Episode 130: The Truth About Metabolic Damage And How To Fix It

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Thanks for joining us for episode 130 of The Ancestral RDs podcast. If you want to keep up with our podcasts, subscribe in iTunes and never miss an episode! Remember, please send us your question if you’d like us to answer it on the show.

Today we are answering following question from a listener:

“Is it true that having a history of dieting can result in so-called metabolic damage? Can it mean you will then have a harder time losing weight or that your body tends to then try to maintain a higher weight? And if this is true, how should one go about healing the damage? I do have a history of dieting a few years and I have been at a higher weight after that – normal BMI, but on the higher end. I find it difficult to lose body fat even though years ago it seemed to happen relatively easily. I’ve been measuring my body temperature to track my fertility and there noticed my body temperature is rather low, about 96.6F° at the beginning of my cycle. Is that a sign that some sort of conservation mode or slowdown metabolism is going on? I don’t tend to feel cold though, on the contrary.”

A history of dieting attempts coupled with current low calorie intake can affect your body in multiple ways. Often one of them is difficulty losing weight despite calorie intake being lower than calories burned.

While this concept is referred to as metabolic damage, the term is inaccurate causing misunderstanding around the role of metabolism while leaving many disempowered thinking their metabolism is irreversibly malfunctioning.

Today we are busting myths related to metabolic damage so you can better understand metabolic function and approach the healing process with less frustration.

We’ll be discussing factors that affect the calories in/calories out equation such as the type of foods you eat and your workout habits, as well as the interplay between thyroid and adrenal hormone levels.

We’ll also be sharing strategies to repair a compensated metabolism to restore optimal metabolic and neuroendocrine function. As you come away with info about the recovery protocol and how to cycle between weight loss and maintenance, you’ll also be inspired to re-evaluate your weight loss goals.

This is an empowering episode not to be missed so you can approach healthy weight loss from a place of knowledge about metabolic function and clarity about your goals.

Here’s what Laura and Kelsey will be discussing in this episode:

  • [00:04:51] An explanation of the concept of metabolic damage and how calories in/calories out has become a controversial topic
  • [00:08:56] How digestive function and the type of food you eat affect calorie absorption
  • [00:13:23] How gut bacteria affect calorie absorption
  • [00:14:33] The difference between fiber containing carbs and simple carbs on calorie absorption
  • [00:18:34] How thyroid and adrenal hormones affect calorie expenditure
  • [00:19:44] Factors involved in your workout that affect calorie burning
  • [00:20:43] Additional factors that affect calorie expenditure
  • [00:31:00] How metabolic damage is really metabolic compensation by the body as a survival adaptation
  • [00:36:59]  How to adjust exercise habits and calorie intake to help repair a compensated metabolism
  • [00:40:55] How to support adrenal function to help repair metabolism
  • [00:43:52] The importance of ensuring adequate micronutrient intake and which multivitamins we recommend
  • [00:45:43] How long to maintain the recovery protocol and how to cycle between weight loss and maintenance
  • [00:47:31] Why it’s crucial to re-evaluate your goal to lose weight after repairing your metabolism


Links Discussed:


Laura: Hi everyone! Welcome to Episode 130 of The Ancestral RDs podcast. I’m Laura Schoenfeld and with me as always is my co-host Kelsey Kinney.

Kelsey: Hey everyone!

Laura: We’re Registered Dietitians with a passion for ancestral health, real food nutrition, and sharing evidence based guidance that combines science with common sense. You can find me, Laura, at LauraSchoenfeldRD.com, and Kelsey over at KelseyKinney.com.

Over the next 30 to 45 minutes we’ll be answering your questions about health and nutrition, and providing our insights into solving your health challenges with practical tips and real food. Stick around until the end of the show where we’ll be sharing some updates about our business and personal lives.

Kelsey: If you’re enjoying our show, subscribe on iTunes so that you never miss an episode. And while you’re there, leave us a positive review so that others can discover the show as well!

And remember, we want to answer your question, so head over to TheAncestralRDs.com to submit a health related question that we can answer or suggest a guest you’d love for us to interview on an upcoming show.

Laura: Today on the show we’re going to be talking about the concept of metabolic damage and how your body is affected by a history of multiple diet attempts and current low calorie intake. We’re hoping to bust a few myths on this episode, so we’re glad you’ll be joining us. But before we get into the question for the day, here’s a quick word from our sponsor:

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Laura: Welcome back, everyone. Here is our question for today’s show:

“Is it true that having a history of dieting can result in so-called metabolic damage? Can it mean you will then have a harder time losing weight or that your body tends to then try to maintain a higher weight? And if this is true, how should one go about healing the damage? I do have a history of dieting a few years and I have been at a higher weight after that – normal BMI, but on the higher end. I find it difficult to lose body fat even though years ago it seemed to happen relatively easily. I’ve been measuring my body temperature to track my fertility and there noticed my body temperature is rather low, about 96.6F° at the beginning of my cycle. Is that a sign that some sort of conservation mode or slowdown metabolism is going on? I don’t tend to feel cold though, on the contrary.”

I think this is a really interesting question because on one hand, there’s a lot of discussion in both the conventional nutrition and medical world, and the ancestral health and Paleo type nutrition world about the concept of metabolic damage.

I feel like metabolic damage is this term that gets tossed around that is describing a phenomenon that definitely happens, but it’s not really the right terminology for it. In that sense it’s kind of like the term adrenal fatigue where the symptoms of adrenal fatigue are definitely happening and there’s a reason behind it, but to call it adrenal fatigue is somewhat inaccurate.

Metabolic damage, I would say most people are going to consider that to be a situation where their metabolism no longer allows for normal weight loss using a calorie deficit.

I think one of the main arguments that a lot of the conventional medical nutritional world makes against the concept of metabolic damage is that nobody is immune to the concept of calories in/calories out. That thermodynamics equation where the amount of food we eat, the amount of calories we take in, if it’s balanced with the amount that we’re putting out, then we’re going to maintain our weight. If we’re eating less than we’re expending, then we’re going to lose weight. And if we’re eating more than we’re expending, we’re going to gain weight.

In that situation with metabolic damage, the concept is that the calories-in can be lower than the calories-out, but you won’t see weight loss. That’s the basic understanding of metabolic damage.

The reason why I feel like this is such a controversial topic is because in reality you can’t actually be in a calorie imbalance where you’re eating less than you’re expending and not be losing weight. That’s where the belief that the calories in calories out equation is a myth because they’ll say I’m eating less than I should be expending, and so I should be losing weight. And I’m not losing weight, so that means calories in/calories out isn’t true.

But that’s not the case. That’s really not accurate. That’s one of the myths I wanted to address in this podcast because I feel like that can make people very confused about the way calories affect weight loss.

If you think about calories in/calories out as being at its root what drives weight loss, it’s the laws of thermodynamics. It’s suggesting that if you eat less energy than you expend, you should lose weight. And if you do the opposite, so you’re eating more energy than you expend, you’ll gain weight. If you look at that just at its basic level, that is always true.

The question that I want to ask this person and also just anyone listening to this podcast is how detailed or how complicated do they think that equation is? Because if you think all of the equation covers is you’re eating a certain amount, you track that on My Fitness Pal, you see a certain amount of calories, and then you figure out how many calories your body should be burning based on your height, weight, gender, activity level, blah, blah, blah, and you have that be a higher number, then you should see weight loss. If you’re just looking at it that way, then that is not always going to happen.

That’s where that confusion comes in because on one hand you have people saying calories in/calories out is bogus, and it’s not true, and that’s not how you lose weight. And that’s totally wrong. And then you have people saying that if you eat less and move more, you will lose weight no matter what’s going on. And that’s not true either. So that’s why I think there’s so much confusion.

Is that kind of how you see the confusion around the calories in/calories out topic?

Kelsey: For sure. I think this whole idea of metabolic damage is also confusing just because people then think if my metabolism is damaged, can I even come back from that? I feel like it first of all it doesn’t take into account the many different things that can affect an energy balance. But then it also leaves somebody feeling like what the heck am I supposed to do about it if I’ve already damaged this? It’s really disempowering, I would say.

Laura: I would say the term damaged to me suggests broken and irreversible, or difficult to reverse. I don’t really feel like that’s accurate for a lot of people. I’m going to talk about the terms that I think are better for describing this phenomenon than metabolic damage. But if you go into this thinking that your body is broken, and you’re damaged, and that kind of thing, then it can definitely take away any level of power over the situation. The only downside is that the ways to get out of this situation can often be very challenging.

First I want to talk about what actually impacts this energy balance equation because like I said before, it’s not as simple as calories in/calories out and there are dozens of factors that are going to affect this equation.

Things that can affect the calories in part of the equation would include things like your digestive function. If you don’t have a very strong digestive system, then you’re not actually going to be absorbing all the calories that you’re eating. Even if you do have a normal functioning digestive system, you still are not going to absorb all the calories that you eat. There’s going to be a percentage of those that don’t get absorbed.

Kelsey: I know you work with some digestive people, but for me certainly I see a lot of people with digestive problems who they’re trying like heck to gain weight and it’s really, really hard. I think a piece of that is that they’re just not like absorbing the calories that they’re eating.

Laura: Definitely. Like I said with normal digestive systems even depending on the kind of food that you eat, you’re actually going to see some differences in absorption. That would be the difference between complex and simple foods.

For example, protein and high fiber carbs actually take significantly more energy to digest than things like pure fat or pure sugar. And then certain things depending on what form they’re in are going to affect how well we actually digest certain nutrients.

There’s been studies showing that whole nuts, when you eat a whole nut source, you don’t actually digest and absorb as much of the fat from those whole nuts as you do if they’re actually nut butter.

Kelsey: Interesting.

Laura: The way that it is processed is going to impact how much energy we get from it. The amount of fiber in that food is going to affect how much we digest. For example, fat can get bound to fiber and if we’re eating a lot of fiber, we may not actually even be absorbing the fat that we’re eating, which for some people can be helpful because it helps them cut down on their calorie absorption. But for other people like you said that may be trying to gain weight, it actually can make things more complicated or more difficult.

There is something called the thermic effect of food, which I think sometimes people take a little bit more liberty with that where they say if you’re eating a lot of protein, you’re going to be burning more calories. It’s true, it’s just not significant enough to make a huge difference in your total calorie intake.

On average people tend to use about 10 percent of their daily energy expenditure in the digestion and absorption process of food, but that does depend on the kind of macronutrients that they’re eating. Protein in particular takes about 20 to 30 percent of your total calories that you’re consuming to actually digest it. If you eat 100 calories worth of protein, about 20 to 30 calories of that are going to go towards digesting food, which is pretty significant. And then carbs is about 5 to 10 percent, and fats is about 0 to 3 percent.

So fats in some ways don’t take any energy to digest if they’re solid fats. Whereas something like a high protein meal or a high fiber carbohydrate, you’re actually going to take a lot more a lot more energy to just digest that food and so you’re not getting quite as much net calories out of that food as you would if you were eating like an isolated solid fat that takes no energy to digest.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: That’s that concept of a calorie is not always a calorie. If you’re eating whole foods, if you’re eating high fiber foods, if you’re eating high protein foods, you’re actually not absorbing as many calories from that food as if you were eating like sugar, and white flour, and low protein foods, and low fiber foods, that kind of thing. So that’s a huge factor in the calories-in part of the equation.

Cooking food versus eating raw food is going to affect the calories-in part of the equation. Certain starches like if you ate them raw, you would actually get very little calories out of them. That’s things like potatoes, sweet potatoes, that kind of thing. But when you cook them, you actually then get most of the calories out of that food. So veggies and starches…and I think meats are probably less impacted by the cooking, but they might get a little bit of an impact there.

Chewing your food obviously more thoroughly is going to help you get more calories out of it. The types of bacteria in our gut can actually affect how many calories you get out of your food. There are certain types of bacteria that actually digest indigestible parts of our diet. Things like fibers for example, they get digested by these bacteria and then they get turned into fat so then your body can absorb that fat for fuel.

Kelsey: I have an article that at least briefly talks about that on my site. I can link to that, too.

Laura: Obviously that’s going to make a difference and between different people what the balance of their bacteria is. Those are some of the things that affect the calories-in.

Somebody could be eating the exact same meal as someone else. Depending on their digestion, depending on how well they chew it, depending on the bacteria in their gut, they actually could be absorbing more or less calories from that food.

Kelsey: I have a question for you within that.

Laura: Sure.

Kelsey: I totally understand things like digestive function and the different bacteria contributing…and actually I’ll add into that like cooked food versus raw food, that kind of thing. Totally see how that can make a giant difference in how many calories somebody is actually eating.

When we’re talking about complex versus simple foods, how much of a role do you feel like that plays into how many calories somebody is actually consuming based on what they think? Like if someone was logging that on My Fitness Pal or something. But then considering complex versus simple, how much less might they be eating do you think?

Laura:  I don’t know if there’s a percentage necessarily that is in the research. But just as an example, the fiber containing carbs versus the refined carbs, they’re going to actually impact how much of other foods that we digest. If you’re eating a super high fiber diet, it’s going to actually prevent you from absorbing all the fat in your diet. Fat tends to be obviously a very high calorie food. If you’re absorbing more fat, even if it’s maybe an extra 20 grams a day, that can make a big difference in terms of how many calories you’re eating.

I think the complexity of the food can sometimes impact how well you’re absorbing even the non-complex components. And then if you think about carbs that are higher in fiber, it just takes more energy to actually digest those. So the net calorie intake for a high fiber sweet potato is going to be different than white rice, for example, or sugar. Sugar is one of those foods that pretty much can be absorbed very easily. In some ways it’s beneficial if somebody needs easily absorbed carbohydrates for some reason. But for the average person, eating a lot of high sugar foods is going to increase how many calories that they’re getting from their food.

Kelsey: Exactly.

Laura: I don’t know if there’s like a percentage. I think the information about the percentage of the thermic effect of food is a little bit more well understood. But again it comes down to a lot of different factors. Because if you think about fiber, humans can’t digest fiber. So we’re not technically able to extract calories from that.

But like you said in that article that we’re going to link to, certain types of bacteria in our gut can digest that fiber. If you have high levels of those, you may actually be getting calories from that fiber that most people wouldn’t be getting.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: And again, it’s one of those things that you can get into minutia about it. And yes, there is good information, and yes, it’s accurate. But as far as what that looks like practically, it can get a little bit over the top as far as what the actual practical side of it is. I just like people to understand that calories-in, there’s a lot of different things that affect what your body is able to process.

I forgot to mention with the calories-in, even if you have the exact same digestive system as someone else, foods themselves can vary up to 20 to 25 percent in terms of their calorie content. So that means that you could have the exact same looking apple that you’re eating and you could have a twin version of yourself with all the same like gut function, digestive strength, all of that stuff going on and eating a different apple that looks the same, and there could be like a 20 percent difference in terms of the calorie content between those two apples.

It tends to be more of an issue for processed food. Anything that’s been created and has like nutrition fact labels on it, there’s going to be a lot more variance in the calorie content of those foods. It’s just crazy because it’s like you literally could be eating from one day to the next the exact same food and your calorie intake could be like 20 percent different on another day.

Kelsey: Great.

Laura: Yeah. That’s another thing that affects calories-in. And then as far as the calories-out goes, this is another area that I think is way over-simplified in a lot of people’s minds. Most people think of calories-out as how much you’re exercising or like just what your body’s basal metabolic rate is, which basal metabolic rate is just how much energy your body burns just to function and do its normal daily life.

A lot of different things affect calories out. One thing is our hormones, thyroid hormone especially. Active thyroid hormone T-3 is going to make one of the biggest impacts on our calories-out. That will affect our basal metabolic rate fairly significantly. If you have hypothyroidism, you’re almost guaranteed to have a lower basal metabolic rate than someone who doesn’t have hypothyroidism.

Adrenal function can affect your metabolic rate. Cortisol levels are going to impact how much calories you’re burning if you have high cortisol, low cortisol, cortisol resistance. A lot of different things there that can actually affect your body’s basal metabolic function.

As you and I know, as our Paleo Rehab participants know, as a lot of our listeners know, adrenal hormones and thyroid hormones do interact pretty significantly. Having high levels of cortisol can actually impact the efficacy of your thyroid hormones. Even if you had normal thyroid production, you could be having low actual hormone effects. That’s a pretty complicated part of this equation that will significantly affect the calories-out part of the equation.

Obviously the type of workout you’re doing, the frequency, the intensity, the duration, all of that’s going to affect your calorie burn. There is some evidence that certain types of workouts are going to benefit your basal metabolic rate versus others that will actually lower it.

Long duration cardio is going to make your metabolic rate lower because it’s essentially an adaptation to the calories you’re burning in those long duration cardio training sessions versus weight training. It’s not significant, but it does have a mild increase in your basal metabolic rate when you put muscle on.

It may be like, I don’t know, 50 calories a day that you’re burning more than someone who doesn’t have a lot of muscle mass. But again that is going to impact how many calories your body is burning at rest along with the workouts themselves. And then also the way your workouts affect your hormones is going to impact how well you’re burning calories. So again, more complexity there.

Certainly your age and gender is going to affect your calories-out. As you get older your calories-out are going to go down. That’s just normal. It’s to be expected. Twenty years ago losing weight was probably a lot easier than it would be when you’re in your 40s, or 50s, or even older than that. So that’s going to be a factor.

And then stress levels, especially chronic stress because of the impact on the adrenal system is going to impact your calories-out. That can actually impact your calories-in as well since you might affect your digestive capacity.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: I would think they might have a net neutral effect there because you might be absorbing less nutrients and then you may be expending less nutrients. But I would actually think the expending less would be even more significant from chronic stress. So that’s going to be an issue.

You’re micronutrient intake is going to affect how well your metabolism works. Not to get into a deep biochemical information, but essentially our mitochondria that are burning the protein, carbs, and fat to create energy, if they don’t have enough of certain micronutrients, then it’s not going to function optimally.

It’s like kind of like if you have a car that has a lot of rust in the engine, it’s not going to burn fuel as effectively and it’ll lose its miles per gallon or its fuel economy. That could be totally wrong. If anyone knows cars, I don’t.

Kelsey: I can’t correct you there.

Laura: I’m like thinking of Josh listening over my shoulder.  He may be like, babe, that’s not true. That’s not how fuel economy works. But let’s just pretend it does for metaphor’s sake.

And then obviously your insulin sensitivity is going to affect your calories burned. Basically if you are insulin resistant, it’s going to be hard to tap into stored energy for fuel. That’s going to make it harder for you to burn extra calories that you’re taking in and it’s more likely to store them in that case. And certainly inflammation can affect your insulin sensitivity and your metabolic function as well.

Kelsey: That’s like actually how it connects back to the gut bacteria partially, too. If you have something like SIBO or dysbiosis, that’s going to essentially cause widespread inflammation which then feeds into insulin resistance.

Laura: Definitely. Any sort of inflammation can impact how well your body is using energy for from it the food you’re eating or from stored energy, that kind of thing.

And then there is something also called non-exercise activity thermogenesis, which is the acronym NEAT. I don’t know if there’s any way you can control this, but there is evidence that people who tend to fidget more actually burn more calories at rest than people who don’t. So if you’re that kind of person that taps your feet a lot or moves around a lot…I know my husband bounces his leg all the time and I’m like, babe, stop bouncing. It’s like enough that it annoys me sometimes.

Some people are like super fidgety, and then other people aren’t and they just kind of sit there. It’s not that that’s something you have so much control over. Actively choosing to fidget is not really a strategy for weight loss, but it is something that you can kind of work into your life by standing instead of sitting. Or they have these balance boards or balance balls that you can sit on that kind of force you to move a little bit more.

That’s kind of like a little bit down a rabbit trail as far as how to actually lose the weight. I just want people to be aware that your particular habits and neurological habits like that actually can impact your calories-out.

There’s probably other factors that are going to affect that equation, but I just wanted to make it really clear that there are a lot of different things that can impact the calories-in and calories-out.

One last thing I wanted to mention actually on that note. We were talking about resting metabolic rate and that’s based on your height, your weight, your gender, your age, your body fat percentage. All of that stuff can affect your resting metabolic rate. But even if you had the exact same weight, and age, and height, and gender as somebody else, you can have a 15 percent variation in your RMR.

Estimating your personal RMR is a good starting point for figuring out what your calorie needs might be. But this number could be 15 percent lower or higher than what is reality for you. So another thing that’s going to impact your estimation of the calories-out.

Kelsey: I’m going to bring up one thing here. A while back I found this company that makes a portable RMR machine, I guess. You breathe into it and it measures the gases. That’s how it’s calculating RMR. I would think that it would take into consideration obviously like a lot of these factors because it’s actually measuring your RMR. So that can be useful if  you just have no idea what your RMR is and even the calculations you’re not so sure about,  you feel like you have a lot of these other factors that are playing a role.

That company is called Breezing. This was a couple of years ago, so honestly I don’t even know if they still exist. I’m just bringing this up because you reminded me of it. But it was a pretty cool little tool and I would think that for somebody, especially if you have this this idea that you might have “metabolic damage”, it could be useful for you to just see exactly what you personally have as an RMR.

Laura: What did you say the name of that company was?

Kelsey: Breezing.

Laura:  How is that spelled?

Kelsey: It’s Breezing Metabolism. I just found it. Breezing. They’re not like super cheap. I think it was like three or four hundred dollars. So I think it’s mostly used by Dietitians or people like that in practice and then you can like swap out the mouthpiece for different patients and stuff. But I think obviously if you personally want to buy one and just keep it for yourself, you can do that, too. It just obviously is a bit more expensive to do so.

Laura: When I’m going to talk about how to improve your metabolic function in a few minutes, this could be something that would be a way to track your progress there, assuming it’s accurate. I don’t know anything about it so I can’t say whether or not it is 100 percent accurate or not.

But if you are finding that your RMR measured through that Breezing app was a lot lower than what your expected RMR would be, then hypothetically as you change your diet and exercise habits in general to have a more metabolism supporting approach, you can actually see if that number would go up, which I think it could and I think you could definitely see some progress.

Kelsey: Yeah. That happened to me. I actually did that kind of experiment. I think it was at the time we’re I like was just starting to play around with weight training a little bit. I added in some really quite basic weight training. I wasn’t working with my trainer anything at that point. I think I saw it go up like 200 calories a day, which is like not anything to scoff at certainly.

Laura: That’s a lot.

Kelsey: It was pretty impressive. Again, it’s hard to know exactly how accurate it is and everything like that, but I was able to replicate that. I would do a few different measurements before I started and then after a couple of months of weight training I did another few measurements over the course of a few days. They were all pretty much around the same thing.

Laura: I’d be curious, actually. I mean I would have had to do it like years ago for me to actually see this happen. But I actually feel like my metabolic function is a lot better than it used to be because frankly after getting married, my diet has been a lot less optimal. I eat out a lot more. I feel like I eat ice cream after dinner a lot more often because one, like my husband will usually eat it. And two, I’m like oh it’s there.

But it’s funny because like I feel like I’ve been so much looser with my diet lately and I was like I’ll probably put on all this weight after I get married. My weight really hasn’t changed and I’m like I wonder if my metabolic function has changed because of the weight training and stuff. I don’t know, it’s weird. It’s just totally hypothetical, but I just was like I’m surprised I haven’t put on any weight after making all these kind of less weight friendly diet changes. Just kind of an interesting experience. But I’m still training regularly so that’s kind of like maybe what’s keeping me stable.

But anyway, I think we’ll definitely link to that product if people want to check it out. Again, we don’t know how accurate it is. We can’t totally vouch for it, but it might be something worth getting if you feel like you are not having an optimal metabolism. If you wanted to actually track your progress in that area, that would potentially be a way to do it.

Assuming the precision…is it the precision the thing that you actually get the same measurement if you do it multiple times? Or is it the accuracy? I think of precision. Because there’s accuracy where it’s like how close is it to the actual number and then there’s precision which is how consistent are the measurements.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: So if it’s a super precise measurement, even if it’s a little off accuracy wise, it can still be useful information to see if you’re making progress.

Kelsey: Right. You’re kind of using it almost how you use your scale, like just sort of noticing the general trend instead of focusing as much on the actual number.

Laura: Exactly. That’s what I was trying to poorly articulate.

Kelsey: I’ve got you.

Laura: Like I said, I’m going to talk about some strategies for improving metabolic rate if it is low, but that would be something that you can actually see some progress in.

As far as what this metabolic damage even is talking about, I want people to be aware that our metabolisms were designed to keep us alive and keep our bodies functioning as well as possible when our food supplies are low.

Thinking about that in like an ancestral context, if you’re in a famine or if you’re out in a hunter gatherer community and there’s a short term…like animals aren’t there to hunt or there’s like a drought or something and there’s no plant foods or something, this is a defense mechanism that our body has to make sure that we don’t die if our food intake goes down.

When our energy-in drops, so if our calories-in reduce significantly, our bodies actually change our energy-out. So that’ll go down as well to match that change in the energy-in. This typically happens because our bodies will naturally and spontaneously reduce our physical movement. That fidgeting thing I was talking about before, a lot of times if you’re under-eating, you stop fidgeting as much or you just have less desire to move around.

And then you also find a big reduction in the thyroid hormones that drive metabolism. You see change in your adrenal hormones that block thyroid activity. There’s a lot of things that your brain will do to actually change how your body is burning fuel to match your energy-in drop.

A lot of times, not always, but for a lot of people when they’re on a diet, they find that their hunger goes up significantly. That is a way for us to be driven to greater food intake. Our bodies want us to eat more, so they’ll get us more hungry. They want us to move less, so we’ll stop moving around during the day as much. And then our actual metabolism will slow down because the body is trying to protect us from starving to death essentially.

I want people to recognize that this “metabolic damage” is really just our body’s neuroendocrine adaptation to chronic dieting and over-exercising. This can be really hard to accept for a lot of people who are trying to lose weight because it’s like this sucks because now I can’t lose weight, and I’m doing all this work, and I’m exercising, and I’m eating well, and I’m not seeing any weight loss.

It can be really frustrating, but this is actually our body’s way of protecting us. It doesn’t mean that your body is broken and it doesn’t mean that your metabolism is damaged. The truth is that your body is really just doing its job to protect you. If you can look at it that way, I think it can take a lot of the anxiety and frustration out of the process.

I’m not saying it’s going to make it not frustrating at all, but I think if you can understand that this is not a broken body that’s doing this, this is actually what your body’s been designed to do, it can kind of make you understand a little bit more about why this is happening.

But from a physiological level, a lot of these changes that you experience during the “metabolic damage” experience are driven by both the HPA and the HPT axis. That’s the hypothermic pituitary adrenal axis and the hypothermic pituitary thyroid axis. And possibly the gonadal axis as well, so that would be the ovaries and women in the testes and men. But I would say the adrenals and the thyroid are going to have a lot more impact on the immediate metabolic changes.

But for most people no matter how much weight they lose, no matter if they have weight to lose like if they’re significantly overweight, it doesn’t really matter to our bodies and losing weight is generally a stressor on their body in most cases. It’s not like it’s only stressful to your body if you have a little weight to lose, or if you’re already underweight, or something like that. Even if you’re overweight, losing weight is a stressor.

Essentially our brains, so the hypothalamus in our brain is going to sense potential danger when our calorie intake is too low and it’ll use the communication between the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland to then adjust the thyroid hormones, adrenal hormones, and sex hormones. It’ll do this appropriately to prevent the immediate health risks of starvation that our bodies are potentially exposed to.

This is one reason why some practitioners refer to this metabolic damage concept as actually metabolic compensation. It’s not that your metabolism is damaged, and it will be able to recover eventually in most cases. But in this situation your brain is actually sending powerful compensatory signals that will reduce the likelihood that you’re going to lose any more weight without basically eating next to nothing.

If you can think about this as a metabolic compensation as opposed to a metabolic damage, I think again that will give you a little bit more understanding of what’s going on and a little less frustration.

Kelsey: Yeah, much better term for that.

Laura: There’s two articles that I really like when it comes to this metabolic compensation idea. There’s an article by Dr. Jade Teta and he has a review article about how to recover from this “metabolic damage” or metabolic compensation. I’ll link to his article in the show notes.

And then there’s also an article by Dr. Brooke Kalanick who we just had on the show pretty recently. It might have been the last episode. I’m trying to remember because we record out of order a little bit sometimes. But she has an article on a website called Girls Gone Strong that we’ll link to that talks about the concept of metabolic damage. Also I think her term for the phenomenon is actually metabolic shift just because she doesn’t like to have this concept that it’s a permanent situation.

I think that’s true. I think it’s important to remember that it’s not necessarily permanent for anyone who is experiencing it. And I wouldn’t say the full extent of it is permanent. It may affect somebody’s long term weight loss ability in the sense that they might not be able to get as lean as they had in the past. But I think in a lot of situations it’s not even healthy to get that lean again for that person.

We need to look at this as something that we want to support our body’s optimal metabolic function and in that situation a lot of the behaviors that lead to better metabolic function are things that are pretty backwards from what normal weight loss goals would be.

So in the last few minutes of this podcast, I just want to talk about some of the strategies you can do to repair a compensated metabolism. Again, it’s not damaged. It’s not broken. It’s not like totally permanently messed up. It’s just your body is protecting you against the long term health effects or even the short term health effects of starvation and it compensates its neuroendocrine function.

The first thing I would suggest doing is to cut down on the amount you’re exercising, in particular any sort of long duration cardio that you’re doing. If you’re doing a lot of running, or cycling, or rowing, or anything like that that goes on for more than like 10-15 minutes, then I would say definitely cut that back because the cardiovascular type exercise is a lot more metabolism affecting in a negative way than things like walking or weight training.

If you are working out, then cutting back on the frequency of your exercise, definitely taking more rest days. Some people might need to cut out cardio entirely in the beginning to get a better response. Other people may need to stick to just short bursts of intense cardio like Tabata intervals, something like that where you’re only doing it for 5 to 10 minutes or something at the most.

But ultimately cutting down on exercise in all forms other than really leisurely walking is going to be a good idea for someone who has a compensated metabolism. So that would be a first step. That’s usually the easiest thing for people to do.

And then after that you can start to increase your food intake slowly if you’ve been dieting chronically or if you’re in a currently low calorie intake. You want to get up to at least a maintenance intake based on what your expected metabolic output is. You use the basal metabolic rate and then add activity to that to figure out about what your calorie burn is. You want to match your food intake to your calories-out that are expected.

Now sometimes that can be that can lead to weight gain for people and that’s because your calories-out are still lower than they’re supposed to be. But the body tends to respond in a way that then brings the calories-out up to the calories-in and you should stabilize at some point. So even though it can lead to short term weight gain, eventually it’ll get you to the point where your body is actually burning the appropriate amount of calories.

Kelsey: It’s usually not a ton of weight gain either.

Laura: Right. I mean it definitely depends on the purpose of the person, but I’ve seen like somewhere in the 5 to 10 pound range on average. Some people don’t gain any weight, but a lot of people do. But again, 5 pounds, probably not that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things. You have to be okay with that especially if you’re increasing carbs.

Carbs are definitely part of this equation that you want to increase those especially if you’ve been restricting them. You want to be getting a balance of macros so really none of your macronutrients should be low in any sort of way unless you have a specific health condition that requires it.

It’s a combination of getting your calories-in to meet what your calories-out should be based on your height, weight, and gender, age, all of that. And then also like I said, balancing macros so that way you’re not restricting any macro in any specific amount.

That would be the second step after you’ve cut down on some of your activity levels. The reason why I say that’s second is because if you base your food increase off of your current activity levels and then you drop your activity levels, that can lead to more weight gain. It’s not that gaining weight is a bad thing.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: It’s just that most people don’t want to gain weight if they’re trying to lose weight. So we’re trying to figure out how to make sure you’re kind of easing into this so that way you don’t gain more weight.

Those are some of the more important strategies. But on top of that, you can do things to support adrenal function. There’s a lot of things that support adrenal function. We go into a lot of detail on that in our Paleo Rehab program.

But if you’re going to just kind of guess about adaptogens, which are herbs that can support adrenal stress resilience, I do like a product called HPA Adapt by Integrative Therapeutics because it doesn’t have anything in it that manipulates cortisol levels. It just supports stress response. So if you don’t know what your cortisol levels are, you don’t know if they’re high, or low, or fine, I don’t like to use products…and you’re the same way and this is what we teach in our program. We don’t like to use products that either raise cortisol or lower cortisol if we don’t know what somebody’s cortisol levels are.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: These adaptogens in this blend really are just balancers. They don’t raise it, they don’t lower it unless it needs to be. That’s a good way to support your adrenal function.

Other things that support adrenal function is reducing stress levels, so both avoiding and eliminating stress, and dealing with stress better, so implementing stress management habits. I’m kind of laughing about the irony of this after our last episode because I’m like my stress levels are super high. But it’s one of those things that I think it’s like a constant factor that most people have to think about. Most people don’t fix their stress and then like not have any stress for the rest of their lives.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: So it’s like a running inventory of what are my stress levels? Is there anything I can reduce stress with? Is there anything I should be doing to increase my stress tolerance?

The adaptogens can help. The actual stress management practices can help. All that good stuff. Sleeping on a consistent schedule is going to help optimize our circadian rhythm entrainment, which that will reduce stress, that will improve our insulin sensitivity, that will just overall make our hormones function more optimally, it’ll help our thyroid function.

So if you’re out of whack with your sleep schedule at all, that definitely needs to be really focused on and try to get that as consistent as possible where you’re going to bed at the same time and waking up at the same time every day. Those things are going to affect not only your adrenal function, but really your entire neuroendocrine system, so that’s why those things are super important.

You want to make sure your digestive system is working properly and that you don’t have any gut infections. Like what Kelsey was talking about before, if you have a gut infection or gut dysbiosis and there’s a lot of inflammation, there’s a lot of indigestion or malabsorption going on because of that, then that’s going to make a big impact on your metabolism as well.

You definitely want to cover the digestive system if you feel like there’s any evidence of an issue there. That could be bloating, that could be a little constipation, that could be loose stools, that could be reflux. Anything that’s a digestive symptom is a sign that there’s things that are off balance there. You want to make sure that you’re addressing those issues if you are dealing with a compensated metabolism.

And then the last thing I would suggest doing especially if you have a history of dieting is to take a high quality multi-vitamin which will ensure that you’re getting a good amount of all your micronutrients in on a regular basis.

There’s going to be different micronutrients that may affect metabolism more significantly, but ultimately I’d say most people that have a history of dieting are going to be a little deficient in a lot of nutrients and it’s hard to tell exactly which ones they are deficient in.

If you get a good quality multi, you can kind of hit your baseline needs. And then also increasing your food intake will then get you more nutrients and that can help improve your metabolic function.

There’s a lot of products out there. Lately I’ve been really liking the…there’s two versions of this multi-vitamin from a company called Seeking Health. One is called Methyl One and then the other one is called Minus One and they’re Optimal One a Day Multivitamin. And the reason I like that one just as a general recommendation is because they’re not going to overload people with certain nutrients. Things like selenium is a good example of a nutrient that tends to be way too high in most multi’s and so this one’s lower in selenium and it doesn’t have things like iron in it which most people don’t need. I just like those products. But there’s a lot of different multi’s that are good.

Usually I would say working with someone in that situation to figure out a good product is a good idea because there’s different factors that you may need differently. Like you might actually need iron and maybe you should be taking something that’s boosting your iron intake whether that’s like a liver pill or some people do need iron supplementation.

Just generally getting your micronutrient intake up through a good quality multivitamin should be helpful for a lot of people. But some people are going to need some more targeted supplementation in their situation.

And then I would say you should expect to maintain this recovery protocol for at least three to six months. If you’ve been dieting for decades, it probably is going to take longer. But I’d say minimum three to six months is what people should expect. And again, you may gain some weight at this time, but you just have to keep in mind that the long term goal is to optimize your metabolic and neuroendocrine function. So if you gain some weight, it’s not the end of the world. It’s not like you’re going to be stuck there and any pound you gain is just never going to go away.

After you stabilize for a few months, then you can try doing a calorie cut for maybe eight to twelve weeks, that’s like two to three months total and you can see if your weight goes down at all. If it doesn’t, then you should assume that you haven’t fully recovered a normal metabolic function. If it does, then great. Then you can be on that diet for two to three months, lose some weight, and then re-establish your maintenance needs and stay on maintenance for a couple of months.

I would definitely cycle between a diet for weight loss and then a diet for maintenance and don’t just like go back into your chronic calorie deficit. That’ll just kind of reverse all the work that you just did. But there is a way to lose weight after you’ve gone through this process.

And like Kelsey was saying, that Breezing app thing or device I would say could be helpful in this situation because you can watch if your metabolic rate goes up. And if it gets to a high enough point, then you can look at that and say okay, my metabolism is functioning optimally, now I can try reducing my calorie intake by like three to five hundred calories a day and see if that helps with any weight loss. I would say that’s a more like a repair and then weight loss approach.

And then of course I can’t give this information without putting my little asterisk next to it and saying that for a lot of you listening to this, trying to lose weight all the time is what the major problem is. So if you have this constant thought in your brain that you should be losing weight, whether or not you feel like you’re actively dieting, I can guarantee that that’s affecting your food intake.

I know that I’ve been in that situation before even if I wasn’t purposely dieting. Like even just before my wedding, like there was that thought in my head that I shouldn’t be overeating and I shouldn’t be eating dessert, or like drinking alcohol much, that kind of thing.

If it’s a couple of months, it might not cause a lot of harm. But if that’s been your way of thinking about food for like decades, then that’s obviously going to make a huge impact on your metabolic rate over the long term.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: So if you’re always focused on losing weight and that’s always the way you’re thinking about food, then that’s a real serious problem that you need to work on. You can do these strategies up until the calorie restriction part to actually repair your metabolism and just fix that compensation that’s going on.

But the question is once you fixed it, do you really need to lose weight? Is that something that’s actually going to make you healthier? Is it something that’s going to make you happier? Is it actually going to be a long term situation, or is it going to set you right back into that cycle that you were in before?

I honestly feel like a lot of people in this situation, they really shouldn’t try to lose weight again. I know that can be really hard especially if you are medically considered overweight. I know this person asking this question wasn’t, but that could definitely be someone where their doctor says they need to lose weight. I’ve worked with people in this situation before and that was driving them bonkers because they were making themselves feel like garbage trying to lose weight and they weren’t losing weight. They probably had some kind of health issue that was preventing them from losing weight and it was just like this really bad situation. They felt bad about themselves all the time, they were super frustrated, they were very negative about their self-worth and their body image.

I just feel like that is such a bad long term situation, even short term, but just like a bad way to live your life that is really damaging and really harmful on your mental health, and your enjoyment of life, and your ability to function as a normal human being.

If you find that this chronic body image dieting thoughts are something that you’re dealing with on a nonstop basis, then I really want that to be a higher priority as part of your recovery plan. We have some podcasts on body image and the health at every size concept. Some of the women we’ve interviewed are women like Aglaee Jacob, Summer Innanen, Sarah Vance, Tessie Tracy. They all have really good insight into this disordered thinking around food and chronic dieting issue that I think if people get to the point where they don’t feel like they need to be losing weight all the time, that they can actually make a lot more progress in repairing their metabolism.

At the end of the day, I’m not going to tell someone if they should or shouldn’t lose weight, but I don’t want someone losing weight just because they think they have to. There’s nothing morally wrong with losing weight. But if you always are seeing these metabolic changes that make you feel like garbage whenever you try to lose weight, then I think you need to re-evaluate whether or not weight loss is actually something that you should be doing.

That’s my little asterisk. I want to make sure that people don’t think I’m just advocating for weight loss in any situation or saying that the only reason you should work on repairing your metabolism is so you can lose weight in the future. I think a high functioning metabolism is a really important thing for overall health. Even if your weight was the same or even a little higher and you have a good functioning metabolism you’re going to be a lot healthier than someone who is in that chronic low metabolism state.

Kelsey: Absolutely.

Laura: That’s just something to think about. But that’s kind of the starting point for metabolism repair. Kelsey, do you have anything to add?

Kelsey: I’m just going to drive home that point about cycling again because I think it’s really important to remember that once you repair your metabolism, it’s not like okay, now I can like go on a yearlong diet again and my body is going to be perfectly happy with that.

I like what you said about maybe doing for doing a cut for like a couple of months, and then getting back up to maintenance again, and then doing the same process. It’s a very step by step approach and you’re always coming back to maintenance so you’re making sure that your metabolism stays healthy throughout the process that is designed essentially to cause that metabolic compensation as you call it.

Laura: I think the figuring out when to do the cut is another challenge. Like I said, you need to be working on the metabolic repair piece at least three to six months before you even consider a cut. Even if you get to that six months and you still feel like you have symptoms or lab work that indicates that your neuroendocrine system is impaired, then I wouldn’t even bother with the cut until you feel like you’re back to normal.

Kelsey: Right. That’s where working with someone obviously comes in handy because they can kind of look at everything objectively, which I know is really hard when you’re like I just want to lose weight. I know I have clients kind of say this to me a lot where they’re like I just want to get started, but I know I shouldn’t so I’m really happy that you’re telling me I shouldn’t. But if it were just me, I would definitely have started already.

Laura: Yeah, it’s tough. I mean we just have so much societal pressure to look a certain way and there’s so much negative associations with someone who is overweight. Overweight people definitely get treated differently. That’s not in their head. They are being treated like either rude, they’re being treated more rudely by people around them, their doctors aren’t taking their health issues seriously. All that stuff definitely happens so I’m not downplaying the negative experience that an overweight person has in life at this current stage of the way our society operates. But on the other hand, being in a long term chronic dieting situation, and causing health problems because of it, and still not losing weight is definitely not a good way to live your life.

We’re not opposed to weight loss. We do obviously support good body image, but we also realize that for some people losing weight is actually a good idea for their health. We don’t want people to think that either that we think everyone should be thin or that we think nobody should lose weight. I feel like you and I are pretty in the middle there. But I just think it’s important to do it in a way that is supporting health. And so if you can’t do it and also be healthy, then it’s probably not a good idea to do it.

Kelsey: Exactly.

Laura: All right. So hopefully that helps and hopefully that busted some myths about the metabolic damage concept. I hope people understand metabolic function a little bit better after this conversation.

If you have further questions you want to talk about whether it’s this topic or another topic related to health, make sure you go to TheAncestralRDs.com/contact and you can submit a question so that way we can actually answer your question on another show.

But in the meantime, I think, Kelsey, it’s your turn for some updates.


Laura: What have you been up to lately, Kelsey?

Kelsey: Gosh, it’s been a while since we last had an update on the podcast, other than yours last week.

Laura: My little whinge fest.

Kelsey: A lot has been going on for me. I guess my main thing that I’ve been doing lately is getting back into weight training after being in a car accident in June. Gosh, that’s a long time ago at this point. Honestly, I think I didn’t go to a great physical therapists at first. It kind of it just seemed like a bit of a racket where they’re just like collecting auto insurance payments and stuff.  I didn’t feel like I was being followed very well.

Honestly by the time I got to a good physical therapist, they told me this too and I kind of felt like I had waited probably too long to get back into regular training. So that kind of sucked just knowing that I was not going back to weight training as early as I wanted to first of all, and it probably wasn’t doing me any favors to wait that long either.

Not that it like made anything worse necessarily, but even my physical therapist was like, yeah, I mean I think you doing your regular movement and going back to the type of movement that you were doing before, albeit at a lower weights and kind of getting back into it easily of course, I think that probably would do you some good at this point. That was kind of a bummer to realize that I probably waited too long. I think that was around like the three month mark.

Laura: Well, too long, I think we should probably be clear that it’s not like it was too long and too late at that point. It just was delaying your recovery.

Kelsey: No, definitely not doing anything bad to me necessarily. But I’m sure you’ve probably had this kind of same experience where you put in all this work for a while and you feel like you’ve gained a lot of strength, and then you were in a car accident as well and then you have to take this big break, which just doesn’t feel great because you’re like I put all this work into this and I can feel myself losing strength and that’s not fun. So it was definitely more of a psychological thing than anything that was negatively impacting my actual body in recovery.

I think I’ve been at it now for a month or so. It’s kind of funny because I feel like when I was resting, not going back to working out, I was like I think I feel fine. Like I could easily go back to working out and I think I would do perfectly okay.

And then when I started going back, you just kind of notice your body acts differently now. Of course part of that is just not weight training for three months at that point. But there was definitely another part of it where it’s like I can feel that my body has been strained in a lot of ways.

So I’m doing things very, very carefully and like taking it super easy right now, which is also psychologically frustrating. I’m like I just want to be back to where I was. But obviously I know that this is the way to do it and I don’t want to injure myself further by any means. I definitely would have waited even longer if I thought injuring myself was even a possibility going back into this.

I love that I’m able to start it again and it feels so good to like move finally and be lifting some weights, even though they’re like little baby weights. I think it’s just it’s been a frustrating experience in many ways, but also makes me very grateful for like what my body is able to do even after being in a car accident, which is pretty amazing. I know you going through this process, too.

Laura: Well, the weird part is I didn’t do weight lifting like the way I’m doing it now until after my car accident.

Kelsey: Oh, yeah. That’s true.

Laura: I was an athlete and I was working out and stuff, but I wasn’t doing the kind of lifting that I’m doing now. On one hand, I definitely get like the backtracking can be really frustrating. For me the backtracking in my lifting ironically happened when I lost weight.

From when I started training through like the first maybe 8 to 10 months my weight was fairly stable. It was at least 20 pounds, maybe 20 to 25 pounds more than it is right now. I was making a lot of progress in my strength. I was probably leaning out, but like my weight wasn’t really changing.

I hit some PRs with my lifts that after I lost weight, which most of my weight loss was pretty unintentional. A lot of it happened when I first met my husband and I was like super…I don’t want to say stressed because stress isn’t the right word, but like just like….

Kelsey: Excited and happy.

Laura: Yeah, excited, like just all the hormones when you meet somebody like that. I had lost all my appetite. It wasn’t like I was like choosing to eat less. I would serve myself a plate of food and I wouldn’t be able to eat.

I ended up losing probably about 10 pounds in the first month when I met my husband. That was like a pretty significant drop. And then after that I think it was like over the next probably year up until my wedding that it was like trickling down until where I’m at now.

The funny thing with me is that some of the lifts that I am doing, I am still PRing on because things like my bench, for example, not really significantly affected by weight loss. But my deadlift is like, I think my max deadlift when I was at my highest weight was like to 260 or something. And now if I could pull like to 220 or 225, I’m like that’s a really good pull.

Sometimes it can be frustrating because it’s like certain things I’ve lost progress in because of the weight loss and because of like inconsistency in training in the last couple of months. But on the other hand, still making like progress compared to where I started.

I think what you were saying about having that car accident kind of disrupt your training, I’d be really curious to know if you recovered from your accident faster because you had been training as opposed to if you had just not been training and then after the accident was when you started.

Kelsey: That’s a really good question.

Laura: Obviously you’re at a higher level of strength than what you would have been, but I feel like that’s one of the benefits of strength training in the long term is because things happen. Like even if you’re not in a car accident, if you’re a woman if you have a baby at some point, like that’s a pretty traumatic event on your body.

Having that foundation of strength, even if even if you take a backslide because of something, which I think all of us go through at some point, you still have that foundation that your body is working from and getting back into it I think is a lot easier than if you weren’t doing it and then you tried to start.

I feel like even though the car accident thing totally sucks, I feel like you are in better shape post-accident than you would have been had you not been training.

Kelsey: Oh absolutely. My trainer and other people at my gym that have been through similar type of situations, they’re like oh my gosh. And they’ve maybe been through it in both scenarios where they maybe weren’t working out first, had some sort of issue, and then started weight training. And then once they were training had some kind of injury and came back from that and they say that like it comes back really quick, which I’m very happy to hear.

And honestly, having some periods of rest, albeit that’s more rest than I wanted to do, but I think that’s probably healthy in the grand scheme of things. Like you said, life happens and if you can be better prepared for those sort of kind of tragic and traumatic instances, there’s a lot to be said for that.

And so again that kind of goes back to it makes me think how awesome it is to be able to get to this point. Especially for me like coming from…I wasn’t injured before, but I didn’t feel good. I had like a lot of mold issues and just I wasn’t at a point where I could even think about exercising. So to be able to go from that to then exercising for like a full year plus, and really making a lot of gains in strength, and then backtracking a little bit and knowing that it should come back pretty quick, that makes me super grateful for like everything that my body can do.

Laura: Yeah. It’s kind of funny how last week I was talking about how I have a hard time seeing…not the future, but like looking past what’s going on right now and looking at the long term. I think a lot of people probably have a similar issue with remembering where they’ve come from.

I’m the same way. It’s really bad, actually. I feel like I tend to get very caught up in what’s happening right now. It’s funny because in some ways people are like live in the moment. It’s like okay, in some ways live in the moment, but in other ways remember…

Kelsey: Think about the big picture.

Laura: Right, like remember how much progress you’ve made. Remember the things that you’ve been able to do now that like you’ve been working on that stuff.  And then also realize that even with the setback, you will get back to where you were if you’re consistent.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: It’s hard because it can be really frustrating to be like I put all this work in and now I’m like starting from scratch again. Like we said it’s not necessarily starting from scratch. And also like it’s stuff that is almost guaranteed to happen. You almost have to like expect and just acknowledge that there’s going to be times where you’re making PRs and you’re killing it. And then there’s going to be other times where you’re not and it’s okay.

I think just being able to be consistent and not get down on yourself about those hiccups is really important. And like you said, it can be hard because I mean you’re already probably not feeling great after a car accident anyway. I know for me, I had some mood changes that came from my concussion. It can be a little tough to feel hopeful, but I feel like once you start getting back into it, your body does remember things and it’s definitely better than starting from scratch.

Kelsey: Yeah, and it feels so good. It feels so good. It feels so nice to like move your body again. Oh my gosh, I can’t even like…I’m not one of those people that like has been an athlete my whole life and all that kind of a deal. So I feel like there’s been many times in my life where I haven’t done a whole lot of movement for a long time. But now that I’ve been consistent about it for a long time, man, it feels good to be back!

Laura: I know. I honestly feel like with my current work schedule, that that’s the thing that annoys me the most is like…that plus my dog being injured, I’m like I work out twice a week and then most of the other days I just I’m not doing anything.

We’ve also had some really weird weather here where it’s been really hot and muggy, oddly for October, which October’s normally beautiful. So I feel like just when I go on these walks or if I do some movement and my body’s like creaking and cracking, I’m like I feel like that’s the main thing I’m looking forward to when my work chills out. I would love to be more active like just on a daily basis even if it’s just walking, or going on a hike, or something like that. It’s amazing how much better our bodies feel when we’re using them.

Kelsey: Oh yeah. It’s crazy. Well, I’ll leave it there for now. I know we had kind of a longer episode. But I’ll hopefully start posting a little bit more about my work outs and stuff on Instagram and all that. I have just have not been doing so because it’s so boring looking. You have these tiny little weights on my barbell and nothing interesting is happening. But I know that there’s something to be learned from that process, too.

Laura: I think it’s good to share that stuff because no matter where you’re at, somebody is going to think you’re doing something awesome and somebody is going to think you’re doing something that’s like dumb.

Kelsey: True.

Laura: There’s women that can bench press like double their body weight. I don’t think I’m ever going to get to that point. But it’s like if I was always looking at them and being like I suck because I can only bench press like not even my body weight. And there’s people who if they could bench press a barbell without any weight on it, they would be stoked.

I just think we need more people sharing some of that boring exercise because if the only people sharing stuff are the ones doing like spectacular things, then it’s going to discourage people and make them feel like they can’t even get started. But if you show them where you’re at and you say like hey, I might have been stronger before, but I’m getting back into it and this is the process that I’m going through, I feel like that would actually be really helpful to a lot of people.

Kelsey: Yeah. Plus I feel like we’ve talked about this before, but just the consistency piece is so important. And like yeah, it’s kind of boring in the sense that I’ll post the same thing a few times a week because that’s what I’m doing essentially, but it shows people, okay, this person is going a few times a week, this is what they’re doing, that’s what a consistent workout schedule looks like for this person. I think that can be inspiring.

I know I’ve been enjoying your Instagram workout videos and stuff, so I think I’ll have to get back into the swing of posting about my workouts, too.

Laura: Yeah. I feel like there’s all this pressure in social media to be exciting and like just have that wow factor. I post my food and my workouts and I’m like this is kind of boring. Like steak, and sweet potato, and green beans, not a very exciting dinner.

But for a lot of people, if they’re constantly being exposed to someone that’s doing like six days a week of crazy CrossFit training and we’re seeing this like perfectly lit Paleo diet with beautiful photography, it’s just like…I don’t know. I mean I’m not downgrading the people that do that and I think good for them if that’s what they are able to do in their lives or that’s what they’re passionate about. But I think for the majority of us, that’s not accessible or possible.

So we need to have more of that influence of people like you and me who yes, we have the knowledge to do things correctly, but A- sometimes we choose to do things that are not 100 percent health oriented. And then B- we don’t have time to be doing everything perfectly so we’re making the best that we can out of our situation. You get into a car accident and you’re recovering from that and you’re not going to be training at a level that somebody who’s been training for 10 years and that’s all they do is going to be training at.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: I feel like having that authenticity and transparency, even though in our heads it’s like who cares about this? Why am I posting this? Like this is stupid that I’m posting a photo of my meal. It can seem a little weird and like self-indulgent. But I feel like in your and my case, it’s actually helping people realize that they can be healthy and take care of their bodies in a way that’s manageable with the rest of their lives.

Kelsey: Right, exactly. Alright, I’ve got to get back into it.

Laura: Yes, you should. I encourage you. So my goal for the next month is to chill the f out, and your goal for the next month is to start sharing your recovery more with people.

Kelsey: We’ve both got goals. That’s good.

Laura: Awesome. Well, thanks for joining us, everybody. We will be back next week with some more helpful information. We will see you around next time!

Kelsey: Alright. Take care, Laura.

Laura: You too, Kelsey.

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I'm a women's health expert and a registered dietitian (RD) with a passion for helping goal-oriented people fuel their purpose.

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