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Understanding Metabolism and Weight Loss

When I ask people what they understand metabolism to be, a common view is that it refers to the rate at which we digest food. In fact, many people cite their metabolism as the reason why they are unable to lose or gain weight, believing there is not much they can do to change their metabolism. However, metabolism is not static but is something that we can change by improving our diet and lifestyle choices.

What is Metabolism?

Metabolism is the body’s way of constantly adapting to its environment. Think of the thermostat in a house which switches on when the house gets too cold and off when the ideal temperature is reached. Metabolism is like a thermostat, constantly monitoring the energy which is available in the environment and the energy which is stored in our body, in the form of muscle or fat tissue. Metabolism is affected and influenced by many internal and external factors as well as how we respond to food and nutrition as a whole. The biggest misconception many people have is that metabolism is static when in fact it is very malleable and it changes.

The Thyroid Connection

Metabolism is not simply a function of calories in vs calories out. It has a very intricate and important role in our overall health and is basically inseparable from our endocrine system (hormones). Thyroid health is thus very important, and an underactive thyroid makes it very difficult to lose weight. Addressing an underactive thyroid for a person on a weight loss programme is therefore a crucial step. Hormone dysregulation affects insulin and glucose and the satiety and hunger hormones ghrelin and leptin.

Factors that Influence Metabolism

  • Stress - leads to a cascade of reactions in the body that can affect metabolism. Stress management is key to controlling metabolism. This article looks at the role stress plays in the body and what you can do to manage it.

  • Our relationship with food - affects our metabolism: what we eat, when we eat, how often and how much.

  • Nutrition - we need good nutrition for our metabolism to function properly.

  • Bio-individuality - What can recharge one person’s energy can be a drain on another person. One person may need more exercise and less food, whilst another may need less food and more exercise. A person doing lots of weight training needs a different combination of macronutrients than a person not exercising.

  • Rest and sleep - Sleep and relaxation are important for a healthy metabolism. This article takes a closer look at sleep and what you can do to make sure you are getting enough rest.

  • Yo-yo dieting - Yo-yo dieting affects the metabolism mainly by slowing it down the more calorie restrictive your diet is. The body thinks it’s going into a famine or winter period of less food, so slows metabolism down as a way of conserving energy. When you start to eat normally this slowed metabolism can result in quicker weight gain, and on less food. Crash diets almost always negatively affect metabolism.

  • Resting metabolic rate (RMR) - Everyone's resting metabolic rate is different. As a result, set calorie diets very often do not work. Even two women of the same age, height and weight can have vastly different RMRs. Following the same calorie intake diet can cause one to lose weight and the other to put on weight. The calorie requirement of a particular individual is not going to be the same as a person with a totally different physiological status.

  • Dehydration - Water is involved with almost every biological function that takes place in the body. Metabolism slows down when your body is in a dehydrated state and does not have adequate water for your muscles (viz. your calorie burning machines) which therefore slow down dramatically.

  • Exercise - Movement is key. It stimulates your metabolism, helps you burn calories and can even temporarily suppress your appetite post-workout.


Metabolism is more nuanced than how many calories we eat and how fast we burn them up. It is affected by our diet and lifestyle choices and habits or changes that we make. Our cumulative choices and decisions and our life experiences shape our physiological condition. In order to help develop a healthy metabolism a nutritional therapist may take an inventory of these elements, as well as sleep, self-awareness, exercise, weight training, nutritional status, sun exposure and more. With targeted diet and lifestyle changes and supplement support, you can start to develop the metabolism you want.

If you are feeling fed up, lack energy, cannot shift those unwanted kilos and feel your metabolism is working in slow motion, contact me to arrange a free discovery call to find out how I can help you.

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