In the New Year give yourself an edge. Get a glucometer. It's the cheapest way to get the weight off. You know that consistent tracking yields results. The problem is, when it comes to fat loss, most people track all of the unconnected variables: calories, body weight, minutes of exercise, visits to the gym. These have almost nothing to do with fat loss, which is why around 99% of people using these as their guide fail miserably. The reality, however, is one metric above all others gives a much stronger picture of fat loss (or, as it were, fat growth): glucose. Nowadays, an all-inclusive kit, with glucometer, testing strips and lancets costs less than $15 at your local drug store. You don't need a prescription; and you don't need to wait until you're diabetic to get one. Used correctly and consistently as a tracker, it's the most objective guide to leanness.
In 2005 I met my first type 1 diabetic client. She would tell me all of these confusing trends in her blood sugar which I had a hard time squaring with classical physiology textbooks. In order to really wrap my head around it, I asked if I could borrow one of her glucometers to see what a (presumably) healthy person's blood sugar trends look like throughout the day. And I've been testing ever since.
Between my own experience, and that of my clients and colleagues, I've found five immutable laws of human glucose metabolism which very few dietitians, physicians and endocrinologists keep in mind or even know:
1.) 24 hour average glucose levels under 85 tend to make you leaner
2.) 24 hour average glucose levels above 95 tend to make you fatter
3.) "Healthy" A1C numbers occur often in unhealthy people
4.) Different Tissues Have Different Glucose Sensitivity (e.g. - by lifting weights you can make muscle cells more sensitive to blood sugar than fat cells are)
5.) Everyone has intra-daily circadian fluctuation in insulin sensitivity (i.e. - different foods are better or worse for you depending on time of day)
So, you've decided to take the $15 challenge and you're sitting at home with a kit in front of you. Now what?
Here's how to use it: http://youtu.be/s8nzOrbeM5Q
(Apparently the person tested in the video just ate all of her Christmas cookies)
Here's how to use the information:
1.) STOP ARGUING
Over the years I've had a variety of clients who inform me that my nutritional advice runs counter to that of "x" (insert name of famous person or the National Dietetics Association here). My answer: don't believe me; and don't believe anyone else for that matter - just test your blood sugar 90 minutes later and you'll see for yourself. Do your best to throw all preconceived notions about "good nutrition" or "normal" or "balanced meals" out the window. My wife recently took a gestational diabetes test wherein she drank pure liquid sugar and her glucose was 119 an hour later. If you test higher than this 90 minutes after eating, then it doesn't matter how "healthy" that food seemed; your body interpreted it as more disruptive to your health than refined liquid sugar.
2.) No Fasted Morning Tests
Do not get caught up with fasting glucose numbers. Fasting glucose gives a slanted picture of systemically what's going on. That is nice in the sense that you can use it as a progress marker, but not an indication of specifically which foods affect you adversely. Without a replete knowledge of physiology this becomes confusing very quickly. Someone can pull a low fasting glucose number because he is so unhealthy that his liver isn't doing its requisite gluconeogenesis. Likewise, someone can have a stellar day nutritionally and then have an insane skyrocketed number the next morning because she isn't adapted at fat metabolism and her body's organs have forgotten how to use any fuel other than sugar.
3.) Keep Records
Your brain remembers what it wants. A month from now your brain will be loathe to remember that a whole grain breakfast with greek yogurt and orange juice drives even a healthy young person's glucose into diabetic ranges. Write it down. Keep track of what the food was, accompanying water intake (even temperature of food and water), how long afterward you tested and what state of mind (i.e. - stressed or non-stressed) you were in.
4.) Consult Records
Try to be a dispassionate scientist. You are learning which foods affect you uniquely personally at this current juncture in your life. If you were just awarded NIH grant funding, you would not let your neighbor's anecdotal success story drive the interpretation of your data. Don't let someone else's alleged data trump your real data.
5.) Be Honest
In my experience, all people who struggled with weight loss carry at least one lie they keep telling themselves regularly. Usually it's in the category of "can't" lies. Simply put, if you get the glucometer, track your glucose, consult your data, but then are dishonest, you'll still struggle.
As such, the resolution I would encourage the most is not a weight loss goal, a visits-to-the-gym goal, a water intake goal or an activity goal. Instead, endeavor to be as honest with yourself as you can. Then, buy a glucometer and have a great 2015.