and how we can work with our bodies to lose excess body fat.

This first article deals with the idea of Metabolic Compensation and hopefully it will cause your jaw to drop as much as it did mine when I first learned about this!

So how do the so-called diet experts advise us to lose weight?


Really Stupid Idea Nr. 1 – Our Body is an ATM

Abdominal Fat

Source: Wikipedia

So many people still believe that our bodies work like a bank: you put calories into our fat stores like a bank account, and then you take them out through sport like a withdrawal on the ATM.

Does this thought construct work? What do you think? How many diets have you done, just to have the weight come back? In fact, less than 5% of all dieters are successful in the long run.

To quote from a recent study:

”Data from the scientific community indicate that a 15-wk diet or diet plus exercise program produces a weight loss of about 11 kg with a 60-80% maintenance after 1 yr. Although long-term follow-up data are meager, the data that do exist suggest almost complete relapse after 3-5 yr.”

Obviously, calories in - calories out does not work.


Less Stupid Idea Nr. 2 - our Body is a Chemistry Set

Skinny fat

Source: Wikipedia

Another idea is that our body works like a chemistry set. You keep certain hormones low and weight drops off. Insulin is the main culprit in this theory.

Not entirely incorrect, but it disregards the fact that insulin is absolutely necessary in the body to build muscle. As an anabolic (tissue-building) hormone, insulin builds up all tissues, not just fat cells. So keeping insulin low at all times makes you lose fat but also muscle.

Ever seen people who are thin but flabby? That's skinny-fat - high body fat percentage and no musculature.


Probably the Correct Idea Nr. 3 - our Metabolism is a Thermostat

Think about it: how does a thermostat work? It’s set to a target ambient temperature and adjusts all the time depending on external input. If the room temperature drops, the thermostat will turn the heat up and vice versa.

Our bodies work the some way. If you drop calorie input and increase calorie output, we will lose weight for a while. Then our metabolism starts to adjust and compensate. Suddenly we hit a plateau and stop losing weight.

The only way to continue now is to drop calories further or exercise harder. Obviously, this is unsustainable over the long run.


Danger, Danger!

belly-2473_1280Exercising hard. Reducing calories. Stressing over our weight. Acquiring a nutrient sufficiency because our food intake isn’t enough. All this causes stress on our body.

The result of stress? Our bodies holds onto fat stores for the bad times. This in an animal response - our body doesn’t know that we’ll eat again eventually. Right now, we are starving. Often literally. And our metabolism makes damn sure we will survive!

So what happens?

  • Leptin is the hormone sending signals to the brain that we’re full, stop eating. Leptin drops so we’re always hungry.
  • Cortisol is released under stress and makes us craving food.
  • Ghrelin goes up when calories go down. It is termed the 'hunger hormone' because it stimulates appetite, increases food intake and promotes fat storage.
  • A very low carb and low calorie diet over time will suppress thyroid function. Our thyroid is super important for keeping our metabolism raving high and burning fat.


What Does This Mean For Dieters?

What all this means is that our body compensates for lower calorie intake and higher exercise levels within 4 - 10 days generally.

This accounts on average for a calorie requirement of 300 kcal less per day. Where before you could lose weight at 1500 kcal per day, now you need to drop to 1200 kcal per day, or burn 300 kcal extra per day working out. And after another few weeks, you’ll have to eat 900 kcal per days in order to lose weight.

And when you start eating normally again? The pounds start piling on like crazy because your metabolism stays at the suppressed level for up to a year. This effect is called Adaptive Thermogenesis. A study titled “Long-term persistence of adaptive thermogenesis in subjects who have maintained a reduced body weight” shows this effect clearly.


Is There a Way Out?

this is how you lose weight

It’s not all doom and gloom. Many of us have extensive dieting experience (hence the title of my blog) and I’m sure you’ve noticed that what worked in our 20s, does no longer work in our 40s. That’s simply the result of a slowed down metabolism that is sick and tired of constant stressful dieting.

What we need now is a really clever strategy that works with our bodies, not against them.

In the next few weeks I’ll go into details as to how we can achieve this and get rid of even stubborn body fat.

For now, we need to get away from the concept of Eat Less Exercise More. It hasn’t worked before and it sure as heck won’t work now!

It boils down to a very simple concept:

If you burn less calories, eat less calories. If you work out hard, you need to eat more.

There is obviously more to it, but this is the gist. My next blog post will dive into Metabolic Multitasking. If you thought you can lose fat at the same time as building muscle, think again! :)

Please let me know what you thought about this article below.

If you’d like to dive deeper, check out Jade Teta’s article “The Law of Metabolic Compensation” .

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