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The Mystery of Metabolism and How Can I Lose Weight?

Does metabolism hold the key to weight management and why some people struggle and others never seem to gain weight? There are conflicting theories on how metabolism works and if it can be boosted to help people lose weight faster. Let’s get the facts on what’s possible when it comes to weight loss.

What is metabolism?

Metabolism refers to the chemical changes that take place in a cell through which energy and basic components are provided for essential processes, including the synthesis of new molecules and the breakdown and removal of others. In other words, it’s how your body uses food as energy and then burns that energy to keep your body going.

Do I burn energy if I’m not being active?

Yes, even when you’re not moving, your body uses energy to perform functions such as breathing and to keep your heart beating.  This is known as “resting (or basal) metabolic rate.”

What determines a person’s resting metabolic rate?

  • Genetics – The hereditary characteristics passed down from your parents and grandparents play a part, but fortunately, there are other factors affecting metabolism which we can control, such as diet and exercise.
  • Age – For most people, at around age 30 metabolism naturally begins to slow down. According to the National Institutes of Health, it slows by about 5% every 10 years after age 40. This is partly a result of muscle loss and an increase in fat that comes with age; therefore, fewer calories are needed to keep our bodies running.
  • Gender – Women, on average, tend to have slower metabolisms than men. This is because men typically have more muscle, so they burn more calories.
  • Weight – People who weigh less require less energy (fewer calories) to fuel their bodies. When you lose weight, your metabolism also slows, so it can be harder to lose weight over time and to keep it off.

What can I do to lose weight and maintain it?

It might seem like there are factors working against you, but being aware of the reduced calorie requirement as you age, can help you stay focused on the ones you can control.  Here are three more weight loss tips to keep in mind.

3 Tips for Healthy Weight Loss

  1. Start with a goal of losing 5-10% of your weight through increased physical activity and healthier eating. The benefits can be dramatic. For example, a person weighing 250 pounds who loses 5-10% would be shedding 13-25 pounds, which could lower his or her risk for diabetes, heart disease, stroke and some forms of cancer. Other benefits you can actually feel sooner may include: having more energy, fewer aches and pains and feeling less winded or out of breath - making it that much easier to keep moving.
  2. Celebrate your victories at each milestone. When you’ve reached 5%, or start to feel better or notice an increase in energy, give yourself a gold star, do your happy dance, or reward yourself with a favorite activity. You’ve earned it and the benefits are only beginning.
  3. Slow and steady wins the race! Extreme diets and fitness routines are not sustainable long-term. The saying “it’s a marathon, not a sprint” is true. Healthy weight loss and management is about what you can do each day to: move more and eat more fruits and vegetables, lean protein and whole grains, rather than carbs, fried foods and sugar.

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