Do you blame your weight loss difficulties on your metabolism? Many of my clients do and use their “slow metabolism” as an excuse to avoid making the lifestyle changes that lead to a healthier weight and higher state of wellbeing.
Metabolism is a term that describes all the chemical reactions and processes within a living organism required to maintain life. It includes both catabolism (the breakdown of molecules to obtain energy) as well as anabolism (the synthesis of compounds needed by cells).
Simple stuff, right? Yet there’s a lot of confusion about metabolism. Here are 5 of the most common myths.
1) Dieting, fasting, eating low calorie meals and skipping meals jumpstarts weight loss
You may lose a few pounds by following the latest fad diet or starving yourself, but study after scientific study shows that dieting and calorie deprivation do not result in lasting weight loss. In other words… diets don’t work, lead to weight gain, not loss and can decrease your metabolism. Plus, dieting increases stress and the hormone cortisol, which is associated with an increase in appetite and weight gain around the belly.
2) Late night eating slows metabolism
Eating later at night does not decrease your metabolic rate. However, eating extra calories any time will lead to weight gain. In addition, people are more likely to eat and snack mindlessly in the evening especially while viewing television, a rich source of tempting food commercials. Research shows that individuals who eat most of their calories later in the day tend to eat more.
3) Certain foods increase metabolism
We’ve all seen those adds and articles that claim that certain foods — chili peppers, green tea, blueberries, psyllium husk…— have amazing metabolism boosting powers. While some foods have been shown to boost metabolism slightly and other foods (like fruits, vegetables and lean protein) or nutrients can help support weight loss by increasing satiety and helping to preserve muscle mass there are no “magic” foods or diet pills that significantly increase metabolism enough to compensate for overeating.
4) A deficit of 3,500 calories equals a pound of body fat lost
While weight loss is associated with an imbalance between the number of calories you eat and the number you use, calculating how calorie imbalance leads to weight loss is not so straightforward. Most people loss less weight than the amount predicted by the “3,500 calorie rule.”
Here’s why. Weight loss tends to slow with time because you need fewer calories to maintain your weight when you weigh less. Plus, calorie deprivation lowers basal metabolic rate (the rate your body burns calories at rest). Why? Your body thinks there’s a famine and to prevent you from starving to death it slows you down to conserve calories.
5) You can’t control your metabolism
It’s easy to blame your weight on your metabolism and give up on achieving a healthier weight. The truth is you can dramatically change your metabolism by the way you eat, exercise and live. There are lots of things you can do to boost your metabolism.
Some of the most powerful are:
- Start your day with a healthy breakfast
- Eat small meals throughout the day
- Don’t diet or starve yourself
- Build muscle mass by lifting weights
- Interval train (Alternate working out hard for a few minutes with working out at an easier pace.)
- Get adequate sleep (7-8 hours per night)
- Reduce the amount of time you sit
- Lower your stress level
- Drink plenty of cold water (The body has to burn calories to warm the water up.)
- Have a cup of coffee (It can increase metabolic rate for 3 hours after digestion.)
- Eating enough protein
Weight loss tends to be more of a roller coaster than a straight line with lots of plateaus along the way. The bottom line is be patient and focus on eating right and exercising, not the number on the scale. Make a healthy lifestyle your goal and weight loss (along with feeling good and being healthy) one positive outcome you want to achieve. If you eat right, reduce stress, get enough sleep and move your body more you will reach your healthy weight. In the words of Mark Hyman, “While weight loss is important, what’s more important is the quality of food you put in your body – food is information that quickly changes your metabolism and genes.”