Diet

Confuse It to Lose It: How to Trick Your Metabolism Into Burning Fat Faster

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Talk about dieting frustration! You think you’re doing everything right; big salads for lunch, skipping dessert, turning down that second glass of wine. But for some reason, the pounds refuse to budge. If you’ve ever wondered if your metabolism is simply broken, you’re not alone, says Haylie Pomroy, a nutritionist with more than 20 years of clinical experience and author of Metabolism Revolution: Lose 14 Pounds in 14 Days and Keep It Off for Life ($18.49, Amazon). 

“When women come into my office, they have often tried everything they can think of, from extreme to slow-and-steady diets,” says Pomroy, who’s helped celebrities including Cher, Reese Witherspoon, and Jennifer Lopez get into red-carpet shape. “The most common thing they tell me is that they believe they have a ‘set point’ and won’t be able to get below it. Some tell me they think they must have permanently damaged their metabolism. I say: Nonsense. Your metabolism is not preprogrammed with a default number.” So why do so many of us struggle? 

Breakthrough science from the National Institutes of Health reveals that strict dieting slows metabolism, making it two times harder to get slim. The problem stems from the fact that many structured programs prescribe significant calorie restriction with a set list of “acceptable” foods, and these rigid rules push the body into a rut and don’t encourage healthy eating

Weight-loss expert Mike Moreno, MD, explains, “If the body sees the same foods and the same calorie count day in, day out, it becomes efficient at utilizing incoming calories.” Knowing exactly how much energy it needs to perform its daily functions, the body burns just enough calories to keep its systems going and stores the rest as fat for a possible emergency. What’s more, it takes only 21 days of a regimented routine for the body to adapt in this way. “We tend to think of efficiency as a good thing,” says Dr. Moreno, “but in metabolism, it can hurt you by making calorie burn less optimal.” 

The Fast Metabolism Diet 

When stubborn pounds won’t budge, many of us cut calories even more. “Low-calorie diets are stressful for the body. They drive up the production of cortisol and end up packing on fat,” explains Pomroy. “I know from experience that taking away food to lose weight simply doesn’t work.” Indeed, this deprivation pulls us deeper into the vicious cycle of stress and weight gain. “It creates a negative spiral of metabolic dysfunction,” Pomroy says. “You experience it as weight gain and low energy.”

To help women break free from this fat trap, Pomroy dug into the latest metabolic science and zeroed in on a novel strategy. Her two-pronged approach floods the body with abundance to provide slimming nutrients that may have been missed during restrictive dieting. “I’m always looking toward food as the way to heal the metabolism,” she says. 

In tandem, she suggests shifting macronutrient ratios throughout the week so some days are higher in carbs while others are higher in fat or protein. Moreno explains why this is so effective: “When the body is stuck at a plateau, you have to challenge it, physically and metabolically. You have to confuse it to lose it.” That’s because when the body has no idea when or what the next meal is, it can’t run metabolism efficiently. Instead, it has to burn everything in case more food is coming in soon. This sets the stage for effortless weight loss. 

The plan works fast, and the slimming results get better with time. “You’ll blow past historical ‘set points’ to vanquish those stubborn pounds,” promises Pomroy. Women following Pomroy’s plan lose up to a pound every day, and the impressive results are amplified over time. “Once we shake up your metabolism, it will burn hotter and stronger,” she explains. This effect helped women FIRST spoke to lose weight in record time and keep it off for years. To reboot your metabolism, take the quiz below, then read on for the strategies that slim.

How to Get Started

Flooding the body with healing nutrients and shifting your macronutrient ratios throughout the week reboots metabolism to speed slimming and supercharge energy in just 14 days. “This strategy reverses the biochemical patterns that have slowed down your metabolism,” says nutritionist Pomroy, “And once you coax your metabolism into motion, it’s easier to keep it moving.”

Because everyone’s body is different, Pomroy offers three interventions, each equipped with fast metabolism diet recipes that are designed to target a specific level of metabolic slowdown. Pomroy’s metabolism diet plan ensures that, “At each meal, you will ingest the macronutrients and enzymes you need to boost fat burning based on your metabolism.”

No matter which plan you follow, Pomroy recommends cutting out hard-to-digest wheat, soy, dairy, and corn, which she says can stall weight loss. You’ll also want to drink half your body weight in water each day. (A 180-pound woman would drink 90 ounces or just over 11 glasses.) And if you feel like your meals are too big? “Listen to your body,” says Pomroy. “Don’t force yourself to eat if you’re legitimately full.”

Once you’ve completed a 14-day cycle, retake the quiz below. “Your score will change as you lose weight,” explains Pomroy. “You must retake your calculation so your meals are always calibrated to your current metabolism.” After three cycles, she recommends trying a different plan (like her Fast Metabolism Diet recipes from her book The Fast Metabolism Diet: Eat More Food and Lose More Weight Hardcover ($14.39, Amazon) for at least 28 days before recalculating your number and starting another 14-day cycle. “Changing it up can shake you out of plateaus over the long term,” she says. “It’s a bigger-picture version of the ‘confuse it to lose it’ philosophy.” 

Take the 1-Minute Metabolism Type Quiz

If you’re battling won’t-budge pounds, your metabolism may need a reboot. Pomroy developed the simple equation below — which is based on your current weight — to help you d­iscover your best fat-burning cure. “In my clinic, this calculation has been critical in designing customizable food programs that provide rapid results,” asserts Pomroy. “It tells me how far out of balance your body has become and what type of food intervention is needed to get the scale to healthy.” 

The equation: (14 divided by your weight) x 100 = Your Metabolic Score 

If you scored 10 or higher, your metabolism is sluggish.

Past dieting efforts have slowed your metabolism and led your body to stubbornly hold on to excess weight. At this stage, you need to flood your body with easily digestible nutrients and fat-burning foods to shake out of the metabolic rut. 

If you scored between 7 and 9, your metabolism is stalling.

Your metabolism is slowly crawling, often causing seemingly random weight fluctuations. At this stage, you need to stabilize your metabolism with a carefully calibrated balance of nutrients, then kick fat burning into high gear with plenty of fat and protein. 

If you scored 6 or lower, your metabolism is stagnant.

Years of battling stress or yo-yo dieting have locked your metabolism at a sticky set point. At this stage, you need to rekindle your metabolic fire and keep it burning with plenty of nutrient-dense fruit and high-protein fare.

If your metabolism is sluggish:

“To lose stubborn pounds that want to hang on, focus on nutrient-rich carbs and enough protein to build lean muscle,” says Pomroy. This will free the body from its metabolic rut. 

Days One to Three: “Fruit floods the body with nutrients that stimulate metabolism,” says Pomroy. “And with very little fat, we encourage the body to metabolize its own fat stores.”

  • Fill up on fruit. Get four servings (one apple, one orange or one cup of berries, peaches or pineapples) throughout the day before dinner. 
  • Carb up. Enjoy complex carbs (1/2 cup quinoa, brown rice, sweet potato, or oats) at breakfast and dinner.
  • Round out your plate. At each meal, eat four ounces of animal protein (or 3/4 cup beans) and lots of non-starchy veggies like broccoli and leafy greens. 

Days Four to Seven: You’ll focus on increasing fat intake, which stimulates fat burn.

  • Omit complex carbs at breakfast and dinner. 
  • Add four servings of good fat (1/4 avocado, 1/4 cup hummus or raw nuts, or two tablespoons nut butter or oil).

Sample Day One Meal: Spaghetti Dinner: Toss 1/2 cup cooked quinoa spaghetti with four ounces broiled chicken and 1/4 cup sweet peas. Sprinkle with red pepper flakes. Serve with a side salad. 

If your metabolism is stalling:

A meal plan with a balance of protein and carbs helps stabilize the metabolism to speed slimming. 

Days One to Three: “Proteins mixed with targeted veggies makes it impossible for the body to store fat,” says Pomroy.

  • Load up on veggies. At each meal, enjoy four ounces animal protein (or 3/4 cup beans) and unlimited non-starchy vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, and leafy greens.
  • Enjoy fruit. Get three servings (one apple, one orange, or one cup of berries or peaches) before dinner. 
  • Space out carbs. Have carbs (1/2 cup quinoa, sweet potatoes, brown rice, or oats) at breakfast and dinner.

Days Four to Seven: Power up fat burning by indulging in healthy fats and protein. 

  • Omit complex carbs at breakfast and dinner. 
  • Protein-load in the morning. Aim to get eight ounces first thing (try four eggs, or two eggs plus four ounces bacon or ham).
  • Focus on healthy fats. Add one serving (1/4 avocado, 1/4 cup hummus or raw nuts, or two tablespoons nut butters or oil) to all meals and snacks.

Sample Day One Meal: Salmon Dinner: Serve four ounces orange-glazed salmon alongside 1/2 cup brown rice and one cup sautéed green beans, yellow wax beans, and baby carrots.

If your metabolism is stagnant:

With a stagnant metabolism, goal number one is consuming plenty of protein. “Protein acts like a log for the metabolism fire,” explains Pomroy. 

Days One to Three: Your meals may seem large, but Pomroy says to eat as much as you can for best results.

  • Go big at breakfast. Load up with eight ounces of protein (ry four eggs, or two eggs plus four ounces bacon), as well as a piece of fruit and 1/2 cup oats. 
  • Snack on fruit. Aim for three servings (one apple, one orange, or one cup of berries or peaches) between meals. 
  • Green up lunch. Enjoy unlimited green veggies, along with four ounces of ­protein, 1/2 avocado, or 1/2 cup nuts.
  • Double down on protein. At ­dinner, consume eight ounces of protein, two cups veggies, and 1/2 cup quinoa, sweet potatoes, wild rice, or brown rice. 

Days Four to Seven: You’ll build in fat to increase satiety and stoke fat burning.

  • Omit complex carbs at breakfast and dinner.
  • Dial back protein to four ounces at dinner.
  • Add healthy fat (1/4 avocado, 1/4 cup hummus or nuts, or two tablespoons nut butters or oil) at breakfast, dinner and snacks.

Sample Day 1 Meal: Steak Dinner: Serve eight ounces roasted beef medallions alongside 1/2 cup mashed sweet potatoes and two cups sautéed mixed green beans and chanterelle mushrooms.

Fast Metabolism Diet Success Stories

Waiting in urgent care as her son was being treated, Missy Schaefer zoned out on her reflection in a pane of glass. Her eyes snapped back into focus when she realized her own puffy face wasn’t even recognizable. “Oh my gosh,” Missy thought, “What’s happened to me?” 

At that moment, Missy resolved to focus on her own health. “I had no energy. Everything ached,” she shares. “My weight had been up and down my whole life, and I had to make a change.” 

After watching Pomroy on an episode of The Dr. Oz Show, Missy knew the plan was a fit. “I loved that she said ‘DIET should stand for ‘Did I Eat Today?’” Missy started switching up her macronutrients to reboot her metabolism and by week’s end, she enjoyed the payoff. “My energy came back. I didn’t feel so heavy. I had a clear mind.” Missy shed 17 pounds in 28 days, and after 3 months, her doctor took her off prescription medications for blood pressure, cholesterol, and depression. 

Today, three years after reaching her goal weight, Missy is still in awe. “It’s crazy what you can do just by tweaking your diet.” Now each day is full of possibilities, not limitations. Recently, when her husband suggested a spur-of-the-moment road trip, Missy happily hopped in the car. “To just go without packing medicine was amazing.”

The $9 Drugstore Cure That Speeds Fat Loss 

To jump-start weight loss on a high-metabolism diet — no matter what your set point is — consider increasing your intake of B-complex vitamins. The body uses these nutrients to convert food into fuel, detoxify the liver, maintain healthy hormone levels, and increase the production of appetite-regulating brain chemicals. “This helps level the playing field fast,” promises Pomroy. “I don’t let myself run out because if I don’t take it, I feel a big difference.” You can get the recommended daily amount from three servings of foods rich in bioavailable B, like leafy greens and lentils. Or take a methylated B-complex supplement (like Life Extension BioActive Complete B-Complex.). “A methylated B vitamin is more bioavailable,” Pomroy explains. As a result, the body doesn’t have to work as hard to metabolize the vitamins, which is key in an already-overstressed system. 

This article originally appeared in our print magazine.

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