Slow Metabolism : a Curse or a Boon ?
When losing weight becomes a real challenge.- Could it be your metabolism ?
Is slow metabolism really bad – especially when all your physiological parameters are good
Is something wrong with healthy people having a slow metabolism? Why would we have evolved to fine tune and optimize energy expenditure?
Would you be unhappy if your car gave you a mileage of 100 miles per gallon instead of the usual 20 miles/gallon?
Benefits of optimized metabolism ( Increased efficiency )
Why are we unhappy when we don’t lose weight as expected- especially after increasing our physical activity with the intent to lose weight.
Time to have realistic expectations and appreciate our body just as we would appreciate a highly efficient car.
A better option for losing weight: Using Diet and lifestyle modifications in lieu of exercise alone
Sheetal asked me the other day, “Can you help me with my metabolism issues. I have slow metabolism and hence I cannot lose weight…”
I am sure that many people who struggle to lose weight might have heard either from their nutritionists, doctors or would have come across the term metabolism issues as they researched to find what is wrong with them. Today slow metabolism has become a curse for many. I have seen people who eat very less and yet gain weight. They wonder as to how they could gain so much weight when their friends and peers tend to lose weight on a diet similar to theirs.
To put it succinctly slow metabolism is when you tend to burn less of calories and start to store more as fat.
Weight gain could also be due to other factors not related to a healthy Slow Metabolism. Endocrine disruptors could impact the delicate balance of hormones within our body and cause weight gain. Other environmental factors such as LAN ( Light at Night), pollutants in the air, exitotoxins in the food we take, stress and stressors ( some of which we don’t even register as stress) can impact our metabolism as well.
However this post is about healthy people who are worried about their tendency to gain weight and are sad about their inability to lose weight easily. I too have been a victim of so called slow metabolism and have been wondering as to why many of us who are healthy ( i.e No endocrine issues such as Hypothyroidism, Diabetes, Hypertension, allergies, autoimmune conditions etc) also have challenges losing weight.
For e.g I make it a point to clock between 15000 – 30000 steps per day and yet, I would have to make conscious diet modifications if I want to lose weight. However, when new Prehealing participants clock a mere 7000 to 10000 steps per day they start losing weight ! This set me thinking. Why is my body burning lesser calories than theirs. Why is my body losing weight more slowly compared to others who put in lesser effort, yet experience better outcomes? The answer was obvious “ My body has become more efficient”
To illustrate with an example. If you are just learning to swim, you would be exhausted by the time you go from one end of the pool to the other and that too in a couple of minutes. With practice as you become better and better at swimming, the time and the distance it takes to exhaust you would be much more. Why? Just because you have become more efficient at the use of energy
The next question that begs our attention is “ Why finetune? Why Optimize?“
As biological machines, our body has to ensure that it is able to fine tune energy expenditure. Transformation of energy from one form to another is a costly process especially if it is not optimized. Say for example, a car that uses one gallon of petrol for one mile would definitely be releasing more green house gases( per mile ) than a car that uses one gallon of petrol for 30 miles. Not only would the highly inefficient car release more green house gases, the energy loss would also be in the form of unwanted heat, unwanted sound and unnecessary power that would be much more than what is needed.
The same logic applies to all biological machines as well. Nature tries to fine tune energy expenditure so that the toxic by-products are minimized. As your body becomes more and more efficient it would use lesser fuel ( Glucose or Fat) and hence the by-products like free radicals that could damage the body would be minimized ( to an extent that the body is able to address them and protect itself from damage )
So you see, a slow metabolism can be great. It can protect us from autoimmune conditions, from cancer, from degenerative disorders and keep us healthy. However if we are not able to use this gift to our advantage and limit our intake of calories we can start to hurt ourselves. As we gain weight it would add to physical, physiological and nervous tension which would impact intercellular and intracellular signalling. Once we have signalling issues within our body then a collapse is imminent.
If we look around we will realize that man is the only animal on planet earth who comes up with unique ways to burn calories. Most of the other life forms are doing the best to gather calories and save them. We have got a surplus of resources as we keep gathering them even when it is not required. As the burden increases we try to burn these resources quickly so that we can gather more. We are trying to make our systems inefficient so that we can do less and burn more.
So let us treat our bodies with respect. Let us appreciate our body when it becomes more efficient. Who wouldn’t appreciate a car that gives 100 miles per gallon? Then why not appreciate a body that is able to maintain its weight even after we have worked out like crazy ?
And if weight loss is something we are serious about, it is time we consider diet and lifestyle modification. Here is an example to help you understand as to why regulating diet is a better option.
Lets say, that, you are in the habit of filling 2 gallons of petrol in your car every evening on your way back from office, at a petrol station located next to your house. This has been your daily ritual for a long long time. For some reason you stop taking the car to office, it is now parked at home and no one us using it.
Yet by force of habit, you go to the petrol pump and keep filling in 2 gallons everyday. Very soon the tank will be full and you will not be able to fill more until and unless you use the vehicle.
Unfortunately unlike the car, our body has an ability to keep increasing the tank size. It is for this reason diet modification makes more sense than exercise.
In the car example given above, you would not keep taking your car out for a drive just because you want to fill petrol !
Then why should we keep exercising to lose weight and at the same time keep burdening our body with extra calories
Another reason to consider diet over exercise ( Solely as a means of losing weight)
If you were to have a 600 calorie meal and if your body is highly efficient at energy absorption ( good digestion ) and also optimized at energy expenditure ( perceived as slow metabolism) then you would have to walk approximately 12-14 kilometers to burn all those calories !
Given the above scenario it is much easier to lower your calorie intake than to increase your exercise.
In this age of surplus, it is time that we put a ceiling on our desires to gather resources. Diet modification does just that. Our eating less would also reduce the burden on planet earth. Eating less would directly impact the carbon footprint and at the same time it would make more food available for those who are not as fortunate.
And for those of us who have a tendency to gain weight and a tendency to lose weight slowly, we should thank our bodies for being so efficient and work towards ensuring that we do not damage our system by eating more than what is required.
It is for us to decide whether we want to be unhappy with our efficiency and think of it as a curse or to celebrate it and consider it as a boon.
( Kindly share your feedback. Would love to hear from you. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org )