Your Metabolism 101 (and how it effects weight loss).

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I really had a fun time combing through vintage ads for this blog post. It’s crazy what some medical professionals advised their patients to do back in the day if they were looking to lose weight.

Case in point: let’s talk about your metabolism.

First off, we throw that word around A LOT. How many times have you heard “I have a low/high metabolism so I can/can’t…..” But do we even know what the word means? Metabolism is a simple concept. It basically means how our bodies chemically break down food and turn it into energy. That’s it. Having a “low” or “high” metabolism isn’t something we are born with. Sorry to tell you. Our own habits, behaviors, and eating patterns over time dictate how our body is going to metabolize food and either A) use it for energy, B) store it as fat, or C) use it to build muscle. Got it so far?

A few factors will change our metabolism. Taking certain medications, how much exercise/activity we get, and losing weight will all have a profound effect. But all in all, making sure we eat a healthy, nutrient-dense diet and get some daily activity will help regulate our metabolism so we use what we eat in the best way possible.

So, why do I make this blog post if the idea is this simple?

I’ve been doing A LOT of nutrition coaching these past few weeks, and I’m running up against the same issues with each and every client. Let me give you an example.

I have a client who is in her mid/late 50’s. She came to me after doing a meal replacement program where she was drinking/eating MR’s (meal replacements) that totaled to about 1000 calories a day at the end. She had gradually started to introduce some real foods, but this program had done a great disservice to her by demonizing carbs and then sending her off after she hit her goal weight with little to no education on how to re-enter a world with a lot of variety. She continued to eat a low-carb/Keto diet (which in my professional opinion is not the healthiest option) into maintenance. As she started to eat more real food and adding calories back into her diet, she started to gain weight. She started to panic, and this is when she gave me a call and said “HELP!”

I have a lot of worries about a program like she did as her team did not properly adapt her body back to eating enough calories to GET THROUGH HER DAY, let alone eat enough to add in exercise. The average woman in her 50’s will likely burn anywhere from 1500 to around 2000 calories a day just living her life. Once you add in activity, that number may rise a bit. She was only eating around 1100 or so when she came to me.

EDUCATION TIME. The body can only burn what it can either A) take in through food or B) what it has stored as glycogen in the muscles. And how do we get glycogen in the muscles? Glycogen is just glucose broken down in digestion, and what is glucose? CARBS. Our bodies can burn fat as fuel in ketogenesis, but again, I have A LOT of qualms about a ketogenic diet. Not even gonna go there right now. That’s a blog post for another day.

So, this poor gal is exhausting herself trying to continue to lose weight, but she’s only taking in 1100 or so calories a day. Her body basically said “NOPE. Sorry. If you can’t give me fuel to burn, I’m going to maybe burn a tiny bit of body fat for while, then I’m just gonna go eat lean muscle mass. So I’ll just hold on to everything I already have here because you’re STARVING ME.”

Sorry, kids. I don’t make the rules. This is just how bodies work.

When she came to me, I told her something she didn’t want to hear. I told her we needed to heal her metabolism because, frankly, it was in the shitter. After over a year of doing MR’s and eating a high fat/moderate protein diet, her body has been turned upside down and every which way but loose. I told her we needed to add back in complex carbs. She was, admittedly, scared. I mean, OF COURSE. In her mind, she lost 50 pounds by eating a MR plan with Keto ideals to go along with it.

But here is the reality. She lost weight NOT BECAUSE she ate Keto for that long. She lost weight because she was in a calorie deficit. That’s it. Plain and simple. There are gonna be people out there that tell you otherwise. Karen with her “health coach” certification who believes in curing ailments with essential oils is going to tell you to do it this way. But I’m asking my clients to take a leap and to TRUST ME when I ask them to do it my way. My nutrition certifications are legit, backed by SCIENCE, and I think I’m a pretty good billboard for eating a nutrient-dense diet.

Weight loss is energy in/energy out. If you do it in a healthy way by eating a WIDE VARIETY of complex carbs, lean protein and healthy fats, it’s gonna work. But like I’m doing with with this gal I mention, we often times have to do the hard work first. In her case, we have to get her metabolism back to functioning normally and adapt her body back to eating a diet rich in whole grains, fruit, and starchy veg ALONG WITH her proteins and healthy fats. And this may see the scale go up a few pounds while her body adjusts.

Let’s look at another example.

I have a client, a woman in her mid 30’s, who is a distance runner. She is quite trim, very lean, and eats extremely clean with the occasional indulgence. She is a friend through the running community, and was looking for some guidance as she stated she was constantly exhausted, and had even passed out at work. Her bloodwork came back normal, she she knew it might be her nutrition that was off. She is currently training for a half marathon, and also does resistance training a few times a week. So as far as the exercise piece, she is nailing it.

When I did a 24 hour food recall with her, I was shocked to see how little she was eating. I literally asked her “Honey, where’s your FOOD??!” She is a classic case of under-eating and over-training. And these are the clients I LOVE to get, because I get to form a partnership with them on how to best change their eating habits to support all the badass things they want to do.

As my client, you will always be the expert in your own life. I’m always humbled, each and every time I get a new client, that people trust me to help them change this personal part of their lives.

With this particular client, we actually placed her in Muscle Gain. The girl needs A LOT of food. These two clients aren’t that different, when it comes down to it. Both of them, their metabolism is in the toilet. And NINE TIMES OUT OF TEN when a client comes to me and wants to lose weight, we usually have to ADD food. The best part of my day a few days ago was messaging her to ask how she was doing and she replied she was “full!” and that she wasn’t exhausted by 3pm that day.

A lot of what we do here is trial and error. I spend a lot of time looking at my clients’ food diaries and watching their macros, sleep, resting heart rate, sugar and fiber consumption, sodium intake, and weight to determine what the next steps will be in their journey. Yes, there will come a time when that metabolism catches up and weight loss will stall, but ONLY THEN is the time when we stop, take a breath, and start bringing calories down slowly, so their bodies can catch up to what we’re asking it to do.

First and foremost, having a good relationship with food is THE MOST IMPORTANT THING. Once you have that, things can begin to fall into place.

That’s how you do it, folks.

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