Is your healthy diet or workout messing with your metabolism ?

Written By


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.

Peace 1 | Is Your Healthy Diet Or Workout Messing With Your Metabolism ?

You’re doing everything right. Eating healthy. Working out. Getting beauty sleep. Even avoiding alcohol. So why is your metabolism slow? Your definition of healthy may not be as healthy as you think…

“I just don’t understand,” she said, fighting back tears and a lump in her throat. Adding, “I am eating healthy, and my metabolism is just so slow. I’ve gained a few pounds, and I am still hungry. I’m scared to eat more because my metabolism seems to be all messed up.

“What’s wrong with my metabolism?!”—it’s a battle cry I hear from women several times a week.

Women trying to figure out why, despite eating a healthy diet, working out and being careful to not “over eat” is causing them to:

  1. Gain weight
  2. Hold on to stubborn weight
  3. Or, maintain their weight—despite eating “healthy” or a low intake of food (that still leaves them hungry)

“I just don’t get it!” they say. No matter what diet philosophy they adhere to (low fat, low carb, paleo, clean eating, vegetarian, vegan), it doesn’t seem to matter. Their metabolism is “clearly” working against them…or is it?

How do I heal my metabolism?!

Some questions I am then often asked are these:

  • What do I do when I get hungry—but my body is clearly not changing even with as little or healthy as I am eating?
  • Won’t I just gain weight if I eat more?
  • How much should I be eating?

Aye. Aye. Aye.

Talk about rocket science.

But guess what?…It’s not.

You CAN heal your metabolism, and your body wants to work for you (not against you). How? Read on…

Slow Metabolism

Understanding Metabolism

First things first, “Metabolism” is one of those words that sounds good (especially a “fast metabolism”)—but what is it?

By definition, “metabolism” means: the chemical processes that occur within a living organism in order to maintain life.

In layman’s terms: Your body’s metabolism is how slow or fast it can process food and turn it into nutrients.

Essentially: Metabolism JUST means the amount of fuel you need to keep your body going and going and going.

Cool. So isn’t a “higher metabolism” better, and shouldn’t you always be trying to get it faster?

Not necessarily.

Your metabolic rate is actually relative to your size, body composition and your activity levels.

A naturally smaller person (ectomorph) or sedentary individual will have a slower metabolism. A person with more mass or a high amount of activity will have a naturally high metabolism.It is what it is—and primarily a healthy lifestyle (with lessened stress) will yield the metabolism you desire.

“Boosting” Your Metabolism the Wrong Way

There are tons of blogs, articles and products out there claiming you can BOOST your metabolism through things like:

  • Fasted cardio
  • Fat burner powders
  • Choking down apple cider vinegar
  • Going on a juice cleanse
  • Lifting weights
  • And more

But all of these are short term, pseudo metabolism “boosters” that ultimately can lead you to a “slower metabolism” in the long run if you’re not aware.

One word: Stress.

As with MANY things, stress is a sneaky culprit that will shoot any of your health efforts in the foot, if those efforts are not coupled with a balanced lifestyle.

  • This explains why you can restrict their food for years and see “results”—only to hit a wall eventually as you body says, “Ok, enough. I am tired of fighting to TRY to get every thing I need in for fuel.” (and then your weight loss stalls, or you even gain weight).
  • Or why, starting a new workout plan—like more cardio or intense weight lifting—scorches and trims your body fast—only to find those results and gains plateau as time goes on—even though you are pushing just as hard.
  • Or why, a fat burner shake seems to take away your appetite and you shed some unwanted weight fast, only to hit a wall there too—losing not only your appetite, but also your continued results as well.

The bottom line? Your metabolism just wants to work FOR YOU—and requires more food, and the “just right” challenge with exercise (not too much and not too little) in order to fire away.

“Boosting” Your Metabolism the Right Way

So if you’re still reading this, you may have identified you may have a more sluggish metabolism than you like.

Before we dive into “healing” or boosting your metabolism now the “right way” (ino fat burning shakes or crazy juice cleanses needed), let’s first identify WHY your metabolism may be “slower” in the first place (so we can keep this from happening later).

Is your healthy diet or exercise routine causing a slow metabolism?

Slow Metabolism

What is healthy?

Or rather: What is your definition of “healthy”?

For example: for years, my version of “healthy” was completely skewed:

  • At one time it meant avoiding meat at all costs and eating low-fat anything (whole grains, fat-free yogurt cups, lots of fruit and raw veggies)
  • During another season, “healthy” meant protein shakes, protein bars, Crystal Light, turkey patties and steamed veggies—low carb, high protein, and lots of diet products
  • Then I switched to paleo—strict (low-fat) paleo—meat and veggies (fearing both carbs and fat). I used scant servings of avocado

In the gym, my “healthy” version was a similar story:

  • Reading and following the prescribed training routines in Oxygen and Fitness magazine like my bible
  • Checking off my list at the gym—based on the amount of time spent there (6-7 hours equaled a good workout)
  • Doing ANYTHING that burned calories, made me sweat and got my heart pumping (that equaled a good workout too!)—from spin to bootcamp to kickboxing, I often stacked back to back workouts thinking “more is better

I fooled myself.

Adding even more complication to my skewed views of “healthy eating” and “healthy exercise”, I thought about healthy eating and fitness (like all the time).

I soaked up anything on the topic like a sponge—

  • I read magazine articles on the “Top 100 snacks under 100 calories” and “Coconut oil benefits” while standing in the checkout at the grocery store or airport
  • I looked to bloggers and podcasters for the latest in health and nutrition tips—to formulate my own healthy eating gospel
  • I Google searched terms like “why are beans bad” and “easy paleo recipes” while waiting in the waiting room at an appointment or sitting at a stoplight

So all my OBSESSING and KNOWLEDGE about healthy eating TRICKED me into thinking I was eating healthy—all the time.

The reality?

My body was deprived—really deprived.

  • Eating only a pre-calculated (and self-stamped-and-approved) selection of foods, my body was forced to make due with the steamed broccoli, steamed zucchini, dry frozen (tasteless) turkey patties, boiled chicken breasts and artificially sweetened diet drinks and protein powders.
  • Occasionally, it got 8-10 raw almonds or a quarter of an avocado (or, if I was really good, half a sweet potato or some veggie variety—like baby carrots or yellow squash).
  • Making it a slave to the StairMaster


Slow Metabolism

For the most part, I did a whole lot of thinking (and honest trying) to eat healthy…And, in my mind, since I was thinking about healthy eating (like all the time), I believed I was healthy.

Little did I realize that I really wasn’t as “healthy” as I thought I was (or that others, who complimented me on my healthy food choices, thought that I was) and I had many signs of nutrient deficiencies screaming at me.

However, being the type of gal who has a STRONG will and mind, it was easy to ignore this deprivation. The thought of having any sort of nutrient deficiencies or effect on my metabolism never crossed my mind. Things like:

  • Loss of appetite throughout the day—despite not eating a ton
  • Followed by occasional spurts and days of insatiable appetite—a pit in my stomach and thoughts about food that unlimited broccoli, zucchini and Crystal Light could not fulfill
  • Poor progress and recovery in workouts (a never ending plateau)
  • Apathy and boredom at the gym (just going through the motions to check off my fitness box due to my lack of progression)
  • Horrible digestion (Loose stools, constipation and everything in between on the daily)
  • Low heart rate and blood pressure (I was a proud “athlete”)
  • Sluggish energy (my mind kept me going)
  • And…a slowed metabolism (Reaching a point that my body learned and was forced to ‘function’ off of little food intake)

Reality Check

Are you frustrated with your metabolism? Think you are “eating healthy”?

“Healthy eating” is such an undefined term…

Is healthy low calorie? Paleo? Ketogenic? Vegan? Vegetarian? No sugar? Protein shakes? A certain meal plan? Whatever My Fitness Pal says you need? The Food Guide Pyramid? Fat free Greek yogurt, salads, egg whites, Quest Bars and Sandwich Thins?

A mix of a little bit of everything?

Maybe your version of “healthy” is not quite what it seems…

Check out Part 2 tomorrow as we dissect Eating Enough for a Thriving Metabolism and a few other hacks for restoring your metabolism.

Psst…Sneak peak hack!!!

You’ve got to try this:

Slow Metabolism


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