Have you ever just felt like things were hopeless with your metabolism? You might even be in your 20s and you thought that this was supposed to be the golden era where your body just magically eats up everything and you stay the same size, but you feel like the second you eat a pizza slice, you can see the triangle in your stomach.
I feel as if more often than not, because of mainstream dieting, we all have done a little metabolic damage maybe even without realizing it. However, it has also swung in the opposite direction where there is a trend towards the notion that you have to be eating 3000 calories or you're metabolically damaged and that's not the case either. I think it's pretty well known but for the purposes of this blog, it should be said that everyone is very different in terms of caloric needs. I always use my mom as an example, but she is 55 with very little muscle mass and a tiny bone structure. She doesn't work out (never has done anything more than walk) and she has always had a very healthy relationship with food. She probably has never ate 2000 calories per day on a routine basis. However, my best friend Brandy, who also is one of those rare breed females with ZERO food relationship, eats probably around 2000-2500 calories per day maintaining her model like physique. Brandy has also never dieted and is tall for a female.
First, let's address the age and metabolism issue. Your metabolism declines about 10% every decade with age. That means that (using Brandy as an example) if she is eating 2000 calories now and maintaining her weight then she would be eating 1800 calories in 10 years (age 36) to maintain her weight. By the time she's 56 (my mom's age), that means that she is eating 1458 to maintain her weight. What is responsible for this? There is literature to support that this is WHOLLY due to muscle decline, so how do we combat this? We resistance train! If you are able to keep your muscle mass the same as when you are 18 then you shouldn't have a problem. The issue is that we tend to get busy with kids and don't have sports of our own into adulthood and that leads to a decline in muscle mass. This doesn't mean that you need to be a bodybuilder but just that you are continuing to exercise in some way.
The second thing that we need to look at is our dieting history. Have we gone on extreme fad diets? For women that are in their 40s-60s, I notice that a huge trend was to just not eat like ... at all. There are so many women that come to me in that age group that genuinely eat like 1000 calories per day and it's not even that they are mentally anxious about it, they just have worked themselves into a hole from all of their dieting and didn't realize what they were doing. I hear the phrase "I'd rather just get the dieting over with" and this has created a life long pendulum of 500 calorie diet days and weeks to get to a certain size then a return to normal eating. Again, this was cultural and normal for this age group in my opinion from what I've observed. The advent of the internet has allowed women to realize that this is really really not good for them in the long run.
Our dieting throughout our life is a continuum that builds on itself day after day, year after year. If you aren't working yourself out of it, then you are going to have to diet on less and less each time because your body gets adjusted to the lower intake. When you lower intake to that low and don't build it back, then you are losing muscle mass in the process. This leads women in their 60s to eating SO very little but yet not losing. Because of our culture, this age has become younger and younger. You now see girls that are in their 20s that have dieted so hard and for so long that they can't eat anything or they are gaining weight, and maybe this is you?
If this is you, then dieting really needs to be the furthest thing from your mind. I know that it feels really heavy to you right now and that you need to diet more than anything in the world for your mental state, but for your long term health and metabolism, you are only working yourself further and further into a hole.
There are so many scenarios and different ways to approach this, but you might also be someone that has been on a dieting train for over a year and you have consistently been doing great and losing. You have reached a point where you are maintaining and you don't want to lose the progress that you have made. You NEED to have a season of not dieting. Your body NEEDS and must take breaks. This is why you will find that many of the extreme weight loss stories don't stick because no one sticks with them long enough after they have had to diet down with 1200 calorie diets to build their metabolism back up.
You might be someone who has had a really unhealthy relationship with food, and you don't feel hungry past the point of 1200 calories. That DOES happen, and then it's very hard to convince these people that they need to eat more because they are not hungry for the food. You have to give yourself time to get out of this. You might feel that your metabolism is slow, and it has slowed down to help you conserve energy for what you are feeding to it but it will come back up if you allow it to.
You might be reading this thinking that you have already worked yourself into a big hole and that you are depressed and that you have "metabolism damage" but the truth is that anyone can work themselves out of this hole at any time, and the solution is easy:: EAT CONSISTENTLY MORE. Don't do the seesaw eat more then go back to eating less. If you just eat more, then your body is going to adjust to that. You might gain a few pounds in the beginning due to water fluctuations but your body will level out and you will come back to baseline where your body naturally wants to be.
I have spoke a lot about reverse dieting, and there are many situations where reverse dieting is totally appropriate for this situation as well and I am someone that helped my metabolism through reverse dieting. There are many that will argue that it doesn't need to be this meticulous process and that it can be done just by simply jumping calories and you can make the change for your metabolism over night. This is true, but this also doesn't take into account psychological fear of increasing food and I know there are many girls who would have never taken the leap (myself included in those days) because of lack of trust in the fact that your body will adjust. The slow incremental changes allow for the body to slowly get used to the intake without the bloating that comes with just jumping.
ANY PERSON THAT DIETS SHOULD COME OUT OF THAT CALORIC INTAKE AND GO HIGHER. There is absolutely NO reason that someone should diet at whatever caloric intake is right for them to lose weight and be in a deficit and then to stay at that long term. Absolutely NONE. There must be a break period, or you WILL back yourself into a hole. You have to come up and come to a place that is meant to be for maintaining weight and if you want to have other goals later then that's fine, but the body and metabolism need that time.
The beautiful thing about the body is that it allows us this change and it allows us to work ourselves out of that. It's number 1 goal at the root of everything that we do is survival. It makes adjustments to help us survive every single day and that's all that is happening when your metabolism slows down. When you start eating less even for like 2 weeks, your body sees that as a need for less therefore it's going to not need as much. If you do this consistently for a period of 6 months, then your body is going to be used to that. You are going to have to get uncomfortable for a little bit to get your body back to a normal state. This is the one time that I recommend eating less vegetables.
Vegetables have a very low glycemic index and are full of water. If you are wanting to increase your intake then you do not want something that is filling you up that much and making you bloated. You have to give your body space to become hungry for more food and if you are consistently filling it with low glycemic index "healthy foods" then it's going to be very hard for you to get in the intake that you will need and you will feel that you don't need more when you really do.
If you are someone with hormonal issues, thyroid problems, or PCOS then there is going to be a metabolic change that happens with this as well, but the same thing applies across the board. If you consistently eat more at a consistent caloric intake higher than what you are doing now then your body will adjust.
Food intake and caloric intake is a direct reflection also on quality of life. Some don't care so much but most of the time someone with a slower metabolism knows it and thinks about it and with three meals per day, that's a lot of thinking. It is WORTH IT to gain even 5lbs to be able to live at a consistently higher caloric intake. Give your body time to adjust, and I think it will drastically change your life.