You have heard several recommendations that promise to turn up the fire on your metabolism and get quick results. We have all been told that “this diet” or “that supplement” boost your metabolism. We buy into these hyped up claims because they play on our emotions and they seem to know what they are talking about. However, we know these claims are failing over 90% of the time…. and they are dangerous.
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I want to break things down for you of how to actually help your metabolism in the most healthy and sustainable manner! But first, what is metabolism? The original, biological, definition is the sum total of all chemical reactions in the body. Now, you might thinking, “Hold up, I thought it was how fast my stomach can burn the calories I’m putting in.” There is some confusion there. What you are thinking about is called Thermic Efficiency, which is what the diet industry mistakenly calls metabolism.
Here’s the deal. If you keep referring to Metabolism as “Thermic Efficiency” and continue trying to boost how fast your gut can burn calories with the latest diet, fad, supplement, shake and so on you will actually harm your real metabolism. Over the last decade I have dug into the science of all of this and how it pertains to sustainable health and weight loss. The truth that I have found is that you need to focus on the real Metabolism and how that influences thermic efficiency. So, because making health easy is my job please allow me to share what can really change your life. I am going to share with you my definition of Metabolism, and if you focus on these components you will essentially be implementing the Healthy Made Easy Method and making sustainable health change!
I created this picture so so you can see what Metabolism actually is. In other words all these components impact the chemical reactions in your body and your thermic efficiency.
If you are focusing on these 6 components your metabolism, or all chemical reactions in your body, will be running smoothly.
This will cause your body to use more energy, which will create more energy. Our bodies run on the supply and demand principle when it comes to energy.
Your experiences, cognitions, emotions, restorative sleep, movement, and nutrition all play a major role in how well your metabolism is functioning. Thus, I am saying these 6 parts must be part of the Metabolism equation.
Examples: Job losses, events from childhood, grieving loss of loved ones, breakups/divorce, financial stress, and any other major life transitions
Experiences that are affecting the chemical reactions in your body can drastically vary. I will outline some very important experiences you should consider. Now, as I outline these I invite you to really take a look at your life and recognize if you need to work through any of these experiences. Ignoring them will ultimately do no good. I know that sometimes us guys think we can just avoid things but even the toughest of guys I see struggle if impeding experiences are avoided.
Trauma: Trauma is tricky. We often think about trauma only being combat trauma experienced by soldiers in war. The reality is as Robert Scaer, MD explains (http://www.thrivingnow.com/scaer-trauma/) trauma is described as a threat to life but also any situation with the threat to one’s well-being, or one’s survival. Scaer also states that trauma can also be experienced because a felt sense of a state of helplessness where one has no control in the situation. These traumatic events lead to corrupted memories and related sensory experiences are stored. This means that the body and the brain, most unconsciously, hold memory of traumatic situations and can make people feel like they are still unsafe and in a helpless situation.
When one feels that they are unsafe or helpless the body will naturally, and quickly, go into survival mode resulting in the sympathetic nervous system over engaging. When this happens for prolonged periods of time the body will be experiencing an excess release of the stress hormone response known as cortisol. All of this will result in the body holding onto fuel as fat. It will deteriorate muscle and cause poor chemical reactions in the body, thus slowing down metabolism.
Now let me be clear. Just because you experienced a traumatic event does not mean you are still being impacted by it. However, if you are still experiencing symptoms because of trauma you must work through it in order to help your body and brain execute a healthy metabolism. I have seen many people work though trauma that had been lingering for years and then the weight came off and energy went up.
Many other factors can be weighing on people and causing people to weigh more than they’d like. This is literal. Whether it’s a loss of a loved one or someone telling you “you are not good” at something it can weight heavily on you.
The idea is to work through any of these experiences. It’s helpful to ask yourself how confident you are in achieving good health. Then notice what it is that might be holding you back. Maybe you already know and it’s clear, but you at least want to ask the important questions and resolve whatever it might be that comes up.
Positive thinking alone cannot make you lose weight; however, if you are cynical then you’re going to need to work on that. In addition, you want to look at any thoughts that you believe about yourself or situations that are impeding you. If you feel like you don’t have any control of your situation then you will have big problems.
The diet industry likes to create a lot of negative thoughts processes. This doesn’t help as life has enough speed bumps. Diets, programs, and sometimes the medical community will tell you that if you are not succeeding with their recommendations then your metabolism is broken, or even better yet you have “metabolic syndrome.” I cringe when people say they’ve been diagnosed with metabolic syndrome, which is simply a beat around the bush way of saying “unhealthy.” BUT, the danger of such talk is it makes people think they can’t achieve health. It creates and compounds negative thinking.
Thoughts are downright powerful, and so many of them we are not even aware of! Did you know that even just one thought can cause the reaction that produces neurotransmitters, thus causing chemical action and communication with the nervous system? This obviously affects your overall metabolism. You also need to realize that neurotransmitters essentially control your body’s functioning, including hormones, digestion, emotion, and so on.
People have asked me before about having a positive attitude. I have even had people say well I’m sure it’s easy for you to think that way, as though I’m not a human being with real life struggles :). The truth is I work each day at challenging my thinking. When a challenge arises I look at it as a growing opportunity. When there is something to be grateful for, even the smallest of things, I express gratitude. When something pisses me off I recognize those thoughts and let them go where they need without judging myself. If I have a core thought about myself that is impeding my own progress then I work through it. I look at my thought process as an ongoing project that always needs work.
One other important comment to make about our thoughts is that when you become aware of a thought you need to make decision within 5 second whether you want to dwell on it or let it move on its way. If you dwell on a thought for longer than 5 seconds it will start to create new neural pathways and create new synapses. Also, you will start to feel a physiological response that is hard to overcome. I am not suggesting to “fight” against a thought, rather if it’s not a thought you want to entertain you can work on allowing it to go where it needs. This takes work. It is easy to say and hard to do. If you are one who practices mindfulness, which is easy to start doing, then you will master this in good time!
It might be of best help to always remind yourself that you do have an option and a choice when faced with heavy thoughts!
Now, let’s get straight on one specific topic, which is “negative” emotions. You see, emotions might be hard but 99% of emotions don’t need to be considered negative nor positive. The reality is emotions are simply indicators. They only become a problem when we make them “dirty.” What I mean by making emotions dirty is when we believe that sadness is bad and shouldn’t be felt. You might think that you shouldn’t feel frustrated so you judge yourself for feeling that. Emotions mean we must pay attention. If we avoid what it is trying to show us, tell us, or teach us then it becomes stuck and impedes good health outcomes. Judging yourself for emotions will also cause the emotions to be harmful.
Pay attention when you tell yourself “It’s stupid to feel this way.” Or, “I can’t believe I’m feeling this.”
I do want to speak about that other 1% of emotions that can easily become bad for you if not appropriately addressed.
Guilt is one of the most toxic emotions for your body and metabolism. Working through guilt is absolutely imperative in order to achieve sustainable health. The sooner you accept that you did something wrong, or made a mistake, and move on the faster you will overcome guilt.
Sometimes guilt is unnecessary. When one believes they must be perfect then they need to reconsider the guilt that is felt. If you tend to be a perfectionist I would venture to say the majority of guilt you feel is unreasonable and harmful. Do you need to simply be more easy on yourself? Well, that is easy to say but takes some work. Start recognizing your strengths and learning from imperfections.
The feeling of “unsafe” is an emotion that is never helpful unless it is a short lived experienced, which in this case the feeling of unsafe helps you survive. However, if you feel unsafe on a daily basis you will want to work through this. Often times this is related to traumatic experiences and could likely require professional help. Remember, seeking professional help doesn’t mean you are weak, rather this indicates you are strong and willing to do the real work.
Let’s be real. Sometimes you just have to make it through a late night or early morning, however, your status in life does not increase because you are a poor sleeper. If you want to sustain health goals and help your metabolism you want to get at MINIMUM 6 hours of sleep per night.
Poor sleep leads to poor decision making. We struggle to make hard decisions as the day goes on, due to ego depletion. Then when you add in an unrested mind the decision making only worsens.
Too little sleep also leads to hormone and neurotransmitters struggling to be fired and regulated. If your hormones and neurochemicals are not regulated then your entire metabolism will be off and inadequate.
I find that people will exercise, move, and remain strict about their diet plans, yet they struggle to lose weight or get healthy because their sleep habits are marginal at best. If you neglect yourself of sleep you surrender the joy of good health.
Movement increases energy in each of your cells. Taking you back to biology 101 you might remember the word mitochondria, which are the batteries in every cell. The more we move throughout the day the healthier our mitochondria. If our batteries are full in our cells they are more healthy and consequently our metabolism will work much more efficiently.
You want to be careful with a key difference between movement and exercise. The idea is to be moving as much as possible throughout your days. Yes, steps are good during the day but also forms of movement that use many different muscles in our body also serve your metabolism well. A problem that many people face is they think movement is an exercise routine that must be followed in a rigid manner. Or others believe that so long as they strenuously exercise for an hour each day then they don’t need to move throughout the day- this is false! A healthy body is moving often and varying that movement throughout the day.
Finding movement activities that you enjoy is imperative. If you are doing movement that you dislike it will only frustrate the body and create a negative relationship with movement. This leads to unattainable activity. Furthermore, when you dislike what you are doing for movement your body will be stressed and struggle to support a healthy metabolism.
Of course nutrition is an important aspect, but it is not more important than other components aforementioned. What I want to caution you against is the idea that all these different combinations of food and supplements don’t make your metabolism burn faster… all on their own. Sure, some foods might help your thermic efficiency increase but your overall metabolism will not be increased just by food.
I teach a course called “Food Truth” where I debunk the fads and diets and teach the importance of consuming real foods, hydrating well, and planning your food consumption. If you are wondering where to start eating to best help metabolism then focus on eating real food, instead of all the processed food. It’s actually pretty simple its just so many diets and programs leave you confused. Get back to the basics.
Go out there and make it burn… well, you know what I mean 🙂
– Dr. Drew