Taking Charge of Your Metabolism

Laura Heflin preparing food in her kitchen.

Okay friends, enlighten me. How much do you really know about your unique metabolism and the rate at which your body burns for you? How many times have you struggled to lose weight and how many times have you felt frustrated? How many times have you felt “stuck”? If you have felt this way many times or if you are currently feeling this way now, I am here today writing this blog to offer you hope and to let you know that you are not alone!

Before we jump straight to the good part let me just give you a little background on me and what I do. For over a decade now I have been working as a holistically trained, certified nutritionist. I have been meeting with clients of all ages and stages of life who mostly all begin their journey with me the same way: discouraged. The majority of my clients typically start by coming into my office irritated and frustrated with their body’s apparent inability to lose weight. I often hear phrases and claims like:

“I’ve hit 40 so now my metabolism is at a stand still. Nothing I do seems to help anymore.”

“My entire family is obese. It’s just in my genes I guess.”

“Every bite I eat shows up on the scale.”

“I am so stressed trying to figure out what to eat and I no longer enjoy food like I once did.”

Sound familiar? If it does, I want you to know that I get it! It is incredibly frustrating to be working so hard to care for your body only to watch the scale stand still or worse, go up! But today, I am here to help! You see, though age and genetics do play a small role in one’s fat and calorie burning ability, the truth is that we actually have a lot of say over how it functions! We are NOT destined to be overweight just because we happen to float in a certain gene pool or hit a certain age bracket. That being said, the influence we have on our metabolism does depend on a few factors such as the amount of stress you are under, the amount of sleep you are getting, the serum level of your hormone estrogen in comparison to your progesterone and testosterone levels, the amount of inflammatory foods you are taking in on a daily basis (both processed foods and whole foods on the “nightshade” list), the amount of or lack of metabolism boosting foods you incorporate in your diet and how often and in what increments you are fueling your body.

Why do these factors matter and make such an impact on your metabolism? Well, let’s break it down starting with stress and sleep. The amount of stress we are under day after day and the amount of sleep we get can greatly impact our adrenal gland health and the amount of cortisol that is produced. Chronic stress and lack of sleep typically lead to a high output of cortisol which communicates to our body that it needs to conserve energy (aka calories and the food we take in) as opposed to burning it efficiently to prepare for the next stressful “fight or flight” situation we find ourselves in. So in a nutshell, the less we stress and the more sleep we get, the greater ability our body has to burn calories!

Now moving on to estrogen. Oftentimes, our bodies struggle with finding that perfect balance between estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. Estrogen isn’t the enemy. However, too much of it and too little of other hormones causes problems- weight gain or the inability to lose weight being one of them. Too much estrogen in our body which can easily accumulate from stress, lack of sleep, a poor diet and exposure to toxic products and chemicals is known as “estrogen dominance”. Estrogen is essential for fertility, brain health, heart health, bone health and more! An excess of estrogen however, encourages fat storage and less muscle gains plus it suppresses our thyroid gland which is essential for a highly functioning metabolism. Therefore, living a toxic free and clean lifestyle, controlling one’s stress, getting 8 hours of quality sleep a night and incorporating lots of cruciferous, liver cleansing vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts and cauliflower is essential!

Now let’s address inflammation for a minute. We really are what we eat folks and so in the same way obvious sources of inflammation like nicotine from cigarettes or ethanol from alcohol can cause issues, so can certain foods. Fast food for instance is typically encased with preservatives and vegetable oils which both are linked to an increase in inflammation and a decrease in our ability to lose weight. Refined, white table sugar is inflammatory as well. But it’s not just as simple as eating whole foods either because unfortunately, certain foods such as “nightshade vegetables'' (think white potatoes, egg plants, peppers and tomatoes) and high histamine foods such as avocados, kiwi, citrus fruits, shellfish and spinach can raise inflammation too! So what can we do? Well, we can simply practice an 80/20 approach and try our best to only eat these foods along with processed foods in moderation. Balance is key!

Now time for some good news! There are in fact certain foods that have been linked to a higher metabolism! Organic coffee, green tea, spicy food, cacao, seaweed, ginger and apple cider vinegar are a few of my favorites and they can be easily found at your local grocery store. Also, it has been found that drinking chilled water actually encourages your metabolism to speed up due to the effort that is required to warm up that chilled H2O. Pretty cool huh?

Lastly, the timing at which you eat is important too. You see, your body actually does not know there is food available until you tell it there is by eating. Despite common, modern practice, it is my belief that skipping meals and fasting for prolonged periods of time can actually backfire and unfortunately I have seen this play out more times than I can count. Now sure, for a few months many tend to lose weight by restricting calories or fasting for extended periods of time. But then all of the sudden, they plateau and they don’t understand why! Now, though I can understand how frustrating this must be, it really isn't a mystery as to why this happens. Why? Because what you have done by following these trends is communicate to your body that it must find a way to function on minimal food at certain, restricted times of the day. So, what happens? Your body thinks “well, if this is how it is going to be I am going to stop losing weight and start storing food for later.” Our bodies are designed to self preserve and the second it feels that it may be in danger in any way of not being able to survive, fat burning goes to s screeching halt. Unstable blood sugar and undereating does not make for a happy metabolism my friends! However, by grazing within a 12 hour window every 2-3 hours you are lovingly reminding your body that it can relax because food is easily attainable and it has no reason to store fat! So, does this mean that you can’t fast? Absolutely not! In fact part of the Live Healthy With Laura lifestyle is incorporating a 12 hour fast each and every day. That means, you start eating at 7 AM and then you stop at 7 PM. This is a great way to lower inflammation, burn fat and excess glucose and ensure healthy sleep patterns. So, fast half of your 24 hour day and reap loads of benefits without putting your body in fight or flight, fat storing mode! Simple as that!

So, obtaining an efficient fast metabolism at any age or stage? Yes! It really is possible! However, it doesn’t come freely and as you just read it does typically require some tweaking and a few lifestyle changes. Simply put, if you lower your intake of inflammatory foods, increase your intake of anti inflammatory foods and metabolism boosting foods, drink plenty of chilled water, control your stress, get plenty of sleep and eat at the right increments you too, can be a fat burning machine! So let’s start living the Live Healthy With Laura way together shall we? Let’s encourage our bodies to work for us and not against us and let’s rediscover all of the benefits of a healthy and fast metabolism. I have a feeling if you do, this may just be your best summer yet!