Why is My Metabolism Slow?

You may feel tired, cold or that you’ve gained weight. Maybe your digestion seems a bit more “sluggish”.

You may be convinced that your metabolism is slow.

Why does this happen? Why do metabolic rates slow down?

What can slow my metabolism?

Metabolism includes all of the biochemical reactions in your body that use nutrients and oxygen to create energy. And there are lots of factors that affect how quickly (or slowly) it works, i.e. your “metabolic rate” (which is measured in calories).

But don’t worry – we know that metabolic rate is much more complicated than the old adage “calories in calories out”! In fact it’s so complicated I’m only going to list a few of the common things that can slow it down.

Examples of common reasons why metabolic rates can slow down:

  • low thyroid hormone

  • your history of dieting

  • your size and body composition

  • your activity level

  • lack of sleep

We’ll briefly touch on each one below and I promise to give you better advice than just to “eat less and exercise more”.

Low thyroid hormones

Your thyroid is the master controller of your metabolism. When it produces fewer hormones your metabolism slows down. The thyroid hormones (T3 & T4) tell the cells in your body when to use more energy and become more metabolically active. Ideally it should work to keep your metabolism just right. But there are several things that can affect it and throw it off course. Things like autoimmune diseases and mineral deficiencies (e.g. iodine or selenium) for example.

Tip: Talk with your doctor about having your thyroid hormones tested.

Your history of dieting

When people lose weight their metabolic rate often slows down. This is because the body senses that food may be scarce and adapts by trying to continue with all the necessary life functions and do it all with less food.

While dieting can lead to a reduction in amount of fat it unfortunately can also lead to a reduction in the amount of muscle you have. As you know more muscle means faster resting metabolic rate.

Tip: Make sure you’re eating enough food to fuel your body without overdoing it.

Your size and body composition

In general, larger people have faster metabolic rates. This is because it takes more energy to fuel a larger body than a smaller one.

However, you already know that gaining weight is rarely the best strategy for increasing your metabolism.

Muscles that actively move and do work need energy. Even muscles at rest burn more calories than fat. This means that the amount of energy your body uses depends partly on the amount of lean muscle mass you have.

Tip: Do some weight training to help increase your muscle mass.

Which leads us to…

Your activity level

Aerobic exercise temporarily increases your metabolic rate. Your muscles are burning fuel to move and do “work” and you can tell because you’re also getting hotter.

Even little things can add up. Walking a bit farther than you usually do, using a standing desk instead of sitting all day, or taking the stairs instead of the elevator can all contribute to more activity in your day.

Tip: Incorporate movement into your day. Also, exercise regularly.

Lack of sleep

There is plenty of research that shows the influence that sleep has on your metabolic rate. The general consensus is to get 7-9 hours of sleep every night.

Tip: Try to create a routine that allows at least 7 hours of sleep every night.

Recipe (Selenium-rich): Chocolate Chia Seed Pudding

Serves 4

½ cup Brazil nuts

2 cups water

nut bag or several layers of cheesecloth (optional)

½ cup chia seeds

¼ cup unsweetened cacao powder

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon sea salt

1 tablespoon maple syrup

Blend Brazil nuts in water in a high-speed blender until you get smooth, creamy milk. If desired, strain it with a nut bag or several layers of cheesecloth.

Add Brazil nut milk and other ingredients into a bowl and whisk until combined. Let sit several minutes (or overnight) until desired thickness is reached.

Serve & Enjoy!

Tip: Makes a simple delicious breakfast or dessert topped with berries.

How to shift your mindset about exercise and weight loss

Let’s talk about exercise.

I hear quite often from people who are struggling with their weight loss efforts and begin to feel frustrated because they are unable to reach their goals for many reasons that can be due to misconceptions about their basic plans. People crowd into gyms on January 1st after the much promise of “I want to lose weight this year”, New Year’s resolution has been proclaimed the evening before. Did you know that by February 1st, 70% of those “resolutioners” quit? They just quit! Why? Because it wasn’t a strong enough desire for them to continue long term. It was a short term “fix” to some deeper issues.

Screen Shot 2016-01-12 at 9.32.15 AM

Or how about people that commit to rigorous new exercise programs like Crossfit, Insanity or running, just because they heard someone say they had some success in it?  Although there is much success within these programs; it’s not all about the programs alone. What works for one person isn’t necessarily the best plan for another. If you are a beginner, for goodness sake, start with something that can be sustained and enjoyed long term at the get go, like walking? Movement is movement, bottom line. Just get off the couch and you’ll achieve better results than sitting and watching a Netflix season while bingeing on bon-bons. The goal for more challenging programs like those above should be for those who need it and actually enjoy being challenged and able to sustain the workouts along the way.

Screen Shot 2016-01-12 at 9.37.41 AM

We should never pummel our bodies into oblivion in order to “shape” it into the perfect body we imagine. Our bodies are meant to be respected and challenged according to our levels and any previous issues. I see too often, those who seem to be punishing their bodies with exercise. They almost seem to dislike what they are doing and aren’t happy about the time they spend working out. Many times, these individuals (when not taking precautions and training smarter..not harder) will suffer an injury or burnout at some point.

One thing I repeat quite often to my group exercise classes, (and yes, I teach Insanity LIVE!) is to smile when feeling like you want to quit or stop. (this applies to all fitness plans) To actually force a smile (and even if it looks forced) will immediately improve your mood. It’s a quick shift in our brains that we are not suffering; although it may feel like we are.  This has become a habit of mine in every challenging situation I am confronted with. Just to know that I can curl up the corners of my mouth and I will feel more confident and positive in the very moment is a powerful and quite amazing habit. Why not give it a go? What have you got to lose anyway?

So what would be a better route when choosing to get healthier and fit? If we can’t just focus on pushing ourselves in our workouts, what other way can we benefit and reach our goals of weight loss? Of course, you probably know it’s in our nutrition. I’m not even going to tell you how to eat here…just the fact of getting yourself on a plan that supports your goals, your energy levels, your preferences and the enjoyment of nourishing your body will be the best plan for you. I dislike diets because they are centered around deprivation.

Screen Shot 2016-01-12 at 9.39.11 AM

Stop eating carbs and lose 15 lbs!! Drink this diet potion 3 times a day and lose your unwanted belly fat! Drink this veggie smoothie every day for a month and lose 30 lbs! 

Sound familiar? Yea, and it makes me cringe when I see these headlines, advertisements and posts because it lures those who want the quick fix into thinking this will be the magic plan. This will be the week, month, year that we finally lose that unwanted weight and feel happy about ourselves again.

FALSE!

Diets work. Plain and simple. But they are temporary. It’s like a band-aid on a much larger issue. Pretending that this will “cure” our ailments of overeating, cravings, bingeing, etc is ridiculous and the diet industry thrives off of this mindset. We want “quick”; we want “instant” and we don’t really want to be too uncomfortable while we wait for these results.

Which brings me back to the first point made about exercise that can seem to be daunting or feel miserable. I am going to be honest and say I dislike running. Do I run? Of course! But instead of using it as a tool to lose weight or be able to eat all the carbs that I want; I use it as a challenge and work to my levels and listen to my body’s cues. This wasn’t always the case. I was enjoying my running with local friends and groups as a leisure experience that challenged my body and ultimately, made me feel proud after accomplishing a challenging route. I’m not sure when I thought it would be a good idea to enter to run a marathon…but that, I did. And I trained correctly. I followed a running plan that slowly increased in mileage over time (you should have heard my hubby freak out the day I was going to run 18 miles by myself!! “who does that???” he asked….lol) and then tapered back down just before the big day. I had a goal of finishing the marathon between 4 hours and 4 1/2 hours (although I secretly hoped I could qualify for Boston! ha)

I was proud that I actually finished the run in 4 1/2 hours and was able to cross the finish line…although, hubby caught me just after and literally dragged me to the recovery area. I remember, quite vividly how I felt in those final 4 miles. After mile 22, I couldn’t bare to take another step.

But another step, I did take. And again and again. It was quite painful at that point; body, mind and spirit. I had to reach in and gather every extra ounce of will to just get the race over with. I thought about people I knew who actually repeated this process. And I wondered WHY???

But in the end, I was proud that I finished. The reason I was able to finish, however, was because I trained right. I researched best practices for training and read up on nutrition and tips to keep me strong and help me recover between long days. I didn’t mix in another workout plan at that time because I just couldn’t. I focused on stretching, yoga, resting, nutrition, hydrating along the way instead. This was not for weight loss goals, though, it was about doing something I thought I would never accomplish. Why? Because I could!

IMG_1503

True story!

But would I want to do it again? Probably not! I wouldn’t rule out a 1/2 marathon or shorter race but a full marathon I will leave to the professional lovers of running. My body and mind prefer lifting weights and circuit style training. This doesn’t mean that’s all I do. We should commit to doing the things we currently SUCK at. Not that it has to be perfect or that we have to learn to love it forever; but we should always know what it’s like to be challenged. Our minds are powerful tools and if we think of exercise as a tool to feel better over time (and hey, let’s face it…look better too!), we may start to enjoy it as we go along. Exercise, to me, is a way of feeling my best. I have more energy on days that I workout. I feel more positive. I am confident and feel healthy and stronger. I know that I’m setting a good example to those in my life who need it. I don’t exercise to lose weight. That comes from our nutrition, mostly. Exercise can help our goals but should never be the main focus. Haven’t you heard the saying, “You cannot out-exercise a bad diet”??? Been there…done that too! 😉

Help for Binge Eaters

6 Tips To Stop Compulsive Eating

Screen Shot 2015-05-29 at 1.15.15 PM Are you prone to food cravings, binges and eating your way through emotional stresses? I have always felt as if there was no hope for me when my body went into “binge mode”. I tried everything and anything that I could find to offset these binges. I tried willpower; I used foods that wouldn’t hurt my goals, such as vegetables and fruits; I drank water, tea and coffee; I would walk away from the kitchen; I would research the reasons why this was happening and never really found the solution that worked.

It’s important to first understand the difference between compulsive overeating and other eating disorders. Compulsive overeaters don’t attempt to make up or “punish” themselves for their bingeing with actions such as purging, fasting, diet pills or laxatives. Compulsive overeating typically leads to weight gain and obesity. Keep in mind that not everyone who is obese is also a compulsive overeater. People who appear to be of normal or average weight can also be affected by these behaviors. 

This included ME! I found it quite upsetting when others would downplay the fact that I was working on finding a solution to this issue; since being just 30 lbs or so above my “ideal weight” wasn’t proof enough to anyone that I was actually dealing with this.  Let’s begin with a few tips on how to prevent a binge; or emotional attack before it hits.

 

  • Avoid temptation. You’re much more likely to overeat if you have junk food, desserts and unhealthy snacks in the house. (pretty shocking, right? lol) But many of us tend to use excuses as to why we “need” these foods in the home. I used to use my family as an excuse; “they NEED these items. I don’t want them to suffer because of my issues”, etc. But why on earth should they even be eating unhealthy items either? Just because they didn’t go into full-force binge mode at any given moment, didn’t mean that they required junk foods on a regular basis. No, this was my sad attempt to keep these comfort foods close at hand because I felt uneasy to put an end to the episodes. To keep temptation at bay, don’t keep the food within easy access. The best way to do that is not to purchase unhealthy food in the first place. duh dot com.
  • Stop “dieting”.  Having a “diet” mentality or severely restricting your food intake can increase hunger and feelings of deprivation. I know that the fact that I would cut out food groups, or meals in general, kept my body in the “all or nothing” phase and thus, would lead to another binge-fest because my body simply needed and craved more calories. Instead of being ultra strict with your food, focus on eating in moderation. Find nutritious foods that you enjoy . Try to eat more small meals throughout the day as well to keep hunger at bay. And the more dense nutrition you put into your body on a daily basis, the LESS it craves anything that isn’t on your meal plan. Check out Shakeology for this fact alone.
  • Start Exercising. Exercise is a natural way to boost your mood and can help put a stop to emotional eating. Not only does exercise help you lose weight and improve your health… it can also help reduce depression and reduce stress. It’s our HAPPY pill, in simpler terms, with no dangerous side effects!
  • Decrease stress. Learn how to cope with stress in other ways that don’t involve food. This one is a doozy but such an important tip to take seriously. I know, easier said than done… but keep in mind, compulsive overeating has little to do with hunger. People often eat when they are not hungry or use food to fill an emotional need that they cannot cope with in other ways. So the next time you find yourself standing in front of the open refrigerator or pantry and staring into the abyss of foods thinking, I’m hungry for something; shut the door and go sit down to figure out what you are really hungry for. Love? Attention? Friendship? Relaxation? A hug? Whatever it is, it has nothing to do with food. If you don’t know what you want to eat, it usually leads to an emotional need or some help in releasing a stressful time.
  • Rome wasn’t built in a day. Don’t try to change your relationship with food overnight. Try setting small goals and give yourself some positive feedback. If you tell yourself, “I need to add more fish and veggies to my diet,” it will be much better than saying, “I need to stop eating so much crap.” Think positive! =)
  • No one is perfect, be kind to yourself. We all make mistakes, we all struggle sometimes… it’s nothing to be ashamed of. If you are suffering from compulsive overeating and you feel like it is getting out of control, you should really seek professional help to stop the unhealthy, weight-gaining, self destructive behavior. You’re not alone. There are plenty of wonderful resources for those with eating disorders… don’t be afraid to reach out ❤

When all is said and done, do your best and forget the rest. (Tony Horton of P90X) Simply put, if you make a mistake or fall into a binge along the way, chalk it up to figuring out how you could have handled it differently and make that attempt the next time around. Stop blaming yourself and just start enjoying your life…and your foods! 🙂