Many see their metabolism as a fixed, pre-determined aspect of their health. But as celebrity nutritionist Haylie Pomroy argues, your ability to lose or gain weight doesn't have to be defined by your fast or slow metabolism. She believes that everyone can optimize the way their body uses food for fuel—a philosophy that she imparts to high-profile clients like Jennifer Lopez and Reese Witherspoon.
"A plan that feeds you—rather than depriving you of food and nutrients—can keep you from losing energy, experiencing extreme hunger, cannibalizing muscle, and sapping strength,” she told Well+Good. "When you eat more, but choose the right foods at the right times, you can actually raise your metabolic rate, build strength, improve your skin tone, and get more energy."
Generally speaking, Pomroy abides by six principles for a healthy metabolism, which the publication aptly calls her "golden rules." Read up on her philosophy below, as detailed in Pomroy's new book, Metabolism Revolution.
Eat real, whole foods
As a general rule of thumb, remember that "food is something that was once alive and came from the land, sky, or sea," she explains. In other words, fill up on fruit, vegetables, grains, meat, eggs, and fish, and steer clear of any and all processed foods, which contain man-made chemicals like artificial sweeteners, dyes, and preservatives, which "disrupt metabolic activity."
What you do when you work out is just as important as working out in the first place. Pomroy suggests a mixture of cardio and strength training each week, and to always eat a small snack before a workout, like a piece of fruit. "Your adrenals will otherwise stimulate [cortisol] to break down muscle for fuel during your workout, cannibalizing the muscles you're trying to build," she explains. The combination of cardio and strength training effectively "stimulates fat burn" more than one or the other.
Eat within 30 minutes of waking up
Contrary to the principles of some kinds of intermittent fasting, Pomroy argues that you should always eat breakfast right after you wake up. "If you don't eat right after you wake up in the morning, you're requiring your body to operate on zero fuel," she explains. "In response, your adrenals will produce [cortisol], an emergency hormone that tells your body it had better start stockpiling fat, because who knows when you'll get more food." She suggests eating something small within the first half hour of being awake and eating three meals and two snacks every day, which equates to eating every three hours to keep your metabolism revving.
Switch up your meals
Though meal planning on Sundays can certainly help you stick to a healthy diet, eating the same thing five days in a row can lead to some unhealthy slip-ups out of boredom, plus a metabolic plateau. She cites a study that found that the more varied a person's diet is, the lower their odds of having excess body fat or symptoms of metabolic syndrome. Generally speaking, try to switch up the proteins, veggies, and fruits you're buying each week.
Don't obsess over calories
Counting or heavily restricting calories as a weight-loss strategy will almost always backfire, leading to a metabolic slowdown instead. "Eating less actually makes the situation worse," she explains. "When your metabolism is too slow, you'll store even lettuce as fat, and you certainly won't burn any fat." When it comes to dieting, research encourages you to focus on the quality of food versus the quantity you're consuming.
Eat what you love
Similar to the calorie advice above, cutting out all the foods you love is not a realistic health strategy. "Pleasure is powerful," she adds. "[Seek out food that] stimulates the secretion of endorphins and reduces stress hormones, which in turn improves metabolism." In other words, have that slice of pizza or plate of tacos if you want, just focus on whole, unprocessed ingredients and balance those indulgences with delicious fruits and vegetables.
Head over to Well+Good for more from Pomroy.