By Dr. Debbie Bright, DC, MS
Calories Counted are not the answer! They said there would be no math.
That was an enticing lure for a young college graduate who loathed mathematics yet found herself looking ahead at a medical school education. Within medicine, there are many specialties and because I found myself hooked by the notion that our bodies are fully capable of healing themselves, I chose the chiropractic route to further investigate the pillars of optimal health.
Plus—they said there would be no math.
And then came the nutrition and biochemistry courses. Had they lied to me? Was I deceived? Okay, so maybe there was a little math and with the right tutor and study buddy, I survived it. I even went on to pursue my Master’s in Nutrition and Human Performance and from there I found my ultimate calling through post-graduate studies at the Institute for Functional Medicine.
Today I’m known for being the weight loss expert and Functional Medicine Physician who’s helped thousands of women aged 30+ discover their hidden food sensitivities so they can lose weight effortlessly and feel energized fast—all while healing their misguided metabolism that has them looking and feeling aged before their time.
Some have gone as far as calling me the “Look Good Naked” doctor.
So what does all of this have to do with counting calories? Absolutely nothing. In fact, my weight loss program participants can tell you they’ve never spent a single effort counting one or even exercising portion control. The only attention calories get in my world are through my initial efforts to persuade you to give them no second thought ever again. Finally—freedom (and no more math)!
The Calorie Nuance
Naturally thin people are not superior to those that struggle with their weight and they certainly do not possess any superhuman willpower. They rarely eat fewer calories or workout any harder. And they certainly are not any more genetically gifted. They just have a better performing metabolism playing in their favor.
Focusing only on calories for weight loss undervalues your unique metabolism and the importance of your overall lean muscle mass, the amount of protein and resistance starch intake in your diet, and your liver and gut health.
Metabolism varies due to deviations in your metabolic rate and your range of metabolic flexibility.
Your basal metabolic rate (BMR) is based on how many calories you burn daily just maintaining body temperature and carrying out basic bodily maintenance—simply living and breathing by far accounts for your biggest amount of calories burned, which are determined by
1. your overall body composition (more lean muscle mass naturally means more calories are effortlessly burned)
2️. your gender and
3️. your age—in this exact order.
People of the same size, gender and age can have dramatically different BMRs. Those with the lowest BMRs are the ones who barely eat yet gain weight. Those with the highest BMRs are the ones who can eat more while staying lean.
Metabolism depends greatly on metabolic flexibility—your body’s ability to keep your weight steady and functioning regardless of changes in your food intake and your fuel output from physical activity. You have a specific range of net calories where if you consume too much fuel in any form of carbs, fats or ketones, you will gain weight, and if you burn too much fuel you will lose weight and will feel the need to rest.
You can gain body fat from eating too many salmon, greens and berries (like bears do for hibernation), just like you could lose weight on a diet of Cheetos, cakes and cookies—as long as you’ve watched your calorie count. But are you prepared to handle the unhealthy communication signals those foods send to your hormones and the crappy way you would feel when you ingest a slew of chemicals from a processed, inflammatory diet?
Calorie-restrictive diets often result in weight loss coming from muscle tissue, with rebounding effects that can leave you fatter than before with less muscle to drive a healthy metabolism. Insert yo-yo dieting.
Let’s say you can stay lean and feel energized as long as you eat somewhere between 1300-2000 calories per day. You can grab a piece of cake at the office party now and again and not gain a pound. You can work through lunch on a busy day and not have a hangry meltdown in traffic a few hours later. This is the result of a flexible and healthy metabolism.
Now picture yourself finding you can only lose weight by starving yourself below 1200 calories per day and when you do you feel miserable. You feel hangry and cannot deal with people and suffer from relentless sugar cravings. If you raised your daily caloric intake by just a few hundred calories, you would start packing on the pounds. This would be the result of not having a flexible metabolism.
A Clogged Liver
The secret to achieving metabolic flexibility is by healing your “leaky liver”. When we think of optimal health and weight loss, we have to give more credit to the organ responsible for filtering our entire blood supply at a rate of one time per minute—which is like drinking an eight-ounce glass of water every five seconds nonstop, day in and day out. This organ is also responsible for storing your vitamins, minerals, immune cells, modified amino acids and hormones. Aside from all that, let’s not forget that this is the organ responsible for storing and burning our body fat.
A clogged liver can cause many unfavorable health issues in your body and is the root of many chronic diseases.
Symptoms of a clogged liver include:
• High blood pressure
• Erratic appetite
• Gas and bloating or abdominal distention
• Alternating constipation and diarrhea
• Ringing of the ears
• Metallic taste in the mouth
• Sleep apnea
• Right shoulder pain
• Dark circles under the eyes
• Yellowing skin
• Type II Diabetes and blood sugar
• Adult acne
• Spider angiomas
• Waist gain (belly fat in the abdominal region)
In today’s world there are many reasons a liver can suffer from overload. Contributing factors include environmental toxicants, a lack of essential dietary nutrients from poor dietary choices, ongoing use of prescription medications and overuse of supplements, daily alcohol intake and an ever-growing waistline that doesn’t allow for adequate
detoxification of said substances.
Resetting Your Metabolism
The good news is that your liver can fully regenerate itself in a matter of weeks and with a healthy liver comes a healthy waistline. And this all can be accomplished through dietary and lifestyle choices alone.
Remember that while calories are real and they do provide fuel for our bodies, it’s the quality of the calorie and the foods they come from which matters much more than the quantity of them you eat.
Here are my top five daily actionable steps you can take right now to improve your liver function and achieve optimal “waist loss”:
1. Remove ingredients like gluten, soy, diary, eggs, corn, peanuts, added sugars and artificial sweeteners from your diet for 21 days so your immune system can take a chill pill and cool inflammation in your body.
2. Replace 1/2 meals a day with a high-quality protein shake for 21 days so your liver can unclog itself of overly stored carbs, fats and ketones. Ingredients can include 20 grams of vanilla pea protein, flax milk, resistance starch from a banana WITH the peel on, flavorings from vanilla or caramel extracts, a pinch of sea salt, chia seeds and a handful of frozen spinach. Add ice and blend until smooth.
3. Incorporate lots of hormone-balancing, sulphur-rich veggies in your diet like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale and Brussels sprouts.
4. Add in resistance starch foods and slow-digesting carbohydrates to your evening dinner so you can stabilize your blood sugar throughout the night and earn yourself much-needed restful sleep while burning belly fat. My recommendations include boiled potatoes, plantains and white beans.
5. Drink your body weight in ounces of water to reset your hydration levels, flush your body of toxicants and keep your bowels moving.
Remember that the old calorie model of simply move more, eat less is a broken method for shrinking your waistline, up-leveling your energy and improving your health.
For access to high-quality protein options, feel free to visit drdebbiebright.com for more information.