Why your workouts might actually be sabotaging your metabolism

I’m so happy that Well & Good wrote about a topic that is near and dear to me. In the recent year and a half I have seen more people dealing with this issue than ever before. Metabolic Damage. These are mostly women who try to lose weight but experience the complete opposite of health and a lean body. Among their many symptoms are the following: sleep issues, feeling exhausted physically and mentally like on 10 cups of caffeine, digestive issues (gas, bloating, diarrhea), fat storage around the hips, thighs, butt (a bloated kind of weight gain), bloated face and stomach, water retention, thyroid disturbances, intense sugar cravings, intense appetite that’s not satiated with a regular meal, hormonal fluctuations as evident by changes in their cycle. The cause? Intense stress that has made itself at home in the nervous system. This stress can be caused by emotional events or ongoing physiological stress from over-exercising, underrating, extreme dieting, extreme physical exhaustion.Yes, more is not better. More can make it worse. Below is more about the issue and what not to do.If you’re dealing with a number of the above symptoms and want to understand how to heal your body and get back to feeling like yourself again, contact me to set up a one-on-one session. Here’s more about what I do: www. arianehundt.com

WHY YOUR WORKOUTS MIGHT ACTUALLY BE SABOTAGING YOUR METABOLISM

 

LISA ELAINE HELD, JUNE 17, 2016


Listen to your body
Photo: Paff/Stocksy
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Metabolismthe complex biochemical process by which your body converts everything you eat and drink into energyis a hot topic among exercise and weight loss experts, especially afterthe recent viral newsthat contestants onThe Biggest Loseralmost universally gained back the weight theyd lost. The primary culprit? Their respective metabolisms, which slowed down foryearsyears!after competing on the show.

That news didnt shockBrooklyn Bridge Boot Campfounder and clinical nutritionistAriane Hundt, though.They took their metabolism to the absolute max, were stressed, malnourished, and completely wrecked theirhormonal balance, Hundt says. The general approach is the more we exercise and the less we eat, the better well look, but that model is going to create serious damage.

So whatdoeswork when it comes to revving up your metabolism? And how can you make sure your exercise regimen isnt backfiring?

Here are five ways to make your workoutactuallywork for your metabolism.

GET STARTED

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Intense workout

Photo: Daxiao Productions/Stocksy

1. Aim for intensity and variety

Your body gets conditioned to exercise pretty quickly. If you keep up a steady schedule of, say, 60 minutes of moderate-intensity running a few times a week, youll soon start to burn fewer calories within that time. You have to challenge the body to need more from its energy pathways, explainsJaime Schehr,RD, ND, whos also the founder ofXFitLab,a service that does metabolic and other performance testing for athletes. Schehr recommends incorporatingHigh Intensity Interval Training(HIIT) into your routine, and regularly changing up your workouts so your body doesnt recognize and adapt to the work youre doing.

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Avoid Overdoing it

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2. But avoid overdoing it

Hundt agrees that HIIT training is awesome when it comes to boosting metabolismbut within reason. Intense exercise puts a lot of stress on the body, so she recommends restricting it to three days a week, with lower-intensity workouts like yoga and Pilates as well as plenty of recovery in between. Otherwise, youre going to get into aBiggest Losersituation where the nonstop pressure of the program affects your hormonal balance and leads to exhaustion and cravings. Plus,chronic stressmesses with your nervous system, which regulates metabolism.Hundts rule of thumb? Work hard if youre well-rested and have energy, she advises. If youre stressed, go easy. Simple, but so easy to forget.

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Strength Training

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3. Think less cardio, more strength training

Because your body requires a lot of energy to maintain muscle,building muscle can raise your resting metabolic rate. And that means youll burn more calories even when youre not sweating. On the other hand, with intense, sustained cardio, like marathon training, your body no longer just burns sugar or fat; itll burn muscle as fuel, Hundt warns. When youre done with the race, you have less muscle and a slower metabolism than when you started. Thats not to say youshouldntrunmarathons; just stay on top ofyour cross-training, too.

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Workout fuel

Photo: Ina Peters/Stocksy

4. When you work out (and what you eat after) matter

Schehr tell clients who are looking to boost their metabolism to work out in the morning on a relatively empty stomach, then eat or drink something with lots of protein right after. What we know is that when you exercise in the morning, you speed up your metabolism throughout the day by having more of a caloric burn, she saysand the protein will help your body repair muscle efficiently. Of course, if after trying (and trying) youve come to realize thatearly workouts just arent for you, or going to the gym on a relatively empty stomach makes you totally hangry, this strategys not going to work for you. Which brings us to

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Photo: Paff/Stocksy

Photo: Paff/Stocksy

5. Listen to your body

Hundt says your body isconstantlyletting you know how its doing, via your appetite, cravings, and energy level. If any of those are out of whack, your metabolism likely isnt performing well either. There is something to be said about working with your body to find the tipping point where you continue to see progress and keep your metabolism in check, she says. Ditch the more is more mindset and really tune into your body, then give yourself permission to adjust and meet its unique demands. Your metabolism will thank you.

Is your approach to fat loss customized or one size-fits-all?

Whenever I get a phone call from someone inquiring about one-on-one nutrition coaching who used to go to Weight Watchers, I have the following thoughts

  • She’ll likely have really high body fat (Weight Watchers people lose a lot of muscle due to too little protein, low calorie intake and lack of strength training)
  • She will likely have a bigger bottom and skinny top (because with that diet model she will switch on fat storage in her lower body and speed up fat loss in the upper body)
  • She will likely be focused on the number of the scale and into counting mode (points, calories)
  • She will measure her progress solely on the scale (that’s how WW measures progress)

I’ve come to have these expectations based on hundreds of WW people I’ve counseled and worked with in my Slim & Strong program. It’s not their fault that they think that way and have those results, but I feel bad for them for having worked so hard to still not be happy with their bodies and have to continue the search with a slowed-down metabolism. The accountability portion of the program is a smart idea, but there are so many things that are just wrong about their approach. They sell foods that are loaded with chemicals and no nutritional value to make money. They teach you restriction and dieting, which doesn’t work for someone whose hormones are out of balance from too much dieting, stress, and wrong food choices. Unfortunately 95% of Weight Watchers people gain the weight back. Bam! 95%! Doesn’t that tell you that something’s not adding up?

There are so many things I want my clients to understand so that they don’t have to rely on a diet program, a diet book or jump on the next juice cleanse or ever feel out of control in their own bodies again. When I started working with this woman whose goal was to get back into her pre-baby shape, it became clear she was following diet rules that just didn’t work for her body type, metabolic type, her lifestyle, her genetics and her hormonal issues. I taught her how to eat a clean diet to sensitize herself to the foods she used to consider ‘treats’. Once she cut out the sugar, alcohol and processed foods, she felt immediately lighter, lost several pounds of water weight and started to sleep through the night. She also noticed that she was reacting to grains with lethargy, got congested when she had dairy (out went the Greek yogurt) and realized that her sugar addiction was in large part driven by her massive stress.

After the first 2 weeks she had lost 8 lbs already and felt like a different person. Her clothes started to fit better and she had enough energy to start working out. She hadn’t lifted a weight for over 2 years. As a result of low-protein dieting and high stress she had lost a lot of muscle mass, which only slowed down her metabolism even more. Once we added a simple 20-minute strength routine 3x a week to her schedule, she started to feel more energized and saw her shape changing. Her lower body (hips, thighs, butt) was more resistant to change and so I taught her how to work with her menstrual cycle. She was surprised to hear that there are two weeks in the month when fat burning in the lower body is more active and where her butt, thighs and hips will respond better to a special type of training. And, there are two weeks where muscle building is easier, so during those weeks we upped the weights and focused on high intensity interval training. We discussed how to eat before and after her workouts and how to eat on days she didn’t work out (you wan to eat more and differently on workout days than on rest days). We also discussed supplements called adaptogens that helped her adapt to stress better so that she reduces her output of adrenaline, cortisol and insulin.

During the entire month she never even counted a single calorie, but learned to choose food based on her appetite, her energy and her activity level. She also learned how to combat sweet cravings and what they mean (high stress, lack of sleep, low estrogen, serotonin and dopamine levels). Ultimately, she learned how to trust her body’s signals again and not blindly follow the latest diet trend without any regard for how she feels.

A month later for our follow-up meeting she had lost 11 lbs, 5 inches off her waist and 3 inches around her hips – a sure sign that her hormones were well-balanced, her appetite controlled and the workouts targeting the right body parts to shed body fat. Her loss of weight and inches wasn’t the most important thing to her, however. Her great skin, improved sleep, balanced mood, improved digestion and the reduction of her sugar cravings, along with the fact that she could make decent choices anywhere and still was able to have her indulgences once in a while, were so much of a reward that she realized that no amount of candy can create the sense of joy she feels by working with her body.

Here are a few tips on how to make your diet and workout work for you:

  • Your diet is the single most important factor in shaping your body. How you control your insulin levels determines whether you store fat, lose fat, gain muscle or lose muscle.
  • Eat slightly more on workout days (right before or after your workout) and stick to protein and veggies only on rest days. That way you’ll keep your metabolism guessing.
  • Ongoing stress can diminish the effects of even the cleanest diet and most effective workout. If your adrenaline and cortisol are high, so will be your insulin and that means you’re storing fat even while kicking ass in the gym. Reduce your stress and that means alternate your intense workout days with rest or relaxation days. Sleep at least 7-8 hours. Add R&R, such as meditation, yoga, walking, hiking, nature time, relaxing baths, massages or sauna sessions to your week.
  • Make sure your workout works for you. Not all workouts are for everyone. For example, if you are super-stressed, then long-distance running will only create a bigger stress response . Your HIIT workouts may be overkill when you’re stressed as well. The more stress, the more you need yoga, pilates, walking, restful workouts and heavy lifting workouts as balance to reduce the amount of stress hormones (remember, stress hormones create fat storage). You can go for a hard and tough workout if you’re well rested, slept well and your stress is balanced. Then you can create muscle growth and a fat burning effect. If you haven’t seen your body change, it’s time to change course!

 

After the Biggest Loser…

Ive received so many emails from people today sharing the NY Times article and asking for my take, I figured I’d write a blog post. The article discusses how the participants of the Biggest Loser lost a lot of weight in the shows, but almost all of them have gained back the weight lost and some even more than what they lost. Several participants underwent testing for metabolic function and the findings are astounding in that they show their resting metabolism burning significantly fewer calories than people at the same weight. The overall message is that extreme weight loss damages the metabolism for years after the diet and evento the point that the lost weight cannot be maintained. Here it is for all of you who haven’t read it.

I cant say that Im surprised because for years Ive been critical of the show. The Biggest Loser is trying to sell the idea that with diet and exercise you can lose exorbitant amounts of weight and keep them off. The participants are grossly overweight to begin with, have health issues and undergo extreme workouts (hello 8 hours a day!) and diet regimens and are then expected to lose even more after leaving the ranch to compete to be the biggest loser. Years ago I met with producers when I auditioned for the show and I voiced my concern that there was no long-term follow up and support and that these participants didnt really get to address where their food issues stemmed from either (go figure, they didnt want me with that attitude), but I stay strong in that belief. What these participants are pushed to do sends America the wrong message. Everyone who is dieting and trying to lose weight and only dropping “only 5 lbs” is thinking “what the heck is wrong with me?”

From a metabolism perspective these participants go through all the classic issues that people face when they lose weight and yet with all the experts there, they still dont manage to create programs for the participants that are actually smart and effective.

  • They eat so few calories and exercise so much for months at a time, that the thyroid has no other choice but to slow down and produce less thyroxin.
  • Due to the extreme amounts of cardio, these participants lose not just fat, but massive amounts of muscle. Thats a big issue because muscle tissue is whats metabolically the most active.
  • The body undergoes extreme stress from that much exercise. That means cortisol levels are high, which promotes fat storage even with a clean diet.
  • The metabolism adapts to everything over time, so the participants need to cycle their workouts and their diet in order to prevent metabolic slow-down and adaptation.
  • Participants experience a raging appetite due to increased stress levels.
  • Also, if protein intake is too low, that further promotes muscle loss and a huge appetite.
  • With leptin levels increasing, hunger increases and controlling hunger can be tough if you dont know how to eat properly before and after workouts and trigger foods can easily derail you and set you back several days. Low leptin levels can also slow down thyroid function and even lower adrenaline levels, which can slow metabolism.
  • As participants lose pounds and pounds of fat, they not only release fat into the blood stream, but also toxins that are stored in fat cells. That can lead to participants getting sick, feeling low on energy, developing food allergies, and further slowing down thyroid function.

There are many smart ways that these participants could have lost weight and even kept it off and didnt have to struggle quite as much with the maintenance aspect, but the goal of the show is to show extreme weight loss as fast as possible and to get product placements on the show that further show what consumers should spend their money on to achieve the same results (you can see why Im having issues with this)

 

If you want to lose weight and not run into the same metabolic issues of damaging your metabolism for years to come, here are my tips:

  • Focus your workouts on lifting weights. Lifting helps burn body fat, while maintaining your muscle mass.
  • You want to add cardio to your workouts thats smarter, not longer. Start with low-intensity workouts during which you keep your heart rate low. It allows your body to burn body fat for energy. After having built up an aerobic base (which means that your heart rate doesnt shoot high with increased intensity), you can add higher intensity cardio to the mix. That way you keep hunger at bay, stimulate fat burning, and keep stress levels low.
  • You want to focus your diet on lean proteins. Aim for at least 1 gram of protein per pound of muscle mass. That way you stay full and maintain muscle mass.
  • Ensure that you intersperse periods where you eat slightly more, such as during times you up your workout intensity. Balance that out with periods where you allow your body more rest and recovery, during which you eat slightly less. It allows your metabolism to adjust without slowing down.
  • Rest, recovery, sleep, stress management play a huge role in fat loss and keeping it off.
  • Lastly, addressing the emotional triggers that created the weight gain in the first place is crucial. Unless the underlying issues arent resolves, the same old triggers will resurface time and time again to start the diet cycle.

 

I can only hope that these findings are motivating The Biggest Loser Show execs to hire metabolism experts to help all these amazing people on the show. After all, they gave up months of their lives, gave up their jobs, left their families for months to demonstrate how much weight they can lose in the name of the show making millions. Its the right thing to do.

From the Nutritionist’s Office: Stopping the binge to lose fat

I had another great follow-up with a nutrition client I’ve been working with for a month. She’s dropped an easy 7 pounds by eliminating her binge eating episodes.

Her biggest issue were here sugar cravings. They would show up out of nowhere and she’d go for anything within sight: the ice cream in the freezer, cookies at the office vending machine, or her ‘protein bars’ that were loaded with 40g of carbs. You can imagine how just ONE sugar binge undid an entire week of clean eating. Naturally she wasn’t making any progress, struggled with guilt, was upset about her lack of willpower and felt she had to work out even harder and eat even less. That kept her in this vicious diet cycle of bingeing and dieting, which is exhausting and pointless.

So, here was our strategy:
1) Figure out where the cravings come from
2) Address the cravings without sugary foods
3) Eliminate the guilt, which leads to more obsessive dieting and insane workout schedules
4) Create progress by aligning effective workouts with proper fat loss nutrition, rest/relaxation and supplementation

The reason for her sugar cravings were 3-fold: She was triggered by the availability of sugar at home and in the office. She was triggered by hormonal cravings (the week before her period when estrogen and serotonin drop, our cravings are usually worst), and she had cravings because she ate too few carbs and worked out too much.

We addressed them by removing the sugar at home and in the office. She made sure to have something sweet available when a craving strikes, so she started drinking a Branched-Chain-Amino-Acid drink when a craving strikes, which blunts her appetite, boosts her brain chemistry, and gives her a sweet sensation from the stevia (zero sugar here, but all the soothing effect on the brain). We also rebalanced her diet by adding more fiber and protein, created an effective workout and schedule that allowed her 4 extra hours in her week (!!!!), and I taught her how to work in line with her menstrual cycle to make progress when fat burning is at its max and relax when fat burning is slowed down.

Yes, fat loss is not about calories entirely. It’s about creating the proper hormonal balance, so that your hunger is controlled, your cravings turned off and you have good energy. That’s when you make progress.

How to make your clean eating a fat loss success!

My Slim & Strong participants started their clean eating plan this week and the first food diaries are coming in. Here’s one from Andrea, who is planning her week. Take a look at what she has in mind and how she will have to navigate her week to make fat loss happen:
Ariane,Here is my meal plan for next week. I would appreciate any feedback. Thank you.

Andrea

 

Monday

Breakfast:Vegetable Protein shake

Snack:Eggs withAsparagus

Lunch:Chicken andVegetables

Snack:Protein shake

Dinner:Fish withVegetables

Exercise:Yoga/Pilates/Stretch

 

Tuesday

Breakfast:Vegetable Protein shake

Snack:Turkey andBroccoli

Lunch:Vegetable omelette

Possible cheat meal

Snack:Tuna withAvocado andPeppers

Dinner:Vegetable Protein shake

Exercise:Slim & Strong

 

Hi Andrea,
that all looks great. You’re planning on combining a lean protein with lots of veggies at every meal.
It’s great to plan, but be also mindful of the challenges that may just come out of the blue. If you can understand why they happen and what they mean, you can then tackle them AND make progress. People who always use challenges as an excuse to eat sugar or processed food, can set themselves back, only to then start the next diet and binge cycle all over again. Here are the most common issues that arise:
  • a raging appetite
  • sweet cravings
  • dinners out
  • feeling tired
  • not being hungry
  • not having worked out
A plan is great, but do stay flexible throughout and allow yourself to change course as need be.
What do these challenges say about your body and how do you tackle them?
  • a raging appetite: you may not have eaten enough fiber and protein. Eat more and drink water. You may also be dehydrated. You may be sleep-deprived and that raises cortisol levels, which make you very hungry. You may be stressed – also makes you hungrier. You may have worked out a lot and didn’t eat enough. The veggie protein shake for breakfast may not fill you up as much as you thought, so you may want to have it for snack time and have the eggs for breakfast to fill up more.
  • sweet cravings: could be stress-related, sleep-deprivation related, could be due to the fact that you had too many starches in the previous meal, could be hormonal. How to handle? Drink the branched-chain amino acid drink when a craving strikes (MRM Reload Watermelon Flavor- 2 scoops in a big bottle of water) or the dark hot cocoa (mix dark cocoa powder in hot unsweetened almond milk, add stevia). Both will blunt your appetite, create a sense of well-being and kill your cravings without a single gram of sugar.
  • dinners out: you can make good choices no matter where you are. It’s your choice. lean protein and veggies are available everywhere
  • feeling tired: get at least 7 hours of sleep. Make sure you don’t overdo the exercise and ensure you have a lower intensity workout day following the day after slim and strong.
  • not being hungry: it’s ok to skip a meal, just as long as your blood sugar is balanced. If you skip a meal and then cave in with the next, at least have a protein shake (mix clean protein powder in water or unsweetened almond milk, such as Tera’s Whey, Orgain Vanilla or Jay Robb, Vega Sport Protein)
  • not having worked out: on rest days you don’t burn as many carbs as on workout days. Adjust your carb intake accordingly and focus on veggies. Skip the starches.

I like that you plan on having your cheat meal on the day of Slim & Strong because that allows you to burn off some of the excess carbs in the workout.

Let me know how you do this week!
Cheers, ariane

 

How did these women lose so much body fat in only 4 weeks?

I haven’t seen such impressive results in several months. The March participants lost a massive amount of body fat, pounds and inches. Here are the winners:

Evette lost 5.2 lbs, 5 inches, and 5.1% body fat. That translates into having put on 6% of muscle. Imagine what that will do for her metabolism. All that added muscle makes her leaner and because she also lost 7.9 lbs of pure fat, that gives her some serious lose clothes. She’s also feeling much more energized and has seen her sugar cravings subside. Congratulations Evette!

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Gail also had a stellar month:

While the scale only showed a loss of .4 lbs, which seems like not much change, her body fat drop of 4.2% shows that she has lost 3.5 inches, 7.3 lbs of pure fat, and added 6.5% of muscle to her body. Congrats Gail! You made it happen, despite quite a few temptations, but you stuck it out!

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Krisna lost 5.1 lbs, dropped 5% body fat, which translates into having lost 10 pure pounds of fat and she put on 5 lbs of muscle. Phenomenal results!

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Ambreen did her ‘after’ measurements three weeks in already, so her results are amazing:

She lost .4 lbs and 3.6% body fat, which translates into 4 inches lost, 5% muscle mass gained and 6.6 lbs of pure fat lost. Fantastic work!

Jenny and Lisa both lost more than 3.6% of their original weight, which is an amazing feat.

What did they do to achieve these amazing results in only 4 weeks? They followed the principles of the Slim & Strong program:

1. Effective exercise: 3 classes a week, plus lots of walking

2. Clean eating: They put to use what they learned in the nutrition workshop and created a fatloss lifestyle

3. Rest & Recovery: Foam rolling, epsom salt baths, massage, at least 7 hours of sleep to help put the body into a state of calm and fatloss, to help boost digestion and nutrient absorption, and to help the muscles grow. Rest days are key.

4. A change in mindset. A quick fix is easy, but maintaining effective changes is the key to keep your amazing body. The daily emails are part of helping you understand that it’s about a lot more than losing a few pounds, but it starts much deeper - with the relationship you have with yourself.

5. Guidance: All participants shared food diaries, asked questions when they were unclear of the next step and ran by their workout and nutrition schedules for approval. Ask for guidance and you can stop the trial and error and put to use what works fast.

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Join us in April for Slim & Strong – April 11-May 5th.

I look forward to helping you feel and look great!

Here are the details:

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Are you experiencing the right SYMPTOMS of fat loss?

Two weeks into Slim & Strong I ask my participants to take stock of the changes theyve experienced. Im not asking how much weight they lost or how much body fat theyve lost, how many hours theyve spent working out. No, what I want to know is whether theyre working the program and showing the signs of progress other than weight and body fat. Once the symptoms of fat loss and health are emerging, you know youre on the most direct path to change.

Heres an email response that is worth sharing because this lady went through quite some change. She made major progress in the first month, then took a month off to practice what she learned and then re-joined

“Ariane, this second time around I am feeling very good. The changes aren’t as dramatic mainly because I kept in practice some of the changes I made during my first S&S in January and my body didn’t lose the improvements it made during that first session. However, I did feel myself starting to slip back into some older habits during the month off so this month is about ingraining those “healthy” habits into my world for good. Here are some of the changes I am noticing in this 2nd round of Slim & Strong:

Energy: More. I clearly see the relationship between energy and a good nights sleep. For me that means going to bed by 9.30/10pm and not having alcohol.

Mood: My mood is much better when I sleep well

Digestion: Improving. The daily probiotic combined with at least 25 g of fiber helps.

Skin: This ones interesting. The month I didnt do Slim & Strong, my complexion started to lose the major glow. Its coming back 10 days into this months program. Ive cut out cheese. Greek yogurt, half and half and fat-free cottage cheese dont seem to bother me, but anything with heavier dairy does not agree with me and my skin acts up with hard white bumps.

Concentration/Focus: Much better on days with good sleep.

Fit of clothes: Fitting great, noticing more changes around my hips and thighs. My lower body actually feels different: tighter, reshaped. It feels amazing because Ive never had this feeling before in my life. It has to be the resistance work.

Sleep: improved

Cravings for sweets: Minimal. The VEGA protein shakes help with those, as well as Greek yogurt with stevia and a few almonds.

Appetite: After S&S yesterday evening I was ravenous, but I think thats because the night before I had a couple beers and just some cottage cheese and butternut squash. So, light dinner + alcohol + intense workout = intense hunger. Otherwise my appetite is pretty controlled. Burgers seem to be my go-to cheat meal these days. Last night I didnt crave the bun and only ate half of it, only had 1/3 of the fries and a side salad without cheese. I had two glasses of wine and didnt crave more that was more than enough. The former me would have wanted a third. I do feel like these healthy changes are taking root!

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“Cristin,

You’re making some remarkable changes! Not just physically, but your mindset about your body and also your relationship to food and alcohol is changing. Are you noticing how you started out the first month of Slim & Strong feeling a bit restricted by the more limited choices you started out with? However, you then saw that the limited choices actually allowed you to experience how certain foods affect you negatively. You then decided you didn’t want to do that to yourself anymore indulging and then paying for it with feeling hung-over, tired, sluggish, unhappy about your body.

At the same time you established positive connections to the good food and lifestyle choices you’re now making. In fact, you have come such a long way that now you are free to make choices based on what makes you feel best -not because it’s a diet or you have to, or because you need restrictions. The foods you choose and work for you now, give you freedom to choose. And that’s why that extra bun or another glass of booze isn’t even appealing for you anymore and you’re just satisfied with a little treat.

That is really wonderful to see and once you have developed that mindset, you won’t ever want to follow another diet gimmick. You’ll continue instead to be intuitive about your food choices and listen to your body. It will clearly tell you when to rest, when to push, when to eat and when to skip a meal. Very happy to see you feel so good. It shows!”

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How do I know that Cristin is going to continue to make amazing changes? Because shes experiencing the SYMPTOMS of fat loss. She’s also in tune with her body and making choices because she wants to feel well (not just to be a certain number on the scale). Her appetite is controlled, her energy is balanced and she has her cravings under control. Her body is changing in all the right spots (clear skin, regular digestion), and her lower body is changing, which is evidence that she is managing her hormones perfectly. People who overdo cardio, skimp on protein, dont strength train, over-stress, under-eat, under-sleep and diet constantly will see their upper body get skinnier, but their lower body remains flabby and soft with the majority of body fat accumulating around the hips, thighs and butt. If thats happening with your body, time to rethink your approach before you spend countless hours on something that’s really just a waste of time. Every body needs something different and if you’re continuing to push into a direction that creates struggle, time to rethink.

FemaleFatLoss

The more exercise, the better: Why not to fall into this trap!

When I look around at people who want to lose weight and get in better shape, I see in practice the mindset of “more is better”. They realize they’re out of shape, they feel fat and unhappy in their skin. At their most unhappy, they then decide that working out worked last time and they resolve to work out every day. Hard. To exhaustion. Cardio here, HIIT there, strength training and more running. The danger in this approach is that this old model of weight loss is long outdated and hasn’t really worked for those struggling to lose weight. Show me one person who has developed a lean, ripped, strong and defined body by doing cardio every day, eating very little and has maintained that for more than a year without yo-yo weight fluctuations, metabolic issues, thyroid slow-down, digestive issues and mood imbalances.

Yes, the diet books tell you to eat less and cut carbs. Your trainer tells you that you have to do more cardio. Your nutritionist tells you to count your calories so you can lose weight, but they all feed into the model of ‘eat less, exercise more’. The crazy thing is that people still buy into it even after having failed all their previous attempts at it. Not only is the diet mindset boring, but if it worked, then why are there still marathon runners out there that carry a spare tire? Why do you still see people who work out 7 days a week with excess body fat? More exercise is not the answer to developing a kickass body. Let me tell you why by using my own metabolic mishaps as an example:

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Last week the weather was so gorgeous, I decided to take my road bike out for a spin to New Jersey. I had just finished teaching a class and got on my bike to cross over the George Washington Bridge into New Jersey. A fellow (strange) rider decided to join me and before I knew it, I pushed myself a little harder than I wanted to. I was really going for a leisurely ride since it was only my second ride of the season and I wanted to relax. I eventually ditched him on the ride back because I cherished my alone time and wanted to enjoy being in nature, not being distracted by someone next to me. The ride felt good, but the hills coming back were a lot harder than usual. My legs felt like rocks. Once I got back, I went about the rest of the day as usual, seeing clients and working. But came evening, I was exhausted on the couch and couldn’t keep my eyes open past 9pm. Thursday morning I could barely get out of bed. I felt like I was hungover. Not until Sunday morning did I feel like my energy was back to normal. Now, it’s not unusual to feel more tired when starting a new training program, but to feel so tired for 3 days is unusual and not good. My sleep was disrupted and I woke up at around 3am every night, I had night sweats and my sugar cravings were all of a sudden present again after dinner every night. My appetite for carbs increased. I also felt restless and unfocused and a bit impatient. My digestion wasn’t what it usually is, and I noticed that in the warm-up portion of my class, my heart rate shot up unusually fast – like heart palpitations – making me feel out of breath within the first few minutes – all uncharacteristic signs for me as of late and yet very familiar signs of something larger. All are signs of overtraining and metabolic disturbances. I knew them well because about 2 years ago I had damaged my metabolism so badly, it took me months to get out of it and lose the 15 lbs I had gained seemingly overnight and resolve the symptoms that made me feel like an alien was inhabiting my body. Years ago I would have looked at all these signs as isolated issues. Now, I can recognize them as connected and as signs of metabolic damage, so when I see women in my nutrition consultations illustrating their struggles with weight loss despite eating clean and exercising a lot, I know to dig deeper.

Here are the mistakes I made. I hope that as you read them and recognize some or all as your own, you understand how they’re all connected.

  • Too much intensity without an aerobic base: Instead of going for a leisurely bike ride that would have been relaxing and de-stressing for my metabolism and would have helped me build a sold aerobic base, I allowed someone to push me into anaerobic too fast, which then resulted in me burning through the sugar in my muscles and liver fast. Had I stayed at a slower pace, it would have allowed me to stay in fat burning mode, where my body is happiest. Burning sugar as fuel isn’t nearly as good for your body as burning fat (ketones) when you look at the metabolic waste products created and the amount of oxidation that occurs.
  • Too much stress physically and hormonally: The intensity of the ride over 3.5 hours stimulated adrenaline, which in the short run is helpful. It boosts performance and fat burning, but due to the long duration, it likely also kicked up cortisol, the stress hormone known to promote fat storage. When those two hormones are up, they also increase insulin, even if you eat a super-clean diet.That puts you into fat storage and water retention/bloat mode. The sleep disruption is another classic sign of a stress response. Waking up between the hours of 1-3 am is typical for those with metabolic damage, as are the racing thoughts and mood swings with an inability to concentrate. The digestive issues further signal that there was a disruption in the perfect balance of the nervous systems working together. Too much fight-or-flight (sympathetic nervous system stimulation) and not enough rest-and-digest activity (the parasympathetic nervous system). This imbalance can over time create issues affecting your menstruation, thyroid, digestion and mood.
  • Not enough rest to balance out the workout: I went about my day without considering recovery. I should have taken an epsom salt bath, stretched, foam rolled and even napped afterwards to allow my stress hormone levels to return to normal. My appetite was increased because I went out too hard, forcing my body to burn sugar instead of fat and that brought on carb cravings. The sugar cravings were caused by the imbalance in brain chemistry and the added stress on my body and too little rest.
  • Insufficient nutrition: Given that I had just finished teaching an intense class and then hopped on the bike a bit later, I should have fueled with more protein and carbs, before and after the workout and bike ride. I had a muffin at my destination, but that only forces my body to burn more sugar as fuel and stay out of fat burning mode.I should have also taken my adaptogenic supplements afterwards that come into play whenever my intensity increases in training. Adaptogens allow the body to adapt to stress better without releasing crazy amounts of adrenaline, cortisol and insulin. I swear by a supplement that includes Ashwaganda and Rhodiola.
  • Rest-based training: I should have added slow and relaxing walks to my days following the bike ride and scaled down the intensity of the workouts in the days after the bike ride.

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Progress in workouts happens when you create a solid base of aerobic training. You only want to push yourself into anaerobic high-intensity workouts when you have created a solid base. Then you need to add strength training to stimulate muscle growth, the release of growth hormone to burn fat and stay young. Cardio is important too, but too much cardio raises stress hormones, which then put your body into a state of muscle loss, sugar cravings, inflammation, delayed recovery, sleep disruption and actually sets you back overall. How do you know how much is enough? Look out for the symptoms described above. If you experience an increase in appetite, sugar cravings, low energy, then you know something’s off. Even worse, if your digestion, sleep, thyroid, mood, menstruation and weight is affected, then you are already in trouble mode.

Make sure you stay in tune with your body at all times and don’t just blindly follow a workout plan because it has worked for others or because it’s the latest and greatest and was recently reviewed by US weekly, or because your friend swears by it. Stay connected to your body and listen to the signals. You then have to adjust accordingly. Not all workouts are for all people and not all workouts will produce the same results for all people because everyone’s metabolism is different. Stick to the basics:

  • Strength train ideally 3 x a week with a rest day in between
  • Do short cardio workouts of high intensity (less than 30 minutes) 2-3 times a week (that depends on your metabolic type)
  • Eat a clean diet of mostly veggies, lean proteins, limited fruit and lots of water. Eat slightly more carbs on workout days to ensure muscle recovery, avoid energy drops and sugar cravings. Here’s my post-workout dinner: a piece of salmon with butternut squash,brussels sprouts and a few mini potatoes for starch.

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  • Balance out your stress (exercise can be stressful to your system) by walking, sleeping at least 7-8 hours a night, avoiding all sugar and processed food, keeping a positive mindset,and creating an environment in which you can thrive.
  • Keep it simple and you’ll stick to it.

So, to sum it up: More exercise is not better. The quality of your workouts matter, especially if they are in line with your energy, appetite and cravings. And, if your body is changing at the same time, you can be pretty damn sure that you hit the metabolic jackpot.

Now, back to my protein shake and foam rolling! :-)

Cheers, Ariane

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This is how she lost 9 lbs in 4 weeks!

For the February Slim & Strong session I gave away 3 free spots under the following conditions: The person had to commit to 3x weekly Slim & Strong workouts, send me a daily food diary and check in with me once a week to talk strategy. Close to 50 people applied for the spots and I selected 3 people:

Lisa had done my Slim & Strong program years ago with great success, lost a ton of weight and became a passionate runner. However, some dramatic changes in her life led her to abandon all she had implemented to consistently and she put back on many pounds. She was ready to get back to feeling good and making herself a priority, rather than letting the stress build up and deal with it by stuffing it down.

Solange had also done Slim & Strong years ago and done well. Her work is very challenging and she found herself eating emotionally at night to comfort herself with sugar. That added several pounds, guilty feelings and not feeling good in her own skin anymore. She was ready to move beyond the emotional eating and find better ways to handle her stress.

Jenny had never done Slim & Strong, but had been in touch with me over the years on several occasions, always expressing that she desperately needed to lose weight. I never saw her come to any classes or make any moves, so this was the time I was going to hold her accountable for her goals she expressed so desperately. She was ready to consider plastic surgery, but didn’t die on the table as one of her friends. She had already started to experience health issues and realized that it was time to take her health seriously.

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These 3 ladies embarked on a strong journey, but only 2 made it through. Jenny didn’t make it to the workouts and many struggles ensued that she didn’t conquer and instead decided to drop out. Solange and Lisa stayed the course, focused on clean eating and regular workouts. No matter what happened – work stress, birthday celebrations, social outings and boozy brunches, they made them work. They didn’t focus on perfection, but rather both made sure that they tackled any challenge in a way that would allow them to feel good coming out of it. Solange went to a boozy brunch and decided to have 3 drinks and she undid it by balancing out the following two days by going lower on the carbs. Lisa had a week of birthday celebrations and learned that she no longer enjoyed sugar because she had sensitized her body to it so much, it left her feeling yucky. Both also realized that once they got the ball rolling, it was easy to stay the course, so both are back for another month of Slim & Strong.

Here are their before and after pictures and results:

lisa

Lisa:

Weight lost: 9.4 pounds

Body fat lost: .4% (She lost more, but due to dehydration the number is inaccurate)

5 inches lost

5% of her original weight lost

Almost 5 pounds of pure fat lost

solange1 solange

Solange:

Weight lost: 2 pounds

Body fat lost: 3.9%

8.5 inches lost

4 pounds of muscle gained

6 pounds of pure fat lost!

 

How did they do it? Nutrition is 80%, so they managed to eat mostly veggies paired with lean proteins. They allowed themselves slightly more carbs on workout days and only veggies on non-workout days. They eliminated dairy, nuts, grains, and most fruit, and made sure to take rest days to allow their muscles to recover. Here’s a typical food day for Solange:

Food Diary – Workout Day

6:00am
Pre-workout Vega Sport, one scoop

8:30am- Breakfast
Omelette with turkey, scallions, kale, spinach, broccoli and two slices of whole wheat bread
One black coffee

1pm-Lunch
Half of a large grilled chicken salad with lentils, bell peppers, kale, spinach, scallions (I didn’t eat the whole thing. I wasn’t that hungry.)

7pm-Dinner
Ate the rest of the salad and half an egg roll.

Went to sleep early today around 9:30pm

Food Diary on non-Workout Day

8.30am Large omelette with broccoli, scallions, spinach, kale

1pm Lunch Salad with grilled chicken, kidney beans, avocado, spinach, carrots

4.30pm Vega Sport Protein shake with water

8pm Chicken Soup with carrots, potatoes, broccoli, onions

90 ounces of water

 

Here’s how Lisa ate on Workout Days:

Breakfast – 2 eggs scrambled, beet salad, herring and one slice fitness bread. Iced coffee with unsweetened vanilla almond milk

Drink- Flat white with almond milk

Exercise – 20 minute bike ride

Lunch – Iced black tea, 1/2 Seafood Cobb Salad with Green Goddess Dressing. (Lunch with out-of-town guest who had Fish and Chips. I told her about my French Fry/Potato Chip trigger, so she didn’t offer or tempt me. Plus I had no desire to drink alcohol. )

Exercise – 55 minute bike ride

Drink – Flat white with almond milk (I’m obsessed), Chocolate Orgain Protein Powder Shake with water

Dinner – Chicken, Zucchini and Prosciutto. Mint Green Iced Tea

Drink – Spiced Green Tea

On non-workout days, she ate less, rested more and with that prevented any hunger or cravings.

The most important change these two ladies made was their mindset. They had both used food to compensate for the stress they were experiencing. They were reaching for a quick fix to address something that made them feel good for a few minutes. In the long run, however, they felt bad about their choices, were beating themselves up because they had gained weight and the indulgences didn’t leave them feeling any better, but worse. With the first few days of clean eating, they remembered how good it felt to nourish their bodies. The sweet cravings disappeared and the desire to indulge or sabotage themselves went away. They used exercise to handle their stress better and recognized that eating clean diet is a much better stress management tool than overeating processed and sugary foods. That new mindset will be stronger than any temptations that will be coming their way. They are now both able to complete our workouts with great focus, they push themselves through the tough parts and see their improved muscle tone and body confidence. No piece of junk food can match that.

How are you going to feel a month from now? We just started our March Slim & Strong session. Feel free to join our drop-in sessions here and see for yourself what you’re capable of!

Is it possible to spot-reduce my belly fat?

 

Hi Ariane,
This may be a silly question or maybe a common one. I know we all have different body types which lead to a concentration of body fat in certain areas. But is there actually a way to target the specific area where we accumulate the most fat? Or is it just about lowering our body fat and eventually seeing a change in that problem area?I ask because i have always had belly fat. Even when was 15 lbs lighter and had lower body fat in my teens, my stomach was never flat. My waist does get significantly smaller, and im sure i lose fat (of course for me its hard to tell) but i never have been as toned as i’d like. So i always wondered if i need to have really low body fat for this to happen since it seems it’s the last place that goes for me. Hope this makes sense. Thanks, R.
stomach-fat 1c853-female-six-pack-abs-1-475
Hi R.
this is not a silly question at all. Where you store body fat says a lot about your genetics, your diet, your hormones, stress levels and your workouts. And to a certain extent you can affect where your body will change.
Firstly, a six-pack is only visible if your body fat is low enough to expose the muscle underneath. That’s not a matter of working out, but a matter of clean eating and balancing your hormones. Why hormones? If you’re constantly stressed, it throws off your hormonal balance and creates fat storage in your belly area. Most women tend to store more body fat around the thighs, hips and butt. Typically women lose body fat from top to bottom. Most get skinny on top but retain bigger hips, thighs and butt. Again, this has to do with hormones. We have fat receptors in the lower body that are much less active than those in the upper body and while those respond quickly to clean eating and working out , the lower body fat receptors in a woman don’t respond quite as fast. Plus, to make matters worse, they can be slowed down by many factors, such as stress, too much sugar in your diet – creating high insulin levels, and the hormonal changes over the course of your menstrual cycle. Did you know that those lower body fat receptors will respond much better based on where you are in your cycle? They will respond much better in the week before and of your period because estrogen levels are then low and in the week before and after ovulation you are much better off pushing the intensity in your workouts because your body can actually handle more stress, intensity and more starchy foods. Your fat burning is amped up much more. When I work with private nutrition clients one-on-one, we always consider the hormonal impact on fat burning and actually schedule the right kind of workout and nutrition based on the hormonal cycle. It sounds quite complicated but with the right plan and education, you can create changes in your trouble zones quite effectively and save yourself a lot of trial-and-error.
Let’s get back to your stomach.You’re only going to see a six-pack ab definition if your body fat is lower than about 18-22%, so unless you get there, you can’t really say that you’re always storing fat on your belly. It may just be that you store it everywhere evenly and you notice it there more.
Women who tend to store fat around the waist typically have higher testosterone levels and lower estrogen and progesterone levels. If you’re under lots of stress, then the excess cortisol makes it even worse, so stress control is the most important thing, along with a clean diet with moderate carbohydrate intake and lots of lean protein.
How do you work that? In the week leading up to your period and the week of your period, do workouts that boost muscle mass without causing an intense stress response. Lift heavy weights and at the same time keep your carbs in check by choosing mostly veggies. Add lots of walking to reduce stress and add relaxation, such as yoga, sleeping enough and foam rolling. Plan your high-intensity workouts for the other two weeks of the month, where you can also afford to eat slightly more starches as they won’t affect you just as much.
See, fat loss isn’t all about calories, but about the hormonal impact you create with food, exercise, rest and your mindset.
Cheers, Ariane
If you’re interested in one-on-one Nutrition Coaching to address your specific fat loss goals, please check out my websitewww.arianehundt.com