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by Joanna Foley, RD, CLT December 08, 2021 4 min read

You've probably heard that eating less and moving more is all it takes to lose weight. Therefore, you may be surprised to hear that following that method can actually have the opposite effect on your weight and can lead to a slow metabolism.

What you eat plays a large role in how you look and feel, but achieving a healthy body weight is about much more than food and exercise. This article will help explain exactly what your metabolism is, the factors that influence it, and what you can do to promote a healthy metabolism and a healthy weight.

What Is Metabolism?

The term metabolism refers to all the processes that go on inside your body to keep you alive and your organs functioning normally. In addition to things like repairing cells, it is in charge of converting the calories you consume from food and beverages into energy. A healthy metabolism is required to use this energy efficiently and plays a role in your ability to lose, maintain and gain weight.

What Causes a Slow Metabolism?

Factors such as age, body size, gender, genetics, and the amount of muscle mass can all influence the speed of your metabolism. Yet many other things can influence your metabolism as well.

Lesser-known factors that contribute to a slower metabolism include:

  • Significant calorie restriction and "yo-yo dieting." Fad diets that promise quick results can be tempting to follow. However, years of going on and off diets, and thus losing weight in an unsustainable way, negatively affects your metabolism and can have the opposite effect than you desired. Drastically reducing calories can cause your body to think you are starving. As a protective mechanism, your metabolism will slow down, making it harder to keep losing weight even on fewer calories.

  • Metabolic and toxic imbalances. persistent levels of high stress and an accumulation of toxin exposure can alter your hormones, increase levels of inflammation in your body and interfere with your body's ability to burn calories efficiently. These imbalances are often the hidden root cause of many health ailments, including an undesirable metabolism.

If you suspect you have a slow metabolism, you can run a simple at-home lab test to help identify any possible imbalances. Then working alongside a qualified practitioner you can implement the appropriate diet and lifestyle strategy you need.

How Do You Know if You Have a Slow Metabolism?

It's common to think that weight gain or difficulty losing weight are the only signs of slow metabolism, but there are other common signs and symptoms that may be involved as well, such as:

  • Low energy and extreme tiredness

  • Cold intolerance

  • Irregular bowel movements

  • Low mood

How Can You Boost Your Metabolism?

Supporting a healthy metabolism requires a whole-body approach. Here are some things to focus on:

  • Focus on your diet. Unhealthy levels of inflammation are often an underlying root cause of slow metabolism and weight gain or the ability to lose weight and keep it off. That's why it is important to prioritize the majority of your diet from anti-inflammatory whole foods. Examples include olive oil, tomatoes, nuts and seeds, leafy greens, oily fish and berries. In addition, taking supportive daily nutritional supplements, can help replenish your nutrient reserves, support natural detoxification, and rebalance your body at the deepest level.

  • Balance your blood sugar. Having high levels of blood sugar from eating too many processed carbohydrates and sugar can lead to persistently high levels of insulin in your body. Since insulin promotes the storage of fat, this can lead to weight gain if elevated levels of blood sugar aren't cleared efficiently.. You can help balance your blood sugar by including enough protein and healthy fats in each meal and snack, eating three balanced meals works best for most throughout the day, choosing whole-food carbohydrates high in fiber, reducing your intake of processed sugar and being physically active.

  • Balance your hormones. Your hormones are a key player in nearly every process in your body. Balancing your hormones can help support a healthy metabolism overall. The best way to uncover any possible hormone imbalances that might be impacting your ability to lose weight is through testing your individual levels. A qualified healthcare practitioner can then help interpret your results and guide you through a strategy right for you.

  • Consider reverse dieting. This is the concept of gradually eating more, not lessover a period of time to increase your body's ability to burn calories. Contrary to common belief, this can actually help speed up your metabolism and lead to weight loss if your metabolism has slowed down due to prolonged calorie restriction, long-term low carb diets, or other factors. The key is to eat the right amount of food and type of food to support your body's energy requirements in the context of an overall healthy lifestyle to restore hormone balance and support a healthy metabolism.

  • Be active, but don't overdo it. There are so many benefits to exercise, and we all should strive to move our bodies every day. However, this doesn't mean putting in long hours at the gym or participating in overly strenuous forms of exercise. Too much exercise, or workouts that are too intense, can be a source of stress on your body, especially if you are already in an imbalanced state. It's best to choose a variety of workouts you enjoy so you are more likely to stick to them. Remember that little movements add up, so simply being more intentional to move your body more often can make a big difference in your metabolism and overall physical health.

Bottom Line

There may be more behind a perceived slow metabolism than you realize. Focusing on your diet, hormones, exposure to toxins, and level of activity are all effective ways to help rebalance your body and improve your metabolism.