We have more control over our destiny than we think.
To start, you do need to know what works for your body and that’s what I am going to help you do. That’s the beauty of bio-individuality, figuring out what works for you. There are two essential factors for keeping your metabolism revved—the right foods and the right exercise.
After seeing more than 25,000 people in my personal practice, I can say with confidence that there are things that generally work and things that don't. The truths below are what I found worked for most people, but of course always check with your doctor before making lifestyle changes.
Truth #1: Healthy foods can harm your metabolism.
Many of us are under the assumption that healthy foods make one healthy. Well, that’s sort of true. If a food, healthy or not, doesn’t work for your body, it causes inflammation. Yes, healthy foods like strawberries, Greek yogurt and even salmon can cause inflammation if it doesn’t work for your individual chemistry!
Foods that cause inflammation will also cause a histamine reaction and that means short term weight gain. In fact, every time you feel bloated after a meal, that’s a sign you ate something that didn’t work for your body. This inflammatory reaction will most likely trigger cortisol, the stress hormone, to rise and that means long term weight gain. After a while, higher-than-usual cortisol levels skew your hormones (hello carb cravings and moodiness) and ultimately affect your thyroid, the master gland for your metabolism.
Can you believe it could be that spinach salad or quinoa that is packing on the pounds and slowing your metabolism? It’s true, and that’s why you need to find what your body loves. You are working too hard trying to do the right thing to not have the big payoff.
Truth #2: Your exercise program may be working against you.
Now we all know that exercise should boost your metabolism. But does it always? Shocking answer is absolutely not. Many of the same reactions that happen when you eat an inflammatory food are the same reactions when you exercise too intensely! Your body can perceive too much exercise as stress, and that starts the cortisol, hormones, thyroid chain reaction—ultimately, a slowed metabolism scenario.
Most women don't exercise to gain weight and slow metabolism, but that’s exactly what happens all too often with my clients.
So, how do you tell what's helping and hurting your individual metabolism?
So the big question is, what’s too much exercise? There is no one size fits all answer, but I can tell you that everyone I have worked with is doing at least one exercise that their body does not like! For some people over-exercise could be the 10,000 steps they are aiming for daily, for others their CrossFit classes or running marathons. We are all different. Stop your misery at the gym and find what works for you and more importantly find exercise that is fun. The kind of fun you used to have on the playground, things that lift your spirit.
If your attempts to lose weight and / or feel better aren't working, try this. Eat primarily from this list of foods and only exercise for 10 minutes for three days during (ideally every other day) the work week. On the weekend, take a day to exercise for a longer period, women 30 minutes, men 45 minutes, and see how you feel. Do you feel more energetic and less stressed? That’s a good sign that you would actually do better taking it down a notch or taking periodic breaks from your go-go-go schedule and start listening to what your body is telling you.
Here are some signs you are pushing exercise too hard: fatigue, irritability, starving after your workouts, breakouts, moodswings, injuries, and hair loss. You can try cutting back your workouts or switching to another form! If you’ve been running, then adding weight training might be what your body needs. Love your kettle bells or CrossFit? Try some yoga. The body always benefits from switching it up.
Here are some of the least reactive foods, try eating 80 to 90 percent of your diet from these foods for a week.
- Basmati Rice
- Chia Seeds
- Goat or sheep’s cheese
- Leeks, onions, garlic, scallions
- Raw Almonds
- Raw Pumpkin Seeds
- Raw Sunflower Seeds
- Red Leaf or Green leaf Lettuce
- Salmon Sashimi
- Yellow Squash
- Wild White Fish such as flounder, halibut
After doing your own "testing" of what foods work and what don't, you'll have a better idea of how you're slowing your metabolism. If you're feeling bloated: take stock. Find out what you ate, drank, and when. It'll be valuable information to help you on this journey. Same with exercise: if your appetite is too low or too high, take a look at how you're moving your body. You may not have to change everything, but don't be afraid of making some adjustments.
Lyn-Genet Recitas is the New York Times and international bestselling author of The Plan, The Plan Cookbook, and her latest book, The Metabolism Plan, which offers an effective way to lose weight, improve health and reverse the aging process. A sports and holistic nutritionist, Recitas has helped hundreds of thousands of men and women reach their best health by finding their chemical responses to food, not counting calories. Recitas has been featured on Dr. Oz, CBS New York, and Fox News Insider, and in Women’s Running and Fitness.