I hope you guys had an incredible weekend! I had been cranky all weekend, and I think it was because I didn’t do anything particularly physical. And I looked at my phone too much. Probably those things 😀
I want to talk about systems today. In my first blog post, I discuss how my whole worldview shifted when I adopted systems thinking. We tend to think in goals.
- How many pounds I want to lose by what date
- What size clothes I want to fit into
- How much money I want to make
- What home I want to live in
These are some examples, but goals can be (and are) set for practically anything. But the problem with goals is that we often don’t meet them. We get sidetracked. Outside forces affect our ability to reach them. They weren’t attainable in the first place. There are a trillion reasons why we fail to reach our goals.
So we get sad. Motivation disappears. We hammer down on the behaviors that keep us from moving forward. Things get worse.
Why Willpower Doesn’t Work
There are some people who can willpower themselves to their goals. Some. Willpower is a poor source of power in the vast majority of people. And that’s science, people.
In Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg (a book I highly recommend), the author discusses studies done on willpower. The paraphrased version of one goes something like this…
- Group A got to eat as many warm, gooey cookies as they wanted.
- Group B got to sit there with a plate of warm, gooey cookies but never consume any.
Then both groups had to complete a difficult task.
- Group A finished faster and happier.
- Group B finished slower, grumpier, and often not at all.
Willpower is a finite source, and it is super limited. You know why people tend to cheat later at night? They’ve used up all their willpower during the day. And you don’t get new sources of willpower depending on the thing you’re avoiding.
If you use up willpower trying not to eat a plate of delicious cookies, you’re going to have less willpower when it comes time to avoid spending money, cheating on your significant other, being hostile, sticking to an exercise plan, etc.
Willpower is weaksauce.
Systems are where the real power comes in.
Why Systems Work
Systems are directional and adjustable. They don’t rely on an end point, but rather set up your life to improve your chances of getting to a more optimal place.
For example, my system includes these things:
- Meat-based Ketogenic diet (for less hunger, more satiety, more even blood sugar, better fat oxidation, more control over eating)
- Low to mid-intensity exercise (for better mood, better health without burning out
- Regular time in the sun (to increase vitamin D production, better mood)
- Fasting (for better appetite control, enhanced fat oxidation, and autophagy)
These things work together to help control hunger signals and make me feel better, which all result in the same directional movement: lose weight and get healthy.
How To Build a Personalized Eating System
It’s important to build a system that uses your specific resources. You then can stop and assess along the way as you, your circumstances, and/or your resources change.
Here’s how you can create an eating system that works for you.
Note: This is the guide I use to create and adjust my own system. I personally think low-carb/keto is generally the healthiest way to eat. It’s not only ancestral (heyo, low-fat is the fad here, people!), it also brings satiety easily and has tons of health benefits. But that’s what I choose to do. Do what works best for you and your health.
You can ask yourself these questions to get a gauge on what you should try.
What kinds of foods bring you the most satiety?
- Feeling bloated does not mean the same thing as feeling sated. You want to choose foods that fill you up without leaving you feeling heavy or like a bowling ball is in your stomach.
- Choose foods that keep the hunger at bay the longest. Even though it’s always in the advertisements, it’s rare that grains keep people fuller longer than pretty much any other food on the planet.
- Fat and protein are the most satiating. Some people feel better with higher protein, others with higher fat. It’s personal.
When do you feel the hungriest during the day?
- Try to make your biggest meal for this time. For some it might be breakfast. Others lunch. Someone else dinner.
Do you feel dips in blood sugar throughout the day?
- This is when eating feels like an emergency, you’re ravenous and/or you feel weak like you might pass out.
- This can be a sign of glucose-dependence and insulin resistance because the body is having trouble oxidizing body fat (fat burning) and maintaining blood glucose independent of consuming food. Our bodies should be able to do this independent of diabetes.
- Restricting carbs is a good way to improve insulin sensitivity and give your body a chance to burn body fat.
- You can start by cutting added sugar and refined grains.
- You can move to cut starches and sugary fruits (if wanted)
- You can then transition to keep all carbs below 20g (if wanted).
How long can you comfortably go without eating?
- If you find that you’re not hungry at breakfast, try skipping it. Same thing for any meal. There’s nothing especially important about breakfast. It’s a marketing gimmick anyway. How you break your fast, however, is where you want to focus. Not what time it is.
- Try not snacking. Back in the old days, nobody snacked, even if they did eat 3 meals a day.
Are there foods that cause you sleepiness after eating?
- Usually this means you’re dealing with an insulin load. Food shouldn’t weigh you down.
- Try to avoid these foods.
Are there foods that cause you to overeat/binge?
- We’re talking about the dessert stomach! Processed foods are purposely designed (in labs, I’m serious) to turn off the part of your brain that tells you to stop eating. It can help to cut out all processed foods. (Note to ketoers: this applies to you as well. Keto treats can hit on the same brain processes and cause you to overeat)
- Some natural foods are hyperpalatable and are easy to overeat, such as nuts and cheese. It can be helpful to cut these if needed.
- Sugar and refined grains are addictive. Treat them like the drugs they are.
Do you want to count calories?
- Calorie counting is often important in higher carb diets because the foods are too palatable and cause overeating. If this doesn’t bother you and you’re otherwise satisfied with how you feel on a higher carb diet, this may be key. Otherwise, reducing carbs while avoiding hyper-palatable foods lets your body’s satiety signals function correctly.
Do you have your answers?
You should be able to pull together three things from these answers:
- What foods you should eat
- What foods you should not eat
- When it’s best to eat and how much
You can then formulate a daily/weekly/monthly plan. Is it not working? Are you getting tired of a certain food? Change it up! Alter when you eat and what you eat until it works for you.Ideally, an eating plan shouldn’t be torture, even though that’s what common medical advice leads to. Sure, if you want it to be torture because you can’t stand to be without donuts (and don’t particularly care about anything other than losing weight), that’s fine. But aiming for a diet and food lifestyle that enhances my body’s biology to handle hunger and fat burning has helped me tremendously. It’s why I have no intention of deviating from this way of life. And it’s why the Ketogenic diet is sustainable.
*Note: None of this is medical advice.