By Claire Georgiou, Reboot Naturopath, B.HSc ND
You may have seen a recent study that looked at how people on the television program, ‘The Biggest Loser,’ progressed beyond the show. They found that the majority had actually regained much of the weight they had lost during the show 6 years later. Not only was weight gain a concern, but slowing their metabolisms down too. This is called metabolic adaptation.
Other studies have demonstrated via other weight loss means that this isn’t the case beyond 12 months. There seems to be permanent damage where they needed less calories per day (approximately 500 calories) to sustain the same body size as someone else that had not previously been obese. Does this mean that it’s all too hard and a lost cause? No definitely NOT! This study was small with only 14 participants, the regime they go under for this competition is an extremely low calorie diet with very high intense exercise that often is not manageable post-program, and the calories and meals they are consuming to maximize their weight loss is minimal for the entire competition.
If you have been yo-yoing and you feel that maintaining a healthy weight seems impossible, then here are some simple steps to improve your metabolic function.
This organ is often nicknamed the fat burner! This is an organ that is often left out of the weight loss conversation but it has the most beneficial actions when it comes to regulating your hormones (including metabolic hormones and thyroid hormones), supporting fat burning, metabolizing your fats, proteins and carbohydrates and keeping you energised.
Phytonutrients in juices and a plant-based eating program, support healthy liver function. If someone has a fatty liver which is often the case in metabolic syndrome, it is believed that weight loss = less fatty infiltration, this is not always the case. The liver requires intense nutrition to rehabilitate the cells back to healthy functioning hepatocytes, with a healthier liver you will have improved metabolic function and therefore weight loss so keep it colourful!
Even the magic of minimum exercise a day works towards increasing your metabolic health, muscle maintenance and works towards supporting continued weight loss and weight maintenance. The higher your muscle mass the higher your calorie burn so get moving with this simple 20min workout anywhere!
Drinking 2 cups (16 oz) of water stimulates your metabolism for up to 1 hour, and if you’re drinking this regularly throughout the day you are increasing your calorie burn upwards of about 100 calories per day. Water helps you to lose weight, inhibits headaches, improves mood, reduces dizziness, improves exercise performance, increases energy, hydrates skin, stops constipation and reduces the occurrence of kidney stones.
Healthy fats support appetite regulation and improve metabolic health. They’re important for the production and utilization of hormones, particularly our satiety hormones that control appetite and satisfaction. Include coconut oil, oily wild fish, hemp seeds, walnut oil and nuts, cold pressed olive oil, avocadoes and other healthy fats regularly.
Highly processed foods are also often marketed as diet foods that may be low fat and low calorie, which then cause a hormonal storm that will only work towards increased metabolic disturbances. These foods will continue to further damage your metabolism. Consuming more naturally-based foods that are more complex requires more energy and calories to digest while supporting healthy metabolic function.
Enjoying natural sugars in fruits and vegetables has a myriad of health benefits, but including natural sweeteners needs to be kept to a minimum. Avoiding added sugars as much as possible in your diet will avoid the sugar spikes and crashes that often leads to weight problems and metabolic disorders.
On ‘The Biggest Loser’ the contestants committed to a low calorie (low nutrient) and high intense exercise regime over an extended period of time. The long-periods of intense exercise (6-8 hours per day) combined with lower calories creates a strong physical stress response. When the body is under stress it responds with inhibiting fat loss due to the concept of illness and tragedy being a real possibility, this is an innate adaptive response. The hormone cortisol works towards increasing fat storing and reducing fat burning.
It’s very important to work towards healthy stress management techniques regularly such as guided meditation, yoga, breathing exercises, hobbies and moderate exercise.
Chromium, zinc, magnesium, selenium, B vitamins, iodine are just some of the essential nutrients that you need to support a healthy metabolism. Phytonutrients in fruits and vegetables also have a powerful nutrient profile that helps to support a healthy metabolism including limonene, naringenin, capsaicin, curcumin and zingerone.
Eating a rainbow everyday combined with adequate protein and healthy fats will help to support a healthy metabolic function.
Some foods that can help to support a healthy metabolism:
These all have a small effect on our metabolic rate but consistency with high nutrient foods, activity and improved lifestyle factors adds up and will support a highly functioning healthy metabolism.
For more on everything you need to know about your metabolism.