When Diet and Exercise Fail You

Last summer, it was Whole 30. This fall, the keto diet. You’ve tried “clean eating,” giving up dairy, and going gluten-free. You enjoy yoga, cardio workouts and the occasional body pump class. But despite your best efforts, clothing of various sizes hang in your closet, simultaneously mocking and judging you, and health issues—from frequent colds to acne to headaches and even arthritis—hinder your best intentions to get healthier. What the heck is going on?!

Diet and exercise have failed you, leaving you feeling defeated and discouraged. You are not alone. (Obviously. There wouldn’t be Weight Watcher and gym ads at every turn, were this not the case.) The question is: what else to try?! If eating right and moving isn’t working for weight loss or improved health, what else is there?

I know of two simple steps that can turn things around! And—what a relief—they have absolutely NOTHING to do with diet and exercise. The two things to try are the secrets to a good chicken roast, too: timing and temperature.

Timing – Consider when you eat, not what you eat, for a change. The key is to simply eat during the daytime! Easy peasy! There is no need to deprive yourself or avoid certain food groups with this approach. No tweaking your diet or need to incorporate juices.

Maybe what’s on the plate doesn’t matter as much as what TIME the plate is on the table!

Maybe what’s on the plate doesn’t matter as much as what TIME the plate is on the table!

Just eat your usual breakfast, lunch, and dinner, during the daylight hours. Avoid eating after dinner and before breakfast.

This is what it looks for me, most days.

- Breakfast between 8 and 9 a.m.

- Lunch between 1 and 2 p.m.

- Dinner between 6 and 7 p.m.

That’s it! When you stop eating earlier than usual, you give your body a chance to rest from digesting. The goal is to go a minimum of 12 hours without eating—so if you eat dinner, say at 6 p.m., eat breakfast no earlier than 6 a.m. Through this, you get all of the benefits of fasting—burning fat, better cognitive function, improved metabolism, etc.—but without the struggle of feeling hungry! Basically, you are simply fasting, but doing so overnight. (If you fast over 12 hours a night, you get even more benefits, but I would just aim for 12 hours, at first.)

I’ve started to incorporate this new practice into my own schedule and I love how simple and effective it is. I don’t know if I’ve really lost weight (since I rarely weigh myself, and quite honestly I did not have weight loss as a personal goal) but I definitely do see more definition in my body, without extra workouts. It’s kind of cool.

Still not sure if you want to give it a try? Check this out. A number of small studies indicate that this type of intermittent fasting is positively correlated with weight loss, less inflammation, improved sleep, and even a reduced risk of breast cancer.

Temperature

It is natural for us to seek to be comfortable, when it comes to our environment. To this end, in the winter, we heat our homes and, in the summer, we cool them. Same goes for our offices, cars, movie theaters, gyms, etc. Our ancestors, in contrast, spent most of their days exposed to the ambient temperature. They would work, share meals, hold community gatherings, walk, and play in the great outdoors. We easily spend the better part of each day indoors, maybe getting outside on the weekends (if we’re not meeting friends for coffee or binge-watching something on Netflix, that is).

Unfortunately, this means we’ve grown soft, on a cellular level. It’s time for us to get outside and experience the ambient temperature, whatever it is, challenging our bodies to do what they were designed to do: to cool or heat us, depending on what is needed. When we do this, it’s like flexing a muscle that has been relaxed for a v-e-r-y long time. It may feel shocking and hard at first, but we will be stronger for it, in the end.

I’ve had a lot of people tell me that they could NEVER do what I’m doing (getting outside in the cold in a tank top and shorts) but it’s just like my saying I could NEVER run a marathon. It’s true, I can’t just get up one day and expect to be ready to run 26.2K. I have to train and condition my body for the challenge. And that’s what I’ve done in terms of cold adaptation this winter.

Most of us CAN do this, if we build up to it. When I go outside, I don’t stay out for hours, on the coldest of days. I go out for approximately 30 minutes. I recommend going out with one or two less layers than usual and then layering up, when it becomes too much. You can work up to 30+ minutes, little by little.

It has taken some time to feel this comfortable in the snow but now I find it invigorating and fun!

It has taken some time to feel this comfortable in the snow but now I find it invigorating and fun!

What’s the point of this? Besides coming across as a B.A. (a stranger called out to me yesterday “You are amazing!”), you will stimulate your mitochondria, enhance your metabolism, sleep better at night, build discipline, and your immunity! (Heat shock I will touch on more as summer approaches, but I know that passive sweating is great for detoxing the organs, stimulating blood circulation, and more.)

These two tips are free and easy. For more on the subject of meal timing, listen to my interview with Dr. Tom Cowan: Wise Traditions podcast #112 “Fasting for weight loss & better health.” For more on experiencing the ambient temperature, check out my conversation with Thaddeus Owen: Wise Traditions podcast #161 “Biohacking our health.”

Are you willing to give either one a try? Remember that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. Maybe it’s time to pivot and attempt something new. You have nothing to lose and only your health to gain.

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Hilda Labrada Gore is a certified health coach and fitness professional. She is the host and producer of the Wise Traditions podcast, on behalf of the Weston A. Price Foundation. She is a podcasting consultant and the author of “Podcasting Made Simple.” She is also the DC Metro Regional Director for Body & Soul Fitness. She and her husband live in DC with their children and cat and dog. Hilda has energy to spare thanks to her ancestral health practices and her love for liverwurst.