How to successfully shift to a metabolically supportive diet.
Five years ago I went from a diet most would consider to be very “clean” and healthy, to a diet most would consider delicious, satisfying and very “non-diet” like. Yet, when I switched from the old diet to my current diet, I made many, many mistakes.
Before this transition five years ago, my diet consisted primarily of lean chicken and turkey, egg whites, raw leafy veggies, protein powders, almond milk, olive oil, nuts, berries, seeds and tons of water with very little salt. Believe it or not, this past diet proved to be a metabolic disaster, for so many reasons, as to why I began searching for a new approach to health. Once I learned about metabolically stimulating foods like coconut oil, fruits, dairy and root vegetables, I switched my diet literally over night.
My diet over the past five years consists of milk, cheese, fruit, orange juice, fish, root vegetables, whole eggs, coconut oil, chocolate, salt and ice cream. This diet, believe it or not, is very supportive to metabolic health, a lean body and good energy. Yet, when I made the extreme shift from the first diet to my current diet, my body shifted in ways that would make most health minded people think the diet change was far from healthy.
Within days of shifting my diet five years ago, I experienced severe hormonal shifts that led to bi-weekly menstrual periods, skin breakouts, weight gain, an increase in cholesterol, constipation and diarrhea. At the time, I thought my new way of eating was a HUGE mistake. Why was I experiencing so many negative symptoms from a diet that was supposed to be more metabolically stimulating to me? Was my new diet truly bad for me, or was something else going on?
After years of research and self-experimentation this is what I learned…
When you go from one diet to another, especially if the eating protocol is very different, you have to make changes slowly—NOT quickly, like most diets tell you to do. You have to consider your food changes, macronutrient ratios, calories, meal frequency and your body’s energy needs.
Here are 5 things to consider when changing your current diet to a more metabolically supporting diet.
1. Consider the types of foods. My previous diet was high in muscle meats (chicken, beef, and turkey), low in fat (mostly unsaturated from nuts and seeds), and low in carbohydrates (mostly vegetables and some fruit). My current diet is moderate in protein (whole eggs, fish, some meat, dairy), moderate in fat (primarily saturated from coconut oil, butter, dairy and chocolate) and moderately high in carbohydrates (primarily fruits, orange juice and milk). These food changes were significant. And any time you make a significant food change, even for the better, it can be stressful for the body. I literally stopped eating one diet one day, and started an entirely new diet the next. This extreme and quick diet shift proved to play havoc on my body. Luckily, I am a patient woman and I was willing to self-experiment on myself. I knew I was on the right track with the diet shifts, I just wasn’t sure when I my body was going to self-regulate, so I waited out all of my body’s physical reactions to the shifts and in a few months all my negative symptoms went away. However, what I learned was had I made the dietary changes slower, my body would have responded with less negative reactions and I would have saved myself months of weight gain, hormonal shifts, acne and digestive issues.
Therefore, when you start changing your diet, change the foods slowly.
*For More information on what foods support a HIGH metabolism—click here.
Example: If you are eating 5 servings of meat every day, and no dairy: Shift to 4 servings of meat/day and one serving of dairy. Each week add in more dairy and decrease muscle meat.
2. Consider your macronutrient ratios. One of the biggest mistakes I made and many other people make when starting to eat a more metabolically supportive diet, is altering their macronutrient (fat, carbohydrates, proteins) ratios too quickly.
Example: If you are eating a diet low in carbohydrates (20%), high in protein (40%) and high in fat (40%) and immediately start eating a diet high in carbohydrates (50%), moderate in protein (25%) and moderate in fat (25%) you are going to produce an undesirable result, which usually results in weight gain. This is what I did when I shifted my diet. I went from a low carb to high carb diet in a matter of days. My body didn’t know how to handle the additional carbohydrate load, and in response I gained weight and experienced hormonal issues.
Like the type of food you are eating, slowly shifting your macronutrient ratios is very important. If you are consuming only 20% carbohydrates, try adding in 5% more each week and see how you feel. As long as you are getting a positive response (increased body temperature, better energy, sleep improvements, etc.) your body should be able to handle your new macronutrient ratio without weight gain or hormonal shifts.
3. Consider the calories. Now, I am not a huge advocate on calorie counting. I believe in eating until you are full and then stopping. However, when shifting diets, it’s important to eat about the same amount of calories you did on your previous food plan. Dropping your calories too much can result in a lower metabolic rate. Increasing your calories too quickly can result in fat gain. Whether you are eating too little or too much, you want to shift your foods first before you shift your calories.
Example: If you are eating only 1200 kcal of low calorie processed foods: Start your diet shift by adding in more metabolically supportive foods that will total 1200 kcal. Once you make the food shift, then you can work on adding in more calories.
4. Consider meal frequency. Meal frequency is how often you are eating on any given day. Most people are told to eat three square meals consisting of breakfast, lunch and dinner. For some people, three meals per day works quite well. These people are able to utilize the meal for energy, repair, brain function, movement, etc. and the rest of he food that is not used, is stored as muscle and liver glycogen. Yet, for others, who may not be able to store glycogen very well, more meals may be necessary. If you have blood sugar issues, low thyroid, fatigue, constipation, sleep issues, etc. you may do better on 6-10 small meals/day.
Example: If you are currently eating three large meals/day and find you have blood sugar issues, weight issues and energy issues try eating three smaller meals along with 2-3 snacks. You may find that consuming the same amount of calories but eating smaller meals helps with your energy level, blood sugar control and weight issues. Sometimes just adjusting your meal frequency can be the trick to helping you feel better.
5. Consider your energy needs. When you are busier, thinking more, moving more and doing more your energy (food) needs increase. Thus, to keep your metabolism high, you need to eat according to the demands you place on your body. More energy out put (thinking, moving, exercise, etc.) needs to be followed by increased energy input (food). What this means is that on a day-to-day basis you need to adjust your energy (calories) based on your activity. If you are exercising or are extremely busy one day, you need to eat more than on a day you are lying around the house watching movies. To eat the same amount of food every day despite how much energy you are expending makes no sense. Eating too little on a day when your energy needs are high, over time will slow down your metabolism.
For most people their energy increases as they wake up, peaks around mid-day (when they are working, exercising, thinking, etc.), and then starts to decline as they get closer to bedtime. Therefore, lunch and breakfast should be your biggest meals because you place more energy demands on your body early to mid-day. Dinner should be your smallest meal, because your energy demands are lower at night. Many people do this in reverse and eat a small breakfast and lunch and then eat a very large dinner. If you don’t eat enough during the day, you will always be starving at night. This way of eating will lead to weight gain, low energy and sleep issues.
Example: If you are eating 300 calories for breakfast, 300 calories for lunch, three 100 calories snacks in between, and then a 600 calorie dinner, you are setting yourself up for weight gain, even on this very low calorie diet (total calories =1500 kcal). Adjusting your meal size to a 400 calorie breakfast, 500 calorie lunch, three 100 calorie snacks and a 400 calorie dinner would help you lose weight—even while eating more food (total calories=1600 kcal.). This works because you are keeping your metabolic rate higher all day by eating more food when your energy demands are high. Thus, once you eat dinner, your metabolism is still high and now you will be eating less food, so less is stored at night and more is burned while you are sleeping.
Does it make sense now why changing your current diet too quickly may cause some adverse reactions? Any massive change to your body, good or bad, can be stressful. And when you are trying to heal the body the goal should be to create less stress not more. The types of food, macronutrient ratios, calories, meal frequency, and your energy needs are all important in helping you understand how you should eat for metabolic health. The more you understand how your body works and responds to how you eat the quicker you will heal and the healthier you will become.
Never stop learning your life depends on it!
Your optimal health coach,
If you want more information on “How to Heal Your Metabolism”—CLICK HERE.