5 paleo weight loss tweaks speed up lose weight plateau paleo diet primal

5 paleo tweaks to speed up weight loss

For the vast majority of people, transitioning to the Paleo diet will often see dramatic improvements in their personal battle with weight loss. However, on some occasions, you may hit a plateau with your weight loss and find yourself struggling to reach your desired weight.

Before I go any further, I must stress that it vitally important not to worry about that number on the scales. If you’re looking and feeling your best, then ignore what the scales are telling you. Chances are, if you’re eating right and training well, you may well have added a little weight in the form of muscle mass.

If, however, you still have that last bit of body fat that you want to lose in order to look, feel, and perform at your optimum level; then you may wish to consider the following ‘tweaks’:

Watch your carb intake

Whilst it is a lot harder to take in excess carbohydrate on the Paleo diet, (largely due to the removal of grains and processed foods) it is still possible – and especially so if you’re not active. You may want to look at bringing your carb intake down to see how this helps you with your weight loss goals. Try cutting back on starchy vegetables like yams, hard squash, parsnips and beets, and replacing them with dark leafy greens like spinach, kale and broccoli. It may be worthwhile limiting your fruit intake as well to one portion per day. If you do eat fruit, berries are a very good choice. Otherwise, snack on hardboiled eggs, jerky, nuts and coconut to see you through between meals.

It’s important to tailor your carbohydrate intake to your activity level. If you’re relatively sedentary, then roughly 50g of carbs per day from vegetables is more than adequate. If you’re training more (and especially if you partake in high intensity exercise like Crossfit), you’ll be looking at probably double that. Time your carb intake as well – straight after a heavy workout to replace glycogen stores, and in the evening to increase melatonin and ensure a healthy sleep.

5 paleo weight loss tweaks speed up lose weight plateau paleo diet primal

Try Intermittent Fasting

Proven to break through even the most stubborn weight loss plateau, I can’t recommend Intermittent Fasting enough for fat loss and general appetite control. Try exercising when fasted, so your body turns straight to the fat stores for energy.

Move more

Sometimes, conventional wisdom does get it right. If you’re not seeing the fat loss results you’re after, it could be a case of not exercising enough. Just make sure it’s the right kind of exercise and you’re not slipping into chronic cardio territory. HIIT Training, sprints and Crossfit are excellent fat busters.

Sleep more

When you’re deprived of sleep, your body releases the stress hormone cortisol, which has been proven to increase fat storage. And, in case you needed any more reason to get a solid 8 hours sleep every night, the biggest spike in growth hormone occurs during sleep – which in turn, burns fat. Try sleeping more, and sleeping better too.

Stress less

As with sleep, if you’re stressed, your body will be releasing cortisol. Try meditating, exercising more, or increasing your sunlight exposure to help you manage your stress levels.

These are just a few ideas to help you break through your fat loss plateau. Do you have any other tips for fellow readers?

Stop being a fat bitch lola berry weight loss plan cover

Stop being a fat bitch

As someone who’s struggled with weight loss, I was surprised to see the name of Lola Berry’s new diet plan – “Stop Being a Fat B*tch”. Yes, you did read that correctly.

Stop being a fat bitch lola berry weight loss plan facebook

Whilst the intention was apparently noble, there was a huge back-lash. With people shocked that she’d chose such an emotive title. These comments summed up the reception of the name of her diet program:

  • Is this a joke? What the hell. This is horrible.
  • How about we teach never to call yourself ” a fat bitch ” – that’d be first mindset lesson in weight loss.
  • Oh my. As a psychotherapist that works specifically with women that are struggling with long term weight issues, I find this completely inappropriate and demeaning. If I REALLY try, I think I can just manage to glimpse where Lola is coming from but it is waaaaaay off the mark and will actually cause more harm than good. This is a classic example of why people need to stay within the boundaries of which they are qualified – I don’t go giving nutritional advice so please leave the mindset stuff up to those of us that are qualified.
  • Wow, what a disappointment. In a time where orthorexia, fat shaming, weight stigmatism and eating disorders are on the rise, this title only serves to perpetuate all of those problems, regardless of the intention of the book. Utterly shocked.
  • Seriously? Isn’t this encouraging people to call women struggling with weight issues a fat bitch? Disappointing. What about those struggling with auto-immune diseases that are overweight due to illness and need assistance in eating strategies to help with their healing? Are they a fat bitch because of their illness?
  • That’s a horrible degrading title, I honestly thought you had more integrity than that. This is a career killer.
  • “Fat” women don’t need any help with self hatred. We usually carry it around with us as a visible reminder. Bitch a word used by (primarily) males to shame and assert dominance over women who don’t conform to society’s ideal- it’s not motivational, it’s demeaning and petty.
  • I’m in shock!!! Lola Berry we are here to help rid the cultural definitions of what beauty is and to free women from this brainwashing so that they can be comfortable in their own skin, and be empowered to make what ever choices they want for themselves and that includes how they look and feel about themselves. Not re-affirm these ideals of the mainstream -which are only created in the first place to suppress the feminine. By doing so you are affirming that there is something wrong with “not fitting into the mainstream’s definition of beauty” and as a result feeding the insecurities of women which is a seed set in our psyche by western media. I hope when you come to speak at a an inspirational women’s event later this year that you choose to leave this thinking behind you, it does nothing but support the continual suppression of feminine.
  • As a nutritionist I really feel bad having looked up to you and admired you – you might have called yourself that horrible phrase but how about dropping that phrase from positive conscious thought – why emphasize it when it’s so demeaning? As women we should be empowering each other – as nutritionists we should be inspiring and empowering people to make positive choices and sadly I think the title of your weight loss program misses the mark

It looks like the name is going to be changed, with Lola Berry apologising for the upset:

I’m really sorry the name of the eating plan has upset lots of people, that’s not my intention at all. The whole point of it was to evoke a change in self talk, but I can see how it’s too strong and I’m sorry for that. The content is all about changing your mindset to achieve your health goals. So, I would love you guys to name it. What would you like it to be called?

I’d love to hear your thoughts (please comment below), do you find the title offensive, or do you appreciate the sentiments behind it?

Unconventional Weight Loss Summit 2015 paleo network UWL

Wondered why I’ve been so quiet?

I hadn’t disappeared, in fact, I’ve been working harder than I’ve ever worked before.

I told you a while ago about my struggle to lose the rest of the weight I had to lose. Not a great situation for a health blogger, I can tell you! How despite having a really good, clean, paleo diet – my weight just wouldn’t budge.

I can’t even begin to tell you how frustrating it is. When everyone tells you “you just need to eat less and move more”, when you know it just isn’t that simple.

I decided to get to the bottom of it.

How can I finally start losing weight, the right way?

I sought out 30 of the World’s leading experts in everything to do with weight loss and they graciously all allowed me to interview them. I’m still amazed at some of the big names who gave me their time to help me solve this puzzle.

I’ve spoken to best-selling authors, doctors, scientists and real people with incredible success stories and health transformations. Jonathan Bailor, Jon Gabriel, Jimmy Moore, Nora Gedgaudas, Keoni Teta, Marc David and many others you’ll be very familiar with, shared some pretty life changing information with me. You can find out more & register here

Believe it or not, nutrition is just one part of what we spoke about, we also spoke extensively about metabolism, hormones, physiological blockers to fat loss, emotional eating, food cravings, mindset – and so much more.

After sharing my story, I had hundreds of emails from people also struggling to lose weight, so I’ve decided to share this information, completely free – because I want to help as many people as possible to lose weight (the right way), this New Year.

UWL FB COVER 600

How’s it going to work?

There are 28 talks in all, and each talk is going to be shown online (for free) for 24 hours during the week long event. It starts in a few days time (4th Jan), so if you want to hear the life-changing talks, all you need to do is register here, simple. You’ll also get a free ebook about resolving emotional eating, when you register.

Here are the experts I spoke to

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Jonathan Bailor

Bestselling author of the Smarter Science of Slim & The Calorie Myth

The Calorie Myth & How to Eat SANE

  •  Why a neurological problem is often wrongly labelled as willpower
  • How we can quickly identify which foods we should eat – and which we should avoid
  • Why exercise could hinder your weight loss efforts
  • Our body weight set-point
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Dr. Bryan Walsh

Naturopathic Physician who helps patients who are struggling to lose weight

Fat Is Not Your Fault

  •  Why it’s about physiology, not calories
  • The specific physiological reasons that may be preventing you from losing weight
  • How to identify which issues are affecting you
  • How hypothyroid symptoms can be missed by doctors
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Sam Feltham

Founder of Smash the Fat, author, Health Activist & Personal Trainer

Smash the Fat

  •  The physiological drive that causes some to store more body fat
  • Why the advice “Eat Less: Move More” is negligent
  • The different biochemical reactions from different foods
  • Why setting goals is detrimental to your fat loss attempts
  • The exact steps Sam’s clients do to lose weight
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Bob Briggs

Health Activist who lost 145 pounds & shortly after his video “Butter Makes Your Pants Fall Off” went viral

Bob’s Story: Butter Makes Your Pants Fall off

  •  How Bob lost 145 pounds
  • What he ate & did to lose the weight
  • How his arthritis disappeared
  • The steps to take to lose weight for good
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Jon Gabriel

Jon Gabriel is the author & creator of the book, The Gabriel Method, an international best-seller. He lost 220 pounds (100kg) & now helps others

Weight Loss Without Dieting

  • The specific non-food factors that can cause your body to hold onto weight
  • What signals the body into fat storage mode
  • Why our brains think we’re in famine
  • Why we may feel safer in a bigger body
  • Changing the body at a hormonal level
  • The importance of meditation & visulisation

 

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Dr. Corey Schuler

Board-Certified Nutrition Specialist and Functional Medicine Practitioner in the field of natural health and metabolism.

Metabolism & Weight Loss

  • How to change the set point of your Basal metabolic Rate
  • The crucial role of hormones in fat storage and release
  • Why being overweight is an inflammatory condition
  • Why age 35 – 43 is a critical time for overweight women
  • The tests you should have
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Kevin Bees

Strategic Interventionist, Coach, and Entrepreneur

How to Change Your Mindset to Guarantee Success

  • Why your mindset is crucial in your transformation
  • Why we take actions that sabotage our goals (i.e. binge eating)
  • The six needs that drive all of our actions
  • A technique to change disordered & unhelpful behaviours
  • Why we must celebrate to break our bad patterns
  • How to set up our goals to guarantee success

 

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Orleatha Smith

Health Coach & Health Activist

How Orleatha Lost 125 Pounds & Solved Her Health Issues

  • The health problems that Orleatha suffered from – and overcame
  • The diets she had tried previously
  • Why a gastric bypass wasn’t the answer
  • How Orleatha got rid of her food cravings

 

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Jimmy Moore

Creator of Livin La Vida Low Carb, Author of “Keto Clarity”

Ketosis: Using Ketosis to Lose Weight

  • What is ketosis & how it causes fat loss
  • How to eat to get (and stay) in ketosis
  • The protein impact
  • Eliminating food cravings

 

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Nora Gedgaudas

Paleo Nutritional Consultant, Clinical Neurofeedback Specialist and the International Best-Selling Author of Primal Body, Primal Mind.

The Impact Our Adrenals, Stress What We Eat Have On Our Ability to Lose Weight

  • The significant impact stress has on our ability to lose fat
  • How (even with a perfect diet) cortisol can lead to fat storage
  • Why an in-sync circadian rhythm is essential
  • How to investigate

 

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Tara Grant

Health Blogger & Author

Tara’s Story: How Tara Lost Over 100 Pounds & Resolved Her Health Issues

  •  The health conditions Tara suffered
  • The turning point that made her transform her life
  • The importance of self-experimentation
  • The impact of gut health
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Bob Montgomery

Chef and Founder of “Not So Fast Food”

Bob’s Story: How Bob Lost 90 Pounds & Started Not So Fast Food

  • How imminent surgery prompted Bob to transform his life & health
  • The non-dietary changes Bob made
  • How Bob now helps others to eat well
  • Why Bob offers his customers non-gluten free bread
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Dr. Keoni Teta

Naturopathic Physician, Acupuncturist and Author of the Metabolic Effect Diet

The Metabolic Effect

  • Why food is so much more than just fuel
  • The crucial role hormones play in our weight
  • The “What the Hell” effect
  • The crucial difference between willpower & mindset
  • Why yo-yo dieting leads to weight loss – not fat loss
  • The three key things that impact metabolism
  • The H.E.C. check we should all do

 

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Adam Kosloff

Yale University Educated Blogger, Author and Science Enthusiast

The Black Box

  • The Black Box factors that make you store fat
  • How prescription drugs can mess with your Black Box & make you store fat
  • The triad of evil foods we should avoid
  • The mechanisms by which dairy can cause weight gain

 

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Carla & Emma Papas, The MerryMaker Sisters

Health Bloggers

The Merrymaker Sister’s Journey (& Mistakes!)

  • The turning point that made the sisters change their lives
  • The huge changes they made to their relationships and even careers
  • The mistakes they made that caused them to regain some of the weight the lost
  • How they overcame their soft-drink addictions

 

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Tessa Cason & Faith Shevlin

Life Coaches, Authors and EFT Practitioners

Free Yourself From Food Cravings and Emotional Eating

  • The crucial role of our emotions and beliefs in weight loss
  • Why food cravings are symptoms
  • Why we crave the particular foods we crave
  • How the specific food we crave is a clue to which emotion needs to be healed
  • How to understand & resolve our own disordered patterns

 

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Marc David

Founder of the Institute For the Psychology of Eating, and Best-Selling Author of the Slow Down Diet and Nourishing Wisdom

The Psychology of Eating

  • Why 99% of all people on a weight loss plan will put it all back on within a year
  • Why self-hate biochemically impacts our ability to lose fat
  • Why it’s predictable that some people will binge eat
  • Why your willpower problem isn’t down to willpower at all

 

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Matt Stone

Independent Health Researcher and Author

Metabolism

  •  Why we should take our body temperature
  • The factors that significantly impact or metabolisms
  • The beneficial, and harmful types of exercise on our metabolisms
  • Why many of us drink too much water
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David Mendosa

Journalist, Diabetes Advocate and Medical Writer

David’s Story

  • How David put his diabetes into remission
  • How he lost half his body weight
  • What he does to ensure he remains at his current weight

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Crystal Fieldhouse

Paleo Blogger, Podcaster & Founder of Ecology Skincare

Crystal’s Story: How Crystal & Her Husband Lost 50 Kilos & Healed Their Health

  • How Crystal initially reversed her health issues and lost weight
  • But how her symptoms started to come back – despite eating a perfect diet
  • What caused Crystal to lose too muchweight
  • The tests Crystal has to get to the bottom of it
  • Why it isn’t just about food
  • The simple changes she made to get her health back on track
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Christine Cronau

Nutritionist & Best-Selling Author of The Fat Revolution

The Fat Revolution

  • The impact Christine’s low-fat vegetarian diet had on her health
  • How Christine healed
  • The fibre myth
  • The truth about eating an alkali/ acidic diet
  • How to change your diet

 

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Dr. Susan Smith

Holistic Health Educator and Author

Metabolism & Rejuvenation

  • Why extra weight is so detrimental to the body
  • The importance of muscle mass on our metabolism
  • The specific superfoods that may be beneficial to weight loss
  • Why sleep & water are so crucial

 

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Kelly Larisey

Nutritional therapist & Life Coach

Kelly’s Story: How Kelly Reversed Emotional Eating & Lost 55lbs

  • How Kelly lost 18 pounds (8 kg) in the first 30 days
  • How Kelly dealt with her emotional eating patterns
  • The impact the weight loss has had on Kelly’s life

 

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Eve Parker

Life Coach and Weight Release Guru

Eve’s Story: How Eve Lost Over 150 Pounds By Harnessing Her Personal Power

  • Why we need to call it “weight release”, not weight loss
  • The stark moment that made Eve realise she had to make a change
  • The importance of understanding the ego
  • Understanding primary & secondary food cravings
  • Why we must re-connect our mind and body – and how
  • No shame eating
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Zoe Harcombe

Obesity Researcher & Nutritionist

Why Conventional Dieting Fails – and What We Need to Do Instead

  • The eating problems that lead to Zoe studying nutrition
  • What happens 6 – 24 months after a typical low calorie diet
  • The worst carbohydrate
  • The three common medical conditions that cause food cravings
  • The perfect diet
  • Why we mustn’t graze

 

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Dr. Jill Tieman

Clinical Nutritionist, Chiropractor & Blogger

Nourishing Food

  • The one thing you must do before trying to lose weight
  • Which real food diet is most suitable for you
  • What happens when we eat grains
  • Why you should eat something fermented at every meal

 

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Hannah Sutter

Former Barrister, Health Activist & Best Selling Author of Big Fat Lies

Why Calorie Counting Doesn’t Work – and What We Should Do Instead

  • Why we got fat
  • What happens when we calorie count
  • Why people are doomed to regain the weight the lost right after a diet
  • The foods we must avoid to lose weight
  • The steps to transition from a sugar burner to a fat burner

 

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Larry Diamond

Health advocate

Larry’s Story: How Larry Lost Over 100 Pounds In A Year

  • The turning point that made Larry transform his life
  • How Larry went from being hungry all the time, to never being hungry
  • The importance of the “motivational high”
  • The steps to take to emulate Larry’s success

 

Just register here to hear the talks!

If you’ve got friends or family who will benefit from this information, please share with them too. Let’s make this the last New Year with the resolution to “lose weight & get healthy”.

Crazy fad diets paleo network

The 9 Craziest Fad Diets

It always amuses me when people describe the Paleo Diet as a fad diet. Given that we’ve only been eating our current diets of junk and processed foods for the last two or three generations, isn’t the Standard American (or Australian) Diet the real fad?!

You can’t really argue with paleo, I mean who could possibly say not eating processed foods is harmful? The true fad diets out there – well, that’s a whole different story! Here are my all time favourite Fad Diets. Warning: some of them are seriously weird – and outright dangerous…

Crazy fad diets paleo network

The Cabbage Soup Diet

Perhaps the most popular diet on my list, it amazes me how many people have tried this. I guess it’s only popular because it’s viewed as a quick-fix thing. I mean who wants to actually eat healthy long term?

Cabbage soup diet

Basically, for 7-days you eat cabbage soup, drink water and can also add in a bit of fruit (not into the soup – that would be even more disgusting), veg, skim milk and a bit of brown rice. After seven days, people of the cabbage soup diet are promised that they’ll have lost loads of weight, though in reality it’s going to be water weight, not long term fat loss.

The Fletcherism diet

Basically lose loads of weight and avoid ill health, by Fletcherism. All you have to do is chew every single mouthful 32 times (not 31, or 33, or presumably it won’t work). I gather it works just as well whether you chew your grass-fed beef, or your Big Mac – so long as it’s 32 times.

Fletcherism What It Is Or How I Became Young At Sixty chew 32 times

The Baby Food Diet

Instead of eating normal, age appropriate food swap some, or all of your meals for a jar of baby food. I’m not kidding, people actually do this. What’s suitable for a baby, probably isn’t so good for a grown-up….

The Master Cleanse Diet

This was so popular a couple of years ago, remember? Another short-term fix, you’re supposed to swap eating, for a drink made from lemon juice, water, maple syrup and cayenne pepper. It supposedly detoxes the body and magically removes excess fat. Yeah, sounds very sustainable.

The Hallelujah diet

Oh yes, there’s even a religious diet. All you need to do to lose weight is eat what Adam and Eve ate in the garden of Eden. Raw fruit and vegetables are in, wholegrains are good, and bizarrely vitamin B12 supplements. They must be a whole lot older than I realised….

Hallelujah Diet Religious bible fad diet

 The Vision Diet

Eating too much of the wrong thing? All you need to do is wear blue lensed glasses, to make food look as unappealing as possible and stop you eating it. Obviously. You don’t do this?

The Cotton Wool Diet

Dieting plans been led astray by feelings of hunger? Apparently some people actually eat cotton balls to fill their stomach and prevent them from eating real food. On what level is this supposed to be a good idea?

The Parasite Diet

Believe it or not, you used to be able to buy pills that were claimed to contain tapeworms! You’d swallow the pills, with the intention that your new parasite infection would eat all the food in your stomach, before you could digest it.

Breatharianism

Eating’s cheating… Breatharianists believe you can live on just spirituality and sunlight. They claim not to ever need any type of food, or even water. Scientists have not been able to confirm the claims… surprised?

Breatharianism Food-Free at Last How I Learned to Eat Air

Have you ever tried a crazy fad diet? I’d love to hear about it – please share your experiences in the comments below!

MTHFR genetic testing DNA paleo mutation methyl-tetrahydrofolate reductase heterozygous 1298C 677T weight loss-min

MTHFR – say what?

If you’ve been following my series on investigating my inability to lose weight, you’ll have read about my blood test results last week. (Catch up on the other posts in the series here, here , here , here and here). Well, the other component to those test results was the genetic results…

I knew these results were fine too, as I’d scanned through them when they arrived in the post and didn’t see any words like “fault” or “mutation”. Wrong again. That innocuous word “heterozygous” in the results column, does not mean “nothing to see here, move on!”

MTHFR genetic testing DNA paleo mutation methyl-tetrahydrofolate reductase heterozygous 1298C 677T weight loss-min

Introducing MTHFR…

One of the gene sequences they tested for was the gene MTHFR (methyl-tetrahydrofolate reductase). Yep, I’d never heard of it either. There are more than 50 known MTHFR variants, and they seem to only test for a few of these (with 677T and 1298C being the most common). It turns out I am heterozygous for MTHFR 1298C. Heterozygous means I have one affected gene and one normal gene, whereas homozygous would mean both genes are affected. Being heterozygous, it’s quite possible I could have no issues whatsoever, but having looked through the list of symptoms and seeing pulmonary embolisms feature, it’s clear I am affected by this mutation.

Having had two unexplained “random” pulmonary embolisms and none of the risk factors (as I wrote about recently) I am shocked and upset that this was not uncovered before. I had the genetic tests before and didn’t see them myself, but was told they were fine. It’s clear to me now that they would only have told me if I has a homozygous result!

The MTHFR enzyme works in a process called the methylation pathway, and basically seems to explain why my B12 (and therefore Iron) are so low, as a mutation means B vitamins aren’t processed properly. I’m no scientist, so I highly recommend reading this excellent MTHFR website. The treatment is to take B12 supplements, but in the active form of Methyl B12, and I’ve also started taking another supplement called “Methyl-Guard Plus” that works with the B12. Luckily iherb sell both, so I was able to get them and start taking them quickly.

Interestingly fortified folic acid or folate foods have a further detrimental effect on this pathway and are to be strictly avoided as you’re not able to process they folic acid. The folic acid then has no where to go, so causes inflammation and increased homocysteine levels. I can’t help wondering how many expectant mothers diligently taking folic acid also have MTHFR mutations and are doing a lot more damage than good with these well intended supplements…

In a few weeks time I’m going to have a repeat of all of the tests (and a few extra) to see how the treatment and supplements have been working. Depending on the results I’m also going to look into having further testing into some of the other 50 known MTHFR variants. After my Pulmonary Embolism experience I want to know as much as I possibly can about my health and genetics, to avoid that ever happening again.

How is this related to my weight?

On the surface, it’s not completely clear – there is just so much going on. But given how many things seem to be linked, the doctor and naturopath seemed to think it likely that this is all related to my weight. If things aren’t working properly, it makes sense that my bodies process for fat loss is not efficient either. And now that I have several biochemical reasons as to why I am so frequently tired – perhaps this is also related to my low metabolism? A low metabolism must have a significant bearing on weight loss…
Have you had genetic testing? What did you find out – and what have you done about it since finding out?

The blood test results are in paleo weight loss slimming diet-min

The blood test results are in…

If you’ve been following my series on my weight loss struggle – and discoveries, you’ll have read how I’ve struggled to lose weight (despite my paleo diet and exercise), the tests I had done and experts I saw, my DXA body scan and how wildly out my metabolism turned out to be. This week it’s time for the results of those tests!

In Australia the test results all seem to be delivered to you at home – which is great as you don’t have to wait until your next appointment to get the results from your doctor.

Because I’d had genetic testing and various other tests, they all arrived at different times. The blood tests show your result, against a reference range which shows the range of average results they receive. This is great, but who tends to have blood tests? People who aren’t well. So in theory this means you’re comparing your results to people who aren’t in optimal health, which is perhaps not an ideal marker…

The blood test results are in paleo weight loss slimming diet-min

I quickly saw from my results that my SHBG (Sex hormone-binding globulin) result looked high, so distracted myself by researching this. Apparently a high result means the SHBG binds with testosterone, which means a low free testosterone count. Everything else looked fine, to my didn’t-go-to-medical-school-mind, so I assumed the problem was hormonal and eagerly awaited my appointment to see what the doctor would suggest to remedy this.

I didn’t get the result from the stool samples sent to me at home, but I knew that test was a complete waste of time, so wasn’t worried about that….

The doctor’s surgery

My doctor’s appointment finally came round and I knew exactly what we were going to talk about. The SHBG result and how to change it.

I couldn’t have been any more wrong.

Blastocystis hominis

I was completely floored when she said “You have a parasite, you must be exhausted!” I only took that test to tick all of the boxes. I’ve had no symptoms to indicate a parasite (especially not the sudden unexpected weight loss symptom. Why couldn’t I have had that symptom?), so would have bet my life savings on not having had one. It turns out the test results detected moderate numbers of a parasite called Blastocystis hominis which has apparently been living in my intestines. It’s contracted by accidently swallowing something that’s been contaminated with it. Perhaps even organic produce that hasn’t been washed properly? Or touching a door handle after someone else? Or drinking contaminated water or ice?

It can linger for many years, during which time I’ve backpacked around a lot of Asia, swam in rivers and lakes, eaten from street Vendors, shared food with other travellers – I could have got it from numerous places. I could just as easily have got it from a posh restaurant. I guess I’ll never know…

In terms of treatment, I could go the herbal route (through my naturopath) or take a specific antibiotic based treatment. The herbs take a long time and had a 50% success rate. The success rate of the drugs was over 90% and takes 10 days. Given that I just want to fix things and have more energy, I opted for the antibiotics – something I’m usually very against and haven’t taken for years. I also found out about a drug called Biofilm defence, which if taken just before the antibiotic apparently helps attack the parasite wall making the antibiotics more effective.

Are you a vegan?

Moving onto the blood test results, the doctor’s next comment was “Are you a vegan?! I only ever see Vitamin B12 and Iron levels this low in Vegans!” Whilst she was speaking she got a vitamin B12 injection out of the freezer to give to me then and there… Of course I’m not a vegan! I eat a decent amount of good quality meat – how can this be?! I do tend to eat more white meat and fish over red meat, but I would say I still have red meat a few times a week. It just makes no sense! Again, she commented on how I must be so tired all the time with not only the parasite, but being so deficient in Iron and Vitamin B12. Yes, I am always tired and worn out, but I’m always very busy too – isn’t this how everyone feels? I also think perhaps you get used to how you feel, and it can be hard to realise it isn’t normal. Wouldn’t it be interesting to swap places with your friends for a day, just to see what their version of normal feels like…

It doesn’t stop there…

There were also a few other items of interest from the test results….

My Homocysteine level also seems slightly elevated. Would you believe this can result in clots – i.e. pulmonary embolisms! This seems to be strongly linked to my vitamin B12 deficiency, interesting…

Ferritin was also low, given that this is related to iron storage – and my iron is low, this is hardly a surprise.

My copper levels were also high, and zinc low. These are inversely correlated, so increasing my zinc should help. After the antibiotics, I’m going to be taking the supplement Zinc piccolinate, which should help address this imbalance.

Once I finish the antibiotics I am also going to be starting a course of liver detox & immune herbs that the nautropath has prepared for me.

Quite a lot and I haven’t even got to the genetic results yet (I’ll open that can of worms next week….)

It's official - I have a slow metabolism paleo primal diet weight loss metabolic testing BMR accurate methods Australia Sydney-min

It’s official – I have a slow metabolism

I’ve been talking about my own weight loss struggle, and the journey I’m on to find out exactly what’s going on (and what I can do about it). You can catch up on the first three posts here, here and here. This week, it’s all about metabolism.

Last week I told you about my body scan, and how it calculated my resting (basal) metabolic rate. Your resting metabolic rate is basically how much energy your body needs just to keep ticking over, with no physical activity (for brain activity, breathing, digestion etc).

Unscientific BMR

You can work out your resting metabolic rate yourself, using a very crude formula along the lines of:

Women: BMR = 655 + ( 4.35 x weight in pounds ) + ( 4.7 x height in inches ) – ( 4.7 x age in years )
Men: BMR = 66 + ( 6.23 x weight in pounds ) + ( 12.7 x height in inches ) – ( 6.8 x age in year )

Here is the metric version:
Women: BMR = 655 + ( 9.6 x weight in kilos ) + ( 1.8 x height in cm ) – ( 4.7 x age in years )
Men: BMR = 66 + ( 13.7 x weight in kilos ) + ( 5 x height in cm ) – ( 6.8 x age in years )

Using this formula, I get a BMR of 1608 calories a day. Of course, this formula uses your total body mass, so if you had identical twins of the same height, age and weight, they would get the exact same result for their BMR – even if one had 8% body fat and the other 40% (and this just happened to work out to the same overall weight).

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Slightly more scientific BMR

The body scan I had calculated my resting metabolic rate as 1639 kcal a day. This would have used a similar calculation, but it would have taken into account my exact lean muscle mass and my exact fat mass (as they require different amounts of energy to maintain).

As soon as I saw this figure it caught my attention. During my months of experimenting with different ways to lose weight, I’d spent a significant period eating far less calories than this – whilst sprinting and swimming. How can I have been expending so many more calories than I was in taking – and not burning off any fat to make up the deficit? It just doesn’t make sense?

What if my metabolism is lower than the average used in these calculations? What if my body uses far less energy than an average person each day? Perhaps my metabolism is a lot lower than the calculated 1639 a day?

I had to find a way to calculate my exact resting metabolic rate, to understand how much of an impact this was having on my difficulty to burn off fat.

Scientific BMR

I found out about the most accurate way to have your basal metabolic rate tested. Apparently there are special chambers which are completely sealed. You are weighed and all of your biometrics are taken before you enter the chamber, which is then sealed. Everything that goes into and out of the chamber is weighed and measured. You effectively live in this chamber for 24 hours and go about a normal(ish) day, resting, sleeping, eating etc, By calculating your weight, the amount of gas inhaled and exhaled, what you eat (and what leaves your body), they are able to calculate exactly how much energy your body uses in a day, at rest (whilst you’re asleep) and when awake and going about a typical day.

I had to spend 24 hours in one of these chambers.

Unfortunately my extensive googling revealed there doesn’t seem to be a single one of these chambers in the whole of Australia. The chambers that I thought I may be able to convince to let me test my BMR all seem to be in North America – which unfortunately isn’t realistic at the moment. So I had to find the next best alternative…

Scientific-enough BMR

I found out about a metabolic testing option called VO2 (as in volume of oxygen) testing, that is something I can realistically have tested – in my own city. VO2 testing seems to be geared around athletes wanting to find out how efficiently their oxygen use is (and ultimately make this process more efficient and improve their athlete performance).

The VO2 test measures both your resting (basal) metabolic test and you exercise metabolic rate. In my quest to find out more about my metabolism, it was the resting metabolic rate that I was particularly interested in, but in the interest of comparison had the exercise rate tested too.

For the resting test, you need to be as un-awake as possible, so they like to run this test early in the morning. I usually have a long commute, so I stayed locally the night before to avoid any extra stress from the commute. They told me not to listen to music or check emails before, so I did as I was told and got to the studio at 6am as un-awake as I could manage.

As soon as I arrived I was given my mask which was hooked up with some tubes, connected to the machine that was to analyse my breath. I also put on a heart monitor that was connected to the machine and laptop. They lowered the lights and I laid down for about 15 minutes, while the test got underway. Trying to breath normally – when you know it is being analysed – was surprisingly hard, but once all the data had been collected the machine beeped to indicate the test had concluded. By measuring my oxygen consumption and carbon dioxide production during this period of rest, an accurate daily caloric expenditure is calculated. Exactly the information I was looking for!

The exercise assessment happened straight after. For this I wore the same mask (not a good look!) and moved into the gym, where I chose to do the assessment on the treadmill (the other option was the bike). The laptop was hooked up to the machine and told the trainer when to increase the intensity of the treadmill (he increased the speed and gradient), depending on my heart rate. By the end of the assessment it got really difficult, but this is how it has to be to ensure the test captures all of the required data. This test is supposed to measure VO2 utilization (amount of oxygen you’re able to use during exercise), heart rate response, the precise number of calories your body burns during exercise, and whether fats or carbohydrates (sugars) are being used as the primary energy source. The assessment also maps your appropriate heart rate training zones. Interesting stuff!

The Results

So the whole purpose for this was to find out my actual resting metabolic rate. Was the formula calculated value of 1639 right? Well it turns out it wasn’t even close… The VO2 tests calculate my resting metabolic rate as 1316 calories a day. That’s over 300 calories less than where the formula put me! Given that it wasn’t a true resting assessment as I was well and truely awake, perhaps that means the calculate rate was still too high? Either way, 300 calories is a huge variance – that’s a meal!

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On the exercise side (which I’m less interested in, but will be a useful comparison point) it looks like my primary energy source is fat, not carbohydrates (which given my paleo diet isn’t really a surprise). But if my exercise is efficient at burning fat – then why is regular HIIT not burning my fat stores?

A long way from average

Seeing the concrete proof that I do in fact have a low metabolism raises so many more questions than it answers. Why is my BMR so much lower than average? Has it always been this way? What came first, the slow metabolism or the weight gain? Do all of my slim friends have higher than average metabolisms? Do all overweight people have slow metabolisms? And of course the big question – (how) can I change my metabolism?

What I really don’t understand is how I sustained daily exercise on top of eating quite a bit below this number of calories each day. Where did the surplus come from, as it clearly didn’t come from burning fat stores?

There has to be more to it…

Next week I’ll be sharing more of what I’ve found out on this journey into weight loss

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My DXA body scan

Last week I wrote about my weight loss struggles, and my first appointments with a naturopath and functional doctor…

Exactly how overweight am I?

As I spoke about in my first post, my weight has not budged within a 3kg range since 2010, despite following a paleo diet and exercising regularly. Everyone always tells you that muscle weighs more than fat, but does it really? Does this apply to me?

I’ve been going to the gym regularly for the last few years, and for the last year or so I’ve been doing CrossFit. My arms have distinct muscle in them that I swear didn’t used to be there, and I am making good progress on increasing the weight I can lift – so that would suggest I have more muscle than I used to. So if I do have more muscle, and it weighs more, how can my total weight still be EXACTLY THE SAME?

The naturopath had suggested I go and have a DXA (Dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry; formally called a DEXA scan) body scan performed so I could see exactly what my body composition is. I was initially quite wary about the radiation, but apparently it’s the same dose of radiation as a short flight between Sydney and Melbourne. I take domestic flights often, this is important, so I figured it was worth it.

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The DXA scan

Have you had one of these body scans? It’s completely open (I was expecting it to be enclosed, like an MRI scan) and not unlike being photocopied (I’d imagine). You lie on the DXA machine and it whizzes over you for about ten minutes whilst you watch an image of your body appear on the screen on the ceiling. I found it really confronting. Your fat mass is displayed in yellow. Lying flat on your back, no tailoring can disguise the yellow fat shown in the image.

I’m not ready to post my scan images just yet – it was enough to convince myself just to write about my weight loss struggle, let me tell you! The images in this post show some example DXA scans I found online. When I go back for my follow up scan in a few months, I will post both scans, side by side to show the difference and all of the statistics that go with it.

The image shows your bone in blue and your lean body mass (i.e. muscle & vital organs) in red. What amazed me was my skeleton. It is small – the “I’m just big boned” excuse can be completely dismissed. And how much would you expect your skeleton to weigh? Well mine is just over 2.2 kilos. Incredible. These DXA scans are also used to look at bone density, so I was pleased to see my bone mineral density is excellent (note to all those who’ve been told paleo doesn’t give your body enough calcium!). I also had slight variances between my left and right side, with my right side weighing fractionally more. Interesting – I wonder if many people have exactly the same on both sides?

In terms of muscle mass, the physiologist who conducted my DXA scan, and talked me through the results was surprised by how much muscle mass I have. He seemed to think I have about 10kg more muscle than an “average” woman of my weight and height would have. This was great to hear – and also surely must mean that I have in fact lost fat – it must just be a coincidence that my total weight number has not changed…

Unsurprisingly, my fat mass was too high – but only about 6% above a healthy range (I expected it to be a lot worse than this). The DXA scan clearly showed what I already knew, I store my fat around my hips (a typical pear shape). The danger zone is storing fat around your middle (the “central abdominal zone”, so I’m glad that’s one risk factor I don’t have. My estimate had been that I needed to lose about 15kg of fat, but the actual measurements, suggest I may “only” need to lose 11.9kg. It’s still a lot, but thanks to the bonus lean muscle mass, less than I expected.

Metabolism

The scan also calculated my Resting Metabolic Rate, which has opened up a whole new avenue on my journey of discovery…. metabolism, it turns out, is absolutely crucial in weight loss.

The DXA scan measured my resting metabolic rate as 1639 kcal a day. That means just to exist with absolutely no physical activity, my body needs 1639 calories a day…

I’m going to talk a lot more about metabolism in my next weight loss post – and share with you what I’ve found out – and what it means.

Before then, please share your experiences below. Have you had a DXA body scan? What did you find out?

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Getting answers – why can’t I lose weight?

Last week I wrote about my weight loss struggles, and how I finally realised there might be more than “eat right, eat less and move more” to the weight loss equation…

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The Naturopath

After speaking to my naturopath-trainee friend Jodie, I got an appointment with one of Sydney’s top naturopaths. I’ve always been a little wary of seeing an expert, for fear of being told to make sure I eat my whole grains and switch to soy milk. Luckily my naturopath happens to completely support & endorse the grain-free, organic, natural food diet that I eat.

I completed a detailed questionnaire before my appointment, and during my appointment we went through a lot of detail about my medical history, things that may have affected my past and how I feel. Reflecting on it now, it’s quite amazing to think no doctor had ever asked me for such a complete picture before. Questions like: Have I ever had food poisoning? What illnesses have I had? Do I get pins and needles? Do I retain water? What do I eat in a typical day? How do I sleep?

We spoke for almost an hour and it made me think about things I’ve never thought about before. Now I come to think of it, I do quite often wake up with pins and needles in the middle of the night. I quite often feel exhausted. I’ve been seriously ill with two unexplained pulmonary embolisms. There was that time I capsized in the river three times during my first (and last) time canoeing, shortly after heavy rainfall – and got suspected Weil’s disease. I got food poisoning when I backpacked in India. All of these things, perhaps completely irrelevant, have never been considered together.

Next Steps

What I love (and hadn’t realised) about naturopathy, is that it’s a fusion between age-old herbs, and cutting edge science. I’d naively dismissed naturopathy, as I imagined I’d be given a mysterious overpriced mixture of herbs and sent on my way. I couldn’t have got it any more wrong.

The naturopath took notes as we spoke, of things she wanted me to be tested for – and at the end gave me a referral letter to take along to a doctor. An actual medical doctor, who specialises in functional medicine and works closely with the naturopath.

A few weeks later I managed to get an appointment and went along to this doctor, expecting her to charge me a lot of money in exchange for a 2 minute appointment and a form for the blood tests I needed. Wrong again.

I was with the doctor for almost an hour, during which time she asked me a barrage of questions again, homing in on particular areas as my answers lead her. Was I breast-fed as baby? Was I premature? Did I take lots of antibiotics as a child? Did they find out why you’d had the Pulmonary Embolisms? Have you had genetic tests? And on, and on.

She not only knew what paleo was, but spoke to me about Chris Kresser’s latest book. She completely gets it and believes in going grain and sugar free.

As with the naturopath, the doctor was not surprised I have struggled to lose weight with diet and exercise alone and explained how so many different biochemical reasons can prevent fat loss. What a relief to hear there may be an answer out there.

I was surprised at her interest in my Pulmonary Embolism episode. Yes, I had had genetic tests, but come to think of it, I had never seen the results myself and just took the assurances that everything was fine. She compiled a fairly sizeable list of blood tests she wanted me to have, then asked if I have ever had food poisoning, before giving me a kit for stool samples. I knew that was completely unnecessary, but took the kit to humour her.

Tests

A few mornings later I went to the clinic for the blood tests, which other than being quite lengthy due to the huge number of vials they needed – was quite uneventful. I also provided the urine and stool samples, and waited for the results, fairly convinced we were going to find some sort of thyroid related issue.

I’ve been on a big journey of discovery over the last few months, and will be sharing with you what I’ve learnt about my own weight loss struggle over the coming weeks and months.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear about your journey in the comments, below. Do/ did you struggle to lose weight? Have you seen a naturopath or functional doctor?

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Why can’t I lose weight? My story…

Ask almost anyone how to lose weight and you’ll get the same answer. It’s easy. All you need to do is eat less and move more. In the Paleo world it’s almost as bad – eat Paleo and your weight will naturally regulate. For a lot of people, this seems to be the case – but unfortunately this simplistic view just does not work for everyone. I’m now almost certain that for myself, weight loss is a far more complicated equation than eat Paleo,eat less, move more.

I’ve made a lot of huge discoveries in the last few weeks, and am starting to understand why my body is fighting all efforts to burn fat. It’s time to share my weight loss struggles with you…

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As you may have read when I first found Paleo in 2010, I quickly and effortlessly lost 17 kilos. This was several dress sizes and changed me quite dramatically. I felt so much better, my asthma disappeared, my sleep improved – I felt like a brand new person. With another maybe 15 kilos to go, I assumed my weight loss would continue – perhaps not at the same speed – but I thought I would gradually get to the right size for me (that’s what the experts tell you, after all…)

But then nothing happened. Nothing. For the last four years I have stayed within a 3kg weight range. I have been completely unable to break through this barrier, no matter what I’ve tried. And believe me, I have tried almost every approach.

Excuses

With the distractions of day to day life – a busy corporate job with weekly inter-state travelling, running a business, blogging, multiple house moves etc etc– I’ve always been able to blame my inability to lose weight on a variety of things I’ve “been getting wrong”. My favourite thing to blame has always been sleep. When I’m stressed, I don’t sleep well. Poor sleep increases cortisol causing the body to hold onto its fat stores. Therefore even though I’m eating well and lifting weights, it must be the poor sleep preventing weight loss, right? Or perhaps the problem lies with one of these problems:

  • Living alone and cooking for myself, perhaps I had been eating huge football team size portions, without realising?
  • Perhaps I’ve been lying to myself all along and punctuating my amazing Paleo meals with McDonalds every few hours?
  • Perhaps I’ve been sleepwalking to the fridge with no knowledge or recollection?
  • Perhaps it’s my adrenals?
  • Perhaps I’m just big boned?
  • Perhaps I’m just meant to be this weight?

Enough

Last year I went to PrimalCon for the third consecutive year and felt really embarrassed to have made no progress over the course of another year. I spoke at length to Sarah Fragoso (of Everyday Paleo – one of the sweetest most genuine people you could ever hope to meet) about my weight loss plateau. Sarah didn’t take the “eat better/ move more” approach, but really encouraged me to focus on stresses in my life and get my sleep in check. Coming back I had a renewed belief that I could change this – and a determination not to give up.

Experimenting

Last year, I was fortunate enough to have several months off the corporate conveyer belt, for the first time in years. Escaping the daily early mornings/ commute/ work/ meetings/ pressure/ deadlines/ late nights gave me a golden opportunity to experiment with everything. I could to finally start losing some weight.

What I did every single day

The first change I incorporated was sleep. Just how much was that really impacting things? In all the time I wasn’t working, I only set an alarm twice. I stuck thick cardboard* to my widows to make sure my room was darker than a remote cave in the middle of the night.

After sunset I turned off all main lights and used side lights with red bulbs. I forced myself to turn off all screens (tv, laptop, iPhone) at least two hours before bed.

I read. Real physical fiction books before bed.

I turned off the wifi in my house overnight and switched my iPhone/ iPad to flight mode (I still do this)

I did interval sprits to the local outdoor swimming pool most days. I swam. I lifted weights.

I got sunshine everyday.

On the nutrition side, I took the time to get excellent, quality food (pastured/ grassfed/ organic – you know the drill). As always, I cooked everything from scratch.

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Changing things up

Once I had my baseline established, with the new habits I mentioned above, I tried pretty much every piece of paleo weight loss advice. Whenever I tried something new, I stuck at it for a few weeks, without introducing any other changes. Here are some of the things I tried:

  • Intermittent fasting. Without the usual life stresses this was the perfect opportunity to give this a real go.
  • I tried very low carb (below 50g a day, then lower, about 20g a day)
  • I tried high (relatively speaking) carb, which meant eating a lot of things like pumpkin and sweet potato.
  • I tried counting calories strictly, sticking to a conventional wisdom approved daily limit (keeping it paleo, within that limit)
  • I tried eating more fat
  • I tracked my macros and micro nutrients and made sure I was hitting all of the recommended amounts of everything (except for calcium)

And guess what happened….

Nothing. That’s right. NOTHING. I could get to the bottom of my 3kg range, but I could not break through that barrier.

Perhaps I eat too much?

I was able to spend a couple of months in the UK with my family during my time out, which gave me some great insights into this weight loss puzzle.

Looking at me and hearing about my weight loss plateau, I’m frequently quizzed on my portion sizes. I know people think I must be eating an entire chicken, 2 packs of bacon, 6 eggs and a litre of coconut oil for a mid-afternoon snack. Well, actually no. And my time in the UK proved this to me.

My parents are both slim having lost a few pounds when they went Paleo three years ago. For the duration of my stay we ate exactly the same for all but two meals. Same food and similar portion sizes (my Dad having slightly larger portion sizes). They are at ideal body weights – and their weight remained constant. I didn’t lose any weight, despite having significantly more kilos to support than my parents do.

So what’s going on?

For the first time I felt I had conclusive proof that there was more going on in my body, than I could control with nutrition and movement…
I was explaining my puzzle to my friend Jodie – who happens to be a trainee naturopath (and eats a natural, real food diet too).  “There has to be more to it than eat less, move more?“. Her empathetic agreement encouraged me to delve a lot further into this and for the last few months I’ve been on a journey to find out everything I can….

Over the last few months I’ve been on an incredible personal journey into this puzzle. Over the coming weeks and months, I’m going to share with you who I’ve met, what’s really going on – and what I’m doing to fix things. From emails and comments I get from you, I know I’m not alone in this struggle. For all of those who are doing everything the “paleo experts” tell you – and are still struggling to lose weight, I think I have some answers that will help you, which I’ll be writing about in detail in the coming weeks and months.

You can read the next post on my weight loss journey here

In the meantime, if you’re struggling to lose weight (or you overcame a struggle), please please leave a comment or email me. I’d love to hear about your journey and what you think the problem is for you.

* If you’re renting, don’t do this. It took hours and hours to scrape the glue off the windows when I moved out