High Carb Vegan Pregnancy: 1st Trimester Overview
Fruit Vs. Starch: Which is Better for Weight Loss?
What is Metabolic Damage and How do I Fix it?
Metabolic Damage Part 1: In this video, I discuss what metabolic damage is and how you get it!
Metabolic Damage Part 2: In this video, I discuss how to restore your metabolism to normal functioning after it has been damaged
How I lost 30 lbs on a High Carb Vegan Diet
In my last blog post, “Why I initially gained 60 lbs on a High Carb Vegan Diet”, I explain why my weight ballooned during my first year following a high carb vegan diet after coming from years of chronic dieting, stimulant abuse, and health problems. Three years have since passed and I’ve been able to effortlessly drop 30 lbs on an unlimited calorie high carb vegan diet! In this blog, you’ll find out how I lost the weight, how healthy weight loss actually works, and my top tips for acheiving and maintaining weight loss PERMANENTLY.
Chasing Weight Loss
After my weight reached an all time high of 185 lbs in March 2013 following an unlimited calorie, high carb, low fat, plant-based, mostly raw vegan diet for 1 year, my weight plateaued, then came down about 5-10lbs where it remained for the next year. At the time it was difficult for me to except what had happened to my body without thinking that I was overeating (despite following my natural appetite) and underexercising. Out of impatience, I ended up forcing a reduced calorie intake on several occasions while increasing the intensity of my workouts to see how fast I could lose the weight I had gained. What always followed was fatigue, mood swings, anxiety, digestive problems, headaches, sleep disturbances, and relentless hunger that I managed with stimulants (nicotine and caffeine). When I could no longer maintain this strict regime, I'd give back into my natural appetite, gain some weight back, and immediately experience improvements in my health, energy, digestion, and emotions.
How I Coaxed My Body Into Releasing Excess Weight
One of the most important realizations I came to after experimenting with forced calorie restriction (for the last time) was that it wasn’t a long term solution for obtaining the results I truly desired. The only way I was going to be able to sustain good health and a lean body was by following a diet and lifestyle that would allow it to happen naturally overtime. Up until that point, I had been forcing my body to be somewhere it wasn't, which in reality was preventing my metabolism and health from fully recovering. My body needed time to finish healing, and that meant creating a supportive environment for it to happen, regardless of how my body was going to look during the process.
So I stuck to following the basic guidelines of a high carbohydrate, low fat, low sodium, plant-based vegan diet; eating all I desired per my appetite and cravings. I quit stressing my body with high intensity exercise, and instead opted for light/moderate stationary cycling, walking, and restorative yoga. My sleep naturally increased to 10-12 hrs a night as I opted for early nights, getting to bed by 9 pm at the latest. I did my best to avoid situations that caused stress, and I started focusing all the benefits I was receiving with this lifestyle, staying positive, and forging of my true, genuine self. Taking the time to support my innate healing abilities and reprogram from the inside out was the pivotal point in my health transformation. By October 2014, my weight had come down about 10 lbs and I was feeling better than ever. As my energy gradually improved, I was able to increase my exercise, adding jogging back to my routine as well as pilates, vinyasa yoga, outdoor cycling, and body weight training. By the three year mark (March 2015), my weight had come down another 10 lbs, with a total loss of 30 lbs, 3 inches from my waist and hips, and a lean body weight of 150-155 lbs. Most importantly, I'm the healthiest I've ever been in my life!
Healthy Weight Release: How Does it Work
Losing excess body weight and achieving/maintaining an ideal, lean body weight is 99% dependent on the state of your metabolism and health (the other 1% is genetic), which are direct, cumulative results of your diet and lifestyle. Nutrient and calorie deficient diets (along with chronic stress) are the main reasons people have trouble shedding excess weight and/or keeping it off long term, promoting metabolic damage within the system; a condition where the metabolism functions sub-optimally in order to conserve nutrients and fuel.
In order to lose excess body fat via diet and lifestyle, one must first go through an initial healing (metabolic recovery) phase of nutrient and calorie re-balancing, which allows for metabolic restoration. An unlimited calorie, high carb, low fat, plant-based vegan diet is the most optimal for supporting this healing process as it provides all of the necessary fuel and nutrients required to re-build, replenish, and restore the system to optimal health. The energy efficiency of the high carb, low fat vegan diet is what allows for rapid metabolic recovery as it provides the highest quality of nutrients and fuel for the least amount of energy and work.
Why a High Carb Diet is the key to Metabolic Recovery
The human body was designed as a miraculous healing machine, but can only exhibit 100% capacity when it’s able to work under the least amount of physical and chemical stress. What many people don’t realize is that a high functioning metabolism requires a consistent, regular fuel/food intake. Carbohydrates are the most energy efficient marcronutrients for the human body as they are simply polymers of glucose, our primary fuel source (see Carbohydrate post). The effortless conversion of carbohydrate to glucose causes virtually no stress to the system thus maximizing the rate of the metabolism (healing, elimination, hormone regulation, and energy production) as long as enough carbohydrate calories are provided consistently by the diet. When the carbohydrates coming in consist of fruit and other nutrient dense foods (like potatoes, corn and vegetables, grains, and legumes), the system is also able to recover from most (if not all) nutrient deficiencies.
Fat and protein on the other hand, are large, complex molecules that require massive amounts of energy and nutrients in order to be converted into glucose (for energy production), which creates stress on the system, and results in a metabolic slow-down as the body is forced to cope with the large energy demands. As we’ve learned in previously (see Protein and Fat posts), the conversion of fat/protein to glucose results in a toxic condition known as ketosis, which further taxes, damages, and poisons the system; which requires massive amounts of body water to flush and eliminate the toxic ketones (resulting in chronic dehydration. When continued long enough, this situation results in severe metabolic damage, nutrient deficiencies, and health consequences (heart disease, diabetes, obesity, arthritis, gout, cancer, etc.). Excess ingested fat and protein is also primed for fat storage from the second it reaches the blood. Keeping intake low will ensure minimal fat storage, and create a deficit for excess body fat to be removed from the body overtime (as long as enough carbohydrate calories are regularly supplied in the diet).
The combination of high carbohydrate and high nutrient intake (in the absence of excess dietary fat and protein) overtime creates a condition in the body that allows for the proper elimination of excess fat, protein, fluid, and toxins within the system that disrupt normal functioning. As these nonessential (and potentially harmful) compounds are eliminated from the body, the entire system is able to function most efficiently. The high carbohydrate, high nutrient diet also allows for the rebalancing of all hormones such as leptin, testosterone, estrogen, progesterone, serotonin, melatonin, insulin, thyroid (T3), and adrenal (cortisol). It also provides the ultimate protection from future toxins, stress, genetic mutation, excess tissue and fluid accumulation, aging, and damage. The outcome of this entire process of healing via metabolic optimization is an effortlessly healthy, lean, fit, youthful individual.
Factors that slow/stall weight loss
The number one factor that prevents/slows weight loss in 99% of people is chronic stress. Stress caused by a high fat, high protein, low calorie diet, lack of sleep, too much exercise, the wrong kind of exercise, not enough exercise, dehydration, excess sodium, ingesting chemicals/preservatives, stimulant abuse (caffeine, nicotine, theobromine, amphetimines), appetite suppressants, medications, negative thoughts, social, financial and/or work-related problems, lack of fresh air and sunshine, exposure to extreme climates, etc.
Ironically, most people cope with stress by doing the same things that created the stress in the first place! All causes of stress, (especially an inadequate diet, dehydration, overtraining, and sleep deprivation) result in a lowered metabolic rate to conserve valuable resources (nutrients and calories) in order to necessary maintain the essential health of the organism. Low metabolism=delayed healing, delayed energy production, compromised organ functioning, etc.
Stress in itself isn’t a bad thing; it is a necessary component of life, BUT whether or not we are able to handle that stress is a whole other story. In order for stress to be properly processed and handled, we need to be taking on enough nutrients, calories, water, rest, and movement on a consistent, regular, daily basis in order to prevent our body from responding to stress in a negative way.
How long does it take and how many calories do you need to heal my metabolism?
The human body requires a consistent, regular daily intake of ample amounts of calories in order to properly fuel the metabolism and run all systems optimally in order to generate health and prevent the accumulation of excess fat, protein, fluid, and toxins. The metabolism is like the engine of your body and it needs regular fuel in order to keep burning/working properly to keep all systems running smoothly.
The appetite of the recovering individual will largely dictate the extent of nutrient and caloric repletion that is required to adequately and optimally heal from the metabolic damage caused from the previous diet and lifestyle. It’s not uncommon for a recovering individual to initially require massive amounts of calories (4000+) coupled with easy, low intensity exercise, adequate fluid intake, and lots of rest to aid metabolic recovery, nutrient repletion, and health restoration. In fact, according to the Minnesota Starvation Experiment, the patients fed the most during re-feeding (post starvation), re-gained their body weight the fastest and recovered their health, metabolism, and mental poise the quickest (I mention mental poise because a large portion of the starved subjects went crazy). On average, it took these recovered individuals approximately 8 months to resume a normal body weight post re-feeding. *Note: the participants in the Minnesota Starvation Experiment had no prior history of dieting.
Given that the average American has chronically stressed their body in some fashion to create metabolic damage, it can be assumed that it will take most 1-5 years to assume optimal health and a lean body weight. The least damage you have done to your body through diet and lifestyle choices, the faster your recovery will be. Younger people and those who have never dieted or taken a lot of medication or stimulants will have a faster recovery rate than someone who has spent the last 20 years abusing their body with low carb/low calorie dieting and stimulants. Example/ takes time for body to adapt to sports training- requires years of practice and consistent effort to get good. Body responds the same way to regular metabolism promoting habits- become more efficient (fit).
In general, the adult female will require a regular intake of 2500+ calories/day to recover and maintain a high functioning metabolism; with adult males requiring 3000+ calories/day. If you’re used to a lower calorie intake or lower volume of food, it can take a bit of initial “food forcing” for your body to start regulate how much it needs via your appetite. Don’t be afraid of “overeating” on low fat plant-based foods, as your body will become more efficient at utilizing the calorie and nutrient content of your meals overtime. It’s not uncommon for individuals coming from calorie restrictive backgrounds to feel lethargic and fatigued after meals as this results mainly from weak digestive organs and a slow metabolism. With time and consistency, the functioning of the digestive organs and metabolism will increase in strength and speed. It can help to have smaller more frequent meals if you are particularly distressed from a large volume of food. As your digestive function and metabolism improve overtime, you’ll be able to handle more calories and volume with ease. In order to determine your personal calorie needs, check out my post How Many Calories Do You Need per Day.
What other factors aid metabolic recovery and weight loss?
Now that you’ve got the diet down, let’s focus on other factors that influence our metabolism and health:
Water. Drinking enough water (by itself) daily is necessary for staying properly hydrated. Water allows our cells to function optimally and efficiently, eliminating waste byproducts of normal cellular metabolism and keeping our cells primed for energy production. Symptoms of dehydration include fatigue, headaches, and low energy. Check out my Water post for more information.
Rest. The body needs adequate nightly and daily rest so that it can repair, restore, and replenish cells, tissues, nutrient stores, muscle glycogen, and hormones. Consuming enough high carbohydrate foods daily will supply the adequate precursors for serotonin and melatonin production, which are hormones involved in mood and sleep regulation. Human growth hormone is also released during sleep, aiding in metabolic recovery and prepping the body for fat metabolism. It’s ideal to rest when you feel stressed, exhausted, fatigued, or whenever you feel you need to rest!
Exercise. In order for the metabolism to maximize to its optimal potential, the body must be moved regularly and consistently. Regular, consistent, daily exercise tones the body and pumps the lymphatic system, aiding the elimination of stored fat from the system. It also increases the rate of the metabolism, as it increases the rate at which oxygen reaches the cells (the other main ingredient in energy production). In general, exercise makes the body more efficient at converting fat into fuel. Sustained, low intensity cardiovascular exercise is the best for enhancing metabolic recovery and overall fitness as it strengthens and tones the systems of the body in a gentle, non-stressful way. Strength training and flexibility exercises are also important for improving overall fitness.
Fresh Air and Sunshine. These outdoor components aid in increasing the metabolism by enriching the system with vitamin D and oxygen, making it easier for the body to heal, become more efficient, and eliminate stored toxins and body fat.
Positivity and Patience. While it’s great to have an aesthetic goal that encourages you to prioritize your health and fitness, you’ll need to find other things than your weight to focus on, especially if you are experiencing uncomfortable body changes. Many people like to blame the high carb vegan diet and lifestyle for their undesired initial body outcome, but it’s important to understand that whatever happens to the appearance of your body is a necessary step of the healing process that we don’t have any control over. The sooner you can let go of forcing or trying to control the shape of your body, the sooner you will experience food freedom and happiness on this lifestyle. This approach is not a quick fix 30-Day fad diet, but a long term solution to achieving and maintaining health and a lean body for life, which will require time to manifest. I like to use the analogy of sports training. For instance, when I first started playing basketball, I had the intention of becoming a good player but I knew that was going to require loads of practice. After years and years of consistently engaging in the sport, I was able to play competitively at the college level. This lifestyle works the same; you have to put in consistent daily effort (supporting your health and metabolism) FOR YEARS in order to achieve and maintain the results you desire FOR LIFE!
For myself, it helped to focus my efforts on understanding how this lifestyle worked and participating on forums where I could assist and learn from others. I flooded my brain with youtube videos (particularly Freelee the Banana Girl, Durianrider, and Nutritionfacts.org) un-program and re-educate myself on how to eat and live properly, which kept me moving forward. Also, I found it helpful to follow people on social media that inspired me to meet my goals. If you’re struggling with body image issues, check out the instagram account and facebook page Health is the New Skinny; their focus is on promoting health over aesthetics and a positive body image regardless of your size and shape. Buy new clothes that fit and make you feel comfortable in your skin. Love your body now for all it does for you; be grateful for that you are alive and able to move, breathe, think, and talk! Take up yoga and learn that self-love extends beyond your physical form. Love your body enough to nourish it properly so it will function more efficiently and keep you healthy. Outer transformations begin from within!
My Top 10 Tips for Achieving and Maintaining Weight Loss Results PERMANENTLY:
1. Eat enough calories daily from your favorite high carb, low fat plant-based vegan foods! I consume anywhere between 2500-4000 calories per day, with my main sources being large meals of ripe fruits and creamy starches like potatoes and rice. Check out my Recipes for meal ideas!
2. Follow an 80/10/10 macronutrient calorie ratio of carbohydrates/fats/protein. A 90/5/5 ratio is the most ideal for increasing the rate of recovery and fat loss. I’ve personally averaged a 90/5/5 ratio over the past 3 years and prefer it very much!
3. Keep your sodium intake below 1500 mg /day (under 1000 mg/day ideal). Excess sodium in the diet will create fluid retention (that often looks like fat) and place unnecessary stress on the system. My sodium intake averages somewhere between 500-1000 mg/day.
4. Stay Hydrated. Aim for 2-3+ liters a day, more with exercise, hot, dry temperature and if spending a lot of time indoors. I typically consume between 3-4 liters of water per day, and start the day with 1 liter of water before any food.
5. Get the majority of your calories from nutrient dense fruits, vegetables, and starches! I love to start the day with a large meal of fresh fruits or a smoothie. Water rich meals aid in flushing the system of waste accumulated overnight. Lunch is usually more fruit or a smoothie and dinner is either baked potato fries with greens, sushi rolls with vegetables, or a homemade pizza with lots of veggie toppings!
6. Exercise! Cycling, walking, jogging, swimming, hiking, yoga, resistance training, and pilates are some of my favorites. Do what you enjoy! I average 60 mins of low intensity exercise per day, and do 30-60 mins of cardio first thing every morning.
7. Rest! Aim for 8-12 hrs of sleep/night and rest during the day as needed. I like to get to bed by 9pm so I can wake up early to train!
8. Avoid situations that cause metabolic damage/stress: undereating, avoiding carbohydrates, binging on fatty foods, late nights, skipping meals, dehydration, taking stimulants/drugs (nicotine, caffeine, alcohol, etc.), prescription medications, overexercising, underexercising, extreme climates, etc. I used to do many of these things when I had a “night life”, but have been retired from that lifestyle for years now. Start small, give up what you can, and slowly implement healthier habits!
9. Take a B12 supplement. Most people are deficient in B12 from poor diet and lifestyle habits and intestinal disorders. B12 aids metabolic functioning as it is a key element of energy metabolism. I’ve used both injections and sublingual supplements of 1000 mcg methylcobalmin/dose.
10. Get your sunshine and fresh air by exercising/spending time outdoors. I used to be a gym rat but switched to outdoor exercise which I now prefer and very much enjoy! There’s nothing like exercising in the fresh air. Plus nature adds a whole new element to training, which I think helps one to get fitter faster because you’ve got to work against nature. My skin has also adapted to the sun from being outside regularly. I started with minimal exposure and gradually built up my time in the sun (I have fair skin and live in the Southwest US). In summer I avoid peak hours to avoid skin damage and dehydration.
So there you have it! How I Lost 30 lbs on a High Carb Vegan Diet and how you can too! I hope you enjoyed this post! Leave me any questions or feedback in the comments, thanks for reading!
Why I Initially Gained 60 lbs on a High Carb Vegan Diet
Within one year of consuming a high carb, low fat, unlimited calorie, plant-based vegan diet I gained 60 lbs! But Vic, I thought that you promote this diet for weight loss? Well I do! The high carb, low fat, plant-based vegan diet is the most optimal diet for maximizing health and achieving ideal body weight LONG TERM, and one year is certainly not long term.
In this blog post, I explain why I initially gained weight (which is probably why you've gained weight), as well as how long it took before my health started improving and my body began releasing the extra weight. So lets get started!
BEFORE: My diet and lifestyle
Prior to adopting a calorie sufficient, high carb vegan diet in March 2012, I spent the previous 6 years destroying my health through chronic dieting, overexercising, and stimulant/drug abuse. I went on my first diet in 2006, following the "eat less, exercise more" model after gaining the "freshman 15" while in college. My first dieting attempt was a success, and I was able to drop my weight from 170 lbs to 150 lbs in 3 months, which was proof to me that dieting worked. As time went on, I became obsessed with pushing my results further, motivated by famous supermodels and actresses who were my height (5'11") and maintained a svelte 120lb frame. In an effort to lose more weight, I avoided foods containing carbohydrates and fat, severely limited my calories, took various weight loss pills, drank coffee and energy drinks, opted for Diet sodas and artificial sugar sweetened diet foods, exercised 2x/day, abused pain killers (appetite suppressants) and alcohol, and smoked cigarettes. At the time I was also suffering from a digestive disorder (IBS, gastroparesis) that I "managed" through laxatives. When I could no longer maintain my strict diet, I would find myself binging on any food available (ice cream, peanut butter, pastries, bread, meat, pretzels, etc.), and later vomiting and punishing myself at the gym out of guilt. This behavior continued until the end of college, and despite seeing therapists and practicing yoga, I could not stop. The problem was not my behavior though, it was my mentality towards food. Denying myself calorie/carbohydrate-containing foods triggered obsessive compulsive behavior, all of which was wreaking havoc on my health.
When I started graduate school in 2009, I was following a 1200 calorie, high protein, low fat diet and taking enough stimulants to keep my appetite at bay to prevent binging. Essentially, I exchanged binging for sustained restriction, and was able to drop down to 135 lbs. While learning about plant-based nutrition in graduate school, I decided to adopt a raw vegan diet that would still be low in calories, fat, and and carbohydrates. My new diet centered around intermittent fasting and drinking green juices, allowing me to drop another 15 lbs, weighing in at 120 lbs- my goal weight.
When I started graduate school I was following a 1200 calorie, high protein, low fat diet and taking enough stimulants to keep my appetite at bay to prevent binging. Essentially, I exchanged binging for chronic starvation, and was able to drop down to 135 lbs. While learning about plant-based nutrition in graduate school, I decided to adopt a raw vegan diet that would still be low in calories and conscious of carbohydrates. My new diet centered around intermittent fasting and drinking green juices, allowing me to drop another 15 lbs, weighing in at 120 lbs- my goal weight.
By the end of 2011, it started to hit me that my health wasn't doing so hot. Since quitting birth control in 2010, I had not had a period, and became somewhat concerned about my hormonal health. I was also suffering from depression/anxiety, insomnia, anemia, chronic fatigue, brain fog, emotional instability, muscle wastage, dry/pale/paper thin skin, severe digestive distress, inability to handle stress, and feeling cold all the time. When I saw myself in the mirror or photos, I thought my face looked old and aged, and despite all my dieting efforts, cellulite seemed to easily accumulate on my frail, thin frame. The reality that I had damaged my system through years of malnourishment and restriction finally started to hit me, so I decided to look into a healthy, much more sustainable approach to 1. improving my health and 2. staying lean. After a few nights of research, I came across Freelee the Banana Girl through Youtube. She had a similar dieting and health history as myself, and touted a high carb, low fat, unlimited calorie, fruit-based diet as the ultimate healing therapy. I had nothing to lose so I gave in, completely letting go of control over my food intake, and filled my body with all I could afford in terms of fruit, vegetables, and other low fat plant-based foods. Within days, my digestive system was back on track without the use of laxatives for the first time in years. I also started feeling and sleeping better. After a month or two, my period came back and skin quality improved. But despite my increasing health, my weight was endlessly on the rise. I gained about 30lbs in the first 3 months, and 60 lbs after 1 year on my calorie/carbohydrate/nutrient sufficient diet.
Why I Gained 60 lbs Post-Dieting, Metabolic Damage Explained
All the dieting, pill popping, overexercising, and fasting I had done caused a situation in my body known as metabolic damage. Metabolic damage is the physiological result of neglecting to fulfill basic metabolic needs (ie. sufficient hydration, calorie/carb intake, rest, etc.) for long enough that it causes biochemical changes within the organism. Due to the lack of nutrition, the body enters a state of chronic stress, and functions sub-optimally, creating a breeding ground for chronic health conditions.
Calorie/carbohydrate restrictive diets (below 2000 calories/day for women, and 2500 calories/day for men) are the primary cause of metabolic damage because they act by slowing down the functioning of the system (aka the metabolism) as well as create nutrient deficiencies. All of our cells run solely on glucose for fuel, with carbohydrates being the most preferred source due to their efficient breakdown and easy conversion to glucose. When calories/carbohydrates are restricted from the diet, our carb-burning cellular machinery switches over to fat/protein burning in order to maintain the generation of glucose for energy production. This fat/protein burning process (known as gluconeogenesis, ketosis) is extremely inefficient and energy demanding, so our basal metabolism lowers in an effort to conserve fuel (seen as lowered body temperature). Within days of dieting, our glycogen stores empty, draining our system of both stored carbohydrate energy and water, reflecting about a 10 lb loss on the scale. As the body enters ketosis, it further dehydrates in an effort to dilute the toxic byproducts generated from fat/protein burning, reflecting another 10 lb loss on the scale. Meanwhile, blood levels of leptin (our appetite and metabolism control hormone) plummet, increasing the appetite and further slowing the metabolism until normal eating is resumed. If appetite suppressants or stimulants (caffeine, nicotine, phentermine, aderrall etc.) are used to combat the rise in appetite, the adrenals and entire hormonal system become unbalanced due to chronic sympathetic nerve stimulation (seen as elevated cortisol). The lack of carbohydrates in the diet also cause serotonin to deplete, resulting in sleep disturbances, depression, anxiety, and irritability. The sex hormones (estrogen, testosterone, and progesterone) also become unbalanced due to calorie/carbohydrate insufficiency, causing low sex drive and amenorrhea (in women).
Depending on how long the diet is kept up, the body will continue to release fluid (causing chronic dehydration) and burn body fat/muscle in order to stay alive. This all occurs at the expense of our health, as the energy and nutrients required to support the normal functioning of the body is not available. Once the diet can no longer be continued and normal eating is resumed, the body hoards calories, carbohydrates, nutrients, and water in an effort to return to homeostasis (normal functioning). Weight gain is the result of putting food and fluid into a nutrient/calorie/carbohydrate/water deprived system. In my case, even though I was putting in the most nutritious foods, I gained weight because I had metabolic damage from prolonged malnourishment, dehydration, and energy starvation.
Note: The time following a period of dieting or starvation is the ONLY time (metabolically) carbohydrates are converted into excess body fat.
How Much Weight Can I Expect to Gain Post-Dieting
The answer to this question varies. For most people, after giving up dieting/restricting carbs/calories, the body will assume it's pre-dieting weight plus 10%. This is exactly what I experienced. After I reached 185 lbs, my weight plateaued whilst continuing to eat as much quality, high carb, low fat, plant-based vegan foods as I desired. At that weight, I had a BMI (body mass index) of 25.8, which is slightly overweight for my height, but normal AND necessary for any person coming from a dieting and health background similar to my own. The amount of weight gained will also strongly depend on the type of food you consume while recovering. Sticking to a high carb, low fat, low sodium, plant-based vegan diet will ensure healthy weight gain, health restoration, as well as gradual, permanent, healthy weight loss over time. High fat, protein, and sodium foods will promote weight gain, but stall weight loss as they contribute to excess body fat and fluid storage.
How Do I Get Back To a Lean Body Weight and How Long Does it take
The answer to this question will also vary, and depends largely on how committed you are to consistently maintaining a healthy, low fat, plant-based diet and lifestyle. I was in pretty bad shape when I first got started, but I consistently consumed enough carbs/calories/nutrients/water daily to fuel my system back to health. On average, I've consumed 2500-4000 calories/day with a daily ratio of 80-90% carbohydrate, 5-10% protein, and 5-10% fat. I've also averaged 10 hrs of sleep/night, less than 1000 mg of sodium/day, 3 liters of water/day, and 30-90 mins of daily, easy-moderate exercise sessions (mostly cycling, jogging, walking, swimming, yoga, body weight exercises). Following this protocol, I have been able to drop 30 lbs in 3 years, reverse all health conditions and nutrient deficiencies, and achieve a very high level of health EFFORTLESSLY. The amount of time it takes will depend on your health and dieting history, but most importantly, the post-dieting recovery plan. I've known some young women to bounce back within a year or two on a similar diet and lifestyle to my own, but for myself it took 2 years of maintaining my weight gain before my weight started to shift back to a lean body weight.
Purpose of Body Fat Gain Post-Dieting
The primary reason it takes so long to drop the weight on a calorie sufficient, high carb, low fat, plant-based vegan diet and healing lifestyle following prolonged dieting/restriction, is because initially it takes a tremendous amount of energy to repair the damage done to the system. Toxin/acid build-up, tumors, nutrient deficiencies, organ damage, anemia, hormonal imbalances (estrogen, testosterone, progesterone, thyroid, leptin, serotonin, etc.), bone de-mineralization, blood sugar instability, muscle wastage, low blood volume, etc. ALL require enormous amounts of carbohydrate energy and nutrients to be eliminated and/or restored back to normal. The body works in order of priority, meaning the most damaged/toxic areas are addressed first. Excess body fat removal usually takes the back seat as it's not a life threatening condition, and is initially necessary in order to bring the body back into health and reset hormone levels. By design, body fat functions to protect us from accumulated insulate for body temperature regulation, and provides signaling for hormones including sex, thyroid, and leptin. Once health is restored (all systems functioning optimally) THEN excess body fat will be addressed and eliminated BUT only if enough nutrients and carbohydrates/calories are present for it's removal.
Forcing weight loss through calorie/carbohydrate restriction is not a sustainable way to lose weight, and the weight loss is done so at the expense of our health. In fact, forced fat/fluid loss actually releases stored toxins from body fat into the blood stream and tissues, causing them to increase in concentration due to their inability to be removed. This creates an extremely toxic condition within the system because the buffering components (fat and fluid) have been removed without the safe processing of the toxins, creating a breeding ground for chronic poor health conditions. Under normal conditions (a carbohydrate/calorie/nutrient sufficient diet), the body is able to efficiently process the toxins within stored body fat as the fat is broken down and eliminated. Sufficient intake of nutrient dense, high carbohydrate foods are required for efficient fat metabolism! Why put yourself through all the torture of food denial and carbohydrate restriction when your body is designed to EAT in order to stay lean and healthy. It's just about putting the right kinds of food in your system; filling up on the tastiest fruits, vegetables, and low fat plant-based dishes (check out my Recipes for meal ideas)! Weight loss is easy and sustainable on the right diet and lifestyle!
So there you have it, my weight gain EXPLAINED! Feel free to leave me any questions/comments down below! Next, I plan to do a post about how I LOST 30 lbs following the same diet that made me initially gain 60lbs! Stay tuned folks and thanks for reading :)
Food for Thought: Papaya
Referred to as the “fruit of the angels”, papaya is a tropical fruit that grows locally in warm, tropical climates such as Hawaii, Florida, Southern Mexico, Central America. They can be found in markets throughout the states mostly during the late summer, fall, and winter months. The two most popular varieties of papaya include Mexican and Hawaiian.
Papaya has a sweet and rich orange/pink flesh with edible black round seeds. The outer skin will vary in color from green to yellow, depending on the ripeness of the fruit. Papaya flesh contains ample amounts of papain, a digestive enzyme that aids in the breakdown of protein, complex carbohydrate (starch), and fats.
Nutritionally, papaya is low in calories and fat, but dense in a wide array of vitamins and minerals, as well as soluble fiber and antioxidants. The most abundant micronutrients contained within the papaya fruit are vitamin C, vitamin A (beta carotene), folate, potassium, magnesium, vitamin E, and vitamin K. Regular papaya consumption can promote cardiovascular health, colon protection, digestive health, bone health, eye support, anti-inflammatory benefits, and immune support. Studies have all indicated that the dense antioxidant content of papaya can prevent free radical damage, especially in the instance of high cholesterol, inflammation, macular degeneration, rheumatoid arthritis, and colon cancer.
Papaya has the highest nutritional value and antioxidant content when fully ripened. To chose a ripe papaya, look for reddish-orange skin that is slightly soft to the touch. Avoid fruit that is bruised or overly soft; black spots are OK. Yellow skinned papayas should be left to ripen at room temperature for a few days. Ripe papayas should be eaten ASAP or refrigerated to slow enzyme activity.
Papaya is a great fruit to eat by itself for breakfast, lunch, or as a snack. It can be prepared just like a melon; cut papaya in half length wise, scoop out the seeds, and enjoy with a spoon. It also makes a great addition to smoothies, salads, seafood entrees, and salsa.
I personally enjoy dehydrated papaya, which can be purchased from Nuts Online or at select health food stores (go for the natural, unsulfured, no sugar added variety).
What is your favorite way to eat papaya?!?!
Disclaimer: Individuals with a latex allergy should avoid the consumption of papaya, as well as other latex fruits (avocado, banana). Check with a doctor if you feel you might have a latex allergy before consuming papaya.
How many calories do YOU need per day?
Depending on who you ask, you’ll most likely get several different answers to this question. If you’re trying to lose weight, you’ll come across suggested calorie intakes of 1200 calories a day for women, and 1500 calories a day for men. But according to the World Health Organization, adults that do not have access to at least 2100 calories a day are considered to be in a famine. So who is right?
What is a calorie?
A calorie is simply a unit of energy used to describe how much heat or thermal energy is contained within an organic (carbon containing) compound. The exact definition of a calorie is "the amount of thermal energy necessary to raise the temperature of one gram of water by 1 Celsius degree, at a pressure of 1 atm." Calories are not limited just to foods, but all organic compounds such as wood or petroleum (that can be burned) contain calories.
Not All Calories are Created Equal
One of the biggest misconceptions is that all foods are equal in terms of calories, but this simply is not true. The difference comes down to the macro-nutrient profile of the food. One gram of carbohydrate contains 4 calories, one gram of protein contains 4 calories, and one gram of fat contains 9 calories. All of these macro-nutrients can be converted into energy, but since the human body runs solely on glucose, every gram of macronutrient containing compound much first be broken down to glucose in order to be converted into energy within our cells.
Why carbohydrates make you lean!
Carbohydrate calories are the easiest of the macronutrients to break down into glucose because their chemical structure already resembles that of a glucose molecule. Some carbohydrates are more easily converted into energy compared to others, depending on their molecular size and structure. For instance, simple sugars (found in fruit) are relatively small chains of carbon-hydrate bonds and are the easiest and quickest of the carbohydrates to convert into energy. If you think about a situation where you blood sugar or energy has even been super low (to the point of shakes), as soon as something like apple juice hits your lips, you immediately feel better! Thats how quickly simple sugars are turned to fuel. Complex carbohydrates, like starches, are comprised of much larger carbon-hydrate molecules, with a structure closer to glycogen (our storage form of fuel) vs. glucose, and require more effort (energy) to be broken down and converted into glucose fuel.
But if you consume too many carbohydrate calories won't they turn into fat? Carbohydrates rarely get stored as fat because of their efficient breakdown and high burn rate (consider burned wood vs. oil), plus excess ingested carbohydrates are stored as glycogen (roughly 7000 calories, or 2 lbs worth). In the instance that glycogen storage is exceeded, the rate at which carbohydrates are converted to body fat is extremely inefficient and actually requires energy from the body in order to complete the biochemical process (unlike fat or protein which are easily stored as body fat when consumed in excess of needs). People who have metabolically adapted to a high carbohydrate diet actually have a higher functioning basal metabolic rate (BMR) due to the ease at which carbohydrates are burned within their body, which is indicated via their slightly higher core body temperature.
Whole carbohydrate foods like fruit and starches also contain other weight reducing nutrients such as water and fiber, which help to signal satiation, regulate digestion, and prevent overeating. The reason why carbohydrates get the blame for weight gain occurs because 1. people are not yet adapted to a high carbohydrate diet due to their previous calorie/carbohydrate restrictive dieting background 2. people consider "carbs" to be high fat, high sodium foods like donuts, cakes, pizza, cookies, chips, french fries, bread, etc.
A high carbohydrate, low fat diet comprised of fruit and starches is the leanest diet for humans because it naturally increases the metabolic rate, allowing stored body fat to be burned over time without more body fat accumulating due to the lack of fat in the diet. Because of the metabolic increase, people following a high carbohydrate, low fat diet can actually eat more calories while continuing to effortlessly lose body fat overtime! Keeping the diet low in fat and protein also aids in body fat loss by preventing fat storage by keeping insulin levels low. The best sources of carbohydrate calories come from low fat, low sodium whole plant foods, like fruits, potatoes, rice, oatmeal, pasta, corn, and grains like millet, buckwheat, wheat, and amaranth.
Why high fat/high protein diets cause weight gain
Not only does fat contain a higher number of calories per gram than carbohydrates or protein, but every gram of excess ingested fat goes directly to storage in the human body as triglycerides. Dietary fat was designed for storage due to its extremely large and complex chemical structure, which also makes them an inefficient source of direct fuel for the cells. The metabolic process of converting a fat molecule to glucose is called gluconeogenesis, and involves several energy requiring steps. This process is so inefficient and energy taxing that it actually requires a large amount of fuel (carbohydrate) and water to be available to aid the breakdown of fat, or else the metabolism takes a huge dive. High fat, low carbohydrate diets in particular actually slow the metabolism down so much that our biochemistry begins to function as it would during starvation because of how energetically inefficient it is to turn fat into glucose.
People consuming high fat diets gain body fat 1. because dietary fat is most easily stored as body fat 2. because their metabolism is lowered. High protein diets essentially mimic the effects of a high fat diet because excess dietary protein is also easily converted to body fat, and just like fat, protein is a very inefficient source of fuel, which causes our metabolic machinery to slow down in order to convert the protein into glucose. To top it all off, excess amounts of fat and protein in the diet raise insulin levels, thus promoting fat storage of all macronutrients present in the blood. High fat, high protein diets also dehydrate the body which does further damage to the metabolism, and places an individual at risk for developing heart disease, cancer, kidney disease, diabetes, stroke, and obesity.
Why do people opt for high fat/high protein diets for weight loss?
The significance behind the high fat/high protein diet for weight loss lies in the dehydration phenomenon that occurs when carbohydrates are limited in the diet. A high carbohydrate diet naturally hydrates the system, which aids in keeping the metabolism high and promotes overall health and normal functioning of the system. When carbohydrates are limited in the diet, hydration levels plummet, which is seen as weight loss on the scales. More fluid loss occurs as protein and fat get broken down through the process of gluconeogenesis due to the production of toxic ketone by-products, which must be diluted in order to be eliminated. High fat/high protein diets create the illusion of weight loss, but ultimately lead to weight gain and health complications resulting from a lowered metabolic rate and increased toxic load on the body.
Calories in vs. Calories Out? The importance of eating enough calories
The concept known as calories in vs. calories out is essentially based on the concept of calorie restriction for weight loss and calorie abundance for weight gain. As we've learned not all calories are the same, and the macronutrient content of the diet can have varying effects on the metabolism. Consuming the majority of total daily calories from carbohydrate foods is necessary to maintain normal metabolic functioning, which in turn directly affects all systems of the body including hormonal, immune, muscular, skeletal, and nervous. We need an ample amount of calories daily in order to keep the body healthy. Although calorie restrictive diets promise quick weight loss, it always comes at the cost of our health. Calorie restrictive diets mimic the effects of starvation on the body, lowering the metabolism and promoting chronic degenerative diseases like osteoporosis, hypothyroidism, and early aging. The majority of people who've ever adopted a low calorie diet for weight loss, are unable to sustain the diet long term (without serious health problems) and eventually gain back to their pre-dieting weight plus 10% (I experienced this). It can take years to recover from the metabolic damage caused from chronic calorie restriction. Its incredibly effortless to lose and maintain permanent weight whilst maintaining metabolic health on a calorically sufficient high carbohydrate, low fat, low protein, low sodium diet as long as it is consistently practiced in the long term (at least 3-5 years).
Why eating according to your appetite produces the best results for health, fitness, and weight loss
When you are hungry, your body needs fuel! Ignoring your appetite is the perfect way to lower the metabolism, and set yourself up for a later binge and fat storage (due to decreased levels of leptin in the blood). Hunger, cravings, appetite, satiety, digestion, and energy are the signals by which our body communicates the amount of fuel it needs in order to achieve and maintain optimal health, which varies according to what kinds of fuel you put into your body. Cravings for salt, fat, alcohol, meat, and junk foods are all signs that the body needs more clean, carbohydrate fuel. Fatigue, headaches, insomnia, depression/anxiety, stimulant use (caffeine, nicotine), mood swings, irritability, and lethargy are all signs of carbohydrate calorie deficiency!
So how do we get health, fitness, and weight loss results following our natural appetite? The secret lies in making every meal based on high fiber, high carbohydrate foods like fruit, rice, oatmeal, or potatoes and eating until completely satisfied. When we give the body what it desires in terms of fuel (glucose), we get rewarded with a high metabolism, fat loss, and incredible health, but only if we eat every time our appetite comes up. When we eat enough carbohydrates at every meal, we give our body the fuel it needs to heal and perform in all areas of life. Restricting calories and carbohydrates translates to restrictions in life experiences, and tasks that could be easy become very stressful. Stress is one of the biggest signs that the system needs more fuel, so fill up at every meal to keep the stress away and create a lean, healthy, fit body!
Signs that you are on track with your calorie intake (and metabolism):
1. Daily tasks and exercise seem effortless, or don't create added stress
2. It's easy to keep poise in stressful situations
3. It's easy to find time to exercise during the week AND you're fitness continues to improve
4. You're able to recover quickly from physical exertion
5. Waking up in the morning is effortless and doesn't require stimulants (coffee, cigarettes, etc.)
6. It's easy to fall asleep and stay asleep
7. Digestion and elimination are on point, minimal gas and bloating
8. Appetite is good and hardy
9. It's easy to be happy, productive, and positive
10. Emotional state is rational and stable
11. Skin is clear, smooth, and glowing
Determining an individuals daily caloric needs involves many factors, including food choices, appetite, activity level, and digestive capacity. In terms of macro-nutrient ratios, an optimally healthy diet will consist of 65% or more carbohydrates, 20% or less protein, and 15% or less fats. For fat loss, it's best to aim for a macronutrient calorie ratio of 85-90% carbohydrates, 5-10% protein, and 5% fat.
In terms of caloric totals, I recommend a minimum of 2000 calories a day for adult women and 2500 calories a day for adult men based on a sedentary activity level. For an ideally healthy and active lifestyle, adult women will need to consume 2400+ calories a day, and men will need 3000+ calories. A great way to determine your own caloric needs would be to base it according to your natural appetite and satiation levels while consuming nutrient dense, high fiber plant-based foods. For those looking for a more objective measure for determining calorie needs, you can determine your BMR (basal metabolic rate) and multiply it by your activity factor (Harris-Benedict Equation) to determine the appropriate calorie needs for your ideal body weight, age, height, and gender.
Well that's it for now! If you have any questions or would like me to elaborate on any of the topics discussed, let me know!
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