The Balance Factor Playbook

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Gary Taubes – Metabolism, Diet, and Disease Conference Update and a (NuSI) Job Posting, Aug. 16,2012

“…but there is one position, in particular, Peter (Attia, M.D.) and I thought would be worth bringing directly to the attention of our readers – our Research Associate.  We’ve already received a few dozen tremendous applications from individuals with great credentials but we’re wondering if one critical attribute may be missing or under-represented in our applicants so far.  This role requires an almost maniacal obsession with nutrition science and a passion for answering the kinds of questions we’ve all been debating in print and in our blogs.”

The Balance Factor Program

Your success at achieving your ideal size depends entirely on the relationship you have with your body. This concept of bringing intuition (internal) together with a set of rules (external) is hardly foreign.  As parents, we raise our children on instinct (internal) and guidelines (external) that society and history have shared with us.  As drivers, we navigate the roads with cautious instinct (internal) and regulations set by the ministries of transportation (external).  It should be therefore natural to see that sustaining a healthy eating style requires combining a self-awareness of your body’s needs with a simple criterion for its survival.  This is a different framework than dieting – which attempts to make the body lose weight by trying to obtain control with force. With dieting, our strategies for reaching our weight loss goals get overthrown because they are not in alignment with how our mind and body function. 

The body’s innate qualities of resiliency, determination, adaptability, and communication are the foundations of any ideal relationship.  Blah, blah, blah…

Choose a Roadblock to help you understand why your healthy eating style has been unsustainable.

  • Roadblock 1 – “I have a poor relationship with food.” Read more…
  • Roadblock 2 – “My work schedule doesn’t allow me to eat at regular mealtimes.” Read more…
  • Roadblock 3 – “I don’t trust that my body knows how to eat right.” Read more…
  • Roadblock 4 – “I always fall off the wagon when I try to diet or keep up an exercise routine.”
  • Roadblock 5 – “I grew up without knowing the importance of the meal and of eating together.” 
  • Roadblock 6 – “I don’t seem to know when, what, why, and how much to eat.”
  • Roadblock 7 – “I eat poorly when I am physically, mentally, or emotionally stressed.”
  • Roadblock 8 – “I forget to eat then turn to poor eating choices with no willpower to stop.”
  • Roadblock 9 – “When I eat, I don’t feel well, and everything hurts. Food makes me feel uncomfortable and/or fat.” 

Roadblock 1 – “I have a poor relationship with food.”

Understanding the body’s relationship with food - Science

This roadblock epitomizes the necessity of the mind-body relationship to overcome food bias. It manifests itself when physiological responses, such as constant hunger or intestinal discomfort, are being ignored and overshadowed by an unhealthy excess of misguided information.

Too often we are biased to eat or not eat a food because of the label it has been given rather than by how it makes us feel.  Terms like ‘Healthy’ vs ‘Unhealthy’, ‘Whole’ vs ‘Processed’, and ‘Sugar Free’ vs ‘Fat Free’ mislead us into thinking that it is the food rather than our eating style that determines our wellness. This lets us put the responsibility of what happens to our bodies on the food rather than on ourselves. It is like placing the fault of an accident on the car rather than on how well we were driving.  It lets us take the easy route out and blame something or someone else when we fail. 

Understanding how your body reacts to food rather than depending on what the label suggests is the first step to knowing what foods your body will thrive on to sustain a healthy eating style.  It’s important to remember that all food is fuel.  It’s the knowledge of how you eat the food, what you combine it with, when you eat it, and how your body reacts to it that will get you to your desired outcome. 

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Curbing the Roadblock - Ask yourself…

When your carbohydrate absorption is controlled, your body’s insulin response is optimized.  Insulin is the catalyst for turning excess blood sugar or glucose into body fat.  No excess blood sugar means no excess body fat and insulin can effectively manage your calories as a fuel source and optimize your body’s performance.

Your body requires a certain number of calories to optimize its metabolism.  When an insufficient amount of calories are consumed over an extended period (i.e., dieting), your body conserves its energy by slowing its metabolism.5  To prevent this from happening, a minimum number of calories, referred to as your Caloric Goal, is necessary for your body to function normally, shed the excess body fat, and maintain that ideal environment long enough for you to achieve your ideal size.

Carbohydrate and fat calories provide fuel for every cell in your body.  Some organs like the brain and kidneys are dependent on carbohydrates while the heart and skeletal muscles use fat as a fuel source during rest or mild intensity exercise. (If energy demands increase, however, the muscles switch to using carbohydrates).6  This is called Metabolic Flexibility where the body fluctuates between carbohydrates and fat as fuel sources depending on the ever-changing conditions of your body. 

To support the tissues that depend on carbohydrates, however, the body must maintain an optimal level of blood sugar at all times. By eating carbohydrates at every meal, the body can manage this energy balance while using fats and proteins to meet its other needs (i.e., cell repair, hormone production).  Minimizing your carbohydrate intake only forces the body to change protein into a form of blood sugar and change fats into a fuel that the brain can use instead of carbohydrates. This significantly compromises the body’s ability to use the macronutrients how they were intended to be used and puts the body in a temporary state until it can go back to using carbohydrates and fats as its preferred fuel sources.

Eating enough of each macronutrient and a sufficient amount of calories to support your body’s needs results in a metabolically stable body that can optimize burning body fat and help you reach your ideal size.

Quiet the Roadblock - Strategies

1) Choose a food that you have a poor relationship with. Look at the Nutrition Facts label to determine if the food contains carbohydrates, fibre, fats, and/or proteins. If so, your body can use those nutrients as energy and for its other metabolic needs.

2) Learn the Balance Factor (BF) of the food. Does the food need to be balanced to slow the absorption of the carbohydrates to prevent insulin from storing it as fat? If the BF of the food is < or = 0, it is ‘balanced’ enough to eat by itself. If the BF of the food is > 0, combine it with a food that has a BF < 0 to make it into a balanced meal that has a combined BF of 0 or less!

3) Incorporate the food into your daily meal plan by making it part of the calories you need to reach your Caloric Goal.

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Balance Factor App –

Use the barcode scanner on the Home Screen (green) program to identify the calories, serving size, and Balance Factor (BF) of the foods you have a poor relationship with. This will help remove any bias towards the food as the BF dictates the food’s macronutrient value (balance) and therefore your body’s ability to use it – rather than store it – for energy.

Roadblock 2 – “My work schedule doesn’t allow me to eat at regular mealtimes.”

Understanding how the body responds to irregular fuelling

Understanding how the body responds to irregular fueling – 
This roadblock often manifests itself in the person who has a history of skipping meals then not being able to stop when the opportunity to eat arises. When this pattern happens consistently, the body adapts itself to this reactive behaviour by reducing its metabolism.  The strong physical cues (e.g., coldness, brain fog, hunger) that the body once guided you with suddenly disappear. This is the result of the body’s metabolism declining into a quiet, slow, coasting mode of energy conservation until a consistent period of daily calories is restored.  Until then, eating remains a low priority and the work schedule prevails.  It prevents the person from being able to sustain a healthy eating style.  (Whose fault is it then when you finally take a vacation and can’t fit into your bathing suit? Not your body’s!)
The consequences of this roadblock behaviour are: 
1) mental, emotional, and/or physical abilities being suboptimal.
2) an inability to stop eating due to biochemical and physiological imbalances that override the body’s mechanisms for feeling satiated.
3) the body adapting to a single meal that is calorie-dense by storing excess calories as body fat.
The result of not fueling sufficiently and steadily over the course of the day is a diversion from the body’s ideal state of using all nutrients to meet its metabolic needs.  
• When your body is deprived of calories, it disrupts the metabolic flexibility where the body effortlessly uses both glucose and fat as an energy source all day long. This disruption forces your body into a sub-optimal state of foraging for calories.  Mental and physical performance is then compromised until your body implements its temporary back-up system to meet its constant energy needs. 
• When calorie-dense meals are left too late in the day, the rise in insulin forces your body to ramp up its metabolism to accommodate and use those calories. This often affects your ability to fall asleep when there is mid to high range blood sugar levels in your body at bedtime.  The caloric load from a late-night meal is counterproductive to the desired lower blood sugar that is optimal for falling asleep and more importantly, staying asleep!  If staying asleep is a challenge for you, consider the impact of having fuel in your bloodstream when your body is purposefully trying to reduce your mental wakefulness.  Sleep is supposed to settle your mind so that your body can allocate calories to rebooting and repairing itself to be ‘on its game’ for the next day.
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Curb the roadblock by using overriding strategies to understand why it is so important to space your calories out over a 12-hr day - Ask yourself...

Being unable to refrain from eating a whole chocolate bar rather than just one piece is not from lack of willpower.  When your body has missed a meal or is in a caloric deficit, the event of eating turns on a mechanism that encourages you to eat…and eat…and eat! The body is just not capable of turning the hunger switch off at the precise moment it reaches enough calories.  The consequence is a delay in the normal cues that would otherwise reduce your appetite and prevent you from overeating.  
The overriding strategy is to understand that reactive eating is the result of YOU triggering the compensatory mechanism that makes YOU overeat which could have been prevented if YOU had fuelled yourself appropriately.  Not to put the blame on YOU but just remember, you are up against the BODY that has boundless experience with clever, innate mechanisms to keep itself alive…and it will always win! 

Too many calories in one sitting (especially when not nutritionally balanced) are enough to spike blood sugar. This forces your body to store calories as fat even if your total caloric intake for the day is less than what your body requires.  Quantity and type of calories determine your body’s insulin response and if blood sugar gets too high, some calories will be sent to the liver to be stored as excess body fat.

There isn’t an employer out there who would opt for their employees working through lunch if it meant increased costs due to poor productivity. Staying on top of your blood sugar to ensure mental, emotional, and physical competence is a win-win for everyone.  

Your body will always adapt to accommodate a behaviour if it becomes habitual.  Eating most of your calories at one meal or late in the day will leave your body expecting to use what calories it can and store the rest as fat.

Quiet the roadblock by knowing what to do when your work-life balance becomes challenging –

1) MEALS SHOULD NOT BE SKIPPED! They can be delayed through fasting techniques but breaking the fast in the morning then not eating again until your schedule allows, is less than ideal for optimizing your body’s performance.  
2) Intermittent fasting techniques that optimize the use of the hormone glucagon to keep blood sugar stable are effective when the body has been given the opportunity to mobilize body fat as an energy source while sleeping.  Glucagon is a slow rising but steady provider of glucose to maintain blood sugar when energy demands are low.  If you eat breakfast then nothing all day, slow releasing glucagon is challenged with returning quickly enough to provide that same flow of energy when the body is awake and has higher mental and physical demands. (See Calories In vs Calories Out for more on intermittent fasting.)  
3) Calorie-dense foods that are macronutrient balanced can be game changers if your workday is chaotic.  These foods can replace meals when time does not permit you to stop and access food that will help you meet your Caloric Goal.   Balanced calorie-dense foods are those where carbohydrates, proteins and natural fats are all present.  Seeds, cheese, nuts, dark chocolate, protein balls, protein shakes, and dips that, when combined with carbohydrates, are all sources of good calories that won’t spike your blood sugar and are quick to consume. A vegetable-heavy salad, conversely, is not a calorie-dense meal, and not the ideal food to be grabbing by the handful on the fly.
Skipping meals is simply neglecting your body’s needs. Lower the bar for your idea of what a meal must look like.  If you have time to go to the bathroom, then you have time to hydrate and time to fuel your body with the amount of calories it requires each day. 
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Balance Factor Application 1:

Use the Make a Meal feature in the My Pantry (red) program to devise calorie dense meals that are balanced, convenient, and easy to transport on busy schedule days.

RB2-Add Ingredient
Balance Factor Application 1:

Enter a name and choose a category for your meal. Tap ‘Add an Ingredient’ and scan or search for the items in your meal.

RB2-Serving Size
Balance Factor Application 1:

Tap the number in the window to change the serving size and tap ‘Size OK?’.

RB2-Meal Planner
Balance Factor Application 2:

Use the Meal Planner feature in the My Pantry program to create a meal plan and ensure you are meeting your Caloric Goal.

RB2-Calendar 1
Balance Factor Application 3:

Use the Calendar (yellow) program.

RB2-Calendar 2
Balance Factor Application 3:

Tap on future days to pre-enter high density meals and snacks for busy workdays.

Remind yourself that it is necessary to get enough calories in each day to avoid calorie loading in the evening or after your workday is done.

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  • Balance Your Food
  • Check your Calories
  • Monitor Your Water Intake
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