Don't blame your aging metabolism

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How many times have you heard someone say they have a hard time losing weight because, now that they are older, their metabolism has slowed down? I have to say, metabolism gets blamed for more weight problems than French fries.

At 56, my mother was convinced her metabolism hit rock bottom – jokingly saying she didn’t have a metabolism at all. She used to complain about how little energy she had, nearly convincing herself it was all out of her control. Boy, was she wrong. With a little convincing, my mom finally believed me when I said her metabolism was normal. She quit pointing the finger, took full responsibility for her health, and went on to lose nearly 100 pounds.

Interestingly enough, even if you have a low metabolism, it’s only a 100-200 calorie difference from someone who has a normal metabolism. For instance, my Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) is 1499 and my mom’s was 1350. That is how many calories we burn at rest, with no additional activity or exercise.

That meant I was burning 149 more calories than she was at rest. That’s one soda. On top of that, she was burning more calories than I when we exercised together. Since she was jogging and walking with all that extra weight, her body was working harder than mine was, resulting in more calories burned.

A recent encounter with one of our members really opened my eyes to the metabolism blame game. After doing a full-body composition analysis with a special machine called the InBody, we were excited to give her the good news: based on her lean mass, she had a smokin’ metabolism – burning over 1500 calories at rest. To my surprise, this news discouraged her. You see, she had been blaming her metabolism for her weight problem for several years. After getting the news, she realized that as long as she doesn’t have a more serious medical problem, her metabolism probably is not to blame at all.

Time after time, after members find out their BMR, they realize they are ‘normal.’ So many people feel like they are fighting the impossible, that they can’t even lose weight if they want to. Unfortunately for most, the battle with the bulge is typically based on poor decisions and inconsistencies – not a low metabolism.

Sure, people diet, but more times than not, people are guessing their way around their whole diet concept. People avoid carbs, reduce portions, and try to cut fat, but very few people have a grip on how to really lose weight – and most people never attempt to count calories. Since dieting is all about calories-in vs. calories-out, people miss out on results by putting their diets in the hands of guesswork.

I have to laugh when people swear they are only eating 1200 calories and not losing weight. It’s just simple math. I took one member straight over to the body composition machine and checked her BMR to see how many calories she was burning at rest. Since her BMR was over 1300 calories I knew it was very unlikely she was only taking in 1200 calories. She was burning more than that if she didn’t even get out of bed. After getting her body analysis, the woman reluctantly admitted she was just guessing and didn’t really count calories at all.

Here’s the good news – and bad news – for some people: In my experience, very few people actually have an unusually low metabolism. The good news? You can bet yours is pretty normal too. The bad news? Unless you have a serious medical condition, that means you can’t blame your weight on your aging metabolism. The good news? There’s nothing holding you back from losing weight.

Is it harder to carry around extra weight? Yes. Can you feel more fatigued than other people? Yes, but eating healthy and exercising will help you lose the extra baggage and give you TONS of energy too – just ask my mom!

Don’t fall for the blame game. You have more control over your health than you think!

Bonnie Pfiester is a health club owner and health and beauty columnist.