Five Unconventional Changes You Can Make for Fat Loss
We have spoke ad nauseum about different nutrition tactics for fat loss
, but oftentimes it can be trickier than simply adjusting macronutrients and training. I’m hitting you from a different angle today with five unconventional changes you can – and should – make to push for more fat loss.
I love wine and bourbon. Pinot Noir, Shiraz, Sauvignon Blanc, Woodford, Larceny…
::glug glug glug::
… where was I? Oh! Right. Wine and bourbon. I love me some. Left to my own devices I would indulge in a glass
or two every single night, but I don’t. Do you know why? No, not because I’m afraid I’ll turn into an alcoholic, but because alcohol is bodyfat’s bestie!
Alcohol shuts down fat loss quicker than Harlem shakes, but listen – it’s not about the calories. My nutrition clients ask me all of the time which is the best cocktail option that they can drink when trying to lose fat. “Vodka cran.? Red wine?” they hopefully suggest to me, with their eyes gleaming and their mouths watering.
The answer is: no cocktail. Wah-waaaaah.
I repeat, it’s not about the calories.
The problem lies in the fact that alcohol essentially turns off your metabolism, tanks your blood sugar (hence the frantic 4am search for a Del Taco – been there, do that), and causes us to retain water like the Hoover Dam. Not pretty.
“Jen, I just don’t get it; I’m not losing fat. I’m eating clean and training hard… but I do have a cocktail 3-4 nights a week.”
Ding ding ding!
Now we’re on to something!
If you are serious about losing fat then you need to whittle your alcohol down to (hold on to your flask friends!) one or two cocktails a month. Once you are at a maintenance stage, and only then if luck is on your side, you might be able to get away with a glass of wine each week. Until then? Cut it.
One more thing – when you do drink, avoid consuming starchy carbs or sugar. Keep your meal to protein, veg, and dietary fat for the least amount of damage.
Detox Excess Estrogen
Nowadays we are absolutely bathed in environmental toxins. We are breathing chemicals we shouldn’t be, eating things that were never meant for human consumption, and slathering products on our skin that we’d never ingest in a million years. Things are getting kinda weird and I’m a firm believer that all of these things are negatively affecting our body composition and our fragile hormones, especially in women.
More good news: if you consume conventionally farmed meats, and most people do, this means you are also ingesting animals that have been pumped full of hormones and antibiotics throughout their entire lives. That, on top of the produce you eat being sprayed liberally with pesticides, can really challenge us from a hormonal standpoint, specifically in the form of excess estrogen.
Most women, especially those that store bodyfat in their lower body, can benefit from detoxing excess estrogen from their bodies. We obviously can’t avoid all toxins unless you are willing to build yourself a BPA-free bubble and live inside of it, but here are some things that you can do that will help:
- Make sure your meat and all animal products (including dairy) are pastured and humanely raised, without antibiotics or added hormones.
- Buy organic whenever possible, especially when it comes to coffee, apples, and these other 11 foods.
- Eliminate the usage of plastic bottles (Tip: I bought an 800mL glass Voss water bottle and just re-use that bad boy!)
- Eliminate the usage of plastic tupperware, and do NOT heat your food in/on plastic containers in the microwave!
- Dry skin brushing (Bonus: can decrease the appearance of cellulite)
- Consume more (organic) cruciferous vegetables
More High Quality Sleep
Many people that have emailed me about their hitting a frustrating fat loss plateau can attest that the first thing I ask them is, “How is your sleep quality?” and then “How are your stress levels?” Interestingly, almost all of the people that are struggling to lose bodyfat are eating clean and training smart but their sleep and stress levels absolutely blow.
Before I recommend any nutrition or exercise manipulations I prescribe them to get more high quality sleep and to lower their stress levels. Try that for the next few weeks without changing any other variables and get back to me.
POOF! Following my instructions, things almost always start to creep in the right direction once again.
The biggest problem with sleep is that people simply don’t prioritize it. We’re on the go all day long and by the time we get home, eat, and shower it’s already 9pm. We are exhausted, but it feels like a waste to just go to bed, so what do most people do? Languish on the couch and force ourselves to stay up for a few extra hours just to watch tv or play around on the internet, when really, we could have easily fallen asleep at 9pm!
This hurts us in two ways:
- We are forcing ourselves to stay awake when we should be sleeping, and
- Artificial light radiating from the screen (tv, net, or otherwise) disturbs our melatonin production.
The next day we are groggy, exhausted, and extra hungry which is usually bad news for our diet and other people that have to deal with us.
The solution: go to bed. Just go to bed.
Next time you settle in at night on the couch or in front of the computer, tune inwards and notice how tired you are. Could you really just go to bed and fall asleep? Then go do that!
Turn off electronics a couple of hours before bed so you can start to unwind. At the very least, invest in some super cool blue-blockers it you simply can’t pry yourself away from the computer screen before bed.
Make sure your room is dark and cool, or invest in a sleepy mask like I use. Lay down. Sleep. Be healthy and happy. Lose fat. Bliss!
Check Your Stress Levels
Nowadays people are constantly chatting about the ill effects of too much stress, and I think that people kinda disregard it all because we live in America, and it’s assumed that our stress levels are supposed to be off the friggin’ charts. Between our business(es), training, kids, dogs, school, and travel, it’s all we can do to keep our head on straight.
This go-go-go lifestyle leads to us exhausting ourselves both mentally and physically, which typically leads to obscene amounts of coffee and stimulants so we can continue to go-go-go. Top this all off with intense training a few days a week and you can mark yourself down for a front row seat to the Cortisol Shit-show.
Tip: take your pulse. An elevated resting heart rate is a sign that you need to slow your roll.
I don’t expect you to quit your job and chat “Ohmmm” from a mountain top for the rest of your livelong days, but I do expect you to prune your To Do List. There are always things that can be delegated, rearranged, or taken off of there altogether. Additionally, everybody – and I mean everybody – can take five to ten minutes per day to shut their eyes and listen to a guided meditation while focusing on some deep and controlled breathing.
Nearly every day I shut my office door, turn the light off, lay on the floor, and listen to my 7 minute guided meditation from the Silva Meditation app on my iPhone. Do it in your car. Do it outside. Do it in the bathroom. But do it somewhere, because it’s important for both your health and your fat loss goals.
Believe it to See it
Wayne Dyer put a little spin on the classic saying, and I absolutely adore this revamped version: “I’ll see it when I believe it.”
Have you ever been tip-toeing across an icy parking lot and thinking to yourself, “I’m going to fall. I just KNOW I’m going to fall. I’m totally going to fa–“ ARGH! Down you go! Well no wonder. You told yourself over and over again that you were going to fall. What the hell did you expect?
Losing fat is time intensive, and during that period it’s only normal to become emotionally vested in the process. There will be days that your jeans slide right on and you just feel good
… but there will also inevitably be other days that make you question yourself and the entire process. Because of this, it’s vitally important that you stay positive. Find peace in the fact that you are doing your best and have faith that it’s working. I’m not suggesting that you be unrealistic – thinking happy thoughts while eating Ding-Dongs isn’t gonna cut it – but I am absolutely telling you to buck up, stay the course, and be optimistic.
Tell yourself you are succeeding (present tense) and believe it. Stick it somewhere that you can see it so that it melds into your subconscious. Put a post-it on your mirror. Spray it into your grass in Round-Up. Do whatever you have to do, but make it stick: I am succeeding!
You will see it when you believe it!
Have you tried any of these? Do you have any unconventional fat loss tips that I missed? Hit me up below and lets chat!
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Charles MuirMarch 12, 2013 at 8:23 pm
"Front row seat to the cortisol shit-show!" Love it. I've certainly been to that one. Thanks for the article. And I just put a pair of blue blockers in my Amazon wish list. 🙂
EmmeMarch 12, 2013 at 10:08 pm
Seriously, we might be long lost sisters. I love wine and bourbon, too!! Always love reading your blog! Keep up the good work, and come visit Indy soon!
Jen Comas KeckMarch 14, 2013 at 1:30 pm
Ahh, so sorry! I've actually heard a lot of people say they have invested big bucks in Tempurpedic beds and they end up hating them. 🙁 That is so tough!
TV in the bedroom is a huge challenge for so many couples! Either they both love having it in there and it disrupts their sleep (and sex) lives, or one of them loves it and the other hates it.
Short of dismantling the electrical outlet (which actually isn't a bad idea 😉 I think it will come down to having a heart-to-heart chat with him, telling him that your lack of sleep is making you feel awful and you desperately need his help and cooperation.
I'll cross my fingers that he is sympathic!
Jen Comas KeckMarch 14, 2013 at 1:34 pm
haha! "hardcore booze-hound" is probably what most people think I am after my opening lines to this post!
I totally understand what you mean about wanting to have a social drink or two throughout the week.
This is my thought on having to choose between a drink or goal: some of those times are moments; moments that we will never get back with our family and/or friends. My thought here is that we have to weigh those moments out and act accordingly. If it's my husband's birthday and we are all giving a wine toast to celebrate, I'd be damned if I don't participate because of bodyfat. However, if it's just throwing back a drink for no real reason, then it's easy for me to pass.
You have just inspired a blog post. Thank you 🙂
Jen Comas KeckMarch 14, 2013 at 1:34 pm
Thanks Emme! Hope you see you and Zach soon – we shall drink wine and bourbon! 🙂
Jen Comas KeckMarch 14, 2013 at 1:38 pm
I've been to that show, too! 😉
I need to take my own advice and get some of those glasses! Whatever can help our precious sleep!
UnknownMarch 14, 2013 at 5:36 pm
Oh, the alcohol thing. My greatest challenge in life. It's not even like I am a hardcore booze-hound. I would just like to have a social drink a night or two a week, and still lose fat. NOT POSSIBLE. So, at some point I have to decide which I want more. Under 15% bodyfat – or a life. Seriously, that is a tough call.
CodieDMarch 14, 2013 at 5:36 pm
Jen, I love reading your posts. Luckily I don't really drink alcohol very often because my stomach hates it. My sleep on the other hand does need work. Since I've been in PT I have realized I do not sleep well on my bed. Sadly we just spent $3k 2 years ago for a fancy Tempurpedic (b/c our last bed lasted 3 yrs before it fell apart)…and it hates my body.
How do you convince your significant other that you don't need a TV in the bedroom? Last night I told him I was going to break my old TV because I don't want it in the bedroom anymore. He says he will just go out and buy a bigger TV for the living room and put the old living room TV in our room. LAME. haha!
Charles MuirMarch 14, 2013 at 5:37 pm
Jen, I would love to see a blog post on the alcohol thing. I cut all alcohol entirely both times I did a 10- to 12-week fat loss phase and my wife says I was insufferably grumpy. I notice I also tended to drink more right after I was done dieting. You have great views on seeking balance in fitness and life. 🙂
Jesse M. HowlandMarch 14, 2013 at 7:52 pm
Very nicely done. I really enjoyed the sleep section. It's a constant reminder that I just need to 'go to bed'.
AnonymousMarch 15, 2013 at 10:23 am
My sleep hygeine is as dirty as an Amtrack station, minus all the bums sleeping in corners…(wait,do my snoring husband and crashed-out,bed-hogging Jack Russell count?) I have really tried to take steps to improve it (no TV, clean room,great bed, black out curtains, TRY not to read the Kindle),but when I finally do fall asleep, I enevitably wake up at 4 am!?! Best thing for me has been to not freak out too much about it and try to remember that "perfect is the enemy of good enough." Meaning: if I'm doing all that I can to change a certain behavior,then I need to relax and let time take care of the rest. Great article. I saw this from a RT by Melissa Joulwan.
AnonymousMarch 15, 2013 at 12:32 pm
On point 1, I've noticed that if I drink wine when doing post-workout carb up (CBL style) it definitely leads to increased fat storage. However, I haven't noticed any problems with moderate consumption of red wine or hard liquor when doing fat loss. I'm male, 38 years old, 5'10" and ~180 lbs., around 13% BF at the moment. My successful fat loss achievements in the past were all low-carb or carb-cycling (sometimes combined with IF). Is there a difference based on where you are BF% wise and also on goal? Also by sex? BTW, have you read this ( http://www.leangains.com/2010/07/truth-about-alcohol-fat-loss-and-muscle.html ) on Leangains site re: alcohol, and if so what do you think?
Jen Comas KeckMarch 15, 2013 at 1:18 pm
haha, what a fantastic analogy!
Waking up at 4am every night is typically a sign that one of two things going on:
1. Wonky blood sugar levels, or
2. Messed up cortisol rhythm.
You may consider pushing back your dinnertime a bit, or eating a small meal before bed, to see if that levels out your blood sugar. Make sure it has protein and plenty of fiber to slow digestion down .
If that doesn't help, you may consider looking into an adaptogen (Rhodiola or Ashwaganda) to see if that will help your cortisol levels.
I speak from experience on both of these topics and it took me a long time to solve the 3am wake-up riddle!
I hope one of those works for you!
Jen Comas KeckMarch 15, 2013 at 1:19 pm
Thanks Jess! I need to take my own advice with this sometimes too because I get caught up watching tv. Three words: Mad Men reruns. 😉
Jen Comas KeckMarch 15, 2013 at 1:20 pm
Taking away my wine makes me grumpy, too! 😉
A post on alcohol would be a good one. You may see that one in the near future!
Jen Comas KeckMarch 15, 2013 at 1:38 pm
Alcohol definitely seems to be much more impactful from a fat loss standpoint when carbohydrates are present. A glass of wine here or there with protein/veg/dietary fat usually isn't very detrimental while in a maintenance phase, and obviously the longer you are sitting at a lower bodyfat percentage the easier it will be to stay there (theory of the Set Point). I haven't noticed a difference with alcohol metabolism between males or females – seems a bit even if what I've seen.
I hadn't read that article yet. Thanks for providing the link! I think he makes some solid points, but what it all boils down to is this: Does it work for you? If somebody is drinking 2-3 cocktails a week and we pull the booze out and their bodyfat decreases, then we know (regardless of what any study may say) that alcohol simply isn't conducive with that person and losing fat. This is the case most of the time, and it certainly is for myself personally.
All of my evidence towards alcohol consumption and a lean bod are through empirical data; the majority of my nutrition clients can't consume more than 1 cocktail per week or it stalls their progress.
Additionally, I can't think of anybody that is aggressively seeking bodyfat loss, that regularly indulges in alcohol, and continues to make progress. I'm sure they are out there, but they are absolutely the exception to the rule.
AliciaMarch 20, 2013 at 5:55 pm
I have to give up drinking soda because I really want to lose weight. It was difficult at first, but it's worth it.
AjJuly 11, 2013 at 6:07 pm
I have the "3am wake up riddle" too. For months now. I tried eating snacks before bed, Melatonin, blackout curtains, valerian root, an Adrenal Herbs supplement….nothing. I fall asleep within minutes of laying down, but wake up again at 3 or 4am bored out of my mind. I'm not unduly stressed, either. It's a nightmare!