Congratulations! You are coming to the end of the most challenging time of the year for eating in a balanced healthy way. So now that we are all about to embark on our new year’s resolutions, what should we be thinking about when trying to reign in our carbohydrate consumption? As a health coach, I spend a lot of time with clients trying to help them navigate what they should be eating. I often hear from them, that they are eating a “healthy” diet, and yet their bodies are not responding in a way they would like. So, what actually works?
There is no magic formula nor a silver bullet or a one size fits all solution that works every time. It takes patience and some investigating to discover how to both change habits of what you are eating and to start seeing results in the mirror and on the scale.
First it is important to get real data. It is important to track everything you eat for one or two days to determine what your eating patterns are. You should answer these questions.
What is your total daily caloric intake?
How are those calories distributed between the macronutrients? (i.e., carbohydrates, proteins, and fats)
This information alone tells me a lot about what you are communicating to your body through the food you are eating. If your portion of calories from carbohydrates calories is too large, you are communicating to your body to store energy instead of burning it. In general, to burn stored fat, only 20 to 25% of your calories should be coming from carbohydrates. The distribution of the remainder of the calories should roughly be from 50% healthy fat and 25% from protein.
Be aware that you should be eating 25 grams of fiber. Fiber does not contribute to caloric intake even though it is still included in the total carbohydrate content. Fiber is critical to a healthy diet because even though it doesn’t feed you directly, it feeds the colonic bacteria that make important nutrients to keep you healthy. Fiber has additional benefits which we will discuss later. If eating fiber rich foods causes you intestinal bloating and painful gas, a stool profile will be able to help assess the imbalances that may be contributing to this intestinal distress.
In general, women should try to eat from 1200 to 1500 calories a day and men should target about 1800 to 2100 calories to lose weight. The total daily calories right for you will depend upon your activity level, among other things. Another reason weight loss can be tricky is eating too few calories. Some women are eating too little as well as a disproportionate amount of carbohydrates. If you are eating below 1000 calories a day that may not be enough to encourage your body to burn fat.
In addition to adjusting your portions of macronutrients, remember to drink a sufficient amount of water. Take your body weight in pounds and divide it in half. That is the number of ounces at a minimum that you should consume daily. For example, if you way 150 lbs, you should be drinking at least 75 ounces of water per day. Your body requires water to increase metabolism and eliminate the toxic waste your body produces from normal processes that maintain your life. If you want to shed excess weight, helping the body to flush out toxins is key. If the body lacks the resources to take out the trash, then the body will hold onto that trash until they are available.
When we reduce the amount of carbohydrates in our diet, our bodies retain less water and salts. When people eat a low inflammatory diet, the body will release the stored inflammation by flushing it out through the urine. Therefore, it is important that you increase the amount of water that you normally drink to compensate for the reduction of water retention from the dietary changes.
Another potential pitfall of trying to change macronutrient distribution, is not having low inflammatory foods readily available throughout the day. I encourage you to always have 3 or 4 snack options readily available. Cheese, nuts, cut up vegetables, hard boiled eggs, avocados, a low carb protein powder are just a few examples things that can help tide you over until the next meal. Also, plan out simple meals that you will not tire of if you have them several times a week. If you fail to plan, then you plan to fail!
In summary, flushing inflammation involves these key steps:
determine your total intake of calories and the macro nutrient distribution
reduce your carbohydrate portion to 20 to 25% of your total caloric intake making sure to include about 25 grams of fiber
have healthier snack choices readily available
make a meal plan ahead of time
drink enough water to help the body clear waste
Don’t expect these changes to go off without a hitch. There is a learning curve to determine what works for you. Keep trying even if you fall off the wagon. The true definition of failure is when you quit trying. Edison is famous for having remarked that he never failed when inventing the light bulb, he only found 1000 ways that won’t work. It also helps to have a supportive accountability buddy that will cheer you on when the going gets tough. Good luck and may low inflammatory ketosis be with you.