Have-You-Fallen-For-Clean-Eating?

Have You Fallen For Clean Eating?

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I once thought that Clean Eating was the path to lifelong leanness and better health. The idea that we would just eat food “closer to its natural state” was appealing. Only in recent years have I discovered the limitations of Clean Eating – and its dangers – that stopped me from recommending it for health and fat loss.

While Clean Eating is still the prevailing wisdom in some circles (including with many bodybuilders, fitness competitors, and fitness influencers), many people are getting wise to the limitations of Clean Eating.

What Is Clean Eating?

Clean eating is a vague and unscientific term that refers to eating food as close as possible to its natural state.

While the premise isn’t all bad, there are a number of issues with it.

For one, everyone has their own definition of what Clean Eating is.

Many bloggers and alternative health practitioners use the term to unnecessarily ban foods like dairy, gluten, grains, meat, or cooked food.

While it’s certainly better to eat lean protein, veggies, fruit, nuts, and seeds more often than BBQ chicken wings, donuts, and pizza, there’s no reason why ALL foods can’t be part of your nutrition plan.have-you-fallen-for-clean-eating

Clean Eating Is VERY Popular

There’s a magazine called “Clean Eating” and some books about the Eat-Clean Diet.

The hashtags #eatclean and #cleaneating regularly have 56 million and 45 million Instagram posts respectively.

The idea is that you’re eating fewer highly-processed foods, which is generally a good thing.

That means more foods like vegetables, fruit, fish, some dairy, minimally-processed oils, whole grains, and lean meats.

Nothing particularly wrong here.

Upon further inspection (and some coherent scientific thought), I’m not sure that the concept is as sound as I once believed.

Yes, I think most people’s diet should be composed of minimally-processed foods.

But there are so many grey areas in the clean eating world.

It’s hard to make solid rules that everyone can stick to…or that make scientific sense.

Quantity Matters!

Another problem with clean eating is the assumption that the quantity of food you eat doesn’t matter, only the quality.

But it’s pretty easy to overindulge on calorie-dense “clean” foods like nuts and whole grain bread.

Nuts have health benefits, but they’re also very high in calorie density.

If you’re looking to get lean it’s important to maintain your calorie intake at the right level for you.

Clean Eating tends to ignore the concept of energy balance – the idea that you need to burn more calories than you take in to lose weight.

“Just eat clean!”, they say, and all your weight problems will disappear.

While Clean Eating can make it easier to manage your calorie intake (it’s harder to overeat chicken breasts and veggies than potato chips and french fries!), it isn’t always the solution.

My Experience With Clean Eating

In my clean eating days around fifteen years ago, I could eat an entire loaf of gluten-free high-density whole grain bread (with a large quantity of olive oil).

I’m pretty sure I managed about a day’s worth of calories with that one “snack”.

But heh, I was eating clean, right?

Was I lean?

Definitely not.

I was about 30 pounds heavier than I am now (even though I was in my 20s).

Now I eat the right amount of protein regularly and it keeps me from overindulging.

And I allow myself treats regularly so I don’t binge eat.

You can’t overeat on a regular basis and lose weight…even if all the food you eat is “clean”.

No Sauces Or Dressings Allowed?!

Clean Eating advocates generally frown on sauces and dressings.

Unless it’s mustard or no-sugar-added tomato sauce (which contains sugar naturally, BTW).

Adding a bit of sauce to make something tasty (even if that sauce has some sugar or fat!) isn’t something to worry about.

The calories/sugar/fat will be minimal, but add to your enjoyment of the food.

If adding some BBQ sauce to your chicken breast and vegetables helps increase your consumption of protein and veggies then it’s worth it.

Freaking out about a little bit of sauce (as I used to do!) isn’t necessary.

Clean Eating For Weight Loss

You don’t have to “eat clean” all the time to lose weight or be healthy.

Eating the right quantity of food, in both calories and macros, is important for staying lean and for our health.

Sure, that generally means that most of what you’re eating will be whole foods, as close to their natural state as possible.

But completely banning all processed food?

Not necessary.

For either your health or for weight loss.

Calorie Density And Effect On Weight Loss

If you’re struggling to get lean, you need to take a closer look at the calories you’re eating.

Eating for weight loss doesn’t just come down to calorie density, but paying attention to the idea is useful.

Adding lots of low-calorie veggies and some fruit to your diet is likely to help with weight loss.

They fill you up so you eat fewer calories.

So pile on the broccoli, celery, spinach, tomatoes, and zucchini with your shrimp dinner.

And you’ll still have some space in your daily calorie alotment for a few squares of chocolate for dessert!

Criticisms of Clean Eating

Although it may seem innocuous, clean eating is still a fad diet.

Clean eating has been criticized because there’s no evidence that it has health benefits and it sometimes involves eliminating entire food groups.

Many proponents of Clean Eating are very judgemental and unjustifiably critical of certain foods.

At the extreme end is an eating disorder called Orthorexia Nervosa, which is characterized by an excessive preoccupation with eating healthy food.

Yes, it’s possible to worry about what you’re eating TOO MUCH.

I’ve been a nutrition professional for two decades and I’ve certainly experienced times when I’m become overly concerned about what I’m eating.

Sometimes you just need to live a little.

And let go of the guilt of not “eating clean” all the time.

Clean Eating Can Lead To Binging

Trying to maintain a clean eating streak often leads to anxiety and an obsession with food.

I did it myself FOR YEARS.

I would give up chocolate (my favourite treat) for weeks or months, eventually succumbing to my craving.

Then I felt like a failure.

The guilt then lead to binging on chocolate, ice cream, cookies (I have a sweet tooth!) for a couple of weeks.

Then I would get “back on the wagon” and give up chocolate again.

Only to have the whole process repeat itself a few weeks later.

Sound familiar?

Many of my Online Coaching clients have gone through that process many times and I spend time helping them overcome those negative food associations.

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Being A Health-Conscious Parent

Having a child means that those food fears can become magnified.

The younger my son was, the more careful I was about what he was eating.

Now that he’s five and in kindergarten, I know that it’s impossible for me to have 100% control over what he eats.

He’s influenced by children around him.

Unless your child suffers from true food allergies (so scary!), shielding a child from food experiences will only create negative experiences with food.

That’s not to say you should let kids eat whatever they want.

Protein, healthy fats, vegetables and fruit should be staples.

But treats are important too.

Just as they are for adults.

The Truth About Clean Eating

I once heard overheard another competitor at a fitness show say:

“You can tell when someone’s been eating clean and when they haven’t.”

No, you can’t.

How lean someone is comes down to the overall nutrient quantity that they consume over time.

A single chocolate bar or bowl of pasta doesn’t have any particular fat-promoting properties.

What you eat over the whole day, week, and month matters.

What’s Better Than Clean Eating?

I have Online Coaching clients who eat daily treat foods and stay slim, while many people who eat primarily “clean foods” (with occasional food binges, or course!) are overweight.

It’s easier to maintain a nutrition plan long-term when you enjoy the food that you’re eating.

So it’s important to include your favourite treats regularly in reasonable quantities to keep you motivated.

And there’s no reason why you can’t be healthy and lean while doing that.

Giving up judgy labels like “Clean Eating” can be helpful for healing your relationship with food.

When you pay closer attention to the quantity (calories, macros) and quality of what you’re eating, you’re more likely to get lean.

It’s worked for me and many of my Online Coaching clients.

And it’s a much more fun way to live.

Because giving up all the foods you love doesn’t make sense.

Ivana Chapman

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Which Foods Are Good For You?

Food can be so many things for us.

It can be a source of pleasure, social bonding, painful bloating, energy or fatigue.

One of the questions I get most often from my new Online Coaching clients is, “Is it GOOD?”

As in, “Is quinoa good?”

“Are nuts good?”

“Is a glass of red wine good?”

My response generally begins with, “Good for what?”

In most cases, they want to know if the food is healthy or if it fits into their goals (weight loss, fat loss, or muscle building).

Many people expect me to give them a list of foods they can eat and foods they can’t, because that’s how a lot of trendy diets work.

But that’s not really how optimal nutrition works.

The ideal nutrition plan varies from person to person.

When I do Nutrition Coaching with clients, I help them figure out what and how they should be eating.

And the answer is different for everyone.

If You Want To Determine If A Certain Food Is Good For You, Here’s What You Should Look At:

1) Are You Allergic, Intolerant, Or Otherwise Sensitive To This Food?

Food Allergies

Allergies are no joke and you know if you have one.

Your immune system reacts quickly with an Ig-E mediated immune response.

The symptoms can be life-threatening.

Food Intolerances

Intolerances can be a bit tricky, but you may already have a suspicion that certain foods don’t agree with you.

The reaction you have to food isn’t usually immediate with intolerances.

The symptoms are digestion-related and can include gas, bloating and diarrhea.

Other Food Sensitivities

Whether you suffer from a diagnosed medical condition or not, you may have noticed certain foods that don’t agree with you at some point.

Certain foods are notoriously difficult to digest, like beans, nuts, and legumes.

Smaller servings tend to be the remedy for that problem, as well as taking a digestive enzyme or a product with a specific enzyme like Beano.

Spicy and fried foods can be irritating to my stomach because I suffer from GERD and IBS.

I try to keep them to a minimum.

If you know that you get bloated every time you consume dairy or you have a medically-diagnosed dairy intolerance, dairy isn’t good for you.

But dairy may be a good source of protein for other people.

Quantity also matters.

A small serving can be ok, but large amounts on a regular basis can cause a problem.

2) What Impact Does This Food Have On Your Behaviour?

Will you feel forced to consume the entire bag of potato chips if you have a few?

Some people have trigger foods that cause them to overeat.

Those foods are best minimized or eaten only in a structured fashion.

Alcohol is another great example.

What happens to you when you have a couple of glasses of wine?

If the one glass you planned is likely to turn into three, wine might not be a good choice for you.

Many people feel that alcohol lowers their inhibitions and they end up eating more than they had planned.

Alcohol is also a mild depressant so it might reduce your motivation to eat well.

Some people can have a beer and it doesn’t affect their eating behaviour.

It’s all about knowing whether alcohol is a good choice for you.

Carbs can affect many people negatively as well.

The more carbs they eat, the more they tend to crave…more carbs.

It often takes a period of carb reduction to get your carb cravings under control.

Then you’ll find that you can naturally reduce your calorie intake.

3) How Does The Food Fit Into Your Overall Nutrition Plan?

If you have a “sweet tooth” and consume a lot of sugar, you want to be careful about adding other carbs.

Many people develop carb cravings when they consume starchy carbs, while others can consume carbs all day and never lose control around bread or sweets.

Some individuals are able to manage their insulin levels well, while others need to be more careful to keep their carbs under control.

As you get leaner, you’ll probably be able to manage your carbs better.

Remember that your weight loss is dependent primarily on how many calories you consume in a day (followed by the macro composition).

Whether a particular food fits depends on what you eat the rest of the day.

If you’re including starchy carbs and quite a lot of fat during the day, you probably don’t have enough space for a piece of chocolate cake after dinner.

Make your choices based on your preferences and what works for your body.

The Best Nutrition Plan Is Different For Everyone

Despite what proponents of particular diets would have you believe, nutrition is highly individualized.

What works for me may not work for you.

That’s why I’m critical of so-called experts who just promote the diet that works for them to everyone.

It doesn’t make any sense.

The ketogenic diet may work for a few people, but it’s not the ideal choice for most people.

Intermittent fasting fits nicely into some people’s lifestyles, but makes eating a challenge for many others.

The Bottom Line

There are many foods that people assume are “good” or “bad”.

And new Online Coaching clients, especially those that have worked with other nutritionists before, will often assume that there are certain foods I won’t “allow” them to eat.

First off, what you eat is ALWAYS your choice.

Whether you’re doing your journey on your own or with an experienced Coach, what you put in your mouth is entirely yours.

My nutrition system allows flexibility.

You CAN eat out.

No food is banned (unless you’re allergic or intolerant).

And I prefer not to make judgements about food and label them “good” or “bad”.

Any recommendations that I make apply to YOU, right now.

They may not apply to someone else.

They probably won’t apply to you three months from now.

I start many of my Online Coaching clients off by reducing their carbs and increasing their protein, but not always.

Some people are getting enough protein, but not eating enough fibre.

Figuring out which foods, and in what frequency and quantity, are good for you is an art and a science.

It’s not as simple as individual foods being good or bad.

Ivana Chapman

 

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Healthy Foods That Secretly Suck

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Most of us try to eat a variety of foods that we consider “healthy”.

As our weight goals come and go, the desire to be healthy always feels important.

What do we have without our health, right?

I’m a proponent of healthy and sustainable weight loss.

Although any food can be part of a healthy nutrition plan (my preferred word for DIET), there are some foods that get the health halo.

A Health Halo is the perception that a particular food is good for you even when there is little or no evidence that it’s true.

The media and clever food marketers are responsible for this trickery and it’s often difficult to change people’s perceptions.

But I’ll try…

Here Are The Foods That Are Perceived As Healthy But Actually Suck:

1) Juices

Whether it’s detox juices, 100% real juice for kids, or the juice bar concoctions that can pack hundreds of calories, juices are not as healthy as they may seem.

You don’t need to juice your food.

Taking all that sugar without the fibre doesn’t improve the nutritional value.

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Fiber is an important nutrient and improves digestion, manages blood sugar, and keeps your satiated.

Chewing your food rather than drinking it also makes you feel fuller for longer.

I’m not saying there’s never space for juices in your nutrition plan, but they aren’t necessary or preferable to whole fruits and vegetables.

For my Online Coaching clients who are trying to put on muscle muscle, I may recommend that they add juices if they can’t get in enough calories.

2) Gluten-Free Processed Foods

Most of us know that we should try to limit our intake of overly-processed refined carbs.

This includes bread, crackers, cookies, biscuits, pastries, and baked goods.

These days, many stores include gluten-free versions of all of these products.

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Gluten-free foods are designed for people with Celiac Disease, an autoimmune disorder that causes damage to the small intestine when gluten is ingested.

About 1% of people have Celiac Disease and a few people have true allergies to wheat.

When people with Celiac Disease want to enjoy treats like cookies and crackers they rely on gluten-free products.

Otherwise, there would be severe consequences to their health (intestinal damage – yikes!).

For everyone else, these gluten-free foods have no benefit.

They’re a treat food that happens to have no gluten, which isn’t any better than a treat food with gluten.

3) Organic Processed Foods

Along the same lines, organic processed foods like crackers, cookies, and biscuits are no better for you than other processed foods (i.e. not very).

Just because a food is labelled organic doesn’t make it healthy.

Organic sugar is no better than conventional sugar.

Contrary to popular belief, organic farming also involves pesticides.

Research also shows that it doesn’t mean necessarily that the food has a higher nutritional value.

4) Smoothies

The contents of smoothies can vary tremendously.

The massive mixes you get at juice bars can be a calorie bomb in the region of 400-600 calories with 60 grams of sugar.

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If you use a smoothie to substitute a meal and it keeps you full then it’s fine occasionally.

I often make my own smoothies at home with a blender with just whey protein isolate and a bit of fruit.

That’s a lower calorie and lower sugar version.

5) Protein/Energy/Granola Bars

I’m on an ongoing search to find a protein bar that contains enough protein (at least 15 grams) and isn’t packed with sugar or artificial sweeteners.

Part of the problem is making something with a lot of protein and little sugar palatable.

It’s a challenge and I have yet to find one that’s a great choice.

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As for energy bars, they tend to have even less protein and more sugar.

Many of these bars have more calories and sugar than a chocolate bar like Snickers.

I’ve always thought of them in relation to endurance athletes, the audience for which they were designed.

If you’re competing in an Iron Man event, you probably need energy bars to keep your strength up.

Otherwise, it’s wise to skip them.

6) Cereal

It’s the go-to breakfast food for many people, but even the high-fibre versions aren’t very impressive.

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Most cereals are low in protein and high in refined carbs.

Even the ones labelled “whole grain” are very processed and can impact your blood sugar.

Cereal is one of my picks for worst breakfast foods.

7) Yogurt 

While yogurt has a long-standing reputation as a health food, many versions you find in the stores are not ideal choices.

When yogurt is labelled “low-fat” (I’m surprised they still do that!), it’s likely to be packed with sugar.

Some have added sugar or artificial sweeteners like saccharin, acesulfame, aspartame, neotame, and sucralose.

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While moderate intake of artificial sweeteners appears safe at this point, it may affect your taste for sugar and stimulate cravings.

For susceptible individuals (like myself!), sweeteners can also cause bloating and intestinal discomfort.

So most yogurts aren’t necessarily a healthy option.

I normally advise my Online Coaching clients to choose unsweetened Greek yogurt, which is higher in protein and lower in sugar than regular yogurt.

Healthy Foods?

Please don’t take this article to mean that you should never consume any of these foods.

My personal belief is that any food that you’re not allergic to, or have an intolerance for, is fair game once in a while.

So eat the foods you want, in the right quantities and with the right frequency for you…and your particular goals.

A balanced approach is more likely to make you successful with long term weight loss.

Ivana Chapman

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Chocolate And Your Health

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Today is Valentine’s Day, and many people’s thoughts turn to chocolate. There are few foods as positively regarded as chocolate. It has a certain allure that you just don’t associate with broccoli.

Chocolate was even thought to be an aphrodisiac, although some interesting research from 2006 seemed to indicate that it doesn’t increase sexual desire.

It certainly increases pleasure for people who enjoy it though!

I’m a HUGE fan of chocolate, and I often get asked by my Online Coaching clients whether it’s a healthy choice.

Any food can be part of your nutrition plan, but the health benefits of chocolate vary.

What Kind Of Chocolate Is Best?

The higher the percentage of cocoa, the more health benefits it’s likely to have. I generally recommend 70% cocoa and above.

The terms “bittersweet” or “semi-sweet”, which refers to chocolate with a higher cocoa percentage.

These are often used for baking.

Regular milk chocolate can be as little as 10% cocoa.

The other ingredients are milk solids or powder, sugar, lecithin, and vanilla.

While it’s delicious, it doesn’t have a lot in the way of health benefit.

Cocoa powder, which can made into a delicious hot chocolate drink, is also an easy way of getting the benefits of chocolate. I often mix mine with whey protein powder and create a sugar-free hot chocolate drink.

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Here Are A Few Health Benefits Of Chocolate:

Improving Your Mood

Cocoa triggers the release of endorphins (happy hormones), which are known to improve mood, lessen pain, and reduce stress.

Cocoa also contains other agents that help produce feel-good chemicals in the brain, like serotonin and dopamine. So cocoa possesses antidepressant and mood-elevating properties.

Heart Heart, Alzheimer’s, & Cancer

Chocolate contains polyphenols that have antioxidant properties. These antioxidants, by scavenging harmful free radicals, may reduce your risk of heart disease, Alzheimer’s, cancer, and other degenerative diseases.

Eating chocolate has been shown to reduce high blood pressure in hypertensive patients, a key risk factor for heart disease.

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Mental Function

The consumption of cocoa flavanols, a plant nutrient also found in tea, cherries, blueberries, apples, peanuts, and pears, has been shown to improve cognitive function in elderly subjects.

Chocolate has a very high flavanol content compared to other foods so it’s an easy way to get a high dose of what appears to be an important boost to mental health.

How Much Should You Eat? 

In scientific research on the benefits of chocolate, one serving is 30g.

The protective effect of chocolate for CVD and stroke appears to peak at 3 servings per week. For diabetes, the effect is generally greatest at 2 servings a week.

Outside of 6 servings per week, chocolate is just adding sugar, fat, and calories to your nutrition plan without additional health benefits.

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Anything To Watch Out For?

Chocolate may not be an ideal choice for people who suffer from acid reflux. The caffeine and theobromine in chocolate can cause the esophageal sphincter to relax and may cause reflux in susceptible individuals.

I suffer from GERD myself, and I try to limit chocolate when my reflux is acting up. But there’s not way I’m giving it up!

Should You Eat Chocolate?

Eating chocolate in reasonable quantities can be part of an enjoyable nutrition plan.

I wouldn’t use the health benefits as an excuse to eat more milk chocolate, since it probably won’t have that effect.

You can stay lean and healthy while eating chocolate, as long as it fits in with the other foods you eat daily.

So never spoil a sublime chocolate experience by feeling guilty.

Embrace the pleasure of this delicious treat.

Hmmm….I think I may get myself some now.

Ivana Chapman

 

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How To Deal With Food Temptations

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Many people have weight loss as their goal at this time of year.

Over a third of North Americans will vow to “eat healthier” and/or “get more exercise”.

While those are certainly good measures to take, most people fail within a few months (some even sooner!).

The failure of these resolutions isn’t a big surprise.

This modern world isn’t set up for you to lose weight.

It’s conspiring to make you add FAT.

If you’re outside your home occasionally and have at least some semblance of a social life, it can be tough.

Think about the food temptations you come up against on a regular basis.

There may be donuts or muffins in your office break room.

You may eat out with clients or attend dinners as part of your work.

Maybe you take your kids to events where food is offered.

I’m sure you haven’t forgotten all those extra goodies available over the holidays either!

I was at a birthday party for one of my son’s friends from kindergarten a couple of weeks ago.

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It was held at a trampoline park and the dozen or so kids had a blast jumping around for an hour.

To complete the party festivities, the kids had pizza (before the birthday cake, or course!)

Pizza seems to be everywhere, especially in North America.

Any time someone planning an event is looking for something cheap and easy, pizza seems to be the choice.

Pizza for a team meeting?

For sure!

Pizza parties at school, university, or college?

Definitely.

Pizza during a skate night or a ski day or while watching the hockey game (keeping this topical for winter)?

Yup.

Is pizza always a bad choice?

Not necessarily.

Some homemade pizzas have less fat, more veggies and protein, and more fibre…which improves their profile significantly.

A typical pizza slice is about 280 calories, 10 grams of fat, 36 grams of carbs, and 12 grams of protein, with only about 2.5 grams of fibre.pizza-food-temptations

If you only have one slice, it’s really not the end of the world either.

But how many people eat just one slice?

The main thing is that the rest of your day helps balance things out, by being lower in calories and carbs, higher in protein, and have more fibre.

Vegetables and lean protein like chicken, turkey, fish, lean meat, and whey protein would help do the trick.

As long as you make adjustments in the rest of your day (or the next day), then you can keep moving ahead with your fat loss goals.

It’s a strategy I work on with my Online Coaching clients.

Many of them spent time with other coaches or personal trainers that told them they were only going to be able to lose weight if they gave up all “junk” food (what I refer to as treats).

Just avoid all of your favourite food temptations from the world and all will be well!

Others were misinformed by some online “guru” that they had to give up certain foods (like dairy, wheat, gluten, sugar, alcohol) to get lean.

You don’t.

And no, I’m not suggesting that you count calories for the rest of your life.

The quantity of the food you eat, in both macros (protein, carbs, fat) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) matters.calories-macros-fat-sugar-food-temptations

It’s not the whole story, but don’t think that you can ignore calories.

Generally, whole and minimally-processed foods tend to improve your health and your waistline.

Eating foods that are nutrient-dense like vegetables, fruit, nuts, eggs, lean meat, beans, whole grains and some dairy generally helps keep your calories and your appetite under control.

It’s a lot easier to consume 400 calories worth of pizza than 400 calories worth of vegetables.

For reference, 400 calories worth of broccoli is about 13 CUPS!

400 calories is about 7 apples.

Either way, it primarily comes down to your calorie consumption.

If all you ate was two slices of pizza a day, you would lose weight.

I’m not suggesting this as a strategy, BTW, before you start touting me as the creator of the Two Pizza Diet.

You would be way too low on protein, fibre, and vitamins and minerals for optimal health.

I just want to point out that It’s not the pizza itself that’s the problem.

Your overall calorie intake is what makes you lose or gain weight.

It’s worth tracking what you’re eating for a period of time, and then devising a nutrition plan that makes sense for you from there.

I help my Online Coaching clients do just that.

We work together to create a nutrition system that works for the rest of their lives.

My strategy with pizza is simple – I don’t eat it.

I don’t really enjoy it and since I suffer from GERD, pizza is not the best choice for my stomach.

My favourite treats are ice cream, cheesecake, brownies, and chewy freshly-baked chocolate chip cookies.

Yes, I have a sweet tooth!

Pick your treats and enjoy them without guilt.

Don’t just eat it because it’s there.

If you LOVE pizza, go ahead and have a slice.

Maybe two.

Be aware of the calories that you’re consuming and make adjustments as needed to the rest of your day (or the next day).

That allows you to get lean while enjoying your favourite foods.

That’s a nice life to be living.

Ivana Chapman

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Do You Really Need Superfoods?

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I pride myself on providing practical, evidence-based solution for weight loss. Losing weight isn’t as complicated as people think, but it’s NOT easy. In the quest for ideal health and leanness, many people turn to superfoods for an edge.

What are SUPERFOODS?

Superfoods is a marketing term, rather than a scientific one.

There’s no scientific criteria to be classified a superfood.

A superfood is generally defined as:

A nutrient-rich food considered to be especially beneficial for health and well-being.

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Hmmmm.

Pretty vague, right?

A nutrient is a substance used by an organism to survive, grow, and reproduce.

So all macros (protein, carbs, fat) and all the vitamins/minerals are technically included in that category.

Then we get into the phytonutrients (plant nutrients) like carotenoids, ellagic acid, flavonoids, resveratrol, and glucosinolates.

There are actually over 25,000 phytonutrients, but those are a a few of the important ones.

So a superfood contains a lot of important nutrients.

That’s great!

More nutritional value = better health

We all want that, right?

You could reduce your risk of cancer, lose more fat, improve your vision, and heal your digestion…if you knew which nutrients to use.

I wish it was that simple.

Although many nutrients (like the aforementioned carotenoids and ellagic acid) are being studied for their health benefits, it’s not as simple as providing a cure or remedy for an illness.

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So while there are certainly foods that have special health benefits, most whole foods have some beneficial properties.

Superfoods are neither the miracle for fat loss nor for your health.

They’re certainly worth including in your nutrition plan, but it’s not likely to be a complete solution.

Here’s the main problem.

There are two ways of improving your nutrition plan:

1) Reducing foods that aren’t beneficial (overly processed, high in calories, etc.)

2) Adding foods with health benefits

In my experience, people are more willing to ADD things to their nutrition plan, rather than take things away.

Goji berries on my sugar-laden cereal?

No problem!

A little spinach in my cream cheese and bacon pastry?

Why not?

Add a slice of lycopene-rich tomato to my greasy burger?

I don’t mind if I do!

Hopefully you see the problem here.

Your health is more complicated than the benefits you get from a few nutrient-dense foods.

What really matters is how your nutrition plan fits together, in both quantity and quality.

That’s not to say that there aren’t some foods that deserve to be included more often.

Here Are 10 of Those Superfoods And The Benefits They Provide:

1) Dark Leafy Greens (kale, arugula, swiss chard, collard greens, turnip greens)

Leafy greens contain folate, vitamin K, and various antioxidants.

Although you probably want to avoid romaine lettuce right now, they are several leafy greens that you can eat for health benefits.

Heat can help reduce e.coli risk, so you can get health benefits without the risk by cooking your greens.

2) Fatty fish (salmon, sardines, mackerel)

Omega-3 fatty acids, which fish like salmon have plenty of, help reduce inflammation and support brain function.

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3) Green Tea

EGCG, a polyphenol which is an antioxidant in green tea, is likely responsible for its anti-inflammatory effects. Green tea may protect your brain in the elderly years and may reduce your risk of certain cancers.green-tea-cup-superfoods

4) Eggs

Eggs contain B vitamins, choline, selenium, vitamin A, iron and phosphorus. Nearly all of that is in the yolk, so make sure you try to eat one at least a couple of times a week. Egg whites are nearly pure protein, which many of us struggle to get enough of.eggs-tray-superfoods

5) Berries

All berries are high in antioxidants and fibre. Different types of berries also contain unique phytonutrients with beneficial health effects.

Studies tend to show cancer-protective effects from a diet generally high in fruits and vegetables. Meaning: comparing people with and without cancer, the studies show lower risk of several cancers in those who eat more fruits compared to those who eat relatively few.

Early research has shown the kiwiberry to be a promising treatment for some cancers and health issues involving the gastrointestinal system.

The anthocyanins in blueberries are believed to reduce age-related memory loss. They also contain vitamins C and K, as well as manganese.

6) Nuts & Seeds

High in fibre and beneficial fats (with a bit of protein too), nuts and seeds are a good choice in reasonable doses. The fiber helps with digestion, and nuts have been showed to reduce LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels.

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7) Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)

EVOO contains monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs). It also contains oleic acid and oleocanthal, which contribute to its anti-inflammatory effect. MUFAs reduce your total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol.

8) Avocado

High in vitamin K and potassium, avocados also contain a high percentage of MUFAs (like olive oil).

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9) Garlic & Onions

The allicin from garlic may be helpful in preventing colds, but you probably won’t be able to consume the amount needed (the study used allicin pills). Garlic can help to reduce blood pressure and lower LDL cholesterol.

Onions, which are also part of the allium family of veggies (with garlic, scallions, chives), are high in vitamin C, B6, and manganese. They also contain the antioxidants quercetin and sulfur, and may reduce the risk of certain cancers.

10) Chocolate

I wrote an entire blog post about the benefits of chocolate. The gist of which is that cocoa (found primarily in 70% chocolate and above) contains flavanols, which can improve cognition in elderly subjects and can improve markers of cardiovascular health.

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A nutrition plan that includes many of these superfoods on a regular basis (and whole foods in general!) is a step in the right direction.

Remember though, that nutrition is highly individualized.

I avoid garlic and onions because they exacerbate my acid reflux issues.

Beans and pulses need to be consumed in very small servings or they upset my digestion.

I don’t like arugula so I don’t eat it.

No single food will ward off disease or get you slim.

I remember one of my Coaching clients, a nurse, telling me about a cranky elderly man she took care of in the oncology ward.

He often angrily asked, “I ate blueberries all the time…how did I get cancer?”

Blueberries were the superfood-de-jour then because some research had come out about their antioxidant potential.

If only optimal health were as simple as eating a few blueberries!

Our health is a combination of our genetics, what we eat, our physical activity, our environment, and our psychological state.

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Being lean is also a blend of those factors.

We can’t control all of them, but the more positives we put in the better we’re likely to do.

Your entire nutrition plan, day-in and day-out, counts.

The calories you consume, their macro breakdown, and the quality of the food all make a difference.

Don’t rely on just one thing.

Try to give yourself as many “positives” as you can, while limiting the negatives.

That’s the real solution for health and weight loss.

Ivana Chapman

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A New Take On Diets

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The word DIET brings all sorts of emotions with it.

From a nutritionist perspective, a diet is simply all the foods that a person habitually eats.

Yet most people see diets by their other definition:

A special course of food to which one restricts oneself, either to lose weight or for medical reasons.

Unless there’s a specific reason for you to undertake a diet, for lasting change I prefer to think of what you eat daily as a NUTRITION PLAN.

I encourage my Online Coaching clients to see everything they eat as a Nutrition Plan, rather than using the word diet.

Many people have negative associations with the word DIET, after years (and perhaps decades!) of going on and off diets.

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Most people also dread the thought of “going on a diet” because it feels restrictive and painful…ideas that we want to eliminate when we create permanent changes to our health and bodies.

I want you to avoid thinking of the food you eat as a diet with a definitive end and beginning.

Your food preferences will change over the years and that’s fine.

When you’re coming up with an ideal nutrition plan FOR YOU, it needs to take into account the foods you enjoy.

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As time goes on, you’ll try new things and get tired of some things.

Your nutrition plan will change and grow with you.

Cutting out your favourite treats will only intensify your desire for them.

When I created my Online Coaching program, it wasn’t so I could give my clients a cookie-cutter diet plan to follow.

The idea is that I work with clients one-on-one to find a sustainable way of eating to reach their goals.

My method allows you to eat the foods you love and still get leaner and healthier.

There’s no need for a detox or cleanse to get you started.

You just work from where you are and make gradual modifications that make sense FOR YOU.

Of course, there are tons of fad diets out there giving you a specific prescription for what you should eat, whether it’s eliminating entire food groups or eating only at certain times.

Vegan, Paleo, Whole30, Flexitarian, Intermittent Fasting, Clean Eating, and Keto restrict what you’re eating…and it’s totally unnecessary.

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Food isn’t something to be scared of.

Most people fail at restrictive diets eventually anyway.

Sometimes you end up gaining more weight than before and you’re usually even more frustrated.

My idea is to help people give up the cycle of yo-yo dieting.

I went through it myself FOR YEARS before I finally found a happier way to live.

I want to help you find a better way of eating.

When you master the basics of calories and macros (particularly protein), you’ll be on your way to creating a nutrition plan that works for your life.

If you’re looking for some guidelines to get you started, read this blog post.

And that means breaking the cycle of dieting and ending food guilt.

It’s a healthier way of living, where you can reach your goals and feel better about yourself, without unnecessary restrictions.

That’s something valuable to aim for.

Ivana Chapman

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Can Donuts Be Part Of Your Nutrition Plan?

Today I saw an interesting post in a Facebook group for Online Coaches.

There was a personal trainer on there who’s trying to get into Online Coaching.

Let’s call him Ben.

Here’s what Ben posted:

“Just had the very awkward moment of running into my personal training client at the donut shop (about 10 minutes away)…right after our session together. We’re both busted. All the more reason to go online!”

A couple of things stuck me as interesting about this post.

First, hiding your visits to donut shops from clients seems like a pretty silly reason to change from personal training to Online Coaching.

I know he was joking, but still!

There are two main erroneous assumptions that the post contains:

1) That all personal trainers/health coaches only eat “clean”.

2) That all coaches expect their clients to eat “clean” all the time.

I always intentionally use quotation marks around the word “clean” because it’s not a scientific or clearly defined term.

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The only way we can make food really clean

People don’t agree on what makes a food “clean”.

Although we have an idea that eating mainly whole, minimally-processed foods (like vegetables, fish, poultry, lean meat, eggs, some dairy, nuts, seeds, fruit, maybe some grains) is better than eating primarily highly processed food (like hot dogs, chips, cookies, sausages, french fries), but there is no clear dividing line between a “good” food and a “bad” food.

There I go with the quotation marks again!

Labelling food as either good or bad isn’t useful.

Getting judgy about certain foods and feeling guilty about eating them is counterproductive.

Guilt may actually cause you to eat more!

Anyway, back to Ben’s FB post.

Why are they “busted”?

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Is Ben the type of trainer who advocates eating only certain foods to get physique results?

Probably.

His main focus with a nutrition plan is probably “cut out the junk food and all will be well”.

No one needs to be told that limiting their donut intake will probably get them healthier and leaner.

HOW to reduce your donut intake if you really love them is the bigger issue.

So what do you do instead?

How do you control your donut cravings?

Is there a way to plan your nutrition so that donuts could be included?

Absolutely!

Donuts can fit into your nutrition plan if your calories and macros are on track and you’re got enough protein and fibre.

Although they would probably be an occasional treat, rather than a post-workout snack, they could be in there.

A donut is too high in fat to be considered an ideal post-workout snack (a high protein, low fat, low fibre meal is best after a workout), having the right food to eat after workouts isn’t something to be overly concerned with, for most people.

Rather than worrying about the timing of food, it’s more important to have things add up for the day.

Ben felt guilty about being caught having donuts, because he thinks he needs to present an image of a role model who eschews certain foods.

He may have felt that his client made a poor choice.

Neither of them learned the real message about sustainable nutrition.

You can eat donuts without guilt if you plan your nutrition around it.

Or maybe it’s not donuts for you (I’m personally not a fan), but whatever your favourite treat is…you CAN eat it.

What a relief, right?

Ivana Chapman

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How To Break The Diet Pattern

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Coming out of the season of BBQs, pool parties, and picnics, there’s a common pattern that I’ve been seeing.

After a couple of sunny months of overindulgence, many people are getting mentally ready for some big changes this fall.

This can certainly be seen as a good thing, but there’s a cautionary tale there too.

A mom that I know recently commented, “One more binge day and then the diet starts tomorrow!” 

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Yikes!

It’s the kind of thing I hear a lot in my profession, but it’s one of the most unproductive mindsets for staying lean long term.

The idea of intentionally binging in anticipation of a period of restriction is DANGEROUS.

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It’s bad for your relationship with food and can cause obsessive behaviours.

Although we all have the occasional day when we eat a bit more than we should, “binging” is something we should consider carefully…and do infrequently.

A binge normally comes after a period of deprivation, particularly when someone has been following a diet for a long period and can’t sustain it.

A whole season of binging (ie. eating without control) is dangerous to your health, and it certainly won’t get you the body you want.

Feeling Guilty?

And the guilt.

Oh, the guilt.

When it kicks in you feel like giving up altogether and eating more and more.

Because, screw it, you’ve messed up and what’s the point?

Binge Time!

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Diet, followed by binge, followed by diet, followed by binge, ad nauseam.

The guilt grows worse each time.

Your self worth takes a dive after each failed effort.

It sounds extreme when I put it like this, but it’s surprisingly common. I followed that pattern for over a decade before I finally got my act together.

Believe me, it wasn’t without a lot of tears, depression, anxiety, and guilt.

I eventually devised a system of eating that works for me, and it’s what I teach my Online Coaching clients to follow.

It involves giving up the concept of “dieting” altogether and learning to eat in a way that’s sustainable for you.

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Avoiding your favourite foods or skipping social situations that present you with tempting treats isn’t necessary.

You can have treats, but you have to classify them as treats and not a staple of your nutrition plan.

You can have the cake…just not ALL the cake or all the time.

Making sensible choices that are best for you is what it’s all about.

Treat foods, which are generally highly-processed and calorie dense (like donuts, muffins, french fries, chips, burgers, ice cream, chicken wings, deli sandwiches, chocolate & granola bars) make it easier for the calories to add up quickly.

Someone trying to lose weight will need to create a calorie deficit so they can shed pounds.

Taking a closer look at how much and how often you’re consuming treat foods can be a good start.

Take a moment right now to decide:

  1. What treat foods are you willing to give up?
  2. What treat foods do you want to make a regular part of your nutrition plan?

Going from “eating everything you want all the time” to excessive restriction (“No sugar for a month!”) is unrealistic and unnecessary.

You don’t need to give up chocolate, if you really love it.

You can create a nutrition plan that allows you to lose weight and get leaner, while still including chocolate (or your own favourite treat) regularly.

It does require some changes to what you’re currently eating, but it’s probably not what you think.

You don’t have to give up carbs altogether to lose weight either.

That’s just another silly myth.

Making some sensible changes to what you’re eating, without ongoing deprivation, is the best way to break the diet pattern.

Let go of the guilt and start following a plan that doesn’t cause you so much pain…while still getting the fat loss you want.

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Sounds ideal, doesn’t it?

When you break out of the diet cycle, you’re finally free to enjoy your food without feeling bad about it.

And that’s how you can get lean and stay lean for life.

Ivana Chapman

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Is Sugar Or Fat The Real Enemy?

For a long time we were told that fat was the enemy.

Those of us who grew up in the 80s and 90s remember the proliferation of low-fat products on the shelves.

Surprisingly, there are still a lot of products that label themselves “low fat”.

If your parents aren’t up-to-date on nutrition (few are), you’ll probably find that most Baby Boomers will still try to steer you and your offspring away from fat in the hopes of making you healthy.

In the 90s and early 2000s, the low carb craze started.

Fat wasn’t the enemy and now carbs were the big problem.

We’ve seen that trend continue with the popularity of the ketogenic diet (a very low carb and high fat diet) and with various versions of the Paleo Diet.

And now several notable “experts” point to sugar (and not all carbs) as the issue.

What’s the truth?

Fat is NOT the enemy.

Carbs are NOT the enemy.

Sugar is NOT the enemy.

I really wish we could get away from searching for the enemy because good nutrition really shouldn’t be about that unnecessary process.

Weight loss comes down to how many calories you eat and how those calories break down into carbs, protein, and fat.

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Sure, better quality food will have more micronutrients to support your health and hormonal balance long-term.

Certain foods are more likely to produce cravings that cause you to eat more (and poorly!) later on.

We need to be aware of those things as we plan our daily nutrition.

Most people could do with reducing their sugar intake, because sugar is in so many foods and we don’t have the active lifestyles to support that type of carb consumption that most people have.

Still, neither fat nor sugar is the real problem.

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Many people claim to be “addicted” to sugar, but would they really pour pure white sugar in their mouths or inject it into their veins to get their “fix”?

Not likely.

We just like tasty processed food that has an appealing texture.

It’s the COMBINATION of sugar and fat – and sometimes natural or artificial flavouring – that really gets you salivating.

Hyperpalatable is the term that scientists use to describe these foods.

French fries.

An ice cream cone with chocolate chips or chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream (my personal fave!).

A pepperoni pizza.

A Snickers bar with it’s peanutty combination of sweetness and salt.

Boy, do they taste good!

We all have our personal favourites, whether they’re more sweet, fatty, or salty.

Comfort foods are almost always a combination of fat and sugar (and sometimes salt) mixed in a delicious form.

They taste good and encourage us to eat a lot of them.

Then the excess calories put us into a calorie surplus and we start to gain weight.

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Yes, it makes sense to cut down on sugar, and even carbs in general if you’re not very active (most of us aren’t).

You also want to reduce your intake of trans fats (found in fried and processed foods), if lowering your risk of cardiovascular disease is something that matters to you.

But try not to think of any food as “the enemy”.

Because a healthy relationship with food means that you’re able to have food without guilt.

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You don’t have to be perfect.

If you make your peace with food, you’re much more likely to lose weight and be able to keep it off.

As a bonus, you get to enjoy the foods you love (in appropriate quantities) without feeling like you’ve done something wrong.

That’s a gift that will keep you healthy for a lifetime.

Ivana Chapman

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What Is Online Coaching?

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While most people believe a personal trainer barks orders and counts reps at the gym (NOT an accurate representation of a quality trainer, by the way!), Online Coaching is even less well understood. Even so, Online Coaching seems to have become more popular in the last few years, probably because we seem to be doing everything on our devices. I personally order food, toiletries, birthday presents, clothes, and electronic gadgets online on a regular basis.

In order to clear up the misconceptions, I want to explain what Online Coaching is and how it can help you.

You Do What?!

When I meet people at social occasions, trying to explain my business can be a bit tricky. Some people get it right away, but others say things like,

“So you record videos of yourself working out for people to follow?” or

“You create standard menu plans that you send to everyone?”

In fairness, some online fitness and nutrition programs do work like that.

How effective they are depends on the person, but they miss key elements in a person’s long term success at fat loss.

You’ll have a better understanding of that once you read about how my Online Coaching program works.

With Online Coaching, We Address Three Areas:

1) Nutrition

It’s often said that your diet (I call it a Nutrition Plan!) is 80% of your success with fat loss. Nutrition is very important, that’s for sure, and you can’t out-exercise poor nutrition.

Online Coaching involves complete analysis of your nutrition, including the quantity (in calories and macros) and quality of the food you eat. It’s not always just that you’re eating too much that’s the problem.

We look at what YOUR particular issues are.chicken-snowpeas-plate-online-coaching

Mine is not a one-size-fits-all solution. I don’t force you to do a detox (I’ll teach you why they’re a bad choice) or a put you on a 30-day plan to give up gluten/dairy/starches/sugar and other random things that you probably don’t have to give up. 

You learn how to eat the foods you love and deal with those pesky cravings as you work towards your goal. You’ll change your relationship with food permanently.

2) Exercise

If you’re serious about building a strong, athletic shape, weight training should be the focus of your workouts. Three days a week is the minimum for a real change in your physique, but it doesn’t have to be an hour or more.

Most of my clients fit in 40-50 mins four days a week, but I work with you to create a workout program that works for your schedule. If you can do 3-5 sessions of 30 mins each week, that’s great.

I’ll plan a program that fits into those time limitations.

You’re busy and I want you to make the most of your time in the gym.

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Getting results from weight training comes when you’re consistent, progressive, and push yourself within your limits.

Sometimes I have to encourage clients to push themselves a bit more, but other times it’s about restraining them so that the optimal ratio of growth/recovery is attained. This is especially important in people 35 and over, when recovery becomes more of an issue.

3) Psychology & Mindset

Mindset Coaching will help you overcome psychological barriers to your progress (habits, associations, overcoming negative influences in your life). This is the skill that most personal trainers and online coaches lack, but it’s a key part of my Online Coaching program.

When you change your relationship with food and exercise, you’re on your way to lifelong commitment to a healthy lifestyle.

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I’m at your beck and call for any lifestyle-related questions too. I help you cut through all the nonsense in the fitness and nutrition industry. Whether you want to know about Intermittent Fasting, Crossfit, Paleo, Keto, or whether dairy causes cellulite, I’m ready to give you a science-backed answer.

How Does Online Coaching Work?

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To make things a bit more clear, here’s the step-by-step process you’ll go through with Online Coaching:

1) When you sign on with me, I ask you to fill out a CLIENT INTAKE FORM online.

You’ll give me important details about your lifestyle, including your sleep, work schedule, limitations, health & injury history, nutrition, and workout experience.

2) We Do Your Initial Skype/FaceTime Consult (1 Hour).

We discuss anything of relevance in your Client Intake Form, identify your key challenges and limitations, and you get to express your food and workout preferences.

3) You track what you’re eating with myfitnesspal for 6 days (4 weekdays & 2 weekend days).

This is NOT about trying to impress me.

I just want to see what you’re eating now and what your key issues are.

Many nutritionists do this backwards! They just tell you what to eat without finding out where you’re starting from. This often means that the plan given isn’t going to work for the client long term.

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I make the nutrition changes I give you gradual and sustainable. They work around your special occasions or holidays. It’s not about giving you a meal plan – it’s about teaching you to eat to reach your goals.

4) I provide you with a workout plan for the guidelines you’ve given (days, duration, your ability) in a Google Docs file in our shared Google Drive.

This allows you to record your progress and share feedback with me as needed. I also give you videos with my instructions for all the exercises I give you to do in your Google Drive folder. You can use the Google Drive app to view your program while you’re at the gym.

My exercise library has over 200 different exercises (and growing!).

Workout programs change every 5-6 sessions (most people have a split program, meaning they have 2, 3, or 4 different workouts each week), depending on your experience and personal preference for change.

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5) We do a focussed 30-minute Coaching Call (Skype/FaceTime/phone) session every week (or more or less frequently, depending on your preference).

This call is for accountability and to trouble-shoot any issues you’re having. We talk about your habits and mindset issues you have to overcome.

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You also get:

  • Video feedback of your exercise technique whenever required.
  • 12 educational emails to help you understand key parts of the program and optimize your results.
  • Unlimited email support with any nutrition, training, and psychological issues that come up.

I’m there to support you through any setbacks and help you clear any hurdles that arise.

Benefits Of Online Coaching

You Can Work With A Coach Far, Far, Far Away From You

I live in Toronto and I’ve had the opportunity to work with clients in Canada, the US, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, and the UK. Apart from making sure to get our time zones correct for calls, there’s no difference between a local client and an international one.

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The Workouts Fit Your Schedule

If you only have a certain amount of time per week, that’s what we work with.

If you have to travel a lot and don’t always have access to full gym equipment, I’ll design a travel program for you as well. You don’t need to make an appointment to do your workouts. You just fit them into your own schedule.

The Nutrition Coaching Is Comprehensive

Much like going to a nutritionist in person for a consultation and appointments to update your plan, the online nutrition support is complete. Many in-person trainers only mention nutrition briefly while doing a workout with a client. Not only does it dilute the quality of the personal training session, but it doesn’t give nutrition the time and attention that it really deserves.

Psychology and Mindset Issues are addressed as well, particularly when it comes to food. If you don’t change your relationship with food, you will never optimize your results. This is NOT about finding a special diet with mystical unicorn properties…it’s about learning to eat for your goals.

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World-Class Support and Accountability

Real results come from someone qualified looking at your needs and finding ideal solutions for you. When you have guidance from a coach with the skills and expertise to guide you in the right direction, you’re more likely to reach your goal. You’re also more likely to maintain your progress through the rough patches (and there will be rough patches!).

Drawbacks Of Online Coaching

You Don’t Have Anyone With You When You’re Doing Your Workouts

For some people, this is a real problem. They don’t know how to push themselves hard enough to get results or they don’t have the experience to use correct technique. I provide instructional videos for the exercises that I prescribe (as well as answer any outstanding questions) and most people do well with those.

Still, if you’re very nervous at the gym and have a hard time following instructions, in-person instruction might work better for you.

Nobody To Watch Your Technique

Although I offer technique assessment for any exercise you’re given (you submit a video of yourself doing the exercise and I review it) it’s not the same as having someone there to correct you on the spot.

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You Can Skip The Workout And No One Will Know

When I trained people one-on-one in a gym, I knew they were doing the work. Having the appointment with me was the only thing that got some people to the gym. With Online Coaching, you’re on your honour.

Still, given that the majority of the weight loss result happens through nutrition, even an in-person trainer that you train with two or three times a week won’t have control over it.

You need to take responsibility for yourself with both your workouts and with what you’re eating.

Who Will Online Coaching Work For?

If you’re an independent person with some weight training experience under a good coach, or someone who knows their body well and has reasonable coordination, working out on your own isn’t a problem.

I provide detailed videos of all the exercises that I want you to do and if you have any questions you can always ASK ME.

Any time.

You need to be open-minded and willing to make some changes in your life.

Maybe you’re stuck on certain ideas (that being vegan is the best choice, that you only want to do cardio).

In that case, my program won’t work for you.

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If you want the same result, keep doing what you’re doing.

When you want to see changes in your body and your health, you’ll need to make some changes in your lifestyle.

Who Is Online Coaching NOT For?

If you need someone with you at the gym just to make sure you do the work, then Online Coaching won’t be for you. I won’t be there beside you fixing technique or making you do one more rep when you’re feeling lazy.

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Personal Training in a gym environment is very different from Online Coaching.

Some people are very good at motivating people on the spot, a la, “Harder!”, “One more!”, “You can do it!”.

While this style of training can occasionally be useful, it doesn’t do anything to address the underlying issues that are preventing a person from achieving lasting fat loss.

Nutrition is generally 80-90% of the problem and you won’t change that, even if you get a personal trainer to “put you through your paces” three or four days a week.

How Is My Online Coaching Program Different?

I do things a bit differently and I’ll tell you what you need to hear, and not what you want to hear.

I challenge what most people believe about fitness and nutrition. Although I contribute as a fitness and nutrition expert for various media outlets, I’m the first to acknowledge that there’s a lot of misinformation out there.

Clients have come to me with all sorts of incorrect beliefs, most of which I’ve managed (with appropriate scientific evidence!) to clear up for them. In most cases, they breath a sigh of relief that getting lean and healthy isn’t all about juice fasting and arugula salad with beans.

Online Coaching can be expensive, especially with an experienced coach. The sad reality is that most providers don’t provide a cohesive system that encompasses nutrition and training, while addressing psychological factors that prevent you from following through.

I’ll be teaching you how to change your mindset to allow you to get lean and feel strong and healthy.

I don’t just tell my clients what to do, I help them understand “how” and “why” they’re doing it.

Specialized Knowledge

Using my experience with hundreds of men and women just like you, I’ll give you guidelines to follow that make sense for your lifestyle.

If you’re a postpartum mom suffering from diastasis recti or urinary incontinence, I know what exercises you should do and which you should avoid.

Traveling executive? I’ll help you make the right decisions on-the-go.

Eat too much at night? I’ll find a specific solution that works for you.

If you eat under stress or when you’re anxious, I’ll give you tools to deal with your emotions and specific instructions for dealing with food-based issues.

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I started doing Online Coaching over four years ago, just before my son was born. This was after about fourteen years doing personal training in various gyms around the world (Canada, England, New Zealand, Australia).

That experience is valuable, because I’ve dealt with so many different people over the years and spoken to them about the challenges they have to overcome.

I’m often amazed to hear personal trainers with only four or five years of experience deciding they’re bored and want to switch to online.

The years of in-the-trenches work with people is a HUGE part of what gives you the insight you need to give good guidance online. You have less feedback when you’re working online. You don’t see the person you’re coaching at the gym doing the exercises so you need to know what questions to ask and how to give specific instructions that will make things work for them.

I practice what I preach.

I’ve worked through my own issues with food and found a method that works for myself and my clients.

Is Online Coaching For You?

In over two decades as a coach, I’ve developed the tools and flexibility to help you unlock your individual potential, even if thought your peak physical years were behind you.

Being 35 or older doesn’t mean that you have to start packing on the pounds, give up building muscle, or that you can’t get lean and strong.fit-active-couple-online-coaching

Most of my clients are parents between 35 and 48 years old.

They have one or more young children who keep them busy. I also coach a couple of new moms with babies under a year old (one of which started with me at 4 weeks postpartum!), who are managing the early sleepless period of mom life while trying to feel strong and healthy.

I encourage everyone to take things at their own pace.

You don’t have to “get ready” to do Online Coaching.

I take you as you are and get you as quickly and safely to your goals as possible.

lara-mom-daughter-online-coachingMy client Lara, a 38-year-old mom to a 10-month-old girl, says,

The great thing about this program is that it changes the way you think about nutrition and exercise allowing you to make lifestyle changes. If you are busy individual, need support but work well independently and are serious about making lifestyle changes, then this is the program for you!

How Could YOU Benefit?

Online Coaching isn’t just about changing your body with a combination of nutrition and workouts. Changing how you think about food and exercise means a lifelong change in your habits.

When you manage your lifestyle effortlessly, you’ll transform your life.

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Knowing how to eat and work out with maximum effectiveness is a tool that you’ll have to keep in control of your life forever.

Although I start my programs at three months, many people continue for ongoing accountability and support. Others use the tools I’ve given them to keep making positive changes over time.

I’m not the cheapest Online Coach available and I realize that for many people it’s a big financial commitment. What I’m offering is a chance to change your life by helping you change your relationship with food and exercise.

When your life is transformed through Online Coaching, you’ll see the value yourself.

Nothing makes me happier than seeing my clients succeed at their goals and achieve happier, healthier lives as a result.

Ivana Chapman

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How To Eat At A BBQ And Stay Lean

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Summer is the time for social events, preferably in the great outdoors.

BBQ parties by the pool…so sweet!

It’s an interesting scenario for a nutrition and fitness coach, since many people seem to get a little anxious around me when they find out what I do for a living.

They feel like they’re going to be judged for what they’re eating.

They think I’m going to stand there smugly chewing on a piece of celery that I brought with me while they indulge in their favourite BBQ treat: burgers, hot dogs, pasta salad, chips, or post-meal ice cream.

“I bet you never eat this!”

There’s also the equally annoying push to “treat myself” or “just have one!”

My standard explanation goes like this:

I choose the foods that I really enjoy and I skip the stuff I don’t.

You won’t catch me eating hot dogs, chips, french fries, or a cold pasta salad.

I’m not the least bit interested in those foods (or celery, for that matter!).

Don’t even bother to ask.

Now show me some brownies, BBQ chicken, ice cream, cheese, corn-on-the-cob, chocolate-covered strawberries, or cheesecake and I’m all over them.

I’m quite happy to eat chicken breasts or lean white fish and roasted veggies all day so I can leave space for those foods later on.

You may be the complete opposite of me and be completely obsessed with a burger with the works, but not have much of a taste for the sweet stuff.

That’s cool.

Do your thing.

The biggest problem with most people’s nutrition plans is that they eat too many treat foods, most of which they don’t really enjoy that much.

Maybe you really LOVE hot dogs.

Great, have one.

But if you’re indifferent and you’re just eating the hot dog because it’s easy just to follow along and have what’s available, then think twice.

If you’re not getting true enjoyment from the food, find a healthier alternative.

What happens in many unbalanced nutrition plans is that the ratio of “treat foods” compared to “staple foods” gets a bit skewed.

Cereal for breakfast, deli sandwiches for lunch, burgers and fries (and maybe a salad) for dinner.

Too much sugar, too many non-nutritious carbs, and not enough quality protein.

With my Online Coaching program, I help my clients to learn how to make the right choices for their preferences and their goals.

You’re not “being bad” by choosing one food and you’re not “being good” by choosing another.

You just need to make daily choices that help you get the outcome you want, whether that’s weight loss or being healthier overall.

The basic structure of what you’re eating should include protein at each meal and a couple of servings of vegetables most times that you eat.

A little fat too, preferably from extra virgin olive oil, nuts, nut oils, avocado, butter, or coconut oil.

When you really want to treat yourself, then treat yourself!

Have a reasonable portion of that cake, savour every bite, and forget all the other foods that don’t truly make you salivate.

Because you CAN have your cake and eat it too.

As long as you don’t also eat a burger, a hot dog, a sausage, pasta salad, and ice cream.

Choose wisely.

Choose what’s right for you.

Ivana Chapman

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Some Truths You Need To Hear

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Changing your lifestyle for the better can be hard.

It’s an ongoing process to maintain your commitment to eating right for your goals and doing the amount and type of exercise you need to feel fit and strong.

Plenty of excuses will rear their ugly heads as you navigate your fitness journey.

“I’m too busy.”

“I’m too tired.”

“I have more important things to do.”

Changing your mindset about food and exercise is important.

Doing the right things for your body will give you more energy and allow you to give more to others and have a more fulfilling life.

Here are some important things to remember:

1) You have complete control over what you’re eating.

Sure, people can try to entice you with whatever delicious food they’ve brought to the BBQ or try to goad you into having another drink, but the choice is ultimately yours. Take back control and make the choices that are right for you, whether that means eating the burger…or not eating the burger.

2) It takes time to see changes in your body.

You’ve been exercising for a few weeks and keeping a closer eye on your food intake. If you’re not seeing the changes you want, don’t panic! It takes time to get into the shape you’re in and it will take time to get into the shape you want. Manage your expectations and get help along the way with a supportive friend or awesome coach. 😉

3) Saying NO is the a powerful tool.

“NO, I don’t want that piece of cake.”

“NO, I can’t skip my workout to go for a beer.”

“NO, I don’t need to eat those chips after dinner.”

Whether you say these things to someone else or to yourself, know that you have the power to say them whenever you need to.

4) Food doesn’t replace anything that’s missing in your life.

If you’re unhappy, food won’t make you happy. That doesn’t mean that food can’t be part of fun experiences, but it won’t solve the underlying issue if you’ve got one.

If you’re bored, food isn’t a good source of entertainment. Read a book, flip through a trashy magazine, text a friend, go for a walk, or watch videos of cats riding bicycles on YouTube.

Do something else that entertains you and leave food for it’s true purpose (nourishment and true enjoyment).

If you’re stressed, food won’t actually relieve your stress. Eating poorly or too much will only add to your stresses, since you’ll feel less energetic and probably guilty about your expanding waistline.

5) The body you see in a few months is the result of actions you take every day.

A few days of “being good” won’t cut it. Give up the idea of “being good” altogether and learn to manage your day-to-day choices in a way that makes sense for your level of commitment and what you want to achieve with your body.

Every little step counts.

Every movement forward encourages you to keep on the right path.

Sometimes it’s hard to let go of the excuses.

Remember that when it comes to nutrition and exercise, you have the power to make the choices that are right for you.

Ivana Chapman

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Everything You Need To Know About Intermittent Fasting

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Intermittent Fasting has become hugely popular in the last few years. You may have heard that Intermittent Fasting can help you lose weight, improve health markers like cholesterol and blood sugar, and even extend your life. With those kind of proposed benefits, it’s worth investigating isn’t it?

I’m a big supporter of the concept of individuality, when it comes to both nutrition and exercise. What’s right for one person isn’t right for another. Your optimal nutrition plan depends on your genetics, psychology, and personal preferences. There’s no one diet that’s right for everyone. Whenever I talk nutrition, I try to break it down into that vital question, “Is it right for YOU?”

While it appears that Intermittent Fasting may have benefits, deciding whether this style of eating is right for you is what this article is really about.

What Is Intermittent Fasting?

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Intermittent Fasting (IF) is a way of eating that involves defined periods of eating and fasting (not eating).

We fast every day (when we’re sleeping), but IF means extending that period a little wider. What generally marks IF is that the periods of fasting are greater than 12 hours (the usual eating pattern in modern western society).

Three Main Types Of Intermittent Fasting:

24hr Fasting – Skipping a day of food, once or twice a week. This is the traditional form of fasting, often associated with some religious practices. This is also advocated by the Eat-Stop-Eat program.

Alternate Day Fasting – You eat for a period of time (often 24hrs), fast for a period of time (24hrs) and then keep repeating the cycle.

Feeding Window (Time Restricted Feeding TRF) – Eating within a certain time window ONLY, generally between 4-8 hours.

The times are variable, but in practice most people skip breakfast and then eat between noon-8pm or 11am-7pm. That’s actually fairly doable for most people and is dubbed the 16:8 Diet. It’s also the schedule recommended by the Leangains program.

Limiting eating to a 4-hr period normally means from 2-6pm or 3-7pm, which is a bit more of a challenge. This is the IF system recommended by The Warrior Diet and normally involves eating just one large meal a day.

Bulletproof IF is a Feeding Window system with the addition of coffee and butter in the morning. The coffee and butter just make it a bit easier to get through the fasting period of the morning that’s required of IF. 

If one of your friends tells you they’re doing IF, chances are they’re doing some form of the Feeding Window system, which seems to be most popular.

How Intermittent Fasting Works

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What Happens When You Eat

Every time you eat, your food gets broken down into various molecules for your cells to use. These molecules are released into your bloodstream. At the same time, insulin is released in order to shuttle nutrients into your cells. Depending on what you eat, and how much, your insulin levels can remain elevated for several hours (somewhere between 3 and 8 hours).

When your body is digesting and absorbing what you’ve eaten, it’s in a postprandial state.

When it’s finished absorbing the meal, your insulin levels will drop to their baseline level and your body is in a fasted state.

Intermittent Fasting aims to extend the amount of time you spend in a fasted state compared to a postprandial (fed) state.

Autophagy

Intermittent Fasting triggers a physiological process called autophagy, which is a natural, regulated process through which the body’s cells get rid of defective parts. Autophagy is important in maintaining muscle mass and is the primary mechanism behind the anti-aging effects of calorie restriction (more on that later!).

Fasting gives your body a chance to perform autophagy, a way to “clean house” and make sure that cells are functioning optimally. The more often you fast, the more opportunity your body has to keep things in order. This could theoretically help extend your lifespan and reduce your risk of certain cancers.

The Way We Used To Eat?

One of the ideas behind Intermittent Fasting, as with Paleo and Primal eating plans, is that it’s closer to traditional human eating patterns than what we currently do in modern society. Cavemen would hunt for animals and forage for vegetation, then have a big meal of deer or sabre toothed tiger with a side of berries and call it a day.

Even so, these behaviours would have been driven by necessity and are not necessarily optimal for modern humans. Just because early humans had to go a day or two without eating doesn’t mean that it’s the right way for you to get through your busy workday. We’ve changed a lot since those days (Living longer, not dying in childbirth, flushing toilets, smartphones) and what worked way back then doesn’t always work well now.

Health Benefits Of Intermittent Fasting

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What The Evidence Says

Fasting has been shown in studies to improve a wide range of age-related disorders including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancers and neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and stroke. The majority of these studies were performed on rats though, and the human evidence is still pretty scant. Time restricted feeding in normal and overweight human subjects has shown some potential  for weight loss, improvements in insulin resistance, and reductions in risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

Periodic fasting for religious purposes (Ramadan) was found in one study to reduce inflammation and improve risk factors for cardiovascular diseases (homocysteine, CRP, TC/HDL ratio).

A small recent study found that Intermittent Fasting improved insulin levels, insulin sensitivity, β cell responsiveness, blood pressure, and oxidative stress levels in men with prediabetes, even though food intake was matched to the control arm and no weight loss occurred. This study was only 5 weeks long though and consisted of only 8 men, but it does give direction for further research.

While some small studies show interesting results, the largest systemic review of Intermittent Fasting was conducted at The University of Sydney in Australia. After analyzing 40 studies on Intermittent Fasting (with 12 comparing it directly to traditional dieting), researchers found no significant benefits related to body composition, fat loss, insulin sensitivity, or hormonal balance.

Hmmmm.

Cardiovascular Benefits

Intermittent Fasting has been shown to increase insulin sensitivity, reduce abnormal fat accumulation, and reduce the incidence of stroke and diabetes…in rats. Clinical studies in humans began around 2005 and most of that evidence suggests that the benefits of IF are mostly or completely the result of weight loss.

So it doesn’t matter how you lose the weight, as long as you do.

Any diet that allows you to lose weight will improve insulin sensitivity, reduce fat levels, and reduce cardiovascular risk. Most human evidence so far seems to show that Intermittent Fasting provides only the benefits of the weight loss it provides. Meaning if you lose weight another way, like with conventional calorie reduction, you’ll be equally as successful.

The American Heart Association has a position statement related to Intermittent Fasting and they concluded that fasting may be effective for weight loss. IF can decrease fasting insulin and reduce insulin resistance and may lower blood pressure when weight loss of at least 6% occurs.

Calorie Restriction & Long Life

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Calorie Restriction, the ongoing reduction of calories while taking in essential nutrients, has been shown to extend lifespan in many species. A recent study looked at calorie restriction in humans for a period of two years. Restricting calories (in this case, by 15%) showed evidence of persistent metabolic slowing with reduced oxidative stress, a marker of aging. Fairly promising stuff on the anti-aging and increased longevity front, but not everyone wants to be on a lower calorie diet for long periods just to get a few extra years of life (and even then, it’s not guaranteed).

Intermittent Fasting is another way to promote calorie restriction over time and both methods primarily show benefit through autophagy. Cleaning up your cells more frequently seems to make the body function better over time.

Does Intermittent Fasting Help Fat Loss?

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Our primary goals in building a lean, athletic physique is to lose fat and build muscle.

Intermittent Fasting is one of many strategies that can help people lose fat. It primarily works because it makes calorie restriction easier and sets limits that reduce the quantity of food consumed. Less time spent eating generally means fewer calories consumed overall.

IF will help you with fat loss in as much as IF allows you to restrict your calorie intake. Most of the studies cherry-picked into articles promoting Intermittent Fasting tend to be on rodents and don’t often refer to IF itself, but calorie restriction in general.

The fat loss benefits attributed to Intermittent Fasting in studies tend to occur because of calorie reduction. 

Will You Lose Muscle With Intermittent Fasting?

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In order to build and maintain muscle, you need to eat adequate protein and calories and do weight training that’s challenging enough to produce a training response.

The usual way of losing weight is to reduce your calorie consumption, generally by about the same amount every day. A review study compared the literature for a reduction in calories on a daily basis (traditional dieting) with alternate day fasting (eating 24hrs and fasting 24hrs). While the amount of weight lost and fat lost was similar, fasting was slightly more effective in maintaining lean mass. The study only looked at obese individuals so the same effects may not occur in people who are overweight or of normal weight.

An interesting study with resistance trained males showed that Intermittent Fasting could improve health-related biomarkers, decrease fat mass, and at least maintain muscle mass. Only 34 men were included in this study, however, so it’s not entirely convincing.

A lot of other things influence how much lean mass you retain while losing weight, including your protein intake, how you train (moderate-heavy weights provide more muscle retention than light weights), and your hormonal status. Based on the available evidence, if you’re able to meet your calorie and protein needs then IF shouldn’t effect your ability to retain muscle.

Who Probably Shouldn’t Do Intermittent Fasting

People With GERD/Acid Reflux

Most people with digestive issues like reflux (like me!), probably won’t benefit from having only one or two large meals each day. If you have GERD or just occasionally suffer from acid reflux, you’ll want to eat smaller meals more frequently to keep acid levels in check. Smaller meals also minimize pressure on the lower esophageal sphincter, which prevents acid from coming up from the stomach into the esophagus.

History of Eating Disorders

If you have a history of eating disorders like anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating, intermittent fasting might not be for you. It’s best to talk to a trained counsellor about making changes to your nutrition plan. She may not feel that Intermittent Fasting is right for you.

Pregnancy

Pregnancy is one of those times when we’re supposed to avoid giving advice to women. Unless something has been investigated with large-scale placebo-controlled studies with pregnant women we’re supposed to err on the side of caution and tell pregnant women to avoid it. Since most foods or methods of eating haven’t been well investigated with this population (there just isn’t the time or money for all those potential studies!) a pregnant woman needs to use her own judgment. As for everyone, getting the right quantity and quality of nutrients is the most important thing. Eat heathy food whenever you’re hungry is probably the advice most doctors would give pregnant women. Seems sensible to me.

Skinny People

If you’re slim and looking to put on muscle, Intermittent Fasting probably isn’t for you. Putting on muscle size and strength requires a certain amount of calories and protein. You need to be in a calorie surplus in order to gain muscle and it’s harder to do that when you’re trying to squeeze everything into a couple of large meals each day or skipping food altogether every other day. If you want to bulk up, you need to eat a lot of food – frequently – and IF just makes that harder.

Diabetics Or Anyone With Blood Sugar Regulation Issues

Do you get dizzy and feel weak if you haven’t eaten for a while? Then Intermittent Fasting probably isn’t for you. Some people talk about having “low blood sugar” or being hypoglycemic, but true hypoglycemia can be a dangerous condition that occurs with diabetes or with diabetic medication (insulin). For some people, low blood sugar can cause serious side effects like clumsiness, confusion, and seizures.

If you have any issues with glycemic control, you might want to pass on Intermittent Fasting.

Psychological Benefits of Intermittent Fasting

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Many people have a negative relationship with food. They have feelings of guilt or get anxious about eating certain foods or they use food to deal with stress or emotional upset. Others have a habit of compulsive constant eating, which means they’re always thinking about food and overly concerned that they’re not getting enough nutrients and/or protein to stay healthy or build muscle.

Some people will find that Intermittent Fasting gives them periodic breaks from thinking about food, which can be helpful. For other people, taking time away from food, whether it’s a few extra hours or an entire day, may create an intensified interest/obsession with food. Decide which of these people you are to determine whether IF is a good fit.

Will You Be Hungry?

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How frequently you eat can have an impact on how hungry you are throughout the day. While the International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand states that more frequent meals can reduce hunger and improve appetite control, there’s evidence to the contrary as well. Some research shows that increasing meal frequency from 3 meals to 6 meals a day can lead to increased hunger.

That’s more evidence of individuality. Be aware of how eating more frequently affects YOU. If eating more regularly increases your appetite, eat less frequently (if you’re trying to lose weight). If eating less often increases your appetite then eat more frequently. Simple!

Personal Experiences With Intermittent Fasting

My Experience

As I mentioned, I suffer from acid reflux and large meals are not my friend. Smaller meals of non-acidic foods keep my heartburn symptoms under control. I have tried single day fasting a few times and I’ve had to fast for certain routine blood tests. One thing I certainly noticed was how much extra time I had when I didn’t have to think about eating! Certainly a useful benefit for those of us who are always busy.

Client Experiences

Some of my online coaching clients have tried Intermittent Fasting. Many have found IF works well at the beginning, especially if you have a lot of weight to lose. Once you get closer to your target weight, it’s harder to get the right amount of calories and protein into fewer meals.

My client Steve came to me for advice after he’d initially lost about 20 pounds with IF. He got stuck. I got him off IF, increased his protein (he wasn’t managing enough in two meals), and optimized his post-workout nutrition. He was training really hard five times a week and struggling to get leaner until he stopped IF. Adding more protein and calories was necessary because he was already lean and needed to tighten up his calories and macros to get leaner. If someone does IF and still meets all their protein and calorie needs, then it shouldn’t be harmful.

My husband Ryan, a former semi-professional rugby player who has been my client for nearly ten years, decided to try IF a couple of years ago. He did the “One Meal A Day” version within a two-hour window. While he enjoyed the free time he gained from not eating, he was ready to fall asleep most nights by 7pm! The large meal made him so tired that he couldn’t function in the evening.

Can You Stick To Intermittent Fasting?

If you’re the type of person who makes up ravenous then Intermittent Fasting probably won’t be for you. Why torture yourself if you enjoy waking up and eating a satisfying meal? It may very well help you make better decisions later in the day if you eat a good breakfast with enough protein and fibre.

If you don’t like eating early then you may already be skipping breakfast and eating a bit later. That’s fine as long as the choices that you make later on in the day are sensible and provide you with the right amount of calories and the ideal balance of macros (protein, carbs, fat) for you.

It’s a rare person who skips meals all day and then eats the right quality and quantity of food in the evening. In fact, that’s one of the most common patterns that I see among people who are overweight and struggling.

Getting Enough Protein For Muscle Growth

If you want to maximize your muscle mass, it isn’t just the total protein you get each day, but how you consume it. Although this study is on rodents, it appears to show that distributing your protein throughout the day, rather than consuming it all at once in one meal is better for optimizing muscle mass.

If you’re still committed to doing Intermittent Fasting, you can restrict your carbs and fats during the fasting periods and just eat your protein to ensure you’re still supporting muscle growth.

What Really Works

The most important factor determining success with a diet is how well you can stick to it. Success with fat loss/weight loss comes down to dietary adherence. It’s one of the reasons that Clean Eating is so hard for most people. We all want a few treats once in a while…and maybe not just a once a week cheat meal!

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to eat frequent meals to stoke your metabolism. Most research seems to indicate that the number of meals you eat each day (1-2 compared to 5-8) does not effect your metabolic rate. It also doesn’t mean that fewer meals is superior…only that it doesn’t matter much. So whether you use IF and only eat a few meals or eat six meals a day, it doesn’t seem to affect your metabolic rate.

The Bottom Line

In terms of fat loss, IF can be a strategy that helps people lose weight. It can work because it makes calorie restriction easier and sets limits that reduce the amount of food consumed. That’s why most diets work. They make it easier for you to reduce your calorie consumption and then you lose weight.

Is Intermittent Fasting optimal for putting on muscle mass and staying lean for someone who’s already in good shape?

Less likely.

No matter how many anecdotes you hear from people who say that they did a particular diet (whether it’s IF, The Zone, Vegan, Paleo, The Dukan Diet, 16:8), it doesn’t really count in the scientific world. A case study (or several case studies), which is one person’s experience with an intervention, is the lowest form of research.

When other people are REALLY, REALLY excited about something, it’s hard not to get caught up in the hype. This explains the success of CrossFit, Paleo, Clean Eating, and most cults. Step back, look at the actual evidence carefully, and see if it makes sense to you.

If you’re one of the individuals who functions optimally on IF, great! Keep doing what you’re doing. Just don’t try to convince everyone else that it’s the best thing for them…because it might not be.

Ivana Chapman

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7 Tips To Reduce Carb Cravings

This couple looks like they’re enjoying their carbs.

Many people salivate over the smell of fresh-baked bread or cookies. Think about the scent of popcorn at the movies…does it give you a feeling of longing? I never eat Cinnabons, but I admit that the smell of these aromatic treats attracts my attention every time I walk near a store. Everyone’s favourite carb is different, but most people have a strong physical and emotional connection to carbs, unlike what you might expect with cauliflower or chicken breasts.

Many people find that their nutrition plans get held back by carb cravings.

What Do Carbs Do For You?

Carbs provide your body with energy to do what you need to do on a daily basis. Carb sources like fruits, beans, vegetables, and legumes have a wide variety of phytonutrients that improve our health. Fibre is a type of carbohydrate that the body doesn’t digest, which helps promote regularity and prevent constipation (which isn’t fun!). Fibre promotes satiety, the feeling of fullness from a meal, lowers your blood cholesterol levels, and also helps reduce your risk of colorectal cancer (which is terrible!).

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Carbs also prompt the release of serotonin, a hormone that induces a feeling of relaxation. It’s one of the reasons I normally recommend that my online coaching clients use carbs in the evening to wind down, rather than have them first thing in the morning so they feel like snoozing before noon.

Are Carbs Holding You Back?

I’m sure you could follow a strict diet of lean protein and vegetables for weeks if it wasn’t for your cravings for those pesky carbs, right? Many people find that their cravings for carbs prevent them from following a consistent nutrition plan that gets them lean. Carbs, generally in the form of things like bread, pasta, pancakes, potatoes, donuts, cake, granola bars, muffins, pizza, and cupcakes, can be a major craving for many people. Since most of those carb sources are calorie dense, it’s easy to over-consume them and end up in a caloric surplus. That means that you may start to put on fat.

So it’s not necessarily the carbs that are the problem, but the other ingredients and the total calorie and macronutrient composition of the food. Muffins and pizza are high in calories and fat, in addition to carbs. Few people become overweight from just eating plain white or sweet potatoes. Single slices of bread, even processed white bread, aren’t a complete disaster, but few people have a single slice and eating bread can produce desire for many more slices of bread (I used to eat a whole loaf of bread in one sitting!).

Reducing your cravings for those carbs can play a big part in helping you get lean. Being able to make a food decision without the gnawing craving for low-nutrition, calorie dense foods is what you’re aiming for.

Here Are Some Ways To Get Those Carb Cravings In Check:

1) Eat Protein At Every Meal

This one tip helped me develop the habits I needed to annihilate my persistent carb cravings for good. Protein helps stabilize your blood sugar levels so that you don’t experience the insulin surge, followed by massive drop, that creates sugar cravings later on. As the most thermogenic macro, protein also takes your body more energy to digest than carbs and fat.

2) Drink Plenty Of Water

You’ve probably heard it before, a thousand times or so, but cravings can often be halted by making sure that you’re properly hydrated. Thirst can be mistaken for hunger. If nothing else, drinking a glass of water or two and waiting 20 minutes to see if you’re actually hungry gives you the opportunity to be a bit more mindful about what you’re about to consume. And giving that cupcake a second thought might be a good idea.

Once you reach your 1.5-3L water limit (depending on your size, activity level, and the temperature where you’re living), there’s no point in drinking more water. As with everything, more is not necessarily better, and drinking too much water can lead to a dilution of solutes (particularly sodium), headaches, and nausea. Don’t let the detox crowd convince you to guzzle water to flush everything out – you shouldn’t.

3) Reduce Your Overall Intake Of Carbs (Initially)

The more carbs you eat, especially in excess of need, the more carbs you’re likely to crave. You have to stop the cycle of carb consumption to help reduce your desire for carbs. A low-carb nutrition plan can be a good choice when you’re first starting out on your fat loss journey. Your body will adjust to burning more fat for fuel (this normally takes a couple of weeks) and you’ll feel less of a desire for carbs.

I’ve noticed this personally, and many of my online coaching clients have observed the same effects. You need to break the cycle of carb eating (by making the choice and following through) and then your cravings will diminish. If your carbs get too high again, for your own particular tolerance, you may see a return of your cravings. This happens to many people after holidays and special occasions. They want MORE carbs because they consumed too many. Sometimes the best way to get the cravings under control is to cut the carbs down drastically and then gradually increase them again as the cravings reduce.

4) Increase Your intake Of Healthy Fats

Fats have high satiety, meaning they fill you up and keep you feeling full. If you’re just trying to eat lean protein and vegetables, you’re going to struggle to keep your appetite under control. Add some avocados, extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, butter, or macadamia oil to your meals. Fatty fish like salmon and sardines are a good choice, as well as good-quality (grass fed or wild) red meat.

5) Get Adequate Fibre

Along the same lines as fat, fibre also increases the feeling of satisfaction of a meal. Most women should aim for about 25g a day and most men should eat about 38g per day. This can be adjusted slightly for caloric intake, meaning that if you’re a larger woman eating around 2500 calories, you might need more than 25g. A smaller man consuming around 2000 calories may need only 25-30g.

As with most things, more is not better. Eating too much fibre can cause bloating, intestinal cramps, and can reduce your absorption of vitamins and minerals. Excess fibre may also cause constipation, especially if you don’t drink enough water. Manage your fibre intake so that you’re not getting too much or not enough.

6) Supplement With Cinnamon

This spice has been shown to regulate blood sugar levels and reduce carb cravings. Add 1/2 tsp to your coffee, tea, yogurt, fruit, or other meals a couple of times a day to experience the benefits. Use Ceylon (“True” cinnamon) if you’re taking higher doses. Cassia cinnamon contains significant amounts of a compound called coumarin, which may be harmful to the liver of susceptible people in large doses.

7) Take A Moment To Breathe First

This is going to sound super-cheesy to many of you, but a lot of carb cravings are psychological and don’t represent what your body actually needs. It’s your mind (or perhaps your soul!) that’s craving pancakes with maple syrup because it’s what your parents used to serve on Sundays when you were a child. Unravelling the deep psychological associations you may have with food is beyond my expertise, but I can tell you that being aware of why you’re really seeking out certain foods is a good start.

If you eat when you’re stressed or unhappy (which was a habit of mine for years) you need to find different ways to cope with those emotions so food isn’t the solution anymore. Stress management with deep breathing and meditation can be very helpful. Much like exercise and good nutrition, meditation requires commitment and practice. It’s not a quick fix and you need to be patient to see results.

Do The Type Of Carbs Make A Difference?

Not all carbs are the same in terms of how they make you feel and what they do for your health. It’s not just the carbs that are the issue with some carb-rich foods, but the unhealthy fats and the lack of vitamins and minerals. So there’s nothing wrong with having a sweet potato post-workout, if you’ve trained hard. Don’t feel that you have to avoid carbs altogether. Some carbs provide fibre, as well as lots of nutritional value (think starchy veggies or berries).

And remember, the mental aspect of the whole thing is important too. Telling yourself, “I can’t have carbs” isn’t helpful.

Quantity matters!

Many people could do with reducing their carb intake a bit, particularly the crappy carbs with little nutritional value and high caloric density (like pizza, donuts, most breads, and cake), but half a cup of blueberries after a protein-rich meal isn’t going to do you harm. Keeping carb cravings in check will help you make better food choices, both in quantity and quality.

Are Carbs Really Addictive?

Have you heard that sugar is as addictive as heroin or cocaine? It might be fabulous click bate, but it’s not exactly true. Definitions of addiction vary, but there are certainly some kinds that could apply to carbs and sugar.

Tolerance And Withdrawal

Physiological addiction refers to a drug causing physical changes in the person which make the person want the drug so desperately that it’s practically impossible to resist. Dependence has two symptoms: tolerance and withdrawal. Tolerance is the need for more of the drug to get the same effect. Withdrawal refers to the unpleasant symptoms that occur when the drug is taken away.

Neither tolerance nor withdrawal has been shown scientifically in humans with carbs, sugar, or any other nutrient or food (with the possible exception of caffeine). Although rats can become sugar-dependent under fasting conditions, tolerance has not been convincingly demonstrated (even in rats!).

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Psychological Disorders does include “substance use disorder”, which is a version of addiction.

Among the eleven symptoms that would count towards a diagnosis of this disorder are “having a strong desire or craving to consume it”,  “consuming more of it than you intended”, “having persistent unsuccessful attempts to cut it out”, and “continuing to use it even when it causes you problems (like obesity) if those symptoms cause you significant impairment or distress”.

If your concern is that you will develop a physiological dependence on sugar and/or carbs, don’t worry. The kind of addiction that one might have to heroin doesn’t happen with food. That doesn’t mean, however, that carb cravings can’t cause significant health and psychological impact.

Where Does That Leave Us?

Carb cravings are a legitimate challenge to weight loss, and we need to solve them, rather than debating terminology. Still, don’t use some hidden overwhelming force as an excuse for giving in to your carb cravings. There is a solution, if you commit to the process.

If you’re still struggling with carb cravings after using the tips I mentioned above consistently for several weeks, it’s possible that you have an underlying medical condition that can be causing your cravings. Check with your doctor to rule out diabetes, chromium deficiency, or thyroid problems.

Better Carb Choices

Replacing some of your carby treat foods (donuts, cakes, cookies, cereal) with a less-processed, lower-calorie density, higher nutritional value foods like fruit can be a good option. Yup, a bowl of strawberries after dinner is a better choice than two slices of pecan pie, and if those kind of substitutions help you then try to make them. Not all the time, necessarily, because that might just intensify your cravings for that pecan pie, but as much as you can.

bowl-of-strawberries

 

Bad Habits, Not Cravings

It’s often not a true craving, but a habit that’s been developed over long periods of time that causes you to feel the urge to consume excessive amounts of carbs. For every unhelpful habit you have (like eating mindlessly in front of the TV), you need to come up with a better substitution. Maybe have a smaller carton of popcorn split between you and your partner at the movies, rather than a large one kept to yourself. The more frequently you go to the movies, the more important it is to make some concessions. So if you go to the movies every week or two then give it more consideration. If you go once or twice a year as a special treat then you don’t have to worry about it so much.

The same policy applies to going out and travelling. If you travel every week or two for work, or eat out a few times a week, you need to be more careful about what you eat than if travel is once a year and dinners out are only once a month or so.

What Happens If You Give In To Carbs?

There’s a difference between consuming planned carbs and feeling an inexplicable need to consume carbs outside of hunger and planned food intake. You need to earn your carbs through physical activity (and by getting your body lean).

Not many people would be willing to tell The Rock that he can’t eat all those carbsdwayne-the-rock-johnson-eating-pancakes-brownies-pizza

Everyone has a different tolerance to carbs. Some of this is genetic, and some is based on your current level of leanness. As you get leaner, your insulin sensitivity increases and makes you more body more able to utilize the carbs you’re eating for energy. So lower your carb intake initially to get your cravings under control. As you get leaner, increase your carb level up until it’s just below the point when you start developing cravings again or start gaining weight (go gradually up with your carbs and then dial back as needed).

Unless you’re diabetic, there’s no need to severely restrict carbs for the rest of your life, and you can derive health benefits from eating the right carbs. Cutting out carbs completely isn’t necessary or beneficial for losing fat either. A life without sweet potatoes and ice cream isn’t for me…and it doesn’t have to be for you either.

Ivana Chapman

 

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8 Nutrition Myths You Probably Still Believe

nutrition-myths-ivana-chapman“I can’t believe I fell for all those nutrition lies!”

Ahhh, nutrition. The field of knowledge that practically everyone feels they’re an expert in, simply because they eat and occasionally read stuff about it on the internet. As a result, there are a lot of nutrition myths out there, many of which just won’t die. Even fairly well-informed people have been known to stumble a bit on one or two of these.

In fact, had you asked me the truth about a couple of these myths a decade ago (and some even 5 years ago!), I might have given you a different answer. After all, more research comes in and we find out more about how the human body works. Theories are tested and either confirmed or refuted.

It’s tough for the average person to keep up with the current body of knowledge, and the media often misleads us by misinterpreting research to create sensationalist headlines.

Here Are The 8 Most Common Nutrition Myths Going Around Today:

1) Eating Carbs At Night Will Cause You To Store Fat

Even people who are fairly well-informed about nutrition still get a bit panicky about CARBS.

And carbs in the evening?

Oh boy.

A lot of people get really nervous about that.

The reality is that carb timing can be important when it comes to post-workout recovery for athletes and bodybuilders, but for the average person it’s not that relevant.

And carbs at night causing added fat storage?

There’s no reason to believe that they do that.

I generally recommend that clients keep their carbs in check in the morning, unless it’s in the pre- or post-workout period, and have more carbs later on.

This means that your carb cravings stay under control throughout the day and then you get to enjoy some of those lovely potatoes, sweet potatoes, quinoa, oatmeal, rice, etc. when most people really want them.

So how did carbs get such a bad rap?

Maybe it was the “carb” cravings for entire bags of Doritos or an entire tub of ice cream. Those treat foods have large amounts of calories, carbs, and fat…so cutting them out at night (or whenever you’re eating them!) will certainly help you get leaner.

Eating the right amount of carbs for your genetics, current leanness, and activity level, at night?

Not a problem.

Personally, I love having my carbs with my evening meal. They give me something to look forward to, and they help me feel relaxed in the evening.

Carbs promote the release of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that induces a feeling of calm, and can help you sleep better.

So you don’t have to avoid carbs at night. Just make sure you’re getting the right amount of carbs for your needs and it won’t matter that you’re enjoying them when you’re chillin’ in the evening.

2) You Need To Eat Frequent Meals To “Stoke Your Metabolism”

The many meals a day protocol has been around for so long that people are hesitant to let it go. Bodybuilders have led the way, and the physique community continues to cry out about eating many times a day, but keep in mind that these people (especially the Pro guys) have enormous calorie and protein needs. They may be taking in 5000-6000 calories a day (Phil Heath, the current Mr Olympia, is said to eat over 9000 calories a day!) and that’s not easy to squeeze into two or even three meals.

The current scientific evidence, as described in the position statement of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, says that “increased meal frequency does not appear to significantly enhance diet induced thermogenesis (fat burning), total energy expenditure or resting metabolic rate.” So eating frequently doesn’t do anything for your metabolism, as people often argue.

That’s not to say that you shouldn’t eat many meals a day, if it suits you.

There are other potential benefits, like an improvement in LDL cholesterol, total cholesterol, and insulin levels. Frequent meals may also help to decrease hunger and improve appetite control, which may help you reduce your overall calorie intake (and get leaner as a result).

nutrition-myths-cat-eating

Although some people do well on it, I’m still not a fan of eating only one or two meals a day, a la intermittent fasting, because it makes it hard to get in a wide variety of foods (and the accompanying micronutrients). It also makes it challenging to get the right amount of protein for muscle repair and growth. Unless you have an iron-clad stomach that allows you to take in enormous amounts of calories at one time, or you really feel better and are getting leaner with one or two meals, I recommend trying more frequent meals…even if it’s only the traditional three.

I normally have only 3 meals a day, with a whey protein isolate shake after my workouts. In some research, anything over 70 calories is considered a meal, so that Starbucks concoction you have would also contribute a meal.

With years of experimentation, I’ve discovered that eating less frequently means I end up eating fewer calories overall, because those 5 or 6 meals ended up being a bit bigger than they should have been. I also felt that I was always thinking about my next meal and it didn’t give my stomach a chance to recover fully in between these “feedings”. I could barely squeeze in a workout!

The message here is: do what works best for you and your lifestyle. Just make sure that the basics of your nutrition plan are in place (Read about those in #8).

3) High Protein Intake Is Bad For Your Health

This one just won’t go away, despite over a decade of evidence to the contrary.

There are two main concerns that usually get cited:

Protein damages your kidneys

The kidneys are the important organs that is responsible for filtering unsavoury substances out of the blood and turning them into urine. The original concern came from research that indicated that people with active kidney disease could damage their kidneys with higher intakes of protein. There isn’t, however, evidence that healthy kidneys would be harmed by protein or would have any issues filtering it.

There’s no reason for everyone to avoid nuts or strawberries or eggs just because some allergic people are harmed by them. The same reasoning applies to protein and the people with healthy kidneys.

Protein leaches calcium from your bones and leads to osteoporosis

This belief comes from the idea that protein increases the acid load of your body, which then causes the body to take calcium out of the bones to neutralize that acid. In fact, a research review determined that protein intake in the diet works with calcium to improve calcium retention and improve bone metabolism. So adequate protein levels actually lead to stronger bones.

nutrition-myths-steak-fish-salmon

The protein recommendations given by most governments are designed to prevent a protein deficiency, not to optimize your health.

Physically-active people would need more than government guidelines, either way, but even people who aren’t that active would benefit from a higher protein intake. Since less active people need fewer carbs (and calories), a greater percentage of their nutrition intake should come from protein.

4) If You Keep Your Insulin Level Low, You Won’t Store Fat

According to this Carbohydrate–Insulin Model, too many carbs in the diet results in elevated insulin levels that direct the body to store fat.

In simple terms:

Carbs Raise Insulin –> When Insulin Is High, Fat Gets Stored Readily

So reducing carbs in your diet (without altering protein or calories) would decrease insulin secretion, and therefore increase fat mobilization from fat tissue (burn more fat). At the moment though, the scientific research doesn’t seem to support this idea.

The ketogenic and low-carb crowd love to tell you that if you can keep your blood sugar (maintain insulin levels) regulated, you’ll never have any weight issues.

In fact, Gary Taubes (the journalist who popularized the idea of the Carbohydrate-Insulin Hypothesis with his book “Why We Get Fat”) founded the NuSI organization, which conducted a small research study that seems to refute his hypothesis.

Oops!
gary-taubes-nutrition-mythsIvana Chapman with Gary Taubes in 2012, after his lecture at a nutrition conference, where he fobbed off a question about exercise & weight loss

I’m a practical person and, for me, it doesn’t really matter that much why reducing carbs helps you lose fat. It’s more important that it does. I entered the low-carb world around 2012 and it’s still the method I credit for finally getting me off the yo-yo dieting of my 20s and early 30s.

I still recommend that my Online Coaching clients to eat protein with every meal.

Why?

Because it’s hard to get enough protein into your nutrition plan otherwise.

Less insulin response also means that your blood sugar doesn’t drop down drastically later on and cause you to experience cravings, particularly for foods of the sweet or starchy variety. If you don’t experience physical cravings, you’re less likely to dig into that bag of chips or tub of ice cream and make a more sensible choice. Drop the chips and ice cream (or even just lower your total intake of them) and you’re reducing your calorie and carb intake.

And voila! You’ll start to lose weight and get lean.

Whatever the reason, you’ll probably lose fat more easily by eating protein regularly to preserve and build muscle, and keeping carbs in line with your physical activity level and individual carb tolerance.

You don’t have to buy Gary Taubes explanation, which is NOT currently supported by science.

5) Being Vegetarian Or Vegan Is The Healthy Choice

I get my back up whenever someone says they are, or are becoming, a vegetarian “because it’s healthier”. While it’s certainly possible to be a healthy vegetarian, it’s also possible to be a very unhealthy one. French fries, potato chips, donuts and bread are vegetarian.

And let’s not forget the highly-processed fake meats and assorted cookies, biscuits, soy-based margarines, and granola bars designed to specifically for the vegan and/or vegetarian consumer. Definitely not good choices, and many vegetarians rely heavily on them, as well as a lot of processed soy.

I’m not going to address the environmental considerations of vegetarianism because I’m not well informed about it and it’s not related to whether being vegetarian is healthy. I admire anyone who follows a diet specifically for ethical reasons, even if it may be to the detriment of their own health.

I have a few fitness colleagues who are indeed following a very healthy and high-protein vegetarian or vegan diet. They are amazing and I applaud their efforts to build and maintain their muscle with only plant-based foods.the-rock-nutrition-myths

A meticulously-planned vegetarian or vegan diet is certainly better than the Standard American Diet (SAD). Keep in mind, though, that the SAD includes all sorts of processed meats, like hot dogs/sausages/salami, a lot of refined carbs like bagels/donuts/cereal, and sugar-filled drinks like Coke and Sprite. No one’s arguing that those are good choices!

Still, a well-planned omnivorous diet that includes plenty of vegetables, seeds, nuts, berries, fish, high-quality meats like chicken, turkey, lean grass fed beef, and perhaps some dairy in the form of cultured products like yogurt and kefir (and the occasional Ben & Jerry’s!) is going to be better for you than a vegetarian or vegan diet. Creatine, B12, Carnosine, vitamin D3 (the less absorbable form of the vitamin, D2, is found in plants), DHA, heme-iron, and taurine are all important nutrients that are only found in animal foods. Sure, you could take supplements to add these to your diet, but is the healthy option really avoiding all animal products and then popping handfuls of pills with each meal?

6) Calories Don’t Matter

There are plenty of Paleo peeps who claim that if you just eat real whole food then all your weight problems will be solved. Not really. There are a lot of great concepts within Paleo, and I definitely think the diet is a step in the right direction compared to what most people are eating these days, but it doesn’t solve all the issues.

“Just eat whole foods!”, is the rallying cry for both primal and vegetarian styles of eating, as well as the Clean Eating movement.

I’ll probably offend them all by saying that’s not the only solution…and can actually make things worse for obsessive personality types.

The concept can even lead to the an eating disorder called Orthorexia Nervosa, which means a fixation on righteous eating.

People suffering from this disorder become unnaturally concerned with additives in food and are always worried that they’re damaged their health with even small quantities of foods considered “unhealthy”.woman-food-nutrition-myths

Although I never went that far down the rabbit hole, I was a loyal follower of Clean Eating for a long time.

I still think the principles of eating more real, whole food like fish, minimally-processed meat, vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, beans, is fairly sound, but there is an important caveat for weight loss.

Calories still matter.

When I was really into Clean Eating in my early 20s, I could easily eat a full loaf of dense whole grain bread with tons of extra virgin olive oil at a sitting. That’s about 2300 calories there, about a day’s worth for a woman my size, and is one reason why eating clean on its own never got me lean.

Eating Paleo also doesn’t necessarily cause fat loss. Grass fed steak, chicken thighs, butter, avocado, nuts, oils, and seeds are very calorie-dense and it’s certainly possible to overeat them. The reason many people lose weight with the Paleo diet is because they’re cutting out all sorts of junk foods they used to eat.

And any excessively-restrictive diet (hello, vegans!) will make you watch what you’re eating much more carefully…something that overweight and obese people generally don’t do enough.

So yes, calories do matter for fat loss.

Which is good, because a life without ice cream isn’t for me.

7) Calories Are The Only Thing That Matters

Whether we’re talking about fat loss or health, calories aren’t the only thing that matters. Obviously you want to be consuming mainly foods that are high in nutrient (vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, etc.) density and fewer foods from the treat category (the old “empty calorie foods like candy, soft drinks, and cookies). This improves your health overall and will probably reduce your risk of some cancers and other diseases in the future.

You can certainly lose weight eating Twinkies, like Professor Mark Naub of Kansas State University famously did, but it’s not necessarily the ideal thing to do long-term. Just being overweight or obese presents an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, osteoarthritis, liver disease, kidney disease, and some forms of cancer.

So maybe getting to a healthy weight is important, even if you don’t do it in an ideal way?

In terms of body composition, the macronutrient (protein, carbs, fat) content of your diet matters too. It seems strange, but overfeeding with (pure) protein actually doesn’t cause fat gain, like excess calories from fat or carbs. Your body uses that extra protein for muscle repair and growth, which is why overfeeding with protein tends to increase lean mass (more muscle!).

So yes, Flexible Dieting or IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros) has a lot of merit. In fact, it has more scientific support than most of the other “diets”, because it’s based primarily on CICO (Calories In, Calories Out), while incorporating the metabolic advantage of protein.

I’m not saying you should monitor and track your calories all the time, but if you’re trying to achieve a specific goal and aren’t sure why, then finding out exactly what you’re eating is vital.

Calories are important, but so is the macronutrient and the micronutrient content of your food.

8) The Ideal Diet Is The Same For Everyone

There’s a lot to be said for biological individuality. People are different heights and shapes, and have different eye colours, skin colour, hair colour, and blood types (and NO, I’m not suggesting for a moment that your blood type has anything to do with the diet you should be eating!).

crowd-people-nutrition-myths

Some people do better with more carbs, and some people do better with a lot of meat. I don’t eat red meat because I’ve never enjoyed it, but many people do. Some people don’t tolerate meat at all. Sometimes this can be due to low HCL levels in the stomach, and other times it’s psychological.

When it comes to carbs, everyone has a natural genetic tolerance. Some people can eat rice, potatoes, and granola bars all day and still be lean. Other people just look at a piece of bread and start to store fat (ok, not really…).

The leaner you are, the more carb tolerant you tend to be. And the more active you are, the more carbs you’ll probably need. So someone who’s lean and active will likely need more carbs, while the average sedentary person will probably do best on a lower-carb diet.

Having said all that, there are certain eating habits that work for about 90% of people:

  • Eating protein regularly, at least 25g, and preferably with every meal
  • Eating lots of non-starchy vegetables to provide fiber and keep you full with a minimum of calories.
  • Consume 0.8-1.0g of protein per pound of bodyweight per day (a 170lb person should eat 136-170g of protein per day).
  • Drinking plenty of water (between meals so that you don’t upset your digestion) to avoid fatigue and the sensation of hunger that can cause you to overeat.
  • Eat carbs in proportion to your activity level and current level of leanness (If you’re active, eat more. If you’re lean, eat more.)

I introduce my Online Coaching Clients to these habits week-to-week so they’re sustainable. Finding the right nutrition plan (I avoid the word diet because of all its negative connotations) can be a long process of experimentation and breaking old habits.

When you discover the ideal nutrition plan for you, you’ll be thankful you took the time to investigate because that knowledge will serve you well for life.

Myth-busting is hard!

It’s sometimes tough to determine the one true answer to nutrition questions because the scientific research isn’t always clear. People vary, studies have limitations, and research itself isn’t exactly like the real world.

There will always be someone who hears the experience of their friend’s cousin who did this particular nutrition “thing” and “lost tons of weight” and believes that it’s the only thing that works. There are a lot of different approaches for fat loss, but the general governing rules of nutrition do apply.

Keep it simple, stick mainly to what we already know from science, and find out what works for you. If anyone tries to fool you with any of these nutrition myths, just nod and smile a knowing smile to yourself. You know what you’re doing.

Ivana Chapman

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The 5 Worst Breakfast Foods For Fat Loss

ivana-chapman-holding-white-sign-with-ivana's-insights-logo-ivana-standing

What did you eat for breakfast this morning?

The foods that many of us grew up eating are actually the worst foods to eat first thing in the morning.

Crazy, right?

At least in North America, breakfast can mean eggs, sausages, bacon, toast, or pancakes.

Those are generally weekend choices though, rather than for workdays (who has time to cook all that while rushing around trying to get ready for work?!).

Typical choices during the workweek are what we’re going to be looking at.

Here Are The Top 5 Worst Choices For Breakfast:

1) Cereal

Yes, even those Kashi breakfast cereals that claim to be healthy just because they’re “whole grain”. The calories are low, but so is the protein (generally only around 4 or 5 grams!) and the sugar can often be high.

2) Granola Bars

Don’t convince yourself that these are a healthy snack on-the-go. They’re highly-processed, high in sugar, and won’t really keep you full for long. The protein content usually meagre too.

3) Muffins

These are a sugar-packed, fat-packed, calorie-packed occasional treat (if you really love them!), NOT a good breakfast choice. Most of them are around 400 calories and over 30 grams of sugar.

4) Bread/Toast/Bagels/Croissants

Load up on the carbs first thing and you’ll be ready for an energy crash before lunchtime. Even if they’re don’t contain added sugar, your body treats flour the same way.

5) Donuts and Pastries (danishes, scones)

Pretty obvious, I guess. High in sugar, high in calories, and very little nutritional value.

Not all cultures have the same idea about breakfast.

Keep in mind that breakfast choices are cultural, rather than physiologically sound.

Mexicans often eat a hearty breakfast of chilaquiles (pic below) or huevos rancheros:
mexican-food-breakfast-chilaquiles

I encourage to give up the idea of breakfast foods altogether, and just think of breakfast as another meal.

The Two Main Guidelines For A Good Breakfast Choice Are:

1) Eat at least 25g of protein
2) Keep your carbs low (below 20g or so, unless you’re very lean and looking to put on mass)

I’ve been known to have chicken with avocado and vegetables in the morning.

Eggs can be a good choice (and they’re also relatively good on-the-go) but remember that one egg is only 6g of protein so you might need to add extra egg whites or combine your eggs with other foods.

Greek yogurt can also be a reasonable option once in a while.

I’ve tried fish in the morning, but it’s not for me, although I do have online coaching clients who LOVE smoked salmon in the AM.

If you need help putting together a nutrition plan that works specifically for you, check out my Online Group Coaching Program Lean365.

It’s only $47 a month and you’ll learn how to put together a smarter breakfast (and lunch, dinner, snacks, etc.).

If the choice you made this morning wasn’t ideal, that’s fine.

Think about how you can plan a more suitable choice for tomorrow morning.

And if you skipped breakfast altogether?

That’s a story for another day…

Ivana Chapman

autumn-pumpkin-leaves

How To Stay Lean During Halloween


Some frightfully appealing chocolate treats for Halloween.

This can be a tricky time of year. It’s the start of the festive season, in many ways, when the kids head out to collect Halloween treats. A few (or maybe more!) snack-sized chocolate treats later and you’re feeling that “Let’s hide my body under many layers of clothing” vibe. Then the holiday parties start coming and you start to think the world is against you getting any leaner.

It stops NOW.

On Halloween, no less.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t eat treats for Halloween.

If there are some special chocolates or candies you like then have some treats, for goodness sake!

Personally, I find Halloween candy “the poor man’s treat”. I wouldn’t waste my calories and sugar intake on something like a tiny Snickers bar. Boring.

Or Rockets. Seriously, does anyone actually eat these powdery sugar sticks? There’s the least tradable Halloween candy out there:

Now Lindt chocolate truffles…that’s another story.

You get what I’m saying though, right?

Decide which treats are worth it and which ones are not.

The main thing about having treats is to really enjoy them. Don’t sit on the couch mindlessly eating potato chips you don’t even really like that much.

CELEBRATE!

If Halloween is a big thing in your family, then enjoy an evening of treats. Try not to throw up. Feel no guilt and go back to eating like a reasonable human tomorrow.

Eat your usual lean protein and vegetables before the treat fest and throughout the next day, while limiting starchy carbs like potatoes, rice, sweet potatoes, bread, etc. 

Not that there’s anything wrong with starchy carbs, per se, but if you’re going heavy on the sugar and fat with candy and chocolate then you need to balance things out with something like this:

Chicken breast, greens, and snow peas to help you recover from Halloween indulgence.

The main thing is, don’t use Halloween as an excuse to slide the slippery slope into a nutrition wasteland. Enjoy Halloween, if you choose to, with its treats and other traditions (pumpkin carving, yay!). Tomorrow is another day.

Ivana Chapman