If you have become resistant to weight loss, the things you used to do don’t work anymore chances are your metabolism is damaged.
Many of us have gone on diets throughout our lives, losing significant amounts of weight and then gaining it back. Every time this happens, if done quickly and improperly, your metabolism can slow. Studies on some contestants of The Biggest Loser have shown that most of them have gained back a lot of the weight. Sadly, even if they held on to the weight loss, many of these contestants have shown metabolic problems, lowering their daily potential caloric burn to as much as 700/day. At this point, weight loss is next to impossible.
So, what can you do to lose weight and maintain a healthy metabolism?
Get food allergy tests – You could be eating a fantastic diet, nutrient dense and clean food with great ratios of macros. But if something(s) in your meal plan are causing inflammation or destabilizing healthy gut bacteria then you will have a hard time losing weight and/or gaining muscle. The first time I did a 6 month vegan experiment, I responded very poorly to an increased intake of soy and it caused major inflammation and ended with a loss of muscle mass and tendinitis in my forearms. The second year I did it, I cut all Soy and managed to gain 8 lbs of muscle (this is a lot for me, I don’t put on weight very easily. It took over 4000 calories a day with less training than I had done in years) and my tendinitis was under control!
* If any of you are suffering from tendinitis, I highly recommend getting food allergy tests done. 3 other things that might help – cut out coffee and tea, in Eastern medicine, the tendons are directly linked to the liver and if your body is taxed by processing caffeine it may have detrimental effects on your tissues. For the same reason, avoid alcohol. Maintaining hydration will help keep your tendons in good shape so cutting these diuretics will do wonders.A systemic enzyme supplement may help reduce inflammation. I took one for about 6 months and it seemed to help.
Fine tune your systems – Every system in our body needs to be fed in order to run optimally. Vitamins and minerals play a huge role in maintaining your digestive, immune, cardiovascular, lymphatic systems. A blood panel is a great tool to get a glimpse into what you may be deficient in. Of course multiple tests are ideal but one will at least let you know if anything is in serious need of attention. Is getting your micros from food better than supplementation? Absolutely. But is it possible? Depends on how much you eat and how varied your diet is. If you have a hard time getting any one vitamin, do yourself a favor and get a high quality supplement. Look for companies that self regulate so you know you are getting what they say is in the capsule or liquid.
Avoid drastic calorie cuts – While you may want to change your macronutrient ratios, focusing on serious calorie cuts will only increase the damage done. Putting your already stressed and potentially inflamed body in a starvation mode will increase hormonal imbalance and solidify your bodies reflex to hold on to fat stores. You may even need to eat more for the time being. Adding nutrient dense foods to your diet while increasing your exercise can optimize how your body functions and get the ball rolling for weight loss. Remember it should be the long game you are playing. Quick weight loss destroys metabolism.
Improve your sleep – The two most important factors for maintaining a healthy weight are nutrition and sleep. Your circadian rhythms play a direct role in hormone cycles and recovery. Having a stable pattern of high quality sleep will help you put on muscle which will increase your metabolism and improve fat loss. If you don’t sleep your body and brain do not recover from your activities. This will inevitably lead to a build up of tissue damage and allow your stress hormones to run wild –> fat stores.
Increase your protein and fat intake – More Protein and fat while limiting unhealthy carbohydrates will reduce stress on your digestive system. Your sources of protein should be as clean as possible – organic, grass fed or pastured meats, organic yogurt, grass fed whey protein powder, wild caught bottom-feeder sea food, organic beans, lentils, chickpeas etc., are all good examples. Protein first thing in the morning is much better than starting with breads or cereal.
*Not everyone responds to this kind of eating in the same way. Some people, if very active, can keep a decent level of high glycemic carbohydrates in their diet. Not everyone reacts with the same spike of insulin. You can check by testing your blood glucose levels after a meal. You can buy testing kits at almost any pharmacy. But if you tend to crash after a meal with carbs in it then you already know that your body has a hard time handling it.
Choose strength training – Exercise is a key component to fixing your metabolism. Not all forms are equal for this purpose though. Steady state, long distance cardio is going to have to take a back seat for the time being. If you like running or spinning or rowing, don’t worry, you can get back to it eventually and you can even do these exercises for short sprints.The problem is that long distance cardio tends to increase stress hormones in the body, the same ones that your body may already have too much of floating around.
Metabolic rate decreases as we age. One of the factors is a reduced amount of muscle mass. A study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology showed that intense strength training leading to higher lean muscle mass increased the resting metabolic rate in healthy older men, After a 16 week resistance training program body weight didn’t change but fat percentage dropped while muscle mass increased. No steady state cardiovascular work was used in the program.
Try some breath work – While the above mentioned exercise works the parasympathetic system, we want to balance things out by stimulating the sympathetic nervous system. Yoga, Tai Chi, meditation or simple breath work all have amazing benefits in this department.
Slow Diaphragmatic breathing is easy and effective. It stimulates the vagus nerve, which has been shown to connect the digestive/immune system and the brain. Here is a link to a quick explanation from Harvard Health on how to perform this kind of breathing exercise. But I urge you to try something with some movement involved like Tai Chi or Yoga, the benefits will go way beyond what you get from the breath work. Even better, is if you can find a class that takes place outdoors. Research has shown that outdoor activity has a significant positive mental benefits. A 2010 study showed that even 5 minutes of outdoor activity can improve mood and self esteem. Regulating mood as you would guess reduces stress and physical tension. A body and mind at ease will smooth the way for the metabolic benefits from improved nutrition and exercise to lose weight!
Everything is connected. If you want to improve or maintain your metabolism there isn’t one quick fix, its about finding balance. What works for you won’t work for everyone, which is why it’s important to do things like find out if you have allergies, intolerances or deficiencies. If you don’t know what to do for exercise, or how much muscle to put on that makes sense for your body type, find a professional and get a program designed for you!