Make Over Your Metabolism
More Metabolism HelpersCut back on sugar.
The average American consumes almost 152 pounds of sugar a year -- or 43 teaspoons a day! It's not just sweets but simple carbohydrates of all sorts -- chips, pretzels, white bread, and pasta -- that murder your metabolism. "Simple carbs and sugar stimulate the release of insulin," Dr. Cederquist explains. "As people age or gain weight, especially in the abdomen, the body loses sensitivity to insulin, and glucose is unable to enter the cells." That means your body stops using simple carbs for energy and instead stores them as fat, so you wind up hungrier...and heavier.
Make it happen: The American Heart Association suggests that women limit added sugars to no more than about 100 calories (the equivalent of six teaspoons of sugar) a day, but that's easier said than done. "Food labels don't make a distinction between added and natural sugar; they're lumped into one category," Berman says. Limit your consumption of added sugar by keeping processed foods in check and scanning ingredients lists for any word ending in ose (including dextrose, sucrose, maltose, and lactose), as well as honey, molasses, high-fructose corn syrup, and fruit juice concentrates. The closer to the top of the list these ingredients are, the higher the sugar content.Get more zzz's.
According to recent data from the National Center for Health Statistics, nearly 30 percent of adults report getting six or fewer hours of shut-eye a night. That's a serious nightmare when trying to shed pounds: A 2010 University of Chicago study found that test subjects who snoozed only five and a half hours a night were hungrier and lost 55 percent less weight than those who slept eight and a half hours a night. "Sleep deprivation interferes with your body's ability to metabolize foods," notes Pamela Wartian Smith, MD, the author of Why You Can't Lose Weight. "It also makes you produce more of the hunger hormone ghrelin and less of the appetite suppressor leptin."
Make it happen: Go to bed already. Although eight hours a night is ideal, seven is enough to ward off weight gain and enhance overall health, Dr. Smith says. Even if you're not getting that amount, strive to turn in and wake up at the same time every day. "This reinforces a consistent sleep rhythm and reminds the brain when to release sleep and wake hormones," says Frank Lipman, MD, the author of Revive: Stop Feeling Spent and Start Living Again. And cut back on caffeine; it blocks sleep neurotransmitters, even in small doses or when consumed in the a.m.Squelch stress.
Angst affects not only your mental health but also your metabolism. A recent study from Rutgers University in New Jersey found that chronic stress leads women to reach for high-sugar, high-fat comfort foods, and those who were the most frazzled had more abdominal fat. "Chronic stress causes cortisol secretion," Dr. Cederquist says. "Cortisol prompts fat in the body to be relocated and deposited deep in the abdomen, and this visceral fat is the key to the metabolic slowing that occurs with age, weight gain, or hormonal changes."
Make it happen: Take a good, hard look at the stressors in your life. Strive to minimize them wherever possible, whether that means taking a personal day (or full-on vacay) from work or coming up with a new system for organizing your desk. Better yet, practice stress-management techniques, like regular exercise and meditation. "Just five minutes of mindful breathing in the morning is a great place to start," Dr. Lipman says. Go to meditationoasis.com, a site with dozens of free meditation podcasts to help you chill out. The more relaxed you are, the better everything in your life will function, including your metabolism.
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