benefits of quitting caffeineThank you for reading past the title of this post. I wasn’t sure anyone would. After all, here I am offering advice on how to quit the world’s most beloved beverage. (“Hold my beer,” says Beer.)

The love of coffee transcends national and cultural borders. Around the world, most of us start our day with coffee. Folks take pride in sourcing the best beans and pairing them with the ideal grind and brewing method. We meet friends, clients, and first dates for coffee because coffee shops are comforting, safe spaces.

As good ol’ Anonymous observed, “Humanity runs on coffee.”

Yet here I am suggesting you might want to quit. Before I get into why, let me assure you that by and large, I still think coffee has more benefits than downsides. It improves workouts and memory, fights fatigue, and epidemiological evidence links coffee consumption to a host of health benefits. You can check out my Definitive Guide to Coffee to learn more.

There are downsides, though. In the pursuit of optimal health, it’s essential to examine our choices and behaviors and ask which of them might be undermining your health and longevity goals. That’s what I’m suggesting you do today.


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Why Would You Want to Quit Coffee?

Because you’re a masochist.

Kidding, of course. Really, if you think quitting coffee will be that painful, that’s a sure sign that you need to take a break. No substance aside from water or air should hold you so firmly in its grasp. I want to enjoy, not depend on, my morning coffee (and maybe a glass of red wine at dinner).

As to whether coffee is truly addictive, we clearly shouldn’t be talking about coffee in the same breath as something like heroin. However, there’s no question that it shares common features with other addictive substances. It stimulates dopamine release in the brain, creating a “feels good, want more” effect. With repeated exposure, you develop a tolerance such that caffeine no longer exerts the same effects. Plus, as many of you know if you’ve tried to kick the habit before, the withdrawal can be brutal.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2257922/‘>2 For people dealing with a lot of stressand who isn’t right nowdrinking too much coffee may not be wise. It can interfere with your body’s ability to regulate cortisol and cope with the stressors.https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapsychiatry/article-abstract/493529‘>4 https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/ef8c/e1f994091de73049df7e08d71b6497fe86bf.pdf‘>6 On the other hand, two recent meta-analyses concluded that coffee actually helps with symptoms of depression.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26518745‘>8

If you’re a menopausal woman, think twice about drinking too much coffee. In two studies, caffeine intake was associated with increased vasomotor symptoms like hot flashes.https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/6be1/708f6629c6e67a23126688d31585b6d08791.pdf‘>10 Those were correlational studies, but in a separate experiment, researchers administered caffeine to pre- and perimenopausal women who were or were not on estrogen therapy. Perimenopausal women’s blood pressure rose significantly after taking 250 mg of caffeine (equivalent to two to three cups of coffee), regardless of estrogen status.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12397877/‘>12

Many of these side effects are dose-dependent, meaning they get worse the more coffee you drink. For most people, modest coffee intaketwo or four cups per dayis probably fine, maybe even desirable. Nevertheless, there’s always the possibility that you could quit coffee and feel better than you do today. Wouldn’t you want to know that?

Other Potential Benefits of Quitting Caffeine

Anecdotally, people notice all sorts of benefits once they significantly reduce or give up coffee. They promise glowing skin, whiter teeth, and better digestion.

They also promise you’ll save money, but in my experience, I just end up reinvesting those supposed savings into trying new teas, so that’s a wash. That said, I also don’t buy multiple frappe drinks from Starbucks every day. If you do, you might put some cash back in your pocket.

Who Should Take a Break from Coffee?

For the sake of self-experimentation, I’m going to go ahead and say: everybody.

It’s especially pressing if:

  • Your inner voice is telling you that you have become dependent on caffeine
  • Your sleep is anything other than deep and plentiful
  • You have health issues that might be exacerbated by coffee

Also, if you’ve built up a toleranceand you certainly have if coffee is a regular habittaking a break means you should be able to return to your beloved coffee and actually feel the desirable effects of caffeine again when you use it strategically. That would be nice.

Anyway, aren’t you a little curious?

How to Stop Drinking Coffee

Time It Right

Unless you have an urgent health concern that means you should stop ASAP, consider waiting until a lower-stress period. Normally I’d say vacation is a perfect time, but we’re not taking many vacations right now. Perhaps a staycation is in order (for more reasons than one).

I wouldn’t advise ditching coffee the same week you have to deliver a big presentation at work, your kids are starting a new schedule at school, or you’ll otherwise be stretched thin enough as it is. Coffee withdrawal can lead to some pretty miserable symptomsmigraines, fatigue, irritability. Pick a week where you’ll have the mental capacity to deal with those, the ability to sneak away for naps, and ideally, fun distractions to keep your mind off the suck.

Pick Your Strategy

Some people have no problem quitting cold turkey, but tapering down your caffeine intake will probably be more pleasant. Start cutting your regular coffee with decaf, and slowly decrease the amount you consume altogether. Make your coffee weaker, and stop adding cream and sweeteners so it’s not as appealing. If you’re drinking coffee in the afternoon, cut that first.

Whatever you do, don’t compensate by adding caffeine back in the form of energy drinks or caffeine pills. Don’t drink energy drinks anyway, but definitely not now. That defeats the purpose entirely.

How Long Will it Take to Get off Coffee Completely?

The half-life of caffeine is about five hours, so within a day of quitting, your body should be free of it. However, withdrawal symptoms can last significantly longera week to ten days or more, though some lucky people don’t experience any noticeable withdrawal.

Beyond the chemical dependency, there is also a behavioral component to coffee. For most coffee drinkers, it is a habit, and habits are harder to break. You might find yourself headed to the coffee pot in the morning, or reaching for the mug that’s usually on your desk, well after the initial weaning period.

Worthy Alternatives to Coffee

For some people, coffee is merely a caffeine delivery system. Others enjoy the rituals around coffeepreparing it in the morning, breathing in the aroma, sipping a hot beverage while they work, and communing with coworkers and friends over a cup. You can still have all those things if you strategically replace coffee with an alternative that fills the hole coffee leaves.

The most obvious answer is switching to tea. There are so many different types of tea, each with its own benefits and flavor profile. If you were a snob about your coffee, you can easily channel that energy into tea. Brewing tea is an art unto itself. Just watch your caffeine intake. Teas vary considerably in caffeine content, though they are still lower than the average cup of joe.

You might also consider mushroom coffee, which has about half the caffeine of regular coffee, or chicory root coffee or dandelion tea, which offer some of the coffee flavor with none of the caffeine. Fans of these options swear they get a lift similar to the one they got from coffee without the jitters.

My go-to hot or iced option is Primal Kitchen’s Matcha and Chai Collagen Keto Lattes, and not just for the obvious reason. Caffeine can inhibit collagen synthesis in the body.https://www.rwjf.org/en/library/research/2010/05/low-calorie-dieting-increases-cortisol.html‘>1 can create changes in blood sugar, regardless of what you eat. The stress from constantly tracking and worrying about your macros causes your body to release cortisol and adrenaline, so it can access stored glucose because it thinks you’re in danger. In ancestral terms, your body thinks you’re being chased by a predator, so it pumps extra energy into your bloodstream.

If you’re not actually converting that glucose into energy, you’ll get a buildup of sugar in your bloodstream, and you’ll dump more insulin. Keep that up and you’ll be on the fast track to weight gain and a full-on diabetes diagnosis.

Okay, now to answer the other part of your question about muscle-building. Sure, protein helps increase muscle mass but you actually need to incorporate strength training if you want to see a real difference. It’s just one of the reasons “lift heavy things” is one of the cornerstones of the Primal Blueprint. When you put more stress (in this case, good stress) on your muscles, you create muscle fiber tears, which, once repaired, cause an increase in size and strength. Keep in mind that “heavy” is relative. Even bodyweight exercises like pushups, planks, pullups, and squats done two to three times a week will help you put on muscle.

JoAnn asked:

“Now that school has started again, I’m finding I have even less time to prep meals and snacks. What are good healthy convenience foods I can stock up on?”

Time management is a tough one this time of year. Especially when you’re busy working, parenting, and homeschooling all day. I get it though, it isn’t super convenient to sit down every week and plan out what you’re going to eat, then shop for ingredients, then prep those ingredients and create meals for you and your family.

It’s much easier to buy pre-packaged foods that go from the microwave to your mouth in two minutes flat. It’s easier to buy the giant Costco-size bag of popcorn and “healthy” chips. Don’t get me wrong, there are actually a few brands that go out of their way to use clean, minimally processed ingredients, but sadly, most of them don’t.

Most convenience foods are loaded with artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives – even the brands that have “low sugar” and “no trans fats” written right there on the front of the label. Problem is, although they’re hyped as healthy, these foods are full of ingredients your body doesn’t recognize, which can make you feel foggy, achy, cause you gain weight, and make you want to fall asleep before the kids finish their homework.

Which begs me to ask the question, what’s easier, hard boiling a dozen eggs or carrying around 15 extra pounds? Is throwing a couple of pieces of bread in the toaster more or less convenient than struggling to keep your eyes open after 7pm? Are those peanut butter crackers for when you’re feeling “snacky” worth the price of having chronically sore joints from systemic inflammation?

You say you don’t have time to prep foods. However, my guess is you also don’t have time to be sick, achy, or overweight. So, be smart about it. Following the hashtag #easypaleo on Instagram is a great place to start. Collect recipes that are healthy and easy to make, then stock your kitchen with staples like:

  • Frozen veggies and meat
  • Coconut milk
  • Ghee
  • Coconut aminos
  • Nut butters
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Eggs
  • Coconut and almond flour

Robert asked:

“In an effort to cut down on our grocery bill, my wife and I are thinking about buying conventional meat and produce. Is it really worth it to spend more for products labeled organic and grass-fed or is it all just marketing?”

Since the pandemic started, the cost of groceries has skyrocketedhttps://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4947579/‘>3

Ever heard the phrase, pay for it now or pay for it later? Sure, it can be costly to eat this way. It can also be costly to manage chronic gastrointestinal, neurological, endocrine, and respiratory conditions for the rest of your life.

So, whether or not it’s worth it to spend more is totally up to you Robert. My advice is to buy local or organic fruits and veggies when you can, especially ones that have been proven to contain higher levels of pesticides, like strawberries, spinach, apples, potatoes, cherries, and peaches. Same goes for beef and poultry. If you can, get in touch with a local butcher. There’s a good chance they can get you a better cut of meat at a more affordable price than you’d find at the grocery store.

What do you think? Have you found that it’s worth it to eat healthy? Tell me about it in the comments below.

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The post Ask a Health Coach: Is Eating Healthy Even Worth It? appeared first on Mark’s Daily Apple.

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liver healthThe liver is incredible. Most people think of it as a filter, but filters are physical barriers that accumulate junk and have to be cleaned. The liver isn’t a filter. It’s a chemical processing plant. Rather than sit there, passively receiving, filtering out, and storing undesirable compounds, the liver encounters toxic chemicals and attempts to metabolize them into less-toxic metabolites that we can handle.

  • It oxidizes the toxins, preparing them for further modification
  • It converts the toxins to a less-toxic, water-soluble version that’s easier to excrete
  • It excretes the toxins through feces or urine

Bam. It’s an elegant process, provided everything is working well back there. And it’s not the only process it controls.

The liver is the primary site of cholesterol synthesis and disposal. It creates cholesterol as needed and converts excess into bile salts for removal via the bile duct. The liver also plays a huge role in the burning of fat for energy, the storage of vitamin A, the metabolism of hormones, and the regulation of blood sugar. If you enjoy burning ketones, you can thank the liver because that’s where they’re produced.

The liver supports full-body health, in other words. If it isn’t working correctly, nothing is. Everything starts to fall apart.

How do we support the liver?

It’s not one thing we do. It’s many things. It’s nutrition, supplementation, lifestyle, sleep — everything. It’s also the things we don’t do. The stakes are high, you see. Whenever there’s a grand overarching orchestrator regulating dozens of different processes in the body, you must protect it from multiple angles. A lot can go wrong. Or right, depending on how you look at it.

Since the liver is “hidden away” and you can’t really “feel” it, you may not give it too much thought. When you’re overweight, you know it. When your fitness is suffering, you consciously experience it. When your liver is overburdened or suffering, you don’t necessarily know it. That’s where doing the right things for the sake of doing them comes in handy.

So, what should you do to maintain pristine liver health?


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11 Ways to Maintain a Healthy Liver

Liver health depends on steps you take toward a healthy lifestyle, and equally as important, the things you refrain from doing. Here are some things you can to to contribute to lifelong liver health:

  • Reduce linoleic acid intake
  • Reduce refined carb intake
  • Reduce alcohol intake
  • Stop overeating, and lose weight
  • Practice time-restricted eating
  • Eat fatty fish and get omega-3s
  • Eat egg yolks and other choline sources
  • Take NAC
  • Take whey protein
  • Regularly deplete your liver glycogen
  • Get good, regular sleep

Reduce Linoleic Acid Intake

When a patient can’t eat, they get something called parenteral nutrition — a direct infusion of nutrients into the gut. The classic parenteral nutrition consists of an emulsion of olive oil and soybean oil. It’s very rich in linoleic acid and typically leads to elevated liver enzymes and fatty liver. That’s right: the medical establishment for whatever reason just accepts that people receiving parenteral nutrition have a high chance of developing fatty liver disease.

Okay, but what’s happening here? Is it really causal? Yes. The more linoleic acid you eat, the more oxidized metabolites of linoleic acid show up in your body. The more oxidized metabolites of linoleic acid you have, the higher your risk of fatty liver. These toxic metabolites of LA are actually full-fledged biomarkers of liver injury.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4405421/#:~:text=This%20study%20suggests%20that%20human,patients%20with%20obesity%20(48).‘>2 which affects how efficiently your liver works.

Of course, the combo of high linoleic acid and high refined carbohydrate is just about the worst thing possible.

Reduce Alcohol Intake

To detox alcohol, the liver converts it into the metabolite acetaldehyde. Acetaldehyde is far more toxic than ethanol itself, so the body then releases acetaldehyde dehydrogenase and glutathione to break down the acetaldehyde. If you stick to just a few drinks and space them out accordingly, your body’s natural antioxidant enzyme production can keep up. If you start binging, though, glutathione stores become overwhelmed and the liver must produce more. Meanwhile, acetaldehyde, which is between 10-30 times more toxic than ethanol, accrues in your body.https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1550413112001891‘>4

Eat Fatty Fish and Get Omega-3s

If you offset some of that olive oil and soybean oil with a blend of medium triglycerides and fish oil, liver enzymes may drop and overall integrity of the liver may improve.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22308119/‘>6 Taking it with vitamin C may be even more effective.

NAC is well-known for boosting levels of glutathione, the primary antioxidant used by the liver to metabolize toxins and protect itself.

Take Whey Protein

Obese women with fatty liver who took 60 grams of whey protein per day reduced their liver fat by almost 21%.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24316260/‘>8 When liver glycogen is full, it becomes far more likely that your liver will turn any subsequent carbohydrate it encounters into fat for storage. If you keep liver glycogen low, or regularly deplete it, you can avoid de novo lipogenesis because there’s usually a place to store the glucose.

Furthermore, keeping liver glycogen low increases fat utilization from all over the body, including the liver.https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2011-03/uops-mwt030311.php‘>10 If you don’t get to sleep at a normal, consistent time, your rhythm is disrupted and the molecules can’t do their jobs.

If you hadn’t already noticed, these are good health practices in general. We keep running into this phenomenon, don’t we?

What’s good for the liver is good for the brain is good for the cardiovascular system is good for your performance in the gym is good for the mirror.

It makes things easier and harder.

You know what to do.

Thanks for reading, everyone. Do you have any other recommendations for liver health? Which of these do you follow?

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The post All About the Liver, and How to Support Your Favorite Detoxification Organ appeared first on Mark’s Daily Apple.

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why am i waking up in the middle of the nightWhenever I write about sleep, I hear from a chorus of people who struggle to sleep through the night. Anecdotally, it seems a far more common complaint than difficulty falling asleep in the first place.

These complaints are one of three types:

  1. People who have trouble falling asleep
  2. People who sleep fitfully, waking multiple times throughout the night
  3. Those who reliably wake once, around the same time most nights

Understandably, this is a hugely vexing problem. Poor quality sleep is a serious health concern. Not to mention, sleeping badly feels simply awful. When the alarm goes off after a night of tossing and turning, the next day is sure to be a slog. String several days like that together, and it’s hard to function at all.

I’m going to go out on a limb, though, and assert that waking up in the middle of the night isn’t always the problem we make it out to be. For some people, nighttime wakings are actually something to embrace. As always, context is everything.


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What Causes You to Wake Up In the Middle of the Night?

One of the most frustrating things about nighttime waking is that there are so many possible causes. Sometimes the solution is as simple as practicing good sleep hygiene. Other times, medical help is in order. Still other times, the solution is something different entirely.

Transitioning to Lighter Sleep Stages

Sleep isn’t a uniform state of unconsciousness you slip into when it becomes dark and, theoretically, ride until morning. It’s a dynamic process that goes in waves—or more precisely, cyclesthroughout the night.

There are four (or five, depending on how you slice it) stages of sleep:

  • Stage 1: light sleep, occurs right after falling asleep
  • Stage 2: deeper sleep
  • Slow-wave sleep (SWS): deepest sleep, a.k.a. Stage 3 and Stage 4 sleep
  • REM: lighter sleep where our more interesting dreams occur (although we can also dream in non-REM phaseshttps://academic.oup.com/advances/article/7/5/938/4616727‘>2 Still, you might be able to look at your diet and identify a likely culprit. For example, if your sleep problems started after going carnivore or adding intermittent fasting, that’s an obvious place to start.

    A food log can help you spot patterns, such as whether eating certain foods at dinner tends to correlate with poorer sleep. Alcohol and caffeine are big sleep disruptors as well, though you surely know that.

    If you’re frequently waking up to pee, you might be overhydrating, especially in the evening. More seriously, it can be a symptom of diabetes or bladder, prostate, kidney, adrenal, or heart problems. Getting up once or twice to pee probably isn’t cause for alarm. It’s worth seeing a doctor if you’re getting several times or urinating much more at night than during the day.


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    What to Do About Nighttime Waking

    First things first, pick the low-hanging fruit

    I’m talking good sleep hygiene practices. Things like:

    • Sleep in a cool, dark, quiet room.
    • Minimize exposure to artificial lights after the sun sets. Use blue-light blocking glasses, and turn on night mode on your devices.
    • Watch your alcohol and caffeine consumption, especially later in the day.
    • Go to bed around the same time each night.

    If applicable, experiment with your diet and food timing

    Depending on your current diet, some experiments you might try include:

    1. If you’re ultra-low-carb, try increasing your carb intake for a few weeks.
    2. Try loading more of your carbs into your evening meal.
    3. Make sure your protein intake isn’t too low.https://academic.oup.com/advances/article/7/5/938/4616727‘>4 That calls the “starving brain” hypothesis into question, but I suspect there’s an important nuance here. Individuals who can comfortably do longer fasts are almost certainly also fat-adapted and, at least during the fast, producing ketones to fuel their brains. Metabolically, they’re in a very different place from a carb-dependent person who struggles to make it through the night.

      Consider napping

      If you’re unable to get enough high-quality sleep at night, you might prefer to adjust your sleep schedule entirely. Instead, aim for a shorter nighttime sleep period, say five or six hours, paired with an afternoon nap. This is another variant of biphasic sleeping.

      Years ago, I wrote a post on how to conduct just this type of experiment. Check it out and see if it might work for you. It’s unconventional in this day and age, but I know people who thrive on this schedule.

      Finally, don’t hesitate to seek medical help

      Sleep issues are a symptom of many diverse health issues, including hyperthyroidism, anxiety, depression, and, as previously mentioned, diabetes, heart disease, and others. Your doctor may want to test you for sleep apnea.

      The Case of Hot Flashes

      Hot flashes are a common cause of nighttime waking for women of a certain age. If you endure nighttime flashes, you’re probably familiar with the standard advice:

      Unfortunately, as I’ve learned from my wife Carrie’s and many friends’ experiences, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. I do think acupuncture is a potentially helpful, underutilized tool. Mostly, though, it’s just a combo of trial-and-error plus time that seems to get most women through this phase.

      Getting Back to Sleep

      In the meantime, while you get to the root of the issue, here are some tips for getting back to sleep:

      • Take care of pressing needs. Get up and pee, get a drink of water, or adjust the thermostat. There’s no point in trying to power through the discomfort that woke you up in the first place. Just fix it.
      • Keep artificial lights and screens off. Use small nightlights to light your path to the bathroom if necessary, and wear your orange-tinted glasses.
      • Do a calm activity such as reading by candlelight, deep breathing exercises, or sketching or writing in your journal.
      • Most of all, don’t stress! Fretting is likely to keep you awake for much longer than simply accepting the fact that you are awake and lying peacefully in bed.

      Are You Fighting Something You Should Be Embracing?

      I’ve long believed that humans naturally tend to be biphasic sleepers. The idea that we should be passed out for a solid eight hours per night is a social construct not firmly rooted in our sleep biology.

      Historian Roger Ekirch argues, rather convincingly I think, that before the advent of artificial light, humans across geographical locations and social strata slept in two chunks during the night. The first, usually just called “first sleep,” or sometimes “dead sleep,” comprised the first four or so hours. “Second sleep” went until dawn. In between, people would enjoy an hour, or perhaps two or three hours, of mid-night activities such as praying and meditating, reading and writing, having sex, and even visiting neighbors. This was seen as completely normal, even welcome.https://academic.oup.com/sleep/article/39/3/715/2454050‘>6 Also, in one small experiment, seven adults lived in a controlled environment with 14 hours of darkness per night. Over the course of four weeks, their sleep and hormone secretions slowly and naturally became biphasic.https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/pdf/10.1098/rspb.2017.0967‘>8 If some individuals fall asleep earlier and some later, and most people are awake for an hour or two in the middle of the night, someone in the group is always up. That person can tend the fire and watch for danger. In fact, the waking hour was sometimes called the “sentinel” hour. According to Ekirch, it was often referred to as simply the “watch.”

      Are You a Biphasic Sleeper, or Do You Have a Sleep Problem?

      Waking up multiple times per night, such that you rarely feel truly rested, is a problem. However, we shouldn’t rush to pathologize a single nighttime waking. That might just be your natural sleep pattern. It doesn’t necessarily mean you’d be better off aiming for biphasic sleep either. Even if you wake reliably at the same time each night, sometimes a full bladder is just a full bladder.

      The litmus test is how you feel. With a biphasic schedule, the intervening waking period should be pleasant. Your mind should feel calm and alert, if perhaps a bit dreamy. Anecdotally, many famous writers, artists, and sculptors have adhered to a biphasic schedule, believing that creativity and flow are enhanced during the mid-night hours.

      Of course, you can’t tap into how you feel if waking is causing you a ton of angst. Remind yourself that waking can be normal, not dysfunctional. I know this can be easier said than done, especially if you’re sleep deprived. The thing about biphasic sleeping is that you’re still supposed to get the eight hours of nightly sleep you need, give or take. That means you have to spend nine or ten hours in bed. How many people do that nowadays?

      See if you can commit to at least a couple weeks of sufficient time in bed. Push away your previous (mis)conceptions about what a “good” night of sleep is “supposed” to look like. Try to welcome rather than fight the mid-night waking. Be open to what comes next.

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      The post Why Am I Waking Up at 3am? appeared first on Mark’s Daily Apple.

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weight loss plateauHey folks. This week, Primal Health Coach Erin is answering your questions about breaking through plateaus with tips and strategies you can start putting into practice right away. If you’re stuck in a weight loss rut, stalled out on your fitness routine, or need a push getting out of your comfort zone, today’s Ask a Health Coach post is for you. Got more questions? Keep them coming in the comments or over in our Mark’s Daily Apple Facebook Group.

Kimberley asked:

“I’ve lost a total of 70 pounds and have maintained my weight loss for over a year now, but I’m struggling to lose those last 10 pounds. Any tips on getting the scale to move again?”

First of all, congratulations. The fact that you’ve lost that amount of weight and kept if off is proof you’re committed to your goal. Even better, I love that you’re not using words like “diet” or “falling off the wagon,” both of which imply that you’ve embarked on a temporary lifestyle change. Weight loss is a long-term process that includes ups and downs. And plateaus like the one you’re experiencing right now are a natural part of that process.

Anytime you’re going through a plateau, you can take it as a sign that something needs to change. It doesn’t need to be a drastic change, but it is an opportunity to take a closer look at what you’re doing — or not doing.

I find that the biggest culprit of weight loss plateaus with my own health coaching clients is that they’ve loosened the reins a bit. In the beginning of your journey, you might have been meticulous about avoiding grains and refined sugars. If you’re following the Primal Blueprint, you might have kept your split at a solid 80/20. But as the months and years go on it’s absolutely normal to let some things slide without realizing it.

Eating more than you think is extremely common. Extra handfuls of nuts. Wine every night. A carb-fest on Sunday that turns into sandwiches and ice cream all week. You get the picture. Occasional indulgences should be enjoyed guilt-free, however it’s important to be aware of them instead of mindlessly refilling your glass. Small changes can be sneaky, and they add up fast.

Tip: Keep a Food Journal for 3-5 Days

I’m not a big fan of tracking calories and macros in general. But taking a few days to get back in touch with what you’re really doing can be a game changer for breaking through a plateau. After keeping a food journal, one of my clients found that the good stuff she was loading her morning yogurt with (chia seeds, flax seeds, unsweetened coconut, and nuts) was packing on about 400 calories more than she thought. Tasting bites of food while cooking or cleaning up are two other common places those extras tend to slide in.

Need more convincing? Researchers at Kaiser Permanente found that participants who kept a food diary lost twice the amount of weight compared to participants who didn’t.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6136354/‘>1

Back in the day, our ancestors stayed active by chasing antelope so they’d have dinner or they walked to the nearest spring to get fresh water. There was no selective pressure to find joy in exercise because it simply needed to be done to survive.

Thankfully, these days, we have the choice to work out in a way that resonates with us. So, if daily strength sessions bring on the worst DOMS, see how you can integrate shorter microworkouts into your day. If sprints feel like a chore, try chasing your kids around at the park. You get the picture.

My point is, changing your body often starts by changing your relationship with physical activity. And moving from the idea that pain is the only way to achieve gain, can be as close as finding joy in your workouts instead of struggle.

Anne asked:

“I’ve recently noticed that my clothes aren’t fitting the way they used to. I’ve tried restricting all sugar and carbs, and I’m thinking about getting one of those food scales. What do you recommend to get my eating under control?”

I think a lot of us are feeling the pinch of being stuck at home with a new routine and a kitchen full of snacks. You’re struggling to button your favorite pants. Your shirts are pulling slightly. Maybe you’re a little softer in the middle.

And I get it, the first response to unexpected weight gain is often to restrict the heck out of your diet. Banish all carbs! Burn all the treats! Count every calorie that comes near your mouth!

Our society tells us that weight gain is something to be ashamed of and reverse as quickly as possible. We’re told that we need to feel bad and that we should most definitely panic.

When you’re upset with your body, extreme measures can feel like the only solution. In your mind, your eating habits might feel out of control. And the only way to course-correct is to suffer — eliminating carbs, sugar, joy…

Listen, getting back on track shouldn’t equal punishing yourself. As I’ve said before, the body is an amazing, miraculous organism that deserves to be appreciated. That’s why doing anything that comes from an opposing point of view is a recipe for disaster.

Regaining control suggests a forceful wrangling of your habits. Sure, you need to have accountability, but using harsh techniques that come from a place of hate instead of love will eventually derail your relationship with your body even further. You didn’t gain the weight overnight. Therefore, a quick and unnecessarily harsh plan of attack won’t get you where you want to go.

My recommendation is to be realistic and non-dramatic. Set goals that are actually attainable for you for the long term. If you want to lose 10 pounds, start with 1 pound. If you want to stop snacking, eat more protein during the day. If you want to exercise more, get outside and walk. And most importantly watch your self-talk. If you’re unhappy with how your clothes are fitting, try not to focus on the negative. Instead, reframe your situation to see what you can be grateful for.

Rob asked:

“I eat mostly Primally and have been fit my whole life. There’s just that last little bit of extra around the middle that won’t seem to budge. I do tons of planks and crunches, but what other exercises can I do to target my mid-section?”

More doesn’t always equal more. You know what I mean Rob? Hours of planks, crunches, twists, and dead bugs might strengthen your core, but I don’t think more exercises are what you need.

If you’ve been trained in the unfortunate art of no pain, no gain, you might think your lack of results is because you’re not pushing yourself hard enough. Let me offer another perspective.

You mention that you’re “mostly” Primal. What does that look like for you? Grains here and there? A few beers on the weekends? Baked goods on holidays? Primal is designed to be a lifestyle, so you can enjoy the occasional beer or baked good. The problem arises when “occasional” turns into “regular” or it turns into an excuse to eat unhealthily whenever the mood strikes.

If you’re telling yourself you worked out today so you can indulge in a sleeve of Oreos, no amount of crunches are going reverse to the extra calories and garbage ingredients you just consumed. To really reduce midsection fat and the accompanying bloat, try cutting out all refined carbs, sugar, and alcohol for two weeks and see what happens. It’s pretty tough to rock a spare tire if you’re primarily getting your calories from protein, healthy fats, and produce.

Do you buy into the no gain, no pain mindset? Tell me how it’s worked for you — or against you in the comments below!

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The post Ask a Health Coach: Why Pain Doesn’t Equal Gain appeared first on Mark’s Daily Apple.

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