A finite resource. Bane of all dieters. Breaker of the best formulated plan. One stressful day at work or one sleepless night with a sick kid and BOOM that sh*t is gone and you’re eating donuts like its your full time job. Next thing you know you’re feeling ashamed and beating yourself up thinking about how you have no willpower. If only you did you could stick to your diet and lose weight. But willpower doesn’t work against hormones or neurotransmitters or even neural pathways. Here is the deal-our bodies use all of these plus more to drive the process of obtaining, using and storing energy.
Let’s look at hormones. Have you ever willed your hormones to do anything? Of course not because it is impossible. If you could do that no woman in the world would be having a period or suffering a hot flash. Hormones are super important for signaling to our brain when we have enough energy or when we need more. Unfortunately, we have multiple factors that interfere with this process which leads to weight gain. Take insulin for example. Insulin is necessary for life and you likely know it as the hormone that regulates blood sugar. Insulin is also known as our fat storage hormone and when levels are high, our brain does not receive the right signal that our energy storage is adequate. High levels, in part driven by a diet rich in sugar and flour, will keep us gaining weight. And guess what? The more weight you gain, the higher your insulin level will be and the hungrier you get. More on hunger later but for now realize that willpower holds no power against the forces of nature. Do you know what works better than willpower? Driving down hunger and over desire. Without desire and excessive hunger, food becomes what it is, simply fuel. Willpower is no longer needed. So start the process of working with your hormones instead of fighting against them.
How, you might ask? Try these three simple strategies:
1. Stop eating outside of meal times. That’s right, three meals a day but no snacking.
2. Drop flour and sugar from your diet. This may seem impossible, it does to all of us. But, I’ve learned that the longer you go without flour or sugar, the easier it gets. It’s also not forever but you have to do this if you want your insulin levels to drop to a level that allows your brain to recognize your stored energy i.e. fat, is plentiful. At this point your body can then use your fat as fuel.
3. Eat more healthy fat (at meal times of course). Fat allows you to satisfy hunger, keeps your appetite low and doesn’t raise your insulin levels as much as carbohydrates (flour and sugar) and protein do.
Give this a try for 1-2 weeks and you will be amazed at the change in your hunger levels and how willpower won’t seem as important. Now I will give a word of warning. If you are eating lots of sugar and flour, your body will rebel when you take these substances away. There will be about 5 days where you feel as if you are in one of Dante’s circles of hell. Headaches, irritability, anxiousness, fatigue and muscle aches. Its all part of the process and does end. When you come out the other side you might even feel amazing! As always, this advice is my own opinion and should not be taken as medical advice. If you are taking medication or have health issues, please check with your own physician before starting any new nutrition plan.