How I Changed My Metabolism

by Hillary on January 29, 2014

Disclaimer: I am not a registered dietitian. The following is based on personal experience.

metabolism

Over the past few years, my “diet” has transformed as I’ve gained more knowledge about nutrition via my college education, my job in corporate wellness, and my own personal research.

Over the past year, I’ve witnessed my physique change unintentionally. While, indeed, the scale shows a slightly smaller number these days, I am not using “metabolism” and “weight” interchangeably. We can not control our gravitational number on a measuring tool, but we can alter our metabolism, or energy production system, to encourage it to run more efficiently.

Me-tab-o-lism: “the chemical processes by which a plant or an animal uses food, water, etc., to grow and heal and to make energy” — Merriam-Webster

 

When I say I’ve “changed my metabolism”, I have not scientifically measured this statement. By listening to my body’s needs, I can feel when my metabolism is running at a steady race pace. How? I am a hungry beast (with healthy cravings)!

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How I Changed My Metabolism >>

>> Eat small, frequent meal & snacks.

This has never been an issue for me. I’ve never been one to skip a meal, but now that my schedule is more uniform (in comparison to my college days), eating meals and snacks at generally the same times each day is easy to accomplish. That said, I believe in intuitive eating and do not eat on a rigid schedule.

I like to think of metabolism as a burning fire, producing “heat” or energy to perform bodily functions. If you fuel the fire frequently with kindling (small, healthy, nutrient-dense meals and snacks), the fire will continue to roar. On the contrary, if you forgot or miss to add wood (food) to the fire, the flames will eventually burn out. To keep my fire burning, I eat breakfast (favorite meal of the day!), lunch, dinner, and 2-3 snacks every day. Your metabolism jumps up a bit every time you eat, so eating frequently is in your best interest.

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>> Favor the (healthy) fats.

Don’t fear fat! The more (healthy) fat I eat, the better I feel. I incorporate fat into every meal: a banana cannot be eaten without nut butter, or a salad is not complete without nuts, seeds, avocado, and olive oil. Fat is essential in the diet to absorb Vitamins A, D, E, K, in addition to the other numerous vital functions it is responsible for in the body. For me, good fat is more a focus than protein.

Healthy fats I consume regularly >> avocado, chia, flax, hemp, coconut oil, olive oil, salmon, nuts, nuts, and more NUTS!

Recipe >> Nutty Paleo Pumpkin Muffins {grain free / high in healthy fats / low in sugar}

salmon

>> Conquer your carbs.

This is key. Conquering your carbs is the answer to managing your metabolic health. I have noticed a huge difference since reducing carbohydrates/sugar in my daily diet. Being conscious of my intake of refined grains has made a huge difference in how I look (reduced inflammation) and feel. I aim to eat intact grains 80% of the time (i.e. brown rice, oats, quinoa). That said, I am not anti-carbohydrates, and I do indulge in sweet treats with freedom.

I’ve written about my sugar struggles in the past; I’m happy to report that I’ve tamed my former uncontrollable sugar cycle — no more dire cravings and crashes. Now I crave 85% dark chocolate and anything with less cocoa is too sweet for my tastebuds.

chocolate

>> Pump up the iron.

I’m not referring to the ever-important mineral, but iron weights! Being sidelined from my favorite pastime due to injury has changed  my workout regime quite drastically over the past 12 months; I believe it’s played a huge roll in altering my metabolism for the better.

My former two-hour workouts sizzled down to higher-intensity 20-45 minute workouts, with the core of them centered around strength training. Long bouts of cardio are no longer the norm. A body with more lean muscle than fat is going to burn the fire faster and more efficiently; also, interval/HIIT training will keep your metabolism burning at a faster rate after your workout compared to steady state exercise.

Feel the burn >> 20-minute Tabata Kettlebell Workout

almond butter

Other Feel Good Tips >>

>> Green tea. A pitcher of iced green tea is a staple in my fridge. Green tea is known for its health-enhancing properties, including its ability to fight fat (WebMD). I enjoy the cleansing taste of green tea, and while its effects on my metabolism are probably minimal, sipping it regularly can only be a beneficial habit.

>> Water, water, water. During the work week, I am constantly refilling my stainless steel 27 oz. Kleen Kanteen with cold water (3-4 times in 8 hours). It is debatable whether drinking more water has an effect on your metabolism, but I’ve found that when I am heavily hydrated with H20, all parts of my body feel and function better.

>> Cinnamon. Cinnamon is known for its ability to help control your blood sugar. Since your metabolic health is highly correlated with your blood sugar (glucose) levels, avoiding highs and lows is the goal. I add cinnamon to everything — oatmeal, baked goods, coffee, tea, roasted root vegetables, and lots more.

 Recipe >> Balsamic Lentils with Cinnamon Maple Roasted Vegetables

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I’d love to hear your experiences with your own metabolism…

How do you fuel your fire? How often?

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{ 33 comments… read them below or add one }

Brittany (Healthy Slice of Life) January 29, 2014 at 3:01 pm

I actually own a metabolic machine (pre-mom days from when I owned my nutrition and health coaching business ;)).
I wish we lived closer and I would have measured a before and after for ya! Great tips though!

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Hillary January 29, 2014 at 3:05 pm

Cool! Did you go to IIN by chance? :)

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Katie @ Daily Cup of Kate January 29, 2014 at 5:49 pm

I love how you refer to metabolism as a burning fire – so true! And I love water, too – I feel so much better when I am hydrated and can totally tell when I am not drinking enough. As for cinnamon, I always add a dash to almost everything! Great post!

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Kelli H (Made in Sonoma) January 29, 2014 at 6:03 pm

I love your metabolism analogy — so true!
I always have 3 meals a day and usually 2 snacks in between. One snack between breakfast and lunch and one between lunch and dinner. I kind of love having the same schedule every day because my body is used to eating like that. On the weekends, I notice I eat less. Usually just 3 meals and no snacks.
I agree, healthy fats are the best! It makes me sad when people eliminate them from their diets.

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Juliana January 29, 2014 at 6:26 pm

What kind of snacks do you eat?

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Hillary January 29, 2014 at 7:37 pm

1. banana, almond butter, hemp seeds
2. homemade granola bars
3. currently: Nuts & Spices KIND Bars
4. plain non-fat Greek yogurt, blueberries, chia seeds, honey
5. a hard boiled egg
6. sliced apple with sharp white cheddar
7. trail mix (homemade)

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Carol January 29, 2014 at 6:32 pm

Sounds like we eat similarly :) There has been a lot of trial and error to determine which foods work best with my body. Lots of protein, veggies, NUTS (some days I feel like a squirrel) and some fruit. I eat about every 2-3 hours. I try to fill up on protein first and then add whichever I am still craving – fruits or veggies or some nuts. I have always had great success when I listened to my body and ate what I craved. Now I just do it more healthfully :)

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Hillary January 29, 2014 at 7:40 pm

Intuitive eating is the best!

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Deb @ Dietitian Debbie Dishes January 29, 2014 at 7:00 pm

We actually eat pretty similarly! I’ve found that a vegetarian, lower carb diet works best for me. My main healthy diet message to patients is to eat less sugar and more fruits and vegetables. As much as it would be great to boost metabolism with specific healthy foods, they don’t really have much of an impact on rate of calorie burn. Exercise definitely does though!

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Robyn @thereallife_RD January 29, 2014 at 7:56 pm

eating early and frequently is key and I, too, feel so much better when I’m eating lots of fats! they are so so important to our overall health – you look great! :)

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Hillary January 29, 2014 at 9:33 pm

I was thinking about you, Robyn, the entire time I was typing up this post. You are such an inspiration to me, especially in regards to intuitive eating, eating healthy fats, and eating LOTS! :)

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Robyn @thereallife_RD January 30, 2014 at 10:45 am

keep being a healthy role model for others! you’re amazing :)

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Nicole January 29, 2014 at 8:16 pm

Great post! I have a lot of the same healthy living habits – small, frequent meals, lots of cinnamon, strength training, tons of water, and eating healthy fats. I used to stay away from nut butters and nuts because of the fat content, but that is certainly not the case anymore! I now enjoy them on a daily basis.

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Rory Lazear January 30, 2014 at 3:42 am

I am so happy you wrote this post!! It is so refreshing!! Too many bloggers trying to be nutritionist/RDs when they are not and give unsafe or untrue info. Way to be a rock star!! If there were more bloggers like you, then maybe there would be more people with the right tools to live healthier lives!! Keep on keeping on… I knew I decided to follow you for a reason!!

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Hillary January 30, 2014 at 8:10 am

Thanks, Rory!

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Brittany @ Britt's Blurbs January 30, 2014 at 5:51 am

Love this! My metabolism journey has gone a very similar route. It’s so interesting how small, consistent changes in our lifestyle can make a very large impact. Fats, Carbs, Lifting –> I think they’re all starting to get a MUCH better reputation. There is nothing to be feared!
Thanks for sharing your journey. Love the ecard too; hilarious!!
XOXO. Britt

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Jillian D. January 30, 2014 at 6:46 am

What an awesome post – having enough water is definitely the top of the list for me!! Thanks for the other tips. You look great :)

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Ang @ Nutty for Life January 30, 2014 at 7:03 am

This is super informative. Love it! I recently started adding more fat into my diet and it’s made a world of difference so far. Whoever created that low fat thing way back when was (in the words of Elle Woods) “seriously disturbed.” Lol.

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Cody January 30, 2014 at 8:09 am

Great post! Just wondering if you notice a difference when you eat vegetables as your main source of carbs vs whole grains.

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Megan @ The Skinny-Life January 30, 2014 at 8:41 am

Adding peppers & spices to my meals has helped me with my metabolism. Also, I love my green tea! Eating intuitively is honestly something I’ve struggled with since losing 80 pounds 3 years ago. It’s difficult to get yourself off of calorie counting & portion control. Listening to your body is key. I also find it challenging to stop doing as much cardio. I’ve always done strength training & weight lifting, but I need to focus more on those activities & less cardio now that I’m in maintenance mode.

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Jenn January 30, 2014 at 9:39 am

This is awesome! Such a refreshing post and I love to see ladies that are not afraid of (healthy) fat. Do you limit calorie intake at all? Or just eat until satisfied? You look amazing!!

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Hillary January 30, 2014 at 10:12 am

No, I don’t count calories… but I am sort of curious how many I consume in a day.

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Ashley January 30, 2014 at 10:20 am

I have changed my metabolism by doing all of these things, too, and I feel great! These are great tips for everyone!

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Karen - Fit in France January 30, 2014 at 2:04 pm

I, too, have gotten my metabolism under control over the past few months. I did the 21 Day Sugar Detox and it is based on a lot of the principles you outlined. Cutting out bread, processed foods (cookies), and adding in more healthy fats worked wonders for me. In the morning, I switched from bread to coconut flour pancakes and it keeps me over until lunch. Snacking doesn’t work too well for me, as I find I am constantly thinking about food. However, I do have almonds in my bag, just in case!

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Sarah @ Making Thyme for Health January 30, 2014 at 9:13 pm

These are all great tips! I’m just like you and have to eat small snacks all day long. I’m a firm believer that it helps keep the fire burnin’! ;)

Reading this just gave me a major craving for fish! Now that I’m lifting weights more frequently, I can feel my body begging for more protein. Brandon won’t eat fish, but I might have to make it anyway and tell him to fend for himself!!

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Hillary January 30, 2014 at 9:37 pm

Yes, do! Fish (especially fattier fish like salmon) are loaded with heart-healthy omega-3 fats — so so good for ya!

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Ellie January 31, 2014 at 12:28 am

I just bought a juicer three weeks ago and have been juicing up a storm! I have two to three big glasses a day. Lots of greens (kale, spinach, celery, cucumber) beets, carrots, ginger, apples, etc. I find I get full from one glass for a couple of hours and have great energy. I’m trying to find the balance of juice with my other daily meals though. Do you have any experience/suggestions? Great blog!

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Hillary January 31, 2014 at 8:12 am

Hi Ellie – I don’t have a lot of experience with juicing. Other blogs, such as The Fitnessista and Pumps & Iron, would be a couple of sources to check out :)

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Chelsea's Healthy Kitchen January 31, 2014 at 3:52 am

Great post! I can totally relate to everything here – ever since I started lifting weights more, eating more healthy fats, and eating a million times per day, I feel like my metabolism is on fire! Now if only I could conquer my sweet tooth…

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Sarah Pilkington February 1, 2014 at 7:22 pm

Sweet Hill:

I wanted to let you know that through the years I check in with your blog…it has really evolved and is informative, fun and thoughtful. Your devotion to health is inspiring. As you know, my honey is a huge dark chocolate fan so I am going to bake him some of your recipes! Keep up the good work friend. The next time I am in your neck of the woods, I will make sure to see you.

Sarah

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Hillary February 2, 2014 at 6:16 pm

Thanks, Sarah! It’s so great to hear from you. Hope you and Corin are happy and healthy. Hugs!

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Karen @ Kama Fitness February 4, 2014 at 7:33 am

Love this, Hillary! There’s nothing wrong with being a hungry beast lol. I feel like I am almost every day of the week! I also love breakfast, but I’m a huge carboholic!!! I balance “cheat meals” along with my healthy meals for the ultimate best boost of metabolism! :)

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Katie Mitchell February 15, 2014 at 7:34 pm

Enjoyed your post. How did you kick your sugar addiction? I have a pretty bad sugar addiction myself.

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