7 Reasons You Have a Slow Metabolism (And What to Do About It)

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Written By

Lauryn

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Expert Reviewed By

Dr. Lauryn Lax, OTD, MS

Dr. Lauryn, OTD, MS is a doctor of occupational therapy, clinical nutritionists and functional medicine expert with 25 years of clinical and personal experience in healing from complex chronic health issues and helping others do the same.

Stuck...in A Rut Copy 3 800X675 1 | 7 Reasons You Have A Slow Metabolism (And What To Do About It)

Ever said this before:

“I have a slow metabolism,”… or, ” I think my metabolism stopped working?”

If so, you’re not alone. It’s a phenomenon more common than you think…

Businesses have built their empires on the frustrations of chronic dieters and conscious eaters, sharing the same woe.

  • Fat burning supplements and protein drinks promise a boost to your metabolic fire.
  • Bootcamp and circuit training instructors tell us if we’d just work harder or go a bit longer, we’ll reach “fat burning zone” and singe calories for hours after class.
  • And, more and more contestants from the Biggest Loser, are regaining their lost weight, despite trying to keep it off.

What gives?!

Contrary to popular belief, your metabolism is NOT just about how many calories your body uses in a day, or the determiner of whether or not you can eat a slice of Home Slice pizza.

Homeslice Pizza

Instead,your metabolism is simply the lump sum measure of ALL the chemical reactions occurring within your body 24/7 to maintain life—including:

  • The conversion of food into energy for cellular processes (like wound healing, muscle firing, and brain power)
  • The building up of cells and tissues in your body (muscle tissue, bone, cell structure)
  • And the elimination of cellular wastes (sweating, crying, pooping)

The MORE efficient and able your body is able to use energy (i.e. the fuel you eat), the “faster” your metabolism—meaning it runs like a well-oiled machine.

The LESS able your body is able to break down your fuel for energy, or build up and store fuel into new cells, body tissues, and leftover energy, the “slower” your metabolism.

However, even though society classifies a “fast” metabolism as the “good kind” of metabolism (a body that uses fuel for energy efficiently), your personal metabolic rate is really just a fact of life—like blinking or breathing.

While you may personally be a fast blinker, or a slow breather, “fast” and “slow” is relative only when comparing your personal blinking rate or breathing rate to yourself—your “fast” and your “slow” mode.

When it comes to your metabolism, instead of comparing yourself to Sally (who can eat a whole pizza and have a hollow leg), or Nikki (who looks at that same piece of pizza and orders the dry salad instead), keep your eyes on your own plate (and body).

Your personal fast or personal slow metabolism is completely dependent on how you TREAT your body.

That said, if you feel like you DON’T have a “fast metabolism” (for you), or your metabolism is “slower than it used to be,” here are 5 Reasons Why You Don’t Have a Fast Metabolism (that NO NutriSystem or P90X infomercial will tell you):

1. You’re Not Eating Enough.

Not Eating Enough
If you learned anything about metabolism above, it is this: Your body needs food in order to produce more energy and work like a well-oiled machine. Hence, when we are not eating enough to “fuel the fire,” things slow down. And “under eating” does NOT necessarily mean “dieting” either. Even if you are not a strict calorie counter or fighting your body to drop the pounds 24/7, under-eating can happen. Think: Eating one or two meals per day or “forgetting to eat.” I also often see chronic under-eating with folks who think they are “eating healthy,” however, unbeknownst to them, they can eat all the carrots and spinach and dry chicken in the world, but still not be getting in enough energy for their body to rev up—ESPECIALLY in the healthy fats and starchy carbs departments.

The good news? Unlike most dietary advice that tells you to “watch what you eat” or “eat egg whites and spinach only,” giving yourself permission to eat enough to fan the flame is liberating.

What does “enough” actually mean?! For an average woman, moderately active (as in you are not sitting on your couch all day), that means about 1800 calories, comprised of balance—protein, lots of veggies, some starch and fruit, healthy fats and lots of water.

Thrive Tip: Aim to get three meals per day consisting of some protein, 1-2 healthy fat sources and veggies, as well as 1-2 starchy veggies (like potatoes, sweet potatoes, squashes, carrots, beets) or fruits per day as a baseline. Increase from there, as needed (especially if you’re active!). A serving of protein looks like 1-2 hand sizes, veggies equal half your plate, fat looks like 1-2 spoonfuls of oil/nutbutter, half an avocado or handful of nuts, and your starches and fruits are about the size of your fist. As for water, drink half your bodyweight in ounces of water each day.

The beauty of it? No counting calories or macros is necessary.

Often times folks fear gaining weight or slowing their metabolism down even more when the topic of increasing food intake comes up, but once more, let’s review…What is metabolism?The conversion of food into energy for cellular processes (like wound healing, muscle firing, and brain power). If you want a well-oiled machine, you NEED fuel girl!

2. You’re Avoiding Fat and/or Carbs

Fat-Does-A-Body-Good
I mentioned this briefly above, but need to re-state this once more because this is a big hinderance in giving your body enough fuel.

In a world of noise and clutter about cutting carbs, “clean eating,” fasting (and not eating at all) and juice cleanses, it is easy to think that LESS is more—especially with the dreaded FAT & CARB categories of our nutrients.

However, skimping on either of these departments does a number on our hormones—which thrive upon a balance of all macros (fats and carbs included).

Often times, folks find they “do better” on a higher ratio of one or the other (a higher fat intake and little bit lower carb, or vice versa), but my philosophy for initially hacking and scathing the metabolism dilemma is…BALANCE.

Enough with making your body guess or try to convert protein into carbs, or carbs into fats, or fats into carbs. Just give it a balance of a bit of everything, then we can tweak accordingly as needed.

Depending on what camps and food philosophies have influenced your own, I totally know how morally convicting it can feel to “give yourself permission” to eat some fats, or include some starch into your daily diet…but with a re-newed mindset (“I am putting premium gas into my tank”), you too can begin seeing all food groups as that fuel.

A note here: Contrary to its name, fat does NOT make you fat. Instead it makes your cells “stronger” and also more resistant to storing body fat. It also gives you longer lasting energy and boosts metabolism naturally because it is the densest source of energy you can consume (fat has 9 calories to a gram, versus 4 calories to a gram in proteins and carbs).

In addition, carbs (quality carbs—from veggies, some starchy veggies and fruits especially) do a body good by helping promote lean muscle tissue (yup, insulin is a lean muscle builder too—not just a ‘fat storer’).

Thrive Tip: Stick to the baseline guidelines in point 1 above to get you started, then consider working with a nutritionist or functional medicine practitioner who can help you find the “just right balance” of intake for your personal needs, and…Don’t believe the lies in social media and diet world.

3. Your Gut is Not Well

Heal Your Gut

Simply put, if you are NOT digesting your food or you have gut imbalances, you’re metabolism can get thrown for a loop. Your gut is the gateway to your health, and when we have bacterial overgrowth, indigestion, low stomach acid, parasites, and poor breakdown/enzyme production for our food, then nutrients and fuel is not used or distributed efficiently throughout our body—leading to hormonal imbalances and inefficiencies in our metabolism (our body can’t use energy and food you’re eating to its fullest capacity. Metabolic dysfunction starts in the gut. And get this: Gut imbalances don’t always present in a feeling of bloating, constipation or gas. Skin breakouts, food allergies, ADD/ADHD, autoimmune conditions, seasonal allergies, low immunity and fatigue are just some of the other indicators that your digestion is not up to speed. Thrive Tip: A good starting place for this? Drink LOTS of water, along with appropriate supplemental support, including: A good-sourced probiotic and digestive enzymes with your meals, as well as boosting stomach acid if you’re deficient by an HCL supplement or even some good ol’ apple cider vinegar in your water before meals. To find out what you personally need, book a session today for your own personal digestive and nutrition protocol.

4. You’re a Hamster on a Wheel

Chronic Cardio

I used to be “that girl”—that girl who slaved away on my StairMaster for 2-3 hours throughout the day, did the same weight training routines from my fitness magazine bibles, and snuck in a group fitness class whenever I had the chance. “Burning Calories” was the name of the game, and if I didn’t keep up with my crazed cardio and weight circuit routines every day, I knew I was doomed for metabolic failure. Little did I realize that all that “running on my hamster wheel” actually slowwwwwed my metabolism down. When we spin our wheels (with our fitness), or run ourselves into the ground (like I did on that StairMaster), our body breaks down—rather than builds back up. Pressing “repeat” on the same workout routines, same under-eating habits and same cardio-bunny sessions, backfires your metabolism boosting efforts. Metabolism IS BOOSTED when it has something to build back up (like lean muscle tissue, and restoration of cells). This is why it’s often weight training is often said to “boost metabolism” since muscle tissue is repaired after stressing it with a swole sesh (And, no, that doesn’t mean you become the Incredible Hulk either). That said, weight training, or cardio, for that matter actually influence your metabolic rate post-workout less than many magazines and blogs over the years have claimed. Research shows that the “post workout” metabolic boost from exercise is relatively small and minuscule (1, 2),  meaning that: You don’t have to try so hard in the gym (In fact, I would argue that the more fun and less stress you have around your exercise regime, the MORE favorably your metabolism will shine. Thrive Tip: Incorporate movement into your daily life, but get off your hamster wheel. Instead of pushing yourself to exercise because you have to, do something for fun and joy today.

5. You’re Stuck in a Rut

Diet-Rut
“Insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result.” When you  push your body to run the same 6-mile loop, do the same elliptical routine, eat the same 1200 calories, perform the same weight circuit routine, or eat the same chicken and broccoli, day in and day out, your bod gets stuck in a rut. And ruts are not ideal for revving that inner engine. Repeating the same workout routine over and over, or eating the same foods day in and day out is a surefire way to SLOW metabolism down.  Variety is the spice of life and, just like you mentally get more PEP in your step when you try a new food, start a new school year, or begin a new program, your body gets more pep in its metabolism-step when you vary your workouts (and intensity) and the foods you eat (chicken one day, salmon the next, bison the next, etc.). Thrive Tip: Do something out of your health norm rut today. Try a new breakfast or dinner; a new workout class or take a walk on a trail you never make time for; stretch; take a bubble bath…if you can, aim to do something just a little bit different every day for health’s sake.

6. You’re Not Getting Enough Beauty Sleep

Sleeping Beauty
Lack of sleep is generally not recommended when optimal health is the goal. And, on the metabolism front, insufficient sleep affects your bod’s hormone levels and ability to regulate and metabolize glucose. Even partial sleep deprivation (think an hour or two less than your body ideally needs) is also associated with changes in your appetite regulating hormones (leptin and ghrelin), leading to metabolic imbalances. Unfortunately, at least 1/3 of us get only 6 hours or less of sleep or less.

Thrive Tip: Candle down 20-60 minutes earlier tonight (Lights dimmed, crawl in bed and read or write or think or pray), or give yourself permission to wake up 20-60 minutes later in the morning because…you can. You’ve got to start somewhere.

7. You’re Being a Hater (to Yourself)

Inner Mean Girl
The mac daddy metabolism culprit of them all. How we speak to ourselves directly impacts how our body responds. Say what? I’m talking stress. Think about it for a moment: When you say mean comments to yourself, like: “I’m such a fatty,” “Nobody likes me,” “Ugh I hate my thighs,” what do you think happens to your stress levels and self concept? Stress goes up. Self-worth goes down. And caught in the middle of it all, your physical body feels like it has a weight on it. Ever felt like you were carrying the “weight of the world on your shoulders?”—a financial worry, a spat with your significant other or a friend who seems adrift can leave us mentally and physically stressed.What do you think this does to our body—specifically the metabolism? One word: Slow. Stress (like ongoing poor self esteem) slows down your metabolism since stress impacts all other body systems—especially your digestive system. And when stress increases, the efficiency for burning fuel decreases (since the body is more concerned with fighting the stress and inflammation at hand). Check out Jessica’s Daily Affirmation below for some inspiration to give yourself your own pep talk to start boosting your metabolism today.

Slow metabolism but no idea why? Contact Thrive to learn more about boosting yours today.

Jessica’s Daily Affirmation
(take that inner-mean girl!)

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