An Alternative Model – “Eat Enough, Move Enough”
First, we must recognize that our bodies are not simplistic machines that are easily controlled by a “calories in, calories out” model. Metabolism is continuously adjusted based on factors like what you eat, how much you eat, how you sleep, stress hormones, exercise (type and timing), and more. In addition, your brain is biologically guiding you with hunger and cravings to keep you fueled and functioning.
A more helpful approach to a stable metabolism is to “Eat Enough and Move Enough”. It might seem counterintuitive to the old way of thinking, but regularly fueling your body with foods that support metabolism means a happy and efficient body that works with you rather than against you. Weight loss then becomes a healthy side effect of eating well, living well, and loving your body. It’s a win-win that creates a life worth living for the long term.
How Does Calorie Restriction Work Against You?
Let’s look at some examples.
The less you eat, the more your metabolism slows to accommodate.
Eat less than your body needs to fuel your current activity = your brain reduces metabolism to conserve energy and to ensure enough to fuel for your daily activities.
Fat cells that hoard and store too many calories
Eating foods that increase insulin = chronic high insulin leading to fat cells that hoard and store calories leaving less fuel for your body.
Biological Craving Signals that We Can’t Ignore
When fat cells hoard calories, leaving too little fuel for the body, your brain then sends hunger and craving signals to ensure that you get the fuel we need. This cycle reduces your intuitive ability to know what your body needs. Your body thinks it’s in crisis mode and needs high carb foods when in fact, it needs foods that reduce insulin and allow the fat cells to calm down and release their stored calories.
Blame, Shame and Guilt
The more high insulin-producing foods you eat (think simple carbs like white rice, potatoes, sugar, etc), the more of those foods you crave. Add calorie restriction to that and the cravings can be unbearable. This biological vicious cycle can lead to feelings of blame, shame and guilt for giving your body what it craves. The cycle of craving, overeating, and fat cell storage leaves your body in a state of starvation while you gain weight and feel physically and emotionally horrible.
Increased Stress Hormones
Exercising vigorously to burn off calories while chronically restricting food intake = increased stress hormones that further reduce metabolism while ramping up hunger and craving signals. This leads to white-knuckle willpower struggle that we are destined to lose over the long term. Let go of the “no pain, no gain” mentality and find movement that is joyful for you and makes your body feel good. See our blog post on why you should exercise for more.
Yo-Yo Dieting and Eating Patterns
Chronic calorie restriction and/or exercising beyond our fuel capacity can lead to a yo-yo effect of undereating and overeating.
Losing Touch with Signals of Hunger and Cravings
Ignore the signals your brain sends for long enough = losing touch with what hunger and health feel like. In this state, the body must fight back in other ways to ensure survival. In extreme cases of ignoring our bodies, we can find ourselves in what my friend Pilar Gerassimo, in her book Healthy Deviant, calls “Pissed off Body Syndrome”. In this state our bodies manifest a variety of seemingly unexplainable symptoms of “dis-ease”, fatigue, aches, pains, etc.
The Effective (and Delicious) Solution
So, how do you boost your metabolism and naturally reach a stable weight?
You create a balance of eating and moving with the new slogan “Eat Enough, Move Enough”.
Here’s a 6-Step Guide to enhancing your metabolism and reaching that “sweet spot” of effectively burning the calories you consume. With this guide, reaching a healthy weight for your body is achievable without the pain that came with the old “Eat Less, Move More” theory.
Enjoy Regular Meals
Eating regular meals each day trains your body to trust that it will be regularly fueled. This training leads to a body that uses calories rather than storing them for future needs. In other words, eat enough to settle your metabolism into a regular rhythm of efficiently burning the calories you consume.
Eat Foods That Enhance Metabolism
Choose meals with about 4-6 ounces of protein combined with a small portion of slow-acting carbs like whole fruit, beans, and non-starchy vegetables, and an abundance of fats to fill in the rest.*
Keep Hunger in Check
Focus on eliminating hunger by eating satisfying meals while supplementing with snacks between meals when needed. The goal is to eat enough that you feel satisfied with the current meal yet sufficiently hungry for the next meal. Let your hunger be your guide.
Increase Intuition for Eating Well
Eating enough at regular meals while choosing lower insulin-producing foods (think fats, moderate amounts of protein, and slow-acting carbs like beans, whole fruits, and non-starchy vegetables) means your body craves more of these supportive foods. Your body then settles into a victorious cycle of metabolic health as your brain sends more reliable hunger and craving signals. No more out-of-control hunger and sugar cravings. You’ll intuitively crave what is good for you.
Enough Food AND Enough Movement
The more you exercise, the more fuel you need and the more you burn. Getting enough food while moving enough enhances your metabolism over the long term. The result: you feel good while reaching a healthy weight.
Build Lean Muscle
Enhance your metabolism by choosing regular exercise that builds lean muscle.
*A trick to a metabolically efficient meal is to have the same grams of each macronutrient. For example, a meal with 35g of each Fat, Protein, and Slow-Carb.
Making it Work Long-Term
This is not a quick fix. It is a lifestyle choice that takes time to create consistent progress. However, the path is one that leads away from being Always Hungry and toward enjoying Always Delicious food and joyful movement. It’s a lifestyle where you eat well and feel good in your body.