Making a "METABOLISM"
The day was January 1st...just like every year before, a flood of people were signing up for gym memberships and ready to get results...but that wasn't the case for Staci Bravery. She'd only shown up to yet another gym because everyone said it was "what she needed to do". Having been a "bigger girl" in her mind since puberty, Staci was always told she "had a slow metabolism", "needs to eat less" and "exercise more" to be "healthy like the other girls". Head held low, and having never seen results, she was back to the gym trying to attack her poor metabolism head on. Little did she know, she wasn't meeting with a normal trainer this time...she was meeting a physiologist named Ken Weller! He welcomed her to the facility and told her that they were going to figure this out TOGETHER. Approaching her goals like a court case, Mr. Weller took her through a Needs Assessment to gather the evidence, and compare with the prosecution (her past naysayers). He divined the following exhibits of evidence in the process:
Exhibit A) At 5'4", 163 lbs, and an Abdominal Circumference of 32 inches; Staci had a BMI of 28.3 and an Abdominal to Height Ratio of 50%. Her doctors had been telling her that she was "overweight" based on her BMI since she was a teenager, and that was the first time she was told "You just have a slow metabolism"
Exhibit B) Ms. Bravery had consistently been skipping breakfast, only snacking through the day, and having a moderate sized dinner when she actually became hungry in the evenings. After tracking her food in MyFitnessPal for a couple weeks prior to the appointment, they saw that she was only eating 800-1000 calories per day. Unfortunately, over half of the sparse food she was eating came from refined and simple carbohydrate sources (high in sugar/low in fiber). She was always hungry growing up, but after having so much trouble with her weight, her mom had trained her to ignore the hunger/eat less to "burn more fat"
Exhibit C) She worked at a call center and typically had exercised when she left work in the evenings. Based on her different friends' recommendations, Staci had tried just about everything. She had done group classes at a rec center, several at-home DVD programs, and even hired a personal trainer at one of the gyms. Regardless of which kind of training she experienced, the couple pounds she lost were always followed by extreme fatigue, sickness and depression. This always left her feeling defeated...the weight came back a couple weeks in...and she'd ultimately given up on each program within a short few months.
Analyzing this history, it became apparent to Mr. Weller that she (like many people) had been living a struggle under multiple layers of bad speculation. He started by telling her the GOOD news, "Well, Ms. Bravery, it sounds like there are a lot of misconceptions about weight that you've been operating under for a long time. Fortunately for you, there are some simple things we can get you started with to drastically turn your situation around!" The evidence was painting a very different picture than the prosecution had alluded.
Misconception #1 - "You've always been overweight, and that means we need to restrict your calories". In all actuality, her BMI did register as "overweight", but considering her Abd:Height Ratio was in the optimal range, the problem was that she didn't have enough healthy lean tissue to burn fat. Most people don't realize that the biggest benefit of true "exercise" is to maintain or build healthy muscle tissue that is constantly burning fat to maintain optimal bodily functions. When we spend most of our time inactive, the tissues of the body go into an "idle-mode" where metabolic activity is similar to when we are sleeping. To increase metabolic activity, one should first become more active throughout the day and eat an adequate amount of nutrition to fuel the body's engine...and only then should exercise be added. Similar to a car that is backfiring because it's low on gas, we shouldn't just floor the pedal in hopes to make it run better.
Misconception #2 - "Just eating less will help you lose weight." Sure, initially people eating less will lose weight, but unfortunately that is usually the result of dehydration and the body cannibalizing its healthy tissues to feed the brain and other essential organs. This response (known by most as "starvation mode"), essentially switches your body from burning foods you eat to storing those foods as fat for later. Just like turning the ignition to the "ON" position without starting the engine, her fat (gas) was remaining in the tank, while her battery drained to run her tissues. To begin burning fat again, Ken explained they would have to teach her body to "Start the Engine". She would do this by: 1) eating enough throughout the day for her size to "fuel the engine", and 2) "running" the engine enough through her day to circulate that fuel. Each of those components helping her engine turn over easier. In this sense, her metabolism switch or "ignition" wasn't broken...she just hadn't been getting the engine to turn over and start.
Misconception #3 - "Exercising more will burn more calories and make you lose more weight." While exercise can help to increase muscle and metabolic activity, it is still dependent on the amount of fuel available to do so. Going back to the backfiring car analogy, adding exercise with someone who's car is low on gas is much like putting a NOS performance part on the failing engine. Of course it would give the car a bigger burst of power at first, but it would also make things break down that much faster...just as Staci had seen every time she started a new workout routine! Getting her nutrition and activity up to par (i.e. checking her fluids, filling up the tank and doing some regular city driving) would be a more productive start to getting her engine running at its optimal performance.
For information on resolving these misconceptions, check out The 3 Crucial Habits of Getting Back in Shape on our blog
Hearing this information, put into words and analogies that she could understand, Staci was overcome with emotion! It wasn't just being told that "she wasn't trying hard enough" like she had repeatedly heard before. Here, Mr. Weller was actually listening and using her health history to appropriately determine what seemed to be the root of her struggles. He walked her through adjusting her dietary tracker appropriately, advised her on an appropriate device to track her activity/lifestyle factors, and set up bi-monthly Nutrition Coaching sessions to keep her motivated during her new plan. Ken also made her activity goal of achieving 10,000 steps per day her first physical goal to achieve in month one. This was to get her engine running correctly again with her dietary changes before starting a Cardio Coaching program in her second month. A goal of 18 lbs of fat loss was determined to be her ultimate goal, bringing her from "overweight" to "optimal". With a conservative one pound per week trajectory, Ken told Staci that they would plan for a 4.5-5 month (18-20 week) intervention. Finally...she had a plan, realistic goals, and someone knowledgeable enough to help her along the way!
Up until now, Staci Bravery had been through the ringer for years...always told by her doctors, peers and even trainers that she just "had a slow metabolism"; but none of their prosecution had ever helped her. Mr. Weller proved to the jury of Staci's mind that changing her lifestyle and nutrition priorities would make her engine run efficiently, and lose that pesky 18 extra pounds that had been sticking around so long. Through support she could afford, habits she could maintain, and specific timelines to gauge her progress; she now knew her metabolic "ignition" wasn't broken. Staci was relieved and empowered to find her ignition switch had simply been flipped off all these years!
Unfortunately, Staci's situation is not unique! Though the characters here were a play on the popular Netflix show "Making a Murderer", we have seen so many people in this situation that this "names and places have been changed to protect the innocent" approach was taken. We all have the tendency to look to those around us for opinions on how to improve ourselves. The problem, in the case of improving wellness, is that both the medical field and public education are poor sources for the information we need. Our process at SYXGEN is unique in that it takes an objective approach to finding the causes of these struggles, unlike the medical focus of only treating symptoms. A physiological perspective of how YOU are functioning is more direct in addressing what you are going through. Remember...its not likely that your metabolism is broken, but rather that learning how to take care of your engine at SYXGEN will make it work better!