It's no surprise that I ruined my metabolism completely once I lost the weight because I was afraid of gaining it back. I didn't care that it was healthy muscle and weight that I needed for running, I just wanted to stay thinner because I had deluded myself into thinking I was happy. Except that I wasn't and I wasn't healthy either. Even once I gained the weight back I still wasn't healthy because there were periods of time where I reverted back and would restrict my calories once again and fall back into the cycle. I was desperate to get back to my old weight even with that small voice was telling me it wasn't healthy. I'm glad I eventually listened to that voice in late 2013 and accepted the fact that my body was trying to tell me something. Even with all the restricting last summer, my body wouldn't let go of the weight because I had been so rough on it the whole previous year. With the little amount of calories I was eating, it wasn't going to let go of a single ounce.
You might be in that place now where your metabolism is at rock bottom or at the point where you need to slowly start gaining the weight back in a healthy way. Or maybe you're just looking for ways to improve your metabolism. Whatever your personal reasons, I'm just sharing what I found helpful. I'm going to say this loud and clear right now: I'm not a doctor, or a nutritionist, or any kind of health expert. I'm just sharing my own personal experience and what I found worked for me. I've done plenty of research on restoring my metabolism because I wanted to learn as much as I could to get myself back in a healthy place. So these tips are the result of what information I found that ended up being good for me. There are plenty of other ways to help your metabolism but I'm only including methods that I personally tried and found effective.
1. Increase your calories. I'm going to be honest, I panicked at the thought of eating over 1200 calories on a regular basis because the numbers just seemed too high. It sounds backwards and crazy that you have to eat more to burn more calories but your body needs proper fuel if you've been restricting it for so long. You have to do it gradually though and this is a mistake I made in the beginning. With the cycles of restricting and then trying to make up for it the week after, I wasn't doing it in a healthy way. Start by increasing your calories by 100 a week or even every two weeks. Eventually work your way up to a healthy range which is usually much higher than you might think. I always thought I shouldn't go over 1200 because I was so short but I've found that my body requires much more than that with my activity level.
2. Drink more water. Yeah it might sound like a no-brainer but during the times when I was restricting I didn't always drink that much water because I was afraid of bloating and water weight. I remember when I went to the beach in summer 2012 and hardly drank anything because I wanted my stomach to look flatter in my bikini. I would drink a little bit for my run and that was pretty much it. I've probably tripled my water intake since then and now I drink a minimum of half my body weight in ounces and that doesn't include what I drink for working out.
3. Incorporate strength training. Weights build muscle and guess what? Muscle boosts your metabolism. The bonus of that is your muscles will continue to burn calories even after working out. So the more muscle you have the more calories you burn hence a higher metabolism. Don't be afraid of those weights, ladies! If you need more convincing check out this new post from a blogger I follow: Why Women Shouldn't Be Afraid of Lifting Weights
4. Increase your protein. I try to eat my body weight in grams of protein a day and at least 100g at the very minimum. If you're pretty active and working out a lot like I am then make sure you get enough protein! I had steered clear of it before because once again I was afraid that more protein would lead to more muscle and then an increase in my weight. I'm telling you I was so bent on not seeing that number on the scale go up that I developed so many unhealthy habits. Once I increased my calories and protein I felt an immediate change in my body. I am so much stronger now with the weight training and protein that I can truly tell the difference! Guys, I actually have upper body strength which is something I've never had. I even have arm muscles which was practically unheard of my entire life!
5. Allow yourself a cheat meal or treat a couple times a week. I don't know the exact science to back this up in terms of helping your metabolism but it helped my mindset. It allowed me to have the freedom to enjoy a little treat every now and then. I slowly gained back control and realized that one cupcake wouldn't ruin my life. I used to stress out when there would be a family gathering for a birthday or something special when I knew there would be unhealthy foods because I was afraid to be tempted. Often times it would trigger a binge session because I had been deprived for weeks and all of a sudden I was around the foods I avoided. I was also ashamed and I didn't want my family and friends to see that I was having these problems because I didn't want them to catch on. I was afraid they would try to force me to go to a nutritionist and I would gain the weight back. Once again, unhealthy habits but I was in denial.
6. Eat every 2-3 hours. I did this even when I was restricting but it would be very low-calorie foods such as a handful of vegetables or at the very highest calorie-wise a greek yogurt. I tried to keep all of my snacks under 100 calories and my three main meals around 200 so most of what I ate ended up being low in protein or healthy fats. Now, I make sure to have a good ratio of protein-carbs for each of my small meals to give my body the proper fuel to get through the day. It's made such a difference by being more nutrient-conscious and actually listening to my body for what it needs.
7. Don't skip breakfast/post-workout meal! Your metabolism needs that kick start at the beginning of your day and after a workout. I kill two birds with one stone since I work out in the mornings so my breakfast also becomes my post-workout meal. I usually have a mini pre-workout snack depending on what kind of work-out I'm doing. You want to aim for eating breakfast within an hour of waking up and usually eat 20-60 minutes after working out. I try to eat within 30 minutes to make sure that my muscles are getting the proper nutrients to repair themselves. The harder I work out, the sooner I try to eat.
So there you have it. Seven ways that I was able to get myself back on a healthier track and mindset. Again, I am NOT a doctor or health expert so I could never say exactly if any or all of these would work for you. My goal is only to share my experience with others who may be going through something similar and show them that this is possible. You have to be in the right place though to want to make the change and it took time for me to repair the damage done to my body. In fact it's only been 8 months and I'm still working towards my goal. With plenty of prayer and trust in myself, I know I can reach it! So if you have a goal in mind and are ready to start then please join me!