Jump-start your Metabolism for the New Year

In our impatient society we live in, we want our coffee ready in minutes, our photos developed in less than an hour and grocery shopping to be as easy as the click of a button. So naturally, we all want a quick and simple fix for our metabolism too. The reality is that our metabolisms have been beaten to a pulp over the years from meal skipping, over-eating and poor food choices. Fear not. Your metabolism is not doomed; however, it will take some time and a little (okay a lot) of TLC to get it back to a beautiful fire it once was (or at least should be).

Before I continue, I want to remind you of a few small things.

  • You will make MISTAKES.
  • You will get OFF TRACK.
  • You will MISS THE MARK several times.

And, all that is perfectly OKAY. You are human. You will make mistakes but make sure you take the opportunity to learn from them. Take your focus off avoiding failure (perfection) and turn it towards chasing improvement.

Let us focus on one simple task. By accomplishing this behavior, over time, you will regenerate your metabolism, have more energy and feel better each and every day you achieve it.

Start every day by striking a match. No, not physically rather metaphorically speaking for your metabolism. To do this, you must eat breakfast every day and increase the protein content in it. The average American consumes most of their protein in the latter half of the day. Protein is pivotal to improving satiety, increasing energy levels and controlling hormones. These benefits can be further maximized if protein ingestion begins with the first feeding of the day.

Strive to get at least 15-20 grams of protein with breakfast. This can be easily accomplished by choosing high-protein foods such as eggs, cottage cheese, lean breakfast meats, cheese, Greek yogurt and beans. Protein supplements such as bars, shakes and powders can help create a high-protein smoothie, power-packed oatmeal or can serve as a quick grab-and-go menu item.

It’s okay if you eat the same breakfast every day. It helps build routine and conditions the mind and body to crave real food upon waking. The more consistent you are, the easier it is to incorporate a variety of protein sources and stick to your routine when you are traveling, stressed or just generally off-schedule.

Remember, consistency always trumps rigidity. Let this be the year you kick start yourself towards health!

Save Your Burnt Out Metabolism

Save Your Burnt Out Metabolism

Did you know that one of the most common mistakes that individuals make when trying to lose weight is not eating enough? Consuming too few of calories is a sure-fire way to burn out your metabolism—basically disarm your body’s ability to burn calories effectively throughout the day. In fact, I can usually tell within the first five minutes of a patient’s assessment if they have a properly working metabolism or not.

Characteristics of a person with a malfunctioning metabolism can include:

  • Frequent meal-skipping habits
  • Not snacking when appropriate
  • Low energy levels
  • Poor sleeping habits
  • Over-exercising without adequate nutrition compensation
  • Weight gain over a very short period of time (example: gaining 5 lbs over a weekend)
  • Weight loss plateau despite good exercise and healthy eating habits

Dealing with a burnt out metabolism can be one of the most frustrating experiences. In fact, I have had several patients tell me, “I don’t understand why I can’t lose weight. I hardly eat anything at all.” Again, “hardly eat anything” is the red flag here and is quickly the focal point of our conversation. Patients are quite surprised to find that I actually recommend them to eat more in order to lose more. This can be a difficult phenomenon to grasp but I’ll try to illustrate it here.

Imagine your metabolism as a big, glowing fire. Like any fire, you must continuously feed the fire wood or fuel in order for it to keep burning. The wood represents the food and snacks you consume throughout the day and the fire represents how efficiently your body is burning calories. Now, envision you skip your lunch meal. This is symbolic to throwing a bucket of water on your fire. Once the fire goes out, your body now enters “fuel-storage” mode rather than being in a “fuel-burning” mode. Unfortunately, once the fire is burned out, it doesn’t necessarily restart right away. So, even if you choose a super nutritious dinner of grilled chicken, salad and broccoli, your body is going to store all those calories vs burn them up for fuel. This is why my number one rule is: Don’t Skip Meals!

This is why myAlso, you don’t want to go too long without eating either. A healthy metabolism needs to be fed as often as every 2-5 hours (depending on activity level). Frequent eating also helps one establish better portion control throughout the day. For example, when I have a protein-rich afternoon snack, I notice that I don’t take nearly as big of portion sizes at my dinner meal. A popular trend in weight loss today is the practice of intermittent fasting. While this practice has shown slight positive effects in small study populations, we still have no idea how well it works in diseased or severely obese populations. I also understand how tempting it is to read articles that highlight, “eating breakfast doesn’t matter” or “you can skip meals and lose weight.” Most of the time, these study designs are severely flawed and do not apply to the general population.

If you feel this article speaks to you, consider switching up your eating routine. You may just need to start with eating three meals per day, and try to consume those meals 4-6 hours apart. Focus on including good protein sources with both meals and snacks such as chicken, turkey, eggs, cheese, tuna, Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, nuts, peanut butter or protein bars. Aim for a minimum of 5 servings of fruits and veggies a day with a long-term goal of consuming 7-9 servings a day. Don’t be afraid of fat. The right kinds of fats from avocados, nuts, seeds, eggs, olive oil and coconut oil can actually help your body more efficiently burn its own fat! Just like the wise Bruce Springsteen once said, “you can’t start a fire…you can’t start a fire without a spark.” I am a firm believer that that “spark” is frequently nourishing your body with meals and healthy snacks!

Help I’ve Hit A Plateau!

dont give upAhh, the dreaded P-word. Whether you’re trying to lose weight, gain muscle or increase your fitness level, almost everyone has hit a plateau sometime or another. In fact, I’ve hit several plateaus during the last couple years. The most important thing to remember when trying to overcome a plateau is change. Your body can plateau for several reasons and this often requires a change in either your diet or fitness routine. In this blog, I share my own struggles with plateaus and provide insight on how myself and many patients have overcome challenges, both fitness and diet-related.

Are you eating too few calories? Or over-exercising?

Sometimes we can become over restrictive with our caloric intake. Yes, consuming fewer calories than those that are burned off can help you lose weight, but there is a point when consuming too few calories begins to sabotage your metabolism. Not eating enough nutrients can stress the body and cause it go into starvation/fat-storing mode. When your metabolism is compromised like this, it is very hard to lose weight and actually makes it fertile ground for gaining weight. Over-exercising can also cause this severe caloric deficit. Most research suggests that consuming less than 1200 calories per day can lead to alterations in metabolism and possible nutrient deficiencies.

Be honest with yourself.

With the stress of finishing grad school and planning a wedding, I had gained a few unwanted pounds. I couldn’t figure out where the extra weight was food-diarycoming from since I hadn’t really changed my diet…or so I thought. It took having a real honest look into my eating habits to realize I had been eating out more often and was enjoying chocolate a bit too frequently at the end of the day as a stress-reliever. Restaurant-prepared menu items and desserts/sweets are two common high-calorie culprits in our diets. A good way to identify trouble zones in your eating habits is to keep a food diary for one week. You will then be able to analyze what areas you need improvements in. (ex: eating out every day for lunch, too big of portions of late-night snacks, frequent consumption of free food at work).

Do you need a snack?

Many patients have told me that they do not snack between meals because they are trying to save calories. If you’re going too long between meals (> 6 hours) or having physical hunger pains 2 hours after having a meal, then you need to plan accordingly and prepare a healthy, protein-rich snack. Remember, those hunger pains are your body’s metabolism telling you to refuel. Try to stick with snacks that have some staying power. Greek yogurt, nuts, peanut butter, cottage cheese, hard-boiled eggs are all protein-packed snacks that can satisfy hunger and increase your energy level during that afternoon slump!

Does your workout need a makeover?

I can happily say that in my first year of marriage, I stayed the same weight. What helped me accomplish this was clean eating and regular exercise. During that year, I found that increasing my strength-training frequency and backing a bit off of the cardio helped me stay happy and healthy. I’ll admit, I like to work hard at the gym and lift heavy weights, but after a year of serious strength-training, my body fat % had only marginally changed and I didn’t see the definition I was hoping for. Then I took a huge leap. I joined my local Crossfit gym. In just a few short months, Crossfit has changed me in so many ways. My arms are more defined, my legs are stronger, I can do several unassisted pull-ups in a row and more! The transformation that I am most happy with is the fact that my back is no longer hurting. Crossfit has reminded me of the importance of daily stretching and taking care of my muscles and joints.

My husband and I at Crossfit.

My husband and I at Crossfit.

Am I recommending that you should start doing Crossfit? No, it’s not for everyone, but what I do encourage people to do is find a new way to constantly challenge themselves. This could be signing up for your first 5K or walking into your very first Zumba class. Find activities that you enjoy and recruit a buddy! Having a buddy-system can help you both hold each other accountable with your fitness and health goals. Wherever your fitness journey takes you make sure it is safe, fun and filled with new challenges!