Trainer Brad and his gym rats will have you on a 500-calorie-deficit diet and a strict HIIT training schedule to lose weight. And you won’t see results.
That’s because eating less and moving more is a big fat lie. A lie that is damaging your metabolic ecosystem.
Trainer Brad and the general public tend to be under the impression that as you age, your metabolism naturally slows down or gives up. But the truth is, as we grow up and get busy, our priorities, stress levels, sleep levels, and food tolerances change – and we’re the ones breaking it. And when we try to “fix it” with a calorie deficit diet, exercise, or other extreme measures, we’re essentially keeping our broken metabolisms in a distressed state, preventing our bodies from healing and feeling “safe” to let go of the fat we’re trying to lose.
So, yes, your metabolism may be broken or slow, but your body *wants* to heal. And good news – you can repair a broken metabolism from all angles regardless of the season of life you’re in without extreme measures.
The 6 parts of your metabolic ecosystem
1. Blood sugar control
2. Lean muscle tissue
5. Stress management
6. Gut health
Blood Sugar Control
This isn’t just for diabetics. Everyone – literally everyone – can benefit from balanced blood sugar.
Everything you eat is classified as protein, fat, or carbohydrate. Carbs cause blood sugar to rise, which is a normal biological response – it doesn’t mean you should be avoiding carbs! But when you eat an abundance of carbs too quickly, it causes a blood sugar spike. Our bodies then release insulin, which scoops up all the sugar and starts to deposit it into our cells like a FedEx truck.
Blood sugar is mostly used for good and is sent to our muscle and liver cells. But excess blood sugar is stored as fat. And beyond that, what goes up must come down, resulting in a blood sugar crash which sends a signal to our brain to eat MORE carbs and sugar.
So, to keep your body in fat-burning mode (and *bonus* keep cravings at bay), balance your blood sugar by including protein, fat, and fiber in every meal.
Lean muscle tissue
Lift. Weights. It’s an absolute myth that lifting weights will make you bulky. Slow, controlled, progressive weight training is one of the best things you can do for your metabolism because muscle increases our metabolic rate and burns fat!
Things you don’t have to do: kill yourself on the treadmill every day.
Things you should do: just move more.
That’s not an oversimplification. As of 2022, a quarter of Americans consider themselves sedentary and the CDC estimates that 60% of adults “do not engage in the recommended amount of activity.”
Exercise your creativity and think of new ways to add movement to your daily/weekly/monthly routines. Daily walks. Weekly grocery trips instead of Instacart. Monthly deep cleaning. Even standing instead of sitting counts!
A randomized clinical trial this year at the University of Chicago and the University of Wisconsin–Madison found that young, overweight adults who slept fewer than 6.5 hours a night consumed an average of 270 more calories/day than those who increased their sleep duration over the course of the study by 1.2 hours.
And backing up this claim, a meta-analysis found that getting less than 6 hours of sleep resulted in the consumption of almost 400 extra calories per day compared to people who slept more than 7 hours.
Stress is a leading cause of weight loss resistance and includes physical stress such as overexercising or undereating, psychological stress such as marital or financial stress, and internal stress such as a chronic disease or an underactive thyroid.
To start to decrease your stress load, remove the controllable stressors from your life, like too much caffeine, overexercising, and fasting for more than 12 hours.
To increase your capacity for stress, it’s important to keep a “stress prevention” hygiene practice of journaling, meditation, breathwork, or whatever it is you do to relax your nervous system.
An unhealthy gut triggers chronic inflammation, which is one of the primary sources of weight loss resistance.
The first step in reducing inflammation is eliminating anything causing damage. Then we can focus on healing any damage that has already been done, and repopulating the gut with healthy bacteria.
It’s also important to make sure the body can absorb the food and nutrients you are consuming to heal the gut. Things like digestive bitters, chewing your food, lightly cooking vegetables, soaking grains, seeds, and nuts, and giving the digestive a break with 10-12 hour fasts are some simple ways to prep the body to absorb the nutrients it needs to restore gut health.
We call this the ecosystem because these are not independent variables – they are all dependent on one another! This is exciting because even if you’re in a season of life when your diet isn’t great, you’re under a lot of stress, you’re eating out a lot – you get to look at what you CAN control.
For example, if you’re injured and can’t exercise for 2 months, you can focus on dialing in your nutrition, managing your stress, and making sure you’re getting 7-9 hours of sleep. The 80-20 rule applies to everything in life – including this system which allows you so much more flexibility!
The best part of this 6-part metabolic ecosystem? It teaches you about your body and how it actually works, and not just what to eat. It’s not a “do this, don’t do this” approach. And really – has that approach EVER worked for you beyond a short period of time? For most of us, the answer is no. This is an approach you can carry with you for the rest of your life.