It’s very rarely the first thing a new client mentions to me, but once we’ve established some trust and rapport, I often start to hear certain familiar fears and questions bubble up around the edges of the conversation.
“I’m not focused on weight, but I feel like based on what I eat and how I exercise, my body should be different…”
Other times, it sounds more like:
“Sometimes I wonder if all of the crash dieting I did in the past has caused permanent damage…”
Can you really “mess up” your metabolism?
Like most things, the answer to this question is complex. Before we dive in, there’s something vital that I want you to remember.
Your body is an amazing, resilient, living system.
Your body is capable of incredible feats of self-healing and self-regualtion.
Whenever you’re reckoning with a health challenge or imbalance, it’s vital to remember how many things are going right with your body in any given moment, and how capable your body is of returning to balance and restoring itself.
If you have a history of chronic dieting, extreme stress, or certain medical conditions like thyroid problems, your metabolism may be disrupted.
“Metabolism” refers to the sum total of all of the chemical reactions that take place in your body and allow your body to get things done. It’s not limited to playing a role in your weight and appetite; it also connects all of the energy production and storage in your body. Your metabolism ties in with all of the major hormonal systems in your body, too.
Since there are so many components to your metabolism, there are a lot of different ways that the system can manage to get out-of-whack. For example:
- Chronic dieting can not only slow your basal metabolic rate, but it can also reduce levels of leptin, a hormone that helps tell your brain that you’re full and have had enough to eat.
- After periods of restricting your food intake, it’s very common for the body to trigger you to have binges to “make up for” the restriction. Periods of consuming excess calories and sugar can encourage insulin resistance and issues with blood sugar regulation.
- Profound or chronic stress affects the higher regulatory centers of your brain, which in turn are responsible for “switching on” many of the vital hormonal centers of your body. Stress can change everything from your hunger levels to the way that your body uses energy, and it’s a significant component in many cases of metabolic disturbance.
Healing is Possible
When I was working on the Metabolic Damage Self-Check, I realized that my own history is a parade of risk factor after another for metabolic problems. And I’ve certainly spent many frustrating years battling with my weight: both during times when weight loss would have been healthy for me, and times when my body was perfectly healthy.
I can’t honestly count the number of times I went on restrictive diets, starting as early as in 7th grade. I was a figure skater and a budding actress; anxiety about my body size and shape seemed to come with the territory. Following the trend of the times, completely eliminated all dietary fat. I started losing my hair in clumps, and I’ve often wondered if depriving myself of nutrients during adolescence contributed to the depression I experienced over the following decade.
More than that, I experienced terrifying weight loss during a life-threatening flare of Ulcerative Colitis. During the worst of it, I was losing about a pound per day—most of it muscle.
But even in situations like mine, it’s possible to restore your nutrition, your strength, and ultimately, your metabolic health. That isn’t the same thing as the fantasy that various diet programs like to sell us. (You can’t “speed up” your metabolism so much that you can eat anything and everything without consequence.) Metabolic restoration means that your energy levels, your hunger signals, and your body’s natural set point find themselves at a comfortable place that’s unique to you. This isn’t about conforming to anybody’s beauty standard; it’s about nourishment, energy, and feeling comfortable in your own skin.
Next Steps: Metabolic Self-Check
If you’ve ever wondered about the state of your metabolism, you’re not alone. It’s a common question, and without any frame of reference for what it’s really like for other people, it can be hard to know if you might have a potential issue or if you’re just overestimating how much easier it is for other people to maintain a stable weight, nourish themselves, and feel energized.
Of course, if you’re worried about anything related to your health, a trip to your primary care doctor is a good idea. But sometimes it helps to have a little guidance about what to ask your doctor about, what symptoms might be relevant, and what seemingly “random” pieces might actually be integral pieces of the puzzle.
The Metabolic Self-Check is a tool I created to help you take stock of both your previous history and your current experiences so that you can reach out for help if you need it. It’s 100% free, and you can download it instantly below.
After you download the checklist, you’ll also receive emailed resources that relate to this topic and other aspects of natural healing. (And, of course, you can unsubscribe at any time!)