Imagine you need to take a long trip, a really long trip. You’re going to be relying on your car to get you where you’re going. But it’s broken! It’s having all sorts of engine and transmission problems. Would you just start driving and hope for the best? Or would you get your car fixed first?
Your body is your car. The engine and transmission is your metabolism. If you’re having metabolic issues (PCOS, insulin resistance, thyroid problems, digestive problems, etc), your metabolism is broken. Trying to lose weight and get healthy with a broken metabolism is like embarking on a long drive with a broken car. You need to fix your metabolism first. Once your metabolism is healthy, weight loss will be almost effortless.
What breaks a metabolism? Long-term inactivity, energy imbalance (too much, or too little food) and poor nutrition (too many processed foods that are devoid of nutrients, inadequate fat, carbs or protein, micronutrient deficiencies, etc). What fixes a metabolism? Exercise, proper energy balance and proper nutrition. Low-carb diets can mitigate the SYMPTOMS of some metabolic disorders, but true HEALING comes from proper energy balance, nutrition (including carbs from nutrient dense whole foods) and exercise.
So if this is ringing true for you, I encourage you to set aside your weight loss goals temporarily, and focus on repairing your metabolism. How? Eat real, whole, nutrient dense foods. Minimize or eliminate processed foods and alcohol. Avoid foods your body doesn’t tolerate well; it’s possible (probable) that when you’re more metabolically healthy you’ll be able to add them back in without problems. Get enough protein, carbs and fat. Eat enough good quality food to fuel your daily activity and give your body the raw materials it needs to repair damaged tissue and organs, but not more than it needs to support your activity and a healthy weight (for tips and figuring out how much that is, check out my Calories post). Be active every day, be it simple walking or something more strenuous. Just move! Strength train 2-3 times a week, using weights that challenge you. Do a few short, high intensity workouts a week, you can read more about this style of exercise here (if you’re recovering from overtraining or undereating, hold off on the high intensity stuff ’till you feel stronger). Put the scale away for a while if it makes you anxious. Get plenty of sleep, at least 7-8 hours a night. Get a few minutes of sunlight on bare skin every day (no sunscreen), as often as possible.
It may take a while. Consider how long you have been broken, and realize that healing is not an instantaneous process. You will probably start to feel better almost immediately after making these changes, though! Keep going. This is a lifestyle change, not a quick fix. Of course, practice these lifestyle changes in conjunction with any medical care you’re receiving, not in it’s place! And always check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program.