How Did We Get Here?
We are asking more of our bodies than at any other time in the history of civilization. We ask them to live on food that is of a much lower quality than ever, thanks to all the chemical additives, preservatives, and processing. We pump ourselves full of sugar and artificial sweeteners, hormone-riddled dairy products, and foods like wheat and corn and soy that are so genetically modified, it’s a wonder we can even digest them. We live in a world with depleted soil, polluted air, and water teeming with environmental chemicals. We eat and drink from plastic containers that leach even more chemicals into our foods and drinks. And, we live with great amounts of often crushing, overwhelming stress.
Given all this, no wonder you don’t feel great. You’re tired all the time, you get sick too often, or you’ve gained a few extra pounds (or a few dozen extra pounds). Every day, I see clients who need to make a change in their lives. Some are sick; others are not sick yet, but are headed in that direction. They all need to lose some weight so their bodies can function better. And they need to change now. It’s urgent. They feel as if they are wasting precious time--precious days and hours and minutes when they . . . when you . . . could feel vibrant and healthy, energetic, strong, and alive.
You want to stop worrying about food and fat and what the scale says to you in the morning. Maybe you’ve lost a lot of weight in the past--40, 50, 100 pounds or more--but it’s creeping back and you’re panicking. Maybe you’re just so tired of dieting that you’re hoping, beyond hope, that there might actually be a better way--a way that would allow you to eat again.
I’m sorry that nobody ever properly explained to you how your body really works when it comes to food, and how your body chemistry, not you, is to blame. I’m sorry that stress has tipped you into a cycle you feel you can’t escape, and you are angry or depressed or even scared about your health and the shape of your body. I’m going to show you another way. The foods you eat and the lifestyle you choose should create energy and strength for you, not fatigue, obesity, sickness, desperation, or self-loathing. Yet once you’ve slowed down your metabolism, study after study has demonstrated that the metabolic rate does not easily return to normal, even after resuming a normal diet. When you starve yourself, your body adjusts to subsist on a smaller number of calories by slowing down your metabolism. That means that whenever you go off your diet, you’re likely to gain weight with a vengeance. Your body is just trying to save you from future famine.
When you are under tremendous stress, your body excretes crisis hormones signaling it to store fat and burn muscle. When you are overloaded with chemicals, pesticides, and pollutants, the body creates new fat cells to house these toxins, so you don’t become poisoned and sick. And when you consume food that is devoid of nutrients or contains artificial dyes, flavorings, and sweeteners, the body does its best to survive these foreign substances by slowing down the metabolism and minimizing the damage to the body’s system as a whole. The very world we live in puts us all at risk for a slow metabolism.
We’re about to change all that. It’s time to move beyond blame and regret and self-loathing, and into the future. This is the paradigm shift your body needs, and it will create a new, healthier version of you. The new you views food as a tool to repair damage and restore health. The new you loves fruits and grains and protein and healthy fats. The new you knows how the body reacts to specific foods and strategic eating, and the new you has all of the resources to get the weight off and keep it off for good.
We are going to find the new you, and we’re going to do it now. It’s going to take a little work, but it’s nothing you can’t do. I’m not going to ask you to starve yourself ever again. That’s likely what got you into this mess in the first place. So let’s draw a line in the sand. No more business-as-usual. If food has been your enemy in the past, that’s all over. Now, we’re stepping into your future, where food is your medicine. Even if you’re 10 to 20 pounds overweight, you need this medicine. You need to learn how to Unwind stress, Unlock fat, and Unleash your metabolism.
You wouldn’t try to repair a TV or a car without understanding how either is made or functions, and the same should hold true for the amazing biological masterpiece that is you. So first up, let’s discuss what metabolism is and does. Then we’ll look at some common misconceptions about food and weight loss that may have held you back in the past.
WHAT IS METABOLISM?
This book is all about repairing the metabolism--but what is the metabolism, exactly? Metabolism is a process, not an object. Specifically, the metabolic process consists of chemical reactions that occur in the cells of all living organisms to sustain life. It’s the change or transformation of food into either heat and fuel or substance (muscle, fat, blood, bone). At any given moment, your metabolism is either burning, storing, or building.
You have a metabolism because you are alive, and life requires energy. We all need energy to survive--to breathe, move, think, and react--and the only way to acquire this energy is from the consumption and metabolism, or transformation, of food. Profound! We need fuel, and we need substance. A healthy metabolism and a functional metabolism allow us to have just the perfect amount of energy available, an appropriate amount of reserve energy stored and ready for use, and a strong and stable structure (the body).
YOUR INNER BONFIRE
Before we jump into the nuts and bolts of the Fast Metabolism Diet, let’s consider why your metabolism may have slowed down in the first place, and why weight loss hasn’t come easy for you.
Remember, your metabolism is your body’s system for dealing with the energy you take in through food. The metabolism shuttles that energy into different directions according to what you eat and what you do. The beauty of your metabolism is that it can be manipulated, because how you eat and move and live affects how much of your food is stored as fat, how much is used as energy, and how much is devoted to building the structure that is your body.
This manipulation is what I learned about when I studied animal science. The animal science industry uses this knowledge of energy, storage, and structure to create livestock that is ideally proportioned for use as food, to the tune of billions of dollars of profit.
The metabolism can also get you into trouble because you can inadvertently manipulate it to create a body you don’t want. Dieting, nutrient--void foods, and living with too much stress slow down your metabolism when it should be sped up. When you gain weight, feel blah, even get sick with a chronic disease, those are all coping mechanisms your body creates in response to your actions or environment, like the frogs that grow three legs in polluted swamps. Your butt or your belly could be protruding because of the very environmental, emotional, and biochemical ecosystem in which it is dwelling.
FAST METABOLISM FACT
Your metabolism reflects what you do by creating a body that can survive the conditions it is subjected to.
THE SECRETS OF T3 AND RT3
One reason chronic dieting slows down your metabolism is that extreme dieting feels like starvation to your body. Starvation stresses the adrenal glands, which in turn induce a string of chemical reactions in your body that suppress normal production of the thyroid hormones that promote fat burning (T3), in favor of more production of a different thyroid hormone that encourages fat storage (reverse T3, or RT3). This is an oversimplification, but in essence, this fat-storage hormone, RT3, blocks the hormone receptor sites throughout your body, especially in your belly, thighs, and butt, like a goalie defending a goal against the ball. The fat-burning hormone (T3) can’t get in there and burn that fat for fuel.
RT3 is a necessary hormone. Without it, we would all have to eat every two hours or we would die. This hormone gets secreted to tell your body not to burn those 500 calories from breakfast or dinner too quickly. It tells your body: “Careful, that might be all you’re going to get,” or “Don’t burn off that whole dinner, you might not get anything else to sustain you until 2:00 P.M. tomorrow!” It’s as if someone told you that you had 4 cups of rice and 2 cups of beans to live on for the next month. You’d be darn sure to ration that food so you could survive. You wouldn’t want to eat it all the first day. That’s what RT3 “sees” when you get too stressed and you don’t eat enough: 4 cups of rice and 2 cups of beans.
When your body produces too much RT3, it begins to store fat instead of burn it, even when you have plenty of fat already onboard. As I said above, RT3 acts like a goalie in front of the T3 receptor sites, blocking the ball (T3). Your brain, however, detects the presence of plenty of thyroid hormones, no matter what kind are circulating, so it steps down thyroid hormone production across the board. Your metabolism slows down in response, and then you begin to store everything you eat as fat, even healthful foods.
The only way to reverse this process is to jump-start your metabolism again, and the best way to get started is to ditch old, mistaken beliefs about food that are literally weighing you down.
First, let’s knock down some of the metabolic myths that are standing in your way, then in the next chapter we’ll discuss the five major weight-loss players that we’ll fine-tune with the Fast Metabolism Diet before we get to the yummy stuff . . . the food!
METABOLIC MYTH #1: IF I COULD JUST EAT LESS, I’D FINALLY LOSE WEIGHT
One of the biggest misconceptions I hear from my clients is that if they could eat less, then they’d lose weight. In reality, it’s exactly the opposite. I can’t tell you how many of my overweight clients come to me and tell me that they eat literally no more than 1,200 to 1,400 calories per day. Often they also exercise five to seven days a week. Yet they still aren’t losing weight. They say things like, “I swear this is all I eat!” and “I promise I’m not cheating!,” as if I’m going to send them to the principal’s office for food-diary forgery.
I believe them. Why? Because eating less actually makes the situation worse! When your metabolism is too slow, you’ll store lettuce as fat, and you certainly won’t burn any fat. I was explaining to a client the other day that because of the way her body’s hormone system was responding, even the carbs found in the beautiful organic mixed greens she was eating were being used as a vehicle to store fat. Shocking and unfair, isn’t it? Even the healthiest of foods can do this if your metabolic system needs repair.
This client thought she was doing the right thing by eating so much lettuce, but she’d become so carb-resistant because of years of dieting (as well as the use of diet products, extreme stress, irregular eating, and what I deemed to be an excessive exercise program) that any carbohydrates that found their way into her system, including those in that lettuce, were being converted into sugars and stored as fat instead of being metabolized. Yikes!
I also have clients who skip breakfast, don’t eat until 2:00 in the afternoon, then consume 4,500 calories between 2:00 and bedtime. Their bodies have gone into starvation mode by the time they get around to eating. They eat so much because their bodies are panicking and they can’t stop themselves. Their bodies are pissed off at them for depriving them of food for so long; they’re lucky if it only takes 4,500 calories to calm their bodies again. Why are their bodies reacting so violently by triggering such aggressive eating? When you don’t eat until the afternoon, you are asking your body to wake up, get out of bed, shower, get dressed, think, drive, work all day, and sometimes even exercise--all on zero fuel. Talk about cruel.
Guess what else happens when you don’t provide your body fuel from food? There’s a reason you don’t just drop dead when you don’t eat. Your body finds food despite you--it finds it in your muscle tissue. It has been proven that a body in starvation mode will first access muscle for fuel, and not fat. So if you do not feed your body, it will “eat” your muscles for the essential fuels it needs to continue life. That’s kind of disgusting and more than a little disconcerting to know how key lean muscle is to burning fat, as well as to keep you structurally fit and able to move with ease and energy through each day.
FAST METABOLISM FACT
Starving yourself does terrible things to your muscles. You know that feeling you get when you’re hungry, but don’t eat? At some point, you stop being hungry, right? You sure do, but it’s not because you didn’t eat. You did eat. Your body turned to its own tissues for fuel.
This would be great if your body just cannibalized all the excess fat in all the places you don’t want it to be. But unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that. Instead, the body goes for the muscle first. Because fat is stored for emergencies, your body considers snacking on your own muscle tissue as a preferable option. Yum, bicep sandwich!
Yes, muscle is considered more expendable. Your body’s just doing what it thinks is best to keep you alive, yet the result can be devastating for someone trying to lose fat and build muscle. Wouldn’t it be better to have a real snack?
Is all that really worth skipping a meal for? And do you really want to fear eating even lettuce--or worse, living only on it--for the rest of your life?
METABOLIC MYTH #2: IF I LIKE IT TOO MUCH, IT CAN’T BE GOOD FOR ME . . . OR MY WAISTLINE
Historically, dieting is about refraining, by limiting portions, forbidding specific types of foods, and reducing or changing the times of eating. Most of my obese clients who are victims of extreme dieting never get to enjoy their food. They eat bland foods and repeat a lot of the same boring meals; often these are (in the case of so-called diet foods) devoid of the nutrients that boost the feel-good hormones in your body that keep you satisfied and vitalized. Not only do they end up hungry, but they’re also bored and depressed. Dieting can be such an isolating experience.
Life just isn’t as much fun without delicious food. Eating that way is restrictive, it is dull, and it certainly isn’t effective, because your natural food-sensing system gets all messed up. So another thing the Fast Metabolism Diet is going to do is to encourage you to use all of your senses in a positive way, to help stimulate your metabolism again and be social and create a community around your new way of eating. Pleasure is powerful and stimulates the secretion of endorphins, reduces stress hormones, increases the metabolism--and it helps fat burn!