Updated: Feb 11
I like fire. A lot. I remember camping as a kid. Sitting around the evening bonfire was always my favorite; roasting marshmallows, making S’mores, cooking hotdogs - somehow, accidentally on purpose, my hot dog always ended up in the fire. Even as I sit here, I can feel the glow of the flames, mirroring in my eyes, feeling the heat of the flames warm my face.
One of my absolute favorite things to do around the campfire was to throw random objects into the fire. Even as a kid, I found it most fascinating watching the affect of the item on the height of the flames and how much more, or how little heat the campfire would put off. I can still hear my eight year old self, “Look what happened when I threw the foil in. I’m going to do it again.”
I distinctly remember being in awe of not just the fire, but what throwing different types of objects into the fire did to the height-of-the-flames. The first type of object thrown in literally had zero effect on the flames. In fact, the fire would devour the object as if it never even existed. Nothing. Too cold.
Second, the other items thrown into the fire would immediately send the flames shooting six or eight feet into the air for just a few seconds and then the flames would return right back to normal. Think lighter fluid - Too hot. Way to hot.
Third, would send the flames about one foot into the air and the flames would maintain that height and roar steady for a few hours. We didn’t have to move a single log, blow any air, add any extra logs, or add lighter fluid. Nothing. The flames would roar steady for hours – just sit and let it burn. That’s when you wrap yourself up in a blanket and just sit, feel the heat and stare at the fire. Just right.
Now you may be wondering how does the nostalgia of campfires in childhood relate to my metabolism?
Here’s how. Think of your metabolism like a campfire.
When you think about your metabolism, think category number three! Increase the height of the flames, and then maintain a steady roar for hours.
You’ve heard every single coach, fitness professional, and Jillian Michaels talk about at least one of the following three words: metabolism, homeostasis, thermogenesis. Let’s keep it simple. Real simple. All three words, in some way, refer to heat and energy.
Humans, produce heat, the act of producing that heat is thermogenesis. The energy you need to carry out bodily functions? Metabolism.
Let’s hold on Homeostasis for a second and look at mini case study:
In a conversation with Layla around exercise, fitness and weight loss, several times I heard her say, I want to get back to where I was. As she explained what getting back to where I was entails, her response included all of the following: being young, like high school, playing sports in college, I could eat anything I wanted and not get fat or I didn’t eat at all. I looked great. However standing before me, is a forty two year old Layla, now a mother of three children, under the age of nine, who was recently promoted to VP and currently sitting in talk therapy alone because her husband refuses to join the conversation for a recent miscarriage the couple endured. Not to mention the insomnia that has set in, just because.
Pause for a moment. Now let’s throw homeostasis back in the mix.
When most people hear the word homeostasis – they think balance or dynamic balance. Homeostasis seems like a positive. Ahh, my body is calm, relaxed and trying to achieve homeostasis. Precision Nutrition cites another definition of homeostasis: Unchanging. Up until a few years ago, I had never heard any other definition of homeostasis other than balance, let alone unchanging, “un” meaning not.
Let that sit a minute. Not changing.
Now that definition certainly changes things when considering our case study Layla and the concept of “trying to get back where I was” as it relates to weight loss, fat burning and in the positive changes we are all trying to make in our bodies.
Unchanging is a slightly different concept than balance.
As we circle around to our mini case study, it is incredibly important to remember the word homeostasis and the definition that Precision Nutrition offers. Unchanging.
Layla’s body has twenty-five years of memory that, yes, includes the positives like playing sports and being young, wild and free, but also injury, childbirth, trauma, and that one time six years ago when she tried the pea soup diet for two weeks. Oh yes, her body remembers the struggle of trying to maintain at minimum twenty daily functions on two bowls of soup. Oh, it remembers!
Your brain and body have one job: To protect you from you at all cost.
That includes everything from your naturally occurring menstrual cycle to high intensity interval training (HIIT). Your body knows you and your patterns of burning the midnight oil, eating one big meal a day, ignoring hunger cues, and priding yourself on only needing three hours of sleep to “get by.”
Let me just put it out there.
Your body sustains itself on the meat on your thighs. Your body does not want to lose luscious pockets of fat for any reason. You might get pregnant. There just may be a food shortage and you just may have to stand in line for food. These days you may actually have to run from a wild animal. See, the fat on those thighs have proven to be a solid and consistent energy source in your survival for twenty years….until the day you want them gone.
The day you want them gone, in an attempt to get back to where you used to be, this most often includes doing what you used to do. Not eating or under eating - in adulthood we call it intermittent fasting; and tons of cardio – both dampen your metabolic flame. Add in age, three childbirths, being late to pick up your kids at soccer practice, sitting in bumper to bumper traffic, a death in the family or a car accident and unrealistic expectations of where your brand new, forty two year old, semi sedentary, pre menopausal body is - Your metabolic fire is out!
Your body figuratively shrugs its shoulders and says I will carry on doing my best.
So here’s the how to: If you’re struggling and having trouble figuring out how-to fire up your metabolism, first, know this, you are not alone and second, think! Think about your daily activities and ask yourself:
When was the last time I had a glass of water? Go to your cupboard. Look for and designate a new favorite cup. That is now your water cup. Mine is lime green with a white lightning bolt - looks like something a 12-year old boy would like. I love it. It works!
How much water am I really drinking in a day? Of course one gallon is "ideal." But is it really "ideal" if the only water you consume in a day comes in the form of three cups of coffee? No, then a gallon isn't ideal. Start where you are. Drink one cup of water from your new favorite cup and increase your intake from there.
How many hours of the day am I sitting still? Move at least 20 minutes. Go for a walk; a simple walk will do. It is enough. Remember we're working in bite sized pieces here. Twenty minutes is beneficial. And guess what, it's better than nothing.
How much am I eating in a single meal? If your answer ranges anywhere from I don't know to I know its too much, worry not. Somehow when I place a meal on a plate it looks so pitiful, it just looks like there is less food. However, I can take the same meal, put it in a bowl, give it a few squeezes of sriracha and all of the sudden the same meal looks like a feast. Use a bowl.
How often do I eat throughout the day? Aim for a solid four. As a beginner, five to six is overwhelming. Start with four. Remember the goal is to begin the process of firing up your metabolism. If you're going from eating once a day to four, your metabolism will start to respond.
How much protein do I eat at each meal? Instead of pulling out scales and measuring cups and getting overwhelmed calculating everything you eat to the gram, try this. Open your hand and look at it. Your goal: a palm size portion of protein four times a day.
When was the last time I did some heavy lifting? Start with once a week. You have dumbbells, resistance bands, a kettlebell, or something heavy at your house. Pick it up and move it! Pumping fresh blood through your muscles feels good. Real good.
Get some clear answers to these questions. Start from where you are. Write out your answers if you have to. Your own answers to these questions give you a base idea, of the robustness of your metabolic flame.
Think of the vessel you live in like a walking campfire.
Keep it hot. How? Consume mini-meals throughout the day, ramp up the frequency of your meals and maintain a low roaring blaze throughout the day. That means eat. Every 2-3 hours or every 3-4, whichever works for you. When your body sends you a hunger signal, don’t ignore it! Throw in some exercise and little heavy lifting.
Fan your flame.
As always contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
Athlete, Coach, Author, Fitness Blogger