New Year, New You, New Metabolism
Weight is just one measure of overall health, but it is one that many of my clients are concerned about. As we age, our weight and metabolism change, and as those with insulin resistance, we need to make a more considerable effort than others as weight loss is a bit more complicated.
Obesity and being overweight are so common today that two-thirds of adults and one-third of children experience these in the United States. That’s hundreds of millions of people! Being in that population puts people at risk for many health problems like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers. Achieving a healthy weight, eating nutritious foods, and being physically active can help improve your health and metabolism while reducing your risks of developing chronic illnesses.
But as you know, there is so much more to the adage: eat less, move more.
There are many reasons why weight loss is difficult:
We are surrounded by an abundance of food at all times.
Food provides us with sustenance, offers gratification, is a component of many social interactions, and often serves as a reward.
Modern technology and industrial development have led to a much more sedentary lifestyle.
Creating new habits is hard.
Fad dieting may work short term, but they are unsustainable.
The difficulty of weight loss is compounded by years of Yo-yo dieting.
Women in perimenopause and menopause have hormonal shifts.
Insulin resistance makes it difficult to move the needle because the body stores excess blood sugar as fat.
How are metabolism and weight loss related?
Some factors affecting weight are controllable, while others aren’t. You can't alter genetics, family history, or hormones regarding weight, but you can control your diet, medications, stress level, sleep, and physical activity to a certain extent.
So how do metabolism and weight affect one another?
“Metabolism is the process by which your body converts what you eat and drink into energy. During this complex process, calories in food and beverages are combined with oxygen to release the energy your body needs to function,” according to the Mayo Clinic.
At rest, your body does many things: breathe, pump blood, adjust hormone levels, maintain body temperature, and grow and repair cells. The amount of energy (aka calories) your body uses to perform these functions is your basal metabolic rate or BMR. Your BMR accounts for about two-thirds of the calories your body burns each day.
Metabolism is affected by body size and composition. Men are typically bigger and have more muscle than women, and tend to have faster metabolisms. But for all people, as we age, bone and muscle mass decrease slowing metabolism and resulting in weight gain.
Medical conditions also affect metabolism, such as those with diabetes, insulin resistance, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), and hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid).
In general, the balance of your “energy equation” counts for your weight, meaning the amount of energy (calories) you take in minus the amount of energy (calories) you burn can determine whether you gain or lose weight. Plus, how your body processes what you eat and your activity level also plays a role.
Metabolism Boosting Strategies
There are no quick fixes, and for something sustainable, it must fit into your lifestyle and incorporate a whole-food approach. Speaking with your healthcare provider before beginning any weight loss program is always a good idea. Remember that your behaviors and habits impact your weight, which you have complete control over.
Here are my top six strategies for weight loss:
1 - Set specific, realistic, forgiving goals
The strategy of SMART goals has been around for a long time. SMART stands for specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, and timely.
The goal of losing weight doesn’t provide direction. Use this formula; I will ENTER GOAL by ACTION STEPS. For example, I will lose 5 lbs. this month by bringing lunch to work each day of the workweek and walking 30 minutes daily. Or I will add one extra serving of vegetables daily to crowd out unnecessary snacking.
Regardless of the habit you adopt, make it a routine for at least two weeks.
2 - Ditch the “diet” mentality and focus on sustainable changes
You don't have to eat salads every day or consider meals diet foods. Improve the overall nutrient density of all meals for weight loss and ignite the metabolism fire.
Create meals that combine protein, healthy fats, and fiber.
Ditch industrial seed oils and replace them with healthier choices such as olive oil, avocado oil, nut butter, and avocadoes.
3 - Try eating a different way and see what works for you
Did you know that digestion begins in your mind? Our body prepares to digest food when we think about it.
Take time and slow down, allowing yourself to notice fullness cues, letting you know that you are satisfied and can stop eating.
Eat more mindfully by focusing on and enjoying what you’re eating while you’re eating it. Pay attention to food’s smell, taste, and texture as you’re eating it.
4 - Be more physically active
You don’t have to do “exercise” to be physically active. Actions like taking the stairs over the elevator, parking further away, walking a bit faster, or doing housework or gardening—all count toward your physical activity.
Set a goal to move for at least 30 minutes a day (even if you need to break it out into three 10-minute sessions throughout the day); more movement leads to more significant health outcomes.
Try a combination of aerobic activity and weight training. Muscle mass increases metabolism.
Remember that any physical activity is better than no activity for your health (and weight loss goals).
5 - Reward yourself
According to the National Institutes of Health, “frequent small rewards, earned for meeting smaller goals, are more effective than bigger rewards that require a long, difficult effort.”
Each time you reach a goal, however small, reward your success with a non-food activity or item. For example, you may want to buy yourself a book or an outfit you’ve wanted for a while. Rewards don’t have to be monetary. You can take time for yourself, like having a bath, doing your nails, or enjoying a craft or hobby you love (or trying a new one).
6 - Don't give up
Most people try different strategies before finding a method that works for them.
Ditch the all-or-nothing mentality and subscribe to the principle that each day begins anew. If you fall off track, make it right with the next bite.
Do not give up. Talk to your friends, find a support group, or talk with a dietitian, nutritionist, or nutrition coach if you need help. Sometimes your body is off balance and needs foundational support.
For the skimmers
Weight loss is complex and a concern for many. Many factors influence your metabolism, some of which you can control (what you eat) and others you can’t (your genes).
Being physically active and eating healthier foods are the fundamentals of weight loss. Still, there are so many ways to accomplish this. It is entirely up to you how you approach dieting and eating, how you set goals to reward yourself, and how you stay motivated.
If you’re ready to get results with a nutritious approach that will boost your metabolism, I’d be happy to hop on a call with you! CLICK HERE to sign up for a FREE 30-minute consultation to discuss your concerns, symptoms, and how we can work together. I only work with clients I know I can help, and even if we decide my program isn’t the right fit, I will help direct you to resources that are!
Harvard Health. (2018, May). Burning calories without exercise. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/burning-calories-without-exercise
Harvard Health. (2018, July). Small tricks to help you shed pounds and keep them off. Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/small-tricks-to-help-you-shed-pounds-and-keep-them-off
Harvard Health. (2019, March 19). The lowdown on thyroid slowdown. Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/the-lowdown-on-thyroid-slowdown
Harvard Health. (2019, November 20). Building simple habits for healthy weight loss. Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/building-simple-habits-for-healthy-weight-loss
Mayo Clinic Healthy Lifestyle. (2019, February 21). Is a slow metabolism the reason I'm overweight? Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/weight-loss/expert-answers/slow-metabolism/faq-20058480
Mayo Clinic Healthy Lifestyle. (2019, February 21). Can I boost my metabolism to lose weight? Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/weight-loss/expert-answers/metabolism/faq-20058346
Mayo Clinic Healthy Lifestyle. (2020, November 10). Metabolism and weight loss: How you burn calories. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/weight-loss/in-depth/metabolism/art-20046508
NIH Intramural Research Program. (2020, Dec 8). Attempting Weight Loss Linked to Reduced Risk of Death. Retrieved from https://irp.nih.gov/blog/post/2020/12/attempting-weight-loss-linked-to-reduced-risk-of-death
NIH National Center for Complementary and Integrative Healthy. (2017, September). Weight Control. Retrieved from https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/weight-control
NIH National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. (n.d.). Aim for a healthy weight. Retrieved from https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/lose_wt/index.htm
NIH National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. (n.d.). Guide to Behavior Change. Retrieved from https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/lose_wt/behavior.htm
Scrips.Org (June 7, 2022) (n.d) Can Insulin Resistance Cause Weight Gain? Retrieved from https://www.scripps.org/news_items/4621-can-insulin-resistance-cause-weight-gain#:~:text=If%20your%20cells%20become%20too,excess%20blood%20sugar%20as%20fat.