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I'm a Fat Burner!

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Wow, after being stuck for so long, I feel like I finally got this plateau thing figured out. All it took was one simple change: I cut back on my grain/cereal/starch consumption.

For too long, I was trying to follow the dietary guidelines saying you need a starch or grain with every meal. Little did I know this was derailing my goals. I now believe that grains/cereal/starches should be enjoyed in moderation, but are not essential in the quantities the USDA food pyramid specifies.

I was following the guidelines and was getting nowhere. My weight held stable. I tried more exercise, but on days when I did more exercise, I ate more food, but calorie total should have still been a deficit. I was trying to keep my deficits at an average of -300 per day. If I exercised more, I ate more, but still roughly -300 than I burned. But I kept my macronutrient ratios the same because I thought that was important. Whether I ate 1200 calories or 1800, I tried very hard to keep my macronutrients at 50% carbs/30% fats/20% protein.

This was my problem. Too many grain carbs. Too little protein.

I had been doing this for years, and was standing still. It was obvious to me that whatever I was doing, it was keeping me in stasis. I was never going to get anywhere if I didn't figure this out.

Well, I figured 2+ years of doing it the ADA way was giving it enough time. There is something more. More exercise wasn't changing things (because I was holding my macronutrient ratios the same). I'm a small person, so the only way I can restrict my calories further was to go below 1200 calories. It is so hard to get my vitamin requirements as is, being a petite person, this isn't a good idea. The only thing left to do is to shift my ratios.

I started digging. I dug up my old copy of "Enter The Zone" and brushed up on insulin response, how it affects fat storage and loss. I was convinced this was my problem. I was eating enough carbohydrates that my body never needed to dip into my fat stores.

While I am not currently diabetic, I pretty sure that my insulin receptors are damaged to some degree because I am not able to lose weight on a calorie restricted diet alone anymore.

As much as I love "Enter the Zone", it is several years old (where is the revised and updated edition, Barry?). I decided to check up on a few new books. "The Paleo Diet" and "Protein Power" (2009 revised edition) were on my list.

"The Paleo Diet" first suggested the idea of eliminating grains and starches, which I balked at. It also suggested eliminating dairy. I do not drink milk, but I eat yogurt and cheese. The premise is that our paleo ancestors did not eat these things, and our bodies are not designed to process them. These were concepts I was not ready to digest (no pun intended!).

Then I read "Protein Power", and I changed my mind. The authors gave very detailed explanation for the metabolic process for insulin/glucagon that comes from every first year medical school textbooks. It seemed to answer what was going on with me perfectly. My carbohydrate intake is exactly the level to maintain my current bodyfat. My body will not let go of my bodyfat because it has no need to. No amount of exercise will change that, as long as I hold my ratios the same.

If I was maintaining bodyfat at 140g carbs, then I figured I should see a response if I cut back to 70g carbs. This is higher than the recommended levels in "Protein Power". I figured the recommendation for 30 and 55g carbs were designed for severely obese patients, and those with who were very badly insulin resistant. I was neither of those.

I only cut back on my grain/cereal/starches. I also increased my protein consumption. Before I was eating about 50-60g protein per day. I increased this to 100g per day. I did not eliminate dairy - I still eat yogurt and cheese. I'm neolithic, not paleolithic.

Cutting back my grain/cereal/starches were pretty easy changes to make. All I did was stopped adding cereal to my morning yogurt and blueberry breakfast. Skipped the bread at lunch. Replaced the potatoes at dinner with more veggies.

I had the benefit of years of good habits eating fruits and vegetables, so this was not a radical change. The mistake people make with low carb diets is eating all meat/fat, and adding little vegetables and fruit. I distress whenever I read the message boards and people say, "I hate vegetables and fruit. How can I lose weight?"

We are omnivores, and we are meant to eat protein and vegetable matter. We have sharp canines and incisor teeth for tearing meat, and flat molars for grinding vegetables. Fruits are biologically adapted to entice us to eat them.

I increased my protein very simply by making sure I ate a protein with every meal, which I was not doing before. Protein doesn't have to mean meat, but we have to eat some kind of protein every day.

Well, cutting back on grains/starches and raising protein was the right combination I needed.

In 4 weeks since I've been doing this, here are my stats:

Weight Change: -4lbs (about 1lb per week)
Body Fat: -1.86% (~3.5 lbs fat)
Lean Mass: +0.5lb (!!! I have actually gained muscle!)
Waist: -1 inch
Hips: 0 inches (Sigh. My booty is stubborn.)
Thigh: -0.5 inch (Yay - at least my thighs are shrinking, if my butt is not)
Calf: 0 inch
Arms: -0.5 inch (Michelle Obama arms - here I come!)

I'm a fat burner! My weight change is burned fat, gained muscle, and a little water loss! My body composition is changing in the way I want! I have also managed to do the all important thing to preserve muscle, and even added a little to it!


If 1.86% bodyfat loss doesn't sound like a lot, look at what the net effect is. I've lost a total of 3 inches off my waist, thighs and arms!

Also, if you're wondering about my heart health. I don't know my lipid status, but my resting heart rate has dropped from 76bpm to 60bpm. I'm feeling confident that I'm clearing out inflammation.

So now that I've been doing this about 4 weeks (even while on vacation!) I am very slowly adding small amounts of my favorite grains. I have decided to eat them in moderation. I am not going to try to eat a grain/starch with every meal like I did before (that was a disaster for me). I am reserving my grain/starch portion for my evening meal, or once per day. Instead of being a "meat and potatoes" girl, I am changing over to a "meat and vegetables" girl.

With the higher protein, I am almost never hungry. It has curbed my appetite like a dream. I used to obsess about my next meal. "When is lunch? What am I going to eat? Is it lunch time yet?" Now I'm like, "Oh, is it time for lunch already?".

My diet is mostly Zone ratios, so it is moderate carb, in between the ADA recommendations and a low carb. I eat a protein with a vegetable serving with every meal. Starch/grain only once per day, and a very small serving.

I have not had any problems meeting my vitamin/minerals, though I did have a slight potassium drop. While The Zone says bananas should be avoided, I think the potassium is too important. I noticed if I eat the banana by itself, a short while later I am ravenously hungry and start obsessing about food. I now eat half a banana with a piece of cheese for a snack, and this doesn't happen. Protein + veg/fruit = win.

Here is an example of my evening dinner. This is an authentic Korean dinner, with authentic Korean proportions. 4oz Korean kalbi, 4 slices of romaine lettuce, Korean sesame cucumber salad, kimchee, and 1/4 cup rice. Here's how Koreans eat it. Slice the meat into bite sized strips. Take a lettuce leaf and put the rice and meat in it. Put a little hot sauce or a slice of kimchee in it, if you want. Roll into a wrap and enjoy!

4 weeks ago, my rice serving might have been twice that size. After dinner, I felt satisfied, but not overstuffed. The protein from the meat, and fiber from the vegetables blunted the glycemic load of the rice, so I never had an insulin spike. (It's amazing how I can recognize when my insulin surges now). I wasn't hungry at all after dinner and went to bed without a snack.

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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    Wow! I can SO relate to so many points you make! Grains/cereals/starches are definitely my weak spot...they wake up my sleeping carbie tiger BIGTIME! I also avoid milk but yogurt and cheese are regular staples for me.

    In the past I definitely have been there, done that re: "low carb diets...eating all meat/fat" and can attest that this definitely DOES NOT WORK! At least for me. It's a common mistake folks make when they shift into these food choices.

    Picking up on the veggies has been the mainstay of my food choices. Lately I add some fruit here & there...apples mostly.

    3555 days ago
    FREDDYB29: I love caesar salad! Would love to hear your recipe, if you'd like to share sometime!
    3556 days ago
    I was wondering, I see you got romaine lettuce there. You ever try a Cesare salad? I got a nice recipe for one. I don't think its too fatty. Its really good though!
    3556 days ago
    BTVMADS: If you're thinking about it, I would strongly suggest getting the book "Protein Power" by Michael and Mary Eades. The reason is because it really is quite a different way of thinking about it than we are used to, and you should know the whys and hows. They do an excellent job of explaining a very complex process in an easy to understand way - promise!

    Basically, you have to shift your body from a sugar burner from carbohydrates to a fat burner. Your body can use either types of fuel (Mike describes it as shifting a car from regular to diesel with a converter). But the reason why I strongly recommend getting the book before trying at home is because they make a case you shouldn't try to limit fats in the way we have normally been conditioned with the standard American diet. If you shift to fat burner, then you have to consume fats for fuel, is the gist. You also have to consume the right amount of protein. If you eat enough protein, then your body will not consume your muscle when burning fat.

    They also explain ketosis, and why ketosis isn't bad (unless you are a type I diabetic). (Ketosis is basically when you are burning fat for fuel.) "Protein Power" is a bit different than Atkins. Atkins puts you in ketosis, and makes you stay there. Eades PP method put you just on the edge of ketosis most of the time. After a meal, you will burn carbohydrate glucose until your body uses it all (glucose is always used first). When no more glucose is available, your body switches to ketones (from burning fat). We are all in a state of ketosis when we go to sleep. We burn fat when we sleep because there is generally no food available to be burned. This is why we "break fast". PP tries to make you burn fat more often, even when at rest.

    It does work!
    3556 days ago

    Comment edited on: 6/2/2011 9:50:20 PM
    I've been thinking about this more and more lately. I would LOOOOOOOOOOOVE to lose body fat by cutting carbs -- I feel so flabby, and I've been feeling like total isht lately. Running's been getting HARDER as time's gone on, and I think that has a lot to do with the fact that I've been eating more bread. Even my baker husband is saying we need to eat less of it.

    So how did you figure out these numbers? I'm not willing to do paleo (I love dairy products), but I am willing to try cutting carbs again.

    And anyone who says you can never have a banana again is silly. Banana+ Peanut Butter = Magic Snack. Eat up and be full!
    3556 days ago
    SEDGEY: Sounds delicious!! Asparagus is one of my favorite vegetables!! Don't forget the healthy fats! (Pretty much any non transfat - even butter!)
    3556 days ago

    Comment edited on: 6/2/2011 9:01:05 PM
  • no profile photo CD8937156
    I'm following your excellent example. My dinner is 3 oz beef tenderloin, about 4 oz of chanterelles and a pound of asparagus. :)
    3556 days ago
    LadyRose: I love the Eades! I have been reading through their blog ravenously. I may be late to the party, but the content is wonderful! Wish they would post more often!

    ARCHIMEDESII: Cutting down the portion size of bread and pastas does seem to be the key! Course, as a spinning instructor, you probably need all those energy bits more than most of us! Best wishes on your doctor appointment, and do let us know how it comes out!
    3556 days ago
    FITGIRL15: A bodybuilder diet, really?? Wow! I guess I should lift more to take advantage!!
    3556 days ago
    The USDA food pyramid is a very GENERAL guide for the AVERAGE person (American, I guess, LOL) it has not taken into account your age, height, gender, current weight... NOTHING!

    The Canadian Food Guide is just as ridiculous! If we all ate like that we'd still probably look just like we do now!!! Terrible!!! Every person has a unique situation, and lifestyle therefore has quite drastically different dietary needs to meet their goals.

    That being said, everyone's GOALs are different too. So, yeah... let's just say, I disagree with pretty much every standard eating pyramid ever created! LOL

    Sounds like you are eating like a body builder :)
    3556 days ago
  • MZLADY77
    3556 days ago

    Awesome !!

    Yum ! Your Korean dinner looks marvelous. As for the kimchee. I'll admit it. I'm a whimp. I tried it once and I swear... it burned my tongue ! LOL !!!

    I've found my body does seem to thrive on veggies. Not that I'm planning on giving up my fresh baked bread and pasta any time soon. What I have done is reduced the portion size so that I am including more and more veggies along with my pasta or rice.

    Actually, give me a few more days and I'll be posting a blog on the results from my physical. I'm curious to see how my blood work compares to three years ago. Okay, I admit it. I've been hiding from my doctor ! LOL !!!!

    3556 days ago
    Whoohooo!!! Isn't it amazing?! And aren't the Eades' awesome?! - they explain things in a very straight forward way, but are also very involved in the medical end of things - really helped me wrap my brain around /what/ food does to my body...

    I'm with you, too, still have the occasional grains - sometimes it's daily (like now on vacation. ;) and sometimes it's once a week. I don't see it as super duper evil, but I also know it's not the super food that the media/ADA wants us to believe.

    Way to go on the progress!!! WHOO HOOOO!!!
    3556 days ago
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