I'm so excited you're here! If you've found your way here, you are probably a lot like so many of my clients. You have spent what feels like your LIFE looking at a cupcake and gaining 5 lbs. Carrying food with you wherever you go in case you get hungry (and lightheaded, and really cranky). Fighting insane cravings for chips, or chocolate, or crackers and cheese. I've got great news-it's what you suspected all along: diets don't actually work. Maybe you eat what you think is a healthy diet, but it may not be right for you. It's possible YOU PROCESS CARBS DIFFERENTLY. This plan uses foods that just plain work better for your body from a physiological standpoint. Stick with me, and you'll finally be able to gain health, lose weight, balance blood sugar, and balance your hormone levels WITHOUT starving. For the first time, food won't dominate your thoughts all day long.
Read through the whole guide so you can get all the background information about why this program works and learn some of the terms you will see throughout the program content. Understanding the "what" and "why" behind any program you are doing is critical to you staying on the path to success! I'm always here cheering you on, supporting you and celebrating every win so reach out! You can TOTALLY do this!
Make sure to read the health medical disclaimer below before changing your diet or physical fitness routine.
Nothing contained in this program or its owner neither is medical advice nor should be construed as medical advice. You are encouraged to consult with your doctor before undertaking any new diet or eating style. Any information provided in this program should not and cannot be held as a substitute for consultation, evaluation, or treatment by your doctor. Always seek the advice of your doctor or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a proposed diet or nutrition program. Do not disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read here.
The Basic of Fat Burning, Blood Sugar Balance, and Hormones
In this system, we are learning how to burn fat more effectively using blood sugar and hormones, and I'm going to take a few minutes now to explain how that works.
Fat burning and fat storing are two different metabolic and hormonal states. Think of them as one-way streets. You can't be on both at the same time because they are mediated by hormones which are counterparts (this means when one is low the other is high and vice versa). This system teaches you to use the right macronutrients to burn fat instead of storing more.
Let's have the breakdown: Your body can use two different pathways to produce the energy you need from the food that you eat. First of all, your main energy source is glucose and glucose is found in carbohydrates. You've probably heard of simple and complex carbs, right? The simpler the carb, the faster your body can digest it, and the faster glucose is sent into your bloodstream and then delivered to the cells for energy. With me so far? Ok good (assuming a yes here).
What happens when all that energy is sent into the bloodstream at once is that a lot of insulin (a hormone made by your pancreas) is sent out to take that sugar (energy) to the working muscles to provide them with the fuel to keep going. The problem with this happens when the muscles aren't working very hard (i.e., you're sitting on the couch, at your desk, at the dinner table, etc.). When that happens, the muscles say ‘no thanks' to the offer of more energy (they don't need it PLUS their back up stores are already full as it is) and insulin then moves on to store that energy (glucose) as fat, because insulin is your main fat storage hormone.
The second part of that problem is the speed that the carbs were digested. Because they digested so quickly, all of the energy was sent into your bloodstream at once. Insulin then came and removed it (again-all at once), and now your blood sugar is too low. What happens next? You crave more carbs to quickly raise blood sugar back up; this puts you into the never ending cycle of craving carbs and gaining weight. This cycle is the big picture issue with a diet heavy in carbohydrates (aka the way 99% of us eat).
Unless you are extremely active, odds are you aren't able to use up all of that fuel that's released at once when you eat a lot of carbohydrates. If you are trying to lose weight, the picture gets even bleaker. Because you're relying so heavily on carbohydrates and not moving enough to use all of the sudden bursts of energy, your body has a lot of insulin pumping through on a regular basis. High amounts of insulin in the body can lead to some pretty nasty complications down the road (think insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes). High insulin levels contribute to your staying in fat storage mode (insulin is your fat storage hormone) instead of fat burning mode (a way of operating that's modulated with a hormone called glucagon which is basically your fat burning hormone). Insulin and glucagon are counterparts, so when one is high the other, naturally, is low.
Let's move on to fat and protein. Fat and protein operate a little differently. They are digested much more slowly than carbohydrates are because they are more complicated molecules, and it takes your body longer to break them down. When you eat fat and protein, your blood sugar stays in a more stable state (i.e., no highs, lows, cravings and crashes).
How Fat Storage Works
As we evolved, we as a species experienced a lot of feast and famine, meaning we had periods with ample food and periods with almost no food. Because of this, we evolved a way to store our food during times of feast to then use during times of famine. This storage system is fat.
Now, once fat is stored, your body wants to conserve it until a time when it's really needed, aka famine. The cue that was developed to access stored body fat was the lack of carbohydrates/glucose and therefore a lack of insulin, NOT the lack of calories provided through food.
This is why it can be so darn hard to lose fat on a traditional low cal diet. Even though calories are minimized, there is still a constant influx of sugar to the blood (through carbohydrates) which then causes insulin to be released. While insulin is high, glucagon (aka the hormone that mediates burning fat for fuel) is low (remember these two hormones are counterparts) and dipping into fat for fuel becomes very difficult.
This means that if we want to effectively tap into stored fat for fuel, we need to recreate the famine state, not through lack of calories but through low insulin and therefore high glucagon.
Here’s what using fat for energy looks like:
When carbohydrates are unavailable, your body has no choice but to start using stored and dietary fat (and some protein) as fuel instead of carbohydrates. When this happens, your body starts breaking down fat stores to free the fatty acids. Some fatty acids are burned for fuel right away, and others are sent to the liver where they are converted into ketones. Ketones are what your brain can use for fuel instead of glucose.
The presence of ketones is the hallmark sign that your body is using fat for fuel BUT it's not an all or nothing, and you can still burn fat for fuel effectively without having measurable ketones in your system. This would be the goal of a high-fat low-carb (HFLC) program. It's a slow and steady fat burning adaptation via balanced blood sugar and low insulin.
That's why we start by paying close attention to the amount of carbohydrate we eat. By doing this, we avoid spiking insulin and keep glucagon in the driver's seat. The amount of carbohydrate needed in a day depends on your unique tolerance and your goals.
That's it! That's as much as you NEED to know about the science! Read on for the benefits!
Benefits of a High-Fat Low-Carb Diet
The biggest benefit to adopting a high-fat low-carb diet to your goals in everyday life is weight loss. Studies have shown that stabilizing blood sugar and hormones is more effective than the traditional low-fat diets when it comes to weight loss. There have also been studies that found high-fat and ketogenic diets decrease hunger by impacting hormones such as ghrelin.
By now this approach should make total sense after reading the backstory. If it doesn't, go back and read it again, unless you honestly don't care WHY and just want to get to the HOW (totally ok by the way). Eating in a high-fat low-carb way is really filling, so you naturally tend to eat less without having to restrict or count calories (huge bonus!). Also, this way of eating results in lower and more stable insulin levels, which leaves you less hungry and prone to those late night carbohydrate cravings (they seriously disappear-I've seen it happen over and over and I'm still surprised every time).
From my personal experience, the big difference is that your meals really fill you up (in a good way). You aren't hungry for HOURS after you eat, and most people only want to eat 2 or 3 meals a day. It all makes sense when you remember that fat and protein take a lot longer to digest than carbohydrates AND leave you with stable blood sugar (the KEY to managing hunger and avoiding the diet-destroying cravings). Also, when your body needs more energy all it has to do is turn to that stored fat that you're dying to get rid of.
Of course, there are other huge advantages to this way of eating. There are cardiovascular benefits, as studies have found that triglycerides and HDL cholesterol have both improved in patients following an high-fat low-carb diet compared to a traditional low-fat diet. Because this type of diet improves insulin levels and leads to fat loss, it has been very successful in patients with Type 2 Diabetes. Tapping into ketosis has also shown promise in certain cancers, Alzheimers, epilepsy, PCOS, heart disease and more (which we won't go further into). If you're interested, head over to Google and start searching.
Macros: Also known as macronutrients these are the building blocks to food. Fat, protein, and carbohydrates are the macronutrients we need to eat every day. This program is all about balancing these macronutrients, so your body switches over to the metabolic pathway that burns fat for energy.
Carbohydrate: One of the three macronutrients and needed for a balanced diet. Carbohydrates come in the form of fruit, grain, sugar, vegetable, or starch like sweet potatoes or corn. Energy from carbohydrates are stored in the body as glycogen, and we can't store a lot of glycogen, so when our body stores are full, energy from carbohydrates are then stored as fat.
Net carbs: Are the total carbohydrates consumed minus the fibre content. We measure this because fibre passes through the digestive tract without being absorbed and therefore doesn't affect the amount of glucose or sugar that enters the bloodstream.
Fat: The major store of energy in humans, animals or plants. One of the three macronutrients and needed for a balanced diet. Important for hormones, the brain, skin, satiety and much much more.
Protein: A nutrient found in food, made up of amino acids and necessary for cell structures and function. One of the three macronutrients and needed for a healthy diet.
Ketosis: The metabolic state where your body burns fat instead of carbohydrates for fuel
Ketones: Molecules created by the liver to be used by fuel for the body, especially the brain.
Fat Adaptation: This is what happens when you burn fat for energy instead of carbohydrates. This is the entire point of this program so we'll devote a bit more time to it.
This is probably the biggest question I get: "How do I know if I'm burning fat for energy (aka fat adapted)?" Knowing when your body is fat adapted is key because it lets you recognize what healthy burning fat for fuel feels like, so you can experiment with different macronutrient ratios as you work through the program. Recognizing fat adaption is also important for knowing when to make changes (you don't want to change anything until your body gets to the point of being fat adapted). The timeframe for this is different for everyone but generally ranges between 10 and 30 days.
Signs you are fat adapted:
You are not hungry all the time.
You can go 4 to 6 hours between meals with no need for snacking.
Your body craves fat instead of sugar.
You don't get ‘hangry' anymore.
Your energy is stable all day long (no afternoon crashes).
Your energy level is up significantly.
You don't experience any brain fog, and your thoughts seem clearer.
Getting Enough Fat
Step 1 is to start buying full-fat products instead of the low fat, no taste, heavily processed versions advertised as healthy. That means, full-fat mayo (preferable avocado mayo), and fatty cuts of meat and fish. It is wise to limit red meat consumption to once per week.
A word to the wise here, toxins are stored in fat. Make sure you are buying the best quality meat you can afford when you're choosing full-fat options. It's much better to eat great quality meat less often than low-quality meat daily.
Make your hot beverages like coffee and tea full of delicious fat (careful on caffeine as it can affect hormone balance) I always add a tablespoon of coconut oil into my coffee (or tea) and blend. You can also use the Supercharged Coffee recipe as well (recipes are found in the meal plans).
Make Chia water. Just add a scoop of chia seeds to your water along with a squeeze of lemon juice or some mint, etc. Sip away knowing that even your water is now working for you!
Always add olive oil or butter to your vegetables to give them flavour and up the fat content.
Make your own salad dressings using lots of oil and flavoured vinegar.
Eat Salmon. A lot. Wild caught is the best.
Eat avocado mayo with anything. You can buy avocado mayo at most grocery stores and health food stores.
Whip up a batch of my fat bombs (recipe in the program recipes) and snack on them when you’re feeling hungry.
No Grain Zone
Now it's time to go grain free. Right now it's important to stay away from things like bread, pasta, wraps, toast, rice, lentils, barley, etc., etc., etc. I know, that's a LOT to stay away from, avoid, limit, etc. BUT this isn't forever. This is only while you get fat adapted. After that, there is MUCH more flexibility regarding occasional choices.
I know this one sounds a bit hard to do. Avoiding grains is a little scary if you're a carb-loving pasta-a-holic BUT it's really important in the beginning. Once you are closer to your goals, you can try re-introducing grains if your body tolerates them well.
We tend to rely VERY heavily on grains and grain products, which are fast digesting carbohydrates that are not very nutrient dense; this leaves us with energy crashes and crazy carb cravings all day long.
One thing I want you to take away from this is how often you were reaching for and eating grains as a staple in all of your meals before this challenge. Pretty crazy right?
Yes, you can still have alcohol on this program. Alcohol can have a negative effect on your hormones. It is best to avoid it. If you still want to indulge, I suggest limiting it to one day a week on Saturday. You also have to choose the right type. If you like wine go for it, but a serving is around 4g of carbs so factor that into your day. Don't be tempted to over pour and have two servings at once. Also, buy the driest wine you can (remember sugar is carbs). Read your labels. The wine you choose should have less than 5g/L of sugar. You want to avoid regular beer at all cost (very high in carbs). Drink low-carb beers, and you can get away with 1-3g/serving. If you want to drink liquor, you're in luck! Vodka and gin are carb-free! You just need to pair them with zero-carb mixes. I suggest club soda with a squeeze of lemon juice. You can add a bit of stevia if you like it a bit sweeter. Beware, alcohol will affect you much more on a high-fat low-carb diet so drink lots of water in between drinks and plan on drinking less than you normally would. Also, your body will preferentially burn alcohol over fat, so while you are drinking your body does stop burning fat for fuel. The more you drink, the longer this effect lasts. If fat loss is your goal limit alcohol for the next 6 weeks (or longer).
Note: Alcohol consumption can negatively affect your hormone balance. You may wish to abstain from alcohol for a few weeks to see how you feel and to give your body chance to regulate hormone levels.
The Action Plan
Our action plan is officially called The High-Fat Low-Carb 6-Week Program (HFLC). This pathway is a really simple and moderate way to go. This is not a ketogenic diet where you enter a state of full ketosis, but you will be eating high-fat, moderate protein, and low-carb. Your results will be consistent. This is also a great way to eat indefinitely, so you're really accomplishing a lifestyle change and allowing your body to regulate hormone levels for optimal health.
Your Path To Success
This program is an 6 week program designed to slowly help you implement new habits following the principles of a high-fat low-carb dietary approach. The key is to follow the program week by week but don’t stress if you can’t implement everything that is suggested. Just do what you can and move through the program at whatever pace is comfortable for you, what feels good for YOUR body and YOUR lifestyle.