Metabolic Damage: Are You Starving Yourself Fat?

Has this ever happened to you? You follow a diet, lose a significant amount of weight, end the diet, gain all the weight back and plus some. Now, no matter how hard you try you can’t seem to lose the weight? Or perhaps in your 20’s it seemed so easy to lose weight with just a few tweaks here and there but now you’re only eating 1200 calories/day (way less than you used to) and are perplexed that you can’t seem to drop even a pound?

Did you know that following any type of weight loss plan that causes you to lose a significant amount of weight in a short amount of time (more than 2 lbs/week) can cause your metabolic rate to decrease by 20% and can stay that way for weeks to months after resuming normal eating habits?! So what happens? You wind up putting on more weight than where you were in the first place. After doing something that you thought was good for your body, you find that you are in worse shape than when you started! Sigh… I have two words for you: Metabolic Damage.

In a nutshell, metabolism is the process of taking in and breaking down fuel for energy and building/maintenance of they body. Now that is a very simplistic way of looking at metabolism and the truth is that there are a number of factors that affect metabolism:

  • M.R. or Resting Metabolic Rate (genetically predetermined)
  • E.F. or Thermic Effect of Food (calories burned from the breakdown of food)
  • Body composition: body fat vs fat mass (muscle requires energy to keep it there, fat does not)
  • Hormones (there are a number of hormones involved in metabolism and that’s best suited for a completely separate article)
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Activity level
  • EPOC or Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption (in short, the “afterburn” you get from strenuous exercise”

So what is metabolic damage? Exactly what it sounds like, damage to your metabolism. What is it caused from? Most common is dieting; however, there are other common causes. These include starvation, eating disorders (anorexia, bulimia, binge eating), and uncontrolled diabetes.

I can’t tell you how many clients that come walking in my door stuck in their weight loss journey. They’re only eating 1,000-1,200 calories/day, exercising 5-7 days a week, eating healthy foods and doing everything right. Many are even training for marathons, triathlons, body building competitions on top of it all! They’re confused on why they are busting their tail to lose weight and nothing is happening. They come to Elite Nutrition & Performance as a last resort. This problem affects athletes and non-athletes alike. This is a common problem that many don’t consider as the culprit to their weight loss woes. Is this happening to you?

So how does this happen, you ask? Well most people already know that when they lose weight their energy needs decrease. You have less mass to fuel and your metabolic rate decreases as a result of this and other factors. However, what many people don’t realize is there are several components of the body that get affected as a result too. I’m talking mostly about hormones…ghrelin, leptin, testosterone and serotonin, just to name a few. All of this play a role in hunger/fullness, cravings, satiety and what your body does with the food after you eat it. We won’t go into the inner workings of hormones here but just know this plays a huge role in your metabolism and body composition. So in short, your hormones get out of whack and your body can’t keep up.

Our bodies are miraculous beings and are highly adaptable. However, after extreme dieting, bingeing, overeating, purging, and abuse the body can’t compensate any longer. Do you think you have metabolic damage? Answer yes or no to the statements below to find out:

  • You eat 1200 calories/day or less and still can’t lose weight.
  • You don’t eat any carbs and can’t lose weight.
  • You’re tired all the time, there’s nothing medically wrong and your sleeping patterns are off to top it all off.
  • You’re gaining weight despite your best efforts to lose weight.
  • You only eat 1-2x/day.
  • You just came off an extreme diet or competed in a body building competition.
  • You recently developed digestive issues.
  • You feel anxious, depressed and lack motivation.

If you said yes to any of these, it is very likely that your metabolism is damaged. Fortunately, there is hope, there is something you can do about it and we can help! If this is you or you are unsure if your metabolically damaged, set up a no obligation consultation to find out how we can help you get your metabolism back!

Now, you’re probably wondering what it the world you do about all this! There are a number of steps you need to take that make up the term “reverse dieting;” which is what you will be doing. Yes, the reverse of a diet.

  • Find out how much you are eating currently (calorie, carbs, protein, fat). You can do this with a free calorie counting program like myfitnesspal.com.
  • If you are gaining weight, decrease your intake to an amount that allows you to maintain your weight for at least a week. You must keep your exercise the same for right now.
  • Sloooowly add in more calories in the form of carbs and fat. Generally, metabolically damaged individuals are severely low in carbs and fat. Add in anywhere from 5-10 g carbs and 2-3 g fat per week. Each week you must be deliberate in adding in more and actually eating it. Make sure you track!
  • Continue this process for as long as you can so that you can build up your intake and metabolism. This can take anywhere from 3 months to 15 months, so be patient! If you still have weight to lose, you can focus on this after you’ve repaired your metabolism and built up your intake.

The worst thing you can do is to cut back on your intake or a particular food group when you’re metabolically damaged. This is only going to make things worse and you’re not going to make much progress. I have worked with many clients on this process and when they are afraid they will gain body fat they find that they actually lose…imagine that! My closing remarks are we are not smarter than our bodies; trust your body to do its job by giving it what it needs. If you need help with the reverse dieting process, call me! I am happy to help!

In good health,

Kristen Tice-Ziesmer, MS, RD, CSSD, LD

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  1. It’s sad honestly. People diet in hopes of getting leaner and healthier and they end up digging themselves in a hole with unsustainable diets. Good post. I’d love to have Kristen on my podcast. Email me.
    Jimmy

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