Are you in EMS/HEMS and want to lose some weight?
It may seem impossible given your irregular schedule, hours you work per week, stress, and confusion over what you really should be doing in order to lose weight.
Here are two tips on how to start your weight loss journey today….weather you are on duty or off.
Tip 1. Don’t eat if you’re not actually hungry.
This myth in EMS about needing to eat right now to prevent future hunger is just plain stupid and is a big contributor to weight gain. I wish I would have been told THAT when I started out in EMS over 20 years ago. Instead, I was told by everyone that “you better eat now while you can…you don’t know where you will be later.” “You do’t want to miss a meal”. “We could get busy later, so just eat something now to help hold you over”.
We also get these message when we are not on duty. It might sound like this “I made this just for you”, “A few bites won’t hurt”, “I worked so hard on this and you’re not going to eat it?”.
When was the last time you ate when you were not hungry?
As long as you are alive, you will get hungry. It is the way the body was designed. When our body needs energy, hormones are released (mainly Ghrelin) and we feel hunger. We can’t prevent future hunger by eating when we are not hungry. That math does not add up. What we are really preventing is us staying at our current weight (and losing weight!).
Eating when the body does not require fuel really disrupts your body’s hunger/fullness hormones and causes you to store more fat. I will say, that this is not true for everyone. I’m sure you know that one person who is thin and eats all the things all the time and never gains weight. They are one of the few lucky ones. And, are the exception, not the rule.
How do you know when you are hungry? Do you look at the clock and calculate the last time you ate to determine your hunger? How does hunger feel in your body?
What happens if you don’t eat the moment you feel hunger? Let’s go to that worst case scenario…you are just getting ready to eat and the pager goes off, you have an interfacillity transfer, which means it will be three hours until you are done and able to eat. Fast forward three hours….you made it. You didn’t get sick. You didn’t stop along the way for a snack. You maybe even forgot you were hungry.
How did you survive? Your body was able to utilize the stored glycogen from your liver and access your stored fuel…aka your fat (a process called gluconeogenesis). This is how the body was designed to work during times when there was less food available. During times of excess food, our body stores the extra for later use. For most of us, “later” never comes. We never allow our bodies to access our stored fuel.
Please don’t hear me say that I think you need to “starve” yourself to lose weight. That is not what I teach my clients. I just want you to become aware of your hunger and to know that if you have to miss a meal, your body will do what it was designed to do.
Tip 2. Eat until you no longer feel hungry…not full
Most people eat until they feel physically full. Or, all of the food is gone. This is overeating. Overeating = weight gain.
Learning to become aware of our own hunger and fullness is key to weight loss.
The hormone Leptin is responsible for our “fullness” signal and the hormone that drives us to get up and move our body (to use the fuel we just took in!). Here’s the deal with Leptin, we often ignore it. Our brain overrides what our body is telling us…which is to STOP eating and go MOVE. Instead, we listen to our brain which tell us to keep eating and then rest.
We will always struggle with our weight when we outsource our hunger/fullness to things outside of us. For example. eat only because food is available at the moment and stop eating when the food on our plate is gone.
It’s time put your focus internally instead of externally.
This means respecting your hunger and honoring your fullness signals. And not listening to your brain (that voice in your head) tell you to keep eating, or that a few bites more won’t matter. They do.
And, if you get hungry and not eat because you get busy at work it’s totally ok. Remember, you have stored energy on your body and it knows how to access it.
I like to joke with clients about the number one thing you should eat when you want to lose weight….your own fat! Getting a flight just before I’m going to eat is my favorite. I know that I will be totally fine if I miss a meal. In the coming weeks I will talk more about Intermittent Fasting and becoming Fat Adapted. It really is a game changer for our industry!
If you want to take these tips to the next level, I suggest you dedicate a few days to get up close and personal with your hunger and fullness. Let’s approach it like a scientist and call it an experiment.
Turn off all distractions. Grab a note book when you start to feel hungry. Time for data collection….Write down all the thoughts you are thinking about being hungry. See if you can really articulate how it feels in your body. See how long the hunger lasts.
Rate your hunger on a scale. -10 is the most intense hunger, and -1 is a faint whisper of hunger, 0 is neutral. True hunger comes in waves and should never feel like an emergency. If you feel “hangry”, you are likely feeling withdrawl from sugar and flour.
Next, keep that notebook near by and eat your meal. Make a note of the time and where you are at on the hunger scale. Write down every bite. Check in with your body after each bite. Do you still feel hungry? Write down what you are thinking about. Give your hunger a number. Continue doing this until all the food on your plate is gone. When you are done eating, write down the time and really describe how you are physically feeling (aka fullness). The fullness scale is just like the hunger scale. +10 is overly stuffed, +1 is just past neutral, +5 is full. Write about what your thoughts are about what you ate, how you are feeling and whatever else is coming up for you. Set your timer for 30 min. In your notebook, write the time and describe how you are feeling and give it a number on the fullness scale. Set the timer for 30 more min and check back in again and write it down in your note book. The more data you collect the better.
This seems really tedious, and that is the purpose of it. It is a great way to help show you how to slow down and notice what you body is telling you.
When I did this for the first time, I was blown away by all the thoughts I was having while I was eating. I was used to distracted eating (watching TV, checking social media, listening to a podcast, or talking with family). It was crazy to see how my brain was trying to tell me to keep eating (one more bite won’t hurt, it’s healthy food so you can eat more, you worked out today and so on). I was shocked by how little food it would take to reach satisfied. Even more alarming were the thoughts about wasting food. It started to become really clear why I was overweight. I literally overate at every meal. I ate when I was not hungry. I had snacks to avoid boredom or deal with my stress.
I tell people all the time, if you want to lose weight you need to know what you are eating and what you are thinking.
Tell me how your “experiment” goes and what you learned from it. Getting the data and analyzing it will be such an eye opener and from there, you can start making changes.
I have room for a few more 1:1 clients if you are ready to start losing weight for the last time. Send me an email or DM on Social and I’ll give you all the deets.
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