Do you blame your inability to lose weight on your metabolism? Many of my clients do and use their “slow metabolism” as an excuse to avoid making the lifestyle changes that lead to a healthier weight and a higher state of wellbeing.
Metabolism is a term that describes all the chemical reactions that maintain your body. It includes both catabolism (the breakdown of molecules to obtain energy) as well as anabolism (the synthesis of compounds needed by cells).
Simple stuff, right? Yet there’s a lot of confusion about metabolism. Here are 5 of the most common myths.
1) Dieting, fasting, eating low calorie meals and skipping meals jumpstart weight loss
You may lose a few pounds by following the latest fad diet or starving yourself, but study after scientific study shows that dieting and calorie deprivation do not result in lasting weight loss. In other words… diets don’t work, lead to weight gain, not loss and can decrease your metabolism. Plus, dieting increases stress and the hormone cortisol, which is associated with an increase in appetite and weight gain around the belly.
2) Late night eating slows metabolism
Eating later at night does not decrease your metabolic rate. However, eating extra calories any time will lead to weight gain, not loss. In addition, people are more likely to eat and snack mindlessly in the evening while viewing television. Research shows that individuals who eat most of their calories later in the day tend to eat more.
3) Certain foods increase metabolism
We’ve all seen those adds and articles that claim that certain foods — chili peppers, green tea, blueberries, psyllium husk…— have amazing metabolism boosting powers. While some foods have been shown to boost metabolism slightly and other foods or nutrients can certainly help with weight loss by increasing satiety and helping to preserve muscle mass there are no “magic” foods or diet pills that significantly increase metabolism enough to compensate for overeating.
4) A deficit of 3,500 calories equals a pound of body fat lost
While weight loss is associated with an imbalance between the number of calories you eat and the number you use, calculating how calorie imbalance leads to weight loss is not so straightforward. Most people loss less weight than the amount predicted by the “3,500 calorie rule.”
Here’s why. Weight loss tends to slow with time because you need fewer calories to maintain your weight when you weigh less. Plus, calorie deprivation tends can lower basal metabolic rate (the rate your body burns calories at rest) because your body thinks you’re starving and so tries to slow things down to conserve calories and protect you.
5) You can’t control your metabolism
It’s easy to blame your weight on your metabolism and give up on achieving a healthier weight, however there are several things you can do to increase your metabolism. Some of the most powerful are: building muscle mass by lifting weights, getting adequate sleep, drinking plenty of cold water (the body has to burn calories to warm the water up), drinking a cup of coffee (it can increase metabolic rate for 3 hours after digestion), avoiding starving yourself and eating enough protein.
Weight loss tends to be more of a roller coaster than a straight line with lots of plateaus along the way. The bottom line is be patient and focus on eating right and exercising, not the number on the scale. If you eat right, reduce stress, get enough sleep and move your body more eventually you’ll reach your healthy weight.