Undereating Slows Metabolism: How to Eat More Calories And Be Healthy

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.


Counting Calories

Eating more (not less) calories boosts your metabolism. Undereating slows your metabolism. It’s time to put the calorie myth to rest! Calories have long been talked about as the arch-enemy to health and weight loss. At least too many calories. Calories Hundreds of brands, companies, books and programs have built entire empires based on the beliefs that eating less calories and burning more calories is the “secret” to flat ab and lean figure success.
  • My Fitness Pal calibrates your “ideal” daily calorie goal, based upon only a few short “heart-to-heart” (not) questions
  • Fit Bit and Apple Watch  track your steps to make sure you’re aware of your daily burn for the day
  • Coca Cola, Yoplait Yogurt and even Snicker’s Bar redeemed themselves in the food market when they released their diet and lower calorie versions  of their “junk food” brands
  • And Halo Top ice cream is considered “safe” since it only has 240 caories—in a whole pint.
However, eating less and burning more calories may not be as important as we think for “boosting our metabolism,” burning body fat or enhancing our health. In fact, research now shows that we may have been looking at the wrong markers for a healthy metabolism, weight loss and body fat all along….


The world is flat. When you hear that phrase now, what do you believe? Duh. The world is round. However, there was a time when people thought the world was flat—for real. Similarly, we’ve been living in a time when many people (and companies) think that eating (more) calories equaled weight gain, a slowed metabolism, or increased body fat. However… Just like the “fat” scare, that began in the 1977, when Congress concluded that the fat in Americans’ diets is what caused the heart attacks of several fellow Congress men that  same year… And just like the “cholesterol myth” that began when the sugar industry paid off researchers ( Kearns et al, 2016) to keep hush-hush about the negative side effects of sugar intake (not eggs, butter and coconut oil) leading to increased inflammation…

You (and I) have been believing a lie…The “Calorie Myth.”

The “Calorie Myth” dates back to 1918 when Lulu Peters, a physician and author, published a one of the first dieting books, Diet & Health: With Key to the Calories on calorie counting.  (Check out the book here.) In it, Peters coached readers to think of foods in terms of 100-calorie increments, and advised they consume no more than 1200 calories every day for weight loss success—be it 1200 calories from breads, pies and cheese, or apples, carrots and tuna, although most of her meal plans consisted of coffee and skim milk for breakfast; soup, soda crackers, an apple and cabbage for lunch; and cottage cheese salad for dinner with gelatin pudding for dessert. Peters advice was based on her own weight loss journey, as she shared that she herself had weighed upwards of 200 lbs. before dropping 50 to 70 lbs. eating this way. The book quickly became a bestseller, and remained in the top ten non-fiction bestselling books from 1922 to 1926. Since then, the idea stuck, and the word “calories” soon became the arch-enemy to most women with the goals of weight loss, a fast metabolism or “that body.”


Calories While it’s a no-brainer that food restriction prevents your body from getting the nourishment it needs (often forcING your body to turn to other reserves, like your muscle, organs and fat stores for nourishment), it is a myth that eating more food, OR more calories, instantly leads to more weight gain. In fact, calorie counting itself is really NOT about weight loss or weight gain at all. Instead calories are ALL ABOUT energy—vibration. Eating MORE calories, equals MORE energy, giving your body (and metabolism) itself MORE energy, vibrance and vitality to thrive. On the other hand, eating LESS calories, gives your body (and metabolism) LESS energy to thrive. The result? Stress. Mood imbalances. Hormone imbalances. A slowed metabolism. Constipation. Bloating. Obsessive thoughts about food…and on and on. The statistics, alone, showing the continued rise in obesity (CDC, 2017) , weight mismanagement, chronic disease, and diabetes (despite MORE emphasis and efforts to eat “less” and burn more calories) points to evidence that something is not working. What matters MORE than the number of calories you eat when it comes to finding your “just right” weight or a thriving metabolism? Food quality. Nutrient-rich energy. And the answer to one question: Are you digesting your calories (energy in the first place)?


The amount of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fatty acids, amino acids and glucose in foods matter more than the calorie counts listed on the back of a package, and when we eat foods with MORE energy (more vitamins, minerals, antioxidants), we thrive. In addition, if our gut is not able to digest our food (or “calories”) optimally, or we have bacterial overgrowth in our gut, then our metabolism and hormones take a hit (since the gut is responsible for “feeding” our hormones and metabolism in the first place). In fact, leaky gut and bacterial overgrowth have been associated with more weight gain, slowed (or imbalanced) metabolism, increased anxiety and stress (1, 2), and more inflammation  


Instead of thinking about food in terms of calories…what would it be like to think about food in terms of legit energy (the nutrient diversity) it provides? Some of the most ENERGIZING foods include foods like:

In-Season Fruits & Veggies

  • Dark Leafy Greens
  • Cruciferous Veggies (Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower)
  • Colorful Tubers (ie. squashes, sweet potatoes, carrots, beets, etc.)
  • Refreshing Citrus (orange, lemons, limes) & Melon
  • Vibrant Berries & Cherries
  • Fresh Herbs (Cilantro, Parsley, Dill, Rosemary, Basil)


  • Creamy Avocados
  • Extra Virgin Coconut Oil
  • Olives & Cold-Press Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Raw Nuts & Seeds (Macadamia, Hazelnut, Pumpkin Seed, Flax)
  • Grass-fed Butter & Ghee

Sustainable Proteins

  • Organ meats
  • Sustainable proteins (Pastured and organic poultry, Grass-fed beef, Wild caught fish)
  • Pastured Whole Eggs


  • Spices & Herbs (Digestive Bitters, Turmeric Spice, Cinnamon, Licorice Root, Dandelion)
  • Fermented Foods (Sauerkraut, Kefir, Kombucha, Fermented Veggies, etc.)  
  • Dark Chocolate (70% or greater)
Sound boring? Tasteless? Nothing compared to Quest Bars, Halo Top or pizza? Not when you truly nourish your body with enough—fats, proteins, and carbs included.  Eat more (not less) and see for yourself how the Calorie Myth is dead… (Delete My Fitness Pal while you’re at it).
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