You’ve probably heard a lot about metabolism in the context of weight loss. Some people say that they have a fast metabolism, and that’s why they can “eat whatever they want and not gain weight.” On the other hand, some people blame their inability to lose weight on a slow metabolism. Some people successfully lose weight through aggressive dieting, then regain it, and blame regain on having “damaged their metabolism”.
All of these statements are oversimplifications and put too much emphasis on the idea of the metabolism as something that is out of individual control. In fact, everyone has a metabolism that is fairly easy to understand and predict based on age, weight, gender, and activity level.
Scientists can predict the resting metabolic rate (the number of energy people burn just by sitting around) with incredible accuracy, especially in people who have a body mass index (BMI) below 30.1
Though there are some exceptions, the difference between a 30-year-old sedentary man with a “fast” metabolism and a man of the same age, weight, and height with a “slow” metabolism is likely to be only around five to eight percent at most.
Factors That Affect Metabolism
There are some conditions that may affect a person’s metabolic rate. The most well-known is thyroid problems. Someone who has a hypoactive thyroid is likely to have a slightly slower metabolism. However, the impact is far less than you might expect.
Indeed, a lot of the weight gain associated with hypothyroidism comes from retention of salt and water. That’s why when someone starts taking medication to treat an underactive thyroid, they lose weight quickly. A weight loss of 10 percent of body weight is not unusual but that is mostly loss of water weight.2
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Other conditions can affect your appetite and promote retention of fat. Polycystic ovary syndrome is one condition that is both aggravated by fat and can increase appetite and make it harder to lose fat.
The misconception that you cannot control your weight and that it is your metabolism that sets it is all too common. This is perpetuated by the way that some people eat a lot in public, perhaps at social events, but are very slim. Or they eat a large evening meal but don’t seem to gain weight. Meanwhile, other people order just a salad while out with friends, but are heavier than their counterparts who seemingly consume a lot of food.
What’s important to remember is that you can’t judge someone by just one or two meals. That big meal could be all they have eaten all day or they may have been exercising hard to eat it. Meanwhile, the heavier person eating the salad may have been drinking energy drinks all day or may have a lot of calorie-dense dressing on the salad.
Despite all of this, it is easy to fall into this “broken metabolism” trap.
There is some truth to the idea that the metabolism slows down when you diet. If you eat less, the body will slightly downregulate. When you are supplying it less fuel, it will instinctively try to use less energy—you’ll feel a little cooler, you’ll fidget less, and you’ll burn fewer calories.
However, the impact of this is far lower than most people expect and accounts for maybe 100 calories per day. You can easily offset that change by going for a walk or getting a little extra exercise in the gym.
When you lose weight, you will also find that because you are carrying less weight, you burn fewer calories. Essentially, a smaller body requires less energy. Yes, your metabolism is “slower” in that respect when you diet.3 That does not mean it is broken or has slowed down in a negative manner. Rather, it’s working as intended.
You do not have to accept being a certain weight just because that’s where you are now.
So, it’s been established that some people do have faster metabolisms than others but that the difference is small between individuals with the same basic statistics (age, weight, height). However, there are things that can be done to boost metabolism.
Being active is one of the best activities for boosting metabolism. Regular cardiovascular activity and weight training can help build muscle mass and increase metabolic rate. While you’re moving, you are burning more energy.4
Boosting Metabolism with Essential Oils
Another option for kickstarting metabolism is to try essential oils. Peppermint, fennel seed, and cinnamon essential oils can be great for boosting metabolism, curbing appetite, and consequently promoting fat loss.5,6,7
According to studies, some of the active ingredients in cinnamon essential oil interact with insulin receptors in cells in a way that encourages cells to take up sugar from the bloodstream, boosting energy.
Some essential oils are known to act as diuretics, which means that people who use them may lose weight quite quickly early on but much of the weight loss would be water weight. This is something that the marketers cater to because it means that users will see big results quite quickly. However, these results are not long-lasting.
If the individual stops using the essential oil or no longer adhere to their diet or exercise regimen, they will regain the water weight quickly. The good thing about fat loss, however, is that if you do it slowly, the changes tend to become a habit.
Someone may use cinnamon or peppermint essential oils to reduce sugar cravings for the first several weeks, then find that after they have stopped eating sugar for a while, they no longer crave it.
In addition to using essential oils and exercising to boost metabolism, remember that it’s important to be mindful of how much you eat because little things add up.
Once you understand the way that your metabolism works and the numbers that drive the calculations, you are in a much better position to take control of your body. Weight loss is just a matter of numbers. Everything else—Keto, Atkins, fasting, juice cleanses—is just noise that confuses the scientific core that drives weight loss.
Metabolism is not some great mystery. You have the power to take control of it and build a strong, lean, fit, and healthy body.