This past weekend, I tested a gluten-free Chocolate Zucchini cake recipe for an event I'm catering and I think, after many hours of searching and worrying, I've finally found "the one." That’s certainly good news, because I don’t think Pinterest could handle much more of my frenzied searching and pinning for the perfect hackable dessert. (Hackable: a dessert that I can tweak to make more fat loss-friendly by reducing the sugar/carbs, reducing the fat, and substituting better ingredients – i.e. coconut oil instead of canola oil.)
The bad news is that I felt the need to test the Chocolate Zucchini cake the next morning. It goes wonderfully with a cup of coffee, in case you’re wondering. I knew it was a bad idea the minute the first crumb hit my lips, that it would set off a domino effect of poor choices for the rest of the day. I know this because I used to start my days with SUGAR (muffins, coffee cake, pastries, you name it) and every day, I would spend the next 12-14 hours wondering why all I wanted was more sugar.
I ate the square of Chocolate Zucchini cake anyway.
Dominos began falling: I felt so over-full that I didn’t eat again until around 1:30. I didn’t pack a lunch or have time to run out, so I had a protein bar. I barely drank a drop of water until eating the protein bar, when I remembered that water is – you know, important. I came home at 4 and was determined to salvage the day: I ate a few handfuls of fresh berries, ate a bowl of gazpacho (“okay – things are turning around! Look at all the fruit and veggies!”) aaaaaand then a slice of Zucchini Walnut bread with entirely too much butter before heading back to the gym to train my small group personal training clients.
When I came home to prepare dinner, it was “continuous eating: GAME ON” because my body was still reeling from the effects triggered by the ganache-covered breakfast I’d had hours earlier. I was eating mostly healthy food – vegetable salad, lean steak, black beans, more berries, but then more SUGAR (why did I buy a square of white chocolate peanut butter fudge at the Farmer’s Market?!!?) – but again, that feeling of “not being able to get full” was stopped only by the realization that I had eaten too much.
I was eager to put Monday to an end. I got in bed around 9:30 and started visualizing how Tuesday would be different.
I knew exactly where things went wrong: Breakfast.
Right Breakfast vs. Wrong Breakfast
I still have these days of food frustration. The difference is that now I have them once every 4-5 months, not once every 2-3 days.
I may be a personal trainer and a nutrition coach, but I am also still human. And sometimes humans make stupid decisions like eating Chocolate Zucchini cake for breakfast. (Did I mention it had a thin layer of Bittersweet Ganache on top?)
This morning, I was up at 5 a.m. to train a new client at 5:30. I put my habit wheels in motion and this was the result:
Now that’s more like it.
This is where a hormonal fat loss approach differs from a weight loss approach:
The Chocolate Zucchini cake wasn’t the wrong choice because of its caloric content. In fact, it was only around 300 calories. The cake was the wrong choice because of the impact it had on my hormones. My day of meal-skipping, being dehydrated, and then eating everything in sight at the end of the day was the result of the hormonal haywire triggered by the mostly-carbs, too-low-in-protein chocolate breakfast.
The Domino Effect
Meals don’t happen in isolation. The food you eat is more than calories or fuel for your body. Food is information for your body, and it triggers the release of powerful signals – your hormones – that regulate everything from your appetite to your energy level to your mood.
The food you eat at one meal determines the food you will want to eat at your next one. It also impacts your ability to focus and be productive, as well as how motivated you feel to work out.
These signals are, for many people (myself included), so powerful that relying on willpower to overcome them rarely works. You wind up feeling weak, defeated, and guilty.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
The only way to stop food frustration is to stop it before it starts, and my #1 strategy – the silver bullet for killing food frustration – is a solid breakfast like the one you see pictured above.
- 2 whole eggs + 2 egg whites for high protein and healthy fats
- 2 cups of baby spinach for fiber and volume (a lot of food for very few calories)
- Basil-Garlic goat cheese for amazing flavor, making this breakfast one I actually wanted to eat!
- 1 cup of fresh blueberries for more fiber and some good carbs
- a cup of coffee with a splash of half & half
THIS meal sends the right signals: to burn fat, to stay full for hours, to not crave sugar or starchy carbs, to stay focused long enough to bang out this article, and the list of goodness goes on.
Meals are like a game of dominoes. Breakfast is the 1st domino. If it falls, you know what happens…
If you’re fighting food frustration lately, have you taken time to pinpoint the trigger? The thing that’s setting off the string of poor choices?
Don’t fight the un-winnable battles at the end of the day when the odds are against you. Trying to fight your physiology – your body’s hard-wired food-seeking behavior – is a losing battle. Every. Single. Time.
Focus on where the problem starts. For many people, that is the first meal of the day.
Here’s a heads up: your trigger food may not be as obvious as a square of chocolate cake. It may be something more subtle. It may even be something that’s HEALTHY and full of vitamins and nutrients. Oddly enough, I’ve identified that a bowl of overnight oats is a huge trigger for me. This is the quintessential healthy living blogger breakfast, and yet, it ruins my day: oats, Greek yogurt, and almond milk topped with dried fruit, nuts, etc. Seriously – it’s a problem because it makes me want another and another and another, very reminiscent of my cereal-for-breakfast days.