Have you started eating better but feel worse? It is far more common than you think.
Many weight loss journeys have a similar trend. There is an initial rush of motivation and drive to achieve your goal. To drop weight, people will often change as many things as possible to see results. This often entails drastically cutting calories, going cold turkey on all sugars and processed foods and exercising far more regularly. Don’t get me wrong, exercising more and cutting out the junk food is a goal that everyone should aim for. There is however a problem with changing everything at once.
Your body will become accustomed to how you treat it. This means that there can be good changes if you treat your body well but also negative if not. For those holding extra body fat, it could be fair to say that the bad habits are outweighing the good. Some of these bad habits can include:
– Eating too many sugars
– Eating too much processed foods
– Eating too many or too little calories
– Consuming too much caffeine
– Not enough sleep
– Not enough exercise
– Too much stress
– Smoking or excessive alcohol consumption
Maintaining these habits for months, years and even decades will create negative changes in your body. It is these negative changes that can explain why you are eating better but feel worse. Below are 3 main reasons why you are feeling worse and some ways to avoid or manage the effects.
Yes, food can be addictive. Things like caffeine and sugar are highly addictive and create change in the body.
Sugar stimulates neurotransmitters in the brain to feel a sense of pleasure. This is why sugar is often consumed in times of emotional or mental stress to feel better. Those feelings of pleasure also drive us to want and consume even more sugar to further experience that same pleasure. Sugar is the main culprit but most foods can illicit a similar response. So in times of stress, we can rely upon and become addicted to this ‘high’ that pleasurable foods give us. This is not without consequence. Blood sugar can become hard to maintain, hormones like Insulin and Cortisol begin to sea-saw causing energy bursts and crashes and this creates a very unstable state and make us even more dependant on these substances.
If you know yourself that you are reliant upon sugar, carbohydrate or caffeine, cutting these things out completely with the start of your new nutrition plan may cause negative side effects. You can experience blood sugar swings, cravings, lethargy, anxiousness, mental fog, headaches and basically many symptoms of withdrawal. If you are committed to cutting out all of these substances, then from experience, these effects usually last between 1-3 days and 2 weeks. You may not notice any of these negative effects at all. It’s a case of everyone is different and will have a different experience.
If you have tried cutting out these things and are eating better but feel worse, try slowly cutting these things out over the course of a couple of weeks. If you are drinking 1 litre of coke a day, cut it back to 750ml, then 500ml, then 250ml and from there try to exclude it. This can help negate many of those negative effects.
2) Herxheimer Reaction
This is a very common reason why you start eating better but feel worse. The Herxheimer Reaction is a short term state of detoxification in the body.
Eating poorly and accumulating excess body fat can cause an increase in toxic substances, bacteria and parasites in the body. This is especially true for those who consume processed carbohydrates frequently.
A common approach for those trying to lose weight is to reduce carbohydrate intake while eating more protein, fibre and dietary fats. Bacteria and parasites feed off of starches and simple sugars. Reducing starches and simple sugars is a great way to kill off a lot of these bad bacteria, but there can be a drawback. With these bacteria and parasites dying and breaking down, they release a great deal of toxic chemicals into the body. If the amount of toxic substances is greater than the body’s ability to flush them out, this is called a Herxheimer Reaction. This abundance of toxins can cause flu-like symptoms which can last for hours up to weeks.
You may experience the following:
– Flu-like symptoms
– Aching joints and muscles
– Sore throat
– Brain fog
Body fat is also a place where our body stores a lot of toxic waste. A high amount of body fat will generally mean a higher accumulation of toxins. Rapidly burning body fat can cause these toxins to be released back into the bloodstream where they can wreak havoc. Combine this with the toxic waste of dying bacteria and parasites and it’s no wonder why you feel might feel awful.
To avoid this, you want to take things slowly. Start by eating more protein first. Then increase fibre and water. From there you can begin to change your carbohydrate sources or reduce carbohydrates. Doing all this at once may cause a big reaction and cause you to feel worse.
Once again, everybody is different and some people may not feel any of these effects and some may experience them all. Generally, the more body fat you are holding or the worse your health is, the slower you will want to pace yourself. If you do have a quite a bit of body fat to lose then there is no need to change everything at once. Increasing your intake of quality protein could be enough to lose body fat without changing anything else.
3) You might be following the wrong nutrition plan
Despite good intentions, people can often fall for the trap of clever marketing and gimmicks. From keto to paleo, shake diets to liquid diets, clean eating vs counting macros, we aren’t short of plans people are willing to sell us. With numerous people and celebrities advocating all these different plans, how is anyone to know which one is right?
For the average person, it is bloody hard. There are some tips I can give you however.
a) A good nutrition plan should not be built around supplements. I don’t care who you are or how ‘good’ you think drinking 5 shakes a day makes you feel. The basis of human metabolism, digestion and nutrient demands has evolved from thousands of years of eating whole foods from the land. Processed foods and shake diets have only existed for the last 50 years at best. That is not enough time for us to change as a species to the point that drinking 6 different coloured drinks per day is considered good nutrition.
That is not to say that supplements can’t be beneficial. I think that there are some great supplement options out there. Though, once you are being told to replace chicken breast and vegetables for a supplement drink, that is a BIG red flag.
b) If someone says that a particular nutrition plan is for everyone. Every body is very different. We can see that in physical features and the way we all act and perceive things differently. So why do we expect everyone to be the same on the inside and that 1 nutrition plan is good for everybody? If someone is telling you that a keto diet or vegan diet will work for everyone, be wary. Do your own research. What works for 1 person might not work for you and can potentially make you feel worse.
c) A good nutrition program for results should be altered. As you start getting results and your body begins to change, so to should your nutrition. If you have more lean mass, less body fat, you are training more or sleeping better, your nutrition needs to account for these changes. In most cases as your body improves, you can tolerate more food and burn off more energy through training so your nutrition needs to change as you do. 1 set plan for 12 weeks should be a red flag as it is either not expecting you to change and see results, or it is not accounting for the various changes these results will have.
I respect anyone who is determined to make a change. No matter how big, small, strong or fit you are. I want to see you make the right changes and see the rewards of your efforts. Unfortunately, the road to results can be tough. Having someone there to guide you through the process is one of the best things you can do. Often people who are eating better but feeling worse are on the brink of great results but quit on the belief that what they are doing is not working. The answer is not to quit, the answer is that something is missing or not being accounted for. Fix the missing link and those negative feelings will disappear and great results will come your way.