If you have ever lost weight by going on a very restrictive diet and then gained it all back, chances are you have damaged your metabolism. If you’ve yo-yo dieted repeatedly for years, you may have unknowingly broken your metabolism to the point where it becomes nearly impossible to lose weight. This can be very frustrating. I know I’ve been there too!
Thankfully, you can turn things around with the right steps.
The Body Fights Back
Research in weight loss has shown that when we eat less and exercise more (ie. The Biggest Loser Approach), our metabolism fights back against us by elevating hunger, increasing cravings, sapping energy and slowing down our metabolic rate to cope with lack of food and increased energy output.
Most restrictive diets appear to be successful at first because your body’s stress response kicks in. But what happens months or even years later when your body has been operating at high-stress, high cortisol levels continuously? The weight boomerangs back and you may end up, like 66% of dieters, heavier than when you started.
What Causes Metabolic Slow Down?
Much of this metabolic slow down occurs because we stress out our thyroid and our adrenals and have chronically raised levels of cortisol, the hormone responsible for excess belly fat. The negative impact can take years to reverse if you don’t know what you are doing.
The best way to stress out our adrenals and thyroid is to do what the weight loss and diet world are telling you is good for you. Cut calories and do military exercise. Go Harder. Suck it up. No pain, No gain! Oh dear, this is what we see on TV.
This may work for a short time, and you get happy because you see results, but can it last? What do you think happens when most people hit the wall due to over exercising and under eating?
Well, they either quit altogether and go on a month long eating binge minus the exercise, or they buckle down and cut food intake further, while ramping up the exercise.
Here’s the scary thing – both of these approaches are simply the WRONG thing to do. Why? Because if we quit altogether and pig out, we gain the weight back faster than we can say “triple fudge brownie” and if we go harder, we get short term results before the metabolic boomerang effect kicks in.
You see, our bodies are smart. They don’t like this tug of war that we put it through. It’s not good to stress our bodies, especially our adrenal and thyroid glands and raise cortisol, because we destroy our metabolic potential.
So what’s the solution?
Funny enough, the answer is to go “European” and eat less, exercise less. You can’t go from eating less, exercising more to eating more and exercising less, otherwise you will blow up like a balloon. And if you continue to try and eat less, exercise more, you cause metabolic damage or you may even derail your workout efforts in an instant, by downing a giant muffin after your workout. I used to do this many years ago after an intense spinning class!
So your only choice is to chill out and focus on wellness and reparation, until you repair your hormonal balance and metabolism.
Once you do that, by eating 3 meals per day of mostly protein, healthy fats and vegetables (with one meal that includes a serving of starch) your metabolism can catch its breath and repair itself naturally. Once your metabolism is adapted and reassured, you will start to move towards your healthy weight and get results that can be maintained.
As for exercise, I recommend leisurely, feel-good activities like walking or biking outside daily for 30-60 minutes. Swimming, pilates and yoga are also great, since these activities lower stress hormones and are very restorative. Get quality sleep, daily sunshine and be sure to reduce stress by balancing activity and rest.
You will notice, as you begin to implement the nutrition and lifestyle changes that you will begin to feel more balanced hormonally. However, give it 1-3 months, because balanced hormones and healing your thyroid and adrenals does not happen overnight. The more damaged you current metabolism, the longer it may take, but it’s worth it!
This morning, before I set off for my weekly grocery haul to the farmers market, I looked in my crisper and discovered a head of cauliflower that I had forgotten to use during the week. So, not wanting to waste good food, and not wanting to make soup again, I put my thinking cap on and came up with this crustless pie/quiche which was delicious for a light lunch and would also make a great vegetable side dish with dinner. I enjoyed a slice for lunch with a green salad, followed by one of my homemade pumpkin spice donuts – tres bon!
1 head of cauliflower, cut into small florets
½ cup cream
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
½ cup diced extra tasty cheddar cheese
3 slices ham, diced
¼ cup almond meal
Salt and pepper
¾ cup grated cheese
Preheat oven to 350f (180)
Place the cut cauliflower florets in a pan of shallow water, cover and simmer for 10 minutes, until softened. Drain and place in a bowl.
Add beaten eggs, cream, mustard, cheese, ham, almond meal, salt and pepper. Mix well.
Pour into a greased pie dish, top with grated cheese and bake for 30 minutes, or until firm and golden.
The debate continues and probably always will. Is regain inevitable after weight loss? You may have worked hard to lose the weight, but then the real fun begins – that is, navigating how to maintain your new figure, when your body seems to mount a relentless campaign to regain the weight once you’ve lost it.
I’ve seen countless friends and family achieve spectacular weight loss, only to regain the whole lot very quickly (with interest). Does that mean we’re all doomed to regain? In my opinion, it depends on what method you used to lose the weight in the first place – and whether you can sustain it.
Maintenance is Possible
All of us who have been successful at maintenance know that it is possible, but it would be foolish to claim that maintenance doesn’t require vigilance and constant reinforcement of new lifestyle habits. When the intense initial motivation starts to wane, we need to back it up with a solid, sustainable system that feels automatic.
Virtually every successful maintainer I know is consistently mindful in their food choices and intuitively connected to their bodies in order to maintain their personal balance. Since balance isn’t static, this is a necessity when we live in a world which surrounds us with opportunities to eat badly. In a world where anything is possible and everything is offered, navigating the environment needs a clear sense of course and direction. I’ve been loyal to the French approach of three sit down meals and no snacking for 14 years now, but I often think how easy it would be to stray from that, especially now living in the USA.
Habits Become Second Nature
The best outcome is when your maintenance habits become second nature and preferably not forced. White knuckling through something may help you lose weight in the short term, but it is unlikely to provide a long term success. And when you do let yourself slip, all that built up tension is likely to result in a monumental fall.
So what are the 7 keys to successful maintenance?
-Master Habit Building – when good habits become firmly established they result in auto-pilot, which takes the thinking out of the equation. This results in a lot less drain of your mental energy, which frees you up to get on with life. A few of my autopilot habits are a walk or bike ride before breakfast everyday and herbal teas between meals. Do not try to adopt habits that you truly don’t enjoy. Be flexible and try different solutions until you find what works for you.
-Self-Affirm Everyday – when you have a good “why” and a good reason for making healthy eating stick (more energy, confidence improved health), you will know why its important to be loyal to your new habits.
-Be Your Own Expert – there are so many “experts” out their offering conflicting and confusing information. You can learn from others, but ultimately, it’s what feels right for your body and what you can stick with longterm that is most important in going the distance. Figure out what’s right for you. Can you have a drink and still maintain your weight? How many carbs can your body tolerate? How much exercise do you need to do to maintain?
-Avoid Using Food to Cope Emotionally – a lot of people are not aware that they eat emotionally, they say to me “I’m not emotional eater, I just LOVE food”. Well, what is love? It’s one of the strongest emotions of all! Peel back the layers and become aware of why you are really reaching for food when you’re not really hungry.
-Don’t Sacrifice Sleep -If you become sleep deprived for any reason, your body cannot maintain a regular appetite and eating schedule. Your hormones become imbalanced, stimulating your hunger hormone ghrelin and decreasing the production of Leptin, which suppresses appetite. Do yourself a favour before you keep eating unnecessarily – out yourself to bed!
-Don’t Skip Meals – Since the explosion of intermittent fasting, many people feel they have to starve for a day or skip meals in order to lose weight. If you have tried it, chances are it resulted in rebound overeating at some stage or wasn’t maintainable for the long term. If you have a history of yo-yo dieting, restricting food and then overeating will not bring peace to your heart or give you food freedom.
-Be Aware of Friends and Family who Sabotage – it’s inevitable that peer pressure will arise at a social gathering, party, family dinner or whatever occasion. Just remember, no-one can make you overeat and if they are trying to, isn’t the problem really theirs?
If you have lost weight and maintained it, applaud and celebrate yourself. The effort you’ve put in and continue to do so speaks volumes about your commitment to your self-care and your sense of self-worth. Whilst feeling fabulous may take effort – you deserve it!
I have a weakness for pancakes and French toast, but luckily there is a way to enjoy the flavor and texture of pancakes, in a healthy way, without overdoing the refined carbs and sugar. These pancakes are not only rich in protein, healthy fats and fiber, but they taste delicious too and cinnamon is a marvelous spice for balancing blood sugar.
2 large eggs
¼ cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup almond flour
¼ cup flax meal
¼ cup bulk Stevia
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon stevia
Fresh blueberries or strawberries and Greek yogurt, for garnish
Grease a large pan with butter and heat over medium-high heat.
Mix all the batter ingredients in a bowl with a balloon whisk until well blended.
Pour approximately 6 mini-cakes onto the hot pan, and cook on the first side for 3 to 4 minutes until almost done, and then flip and cook for just another minute or so to finish. You may need to do this in 2 to 3 batches.
Combine the cinnamon and stevia and sprinkle over the pancakes before serving. If desired, top with a pat of melted butter or Greek yogurt and garnish with fresh berries and drizzle of honey.
I’m excited to have released my new book How I Got Skinny Eating Fat and want to thank-you, my loyal readers, for your e-mails and positive feedback. It really means the world to me when I know I have helped you on your journey.
I often ponder about what I wish I had known about weight loss and health when I was 14 years of age. In other words, if I could go back in time, how would I redirect myself, so as not to waste 15 years of my life dieting and eating in a way that was harming my metabolism?
I tell this story in my book, that when I moved to America in my early teens, the first infomercial I saw on television was Susan Powter screaming at us to “Stop the Insanity! If you don’t eat fat, you can’t GET fat”. It made sense to me at the time, that is, in the fat phobic 1980’s, so I diligently began to avoid fat and consequently began to eat mostly sugar and starch in my efforts to lose weight.
Avoiding fat not only made me more sugar addicted than ever, it also made me hungrier with unstable moods and actually put my body into fat storing mode, as I constantly snacked on fat free, sugar laden diet foods. If the food wasn’t sweet, it was starchy, like rice cakes or fat free crackers, which we NOW know acts just like sugar in the body.
The culmination of eating this way for 15 years is that I ended up not only with cystic acne, but also with polycystic ovary syndrome and metabolic syndrome, otherwise known as severe insulin resistance. My hormones were majorly imbalanced, I was depressed and hopeless and yet no doctor ever bothered to ask what I was eating!
Anyway, here are the three things I wish I had known then about weight loss…
-Weight management is so much more than calories in/calories out. What matters more is how the sources of calories affect our hormones, namely insulin, leptin and ghrelin.
-Fat does not make you fat. In the absence of carbohydrates, fat does not raise insulin at all and is a beautiful source of smooth, long lasting energy.
- Exercise is great to your mood, but you can’t out train a bad diet. If you continue to eat foods that fatten you, it is very hard to lose weight, no matter how hard you exercise. In fact exhausting exercise drives up hunger and can encourage overeating and drinking energy drinks (which defeats the purpose!)
I have learned so many other things along my journey that I share with you in my new book. It’s available now here on Amazon.
I know you are busy, but if could write a review on Amazon and help spread the word, I would really appreciate it!
Sally Asher Healthy Tips
Food is not the enemy. All foods can fit in the context of a healthy diet. Get all the tools, resources and support you need to reach your weight loss goals.