Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Burn Belly Fat the Easy Way

Or...Jeans That Can Change the World

Recently my mind was occupied with some of the really big things happening in the world lately:  earthquakes, tsunamis, nuclear meltdowns, genocide, civil wars, political protests and uprisings, and election year.  While distracted with these thoughts and getting dressed one morning, I discovered to my horror that my pants would not snap up.

My belly had gotten too big for my favorite jeans!

Now, I realize that my fattened belly hardly qualifies as an event of huge importance in the scheme of world events.  But as a harbinger of even “bigger” things to come, it takes center stage in my little world.   Because if my pants won’t zip up today, then what could tomorrow bring, or next week, or next month....?

After all, if I can remove stress from my daily life, no matter how small, then I'm freed up to use my energy in more beneficial ways and contribute to solutions in feeling, thought, and spirit -- in my neighborhood, city, state, country -- and even the world.

At least, that’s the way I see things. 

So without the panic of a three-minute tsunami warning, I calmly and resolutely resolved to begin diet proceedings.  While attempting to ignore the fact that diets don’t work – we all know that.   


I’ve got a few tricks up my sleeve, knowing what I do about the way food works and what can be done with it.  So I’m sharing one of my favorite tips with you, in case you’ve found yourself with either a bit (or a lot) extra that needs your own private world’s attention.   

It’s called carb cycling. 

Many of you are no doubt familiar with this approach.  It’s simply eating less on some days, after you’ve already eaten more on other days.

Body builders are totally dialed into carb cycling, and have been for sometime.  Because they want to lose fat (not “weight”) while they build muscle.  And that’s what I want too.

Here’s why it works. When you suddenly start eating less day after day, your body quickly catches on, and suddenly flips into famine mode and slows down metabolism in an effort to reserve more of the body’s resources (fat) while less food is coming in.  So you might lose a bit of weight at first, until your metabolism slows down, but then you have to eat even LESS to lose more weight.  Ever experienced this? 

But when you start eating more, your body being the very clever and adaptive organism it is, suddenly flips into feasting mode.  And your metabolism speeds up to deal with the influx of food.  This feast and famine adaptive response is hardwired in our bodies, thanks to our ancestors who feasted and then starved (depending on how the hunting and gathering were going.)  Science has known of this for many decades now. 

Since most of us live in a land of plenty, we’ve gotten into the bad habit of feasting all the time.  With carb cycling – eating more some days, and less on other days – the body is put into fat-burning mode and then when less food follows that when metabolism is higher, the weight just drops off.

Sound easy?  Well, it is.  The very best part is you only have to go a day or two with any food restrictions. And you only need to focus on the amount of carbs being eaten.

So a quick review of “carbs” here.  Carbohydrates (one of my favorite macro-nutrients) are in almost everything (except fat) -- even vegetables and meat.  But the foods with the highest amounts of carbs are grains, starches, and sugar.  So that's what we’ll focus on here for the purposes of this fat-burning diet, that’s not really a diet.   

The beauty of carb cycling are the many benefits (in my world I like lots of benefits) that can be reaped by eating this way.  You’ll be especially happy to know that very little suffering is involved.  
  • Blood sugar will be stable, automatically, without the huge ups and downs of carbs, starches, and sugars getting digested to sugars).  This is the biggest key to any kind of weight loss, by the way.  It’s the “real” magic secret to fat loss, but I”ll talk about that more in another post.  
  • Plenty of protein is included.  Protein is essential for all the hormones, enzymes, and well, just about everything else too.  Most of us don’t eat enough of it.
  • Essential fats for the brain, inflammation, and many other functions are also included.  And with enough fat (especially good fats/oils), you won’t feel hungry.  
  • A lot of vegetables.  These action-packed foods will get busy right away supplying you with valuable nutrients while losing the fat. What could be better?
This is the approach I recently used for 7 days (starting with Monday), but different patterns may work better for you, especially if you're an athlete (see "Note to Athletes" below).
Day 1:  no carbs
Day 2:  no carbs
Day 3:  low carbs
Day 4:  high carbs
Day 5:  no carbs
Day 6:  low carbs
Day 7:  high carbs

Here’s the thing. You don't need to use this guide, you can try different numbers of days on no, low, and high carbs. Maybe you could go every other day, no carbs then high carbs. Carb cycling can also be done meal-to meal.  For example, eat no carbs for one or two meals of one day, then low or high carbs the other meal.

Find what pattern works for you.  I kind of like three no-carb days in a row, then vary the remaining days of the week with low to high.  However, it's good to always follow a high carb day with a no carb day for best results.

A no-carb day. 
No sugar, grains, or starches.   The basic formula for eating no carbs is:
protein (chicken, turkey, fish, eggs, yoghurt, cheeses)
vegetables (any kind, except corn)

What works for me here is basically a big bowl of vegetable soup (mostly vegetables with a little broth), a good portion of meat or other protein, and a small handful of nuts. And a piece of low-sugar fruit once or twice a day, such as berries, an apple, or an orange.  A snack would be a nut butter or cheese with celery or apple.

Eating no carbs isn't as restrictive as it seems.  For example, breakfast could be Almond Coconut Pancakes or Flax Meal Pancakes with a handful of berries and a dollup of plain yogurt. Lovely!

A low-carb day.  
To the above basic strategy of protein and vegetables, add a serving of grains or starches to most meals and snacks, for example:

corn chips (about 10)
sweet potato (1/2)
brown rice, quinoa, oats, other grains (1/4 cup)
beans (1/2 cup)
whole-grain bread (1/2 slice)  (Ezekial Bread is great here)
rice crackers (about 10)
strawberries (about 1/2 cup) or other sweeter fruits

A high-carb day.  
On this day, you can add in more of the low-carb foods and even have some "problem foods" judiciously (e.g., bananas, white bread, white rice, white potatoes, corn, and gluten-free bread).  Why are these foods a problem?  Because they all have a high glycemic index which means they digest to sugar very quickly in the body (causing a whole cascade of problems down the line, only one of which is more body fat).

High carbs doesn't really mean "unlimited" carbs though -- otherwise not much body fat will be lost, I wouldn't think.  Not unless you know some secret I don't yet know, and if so, please share!

A word on gluten-free breads.  Remember, just because something is "gluten free" doesn't mean it's a good thing.  Most store-bought GF breads (and bread products like waffles) with no gluten are incredibly HIGH in starches (usually tapioca starch and potato starch).  In fact, these starches can be the main ingredients!  One slice of GF bread have many more carbs than a regular slice of whole grain bread and the same in carbs as two slices of Ezekial bread (sprouted grains).  So, reading labels is good here.  If it's homemade, then different grains can be used (e.g., sorghum), more fiber, more fat, and more protein -- all which lowers the glycemic index.

Note on Exercise:  If you’re not walking 30 minutes a day, as a minimum level of exercise, then this is probably a good time to start.  More is better.

Note for athletes:  If you're an athlete wanting to lose some body fat, and you do intensive workouts at least 3-4 days per week, then this program will work well-- just do your high carb days on your workout days. 

Note for chronic illnesses:  If you have severe fatigue, or any chronic illness (for example, an autoimmune disorder), then please ask me or another health practitioner first before changing your eating.  I will say, however, that as long as you don’t let yourself get hungry at all, the amount of nutrition in this program is very good (especially the low-carb days).  In fact, the amount of protein and vegetables will probably be really good for your condition.  

What happened to my ill-fitting jeans? 
If you’d like to know what I ate (and didn’t eat) to return my little piece of the world to homeostasis, stay tuned for Part II of “Jeans That Can Change the World”.   I will say that after 10 days my jeans fit just fine, and I could continue musing with frustration and scrathcing my head about the state of world affairs.

Do you have a favorite way to lose some belly fat? If so, please leave a comment, I'd love to hear about it.

Adele Sonora
Nutrition and Health Educator 


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