In this post, I will summarize what has been covered in the last three posts and provide a general guideline as to where to go from here.
- Three components of a healthy weight loss program and a healthy lifestyle
- Where to go from here?
Three components of a healthy weight loss program and a healthy lifestyle
To lose weight in a healthy and sustainable way and improve your overall health and wellbeing, you need a holistic approach, not some quick fixes that fail to address the underlying problems.
In this series, I have addressed three issues that I feel are important and closely connected: a healthy diet, a physically active lifestyle, and a positive mindset.
Below is a summary of the main issues covered in the last three posts of the series.
1. Healthy diet to lose weight
If you want to lose weight and keep it off in the long term, you need to find a healthy diet that you are willing to stick to for the rest of your life.
And the carnivore diet seems to be the perfect fit.
Not only the carnivore diet can provide us with the most nutrient-dense food that is also highly satiating, free from anti-nutrients, and low in calories, it is also consistent with our ancestral roots and our genetic make-up. Our body is well suited to a meat-based diet. [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]
You almost certainly will lose weight naturally on the carnivore diet. To accelerate weight loss further, you can adopt the following strategies:
- What to eat: Eat leaner cuts of meat, preferably ruminant meat like beef, lamb, bison, goat, their organ meats, eggs, and seafood. These foods are nutrient-dense, highly satiating and low in calories. Avoid added fat, butter, honey, dairy products, and carnivore treats which are high in calories with lower satiety levels
- How much to eat: By eating the foods listed above, you are likely to cut down food volume already. However, if you would like to be a little more aggressive in achieving your weight loss goal, cut down only to the extent that you are comfortable with. Cutting down food intake in the last meal of the day is likely to be easiest
- How often to eat: Evidence shows that eating many small meals throughout the day does not support weight loss. Therefore, eat 1 to 2 meals a day to satiety and don’t snack in between as well as practice fasting regularly. Our ancestors were unlikely to have had access to three square meals a day every day. Sometimes they would have feasted when food was in abundance and sometimes they would have been forced to fast when they were unsuccessful with their hunts
- When to eat: Research has found that eating patterns aligning with circadian rhythms help with weight loss and metabolic health. So try to eat early, preferably before 16:00. Our ancestors were unlikely to regularly have a late supper when it was already dark. Night time is for resting and rejuvenating, not for digesting food.
2. Smart exercise to support weight loss
In addition to the carnivore diet, being physically active can help you lose weight and improve overall health. It is also an integral part of the ancestral lifestyle and is encoded in our genome.
For millions of years, our ancestors had no choice but to live an active outdoor lifestyle. They spent a large amount of daily energy expenditure on activities such as food and water procurement, social interaction, escape from predators, and maintenance of shelter and clothing. The human body, therefore, has been genetically adapted to this active lifestyle.
The massive improvements in technology thanks to the agricultural revolution, the industrial revolution, and the recent digital revolution led to a substantial deviation from the active hunter-gatherer lifestyle that we are supposed to live. And this marked deviation has had profound implications for modern humans’ health and well-being.
The sedentary lifestyle that many of us live today is associated with an increase in many health risks including all causes of mortality, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, obesity, colon cancer, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, lipid disorders, depression, and anxiety.
The solution is simple: go back to our ancestral roots, mimic the way our ancestors lived for most of human history, and move as much as possible.
We need to find ways to be physically active throughout the day with accidental exercises, sports, and recreational activities.
The reason many people don’t lose much weight if at all with exercises is their exercise volume is insufficient. They also tend to eat more as a reward or due to improved appetite. Adding exercise volume with an overall active lifestyle is one way to help you lose weight.
In addition, resistance training and high-intensity interval training can help accelerate weight loss because:
- Resistance training helps you burn calories, not just during exercises but hours after exercise. It also helps build muscles which increase resting metabolism, i.e. increasing the calories you burn when not exercising
- HIIT can help you burn a lot of calories in a short period of time, increase metabolic rate while also reduce belly fat.
3. Positive mindset to support weight loss
Stress raises cortisol and chronic stress means consistently elevated cortisol levels which has been linked to weight gain. Your body tends to build up visceral fat when under stress. Your appetite is likely to be stimulated and you are also more likely to overeat.
In addition, when you are stressed, you are less likely to exercise, more likely to make poor food choices, more likely to look for comfort in food and drinks, more likely to have poor sleep quality, and tend to eat more. All these can further contribute to weight gain.
The four most important things that you should focus on to address chronic stress are diet, exercise, social support, and skills to sort out life problems:
- Find a healthy diet that will nourish both your body and your mind. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the carnivore diet can improve mental health and hence support weight loss
- Become physically active most of the time which will benefit both your mental and physical health
- Get social support from family, friends and community if you think you need. Social interactions are what make us humans after all
- Learn problem solving skills to address the root causes of your stress. This will help not only with dealing with your stress but helping you live a better life in general.
Where do you go from here?
Learning those principles is only the first step. A more important question is how can you apply these principles in practice to turn your weight loss goal into reality.
Below is my personal take on this. As I’ve mentioned many times on this site, please talk to your doctor or appropriate healthcare providers and get personal advice that suits your own health conditions and personal circumstances.
1. Start with a healthy diet
A healthy diet is the foundation of everything.
You need to find a healthy diet that you are happy to stick to for the rest of your life.
I think the carnivore diet is a healthy diet because it is nutrient-dense and consistent with our genetic make-up. Our ancestors ate a meat-based diet for millions of years and I don’t think we have any choice in this matter but to do the same. Doing otherwise has had serious health consequences for modern civilization.
You don’t need to be a strict carnivore to benefit from this lifestyle. As I wrote in this post, a bit of seasonal plant food can help you stick to a meat-based diet easier and maintain metabolic flexibility. Our ancestors were unlikely to have eaten meat exclusively before the advent of agriculture.
However, each to their own. Do your own research and go with the one that you are most comfortable with, try it out, and see how you feel.
If you would like to try out the carnivore diet, I have written a step-by-step guide to the carnivore diet here that might save you a bit of time.
The priority is to get you fully adapted to the carnivore diet first before tweaking it to help with your weight loss goal.
2. Find ways to be physically active throughout the day
Being physically active most of the time is the other part of the equation.
We don’t have any choice in this matter either. Being physically active is encoded in our genes. Living a sedentary lifestyle is not good for both our physical and mental health, to say the least.
As I wrote in this post, the first step is to do an audit of your daily physical activities, find the gaps and see if you can boost your accidental exercises substantially.
Start by keeping a detailed diary of your daily movement for a week. Note down details like the exact activity, starting and ending time, its duration, and the level of intensity (low, moderate, or intense).
Have a look at the diary at the end of the week and see what you can do to increase your physical activities, for example, adding a short stroll after lunch at work, swapping a short drive for a bike trip to work, or increasing intensity (power work instead of a leisurely stroll).
If you have a desk job, a simple thing like having a standing desk can make a huge difference. We are definitely not born to sit on our butt all day. There is a reason why people say sitting is the new smoking.
3. Add resistance training and HIIT
In addition to being physically active most of the time, resistance training and HIIT can help improve overall fitness and accelerate weight loss.
Start small, increase intensity and duration gradually, and most importantly, stay consistent.
I have also included short guides on how to start resistance training and HIIT in the second post of the series. These are big topics and I might write about them separately in the future. However, there are a lot of free resources online that you can easily find to get started straight away.
4. Learn problem-solving skills to address the underlying causes of stress
Getting both diet and exercise parts right hopefully will make a significant positive impact on your mental health.
Another important thing that you can do is to learn problem-solving skills to deal with the underlying causes of your stress and anxiety.
Whether we like it or not, life is full of problems, from the moment we are born till the day we die. We have little say in the matter. The only choice we have is our attitude towards them, how we view them and how we deal with them.
Instead of stressing and worrying about them, we can face those problems head-on and ask ourselves: What can we do to solve those problems?
There is a systematic approach to solving problems that corporates and governments around the world use to solve their major problems. You might have even used it too to solve problems at work but haven’t thought of using it to deal with a personal problem.
A typical problem-solving framework has 6 steps listed below:
- Step 1 – Defining the problem
- Step 2 – Finding possible solutions
- Step 3 – Choosing the best solution
- Step 4 – Preparing an action plan
- Step 5 – Implementing the plan
- Step 6 – Review and revise.
In the third post of the series, I have provided a brief description of each step.
You can read a more in-depth article on the problem-solving framework by Gary Hadler here.
Another article by Anxiety Canada titled “How to Solve Daily Life Problems” is also a good source.
This is a great skill to learn. It will help not only with dealing with your stress but also helping you live a better life in general. You will definitely feel more confident, more in control of your life, and perhaps, happier too.
5. Create a positive mindset
Life is not just about solving problems and dealing with stress.
Life is also about dreaming big dreams, actively pursuing them, making them happen, changing your life, and making an impact on the lives of those around you.
There is so much potential in you and the first thing you need to do is believe in yourself.
I love this saying by Henry Ford: “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right”. Yes, your attitude is probably the most important thing that determines whether you will succeed or fail.
Work proactively to create a positive mindset, look for the things you are good at, find the positive things in life, focus on things that you can change in your life, and learn to let go of the things that are out of your control.
“Keep your thoughts positive because your thoughts become your words.
Keep your words positive because your words become your behavior.
Keep your behavior positive because your behavior becomes your habits.
Keep your habits positive because your habits become your values.
Keep your values positive because your values become your destiny.Mahatma Gandhi
This has got nothing to do with the carnivore diet, but I might one day write an article on this topic.
For now, if you are interested, here is a good article on how to create a positive mindset that I found.
6. Build a social support network
As social creatures, social interaction is one of our core needs. Research indicates that people who have more perceived social support are capable of handling stressful or life-changing events better than those who lack social support.
Please don’t hesitate to reach out to family and close friends if you think you need help. People would assume you are okay if you don’t open up to them. And they would generally be more than willing to help if they can.
If you don’t have close family members or friends, seek help from work colleagues, neighbors, local communities, and specialist organizations.
Invest time and make an effort to keep those connections. Put your hand up and be there for them when they need you as well.
Disclaimer: The information in this post is for reference purposes only and not intended to constitute or replace professional medical advice. Please consult a qualified medical professional before making any changes to your diet or lifestyle.