FIT Talk With Tania  

Stop counting calories!

One of the most common ways people use to try to lose weight is counting calories.

We've been led to believe that by simply taking in fewer calories than we burn off, those unwanted pounds will fall away and be gone forever. 

On paper and in our heads this makes sense. After all, if you normally consume 2,000 calories a day and then drop down to 1,500 calories per day, the math supports that you should lose weight. 

And you will. At first.

Like many other diets, this “calories in vs calories out” is based solely on numbers without taking into account things like nutrition, health, fitness goals, etc. 

It's possible to hit your number target for the day in any number of unhealthy ways, many of which actually work against the way the body was designed to function, resulting in a slower metabolism and even compromised immune function. 

Restricting or cutting out entire food groups, excessive exercise, consuming pre-packaged, low-calorie meals, skipping meals in order to “save” those calories to be consumed at a later date, all focus on one thing, calories. 

How to keep them from entering the body, and/or how to burn off as many as possible of the ones that got in. Sound exhausting? 

In order to lose just one pound, the body has to either burn off or create a deficit of 3,500 calories. That's a big number. And focusing on that number – counting, doing the math, buying low-cal packaged foods, working out like a crazy person, checking FitBit or Apple Watch hoping to hit those targets is work. 

A lot of work. And like I said earlier, you can get results doing this. But for most people, it's short lived. No wonder statistics say that less than one percent of people can maintain a diet for life. 

Aside from the obvious stress of counting calories and the pressure to be perfect in order to achieve results, this approach doesn't address any of the six components of health: 

  • Stress
  • Sleep
  • Water
  • Nutrition
  • Exercise
  • Supplements. 

All it does is really just create more stress from trying to be perfect and get those numbers to line up, and physically due to the lack of attention paid to creating health. 

On the flip side, when we focus on building up the body and doing things that create health, making our calories count, rather than counting the calories, great things begin to happen. 

The only time I look at calorie consumption with my clients is if they aren't eating enough. 

Yep, that's right. More often than not the people I work with are not eating enough. They come from that place of restriction and are afraid that if they eat more they will gain weight when in fact their bodies are not taking in enough nutrients to get the job done. 

Not providing your body enough nutrients causes the body to go into starvation mode, saving and storing almost everything it does get, as fat. Once they understand this and start giving their bodies what it needs, it's amazing the wonderful things that begin to happen in very short order.

Choose whole, single-ingredient foods, put together in a way that stabilizes blood sugar. Drink lots of clean water, get out and moving every day, reduce stress, get enough sleep so that you feel rested in the morning, and use quality supplements to fill the gaps in meals, nutrition and nutrients. 

Repeat daily for best results.

In doing so, you're creating healthy habits that, when maintained consistently over time, will help you to not only look and feel better, burn fat, lose weight and turn on metabolism, but will also help balance your hormones, reverse disease, increase energy, improve concentration and focus, and strengthen your immune system. 

Pretty cool list of side effects, yes or yes?

As you think about your next meal, snack, grocery shop or dinner out, focus on the food rather than the number of calories. 

Because when you buy, prepare, serve and order more whole, single-ingredient foods, your meals will naturally be higher in vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and fibre while at the same time contain far less sugar, no additives or preservatives, and yes, also a lot few calories. 


If you're looking for more ways to make your calories count and take back control of your health, join the
8 Weeks is All it Takes! group on Facebook. 


Answers to your questions

It’s always the right time to look at ways to improve health and immune function.

The way 2020 has been going, health is something everyone should be investing a little time and effort into. With so much information out there, it really can leave a person feeling a little overwhelmed and confused.

I thought we'd do a little Q & A session with some of the things that have come up often with my clients as well as a few of the basics tips anyone can use to get started down the road to better health.

Q: I don't feel hungry in the morning, how important is it to eat breakfast?

A: Breakfast literally means break-the-fast. After sleeping all night without eating or drinking, the body has used up the fuel from your last meal the previous day.

Upon waking in the morning, blood sugar is typically a little on the low side. After about an hour or so, blood sugar drops. As the brain requires something to turn into the glucose, it requires to keep going, when we fail to provide the fuel (skip breakfast), our body needs to find an alternate source and subsequently takes what is needed from our muscle.

As well, studies show that people who fuel well with protein and whole foods and healthy fats at breakfast have more energy, better focus and attention, are more productive at work and are less likely to make bad food choices for the rest of the day. More good choices a day equal a healthier body.

Q: I drink decaf that counts as water, right?

A: Water counts as water. Period. Drinking things filled with sugar/fake sugars, caffeine, flavourings, colours, preservatives, etc., only serves to put in more things your body will have to work to filter out.

Our bodies are over two-thirds water. Every function our bodies do, happens in and because of water.

Water flushes out fat, toxins, helps maintain regularity, promotes better focus and attention, increases energy, prevents muscle cramping, promotes joint flexibility, clearer skin, assists in organ and brain function.

Ladies aim for two to three litres per day, gents, three to four.

When you're drinking enough water, you likely won't be thirsty for those others very often anyway.

Q: Why can't I just eat less and lose the weight, it worked before?

A: Yes, you can lose weight this way. At first. Which is typical of a diet. Results out of the gate, but unable to maintain those results long term.

Losing weight is not about eating less. Most of my clients end up eating more than they were before. But when you focus on health and fuel your body with what it needs, the weight comes off and stays off.

This is exactly the reason when I meet with someone for the first time, I tell them that whatever they decide to do for their health they need to ask themselves four questions:

  • Is what I'm about to do backed by science?
  • Does it make sense to me?
  • Can I see myself doing it long term?
  • Would I let a child do it with me?

That last question really helps people weed out their perception of safe, which means healthy.

Q: I go for a walk on my lunch hour, does that count as exercise?

A: Yes. Anything active and/or physical you do over and above what you normally do in a day counts as exercise. When you find ways to fit some extra activity into your day on a regular basis, you'll start to notice results in short order.

  • Park farther away and walk.
  • When you arrive home, walk around the block before heading inside.
  • Take the stairs.
  • Bike to work.
  • Make more trips bringing in the groceries.
  • Take the kids to the beach and get in the water with them.

You get the idea. Movement, fresh air, sunshine, all great to support immune function.

Q: I've been so stressed lately, could that be why I'm not sleeping well?

A:  Absolutely. There are two kinds of stress, acute and chronic. Acute stress is short-lived, often motivates the person action and is resolved relatively quickly. Like having a deadline at work moved up an extra day.

You feel angst, a little under the gun and the stress of wanting things to go well, motivates you and the team to dig in and get it done. As soon as the project is complete, stress is gone.

Chronic stress may start out the same way, but rather than being able to reach an end relatively soon, you can't even see the end. Chronic stress, regardless of how it starts, has a huge negative impact on our overall health, physically and mentally.

Chronic stress affects our sleep, moods, energy levels, focus, attention, disrupts digestion and the body's ability to metabolize food.

It causes the body to release cortisol, store fat, and gain weight, increase insulin levels, increase blood pressure, cholesterol, and risk for heart disease, compromises immune function, and exacerbates almost any condition a person may already have.

Finding time in your day, every day, where you can relax, focus on something other than the source of stress, allows your body to let go of that heightened state and come back down.

It's like carrying something heavy. You can carry it a lot farther when you stop and put it down once in a while. Try to carry it the whole way in one go and you will hurt yourself.

For more health, wellness and FIT tips, join Tania's 8 Weeks is All it Takes group on Facebook.

That 4-letter C word

Count carbs or make carbs count

There's that four-letter “C” word again. That's right, carb.

It seems like no matter who you talk to, there's always an opinion, for or against. While opinions are plenty, the bottom line is, you can either count carbs, or make your carbs count.

Most people refer to things like bread, pasta, rice, cookies, cakes, cereal, etc., as carbs (carbohydrates), which they are. What many people don't realize, however, is that fruits and veggies are also carbs.

Yep, for real. Apples, carrots and raspberries do indeed happen to be in the same category as bread, cereal and pasta.

That doesn't mean to suggest that they behave the same way though. That would be like saying just because an entire family lives in one house, they all have the same way of doing things.

We know that's not true. Foods can also belong to the same family and be entirely different in what each one brings to the table.

Let's start with what a carbohydrate is and why we need them. A carb is a macro nutrient that gives the body energy. Some carbs also provide us with fibre, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients.

Some, on the other hand, have very little, if any, nutritional value at all. Understanding that quality and nutrient density both play a role, not only in the amount of energy, but in increasing overall health as well is important.

So yes, there really is such a thing as a healthy carb. Let's break it down.

There are two types of carbohydrates, simple and complex. Simple carbs digest quickly, enter the blood stream right away, and turn to sugar in short order.

Anything that comes in a package, box, bag, can or wrapper is a simple carbohydrate. These foods are highly processed and have very little nutritional value.

Don't let words such as “fortified” or “enriched” on the label fool you into believing a particular packaged item is healthy.

These simple, processed, nutrient deficient carbs are what cause blood sugar to spike and the body to store fat. And with diabetes and obesity rates both at an all-time high and rising, they are simply not the best choice.

Complex carbohydrates, on the other hand, are the exact opposite. Choosing foods that come in their own wrapper is always the better choice.

Whole, unprocessed, single-ingredient foods are naturally more nutrient dense and rich in fibre. They also contain many essential vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients that fuel the body at a cellular level.

Feeding your body and fuelling your cells with these types of carbs, as opposed to simply filling your “stomach bucket” has a laundry list of benefits. 

Natural fibre helps with regularity. I get it, no one likes to talk about their bathroom habits. But if you're putting food in and nothing's coming out, it won't be long before you're in a pretty s#!tty situation.

Fibre also slows down digestion a bit, helping to stabilize blood sugars. Stabilizing blood sugar is key for weight loss, balancing hormones, reducing cholesterol and blood pressure, and increasing energy.

The vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients nourish cells and help build and support your immune system. A properly nourished body stays satisfied longer and is less likely to make bad food choices.

And who doesn't want a stronger immune system these days? Not a complex choice at all when you look at it that way. 

So we've established that simple equals processed, refined, nutrient deficient food and are simply not the best choice. And complex foods equals fresh fruits and veggies, quinoa, oatmeal – basically single-ingredient foods – should not be a complicated choice because they are what keep our bodies fuelled and healthy.

If you're looking for simple solutions on how to balance blood sugar, lose weight and take back control of your health, follow FIT Nutrition on social and join the “8 Weeks is All it Takes” group on Facebook.


Your body type, your results

We're all different. “Of course, we are,” you say. “Everyone knows that.”

While that may be true, when it comes to weight loss and body type, most people compare themselves and their results to others. Some even go so far as to beat themselves up mentally if their results don't measure up. Seems irrational doesn't it? And yet people continue to do it.

If we know and accept that we are all different in a variety of ways, doesn't it makes sense to consider that your health, fitness level and yes, even weight loss, could also look different for you than for those around you?

Let's take a look at what makes that so.

You don't have to go far or look very hard to find ads, pictures, posts, etc., on how to create the perfect body. Let me just say that nobody is perfect and therefore nobody's body is perfect either.

And if we're honest, I believe most people would not only agree, but be quick to point out what they don't like about their body. Whether it be an injury or illness, size, weight, health, or the way we look, we've all had moments where we've all been a little hard on ourselves.

That’s OK if it's done in a way that motivates us to make healthy changes and take back control of our health. What's not OK is comparing our bodies and our results with others, picking out all the negatives and marinating in them. It's toxic. And the only thing it will get you is frustrated.

The reason many people get frustrated and often give up on their health- and weight-loss goals is they simply don't understand the extent to which our bodies are different.

There are three distinct body types a person can be born with:

  • Ectomorph
  • Endomorph
  • Mesomorph.

An ectomorph is that person who is naturally very lean, lanky, has a high metabolism and has difficulty gaining weight.

An endomorph is the exact opposite. Often described as “big boned” the endomorph will often say they have a slow metabolism and have to work at it to lose weight.

And, as you might expect, the mesomorph falls somewhere in the middle. 

I like using the bicycle analogy. The ectomorph would be a road bike – sleek, light and fast.

The mesomorph is like a mountain bike – not as fast, needs a little more energy to get where you want to go but still pretty effective.

The endomorph would be the beach cruiser. One speed, not the fastest ride out there by a long shot, but it's a comfortable ride.

Regardless which type of bike you ride through life on, one thing is for sure, it will get you to your destination as long as you don't give up.

Granted, the beach cruiser is not going to get you there nearly as fast as the road bike, but if you keep pedalling, you will get there. Same with our bodies.

Although we may not be able to change our body type, we can always make changes and improvements to the one we have. And small changes done consistently over time equal huge results. This works in the positive and negative. Ouch.

That little revelation may have smarted for some, but it's true. Lifestyle diseases by definition are the result of poor choices in food and lifestyle maintained over an extended period of time. Fortunately, most can be reversed, also using diet and lifestyle. Over 65% in fact, according to Dr. Hans Diehl of Loma Linda University. And many experts believe that number to be even higher.

Years ago, I attended a health conference in Utah and one of the speakers, Paul Zane Pilzer, said something that has stuck with me.

 “There's a small demographic of people getting healthier as they age.”

As someone who worked continuously to improve not only my own health, but that of my family as well, I am happy to say that it's not an exclusive club. I am healthier and stronger in my 50s than I was in my 20s.

My daughter had a serious digestive issue as a toddler that, through dietary changes and natural supplements we were able to clear up. And last month my dad told me he's started jogging again. Something he hadn't been able to do for decades due to a back issue. He will be 80 in November. 

Regardless where you are in your health and/or weight-loss journey, making positive, healthy changes and sticking with them will allow you to make improvements and see results at any age.

Now, go back and consider the three body types and which bicycle you're 'riding' as you navigate your personal health journey. I'm sure you have a pretty good idea which one you are.

Knowing where you are will allow you to set more appropriate expectations, avoid the frustration and continue long enough to see results. 

Remember, no matter which body type you are, regardless how long things take, that “bike” will only get you to your destination if you get on a start pedalling.

Creating health is not much different from anything else of value we work toward in our lives. It takes some effort, you have to be willing to make a few changes, and the only way you won't see results is if you give up.

If you're looking to start your journey to better health, join the 8 Weeks is All it Takes group on Facebook, or email. [email protected] for your free health assessment 

More FIT Talk With Tania articles

About the Author

Nutritionist Tania Gustafson, owner of FIT Nutrition, has been active in the health and fitness industry since 1986 when she entered as a fitness instructor and trainer.

In 2011, Tania partnered with internationally renowned nutrition and fitness expert Mark Macdonald, and in 2017 officially earned the title of Master Nutrition Coach in conjunction with Venice Nutrition and the International Board of Nutrition and Fitness Coaches (IBNFC).

Tania is one of only five health professionals licensed and certified in Canada to deliver this proven, three-phase program of blood sugar stabilization, not dieting.Tania is committed to ending the dieting madness both locally and globally and educates her clients on how to increase health with age.

Tania is able to work with clients across Canada, the U.S. and U.K. to restore health and achieve their weight loss goals.Tania is a wife, mother of three adult children, global entrepreneur, speaker, workshop facilitator, writer, blogger, podcast host, travel junkie and self-proclaimed gym rat.

For more information and to book your complimentary health assessment go to www.fuelignitethrive.com. Check https://www.facebook.com/fuelignitethrive/  and https://www.facebook.com/groups/8weeksisallittakes/

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

Previous Stories