It’s hard to be a woman in today’s society. You’re constantly bombarded with images and messages about what you should look like, how you should behave, and what you should eat.
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This constant pressure can lead to feelings of anxiety, guilt, and shame. It can be tough to make healthy choices when you’re constantly being told or feel that you’re not good enough the way you are.
I recently got to sit down with Dr. Lucy Burns and we talked allll about diet culture and how she was able to leave it in the past so that she could have a better relationship with food. Dr. Lucy Burns is a general practice and lifestyle medicine physician who helps women in midlife rebalance their mind and body through low-carb, real food programs. At her clinic Epiphany Medical Weight Loss, through her online business Real Life Medicine, and on her podcast Real Health and Weight Loss Podcast, she helps women unlearn toxic diet culture and tap into science that promotes long-lasting health and permanent weight loss.
In 2018, Lucy began her own shift to a low-carb, real food lifestyle, which ultimately resulted in 20 kgs/44 lbs lost. Lucy’s program addresses both the physiological and psychological causes of weight gain and obesity.
Let’s start with the mantra… “What you need to do to lose weight is the same thing you need to do to maintain weight.” The way that we GET to our goal is the same way that we KEEP our goal!
As we are working with clients, we are always trying to find that thing that connects with them and that is the one thing I have found. So many people believe that if you don’t believe in diet culture, you don’t believe in losing weight. That is simply not trying. You’re allowed to change the way you look. If you want to change your health or your shape, (you are allowed to do that) there is this idea that people will do it at any cost for this ideal.
The human body doesn’t function on extreme calorie restrictions day in and day out. If you restrict yourself day in and day out, your body will slow things down. This will include weight loss too. This is how you ruin your metabolism and metabolic rate. “For years I did a calorie count of 1200 a day and the sneaky thing in there was I didn’t actually care what food I ate, as long as I stayed under my number.” -Dr. Lucy Burns And when it comes to diet culture, the people who create these programs and ideas are so plugged into the buttons that need to be pushed. The buttons that light up your brain like a freaking slot machine on what to say. They study women and give us what we think we want to hear and that pulls us into that culture.
In order to lose weight, we have to look at all areas of our lives. This is why things work differently for each person. And we have to look at HORMONES. When people think of the word hormones, they think of the women’s hormone of progesterone, etc. But there is SOOO much more to hormones. There are actually a lot of metabolic hormones that are involved in the way we metabolize our food and store our data. Metabolic hormones include insulin, lectin, ghrelin. Insulin is heavily involved in fat storage. Lectin is involved in our fullness signaling. And ghrelin is our hunger hormone. A lot of the information we have been given was wrong, in particular with “low fat” dieting. This “low fat” leads to disastrous consequences overall. Low fat is not okay because it’s supplemented with other things like tons of sugar that cause insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, etc. And for lots of people, they have dysregulated metabolic hormones because of this unhealthy “swap”.
When someone says, I know in order to lose weight, I need to be in a caloric deficit?
We are going to tell a true story… but how do we get into a calorie deficit if we are not tracking our calories? There is a big difference between calorie deficit and calorie restrictions. Dieting is all about calorie restriction… If you’re overweight and have been overweight for a considerable amount of time, the likelihood is that you have dysregulated metabolic hormones and the idea is we have to rebalance them. That is the first key to being able to empty your fat stores. So how do we do that?….
If we think about our body as requiring heat for example, let’s say we have a fireplace. And we know that in order to make a good fire, you need both kindling and logs. So, the kindling is our glucose, which is actually a carbohydrate that we eat. And the logs are our fat. So, we can either eat the fat or use our stored fat. But in a really well-run metabolic process, you use a bit of kindling, as well as some logs and now you’ve got beautiful energy for the day! However, for lots of us, we don’t have any logs next to our fireplace. They’re in what I like to call a woodshed. So, what you have to do is you tunnel out to your woodshed, and your body is trying to get access to its fat stores. But when it tries it’s opening the doors to that shed, the doors are actually locked! And the padlock is our insulin.
For some people, they only have one padlock. And for other people they have five or six padlocks! So, with the woodshed being locked up, they come back to their fireplace, it’s getting low in energy, and it’s dwindling on just a few coals. When this happens, this is when people start having what they’ll call a Hypo and they get really hungry, they may feel lightheaded, or sweaty, or they’ll just start feeling terrible. Their brain starts to signal them to eat something quickly and they end up grabbing the fastest, quickest way to get glucose in, which is often a cookie or some chocolate, and you feel immediately better.
THIS is exactly what happens then, in people with metabolic syndrome or dysregulated metabolic hormones. They end up on this cycle of hunger and they then start associating it with cravings. And ladies, it’s not that they’re weak, it is just your brain doesn’t know what to do!
So, what you will do next is look at your sugars, look at your sugar intake because sugar is in everything processed. Bread, pasta, pasta sauce, condiments, etc. Sugar is an addictive product; it is like cigarettes. So how much of it are you eating a day and where can you remove it? Keep it simple while doing this. We need to make the change really simple because our brain doesn’t like change! So, in order to keep things simple and make the changes to get you closer to eating less sugars we are going to take a look at this simple formula to BUILD A PLATE!
1. Pick a protein (our bodies love protein) and most of us undereat protein.
a. Meat, fish, eggs, dairy
b. Vegetarian, soy. Tempeh
2. Pick vegetables.
a. Pick a few colors
3. Add fat.
a. If your protein is lean, add some fat to your plate
b. You are allowed to have fat; it is NOT THE DEVIL!
c. butter, olive oil, coconut cream, etc.
So that is it! It’s easy, you are keeping it simple, and you are making sure that you are getting your protein, veggies, fats and flavor! Fat and protein together are very satiating, and it keeps you fuller longer. When you focus on fat and protein, you don’t eat so many calories and you also don’t get these whole insulin surges.
In addition to building your plate, eat when you are hungry. Don’t eat around the clock because you have to eat. Eat when you want to eat, when you feel that you are hungry enough to eat! You don’t need to eat breakfast if you are not ready or hungry for breakfast. (If you wait to eat when you are actually hungry, your food will taste better too!) You also do not need to finish something off of your plate so that you are not wasting it. It can go into the garbage! It is okay! And stop grabbing at the kids’ plates. You do not need to finish the kids’ food off their plate because you don’t want to waste it either! If you find yourself constantly trying to finish your plate even though you are full you are giving yourself too much. (This goes for your kids too). Start with a smaller bowl and if you want more you can get more but start off small.
I read on Lucy’s website this little bit and I just love it so much. Weight Loss is “95% mindset, 4% food. 1% movements.” Our rigid mindset is what is keeping us stuck!!
Diet culture told us that we have to eat a certain amount of calories… And everything tells us we have to keep removing things until we are stuck eating lettuce and ice!! Our bodies don’t run on calories, they run on nutrients! It is okay to not live on lettuce and ice. That is not perfection, and we have to stop striving for it.
We are all perfectly flawed humans and no one is perfect. That is what is so toxic about diet culture, it’s all about perfection. Perfection is a myth! We don’t need to be perfect. We just have to learn to manage our imperfections! And what diet culture does is it encourages us to decide if we are perfect and if we are not perfect, and the words we use are not okay. Broke, failed, etc. destructive words to our psyche and it’s not okay to use them towards ourselves. Just because we stray off of a path, does not mean we have to talk negatively about ourselves. Be positive and give yourself grace!
Now, there are 3 buckets of people that I think most people fall into when it comes to their relationships with food.
1. The first bucket is a set of people that don’t care about food at all.
a. They will have a cake once a year on their birthday. They don’t care and are not food orientated.
b. It is like having a glass of wine twice a year. They can do it and it’s just whatever to them.
2. The second bucket is the middle bucket of people. Most people fall under this.
a. They are eating more than they want to or what is helpful to them
b. Chocolate and ice cream on the couch some nights because of a bad day at work.
c. They can actually stop. Possibly causing some issues, but it is not completely detrimental to their health yet.
3. The 3rd bucket of people are those that are addicted to these processed sugars and cannot stop and it’s causing complete harm.
a. They may have diabetes, or even complications from diabetes and still, they cannot stop.
You need to know yourself well and see what bucket you are falling under. The majority of people are in the middle bucket. Some people are actually in this end bucket, the big one. It’s like an addiction and they are completely hooked on processed foods. “I was probably in that bucket but found it really hard to stop. I know now that if I have a hankering for a cookie and I have one, it still doesn’t go away. It’s an itch that doesn’t get scratched. For me it is easier to have no cookies than one. And it’s not that I am feeling deprived or restricted, I NO LONGER feel this because I know myself well enough to know that 1 is too many and 1000 is never enough! This is not the same for everyone.” – Lucy
Sustainable, long term weight loss is a personal development journey. It is not a meal plan. You learn to know yourself really well. Learn to know what your drive is for eating. Sometimes there is stress, or there are emotions tied to it, and then there are actual addictions to foods. Once you work out your drive, you can work with it. Most people don’t take the time to step back and assess what is going on in my world. What lane are you in? What is my bucket? If I am constantly doing things out of my bucket, I am always going to feel like a failure because I am not choosing something where I am right now. This is again where diet products are offering a quick solution. “You don’t need to know yourself well, just drink these shakes. You’re fine!” Do you really want to lose weight to just regain it? This is a quick fix but it’s not permanent.
When you learn to know yourself, who you are, what bucket you are in, what your drivers are, what your motivation is…. You feel like you are driving down the road and have lane assist now. You are making small adjustments here and there and you are not over correcting all the time! You are making micro corrections and they are easy! You are no longer over correcting all the time!
And guess what?? YOU ARE MORE than the number on the scale! And don’t let anyone tell you differently!!
What makes you feel magical?
The magical thing for me has been knowing what my drivers were eating in the past. Now, instead berating myself as motivation, I now treat myself with love, compassion and kindness. I recognize I am not perfect, and I do not need to be, and if I am not liking what I am doing, or my behavior, I look at what is driving my behavior and what do I need to make adjustments to so I can do the things I want to do.
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