One way to think about your metabolism is to view your body as a car engine that is always running. When you’re sitting still or sleeping, your engine is idling like a car at a stop light. A certain amount of energy is being burned just to keep the engine running.

I have women often share with me their frustrations about weight loss while they’ve been dieting and exercising for months and seeing little to no progress, concerned that maybe their metabolism must be “damaged” or that they are in “starvation mode”.

Your metabolism doesn’t get damaged while dieting, but it does ADAPT. 

This is called METABOLIC ADAPTATION (aka ‘adaptive thermogenesis’)

Adaptive thermogenesis is how your body responds to calorie restriction over time. The idea behind the concept is that, when you lose weight, your body adjusts by slowing your metabolism to conserve energy,

So what actually happens when you diet for long periods?

  1. You burn less calories as you lose weight (less body mass burns less calories)
  2. You subconsciously move less, therefore burn less calories during day to day activities
  3. You may burn less calories during your workouts as you have less energy
  4. Your metabolic rate slows a little bit as your body tries to adapt to the perceived threat of less energy being available
  5. You may be prone to water retention due to the stress of dieting, which can mask true fat and weight loss
  6. When you lose weight leptin levels are disrupted. Leptin, AKA the “satiety hormone” may make it harder for you to feel full or satisfied. This can result in a weight-loss plateau or even lead to gaining weight back
  7. Ghrelin (AKA the “hunger hormone”) goes up, which may cause you to want to eat more, may become more reactive to food cues and have more cravings
  8. Thyroid hormones and sex hormones (both of which are involved in metabolic rate) go down


So what do you do?

Take the occasional diet break (eat at maintenance) and don’t diet for too long or drop calories too low in order to reduce the potential metabolic adaptations.

If weight loss does plateau, usually all that is needed is a small reduction in calorie intake or a bump in exercise/activity levels. Keep in mind that more often than not, weight loss plateaus have less to do with metabolic adaptations and more to do with not actually sticking to a nutrition and exercise plan consistently. We usually think we’re eating less and exercising more than we truly are. Slower diet approaches tend to preserve muscle mass better and can lead to less post-diet rebound.

If you’re having trouble with weight loss…
Behaviour change and sustained weight loss are complex when trying to go at it alone. Many people look to fitness competitors or those with their ideal physique on instagram so that they can copy what they did to achieve that aesthetic. However, we are incredibly different and even if you follow their exact workout program and diet regime, there’s no guarantee you will experience the same outcomes.

Instead, seek out a qualified and compassionate coach who knows how to help you diet intelligently and moderately with your mental and physical health as the number one priority.

This is and always will be the basis of my coaching practice.

If you’re interested in 1:1 coaching, apply now so you get first dibs when I open more slots up for coaching in June.