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Big news TODAY! Bet you hear it from me first 😉

The FDA released word this morning that the Nutrition Facts panel used in the USA will be changing. At a glance, here’s what you’ll see and the changes. Food companies have until July 26, 2018 to comply, with some smaller companies getting an extra year.

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The 3 things I’m most excited about:
  • “Added sugars” listed separately
  • Actual amounts of iron, calcium, potassium and vitamin D being listed, not just %DV
  • More realistic serving sizes!

I don’t encourage calorie counting as a long term sustainable weight control method. However, I do encourage my clients and readers to use food labels. They are useful for comparing foods to each other, and the information they contain can help you build a diet with the mix of nutrients that best satisfies appetite, enables performance increases, or helps you eat in line with your health goals.  Whatever your goals are, the amounts of nutrients in a food can help you make informed choices, and having realistic portion sizes makes that data more applicable to real life.

I think these are excellent changes and look forward to seeing the new labels appear on shelves!

But what does “Added sugars” even mean? And why should that even matter over total carbs/fiber?

Sugar is just sugar when it comes to calories per gram. If we back up though and look at where people get their sugars from, people drinking milk and eating bananas are healthier and leaner than those whom are eating Twizzlers for the same amount of sugar. We can presume this comes from differences in appetite satisfaction between whole foods and added sugar foods, but in the long run, the FDA uses a research evidence base to back up their recommendations, as does the WHO. And the evidence shows that eating sugars found naturally in foods doesn’t correlate with or associate with the same health problems, so it’s only evidence based to limit added sugars.

If the government and other health organizations advise us to limit added sugars, and don’t give a tool that enables us to do that…. it kinda stinks, right? So I’m glad they saw that and responded.

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So what do Hollywood actresses eat when they’ve got to play a sexy superhero in a skintight costume? Olivia Munn, actress starring in X-Men: Apocalypse recently told Women’s Health that she got screen ready by eating 80% fruits and vegetables, and the other 20% “whatever”.  3456BD3700000578-3595565-image-a-1_1463583145740

She looks amazing, she looks healthy and gorgeous, but should you copy her diet? Please don’t. Olivia’s amazing backside aside, eating 80% of your diet from fruits and vegetables is still a terrible idea. I completely disagree with this as a strategy.


While low calorie density fruits and vegetables can help with losing weight, using them for 80% of a diet is extreme. If you rely on only 20% of your remaining food to provide all your protein, you are likely to not get enough to maintain a healthy immune system, muscle mass.

You’d be short on iron and eventually end up anemic.

You’d be short on calcium.

You’d be hungry all the time.

You’d be B12 deficient.

You’d be zinc deficient.

And after you decided to bail on the salad bar existence, you’d probably compulsively overeat all the foods you had been restricting.

Here’s a better strategy to get your best body:

  • Eat plenty of fruits and veggies, but aim for 1/2 of your plate, not 80%.
  • That leaves plenty of room for other nutrient dense foods like proteins, dairy, nuts, healthy fats, beans, and whole grains. AND it leaves room for some chocolate, dessert, and fun foods. Eat a variety of foods and be flexible.
  • Do things that feel sustainable to you, don’t diminish your life quality over trying to look like an actress. Olivia Munn probably couldn’t do your job either.

Want the exact 16 steps to your best body, not just for ONE event but for good? Read them here.

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Is it true that raw steak has hundreds less usable calories than when it is cooked? Raw peanuts lead to more weight loss than roasted ones? Should I try eating only raw food to stay slimmer?

The calories obtained from a given food (or meal, or whole diet) vary due to several factors. Cooking is one of them, but there’s also a great deal of individual differences which mean you and neighbor could eat the exact same cheesesteak and not absorb the same amount of calories from it. Isn’t that fascinating?

This individuality in calorie absorption is due to differences in your gut microbe populations, your unique genetics (how much you make of certain enzymes) and even differences in chewing!

Processing in general increases calorie availability, not just cooking. Removing fiber allows your body easier access to the energy-yielding components of a food. Increasing the surface area of grains by grinding them into flour additionally allows your body to access more calories per gram. This effect is really pronounced with nuts and nut butters, with one study showing that 25-30% of the calories in whole almonds may be inaccessible to the body (depending on how thoroughly you chew them) and nut butters which are conveniently mechanically mashed up into smithereens give us more calories to use.


Does this mean you should drop all cooked and processed food from your diet right now, for an easier time controlling your weight? Not really. Here’s why:

1. Cooking increases bioavailability of many essential nutrients, including protein. Cooking deactivates natural protease inhibitors present in plant foods, which allows you to get more usable protein from many vegetarian proteins. Cooking increases the bioavailability of carotenoids including beta carotene and lycopene, both of which decrease cancer risk. I don’t want to shortchange my absorption of those.
2. Cooking makes it easier to digest foods. Personal anecdote here: Going “all raw” is commonly followed by calling your favorite dietitian to complain about stabbing debilitating belly aches.

3. Cooking makes food safer. You’re more at risk for foodborne illness if you eat all raw food, because cooking food kills bacteria that cause E. Coli and salmonella, among other nasty bugs. Next time you have food poisoning, I doubt you’ll feel it’s worth it to increase the odds you’ll ever go through this again, just to save a few calories.

But here’s the most convincing bit for me (since we’re talking brains, weight, and appetite control, which is my wheelhouse):

4. If you decrease the amount of calories you absorb the calories from food, say by switching from peanut butter to plain raw whole peanuts, your satiety signals will adjust accordingly. The satiety signals perceived by the brain (as reviewed in my book Lean Habits for Lifelong Weight Loss) operate though accurately sensing Calories Accessed, not Food Down The Piehole. Satisfaction signals arise during assimilation. That’s why chewing and spitting out food isn’t satisfying, nor is (forgive the graphic reminder) throwing up your food.

So back to the peanut butter example: If the lipase enzymes in your gut have limited access to the fat (and hence, calories) in the peanuts due to more interference from the natural structures, you won’t hydrolyze the triglyceride molecules. It’s the hydrolysis products of fat digestion which lead to endocannabinoid production, OEA circulation to the hypothalamus, and the development of satiety. Translation: You’ll get fewer calories, and you won’t be as full.

(And if you like peanut butter as much as I do, you’ll probably feel like you missed out, because peanut butter tastes 498% better than raw peanuts. Feeling deprived isn’t helpful for long term weight loss if you haven’t found that out already. If enjoying peanut butter with all it’s highly-bioavailable calories keeps Cob’s Bakery banana chocolate chip scones out of my mouth, I’m winning.

The bottom line:


Eat things you enjoy.  Odds are, that’s a mix of some raw foods (crunchy salads, crisp apples, juicy summer peaches) and some cooked food (a perfect steak, pizza, omelets, grilled chicken, steaming hot chili). If it’s all the same to you, choose less processed foods where you can, but don’t worry if it’s cooked or raw.

Yet again, we see that going to dietary extremes, as with so many other examples, only means missing out on some important benefits. The shortest route to health and leanness: Mix it up, stay happy. Enjoy your food.

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Being unable to exercise can be a truly miserable circumstance. It usually happens for reasons which are themselves unpleasant (we’re sick, injured, had surgery, or life is just nuts with commitments and we’ve got no time to tend to our own needs). Additionally, it’s tougher to cope with these stresses when breaking a sweat is your normal stress-relief practice! If you then pile on the feeling of “I’m getting fatter and weaker by the day…” it’s pretty dismal.

But chin up, darling. You aren’t totally powerless here, and I’ll share with you some strategies which can help you get through that time while maintaining as much of your fit body as you can.

Tune into your appetite

You may have noticed your appetite increases when you boost your activity. Work out hard twice a day? You’ll be hungry! Spend the entire day hiking in the Rockies? You’ll be ready for some serious chow when dinnertime rolls around. That same mechanism also works in the opposite direction, only we don’t notice it as much because the absence of hunger is a lot less attention-grabbing than roaring hungries.

When you reduce activity, your appetite will ask for less food. It may not happen the first day, but within 2-3 days it definitely will have adjusted downward. If you continue to eat just like you always did (assuming that was maintenance), and are burning fewer calories now, that’s where you could see weight gain start to happen. So use your hunger to cue you. Start the day with breakfast, and then do your best to not eat again until you’re clearly hungry. Alternately, try planning out your meals in advance if that fits your schedule/life/control addiction and see if when you follow that plan if you are in fact hungry for each meal. If you aren’t, consider taking a bit of food out of the preceding meal.

If you are hungry for each meal, relax. You’re doing well. Just keep your awareness up and let your hunger lead the way.

Note: If you have no appetite because you are sick, eat 3 moderate sized meals a day and don’t worry about it. Hopefully your appetite will come back soon and a few days off will be no trouble at all. This skill is more crucial when someone is facing weeks or even months of decreased training.

Dial back on your carbohydrates

When you reduce activity, you don’t need as many carbohydrates. You don’t have to slash them all, (let’s not get drastic here, OK?) but try dialing back your normal portions of starchy foods to get that hungry-before-each-meal and keeping the same amount of other stuff. The vitamins and minerals in fruits and veggies are important for health, and as we’ll cover in a moment, you want plenty of protein. But you can have less rice, bread, oats, or pasta. Please don’t read that as “Georgie said to stop eating carbs.” That’s BS, you do not need to exercise to “earn” carbohydrate-rich foods. It is however a fact that you just need more of them when you are exercising regularly than when you aren’t. Even with zero activity (laying in bed), I still recommend my clients and patient have a couple servings a day of whole grains or starchy food like potatoes, beans, or squash. It helps keep your intestinal flora happy and varied, aids in gut motility, and provides variety to the diet.


Keep your protein intake high

Even if you aren’t lifting weights, a high protein intake can help you retain muscles during a period of inactivity (or less activity). How high? Aim for 2 grams of protein per kilogram bodyweight, or just under a gram per pound you weigh. The source is not important, so feel free to use eggs, meat, chicken, fish, yogurt, cottage cheese, protein powder, or chocolate chip cookie dough Quest bars. Whatever you like will work.

Sleep as much as you can

I know, I know, if you aren’t able to train because of a massive life implosion of catastrophic proportions, sleep ain’t going to happen much either. But if you’re recovering from ACL surgery or the flu, on vacation with no weights, or just have a busted shoulder and have been told to lay off, shuteye is totally doable, and will help with retaining your lean mass. How’s that? Well, we know sleep is a powerful agent in modifying our endocrine system and how our bodies respond to stress. Sleep helps regulate the levels and activity of testosterone, growth hormone, ghrelin and leptin. Reduced time sleeping is one factor that increases stress hormones, a situation which favors breaking down muscle tissue, less insulin sensitivity, and shuttling any excess calories around into visceral fat (belly fat). So it’s well-placed effort to take whatever steps you need to get your sleep. If you’re dealing with illness or injury your immune system and healing will benefit as well.

So there you have it, four things you absolutely can control which will help you keep as much muscle as possible and avoid gaining fat when you can’t train.

  1. Tune into your natural appetite decrease and use it as a guide to reduce your food intake.
  2. Shrink your portions of starchy carbohydrates to create the calorie reduction needed.
  3. Eat at least 2 grams of protein per kilogram bodyweight.
  4. Sleep a lot.

I hope these come in handy, please feel free to share this article with anyone you know who is headed for surgery, is injured, managing a health issue, or has gotten stuck on a lonely remote island with no access to a gym.

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Are you a gimme quick results type of person? Research indicates that all of us are, to some degree. Show us a quick payoff and we’re motivated to keep doing something consistently.

Can three days of changing a single make a difference in anything? YES.

Do you have to wait months of practicing Lean Habits to feel any payoff? No. Give it three days.

Check it out: Screenshot 2016-03-31 11.07.59

What did Cherie do? She made one change to her routine, after reading the first chapter in Lean Habits.  And you can read the same chapter right now for free. No strings attached.
Go to Amazon.com and read the preview of the PRINT VERSION of Lean Habits: (Not the kindle preview, which is shorter):


There’s the whole introduction and first habit. I don’t want you to buy anything: you don’t need a supplement, or special food, or some bizarre workout program or exercise-tracking gadget. You don’t even need to buy the book!

What I want for you is to know you can change yourself, that what you need is practice putting your effort on the right things. You don’t need some weird secret, just better habits!


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