Often, a patient will share that he or she struggles with a slow metabolism and has trouble losing weight. I sympathize but almost always respond that the metabolism is flexible and with the right strategies, it can be optimized.
To understand why, I need to go into a little biochemistry.
Everyone was born with a different biochemical makeup. You have trillions of little energy factories that are cellular organelles called mitochondria that help your body run. Mitochondria convert the oxygen you breathe and food you eat into energy your body can use.
Think of mitochondria as cellular combustion engines. Having effective mitochondria means your body efficiently burns calories and you have a fast metabolism. Ineffective mitochondria don't burn calories and slow down our metabolism.
In all fairness, some of this is genetically determined. Research shows if you have a parent or sibling who has type 2 diabetes, even if you're thin, your mitochondria are 50 percent less effective at burning calories than the average person.
These predispositions mean you're more likely to gain weight and eventually develop diabetes, or what I collectively call diabesity, which subsequently adversely affects your mitochondria.
Likewise, aging itself and other chronic diseases like heart disease and dementia create mitochondrial dysfunction.
However, the biggest hit comes from your diet. Food is information that tells your cells and mitochondria what to do. When you eat lots of sugar and processed, inflammatory foods including refined oils or simply consume too much food, period, you overload your energy factories and damage results.
Likewise, starvation mode means your body clings to fat. After all, your body's big priority involves keeping you alive, not fitting into a bathing suit when summer arrives. I'm sorry to say that your body has become extremely well-adapted to holding on to fat.
That doesn't mean you can't take control. To optimize mitochondria, you want to eat the right kinds of foods and eat enough of those foods.
Other things that affect your mitochondria include environmental toxins, hidden infections, stress, and gut microbiome imbalances.
Fortunately, you can increase the number and function of your mitochondria with these five strategies: