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Metabolism and weight loss challenges

Jodi Pettersen
For the Nevada Appeal

How often do you hear someone complain that they can’t lose weight and blame it on their “slow metabolism”? Well, sometimes that is the truth and other times it is not.

In simple terms, our metabolism is how fast our body burns off energy or calories. Many of us attempt to follow very low-calorie diets, and we end up slowing down our body’s burning capacity. This causes your body to hold on to the fat, and weight loss attempts fail.

Twenty percent to 40 percent of overweight people actually have a fast metabolism. They are not losing weight because they consume more calories than they burn.

So how do we know what our metabolism is doing? Registered dietitians have always used equations to come up with a calorie level that may work. But now there are ways to get an actual figure of what your body is truly doing, through indirect calorimetry, considered the gold standard.

The patient breathes through a mouthpiece with their nose plugged for about 10 minutes, which shows the “resting metabolic rate,” or how many calories you are burning at rest. The test will also show where your metabolism falls in comparison to a typical person with the same sex, height, weight, and age.

The test, performed by a registered dietitian or other medical professional, indicates how many calories that person needs for weight loss and weight maintenance. The dietitian can then create a personalized meal plan for the individual based on the test results.

Some people will actually have a slow metabolism, and at that point, they would be referred to a physician to check for possible thyroid issues. Many insurance companies are now covering for metabolic testing and nutritional counseling with a registered dietitian.

We all know that the key to weight loss is to make permanent lifestyle changes. Fad diets are only sneaky ways to cut calories and usually fail because one tends to regain the weight lost plus some. Now that the new year has come, why not find out what your caloric needs are, and then make some healthy changes in eating habits that work within your own personal weight loss zone.

• Jody Pettersen is a registered dietitian with Silver State Nutrition. Contact her at 775-720-3490 or e-mail silverstate

nutrition@gmail.com.