Is dieting messing up your metabolism?
As you know, metabolism is our powerhouse for energy burning in the body. There are plenty of factors that impact our metabolism including how we eat and move. Unfortunately, we live in a diet culture. Calorie restriction is disguised as healthy eating or making lifestyle change. Long term, this can have a major impact on your metabolism and what your weight will do. If you have ever wondered why after weight loss your body puts the weigh back on plus more, here is a snapshot.
Let's get sciencey for a sec
We have hormones involved with appetite. The main ones that I am going to focus on include leptin and ghrelin.
Leptin = appetite suppressing hormone and involved with metabolism speed.
Ghrelin = hunger hormone.
When eating to your bodies needs, these two hormones work in harmony to give our brain and stomach cues for starting and stopping eating.
Dieting, calorie restriction or starvation slows leptin release down and ramps up ghrelin. So what does this mean? Yep, you guessed it! Increased hunger and decreased fullness. There is also increased release of an enzyme, lipoprotein lipase. This works to increase fat storage and drive to eat high fat foods. Cue the foods that you crave during a diet. It’s your bodies way of trying to survive.
Reduced leptin hormone means a slower metabolism to meet the calories that the body is expecting. Remember, our body doesn’t know we have food available.
Each time a new restriction/diet finishes the body decides to increase the weight ‘set-point’. So, the hormone balance is not restored, hunger levels stay high and the body will remember each ‘famine’ for protection. This is the main reason why when most people lose weight they regain the weight with interest.
How your body reacts
Let's be honest, our body really doesn't like starving. And you may think, "but I'm not starving". So I'm going to break it down. Any time our body doesn't get the amount of calories that is needs over consecutive days, it thinks it is starving. Our cells don't know that we have ample food available in our modern times. It also doesn't know that the restriction that is being enforced is voluntary. It thinks, not enough food = starving. To combat this here are a few ways it retaliates (it's not personal, your body is trying to survive).
Metabolism drops. There is no point burning energy you don't have.
Your body will try and get every last calorie from food. And then it will hold onto it for the long haul. Remember, our cells think they are starving.
Increased appetite. The ramped up ghrelin hormone kicks into gear. It makes you think about food more, makes food taste better and increases the amount of food you need for satisfaction.
Increased fat storage. Just in case this dieting thing is going to last forever.
Reduced muscle mass. Our body thinks that muscles waste too much energy...
Your body will feel the cold more. Again, it is a way to conserve energy. When it comes to survival your body is going to cut back on what it considers non-essential.
So what do I do?
It is probably quite obvious what comes first. It’s time to ditch dieting for good. If anything, dieting has got you to where you are today. And that is not your fault. The weight loss industry is a multi-billion dollar industry designed to make you think that you are the problem. This couldn’t be further from the truth! There is nothing wrong with your body. You may need to do a bit of unlearning when it comes to listening to your body and ditching diet mentality.
Learn to acknowledge your hunger and fullness cues. After all this is your body telling you that it needs something. If you struggle to understand your hunger and fullness it may take a little bit of time to learn. Your body is spending some time to figure out if you are for real this time and whether is actually going to get the amount of energy it really needs.
Stop letting food control your life. I am a big believer, that food is just food. There are much more important things we could be spending our time thinking about.
Now I know that a lot of this sounds very simple but it can be hard to break free from diet mentality. If this is the case, getting one on one support to help heal your relationship with food and your body. A non-diet dietitian can help you challenge diet mentality and teach you to listen to your body. At Total Balance Health and Fitness we can help you build confidence to nourish your body with satisfying meals. No guilt or shame EVER.
We only get one body, so nows the time to undo some of the damage of dieting and live a life with food freedom.