Did you catch my first installment in this Building A Bangin’ Metabolism series? This is the second installment, so be sure you head back to the first one to get all primed up on what your metabolism actually IS, mmmmkay?
So, of course, last week we talked all about the basics of metabolism. What it actually IS, and what things go into the equation of it.
This week, I thought it would be a good time to deep dive into a few reasons WHY we tend to think our metabolism is slow, or damaged, or basically faulty. Rather, five questions to ask ourselves as sort of a quickie assessment of how things are really going before we say “slow metabolism.” These are the biggies I hear frequently as a nutrition coach, and well, let’s get them out there so we can start helping more women understand this information and use it to make their own decisions, right?
These things may have something to do with your actual metabolism, but what generally ends up happening is that we have several other driving forces in the mix that affect our energy balance, and when things don’t necessarily go our way, even when we think we are doing all the right things, it is easy to assume that “my metabolism is slower than molasses” instead of face the other things head on. This post isn’t about blaming yourself, but instead is a tool to get you thinking about what else may be going on that makes you think your metabolism is slow.
So let’s get down to it.
- Are your portions distorted? It is super easy to read a food label on the back of a snack food and not actually realize that the 150 calories was for A HALF CUP of that food, and not the entire bag. Or, “just a handful of almonds” being pretty arbitrary. That could be a legit serving of almonds, or it could be two or more, and that costs some calories. Want to play a fun joke on yourself? Measure out one tablespoon of peanut butter. Like, use an actual tablespoon measuring tool, not just the “big spoons” out of your silverware drawer. There is a huge discrepancy on what we actually THINK is a tablespoon of peanut butter, and what is ACTUALLY a tablespoon of peanut butter. My own personal portion distortion is half and half in my coffee in the morning. Drinking coffee that is tan colored instead of black definitely isn’t two tablespoons of half and half, you know? I’ve had to re-learn that serving size by using an actual tablespoon so now….after years of coffee drinking, I don’t have to measure anymore. Look, I’m not saying be a psycho and measure everything but I AM saying it is damn easy to let things get out of whack and then feel frustrated and cry “slow metabolism” when there can be tons of other things happening from a distorted view of what we actually take in. Awareness is key. You can turn on the awareness in a healthy way without weighing and measuring everything. But, actually paying attention to those things you can easily overeat, it might serve you well to stick to single serving sizes or actually acclimate yourself to what a true serving size looks like….that’s not a bad thing, you know?
- How many liquid calories are coming in? This one used to trip me up big time. I drink plenty of water, and…a fair amount of coffee (and I do keep the half and half usage in check). However, I used to struggle with liquid calories from…..beer. In two different ways. In my younger years, I could definitely party my face off on the weekends, and “eat great” during the week, but then basically drink enough calories from Thursday through Sunday to unwind all the healthy eating during the week. Three nights of partying, at about 100 calories per bottle of my beer of choice back then, adds up. The second thing this would do for me was make it easy to eat lots of bar food at 3AM, or make it extremely easy to choose foods that were not healthy….three nights out of most weeks. I’m not gonna lie to you and say don’t enjoy some drinks. But….there is a big difference in enjoying some strategic drinks during the week, and then enjoying some DRANKS, you know? I still enjoy beer, and it definitely isn’t the 100 calories per bottle kind. It’s just at a much more moderate level now. So, finding a healthy balance for YOU is key. Everyone is different. Oh, and feel free to substitute beer for Pepsi or Mt. Dew or Monsters or whatever you are drinking that contains calories. And PS….I have some nights every once in awhile where it’s time to enjoy some DRANKS, too. Keeping it to every once in awhile versus most weeks is key for me.
- Are you trying to justify eating clean or low carb or a certain way to avoid facing the calorie reality? No matter if you eat clean or Paleo or low carb….all foods have a calorie cost. No matter if you use Stevia instead of sugar, or brown rice instead of white, or sprouted grain bread versus white bread, or gluten-free-organic-free-range-fair-trade-non-gmo barbecue sauce over Sweet Baby Ray’s….everything has a caloric cost. Certain ways of eating are generally just ways to get you to cut calories by some means or another. But….you can still eat too many calories from eating a certain way, and not see your scale change, or see your scale increase, and then feel puzzled because that’s not to happen when you eat “that way.” Even if you eat only good foods, the scale can go the opposite way than what you’d like, if you eat too many. It might start to feel like you are powerless, and that for sure, your metabolism must really stink, because you are eating all the right things. But, to be honest, there’s a good chance it’s just a caloric problem (eating too much, even if they are the right things), and not always about slow and broken metabolisms. Sure, some might do better eating fewer carbs and a little more fat, or vice versa, but that’s a personal preference and adherence tool, which is a calorie balancing mechanism, and not necessarily anything to do with a slow metabolism.
- Been through a life change lately? I find that many people struggle during certain life changes. I can identify to many of these life changes myself. A new relationship? It’s easy to find yourself out to eat more frequently. Becoming an adult? It’s easy to feel like your metabolism is a jerk right about the time you’ve settled into a full time job from college life where you were maybe more active. Right about the time when you might be planning your wedding, and rocking your workouts to be fit as can be on wedding day, you might feel opposite during the first year of marriage when you are learning how to be in a marriage, settle in, do marriage things, workout a bit less, and the like. Add some babies to the mix, where your body gains and loses weight as it needs to (or doesn’t), and you find yourself with less time for yourself and a ton of time caring for a new human or two and figuring out how to do all that. Then….menopause, when hormones are JACKED THE EFF UP for awhile. Combine lack of sleep which can fuel cravings, with a time in life that might be more sedentary, and your hormones playing some serious roles with how you function….well, it’s kind of a shitstorm. You guys….lots of opportunities here for us to think about metabolisms being slow that could actually be somewhat true, but also….there’s a lot of other things at play here. Oh, and PS, as we age, it’s easy to lose muscle, which is a factor for everyone….a healthy amount of muscle on a body makes us a little bit better at burning calories even when we aren’t doing anything…and, if we LOSE that muscle, well…you can see what happens.
- Are you gaining and losing the same 10 pounds over and over and over? Meaning….are you on a diet all the damn time, and then going off your diet when the 10 pounds are gone but never really addressing your overall approach or sustainability to keep you maintaining? In my coaching experience (and in my own personal history with dieting), it isn’t actually the fact that someone decides to drop a few pounds and cuts some strategic calories to move the scale. It’s HOW that process happens and the trickle down effect after. If you mindlessly slash calories for a short time, it’s damn easy to rebound. And rebound hard. And then feel terrible about yourself for rebounding. And doing it again. And again. And pretty soon, you are always on a diet. And your body is probably not responding the way it once did because, well, you’ve sort of messed with some things internally – your hormones, your hunger signals, and your thought process about food. From my own experience, it tooks lots of small tweaks and changes over time, and learning how to like how I exercise, how I eat, and how I think about alllll those things, and find ways to do them that doesn’t have anything to do with being “on a diet” because….this is just how I do those things now. My clients who make changes a little more slowly (and sometimes they feel frustrated by doing things one at a time versus ALL the things at one time)…well, those clients are not having their weigh swing around wildly either. And they are also finding ways to eat all foods, and not restrict or count tons of things. And, they report feeling balanced, and also not so out of control around certain foods or food in general.
The above five questions are a place for you to start if you find yourself thinking you have a slow metabolism. Think of it like a personal assessment, a data gathering tool. Please don’t think of it as a judgement of yourself, your worth, or your character, because that just isn’t useful. It’s just a tool to help you take inventory of things that might be happening that don’t have anything to do with the rate you actually burn calories.
I strategically avoided movement and exercise for the most part here, because, well, for most….it’s food related. How we feel about it, how we interpret the choices we make, and how we label our eating. Oh, and how we TRUST ourselves to make food choices. Lots of times, alllll those things jack around with our ability to be in caloric balance, and not actually have an impact on our metabolism, even though it might feel like our metabolism is actually the problem.
Ok, this is a good stopping point for this installment.
We will continue our deep dive into metabolisms! Stay tuned for ways we can be kind to our metabolism and even help ourselves out a bit AND an action plan to help you develop a bangin’ metabolism long term!
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