My top seven strategies for weight loss and a healthy metabolism
Updated: Jan 24
I recognize that weight is just one measure of overall health, but it is one that many of my clients are concerned with. When we struggle with weight we often wonder, is my metabolism slow? If this describes you, then this article is for you. Overweight and obesity are so common today that two-thirds of adults and one-third of children experience these in the United States right now. That’s hundreds of millions of people, so please don’t feel alone. Overweight and obesity can increase the risk of 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 reduce your risks.
But as you know, there is so much more to the old advice: eat less, move more. Struggling with weight loss can be a sign of a metabolic issue. Signs of a metabolic issue include:
● Poor appetite or uncontrollable appetite
● Thin hair, brittle nails, dry skin
● Weight Gain
● Inability to lose weight
Weight loss is very challenging for many reasons:
● There is an abundance of food available around most of us 24/7
● Eating isn’t just something we do for sustenance; it’s gratification, a social activity, and sometimes even a reward
● Computers and cars, etc. have contributed to a much more sedentary lifestyle—we don’t all need to be physically active farmers to survive anymore
● Reducing calories voluntarily is really, really hard; it’s a huge challenge to change habits
● Many diets work in the short term but fail later on because they’re simply unsustainable
● After losing weight, maintaining a weight loss is extremely difficult, and this is particularly true for women before, during, and after menopause.
Today, let’s go over some strategies to overcome the challenges of weight loss.
What is metabolism and how can I lose weight?
Your weight is based on several factors, some are controllable and others are not. For example, your genetics, family history, and hormones can impact your weight, but there’s not too much you can do to significantly change those. On the other hand, how much and what you eat, the medications you’re taking, the amount of stress you’re under, and how much sleep and physical activity you get also contribute to weight, and are a bit more controllable (albeit not completely controllable).
Here’s where metabolism fits with weight. There are so many things that your body does at rest: breathing, pumping blood, adjusting hormone levels, maintaining your body temperature, and growing and repairing cells. The amount of energy (calories) your body uses to perform these essential functions is called your “basal metabolic rate.” Overall, your basal metabolic rate (BMR), or metabolism, accounts for about two-thirds of the calories your body burns each and every day.
“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.
Your metabolism is influenced mostly by your body size and composition. This means that people who are bigger and/or have heavier bones and more muscle mass burn more calories at rest. Because men tend to be bigger and have more muscle, they naturally tend to have a higher metabolism than women. This also goes for younger people. Because bone and muscle mass naturally tend to decrease (and fat mass naturally tends to increase) with age, if you don’t take steps to maintain bone and muscle mass, your metabolism likely will decrease which results in increased weight.
Certain medical conditions can also affect your metabolism. For example, the hormonal conditions of Cushing’s syndrome, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), or hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) can slow your metabolism down. These conditions often come with a range of other symptoms beyond just weight gain. If you suspect that you have an underlying medical condition, don’t hesitate to speak with your doctor or healthcare professional about tests to confirm these diagnoses.
A slow metabolism may be one factor that influences your weight, but it’s not the only one. How your body processes what you eat or drink and how active you are also playing roles in your weight. The process of digesting food burns calories. About 10 percent of the calories in carbohydrates and protein are used to digest them. Plus, the amount of physical activity you do also accounts for some of the calories you burn every day.