It is common to hear health experts talk about fixing a broken metabolism when helping people who are struggling to lose weight. I wanted to dive into the topic more in-depth today in an attempt to put your fears of having a broken metabolism at rest. You are struggling to lose weight? No, your metabolism isn’t broken, and don’t worry, I have some practical tips to help you achieve your weight loss goal.
Is Your Metabolism Broken?
First, what doe it even mean to have a broken metabolism. I think in most people’s minds, the idea comes up when they feel they don’t eat much and still can’t lose weight. It’s hard to sort through the opposing advice sometimes. For example, this article from a “reliable” source (Healthline) talks about a 3-Day Fix to Supercharging Your Metabolism that includes common-sense steps like getting a good night’s sleep and exercising but also recommends not skipping breakfast.
Health experts cater to the concept of a broken metabolism all the time with similar advice. However, what if your metabolism wasn’t broken? What if having a slow metabolism was a good thing?
Benefits of a Slow Metabolism
Have you heard of Dr, Joel Fuhrman? He specializes in sustainable weight loss and reversing chronic disease through diet. He is the first health expert I ever heard talk about the benefits of having a slow metabolism. Again, in the Conquering Cancer Summit, he spent some time explaining how it works. Here’s how I would summarize what he said about the benefits of a slow metabolism: it promotes cellular healing and repair, slows down aging, lowers your respiratory quotient, and lowers your thyroid activity.
Promotes Cellular Healing and Repair
When your metabolism slows down, your body devotes more energy to healing and repair. In the non-feeding state, your body is able to remove toxins and replace damaged cells.
Slows Down Aging
When you eat more than you need to sustain your metabolic needs, your metabolism increases in an attempt to burn off those calories. Unfortunately, this shortens the length of your telomeres and accelerates aging. Moreover, as you will soon see, lower thyroid activity slows down again.
Lowers Respiratory Quotient
Well, I had no idea what this benefit was all about and Dr. Fuhrman didn’t really give more explanations. Here’s the definition of respiratory quotient:
The respiratory quotient (RQ) is the ratio of carbon dioxide production to oxygen consumption and reflects the relative contributions of fat, carbohydrate, and protein to the oxidation fuel mixture.Encyclopedia of Food Science and Nutrition
As it turns out, fitter people have a lower respiratory quotient. If I understand correctly what I learned, a lower respiratory quotient decreases glycogen storage by the liver and reduces the risk of complications from liver disease.
Lowers Thyroid Activity
In the article The Advantages of a Slow Metabolism, Mike Samuels gives some more information about some of the points raised by Dr. Fuhrman during his interview on the Conquering Cancer Summit. The article states:
Thyroid hormone plays a big role in regulating your metabolism and energy expenditure, and low levels of thyroid hormones correlate with a slow metabolism. A study published in a 2010 edition of “The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism” found that low thyroid activity correlates with an increased life expectancy. This could be due to the fact that with a faster metabolism, the body must work harder, putting it under more stress, notes obesity expert Dr. Joel Fuhrman.The Advantages of a Slow Metabolism
What If You Can’t Lose Weight?
Ok, this is all well and good, you may say. Glad to hear that my slow metabolism is good for longevity, but what if I want to lose weight? Being overweight is bad for my health and I can<t lose weight! Let me help you out by giving you my most effective weight loss tips. Losing weight is hard, particularly after 40. But if I, who has no self-control, was able to achieve my goal weight after 7 babies and after the age of 40, you can too.
What Is a Realistic Weight Loss Goal?
If you are overweight (BMI above 25) you can realistically sustain a weight loss of 2 lbs per week. In fact, Dr. Joel Fuhrman explains that this type of weight loss is helpful to reduce inflammation and improve your overall health markers. However, if like many women I speak to, you are not in the overweight range but would like to lose 10-20 lbs, a realistic weight loss goal will look very different. For women closer to their goal weight, the weight loss will be much slower (I find about 2 lbs a month to be a realistic expectation).
How Much Should You Be Able to Eat?
To lose one pound a week, you need a calorie deficit of 500 calories a day. It’s much harder than you think to cut out that many calories. You will feel hungry and deprived. That’s why intermittent fasting is so effective. A small eating window makes it easier to ensure you don’t overeat and regulates your insulin levels (which in turn reduces your food cravings).
if you are curious, check out this list of foods and their calorie numbers.
How to Finally Lose Weight Even With a Slow Metabolism
Now that you understand that a slower metabolism doesn’t need repair and you have set a realistic weight loss goal for yourself, what should you do to actually lose the weight?
Practice Intermittent Fasting
If you know anything about my website, it won’t surprise you that I encourage you to practice intermittent fasting. But hold up! Not any kind of intermittent fasting. I tried the 16:8 method in my thirties and did not achieve the results I was hoping to achieve. If you want to lose weight using intermittent fasting, you need to experiment with cycling and longer fasting windows.
Want to learn more? Don’t forget to sign up for my Intermittent Fasting 101 Workshop.
The advantage of using a longer fasting window (like the 20:4 method, for example) is that it decreases your chance of overeating and ensures that you fast long enough to switch from using glucose for fuel to ketones for fuel. This switch will make you feel more energetic, focused, and reduce your food cravings.
Intermittent Fasting and Your Metabolism
Now intermittent fasting lowers your levels of the fat-storing hormone insulin, increases your human growth hormone levels, and boosts your Norepinephrine levels, a stress hormone that improves alertness and attention. These changes increase fat burning. Now, we often hear that intermittent fasting boosts your metabolism (I probably said it myself). Considering what we just learned about the benefits of slowing down your metabolism, should you avoid intermittent fasting. Keep these two things in mind:
- The increased metabolic rate usually starts after 36 hours of fasting.
- This increase is temporary. It’s the body’s response to short term stress, which is beneficial.
Consume Nutrient Dense Foods
My next best advice to lose weight even if you haven’t been able to do so is to consume as many nutrient-dense foods as you can. A plate of broccoli salad will take a lot more space in your stomach than a handful of chips. Add some healthy fats and you will feel more satisfied and consume fewer calories naturally. As you get started with intermittent fasting, keep this advice in mind. However, I am not expecting you to change your diet drastically at once. You can successfully lose weight with intermittent fasting without changing your diet.
The thing is, I want you to experience optimal health and nutrient-dense foods are essential. You will most likely notice that after a few months of intermittent fasting, you will tend to crave healthier foods naturally.
One little step at the time.