One of the hardest, most challenging things to change is metabolism. I often encounter patients who are frustrated with dieting, exercising and not noticing any change in weight. Here are some tips to help slowly shift your metabolism– but first remember to be patient and kind with yourself and your body, it is often a long process, but it will contribute exponentially to your health and happiness.
1. Start slow
Like any change, habits that are cultivated slowly and with positive intent tend to stick. This is why YO-YO dieting doesn’t work. If you go from eating burritos to a daily salad, your calorie intake has significantly decreased, and you are essentially starving your body, which is why it pulls from your fat reserves and you initially lose weight. This weight loss will often slow, as your metabolism slows to keep up with your daily metabolic function.
My Tip: Don’t beat yourself up! Negative emotions impact our metabolism as well. Eat when you’re hungry, prepare food when you’re not, so you have a healthy meal or snack available and you aren’t rushing (or hangry!)
2. Meal prep
Keep it simple. Coconut yogurt, boiled egg, gluten free granola bars, leftovers. For dinner, healthy crockpot meals, pre-made salads. The more prepared, the more food you have available, the less you’re likely to eat what you shouldn’t. A helpful prep book here.
My tip: On Sundays (or whatever shopping day you use) create a meal plan for the week (Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner) for each day and make a grocery list. Often leftovers become lunches, making your life much easier. This is also a great way to reduce waste of produce by planning ahead and knowing how you’re going to use each item.
3. Don’t buy it
I know, I know, easier said than done. It’s easy when you’re on the go to stop and grab a snack or meal you know you shouldn’t. If you are meal prepping and planning, don’t buy unhealthy foods so they aren’t in the house.
My Tip: Everything in moderation, don’t starve yourself of the things you love, just limit them. Everyone deserves ice cream every once in a while.
4. Stop eating things you don’t like
If you don’t like salads, then you’re going to find it very hard to stomach your new diet. Use cooked veggies, or make healthier versions of your favorite things at home. Use plain yogurt instead of mayo, organic fruits and veggies, or grass fed beef.
My Tip: From a Chinese perspective, salads are very energetically cold and can be taxing on the Spleen, leading to digestive issues if you don’t already have them, so if you do love salads, make sure to have a nice warm cup of lemon or ginger water afterwards.
5. Don’t have a “cheat” Day, everything in moderation
Remember, you’re trying to create healthy habits- by succumbing to excessive or bad habits one day a week, you are revisiting those behaviors and not moving away from them. Like I said above… everything in moderation.
My Tip: Instead of a cheat day, have a couple meals a week where you aren’t concerned about calories, really enjoy them, and make it something you really love like a burger or pizza night. Remember, you can always get healthier versions of things by using organic veggies and grass-fed beef.
6. Increase water intake
Most people are chronically dehydrated. Imagine an engine with no coolant or oil, it wouldn’t last very long on the road, and it’s miraculous what the human body can function on with little to no water. Forget your 8 glasses- the average person should be drinking at least 2 Liters of water per day. More active people should add an additional Liter plus a coconut water or two. Coconut water has natural electrolytes and none of the added sugar and other ingredients you find in Gatorade. Yes, you may use the bathroom several times the first few days, but your body with eventually adjust to the increase in water.
My Tip: Buy a 1 liter water bottle and place 2-3 elastic bands around it, every time you finish a bottle you take a band off. Realistically, one band before 10am, one band before 3 pm and one band before 7pm (try to finish at least an hour before bedtime to avoid bedtime bathroom visits).
7. Don’t skip meals
Skipping breakfast or lunch can play a huge role in your slowed metabolism. Your body needs food to function, if you have a low caloric intake, your body will compensate by slowing metabolism and adjusting to this new norm.
My Tip: Start small, a granola bar, some coconut yogurt, a banana and slowly build up to a bigger breakfast. You may notice some slight weight gain as your body adjusts to your new eating schedule, this is frustrating but normal, try to stay positive.
8. Smaller, more frequent meals
That’s right, grazing has its perks as long as you do it right! Make sure you are consuming a healthy combination of carbs, fats and protein.
My Tip: To start, you may actually have to schedule your meal times. This is easy to do if you’re already preparing your meals. Remember, coffee doesn’t count as breakfast!
9. What do cravings really mean?
Sometimes craving certain foods means vitamin deficiency, imbalance with gut bacteria or even anemia. Make sure you are eating a balanced diet with lots of veggies, protein and limited fruit and gluten grains.
My Tip: If you’re feeling concerned, find a nutritionist and get evaluated.
10. Intentional eating
Do you find yourself running around, or working at your desk while eating? This could be taking a toll on your metabolism and digestion. Meal prepping is great because you already will have prepared a balanced diet and can simply enjoy. The love you put into preparing your food will show.
My Tip: Try to slow it down, take a lunch, and eat while you’re not doing anything else. Chew completely (I know, I sound like your mother), and take time to digest. Take a moment before and after you eat to be thankful for your meal and your body’s ability to process that meal.
11. Eat Seasonally
Humans originally survived on what was available locally during different seasons. Fresh veggies in the spring and summer, root veggies in the fall and winter. Make sure to incorporate local foods into your regular diet.
My Tip: Find a local farmer’s market or farm stand, ask questions about where your food is coming from and how recently it was harvested.
12. Things to cut
For many, inflammation can wreak havoc on the digestive system, it may help to eliminate inflammatory foods like gluten, cheese, refined sugars and packaged foods from your diet.
My Tip: An elimination diet may help you determine what exactly is causing your digestive issues, but don’t forget to only add back one food at a time to see which is the culprit. I’d stay away from inflammatory foods for a month and then add them back one week at a time.
13. A little extra help
Of course, after all this, you may still need a little extra help.
1. Digestive enzymes & Probiotics
Taking digestive enzymes during or immediately after eating meals will help aid digestion and ensure you are gaining all the nutrients you can from the foods you eat. Probiotics are essential for a healthy gut, which means a healthy immune system. Yogurt alone does not contain enough live organisms to make a big difference. I recommend Metagenics probiotic and Zenwize Health digestive enzymes.
2. Sleep & Meditation
Proper sleep is essential for any body function, especially digestion! As your body enters that calm state (parasympathetic), the brain begins to redirect blood to internal organs including the stomach and digestion. Check out my blog post about healthy sleep hygiene for some helpful tips.
Certain yoga postures are helpful to aid in digestion, however taking a regular class helps with overall mental and physical health.
Of course, I’m slightly bias, but Acupuncture is another great way to aid with healthy metabolism. I often do detox treatments, treatments to aid digestion and ear press balls to help curb cravings. If you’d like to schedule a visit, click here for scheduling. Otherwise, check out my website, Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter for more information.