7 “Healthy” Habits that are Stressing Your Metabolism

7 -Healthy- Habits that are Stressing Your Metabolism

Healthy habits may not be as healthy as you think. Do you ever get the feeling you’re doing everything “right” for your health and still getting nowhere? Yeah, I know exactly how you feel. I’ve felt that way dozens of times during the last few years since I began my health journey. And it is sooooo frustrating!

But even more frustrating is the idea that if something isn’t working for you, then you must not be doing it enough. If drinking eight glasses of water a day isn’t fixing your problems, then drink ten. If running a mile in the morning isn’t helping, then run four miles. And if being on a low-carb diet isn’t working for you, then you must need a zero-carb diet.

This stems from the more-must-be-better philosophy which, by the way, I totally disagree with. Whether or not more of anything is better depends on a lot of factors, which should all be centered around the individual–aka you.

When I started paying attention to my body’s response instead of just blindly following some guru or another, I was amazed at how quickly I was able to uncover so-called “healthy” behaviors that were working against me. I was surprised to discover just how much advice I was following out of habit–sometimes habits that stemmed from tidbits I picked up from who-knows-where when I was just a kid!

So, what determines if something is a healthy habit or not? Your body and your metabolism! A truly healthy habit will nourish your metabolism and ultimately evoke a positive response from your body. And if a habit is not doing those things for you, then maybe it’s not so “healthy” for you after all.

What Does it Mean to Nourish Your Metabolism?

Before I get into which “healthy” habits may not be so healthy, I want to explain my idea of nourishing your metabolism vs. stressing your metabolism, a key premise in my book The Nourished Metabolism. Your metabolic health is the sum of all your body’s amazing functions–how your cells use energy, how well your digestion works, the quality of your sleep, your energy levels, your moods, and much more.

Stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol throw a wrench into all of these functions and cause imbalances that stress your metabolism. Because chronically high stress hormones interfere with healthy metabolic function, one of the key principles for nourishing your metabolism is to work on normalizing these stress hormone levels by reducing your overall stress load. (This stress could come from many sources such as nutrient deficiencies, deprivation dieting, lack of sleep, emotional trauma, allergies, toxin exposure, not getting enough sunlight, etc.)

Identifying and eliminating (or at least reducing) some of these stressors is an important step to nourish your metabolism. With this in mind, it’s easy to see why some “healthy” habits are actually stressing your metabolism by promoting high stress hormone levels, and in the end, doing more harm than good.

7 healthy habits 2

1. Following a diet plan.

Everyone knows that following a diet plan is way healthier, right? Wrong! Diet plans break two important rules for nourishing your metabolism: 1) they often deny your body energy by restricting food intake, and 2) they tell you to listen to the plan instead of your body. Diet plans try to make you fit into the plan, instead of allowing you to make a plan that fits you.

Diet plans tell you what to eat, how to eat, when to eat, and especially what NOT to eat. Diet plans are always centered around restricting–whether it’s fat, carbs, animal foods, starch, or just calories in general. The restriction mentality is stressful and almost always backfires. Restriction tells you that your body only wants the “wrong” things, so you have to listen to a plan instead of listening to your body. This is just not true! Once you’ve taken a step back from the restriction mentality, what your body really wants starts to become a lot clearer. But you have to be willing to step outside of the “plan” first. Listening to your body is a truly healthy habit.

2. Eating lots of fiber.

Yes, I know that fiber is the darling of the health industry. We’re told that fiber is like little brooms that “sweep” away all the icky stuff hanging around in our digestive tract. It’s a nice analogy, but it isn’t the whole story. Fiber is packaged with phytic acid and oxalates, both of which can prevent the absorption of important minerals like magnesium, calcium and zinc.

Fiber also hangs around your gut and feeds the bacteria there–and not just the good kind. If you already have an imbalance of pathogenic gut flora, fiber can literally feed the problem and just make it worse. So if you already tend to have digestive issues, eating a lot of fiber (and especially forcing a bunch of fiber supplements down your throat) may not be such a good idea.

Now, fiber’s not all bad–it can also help beneficial bacteria produce healing short-chain fatty acids like butyric acid. Often fiber’s negative side effects are dose-dependent, so most people don’t need to worry about completely eliminating fiber from their diet. I’m not advocating extremes, trust me, but just keep an eye on how your body reacts to fibrous foods–you may benefit from cutting back on your fiber intake.

3. Drinking 8 glasses of water every day.

water glassLet me start with this: hydration is important! So don’t take it the wrong way when I ask, is it possible you’re drinking too much water? The idea of drinking too much water sounds completely ridiculous in our culture which encourages downing a bottle of water every chance you get. Did you wake up? Drink a bottle of water! Hungry? Drink a bottle of water! Thirsty? Holy cow, you’re already dehydrated–drink two bottles of water!

Again, keeping your body properly hydrated is a healthy practice, but drinking X amount of water every day just to fill a quota isn’t the healthy approach to hydration. The common sense approach is to drink when you’re thirsty. Why? Because that’s when your body is telling you it needs more fluid! Think about it: how much water your body needs depends on a lot of factors:

  • Your metabolic rate. A low metabolism requires less fluid, and a high metabolism requires more.
  • Your activity level. A heavy exerciser will need more water. If you aren’t very active, you may need less.
  • Your climate. A dry, hot climate will increase your water needs, but if you’re in a cool, humid climate, you may need less water.
  • Your diet. If you already eat a diet rich in fluids from raw milk, fruit, or soup, then your water needs decrease. (Yes, water in food counts. Why wouldn’t it?)

Your body prefers a healthy balance of minerals, sodium and water–and plain water contains just one of those important ingredients. If you detest the taste of plain water, it might mean your body wants a more balanced form of hydration. Try some diluted orange juice with a dash or two of sea salt. This balanced beverage can quench your thirst while also supplying you with electrolytes like sodium, magnesium and potassium. Now that’s a healthy habit.

4. Eating chicken breasts for protein.

Getting plenty of protein is definitely a healthy habit for nourishing your body, but in today’s culture that tends to mean eating a lot of muscle meats like chicken breasts. Muscle meats are fine and dandy (if they from quality sources like truly free-range chickens or grass-fed cows), but they don’t contain the best balance of amino acids.

Traditionally, meat consumption was always balanced with gelatin (or collagen) in the form of rich bone broths made into soups, sauces, gravies or stews. But today we’ve strayed from this practice and tend to just consume to meat by itself (or with processed broth that contains a lot of yucky additives and virtually no gelatin). Gelatin contains important anti-stress amino acids like glycine, which has been shown to improve insulin function, protect your liver, and is anti-inflammatory.

You can balance your overall protein intake by eating more gelatin-rich bone broth or by supplementing with high quality collagen protein powder.

5. Restricting your salt intake.

Salt is bad… right? Whoops, mainstream health got it wrong again! Sure, loading up with heavily processed foods that contain tons of MSG isn’t healthy, but that doesn’t automatically make salt bad for you. Here are some interesting facts that show how salt can actually nourish your metabolism:

  • Salt naturally increases your metabolic rate.
  • Salt lowers stress hormones.
  • Salt raises oxytocin levels.
  • Low-salt diets are linked to a higher mortality rate.
  • Low-salt diets increase insulin resistance.

The key to getting the right amount of salt–not too little and not too much–is to listen to your body! Salt simply tastes better when your body needs more sodium (just like plain water tastes good when you’re really thirsty!). Just be sure to choose a quality salt with no additives, and then simply salt your food to taste. Sometimes you’ll want more, sometimes you’ll prefer less, and that’s totally fine.

(I will add that heavily processed foods loaded with flavor enhancers and MSG can lead you to consume a whole lot of sodium without realizing it. The principle of salting your food to taste works best when you stick to more natural foods.)

6. Eating tons of raw veggies.

salad greensOver the years, I’ve eaten many a salad in the name of establishing healthy habits, but I can count on one hand the times I actually enjoyed eating a salad (and in those cases, usually some bacon or cheese was involved). As it turns out, maybe my body was trying to tell me something: raw veggies aren’t your best friend.

Raw vegetables are loaded with cellulose, a fiber that the human body simply can’t digest. Certain animals were definitely designed to eat a cellulose heavy diet, like cows with their multiple stomachs, or horses with their large cecum. But we humans are blessed with one stomach and a small cecum. We’re just not made to digest cellulose. And indigestible material can often lead to irritation and inflammation in your gut, especially for sensitive individuals.

But the trouble with raw veggies doesn’t stop at cellulose. Raw vegetables also contain anti-nutrients like oxalates (which block calcium absorption) and goitrogens (which suppress thyroid function).

Luckily, simply cooking your veggies can break down cellulose, neutralize oxalates, and at least partially neutralize goitrogens. So you can still eat your veggies if you want–just eat them cooked (at least most of the time).

7. Focusing on cardio and aerobics for exercise.

Our society tends to put a lot of focus on running marathons, logging in hours on the elliptical machine, or going to spin class. Cardio exercise just seems to be so politically correct, you know? But politically correct doesn’t always translate to metabolically beneficial.

Being active is definitely an important part of being healthy, but I think there is a smart way to be active without sacrificing your metabolic health. Cardio exercise triggers the release of stress hormones, so it can definitely be overdone. This is especially true if you already have a problem with high stress hormones–doing a ton of cardio is only going to make the problem worse.

So I suggest a different approach:

  • Put more focus on muscle-building exercise. This can be weight lifting, body-weight strength training, yoga or any other muscle-building activity. This type of exercise is linked to metabolic benefits like better insulin sensitivity, improved brain function, stronger bones, and better moods.
  • Turn cardio into HIIT. High intensity interval training (HIIT) can usually accomplish the fitness gains of cardio exercise in a fraction of the time. HIIT sessions don’t typically reach the “endurance” phase when the body starts releasing a lot of stress hormones into your system, plus it’s associated with improved heart health and insulin sensitivity (it’s even been shown to support fat loss more than cardio exercise!).
  • Fuel your exercise with the right diet and lifestyle. It’s important to remember to support your active lifestyle with plenty of quality food and good sleep. A poor diet (especially not eating enough) and poor sleep habits can cause chronically high stress hormones–add a bunch of exercise to the mix and you’ve got the recipe for a metabolic disaster. So be sure your getting the food and sleep you need to fuel your activity level.

Healthy Habits: “Healthy” Means Healthy for You

I’ve always felt it’s important to learn how to nourish your body, but in my own research, I’ve learned the term “healthy” can be relative. In the end, whatever advice you want to follow should always be tempered with a good dose of listening to your body. Your body is a complex system that is actually pretty smart, so always tune in to your biofeedback to figure out what’s truly healthy for you.

Listen to your body. Nourish your metabolism.the-nourished-metabolism-SPINE

Tired of spinning your wheels trying to get healthy? Forget the extreme approach and try the balanced approach to forming healthy habits that nourish your body instead.

I wrote The Nourished Metabolism because I spent too many years confused by all the different gurus, hopping from bandwagon to bandwagon trying to find the “right” way, instead of just listening to my intuition and my body. If you’re looking for a simple, common-sense approach to healing your metabolism, I really think you’ll enjoy this book.

Click here to learn more about my book…

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  1. This post is AMAZING! It seems like everyday I’m realizing more and more how I’ve been trained *not* to listen to my body…I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism during my last pregnancy, and trying to cure it has been almost a lifesaver in itself since it’s forcing me to reexamine so many habits and beliefs I’ve always taken for granted – even as a real foodie! Here I’ve been dragging my feet at prepping for a 5K thinking I *have* to, it’s *good* for me – even though I’ve always preferred relaxing exercises like yoga, and lifting weights! Gee – maybe I should *listen to my body!?!?!* Thank you!

    • I know exactly what you mean, Jaime! I’ve noticed the more in tune I get with my body’s needs, the better I feel in general. It’s really taken my physical and mental health to the next level.

      • So, are you telling me that I shouldn’t grade these mountains of exams? By body is telling me not to do it :-). I am just joking around. I completely agree with listening to the body. My body is telling me to sleep now. But I don’t have time. Sigh! I am going to eat 2 fried eggs on bread, however. In an hour or so. When I take a break. Lately, too, I have been feeling energized on a bit of running. I was very sleepy the other day. Was forced to jog 3 blocks (because of time constraints) and all of my sleepiness vanished. It was freeeeezing too!

  2. Great tips. It reiterates that you should use your own common sense instead of blindly listening to what other people say.

  3. Wonderful post! I completely agree… After battling blood sugar issues the majority of my young adult life, I always knew I felt better when I listened to my body and incorporated healthier habits at a pace I was comfortable with. I’ve learned that sometimes I just have to tune out some of those “health gurus” for a time and go with what I know to be best for me and my family.

  4. Love this post. So insightful, a very common sense and intuitive approach to finding what works for each of us. This is always how I’ve tended to think, though I’ve been sucked into this theory and that theory at times. This was bery refreshing to read. Thanks so much for sharing!

    • “I’ve been sucked into this theory and that theory at times.”

      I know what you mean! I think intuition is such a lost art in our society, it takes some effort to break past the dogma, take what works for you, and leave the rest. It’s gotten easier for me during the last year or two, but I totally admit to hopping from bandwagon to bandwagon for the first couple years of my health journey.

  5. This is NOT true for everyone….I followed all of this advice…we do not eat any processed food…only grass fed meat that we raise, raw dairy, and veggies from our garden. I use lard, butter and coconut oil. Since I cleaned up my diet I have gained LOTS of weight and feel terrible. I am planning on cutting out the raw milk and cut way back on butter and lard…….and looking for some other ideas.

    • So sorry you’re feeling terrible! I know that’s not a fun place to be, and it’s definitely a sign that something needs to change. Small changes are usually the most helpful, not only because they really do add up over time, but also because you can listen to your body along the way to determine if something is really working for you.

      • @ Cindy Green and others
        I was also very skinny for about 5 years before I went Paleo. As soon as I finished my first “Sugar Detox” I have been gaining weight ever since/ 25 lbs in a year. Cant get it off no no matter what. Stopped paleo and just eat what I want when I want to and stop when Im full. But nothing works. I was healthier without paleo….

    • @ Cindy Green

      My cousin has Celiac Disease (dx at 20 months old) and has been overly thin all her life. She finally learns about paleo/GAPS/WAPF @ 33yrs old and piles on the weight!

      We’re guessing that she’s absorbing the nutrients better, that maybe her body is hoarding after being deficient for so long, that this too shall pass as the pendulum slows.

      I’ve also heard another paleo-guru mention that if you’re unhealthy – not absorbing the available nutrition in your food, that you may be in the habit of unknowingly overeating to make up for the mal-absorption, then when you start healing and absorption improves, your caloric overeating in made apparent. She recommended using a food calculator available online somewhere to just double check your consumption level as a first step.

      This may be a temporary “healing crisis”. Keep up on the nutrient dense foods and keep searching.

      reposted appropriately as reply. Sorry about double post.

      • Thank you for the reply…I hope that is the case!!! I am going to step up my excersice (not that I am always on the go now) and see if that helps…I sure hope something does to reverse this!!!

      • Yes! I’ve just been learning about healing crises. The physical and emotional healing processes our bodies are capable of astound me!

        And I must add that it can be overwhelming. I wrote about my “former dieter’s conundrum” on my own blog, because after over a decade on diets and in dieting clubs, I don’t know what a real meal looks like. I also have major issues regarding overeating and feelings of food security, so I know I have a lot of introspection to do. It might get worse at times, but I have total confidence that it’s worth it!

        • hi rachael,
          your comment is very timely for me and i’m heading straight over to your blog. i’ve just had a relapse into some very unwholesome eating, despite my passion for real foods. i’m curious to know what this eruption of self-sabotage is all about.
          see you on the other side!

        • I totally agree, Rachael–years of dieting can really mess up how we look at food, eating, and hunger. It can take some time to unravel that web. I’ve managed to do it for the most part, but I definitely can still improve in this area.

          • Definitely! It is just crazy how we re-write those assumptions into each and every craving. I love Butter Believer and Go Kaleo, because I feel like they really slap me in the face to wake up sometimes. Normally, I’m a little bit gentler with myself, but that gentleness keeps some bad ideas going. I’m so glad to know that there’s a community like THIS that keeps people striving and loving. Thank you!

  6. Hello :) Thanks for all this info! I do have some different thoughts on the veggies all being cooked though, raw veggies contain a numerous amount of natural enzymes that work with your body to help you digest & break down the veggies so the nutrients (vitamins & minerals) are absorbed well. When you cook veggies these are almost always cooked out, causing you to not get these types of nutrients. Just thought I would add. Thanks again!! :)

      • Great article! People really need to start listening to their bodies instead of what the latest health fad says. On the veggie issue…I think, as always, all things in moderation is the key here. Eat some veggies raw (like say, carrot sticks as a snack), and cook others. Boiling and then tossing out the vitamin-laden water is often the culprit, but more gentle cooking methods like steaming retain many more of the nutrients.

      • One of the best things I’ve picked up along the way, as far as that goes, is to “drink raw, eat cooked”. Drinking ‘live’ veggie juice gives you all the enzymes and nutrients with no to minimal digesting, eating the cooked veggies helps satiate without empty calories and is easier to digest. No trade-off needed :)

    • Great reminder! Unfortunately for me, many raw vegetables wreak terrible havoc on my digestive system. Fermented foods are good though, and I tend to be considerate of how I prepare each veggie.

    • On the subject of cooking veggies = would steaming be the answer? When you steam, the cellulose in the plant wall is softened and vitamins etc are not “washed” out into the water and thrown down the sink. Steamed veg tasts soooo much nicer too!

  7. I love this post and want to agree so badly and share it with my friends. But you make many scientific and medical claims and not once quote a study or piece of research. I just makes it all seem less credible and makes me not want to pass it around. Bummer.

  8. Elizabeth, I simply love your blog. These posts really resonate with me because it’s how I eat, and what works for me. Thanks for another great post!

  9. Lisa, thanks for your feedback! I do think a lot of people will find value in the bundle, but you’re totally right, it’s not for everyone.

    I will be having periodic discounts available for my eBook, so keep your eye out for those!

  10. we live in a culture that has raised women to think they need permission. we live in a society that insists on the authority’s point of view as validation. that you are sharing your story from your heart and personal experience speaks volumes. that you’ve packaged it all up so beautifully in current manageable as easy as a simple click is admirable. that you are getting criticism is a given. being true to our hearts comes with the cost of raising the opposition. but? what i continue to find? hear that opposition as “wow. i wish i had the courage to put a stake in the ground and live true to my core.’ a friend shared your blog and i’m so moved to find another courageous heart being true. keep on. your experience is what it is so you can reach those looking for how to’s. only you know if you’re being honest to your heart….but that? is each of our life journies. be well, tre

  11. I’ve noticed a trend on similar blogs about eating raw vegetables. Usually, they have similar comment along the lines of, “Who ever really enjoys eating a salad?”

    I have to say I must be weird because I. Love. Salads. I crave them, I enjoy them, and feel better when they’re a regular part of my diet.

    • I know some folks who really enjoy a good salad, too. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with eating raw veggies if you love them and they make you feel great. Some people can definitely tolerate more raw veggies, while others don’t do well on them. And then some even notice they can handle certain vegetables raw, but not others. It really does come down to listening to your body.

    • Brenda, I too love salads but not at home. I dread cutting up the stuff. We have a store that has a salad bar that has me singing!!lol I am more of a veggie person than a fruit person. Give me a bowl of cooked brussel sprouts any day!

  12. Also, speaking objectively as someone who’s making there first visit to your blog, I agree with the above poster that the price point for you book is too high. As an e-book it is more expensive than print book on the same subject on Amazon. Not only that it is shorter, a mere 120 pages (Having written things this long, I know it doesn’t feel “merem” when you write it!). For a comparable price, you can get a print book of 200-300 pages. Similar books cost $14-20 in print and $8-12 for the ebook.

  13. Hi Elizabeth – Just wanted to drop a note saying I just finished your book and thoroughly enjoyed it. I feel like it’s the best of WAPF, Stone, and Peat all rolled into one. I’m grateful I got it in the bundle, and it was the first book I read. I agree w/ previous posters regarding the retail price. Not because it’s not a valuable book – it certainly is. It’s just a very high price for a book. I strongly encourage folks to read it though!

    • Thank you so much for your kind words about my book! I appreciate your feedback about pricing. This is something I’ll sincerely take into consideration. Pricing was a real challenge for me, especially because I saw related eBooks priced anywhere from $3 – $47 (that’s one heck of a range!).

      In the end, I really do want to reach out and be able to help as many people as possible, and I would really hate for a price tag to get in the way of that.

  14. Great article! It’s true not everything works for everyone and we need to be more in tune to our bodies. Although #5 has little info about salt. Your body needs sodium, that’s very true but there is nothing natural about table salt or even most sea salts. If your salt is white, it is highly processed and is void of all it’s natural minerals. Salt should have color, especially pinks and grays. Use real salt as often as you like! It’s good for you! Mercola wrote a great article on salt: http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/09/20/salt-myth.aspx

    • Thanks for your comments! I agree, salt is a multi-faceted issue, and I only touched on it in this post.

      One of the concerns I’ve read about with pink and grey salts is the iron content (the color can actually indicate a high iron content). Too much iron is a concern for some, so that’s something to consider.

      • One of the main issues I have with this article and the “ooh ahh” gushiness of many of the responses is that this advice isn’t strongly based on science and plays into people hearing what they want. Indeed people are tired of constantly having to limit this and that, but that doesn’t make the limits untrue or unhealthy.
        Bypassing, for now, the generalized advice about salt you give above, your comment about your “concern” over the iron content of sea salt is pure nonsense and indicates that no research on the subject was undertaken. The trace minerals in sea salt all occur at almost entirely negligible levels. Specific to iron, 100 grams of sea salt, which would provide 2,000% of the upper limit of recommended sodium intake, contains statistically ZERO milligrams of iron. Considering pre-menopausal women require an iron intake of 18 milligrams of iron per day, the ZERO they’d receive from a single teaspoon means your “advice” is not beneficial to anyone.
        Please, people will take the things you say and run with it as though it were gospel. Make sure you’re giving them scientifically valid advice.

        • Thanks for your comment, Mike. I appreciate your input. It’s definitely important to look at the facts and at both sides of an issue before jumping to conclusions.

          I’m here to talk about information and ideas, definitely not to give advice. I’m always careful to express whether or not I’ve done a lot of research on a subject. If not, then I just mention that it’s something worth considering. I always encourage people to do independent research, and listen to their bodies and intuition.

  15. Great post. I do eat a green smoothie at breakfast every morning with either raw kale or raw spinach in it and it makes me feel awesome.. Although I also include raw fruits and raw milk in there. I have known about everything you mentioned about raw greens, but still feel better when I eat them raw. Anyway, if I’m not mistaken, blending and/or juicing fixes the issue of digestibility as far as cellulose goes, right?

  16. Thanks. I needed this reminder today. I need to lose around 40 pounds and right now I’m seeing several family members doing Medifast. They are taking off the weight, but I don’t like the pre-packaged meals and extreme calorie restriction, along with the vilifying of fats and carbs. I want to lose my weight eating real food.

    • I know what you mean! It’s hard to keep perspective when people all around you are going on crazy diets–which often do work in the short term, but usually cause problems in the long term. I think weight loss that comes as a side effect of healthy, positive changes is going to be the most healthy, and the most permanent.

  17. Hmmm this has certainly gotten my wheels turning. All weekend I’ve been trying to figure out the reason for my bloating & upset digestion…my tummy has literally been trying to speak to me!! First time its really happened since I’ve began eating real food. You would forget how uncomfortable it feels. Never once did I consider the big ol green salad I had Saturday. It was a much bigger portion than I’d usually have & only paired with a rasher & mushrooms. Definitely something I’ll be looking out for. Thanks for a great article & the food (literally) for thought!

    Actually, the reason I’ve upped my raw greens is in order to increase my folate intake, especially as I’m not a big fan of taking folic acid supplements. If I do have trouble digesting cellulose, should I maybe juice my green leaves instead? Thanks in advance for your thoughts!

  18. Hi Elizabeth, great post. And I do agree with it 100%. Quick question though, what worries me sometimes, what if my body is telling me it’s tired and wants to sleep, but I have kids I need to take care of first before I can just drop everything and go to sleep? This is the stuff I struggle with…I want to listen to my body but sometimes it’s just not possible. Thanks

    • I totally understand where you’re coming from! When my two children were babies and toddlers, getting enough sleep was never easy (and frankly, sometimes impossible). The best thing I can recommend is to “store up” on sleep when you can. Obviously, you can’t always get rest right when you need it when you’re taking care of little ones, but it can help to make sleep a priority as much as you can. So if you have an opportunity to nap, to sleep in an extra half hour, to go to bed an hour early–take it whenever possible.

  19. What a great summary/article of issues I witness in my practice (I’m an MD,ND who practices holistic med exclusively) way too often!
    If you are eating well, gaining weight and/or not feeling well, several things are working against you: either too many calories in and not enough physical activity OR you have internal stress (cellular stress NOT external/environmental stress) and no matter what you do, your body will not balance out or will balance momentarily and then relapses occur repeatedly(the latter is the most common reason for lack of symptom improvement).
    I have been eating WAP diet for 13 yrs. and upon starting WAP, dropped 30 lbs which lingered in my 30’s and have maintained my size 6 at 5ft 8in since eating well. I NEVER work out and I do NOT have a genetic lineage of runway models…lol, but I have made peace with my past and live life trusting in today and my future….never acting from fear. Don’t discount your belief system (flawed or balanced) b/c it will make you well or keep you in disease. The root of all physical illness is energetic first, so nutrition is of great importance but is not the root cause of any disease. That’s my 2 cents:)

    • Thanks for your comment, Demetra! I agree that the way we look at life can have a huge impact on our stress levels, and therefore our health. Nutrition is just one peace of the puzzle for sure.

  20. Gosh, thank you so much for the much needed advice. Recently suffering from osteo and increased weight gain, I jsut started researching how on earth I can help myself. And exactly as you say, stop with all the high intensity exercising! I’m sticking to just yoga from now on. Can wait to read more of your stuff, thanks again.

  21. […] Blog | Sean Flanagan Health & Nutrition Should You Actually be Eating MORE and Exercising LESS? Warning: 7 “Healthy” Habits that are Stressing Your Metabolism | The Nourished Life I am proof that eating MORE and exercising LESS (4-5X/week) is doing wonderful things for my body […]

  22. […] Since back in my binge eating days, I’ve learned that the biggest key to health is… balance. I know, it’s not as exciting as an ancient berry from South America, but it’s the real thing. I also learned that when I jumped to extremes, my health (mental and physical) suffered for it. And I learned to listen to my body, because not everything they say is “healthy” was the right choice for me. […]

  23. My sister turned me on to your site and I’m so please that she did. =) I was an exercise fanatic for years(18..*gulp*), the only time I ‘took time off’ was when I herniated three of my discs in my lower back. I found paleo, but it took two years to for my brain and body to figure out what paleo meant to me. I, too, gained weight for the first year, but now, I am more fit and calm than I have ever been in my life. What I realized was since eating such nutrient dense food(grass fed beef, raw milk and cheese, pastured eggs, buttah!), I don’t want/need to eat as much as I did before my light bulb went off. Some days I have one meal and other days, more, depending on my activity level. I’ve learned to listen to my body’s signals which I never did before. Thanks!

    • Glad you found my site, Kathleen! I definitely have days where I eat more and days where I eat less. As long as you’re fueling your body with enough energy to support your metabolism and activities, I think you’re doing great. I’m more active and have more energy than I used to, though, so these days I definitely need more food!

  24. I definitely eat WAY TOO MUCH FIBER and that is what causes intestinal issues, but I have yet to find that balance. At least I do not eat any raw veggies, if I did, oh my, I don’t even want to know how bloated or how much pain I would be in!

    • I know what you mean! There seems to be a fine line to walk for me when it comes to fiber. I can tolerate some with no problems, but too much (or from certain foods) and I can definitely feel the difference. It’s a trial and error thing, for sure!

  25. I’d just add that table salt has zero nutritional value (use Celtic sea salt). Also, ingesting foods that cause inflammation (as determined in an ALCAT test) can wreak havoc on neurotransmitters, which can also be labeled as stressors to the body. A “Neurogistics” brain wellness test is beneficial when done in conjunction with the ALCAT test. I had no idea I was allergic to chicken (and I only ate organic free range) until I had the ALCAT done and since eliminating this and a few other foods from my diet, I feel great.

  26. Hi Elizabeth. I think a lot of the information you posted is great and we implement many of these practices in our family. I have concerns about your information regarding cardiovascular exercise, however. As I read over your text, it sounds like you are encouraging people to reduce their cardiovascular exercise, which is a concern because there are benefits and most of us are not getting enough of it. The only article I could find in your references that talked about potential adverse effects of cardiovascular exercise was the one from MayoClinic. They stated that health benefits peak at 50-60 minutes of cardiovascular exercise per day and adverse effects come into play beyond this amount. I’m curious how many of your readers are exercising 50-60 minutes each day and therefore, would actually need to reduce their amount of cardiovascular exercise. This is why the information seems to be a bit misleading, in my opinion. Adding resistance training and HIIT to your daily routine would be great, but I also want to encourage readers to continue doing cardiovascular exercise (as long as it’s not more than 60 minutes a day).

    Also, can you point me to the publication where you found information about cardiovascular exercise increasing stress hormones (which I assume you are referring to cortisol)? I have only read that such exercise reduces cortisol, by increasing the release of endorphins. I would like to read more about this to verify the information, so please let me know what you have found.

    Thanks so much for your thoughts. I am an avid researcher myself and always try to test the things we hear via public media with what is actually proven. It’s so hard to know what to believe when it comes to health since there is so much conflicting information out there.

    • Hi Jenni! Thanks for your comment, and you make some really great points. I think we are on the same page for the most part. I definitely believe that being active is healthy (if you are supporting the activity with enough food and sleep), and that moving our bodies is an important step to better health.

      This study showed that endurance athletes can experience elevated cortisol levels: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21944954 Like you mention, though, these people are exercising excessively, so it may not apply to someone doing a moderate amount of activity. But I think it’s important to note that a lot of popular fat loss programs ARE recommending 90+ minutes of exercise per day–so while a lot of people might not be exercising that much, there are certainly some who are.

      I think it’s a matter of degree and just being active in a healthy, balanced way. And if someone is really underfed and exhausted (which is not uncommon in our society where fad diets and stress are so abundant), then that’s something to consider.

  27. […] first I thought this was a bad habit, but then I read an article that made me feel ok about that: Warning: 7 “Healthy” Habits that are Stressing Your Metabolism | The Nourished Life. Keep in mind, I take everything I read with a grain of salt . But since I have never been a heavy […]

  28. I really enjoyed this post! I’m curious though; few salads? In all my days, I have never heard that one! The truth is, we eat steamed veggies much more often, but I do LOVE salads. Without cheese or bacon (though I’m not adverse to those things!). I actually know a few raw foodies who would spit and splutter at these claims, and I wonder what you’d say to them? Frankly, I’d much rather go with your way of eating, because it’s much more balanced, and you look much healthier. You’ve really given me some ‘food’ for thought. 😉

    • I feel there’s a give and take when it comes to raw foods. There are pros and cons to eating certain foods raw or cooked–raw foods do contain certain enzymes and nutrients destroyed by cooking, but in some cases cooking can neutralize anti-nutrients and indigestible materials. It’s probably best to eat both raw and cooked foods, and just choose the ratio that you feel works for your body. Some people may feel better on more raw foods, others may feel better on more cooked food.

  29. So, so refreshing to find you women who are real, compassionate and seem to be on the right and sensible path toward a common goal. If I notice that the last post is kind of old, from the 18th of April of this year, LOL. Probably one of the many posts that eventually found the way to popularity on facebook and, it looks like some of you ladies have some blogs, which, may not still be active? Anyway, I have really enjoyed reading through most of the above posts. I will wait for anyone to reply before I write anymore tonight, LOL, it is getting late and I do need to get my rest. So glad I found living the nourished life site! Goodnight, everyone

  30. Yep, I pretty much experience every single one of those symptoms on a daily basis. I’m not sure what to do next because I eat very healthy. My energy level has improved dramatically since my husband and I switched our diet a few years ago, but I still feel like it should get to another level.

    It’s funny though because im kind of the diet guru of our household and my husband just follows along. Im super in touch with whats going on with my body and that frustrates my husband so much. For example, i’ll say “i’m thirsty I need a kombucha, or orange juice, etc” and he’ll say “drink some water” and i’ll say “but i need something more” sometime he thinks its because I want to go to the co-op and get something yummy, but I can totally tell that my body is craving the extra electrolytes and doesnt feel statisfied on water alone.

    • I know what you mean! I’ve been talking about hydrating in a balanced way for a while now, and my husband has finally starting remarking how sometimes plain water just doesn’t taste right or feel like it’s hydrating enough. It’s hard to explain, but I feel the same way! Sometimes plain-jane water hits the spot, but other times I’m craving something else–I figure my body knows best! 😀

  31. Great article. One comment I wanted to make is around the water consumption and waiting until you are thirsty to drink. I read an article the other day that said that during exercise, if you wait until you are thirsty to drink, your performance begins to suffer. Your body is already semi-dehydrated before it gives you the “thirsty” notification. I have heard the recommendation is not 8 glasses a day, but half of your weight in ounces per day.

    • There are definitely interesting arguments on both sides of the issue. I agree that during exercise (especially heavy exercise), the need for hydration can increase rapidly, so it can help to stay ahead of the game and keep plenty of liquids (as well as electrolytes) running through your system. Like you said, otherwise performance can suffer (especially important if you’re competing or participating in sports, etc.). But as a general rule of thumb, I think following your body’s cues is best.

  32. What an interesting article. Thank you for your thoughtful advice. I am mentally processing it right now. :)
    What you said about salt really makes sense–especially about low-salt diets. My Mom went on a low-salt diet for years, then she got her levels checked by a doctor. He said they were so dangerously low that if she didn’t start increasing her salt intake, she’d have to start taking salt tablets. Yuck!! So, she stepped up the salt in her diet and is feeling much better!

  33. Great post, Elizabeth, I will definitely share it! One thing I might add is that more moderate exercise can be very helpful. Often times people get in an all-or-nothing mentality and feel they either have to be training for a marathon or might as well just sit on the couch eating junk food. Walking outside, dancing, swimming, tai chi/qigong, yoga, etc. all have tremendous benefits for physical and mental health.

  34. Great article and I did purchase the ebook after reading your review on it a few months ago. Unfortunately my ovaries and area in general were overtaken w tumors, cysts, endometriosis and fibroids (1 yr after an ablation). Thye took everything at 47. I’m soon to start bioidentical bhrt but am struggling to find any support on the topic in the paleo or nourished community. Does everything published supporting healthy hormones activities apply even if some natural producing hormones are replaced with bhrt? I don’t mean to sound ignorant, it was sudden in spite of lifetime struggling w various issues. Surgical menopause has been rough and not much info. Thank you for any info!

    • I personally feel living a healthy lifestyle geared toward supporting metabolic health has a lot of benefits, even when you’re on hormone replacement therapy. They can go hand in hand to support your health.

    • Raw carrots can actually have some health benefits–I believe raw onions do as well. But when it comes down to it, I recommend listening to your body. Some people can’t handle raw vegetables at all without bloating and digestive discomfort–others can eat a raw salad every day without problems. I do suggest staying away from raw cruciferous veggies like broccoli, since they contain goitrogens that are especially potent when raw.

      For bone broth, organic is best, but otherwise just get the highest quality you can.

  35. Really good article. As a hypnotherapist and spiritual teacher I have studied habits, belief systems and the mind-body connection for many years. The only ‘caveat’ I would add to this information is to study ones HABITS as well (both physical and mental). The body becomes balanced (i.e. healthy) when one breaks out of habits entirely. Habits are useful in our lives in keeping us grounded and having things be familiar. To me a healthy “lifestyle” is one in which the mind and body “sing” in harmony with the heart’s desires. In other words you are active not because you MUST be, but because you WANT to be. In a way that works for you. That includes food choices, etc. I agree with the food choices suggested here, however, these may not work ALL the time for all people. Listen to your body through listening to your heart. Your body will enjoy life more.

  36. I love this article. In the mainstream media, we get the “healthy” info that is cookie-cutter and often just not correct.

    Thanks so much for this set-the-record-straight piece!

  37. This is a great post. I have started thyroid replacement therapy because despite my efforts I’ve been going down hill. Need to lose weight. Now that I can think clearer I have a chance to listen better to myself…I use a calorie counter app where I enter my food and exercise. The weight started to fall off with alot of work but I got stressed physically and emotionally and ended up in bed. Balance is important but only in combination with listening to your body. The most weight actually fell off during the two days of rest following the week of exercise. Looking forward to getting back to being active because I feel like it. I jump rope for my interval training…just jump half a min rest till my heart best slows down for a half an hour and an hour if I feel up to it….you burn up to 1000cals per hour jumping a speed rope. I also walk when I feel like it only and I cycle to get me from A to B quicker but do none of the above exercise if my body tells me to rest. But one thing I try to do is stick to the right amount of calories per day that’s right for my body types basic calorie body function needs so as to lose no more than 2lb per week with diet alone. Eating enough every day is very important for weight loss. For me my calculator tells me not to go below 1200cals per day. I try never to go above 2000 when I have binge days….binge days I love because they tend to clear me out fast so I can get on with it again especially if constipated from trying to be too healthy.

  38. […] If you are still having trouble losing weight with real food, I would look at things other than food. Give yourself a huge pat on the back for doing so well eating primarily healthy, nutrient-dense foods, and look at your stress, your sleep, & your energy level/metabolism. If you are tired, overwhelmed, and have generally low energy, you may need to focus on some things to help your metabolism heal. My friend Elizabeth from The Nourishing Life has a great article on this subject titled, 7 Healthy Habits that are Stressing your Metabolism. […]

  39. Yes and yes! This post was perfect. I had discovered all of these through my own research the past year. It is so interesting to think about nourishing your metabolism and how different that can look from how people form their own weight loss plans. Thanks again!

  40. […] Warning: 7 “Healthy” Habits that are Stressing Your Metabolism – Living the Nourished Life Confession of a Food Addict – Wellness Today Renewing Your Training with Recovery – Workout Nirvana Food Shaming and Comparison – The Real Life RD The Bloat Cure – Dr. Oz […]

  41. […] Remember this little post? Yea. A year ago I was doing a minimum of 45 minutes of cardio everyday. Minimum! And you know what? I still wanted more out of myself. I’ve learned a bit since then and significantly cut back on my cardio but seeing the changes in my body makes sometimes makes me reconsider. And then I remember that I’m still getting my workouts in and I have better things to do than spend that much time on a machine. […]

  42. Thank you so much. This is a great post and I love your Nourished Metabolism E-Book. As a professional dancer who suffers from Hashimoto’s Thyroid Disease, I have in the past been tempted by fad diets and quick fixes to lose some poundage from my sluggish metabolism and poor working Synthroid (am in the process of switching to Armour). Not anymore! A thyroid friendly, high quality, primal diet and added HIIT workouts have worked for me, as well as calming techniques such as yoga and meditation. My blog Wholly Eva was started about a month ago and is all about health, wellness, nutrition, meditation, yummy-ness, etc. My goal is to be an inspiration to those who also have thyroid disease or anyone who wants to learn more about health and wellness through the perspective of a ballet dancer. http://www.whollyeva.blgospot.com


    • Thanks, Eva, I’m so happy to hear you were able to find a healthy way to work with your thyroid condition! As much as I know they don’t work for me, I’m still tempted by quick fixes and fads–but I’m getting better at not putting my body through all that mess. 😀

  43. Three cheers for you! I am so sick of hearing ‘don’t eat this, no don’t eat that, no…don’t eat THIS’, that it is SO nice hearing this! People often follow what is good for one body and think automatically, ‘oh, that must be good for me too!’ and it can actually be harmful. I went on a gluten free/low carb diet for digestive stress and it actually twisted up my system more. It was not until after I started to eat my grains again that I actually started to feel better and look much more better(and I had been on a gluten free/low carb diet for about 1 year, so it wasn’t just the beginning sickness). Thanks for such an awesome post! :)

  44. Where on earth do you get off saying that cardio can be a negative experience for people with elevated stress hormones? It is at the top of almost every psychologist’s list of natural remedies for anxiety, depression, OCD, and a slew of other stress related mental disorders. You make think it’s a lie, but I would gather that most of us with stress disorders would beg to differ.

    • I did say it *can* be a negative experience–not that it always is. Exercise and being active can have some incredible health benefits, but I see a tendency for people who are trying to be healthy to overdo the cardio, not emphasize other forms of activity that can be healthy (like strength training, HIIT, yoga, etc.), and not fuel their bodies with enough food and sleep to support increased activity levels. I do cardio exercise myself a couple times per week. It’s all about balance.

  45. Sorry to be the dissenter, but this just didn’t work for me. I bought the book, read it, followed it for months. I only got fatter, more depressed, more fatigued,and my basal body temp went lower. Finally (after attending the May Thyroid Summit) I began thyroid support protocol AND worked through Lyn-Genet Recitas’ The Plan. As my body inflammation heals and I’m supporting my thyroid and liver, I’m seeing fat loss (after only gaining for 2 years), and I feel better. I believe there is more individual variance than anybody realizes. While this method works for some, for ME it did not.

    • That’s awesome, Heather! Can you tell me a little more about what you’re doing? I’m always interested in learning more about thyroid support. I think balance and listening to your body is always most important–I definitely promote that over any specific “protocol” — and definitely over anything extreme such as overeating or undereating, etc. :)

  46. […] The body tends to be the least stressed on a balanced diet that provides your body with the energy and nutrients it needs to thrive. In most cases, this means a balance of protein, fat and carbohydrates (this balance will vary somewhat from person to person, but I recommend avoiding extreme diets that shun any of those three macronutrients). Keep your diet as “real” as you reasonably can so that you’re getting plenty of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients from your diet. You also need to eat enough! An energy-deprived body is a stressed body. Read more about this in my post about health and diet myths that are stressing your metabolism HERE. […]

  47. Really have enjoyed reading your article , and I have basically tried every bloody diet and fad going at some point trying to find that healthier way of life , Have always felt funny to many of the ways people have promoted a healthy way of life , basically by my body not responding the way I had hoped , so Elizabeth I am going with the flow here and putting into my life many of the suggestions that you have put forward – thanks for your article – stress free – pat

  48. This is interesting. Diets definitely stress me out, but I find that doing cardio, eating salad and drinking water feel good to me in the short run. I enjoy salad a lot. But in the long run, I feel better if I eat more meat, and lift weights.

  49. Love that you address the need for balance and to figure out what works for you. So many “plans” are one-size-fits-all, which our bodies aren’t. What works for me, won’t necessarily work for you.

  50. I do not even know the way I stopped up here,
    but I thought this submit was great. I don’t recognize who you’re but certainly you are going to a famous blogger in the event you aren’t
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  51. […] The body tends to be the least stressed on a balanced diet that provides your body with the energy and nutrients it needs to thrive. In most cases, this means a balance of protein, fat and carbohydrates (this balance will vary somewhat from person to person, but I recommend avoiding extreme diets that shun any of those three macronutrients). Keep your diet as “real” as you reasonably can so that you’re getting plenty of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients from your diet. You also need to eat enough! An energy-deprived body is a stressed body. Read more about this in my post about health and diet myths that are stressing your metabolism HERE. […]

  52. Oh man, the excess water and too little salt really resonates with me.
    I never tried to go on a low sodium diet, but the fact is I just don’t eat much of it. I also drink a crapload of water out of habit. It’s like chewing gum or lighting up a cigarette for me. I drink about 15-20 cups a day. Not really a problem, but the excess water combined with the low sodium intake ended with me getting random mild headaches and nausea when I peed. Why? Because I was flushing out all the salt in my body. The only thing that would cure my nausea was eating a handful of salted almonds. My doctor figured out what was wrong, and now I sprinkle salt and lemon in my morning water (which is really tasty.)

    • Wow, that’s good you figured out what was wrong! I really think balanced hydration is an important key to health. People tend to drink water to one extreme or another – either way too little, or way too much without it being balanced with electrolytes. Glad you were able to address the problem!

  53. Just wanted to let you know your book was the answer I needed at a very hard time in my life. It provided so many answers that made so much sense and also confirmed so many things I wondered. You have been a huge part of my journey in healing my body and I am truly thankful for you!

    • Wow, Melissa, thank you so much for saying that. Reading your comment brought tears to my eyes. I am so glad that I was able to help you on your healing journey. That really means the world to me!

    • Aside from basic healthy living and a balanced bedtime snack, herbs and amino acids have been immensely helpful to me. I’ve used valerian root, lemon balm, and GABA with pretty solid success.

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