by James Rouse, N.D.
Do you live to eat or eat to live?
The program outlined below is not a diet. It is a way of life that will support you in weight loss and maintenance, and in building a foundation for living the life of your dreams. The beauty and the blessing of this way of eating, moving and living is that it grows and gives way to a life of peace and unlimited possibility. You will see that being on purpose with your self-love and self-care encourages success in every area of your life: career, health, family, romance and spirituality.
Restore your fat-burning chemistry
This guide will help you learn to recalibrate your body’s natural chemistry and hormonal balance to make it an optimal fat-burning machine through:
- Frequent meals
- Appropriate portion sizes
- Balanced meals with the right combination of complex, low glycemic carbohydrates, lean protein and essential fats
Go for the five meal ideal
To optimize metabolism, energy, and mental and emotional positivity, set a goal to eat five small meals per day — do NOT skip meals. Sometimes you will feel like you don’t have the time or the energy to put anything together, but this is critical to your success. Your body and your metabolism are designed to look for cues telling them when to burn and when to conserve. If you miss a meal your body does what it is programmed to do — stop burning. Ideally, the five meals include breakfast, mid-morning snack, lunch, mid-afternoon snack and dinner. On occasion, you may also enjoy a healthy and delicious fat-burning dessert after dinner. This five meal ideal will keep your metabolism burning brightly, and your brain will enjoy a steady source of fuel, keeping you mentally sharp and safe from those challenging blood sugar drops that spur cravings for sub-par food choices.
Right-size your portions
So how much should you eat at each meal? Begin by keeping in mind that there is no one definition of a serving size. With both the Food Pyramid and Nutrition Facts labels, the serving size is simply a unit of measure and may not represent the amount you are really eating. For example, an English muffin represents two Food Pyramid servings of bread, despite the fact that the Nutrition Facts label on the package defines a serving as one muffin.
Measure your food for a day to gain perspective on your portion sizes. For packaged foods such as cereal, use the label to identify a serving size. For other foods, such as vegetables and meats, use the Rule of “Thumb” (using everyday objects to help you gauge portion sizes without measuring) below:
One serving of = Is about the size of:
low-fat cheese = your thumb
milk or yogurt = tuna can
bread, cereal, rice or pasta = tuna can
whole or chopped vegetables = tuna can
leafy vegetables = your fist
whole or chopped fruit = tennis ball
lean meat, poultry or fish = deck of cards
dry beans, nuts, eggs = one egg
Seeing what a defined serving looks like will help you gauge how much you are eating. A true-size serving of whole-grain pasta tossed with a touch of olive oil, fresh tomatoes and steamed broccoli, then sprinkled with a dash of low-fat cheese is likely smaller than you are used to, but will be equally as satisfying as a larger portion. As you continue to eat right-size portions, your appetite will rebalance and your hormones will reharmonize, resulting in effective and lasting weight loss.
Research suggests that calorie restriction can not only increase life span, but also substantially lower blood pressure and reduce your risk of cancer and other diseases. But what does “calorie restriction” mean to you? If you are portion-conscious, you should not need to count calories. However, you should be aware of what’s going into your mouth and realize that some food choices come with higher calorie price tags.
If you aim for my recommended balance of 25 to 40 percent lean protein, 40 to 50 percent complex, low-glycemic carbohydrate, and 20 to 30 percent essential fat, make nutritional food choices using common sense, and watch portion sizes, then the appropriate amount of calories should follow.
Create hormonal balance
Have you ever blamed your weight loss challenges on your hormones? If you are not eating with balance, you may be right. Hormones play a role in every physiological process in our bodies. They are always working to maintain balance and harmony in the body. Knowing how to use food and putting it together in balance can be the difference between reaching your goals or remaining stuck in frustration, firing up your metabolism or keeping it sluggish.
As mentioned throughout this guide, you need to eat a balance of low-glycemic complex carbohydrates, lean protein and beneficial fats to create and sustain consistent high levels of energy and metabolism. When properly balanced, these macronutrients support optimal blood sugar levels, optimal fat burning, improved mental fitness and focus, and improved overall health and well being.
Macronutrient #1: Complex, Low-Glycemic Carbohydrates — 40 to 50 percent of each meal
Carbohydrates provide our bodies with fuel in the form of sugar for energy-burning brain and muscle activity. They also encourage the healthy release of a brain chemical called serotonin, which supports positive mood and sleep patterns. As carbs break down in the body, they release blood sugar into the bloodstream. Insulin is then released to counter the blood sugar. How quickly insulin is released depends on the type of carbohydrate you eat.
When you eat simple carbohydrates, they break down quickly so insulin is released quickly, causing your body to stifle fat-burning systems, depress the release of muscle-building hormones, challenge the immune system and raise cholesterol. You feel the effects of this process as a sugar high followed by an energy slump. But when you eat complex carbohydrates, they break down slowly so insulin is released slowly and manageably, providing sustained, long-term energy — you don’t feel the blood sugar spike and dip that triggers cravings and eventual weight gain.
The glycemic index
Another way to keep off the blood sugar roller coaster is to choose carbohydrates that are not only complex, but also low on the glycemic index. The glycemic index (GI) is a numerical ranking of foods based on the immediate effect that they have on blood sugar levels. The higher the glycemic index, the quicker the lift and the faster the fall. Conversely, the lower the glycemic index, the longer the energy boost and the more satisfied you’ll feel. In short, complex, low-GI carbs will help you experience fewer cravings, feel fuller longer, lose weight easier, improve your body’s sensitivity to insulin, and lower your cholesterol.
Choose the right carbohydrates
The goal of this program is not to feed your possible fear of carbohydrates, but instead to support you in eating the right kinds that will, in turn, support your metabolism, your mood and your overall health and well being. When you choose nourishing carbohydrates from complex, low glycemic varieties — such as legumes, most fruits and vegetables, and many whole grains — you will be getting the very best chemistry support to meet your goals. And whenever possible, you should replace highly processed foods with minimally processed foods.
The chart below is a small sample of carbohydrates and their glycemic indices.
(56 to 69)
(less than 55)
|White bread||Sourdough bread||Pumpernickel bread|
|Wheat bread||Whole wheat pita bread||Psyllium-based cereal|
|Rice Krispies®||Rye bread||Peach|
|Cheerios®||Cream of Wheat® cereal||Lentils|
|White or brown rice||Pineapple||Cherries|
|Jelly beans||Yam or sweet potatoes||Most vegetables|
|Life Savers®||Full-fat ice cream||Nuts|
Macronutrient #2: Lean Protein — 25 to 40 percent of each meal
Protein is an essential element for creating body balance. The main function of protein is to act as the building block for muscle tissue. Protein is also vital for proper hormone and enzyme synthesis and immune function in our bodies. Protein helps balance blood sugar by serving as a catalyst for the release of glucagon, which plays an opposite role to insulin. Excess insulin can force our bodies to store fat, whereas glucagon from protein helps the body to mobilize fat for burning as a fuel source. When you choose lean proteins, versus higher fat versions, you will support your metabolism and health by optimizing digestion and assimilation.
Choosing the Right Proteins
High quality proteins come from many sources including animal (lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, yogurt) and vegetable sources (tofu, soy protein powders, tempeh). It is important to know that other vegetable-based proteins, such as beans and other legumes, are great protein sources but also contain significant levels of carbohydrates, which could offset the balance of carbohydrate and proteins. You should also try to limit the amount of protein that you get from sources that are higher in saturated fats. The bottom line is that it’s important to pay attention to what comes along with the protein in your food choices. If you are partial to beef, stick with the leanest cuts to lower fat levels. If beans are what you’re after, know that carbs come along with it and compensate with fewer starchy accompaniments.
You may want to experiment with soy-based proteins, as they deliver many health positives. Studies show that soy may decrease your risk for heart disease, support hormonal regulation, support bone building and decrease risk for certain cancers. If tofu seems too far-out, consider its cultural cousin, tempeh. Or start with soy protein powder and soy milk.
How much protein?
Minimal protein requirements for an average healthy man or woman is about 0.8 gram of high quality protein per kilogram of body weight per day (a kilogram equals about 2.2 pounds). For example, a 140-pound woman would require approximately 50 grams of protein daily; a 175-pound man requires about 63 grams of protein daily. There are some exceptions to this rule:
Infants: about 2 grams per kilogram of body weight per day
Children: about 1.2 grams per kilogram of body weight per day
Pregnant women: at least an extra 10 grams of protein per day
Nursing women: an extra 15 grams during the first 6 months of nursing, and 12 additional grams during the second 6 months
Athletes: about 1.3 grams per kilogram of body weight per day
Macronutrient #3: Beneficial/Essential Fats — 20 to 30 percent of each meal
Are you surprised to learn that fat doesn’t necessarily make you fat? Isn’t that a relief? Truth be told, fats are necessary for proper body function. Subcutaneous fat provides an insulating layer that inhibits heat loss. Fat supports and protects certain organs, provides a concentrated reserve of food, provides essential fatty acids necessary for normal growth and development, and is a vehicle for natural fat-soluble vitamins found in foods. Fats are an important constituent of cell structure, forming an integral part of the cell membrane. And in conjunction with carbohydrates, fats help conserve protein.
But fats are not equal in their effects on the body. Countless research has been published on the health benefits of the good fats recommended in this program. Essential fats — including linolenic acid (LA), alpha-linolenic acid (LNA), and omega-3 fatty acids — have a favorable effect on both beneficial and non-beneficial cholesterol levels and play a significant role in protecting you from many diseases and immune challenges.
There is no shortage of research that shows omega-3, found in abundance in fish and nuts, is also crucial to good health. Research has shown that it helps prevent hardening of the arteries, which can lead to hypertension, heart attack and stroke. It also lowers the risk for coronary heart disease. A lack of omega-3 in your diet will show up in a variety of sobering ways: a decrease in energy and metabolism, emotional challenges including depression, dry skin and hair; and premature aging of your skin, nails and hair.
Fats to avoid
Saturated fats are linked to many diseases, including obesity, cardiovascular disease and cancer. The saturated fats that are found in animal-based foods are especially problematic when consumed in excess and have been the subject of much debate with diets that encourage a high-protein eating regimen.
Trans fats, hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated fats should be totally removed from your eating and healthy lifestyle plan. These fats serve no positive purpose and are linked to many health challenges and disease markers. Consuming these fats has been associated with increased risk for heart disease by raising LDL cholesterol while lowering beneficial and heart-protective HDL cholesterol. Stay away from these fat sources when possible.