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Metabolism and Weight Loss

Emergence Weight Management: 2004

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This article discusses weight management and how people can use Emergence to alter both metabolism and body weight consciousness.

What is "metabolism?"

What is "metabolism?" We'll start by re-defining the word.

Typically, people see "metabolism" as a kind of baseline rate at which their bodies run, a sort of internal, physical speed rating.

Is this accurate? Sort of. However, because most people have a hard time picturing this definition, most do not really grasp what it means.

Is this you? Then try this picturing this definition.

"Metabolism" is "the body's average expected rate of activity." Said more simply, "metabolism" is "how much the body expects you to have to work."

Now think about what this definition implies. It implies that if you live an active life, then your body will expect you to need enough energy to power this active life. Thus, it will expand its capacity to store and supply energy, up to what it thinks you will need.

How about if you live an inactive life?

Then your metabolism will slow down, because your body will expect you to need less energy and so, will efficiently manage it's resources. In other words, your body will expect you to do less and so, will shrink its capacity to store and supply energy.

In truth, this whole idea is simply a different way to refer to the old adage, "you have to use it or lose it."

Can You Speed Up Your Metabolism?

So what if you have lost a good bit of your capacity to store and supply energy. In other words, what if your metabolism has slowed down. Can you alter your metabolism? Speed it up, in fact?

To some degree, yes, you can. And understanding how you can speed up your metabolism is one of the more important parts of a conscious weight management program. How do you do this?

To understand, we'll begin by using my favorite metaphor for metabolism; an upturned bicycle. And since a metaphor is simply a representative event you picture on the screen of your mind, please know you'll have to picture this bicycle in order to learn from it.

So now, if you will, picture a ten speed bicycle turned upside down. Now what does your bike look like?

Mine is a silver bike with black and red handle grips and cleated pedals. I also see blue shift cables and black leather saddle bags.

Now picture your bicycle upside down, wheels up and resting on it's handle bars.

Imagine, now, you walk over and with your hand, start spinning the front wheel forward.

Can you picture the front wheel spinning?

Now imagine you take your hand away and as you watch, you see this wheel continue to spin for a while, then finally slow down.

Now it's time to learn from the scene you've just pictured. How? By replaying this scene with you in the picture, noticing what you thing and feel.

Now try it. Notice how much effort it took you to get the wheel to start spinning. Now notice how much effort it took you to get the bicycle wheel spinning really fast? Finally, notice how much effort it took you to stand there once you had got this wheel up to speed?

Most of this stuff is obvious. At first, of course, getting the wheel to spin took a lot of effort. After all, you had to get it to move from a complete stop. Then, it took you even more effort, a burst of effort in fact, as you spun the wheel faster and faster until you got it spinning really fast. Finally, though, as momentum took over, you could stop spinning the wheel with your hand and simply step back and watch.

Metabolism has a lot in common with this story. How so? Start with this idea.

As we get older, on average, we physically do less, so our metabolic capacity diminishes. In essence, we physically slow down, many of us, to the point wherein we are pretty much physically cruising through life and doing just what we need to do to get by.

For most of us, this taking it easy feels pretty good. Except, of course, when others who are more fit want us to keep up with them. In which case, slowing down feels pretty bad. And here is where exercise comes in.

Exercise is like the hand spinning the bicycle wheel. Even a wheel that has slowed down completely can be spun again. It just takes a lot of effort to start it spinning again.

How long will the wheel spin for once it starts spinning again?

This depends on how fast you get the wheel spinning. The faster you get it spinning, the longer it spins for.

So what if you get the wheel to spin really fast?

Again, the faster you get the wheel to spin, the longer it spins for.

And the effort involved?

A lot. At first. Followed by a burst of effort. And then? And here is where, if you have been picturing all this, that the bicycle metaphor teaches you how metabolism actually works. How?

Well if you have been picturing all this, you realize, that after a while, you can spin the wheel no faster, even if you continue to spin the wheel with your hand. Why? Because all wheels have a point at which they can spin no faster.

At this point, then, you realize there is no reason to keep spinning the wheel as your effort will just be wasted. At least until the wheel begins to noticeably slow down. At which point your effort will again be needed to bring the wheel back up to speed.

This how metabolism works.

Thus, when you go to the gym, the exercise you do is like a hand spinning a bicycle wheel. The exercise is getting your metabolism up to speed. And when you go regularly, when you diligently practice a weight management program? Well, this is like getting your metabolism up to full speed. However, when you go to the gym two times a day, this is like spinning an already up to speed bicycle wheel. Because your metabolism ia already spinning as fast as it can go, you gain little if anything by making this extra effort. This means, this extra effort is unnecessary. At least until your metabolism begins to slow down once again.

How long will this take? It depends on your metabolic momentum. It could take days, or it could take months, and how long depends on a lot of factors including how many days in a row you've exercised and how much stress you live under.

Can this be true? Can you really exercise to much, in effect, exercise less and get the same or better results?


Now let me demonstrate this whole idea with a story from my life.

How I Sped Up My Metabolism: the November '03 Mountain Climb

I'm 57. Last November, a month before I turned 57, I climbed a mountain in the Adirondack high peaks region of upstate New York.

Was I in shape to do this climb?

When I climbed I was. But I had been very out of shape only eleven weeks before. I was in fact the most out of shape I had been in almost twenty years. Which isn't to say I was in terrible shape. Just not in shape to climb a mountain.

How had I gotten so out of shape? My metabolism had slowed down. How? I had been mostly sitting and writing all day. Thus, my body had adjusted accordingly. It expected me to be sitting and writing all day. Climbing a mile high mountain was simply not in the plan.

OK. This is not hard to understand. It's just the way our bodies work.

So what did I do?

I made a plan. I figured out how much time I had and where I wanted to be by the time the climb came. I then wrote out this plan, which included the weight I wanted to be at, and the level of fitness I wanted to have.

So how did I do?

Honestly? I surprised even me. By the time the climb came, I was in better shape than I had been in in almost twenty years. based on what? Based on many factors, including my reaching a body weight, a standing pulse rate, a baseline blood pressure, and a heart recovery rate I had been unable to reach no matter how hard I had tried. More over, two weeks after the climb, based on the blood chemistry results from my annual physical.

All good stuff, but so what? What's so important about using exercise to get into shape? Just this.

I used less exercise to reach this shape, not more. And I reached goals I had been unable to reach before no matter how hard I tried.

So what did I do and what was different? I did many things differently, and I'll be telling you what I did in the next two sections. For now, I want to stick with the bicycle metaphor and with what surprised me the most about this training.

Eating Without Weight Gain: a Metabolic Benefit

What surprised me the most was how, for the first time in twenty years, I could eat normally and not gain weight. In fact, I experienced this "nirvana" for more than three months before my metabolism again slowed down and with it, my ability to eat without weight gain.

Temporary? Yes. Again, this is just how bodies work. However, prior to this training, I had not believed such a thing was possible, let alone that it would last for more than three months.

Now the details.

After the climb, I of course stopped training. Why? Training took up most of my free time. And a lot of my writing time. I had been committed to a very demanding training schedule. And it interfered with pretty much most of the rest of my life activities.

What had motivated me to give up all my time and to do this much work?

Falling. I had been picturing myself being on this climb, which I did, by the way, with five much younger men. Thus, I had been picturing myself being either unable to keep up or worse, falling and at best, seriously hurting myself. Not pretty pictures.

Every day, then, I had used this reality to motivate myself.

Of course, once the climb was over, this motivation was gone. To my surprise, in it's place were benefits I had not thought possible for me; being in the same physical shape I had been in twenty years prior.

How long did this continue to motivate me though?

Not long, actually. In fact, although I've continued to do what I normally do to stay in shape enough to make small local climbs, my pace has slowed considerably. And with it, of course, my metabolism.

So have I begun to gain back the weight?

Slowly. And not from over eating nor from lack of exercise.

From what then?

From not doing the level of exercise I would need to keep my wheel spinning at full speed. And no full speed, no free wheeling. So what will I do now?

I'm not sure. Certainly, I'm not willing to give up all my time in order to again regain this level of fitness. At the same time, the realizations which have emerged in me are continuing to help me manage my weight and fitness in ways far superior to anything I've done in the past. Most important, though, I continue to feel motivated to explore my weight and fitness, and I expect to continue to discover new things about how metabolism works. And with another climb scheduled for this Fall, I expect I'll again feel the benefits of the spinning wheel technique.

Closing Thoughts