Learning these 5 important facts about food and your body will have a huge impact on how and what you eat!
I’ve always considered myself a somewhat healthy person. I like being active and exercising. I try to eat healthy. However, when I still had those extra 10 lbs. a year and a half post-partum, I began to think that maybe I’m not as healthy as I thought.
Last summer when my twins were about 18 months, I finally had some energy to up my game as far as exercise went and deal with the leftover baby bump and resulting muffin top. I didn’t join a gym, but we were hard-core walking every day, and pushing around an extra 45 lbs. in that stroller definitely increased my work-out. I really thought this was going to be it, when I finally got back to being my old self.
Summer came and went, and I ended up in the exact same place as when I started. Zero weight loss. To say that I was discouraged and disappointed is an understatement. I was so frustrated.
It was a few months later when I read up on ‘clean eating,’ and I began to make some changes in my so-called “healthy eating.” Soon after, as the weight started coming off, I began to connect the dots: it wasn’t that I hadn’t been exercising enough, and it wasn’t that I had been eating too much. I was just eating wrong. As I began to do some research about what it means to be a healthy eater, it totally changed my life – not just my weight but my sleep, my energy and my body composition.
If you’re unsure about what clean eating is, Fitness Magazine describes it as:
“eating whole foods, or ‘real’ foods — those that are un- or minimally processed, refined, and handled, making them as close to their natural form as possible.“
That made sense to me, but I really wanted to understand what was going on in my body when I ate healthy and when I ate crappy. I’m not a scientist or a nutritionist, but from my reading and my own experience, these few realities about food and my body were total game-changers for me that have transformed the way I eat ever since.
- Your body can’t process artificial materials in food; instead, it will store it as fat.
I was eating my fruit and vegetables, but I was also eating a whole lot of processed food, a lot of which was disguised as “healthy.” But any food that has additives, preservatives and artificial ingredients was doing my body a ton of harm. According to Jonathan Wright and Linda Larsen, authors of Eating Clean for Dummies, our bodies are not made to process these kinds of fake substances. Instead of using them to repair your cells or give you energy, your body will store them as fat because it doesn’t know what to do with them.
Your body stores them as fat.
Holy smoke! Just about everything I was eating had some kind of additive, preservative or artificial ingredient! No wonder my attempts at weight loss were thwarted! I was basically dumping unusable material disguised as food into my body, and my body was converting it to fat.
So, those low fat graham crackers? Pretzels? Weight Watchers Cupcakes? Yup. Just about anything in a box or in a wrapper was not my friend. They had to go.
2. The food you eat is more important to your body composition than working out.
When I first was exposed to that idea, I was shocked. I had no idea that the kinds of food I was eating contributed to what my body looked like more than my exercising did. I thought that as long as I was exercising, I could get away with eating whatever I wanted. And, I pretty much thought that all exact weights are equal – that when I got down to my pre-pregnancy weight, I would look exactly like I did before. 130 lbs. is 130 lbs.
Before I was pregnant, I was eating my old version of “healthy”eating. I was working out, going to the gym, grooving at Zumba class, and doing strength-training. So when I started to eat clean and cut out sugar and other unhealthy foods post-partum, I noticed something interesting: as I was hitting those target weight loss goals, I looked better than I had when I was those weights before I was pregnant.
There was more muscle definition in my quads and arms, more muscle tone – and get this – less cellulite. I kid you not – the cellulite on my legs decreased, and I can tell you that I was not working out more. In fact, I was exercising less. Even the leftover baby bump began to decrease. I didn’t do anything magical; I just changed my diet.
I wanted to confirm what I was experiencing and seeing, and I came across this: 80% of your body composition is determined by what you eat; 20% or less is determined by exercise. (This article by Alexandria Gomez does a good job of explaining why.)
But did you get that?
Eighty percent of how you look comes from the food you eat. 80%!!!!
What you eat largely determines your body composition and what your body looks like;
it doesn’t just determine your weight.
Talk about a motivator to stay away from the bad stuff! Buh-bye, sugar, white flour and other nasty food imitations.
3. Your body actually needs to fast from eating food for a period of time.
OK, so I wouldn’t say I totally freak out when I start to get hungry, but I have to admit that I feel a teeny bit of panic inside. I guess it’s that survival instinct screaming, “Oh no! You’re hungry! You better eat something now so you don’t die!”
However, I learned that it is actually good for you to let your body feel a little hungry and “fast” for a period of time, particularly in the overnight hours. Hear me clearly – I am not advocating starving yourself to lose weight. But that tummy growl you feel later in the evening after you had dinner? That’s OK. You don’t have to feed it. It’s actually OK – and even good for you – to let yourself be hungry for a period of time.
When we don’t eat after dinner – or really, “fasting” is what we are doing – we give our bodies a rest, a chance to reboot our metabolism so we can actually use fat for fuel more effectively. Consider it a gentle reset.
According to Dr. Joseph Mercola, most of us are in ‘feast mode’ because we never allow ourselves to go without food for any period of time. As a result, our bodies have gotten used to burning sugar as fuel instead of fat. Overnight fasting causes our bodies to switch gears, going from burning sugar to burning fat.
After fasting for 12 hours, our bodies then kick into fat-burning mode as opposed to burning sugar, reports Evann Gastaldo. So that ‘No eating after dinner’ rule? It’s a good thing.
Really, it is totally OK to let yourself be a little hungry after dinner. Just imagine those hunger pains are chomping away on all that extra stored fat.
You’ll feel better in the morning. I promise.
4. Your body and mind will feel better when you eat better.
I found it amazing that not only does your body feel better when you eat well, but your mind and emotions do also.
This point might not be directly related to weight loss, but there is a connection. I’ve got 2 very adorable, very busy little twin boys at home that I spend a good part of my day chasing around the house. I’m not a young, bouncy, twenty-something-year-old mom, and let me tell you, those little guys, God love ’em, know how to Wear. Me. Out. I seriously need a truckload of energy dumped on my doorstep to keep up with them.
After I made some switches to my diet, I noticed that I was a lot better at keeping pace with them through the day. And, I wasn’t passing out on the couch at 8pm after they went to bed. And, (this is my favorite ‘and‘), I was sleeping so much better! I used to toss and turn all night long, but once I began to change my eating habits, my sleep was phenomenal. I was out like a light from the time my head hit the pillow until I heard cute little voices chatting back and forth in the baby monitor at 6:30 am.
So how does that translate to weight loss? A lot of times, I would eat because I was tired or stressed. Eating better made me feel better in terms of mood, attitude, and energy; eating better allowed me to be well-rested. All of that had a big impact on my ability to make good food choices through the day and not being ruled by emotional eating.
But there’s a scientific side to this, too, as far as sleep goes. When you aren’t getting enough sleep, your body goes into “metabolic grogginess” – your body can’t use insulin effectively. When your insulin is doing its job, fat cells pull the lipids and fatty acids out of your bloodstream, and they keep them from being stored as fat. When insulin isn’t working properly, fats stay in your blood; more insulin is pumped out to deal with these fats, and your insulin ends up storing the fat in all the places you don’t want it to.
So, eating healthier helps you sleep better which helps your body deal with fat better. And sleep helps you deal with your eating habits…better. It’s a brilliant cycle.
Moral of the story? Get more sleep, and eating healthy can help you do that.
(If you’re not motivated yet, check out the entire article to see all the other connections between sleep and weight loss. I’m a huge fan of sleep, so I loved everything about it!)
5. Eating fat will not make you fat; your body actually needs it.
The idea that eating fat will make you fat is just a hangover from the low-fat fads of the 80’s and 90’s. I can clearly remember my girlfriends and I in the cafeteria at college going up for our third bowl of cereal after dinner. We thought we were totally OK because the cereal was ‘low-fat.’
It’s not surprising that we associate the idea of eating fat with being fat. But it’s all about the kinds of fats we are eating. Saturated fats? Yes, that will not be your friend in weight loss. But our body needs healthy unsaturated fats to function properly, which does help with weight loss. Those healthy fats give you a full feeling, preventing you from bingeing after your meal. Dr. Mark Hyman informs not only do fats give you energy, but eating fats actually turns off the places in your brain that control hunger and craving! Hey – sold!
It’s true – eating too many fats is no good (they should account for only 25-30% of our daily calories), but as long as they are the healthy fats found in foods like nuts, avocados, eggs, and seeds, we’re good. Those low-fat posers just load us up with more sugar which will most definitely work against your weight loss goals.
I’m not gonna lie – I still cringe when I look at a label and see something that has high fat content, even if it’s healthy. I automatically think that this is going to be bad for me. But I know that’s not the truth.
As I slowly allowed fats into my diet, I definitely felt a difference – more full-feeling and more energy, less snacking and less bingeing. All of that together equaled weight loss.
My Actual Results of Eating Clean
So here I am, a year later from that fateful summer. Well, by January of this year (2017), I had lost those last 10 lbs. and was down to my pre-pregnancy weight. However, I had been on fertility meds prior to getting pregnant, which caused me to gain about 15 lbs. before I got pregnant. That being the case, I was above my normal weight when I got pregnant.
The good news is that since I’ve changed my eating, I’ve lost 10 of those pre-pregnancy pounds as well, down a total of 20 since last summer. Just 5 more to go.
All my life I’ve been weight-conscious, and the times when I’ve gained a few pounds here or there, it was always a struggle to lose them – working out like crazy, counting calories, counting points – and nothing really seemed to click with me. I could always make crappy food fit into a certain number of points or calories that I was allowed to have.
It wasn’t until I started changing what I was putting into my body did I begin to notice real improvements. And it’s not a diet or fad or something to do temporarily to lose weight. It really has transformed how I eat for the long-term.
So many women struggle with losing weight, bouncing up and down the scale, and it doesn’t have to be that complicated. Just eat good, healthy, real food. I know the struggle is real with temptation and self-control, and eating clean doesn’t mean you can’t ever have a treat. But when it comes to the day-to-day intake, just stick to real food.
There are so many benefits beyond weight loss. When you change the food you eat, not only will your body look amazing but you’ll feel amazing. Healthy, energized, clean. Beautiful from the inside out. If this mom of two little crazies running circles around her every day can do this, so can you. It’s so worth it!
You’ve got this.