June 8, 2017
Our bodies perform many biological processes to keep us alive: breathing, digestion, circulating blood, and exercising are just a few. All of these processes require calories (i.e. energy) to function correctly. However, the efficiency of these processes are facilitated by how well our body can use these calories and convert them to energy. This is the role of our metabolism.
A common question for most practitioners is: “How do I boost my metabolism?” Many people understand that a faster metabolism leads to better weight management. For those who are seeking weight loss, this is essential. Many people, however, fail to understand the underlying causes of poor metabolism in the first place. The more important question to be asking, in my opinion, is: “Why am I gaining weight so easily?” or “Why am I not able to lose weight?” There are a ton of ways to boost metabolism, but we first need to identify reasons why our metabolisms have slowed down.
Healthy food choices, and level of exercise are both critical for a speedy metabolism, but lifestyle is also important (if not more!).
Let’s Explore 5 ways Our Metabolism Slows Down, As it Relates to Lifestyle.
When you wake up in the morning, what is the first thing you do? I used to wake up, check my phone (more on this later), stumble out of bed, and make my way to the kitchen. I would make myself breakfast, eat breakfast while looking at my phone in under 5 minutes, and then get dressed to go to work (almost as if breakfast was really an after thought). I did not care about what I ate, as long as I ate something. I did not care about how fast I ate, as long as I was ready for work and could get there on time.
We almost forget to put ourselves first every day which, in my opinion, is the first step to introducing self care into our daily routine. Take the time to learn what’s in your food, plan your breakfast and try to actually enjoy your food. You should have a close relationship with food, not a distant one. When you take your time with eating, you will improve digestion. When you know what you’re eating and take the extra effort of combine better food pairings, you will also improve digestion. This ultimately leads to the improved utilization of the calories you consume.
Some other ways to promote self care are:
- Physical Activity will improve your metabolic rate, so exercise frequently! In other words, this is the efficiency at which you burn calories. When you exercise your muscles will use more calories than fat. Strengthening your muscles will improve your ability to burn more calories efficiently.
- Good Hygiene starting in the morning, brush your teeth before eating. This will help reduce bacteria in the mouth and promote digestive enzymes to activate. Digestion starts in the mouth.
- Getting a Massage helps blood flow and circulation which, in turn, promotes nutrients and oxygen through increased blood flow. This helps muscles repair and grow, burns more calories and, ultimately, increases tissue metabolism.
Technology of any kind is both a curse and a blessing. It’s an incredible tool for obtaining knowledge about almost anything within seconds. It has found utility in automation, research and a promising future of continued improvements in all facets of life. The downside of this speedy yet efficient future is the obsession of people to seek even faster utility and the creation of dependence on technology for both choice and (the more scary thought) social communication and awareness.
As I previously mentioned, we tend to put our technology first. We roll out of bed and check our phone to see who has messaged us, as if a lack of communication will somehow dampen the virtual relationship we so long to sustain. What we don’t realize is that when we are constantly needing technology to function socially or, at minimum, prioritizing it before anything else, we are putting ourselves in a constant state of stress. It may not feel like stress, but the underlying biological symptoms are the same.
Technology forces us to think in parallel. We are constantly going from one thing to the next. This puts stress on the mind. When your body is under stress, it inhibits poor digestion, poor control of blood sugar, and promotes higher blood pressure to name a few. Stress is the same underneath the skin, even if it is perceived differently on the surface.
Here are some ways to ‘disconnect’ from technology
- Before bed charge your phone outside of the room. “But how about my alarm clock?” Either set the alarm on loud so you can hear it, or go out and buy a $7 dollar alarm clock.
- Leave your phone ALONE! Do not bring any technology with you to breakfast. Focus on eating, and nothing else.
- Ask yourself a simple question, “If I don’t respond at this moment, will this person, company or anything else, survive?” The answer should be YES.
Be more mindful
This is something I tell my clients often. This is not necessarily about being more mindful of others, but actually being more mindful about how you feel after doing something – whether that is exercise, eating, reading something, or performing an activity. A lot of us, and I am also guilty of this, react rather than reflect when something happens.
A perfect example is when you eat something refined and processed (ie. sugary). The body responds to these food choices as if it is defending itself from invaders. This food is not good for us, in any which way you want to spin it, and we know it. However, after we eat a sugary dessert, why is it that you can probably have 2, 3 or 4 more servings? Have you ever asked yourself that? I think the majority of us focus on our stomach aches afterwards or the massive crash we have an hour later. We do less reflecting and more reacting, as if we have no control and we are just rolling with the punches.
Refined sugary foods do not send neurological transmissions to the brain telling us we are actually eating. Therefore it’s easy for us to over consume. Our livers struggle with converting this refined sugar into anything useful and we face the consequences. A spike in blood sugar very quickly forces our body to produce hormones like insulin to control the blood sugar but, in excess, this causes our adrenal glands to produce cortisol (the stress hormone) to counter the massive amounts of insulin we have circulating in our blood stream – lots of unnecessary internal stress for such a small and short lasting enjoyment. It’s okay to indulge once in awhile, only if you learn to be mindful of how you feel. The food choice example is great, as it relates to metabolism.
Some ways to indulge with minimal impact are:
- Try to consume fibre with your desserts to help slow digestion, and facilitate a more managed blood sugar increase. This puts less demand on the pancreas to produce excessive amounts of insulin.
- Take a mental note on how you feel after you eat something. If you really don’t like the feeling, maybe something did not sit well. Maybe you should try and avoid it next time. Be mindful, don’t be forgetful.
When you eat your next meal, time yourself. Eating slowly has many benefits, some of which are better digestion and the tendency not to over eat. This is such an easy thing to do, but it is something so many of us are not mindful of, which is why it got its own place in this blog. Have you ever wondered how your body responds when you eat too quickly? It takes an average of 20 minutes for your brain to react to the fact you are eating food. The food needs to get to the stomach which will then communicate to the brain you have received enough food. When you slow down your eating, you give the body time to trigger responses to the brain that you are well satiated. This leads to less eating and will help many of the digestive issues most of us face.
Some ways to improve this leisurely eating practice are:
- Chew your food thoroughly
- Take a bite, and set your utensils down in between bites.
Not getting enough sleep
Although this is number 5 on our list, this is the most important lifestyle habit in my opinion. Sleep is incredibly important, to almost every function that happens in our body. When you are sleep deprived your body will produce more of the stress hormone, cortisol, which increases your appetite. Leptin our satiety hormone, increases, while ghrelin (hormone that signals hunger) rises. This leads to over eating, and weight gain over time. It also contributes to restlessness and increased stress.
The other side effect is a raise in blood sugar. Stress plays a huge role in blood sugar imbalances. When it occurs, hormones like cortisol and epinephrine will shoot up. The major function of these hormones is to raise blood sugar to boost energy in times like fight or flight. However the effect of this is to create a lot of stored energy, both glucose and fat, and have it available in your cells for these periods. This should only be for short term. However, staying stressed for too long makes it very much an illness. This can lead to insulin resistance, weight gain around the mid-section (abdominal has many cortisol receptors), and, potentially, diabetes. So sleep more. It’s healthy for you.
Some ways to promote better sleep are:
- Exercise and tire the body. It will want to naturally rest.
- Ensure you do not have any vitamin or mineral deficiencies. Magnesium for example helps promote calming of the nervous system, and relaxation of muscles, which helps facilitate a solid night sleep.
As you can see from the 5 lifestyle habits above, it’s far more than food that affects the metabolism. It’s everything we do. Our environment, both the one we engage in and the one we create for ourselves, affect our bodies internally.
If your goal is to lose weight or just feel healthier in general our metabolism needs some daily TLC. Consistency is key, though. The more we reflect on our lifestyle habits, the more we will become experts in our own personal health, and be our own doctors!