Body Fat is the “enemy” of every gimmicky beach body program, Plexus or Shakeology advertisement, or personal trainer.
As America’s obesity and diabetes epidemics continue to climb (with obesity hitting a record high in October 2017 at 40-percent of all adults and 20-percent of all kids), it’s no wonder the diet and health industry is aimed at selling us the secrets to: “Lean out,” “Tone up,” and “Get shredded.”
And who doesn’t love seeing Before and After pictures of formerly frumpy, unhealthy bodies with, seemingly, overnight, washboard abs, thigh gaps, and cut shoulders?
So in our efforts to “lose body fat,” we Google search answers until the wee hours of the night, swear off carbs and run at Level 10 on the treadmill at Orange Theory Fitness, hoping that our hard work and diligence will pay off.
However, despite the rules, our workouts, super clean eating and “secrets to body fat loss” sold by clever health marketers, something is not working.
After all…if it was, why would the diet and health industry continue to be a multi-billion dollar industry? And why would America’s chronic health epidemics continue to worsen—not “get better.”
Answer: The secret(s) to losing body fat naturally may not be in the dogma rules many trainers, ads and shake companies claim we “should” follow.
Beyond eliminating carbs, fasting and counting macros…there are a handful of other secrets to losing body fat naturally that most trainers won’t tell you.
Here are 8 (Essential) Strategies for Natural Body Fat Loss (that your trainer won’t tell you).
- Eat Fat
“Fat burns fat.” It’s true. Fat is the most nutrient-dense and energy-rich substance we consume, and it is necessary for making every cell in our body strong and less permeable. Think of your cells like a raisin or a smooth bean. If your cells are like a raisin (shriveled up, and permeable), they allow more toxins and sugars inside. They are unable to be strong and withstand the exposure and consumption of non-essential nutrients, and consequently, are more apt to “store” things like sugar and toxins inside the cells, and become less healthy overall. If your cells look like a bean, however—they are supple and smooth. They are less immune to storing toxins and sugars inside, and consequently, they are stronger and more resilient. When we eat healthy fat, we build up the outer layer of our cells to be LESS PERMEABLE, and less apt to “store” fat. You (and your body) are fueled and have energy to “go strong” throughout the day.
In addition to composing the outer layer of your cells, eating healthy fats ALSO protect our hormones and metabolism from riding the blood sugar roller coaster that we ride when we eat a low-fat diet, or higher carbohydrate diet (even “healthy carbs”). Fat helps keep your blood sugar from dipping too low or skyrocketing too high, which can, in turn, impact your cortisol (stress hormones). When the body is stressed, the LAST thing it wants to do is shed body fat. In addition, when the body is stressed—and not used to eating fats because you don’t eat enough of them—it cries out for the only thing it knows it will get from you—sugar or low-fat foods (that you keep eating to fill the food void you’re having). The cycle goes on…and body fat loss is not on your body’s agenda.
Reach for 1 to 2 healthy fats with each meal, and in place of sugary snacks or carbohydrate-based snacks, reach for a healthy fat or protein as the base.
Some healthy fat ideas?
Raw nuts and seeds, extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, coconut butter, avocado, olives, ghee, grass-fed butter, full-fat fermented yogurt, coconut yogurt, fatty cuts of organic meats, pastured eggs, avocado oil.
Fat does a body good.
Don’t Fear Carbs
Carbs are NOT the enemy. Contrary to the claims that completely eliminating carbs is “the secret” to fat loss success, when we go too low of carbs, particularly veggies here, we risk eliminating fiber—which is essential to elimination (ie. poop patterns), healthy gut bacteria and metabolic balance.Extreme diets of any sort can set your “metabolism off” negatively, since cortisol (your stress hormone) may be impacted—especially if your body is already in a stressed out (ie. “HPA-Axis Dysfunction”) state.
Research continues to ask: “Low Fat vs. Low Carb Diets: Which One is Better?” But the kicker here is…everybody is different.
For example, studies of women who go on a ketogenic (high fat, extremely low carb diet), show that, for women who have experienced “blood sugar issues” and “insulin resistance,” ketogenic diets CAN BE beneficial as a short-term dietary approach.
However, for women who may have their blood sugar more under control, BUT who have some HPA-Axis Dysfunction (ie. adrenal fatigue or hormone imbalances), a ketogenic diet MAY NOT be helpful—and actually may be more harmful in the long run.
In addition, carbohydrates supply much-needed pre-biotics (fiber) that are necessary for helping build and create a healthy gut “microbiome.” Without these carbs, any efforts to establish a healthy gut (Strategy #3) will be more of a struggle, since probiotics (HEALTHY gut bacteria) need pre-biotics to thrive.
Why gut health matters? We’ll get into it in a minute, but essentially: If your gut is not healthy, then the rest of your body (metabolism included) will not be healthy, nourished and able to…thrive either.
The kicker? There has YET to be a study that shows that a balanced diet over all ever did any harm at all.
Therefore, instead of thinking in terms of extremes for body fat loss, aim for the simplest, realest foods and balance as possible, building your carbohydrate sources on dietary sources the human body thrives upon. Generally this may look like:
Body Fat Loss Carb Picks:
- Leafy Greens (cooked and raw). Aim for at least 1 to 3 servings/day.
- Pre-biotic Carbs. Aim for 1 to 2 servings, especially of green-tipped bananas or plantains, cooked and cooled potatoes, winter squash and sweet potatoes, Jerusalem artichokes, onions, garlic, asparagus.
- Fiber-rich Veggies. Broccoli, zucchini, yellow squash, asparagus, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, celery, cucumbers, etc.
- Starchy Tubers. Minimal to Moderate. Keep for 1 to 2 servings/day (maybe a pre-biotic) Potatoes, Sweet Potatoes, Squashes, Carrots, Beets, Yucca, Jicama.
- Fruits. Minimal. 1 to 2 servings/day. For the short-term, some people find tweaking or lessening fruit consumption helps for the short-term.
- Grains. Not ideal (for absorption issues, and higher-connection to bacterial overgrowth)
By aiming to include more healthy fats into our diet, alongside moderate protein, and moderate carbohydrates (primarily in the form of real foods), we turn on our metabolism revving engine and help keep our blood sugar stable (for longer)
Count Energy Not Macros or Calories
Our body doesn’t see food in terms of macros or calories. It sees nutrients. That said, it needs LOTS of energy-revving, nutrient-dense foods to thrive.
The problem many macro or calorie based plans run into is that they fixate on numbers, scales and measures, without acknowledging the nutrient density in foods—and how your metabolism benefits from foods that supply LOTS of energy (and color).
For instance, 1/2 a cup of gummy bears with high-fructose corn syrup may supply your body with a punch of “quick digesting carbs” after a workout, but the nutrient composition and health it provides for a healthy metabolism and blood sugar balance is completely DIFFERENT than 1/2 a cup of berries or a small sweet potato.
And although chicken, broccoli, oats, asparagus, egg whites, peanut butter, olive oil, rice and rice cakes, give your body some protein, fat, and carbs, how color-rich are your meals?
Less color (or variety)=Less nutrients=Less metabolism revving power.
When we consume LOTS OF COLORFUL veggies, body-boosting healthy fats and essential sustainable proteins (for the muscle shaping and supportive amino acids), our metabolism comes alive—extracting various vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to keep your body revving.
Some energy boosting foods?
My top picks:
- Dark Leafy Greens
- Colors of the Rainbow) Veggies (Aim for 2-3 different veggie colors at each meal)
- Citrus (Lemon, Orange, Lime, Grapefruit)
- Organic Herbs (Parsley, Cilantro, Rosemary, Thyme, Sage)
- Organ Meats,
- Fermented Foods (Sauerkraut)
- Pastured Eggs & Poultry, Grass-fed Beef & Wild Caught Fatty Fish
- Coconut Oil, Cold-Pressed Extra Virgin Olive Oil & Ghee or Grass-fed Butter
- Raw Brazil Nuts, Walnuts & Macadamia Nuts
—Just to name a few.
While you’re at it, make sure you are EATING ENOUGH. Under-eating is just as “detrimental” as overeating. Remember: “More (energy)” is NOT a bad thing.
Stress is the #1 driver of all disease—including “stubborn body fat.” Unfortunately stress is inevitable in our rat-race society, however, it IS an often overlooked factor in areas beyond mental forms of stress.
Even if you don’t think you’re stressed out, stress goes far beyond mental stress. Daily stressors—like blue light exposure, screens (at night), lack of time spent in nature, burning a candle at both ends, sedentary or over-active lifestyle, etc.—threaten metabolic balance.
Biologically, your cortisol (ie. stress hormone) needs to be in a state of balance in order to shed body fat or let go of “unwanted” pudge. If your body feels threatened, cortisol levels get out of sorts in order to cope with the stress, and consequently, the LAST thing your body wants to do when it’s running from a bear inside (ie. stress) is comply with your body fat loss protocol.
This is called “HPA-Axis Dysfunction”—dysfunction of the hypothalmus-pituitary-adrenal gland axis that governors of their stress hormones and metabolism.
Some simple (but effective) game changers for balancing cortisol?
- Shut off screens in the evening hours, or power down to “Night Shift” (like f.lux) and use Blue-Blocking glasses
- Get fresh air—at least 30-60 minutes each day
- Move your body with a “Goldilock’s” approach. (Too much exercise will shoot your cortisol in the foot). De-stress naturally with regular exercise without over-exerting or pushing your body beyond limit.
- Get off the treadmill. Build a foundation of lean muscle with strength trainIng (ie. weights 2 to 5 days per week), and less focus on cardio, cardio, cardio! For balance, sprinkle in a little bit of HIIT (ie. sprints, Cross-Fit style workouts, 1 to 3 times per week) and endurance training (1 to 3 days)—such as 2 days of HIIT, and 1 to 2 days of spinning, swimming or running, all supported by daily lifestyle movement (walking, playing with your kids, standing at work, etc.), and plenty of walking and simple movement
- Just say “no” to things draining your schedule, energy or time.
- Get your beauty sleep.
And, all things considered, the mind is still a powerful tool. Countless studies demonstrate the effectiveness of stress reduction (in the mind) to help suppress and alleviate an otherwise stressed out metabolism (ie. cortisol levels). Incorporating a practice of deep breathing, meditation or prayer, meditative movement (ie. stretching, yoga, dance), and reading and listening to positive truth (ie. positive podcasts, books, speakers, etc.) are all tactics for mindfully reducing stress. Check out the book the “Placebo Diet: Use Your Mind to Transform Your Body” for an interesting read on the placebo phenomenon
Speaking of stressing less, MINDFULNESS (particularly with meals) can help “reduce cortisol and even abdominal fat, with research to back this up. In a study of 47 participants, half of the group incorporated mindful eating into their daily eating practice, the other half did not. Results revealed that the mindful eaters lost a significant amount of body fat compared to those who did not. The take home? Incorporate these techniques into your own meal times:
- Chew your food (fully)
- De-screen (turn off the TV, computer and even books)
- Assess and check in with your own level of hunger and fullness. You don’t have to always finish your plate; and sometimes, you may want seconds. Check in to your gut on a scale of 1-10 (1=starving, 10=stuffed)
- Be aware of how food makes you feel (Are you bloated, constipated, breaking out, anxious, have allergies, etc.? Something may be in your food, protein powders or bars that is not sitting well with you).
- Don’t eat the same things every day. Incorporate a variety of nutrients from real foods.
Get Your Beauty Sleep
Sleep is a natural anti-stressor that is also like a magical “pill for body fat loss.
It’s no secret LACK of sleep doesn’t do a body good. If anything, leaving you feeling groggy, tired and out of sorts. However, when it comes to fat loss specifically, lack of sleep also works against your body. One study of participants on a moderate-calorie diet showed that those who slept 8.5 hours, as opposed to 5.5 hours, lost 50-percent more body fat than the less-sleep group Individuals
Sometimes the “secret to success” involves LESS doing (ie. dieting, working out, trying so hard), and MORE BEING.
Lose From the Inside Out: Heal Your Gut
Speaking of the gut….Stubborn metabolism? Unwanted body fat? Underarm jiggle or love handles you just can’t shake?
Beyond stress, one essential factor most people don’t consider when it comes to body fat loss is what’s going on in their gut—the gateway to health (including a healthy, lean body).
If you have an underlying gut issue (ie. bacterial overgrowth, fungal overgrowth, imbalanced gut bacteria, chronic bloating and constipation, low stomach acid, a sluggish liver/gallbladder), this will lead to an underlying “stress” (ie. ie. cortisol levels that are too high or too low) or nutrient deficiency and malabsorption issue.
The result? Your body is going to fight against you, no matter how clean you eat OR how much you workout.
A study (Hjorth et al, 2017) on the effectiveness of a gut-healing protocol in people on a “fat loss” program found those who focused on healing their gut, versus those who did not, lost an average of about 11 pounds of body fat (with only 3 of those pounds related to diet alone).
Other research (Haas et al, 2017) on the “effectiveness” of intermittent fasting (IF) has shown that, in individuals with a “healthier gut” (less bacterial overgrowth) and better digestion show benefits from the IF technique, versus those who have an unhealthy gut microbiome.
A study (Ott et al, 2017) on the effectiveness of a “body fat loss” diet in obese women found that, beyond the scale, it appears the healthier diet for these women actually resulted in a more balanced gut microbiome. In other words, the reason why a “clean eating” diet may work is because it is supporting a healthier gut overall. If this is the case, consider the possibilities when you focus more intently on healing and restoring your gut health (as opposed to restrictive eating)? Oh the possibilities!
And an interesting report, published in the International Journal of Obesity (Sharkey, 2016), from a bariatric surgery doctor highlights this finding as well—asserting that, for healthy body fat loss and energy balance, gut health is essential.
In short: You are ONLY as healthy as the trillions of gut bacteria that outnumber your cells at least 10 times.
Your gut health acts like a domino effect for ALL other systems in your body. When your gut is UNABLE to absorb and digest your nutrients appropriately, or it is rotting and fermenting bacteria inside, then your other body systems (including your brain, your hormones, your liver—detoxifying organ, and more) are UNABLE to be fed.
What happens when you are not “well fed”—or nourished? Health declines. Your hormones (and cortisol) get out of whack. You experience increased anxiety, the “need to binge” or mood imbalances (ie. “dieting sucks”). And nutrient deficiencies are more common. Unfortunately, gut issues impact upwards of 75-percent of all Americans—even if they don’t have gut symptoms” (like bloating, constipation, IBS, or loose stools). Other signs of “gut dysfunction” may be a slowed metabolism, unexplained weight loss or weight gain, allergies, low immunity, anxiety, skin breakouts or general fatigue and lack of energy.
On the contrary, what happens when you rid of any unwanted bacteria or undigested food hiding out in your gut? Inflammation lessens, your metabolism, cortisol levels and thyroid are supported…and your body is “free” to stop holding on to unwanted body fat.
The best way to find out if you have a gut issue?
Test, don’t guess. Consult with a practitioner skilled in digging deeper into gut health for a personalized approach. Some testing may include: SIBO testing, stool testing, hormone and food intolerance testing. In addition, metabolic, thyroid and hormone testing (such as the DUTCH test and functional blood work) may also be beneficial for addressing hormone or metabolic imbalances as well.
In my own practice with clients, I find that most of my clients who cannot “lose body fat” (no matter what) often have a gut or metabolic imbalance that is driving their “inability.”
Look to your gut (and your hormones)—inside.
The diet industry is saturated with formulas and magical pills to shed the body fat (ie. “fat burners”). However, most of these are ultimately clever marketing and ways to steal your dollars. (And many of these may also jack with your cortisol levels—ie. stress hormones—making your stress and body fat loss worse in the long run, not better).
The key supplements I recommend to almost anyone on a body fat loss plan are simple—
- A quality probiotic + fermented foods
- Apple Cider Vinegar—1 tbsp. in 2-4 ounces of water around meal times
- Digestive Enzymes (optional) or helping break down food
That’s it for “essentials.”
After all, if you are NOT digesting your foods in the first place (through healthy gut support) then you’re going to continue missing the mark on nutrient balance for your health and hormones.
Not all supplements are created equal. In fact, 95-percent of probiotics on shelves do not contain the probiotics they claim, or the quality of probiotics needed to compose a healthy gut microbiome.
A few faves include:
- Megaspore Probiotic (order through a practitioner)
- Floramyces by Designs for Health (Use code: LAURYNLAX to be able to order)
- Primal Flora Probiotic
- Garden of Life Primal Defense Ultra (if you don’t have SIBO—small intestinal bacterial overgrowth)
Fermented Foods (1-2 condiment sized servings daily)
- Low-Sugar Kombucha
- Grass-fed Plain Yogurt
- Beet Kvass
- Fermented & Pickled Veggies
These 8 essential strategies could be the “game-changers” you’ve been running circles around—trying to figure out the “answers” to body fat loss success.
The BIGGEST GAMECHANGER of them all though?
One that comes from a heart—and gut—check…with yourself: Not making your goal SOLELY about fat loss.
Fat loss is a byproduct of something else you REALLY want. You want that FEELING of fat loss—feeling good in your own skin, feeling good when you fit into your favorite jeans, feeling confident in your work, social interactions or relationships.
Identify that FEELING that you think your body-fat loss will bring you, and begin feeding into goals and pursuits outside body fat loss measures or the scale itself in order to attain what it is your truly want.
In my own health journey, and the journey of HUNDREDS of clients I’ve worked with over the years, the BIGGEST GAMECHANGER for “getting the body you want” will come when you stop focusing so much on the scale or size, and instead make goals and set intentions around other “bigger” things in your life.
It’s not bad to want to lose body fat or “tone up,” but when our sole drive and focus is aimed at body fat loss alone, we will hit a roadblock because that “dangling carrot” will never be fully attained (there will always be someone better, fitter, prettier, leaner than us, or a standard of dieting or body type that we want to achieve).
Set goals for your personal development, your peace with yourself and food, healing your gut or hormones, stressing less, your relationships, your dreams, your spiritual walk, your passion and purpose you bring to this world, and the body fat loss (or other body and health goals) WILL follow (promise, promise).
Above all, it’s vital to remember that, contrary to popular belief…We actually need some body fat for health and function.
In other words: Body fat alone is not necessarily the big bad scary enemy we’ve made it out to be.
Body fat tissue (“essential fat”)…
- Keeps our organs, brain, and heart working
- Provides insulation for body temperature regulation
- Protects our organs
- Gives us extra energy to expand in our active lifestyle
- Supports healthy hormone balance.
Most women need about 20 to 28 percent body fat and men somewhere between 10 to 18 percent for general health (particularly hormone health).
That said, there is no one-size-fits-all body type for men and women and within the context of other health markers (ie. your menstruation cycle, your gut health, presentation of other diseases), your body will thrive when you make peace with the process of self-care.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Body fat loss is not rocket science.
- Address the roots of underlying imbalances.
- Eat and nourish yourself consistently with energy-giving, nutrient-dense whole foods.
- Aim to stress less.
- And pick a bigger goal outside your body size itself (the body will follow your heart and your gut intuition).
Want a custom body fat loss blueprint, including nutrition, fitness, and supplement and testing recommendations (if any)? Connect with Dr. Lauryn today to schedule an Initial Intake Consult today.
Got questions? We offer a complimentary 15-minute consult to answer any questions you may have as well if desired.