“A wise man should consider that health is the greatest of human blessings, and learn how by his own thought to derive benefit from his illnesses.”-Hippocrates
Optimal health is easy and hard.
Abs, fat loss, weight loss, improved blood markers, longevity, and everything else that people go after in the name of “health”—and spend billions on—is really simple if you do the right things. On the flip side, it is impossible if you are doing the wrong things.
It’s often said that 80% of body and health is derived from food. I say it’s at least that, probably more.
I know it’s at least this much because I’ve seen it in myself, friends and family, and hundreds of clients over the years.
Nutrition is everything.
Sure, there are other variables of your health that you must account for, like sunlight, exercise, sleep, and stress mitigation, but what I’ve learned over the years is these are all low percentage factors in the total sum that is your body and health.
It always comes down to the food and drink you put into your body. Always.
I’ve had clients in the past that were stuck at stubborn fat loss plateaus. They always swore they were eating “clean” and doing everything right. Sometimes their lack of results racked my brain. I’ve learned two things from this.
First, most people have no idea what “clean” actually is. Or, they overestimated just how clean they are eating. There are a ton of cognitive biases that determine why this is so—in short, we all lie to ourselves.
So when a client would tell me (and themselves) that they were eating so “clean,” I would start asking them questions. Invariably, their version of “clean” was not equal to my version of “clean.”
The lesson here is you have to aim to be completely objective with yourself. Your brain will try to trick you every step of the way. If you want an accurate picture of what you are eating, start tracking everything you eat and drink for a month. You will be surprised. (This is also a great technique for figuring out how you spend your time. In both cases, it’s amazing how perception doesn’t match reality.)
The second thing I learned from clients that are struggling with stubborn plateaus, is it can take a really long time to bust through stagnation.
The human body aims to maintain homeostasis. Homeostasis is your body’s attempt to maintain what it currently has as a means of survival. If you are currently fat, your body tries to stay fat. When you are fit or lean, your body will try to stay fit and lean. It’s your body’s natural survival mechanism for keeping you alive.
What I’ve seen is it can take as much as 90 days to break through this homeostasis plateau. Unfortunately, most people give up after a couple weeks because they start wondering what’s the point of eating well and going to the gym if they aren’t seeing results.
Sure, people want instant results, but it’s amazing to me how people will give up even when they understand how long the body takes to build muscle and burn fat.
One of the reasons this happens is they go into the process from a point of blind motivation. Then, when their motivation wains, they are stuck with the harsh reality of just how hard it’s going to be.
Here’s a simple way to gauge if you are breaking through homeostasis to get to fat loss that I often tell people: You have to skip a hunger craving once a day for 30 days.
The times when you have a snack or eat a small meal because you are “kinda” hungry, are the times you have to eat nothing. You have to beat those cravings. Recognize them as your body trying to maintain homeostasis. This is your body urging you to consume calories so it can maintain homeostasis. If you want to break homeostasis, and force your body to survive on less by shedding fat, you have to break these cravings for a long enough period of time to let your body adapt.
Listen: I could go on about this for another 100,000 words or so. But I won’t. The fact is, food is your medicine. It is the best weight loss pill or it is the vehicle that will keep you the same/make you worse.
Here is my advice in its most simplistic form: Stick with real food made from real ingredients. And if you are trying to lose weight, skip a regularly-scheduled snack or meal at least once a day.
Colin Stuckert Founder/CEO, Wild Foods