Detox Learning Center

Why Detox Matters for Metabolism and Weight Loss

Do you want to be slimmer for summer? You may have your reasons for trying to shed a few pounds. Maybe you want to fit into that dress for a summer wedding. Perhaps you’re planning to hit the beach and want your best bod. Or maybe you just want to be your healthiest self so you have more energy for all those fun summer activities.

Whatever your motivation for weight loss might be, as the weather heats up, typically so does the desire to trim down.

Obesity is an increasing global crisis, but it’s especially bad in the United States. In fact, obesity and severe weight gain went up 12% in less than 20 years. As of about four years ago, one in three adults were overweight and two out of five adults were considered obese. (1)

This is likely due to the American diet and our leaning toward a more-sedentary lifestyle. However, there could be other issues at play, such as toxicity and related health concerns.

You probably already know some of the most-basic principles of weight loss, such as watching what you eat and moving more. But the usual approaches might not work for you, and maybe the weight doesn’t come off.  Or maybe you’ve never really known quite how to attack the daunting task of losing weight.

Whether you’re new to weight loss or stuck in a weight-loss rut — and whether you need a new technique, a reminder, or a reset — here are some ideas that can help.

Before You Begin Your Weight-Loss Journey

Before you start any weight-loss plan, there are some basic first steps that will make things easier.

Good drainage: Drainage is crucial to successful weight loss. You may be familiar with the drainage funnel, which involves everything from pooping a lot to sweating a lot.

Having good drainage means that things are moving and flowing inside you and that your body is balanced. Drainage is the first step toward detoxing, when your body will naturally get rid of fat, toxins, and other substances that could stand in the way of fitting into your skinny jeans. 

Mental and emotional commitment: Losing weight can be a lengthy and in-depth process. It may involve major lifestyle changes, such as altering your diet or learning to be more active. And even more emotionally daunting: It may take a while for you to see results, which can be extremely discouraging. Make sure that you’re truly committed to losing weight and willing to invest the time that it might take to do so.

Mitochondrial support: Your cells’ mitochondria and the energy they produce affect your weight-loss efforts. You won’t be able to lose weight without their help. Mitochondria convert nutrients to energy, which means you burn more calories and have more pep for your physical activities. So supporting your mitochondria and keeping them functioning at their prime is an important early stop in your weight-loss journey. (2, 3)

Once you feel that you’re ready — both mentally and physically — to lose weight, you can start delving into the weight-loss process.

Eat to Live Better

You know that what you eat affects your weight, but you may not know what to eat or why. You may also wonder how much you should eat. Proper portion size and what nutrients you need in what amounts can be difficult to determine. 

Most people think that restricting calories is the best way to lose weight. But this isn’t always the case. It’s true that overeating and taking in excess calories will stop weight loss in its tracks.

However, it’s also important to eat enough — especially of the right nutrients. You need to feed your body what it needs to stay healthy and to function at its best. Eating too little and not getting enough nutritious foods in your diet can backfire. It can keep you from losing weight by messing with your metabolism.

What is metabolism?

Metabolism is a word you hear a lot, but do you know what it means? It refers to the process by which your body converts what you eat or drink into energy. It is at the very core of your weight-loss journey, because much of what is not converted to energy ends up as fat. (4)

The higher your metabolism, the more food and beverages you convert to energy. The lower your metabolism, the more fat your body will produce and store. (4, 5)

When trying to lose weight, keep your metabolism in mind and try to make choices that boost it.

what boosts metabolism (square)

Blood sugar levels

You should eat to control your blood sugar levels. Just as the name suggests, your blood sugar level is how much sugar is in your bloodstream. Your blood can only handle a limited amount of sugar at a time. Anything more than that isn’t readily processed and can begin to cause hormonal problems and inflammation in your body. (6, 7, 8)

When your blood sugar levels get too high, your body secretes the hormone insulin, which tells your body to store fat. At the same time, your levels of the hormone glucagon will decrease. Glucagon is the hormone that prompts your body to burn fat for energy. So when you have more glucagon, you burn more fat. (9, 10, 11)

In a study, rats injected with glucagon gained 75% less weight, produced less fat and protein, and retained less water than rats who didn’t receive glucagon. (5)

Look at it as if insulin and glucagon are at battle. They are two generals leading opposing armies. The sugar in your blood is like the soldiers in insulin’s army. The more sugar you have in your blood, the more enforcements you’re giving to the insulin side. If that army wins the war, your fat gets stored. But if glucagon is the conqueror, you burn fat instead.

In other words, the more sugar in your blood, the higher the insulin levels and the lower the glucagon levels, and the less fat is burned. So eat foods that support glucagon and suppress insulin. (12, 13, 14, 15)

Also, when you have too much sugar in your bloodstream, your body doesn’t know what to do with it and desperately seeks ways to process it. Sometimes, your liver will step in to help. It responds by secreting cholesterol, which is converted to fat. And when the sugar in your blood attaches itself to proteins in your blood, this leads to inflammation. (16, 17, 18, 19, 20)

On the other hand, keeping your blood sugar under control can even help slow the aging process. (21, 22)

So, how can you keep your blood sugar levels down? Avoid eating processed foods, especially carbohydrates, which are quickly converted to sugar and go directly into your bloodstream. Instead, look for whole foods that come from farms and not factories — foods that are grown or raised sustainably and not processed. (23, 24, 25, 26)

Every meal that you eat should include some fiber, healthy fats, and protein. This will help you avoid spikes in insulin and will stabilize your blood sugar levels. Here are some foods that fall into each of those categories: (23, 24)

Fiber

Just a few of the high-fiber foods that you can work into your daily diet include: (24, 25, 26)

  • Fruits that are fresh and in-season. Berries are fairly low in sugar. Avocados, which are indeed a fruit, have the most fiber of all the fruits
  • Sweet potatoes/yams
  • Vegetables (not starchy ones like corn)

Fiber can increase your metabolism by getting your bowels moving and opening the drainage funnel to help you clear everything out, including fat. (25, 26)

Healthy fats

Fat often gets a bad rap, especially in the weight-loss world. This is because fatty foods have more calories, so people who are trying to lose weight tend to avoid them. But it’s not that simple — not all calories are created equal.

Your body can more easily process and use healthy fats, meaning that those foods don’t necessarily lead to weight gain. Rather, many so-called “good fats” can actually help you to lose weight. (27, 28, 29)

Besides, your body needs fat as building blocks for your cell membranes, nerves, and even your brain. (29)

Some good-for-you fats include: (27, 28)

  • Avocados
  • Coconut oil
  • Dark chocolate
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Fatty fish (think “SMASH,” or salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, and halibut)
  • Grass-fed dairy, including butter

Try to keep these foods in their freshest and most natural form. In particular, don’t heat fats to very high temperatures. Not only does frying in oils make a food unhealthy and higher in calories, but at high heat, the fats in the oil can produce toxic chemicals known as aldehydes. (30)

Protein

Some good protein options include: (31, 32, 33)

  • Beans and legumes
  • Free-range, grass-fed meat and poultry
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Pasture-raised eggs
  • Small wild-caught fish (the smaller the fish, the less the chances of consuming mercury or other metals from these fish. Larger fish like tuna and swordfish are a bigger risk, because their greater size allows them to accumulate higher levels of these metals.)

Intermittent fasting for weight loss

There’s a lot of buzz these days about intermittent fasting. This is a pattern of eating that alternates periods of eating with periods of going without food, or fasting.

Hundreds or even thousands of years ago, our ancestors would sometimes fast due to periods of food scarcity. Many people also practice intermittent fasting because of religious reasons, such as in the Islamic practice of Ramadan. And nowadays, people are increasingly turning to it to lose weight. (6)

There are different ways to do intermittent fasting, but the most popular way is by only eating during an eight-hour period and then fasting for 16 hours. This is the 16/8 method. (6, 7)

The “eat-stop-eat” fasting schedule includes eating nothing for an entire day once or twice a week. (6, 7)

Some people opt for the 5:2 method of intermittent fasting, which involves restricting your calories to just 500 or 600 for two days out of the week (not in a row). The other five days, you can eat as you usually would, within reason. (6, 7)

With any variation of intermittent fasting, be careful not to overeat during your non-fasting times, as that can undo the weight-loss effects of the fasting.

Studies suggest that intermittent fasting is good for you. It’s great for weight loss and can provide excellent results in boosting metabolism and reducing body-mass index and waist circumference. (6, 7, 32)

It also provides a number of other health benefits, such as lowering blood pressure, cholesterol, and inflammation while improving brain and immune function. It helps with cellular and DNA repair and has even shown anti-aging effects. (6, 32)

In addition, intermittent fasting helps regulate blood sugar levels and insulin, and could therefore help fight diabetes. Research suggests that it may also aid in tumor suppression. (6, 32)

But there are also some possible downsides. A growling stomach and hunger pangs aren’t the only risks of intermittent fasting. It may cause missed periods and fertility issues in some women and is also not recommended for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. In addition, women may sometimes see less success with this diet than men, and should more carefully monitor their body's response to fasting. (34, 35)

Although it’s okay to perform your usual activities, including working out, while fasting, athletes doing serious training or excessive exercise may not want to practice intermittent fasting.

The Mediterranean diet

You’ve probably already heard of the Mediterranean diet. It’s become very popular in recent years. It includes delicious and nutritious food, and for many people, it leads to weight loss.

This diet is based on the traditional eating and lifestyle patterns of those who live near the Mediterranean Sea. That region is sometimes referred to as the “olive-growing areas” of the Mediterranean, due to the prevalence of olive trees. That explains the frequent use of olive oil in the dishes. (31)

In general, the Mediterranean Diet is high in monounsaturated, or omega-9, fats — such as olive oil, nuts, and seeds — and low in saturated fats. (31, 36)

Saturated fats are the sorts of fats found in butter, cheese, eggs, and meat. They are often considered to be “bad fats” and are associated with weight gain, but there are many exceptions to this rule. Incorporating some saturated fats into your diet — such as grass-fed dairy — can provide many health benefits and actually promote weight loss. (27, 28, 29, 30)

Followers of the Mediterranean diet don’t eat many saturated fats, and the ones they do include foods such as plain, whole-milk yogurt, which is thought to help prevent heart disease (37, 30, 31).

The Mediterranean Diet features the following foods and eating patterns: (31)

It includes the highest quantities of these foods (the cuisine is built on regular consumption of these with every meal) —

  • Beans and legumes
  • Fruits
  • Herbs and spices
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Olive oil
  • Plenty of water
  • Vegetables
  • Whole grains

Frequent consumption (at least twice weekly) —

  • Fish
  • Seafood

In moderation (moderate portions, every day to once a week) —

  • Cheese
  • Eggs
  • Poultry
  • Wine
  • Yogurt

Very minimal:

  • Red meat
  • Sweets

It’s hard to determine whether the success of this diet is due exclusively to the food that Mediterranean natives eat, or if the real key is the food in combination with a certain lifestyle.

As a whole, people from the Mediterranean area are thought to be rather social. They value their friendships, family relationships, and spending time with others. Some people say this may contribute to a lack of stress and general emotional well-being that could improve their overall health. (31)

Also, they have the tradition of taking a nap, or “siesta,” in the afternoon, suggesting that they get enough sleep and are well-rested. They are very active and drink a lot of water, which are both weight-loss-friendly habits. (31)

In addition, the people of the Mediterranean region eat almost exclusively locally grown, in-season, fresh and natural foods, which promote good health and may make them less susceptible to things like pesticides and other chemicals. (31)

All of these are likely factors influencing the success of the Mediterranean diet. Not only does it encourage weight loss, but it can also help lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels. It can help prevent diabetes, heart attacks, inflammation, and strokes. (31, 38, 39)

Healthy whole foods 

Whatever foods you choose to eat, look for healthy whole foods that can give your body the nutrients you need while boosting your weight loss.

Most importantly, opt for foods that you like and that you are willing to eat every day. If you don’t enjoy a food, you won’t stick with it and might eventually lapse into previous bad eating habits. Don’t look at it like you’re “on a diet,” but that you’re choosing a diet — or a pattern of eating — that’s healthy and maintainable.

You probably hear this a lot, but eating too late at night can cause weight gain. It’s important to eat during the day when you still have time to burn and absorb those nutrients. That will keep your metabolism working at its best so that you can burn through more fat. (6, 7, 14, 15)

Your metabolism slows down when you sleep. In fact, your entire digestive system goes to bed when you do. That means that if you eat too late, those calories won’t be turned to energy and will be converted instead to fat. And your metabolism will slow down so that you also burn less fat later. (6, 7, 14, 15)

Getting Physical: Exercising to Lose Weight

Physical activity is important for so many areas of life. It improves blood sugar and cholesterol levels, bone density, and brain and heart health. And, of course, it’s a critical part of the weight-loss equation. (16, 17)

Your exercise routine should include both cardiovascular exercises and lifting weights.

Cardiovascular exercise 

Cardio includes activities such as jumping rope, running, swimming, and walking. Doing these types of exercises burns excess calories and promotes good heart health. Remember that it doesn’t have to be intense or strenuous physical activity to be good for you.

Other exercises that help get your heart pumping and body moving include qi gong, tai chi, and yoga. Even meditation and mindfulness have shown cardiovascular benefits similar to those achieved during exercise. (40, 41, 16, 17, 18, 19)

Your body needs energy to function, and it gets that energy from sugar from carbohydrates and from fat. Exercise helps to burn any sugar that is in your muscles. Eating healthy foods and keeping your blood sugar levels down also limits the sugar in both your liver and your muscles. When there is less sugar to burn for energy, your body turns to your fat reserves for energy instead. (42, 43, 44, 45)

Lifting weights

Most people trying to lose weight prioritize doing cardio workouts due to the calorie burn. This is good, but don’t neglect to work some weight-lifting into your exercise routine as well. Weight-lifting is as important for weight loss as cardio is, and it’s good for everyone.

Building muscle is a crucial part of any exercise routine because muscle is a major force behind your metabolism. When you build your muscles so that they’re strong and developed, they need more energy, so they burn both fat and sugar to get that energy. Then, your metabolism increases, and you burn more calories and lose weight. (46, 47, 18, 19, 48, 49)

When you have good, lean muscle and an elevated metabolism, you can even burn calories while you sleep. (50)

Before you begin an exercise plan

If you’re trying to work exercise into your daily routine, start by answering these questions:

What can you do?

Not everyone can swim like Michael Phelps. Marathons aren’t for everybody. It’s okay if you can’t bench-press your own body weight. And you don’t have to be the next American Ninja Warrior.

Don’t feel like you need to exercise beyond your abilities. Although challenging yourself is good so that you can get better and stronger, if you try to do something that you simply can’t do, you could get frustrated and just give up. Not to mention, you’re more likely to injure yourself.

The most important thing is to remain active and just keep moving — and do that regularly. Find a form of exercise that is achievable for your age, budget, and fitness level. 

What sort of exercise do you like to do?

The surest way to stick with an activity is doing something you enjoy. Sure, exercise is work, and there are plenty of days when you really won’t feel like it. But if you can find a form of exercise that’s more fun, you’ll be more inclined to keep at it.

Find your exercise joy, whether you love the activity itself or the circumstances that go with it — such as the camaraderie of a group workout or team sport. Or maybe you can find an exercise class that plays music that you really love.

When can you do it?

Finding a time to exercise is as important as finding an exercise that you like. You need to set aside some time to do it so that you’ll be sure to get it done. It doesn’t have to be 6 a.m. before work if you’re not a morning person, nor just before dinner if that’s your family time. Find the time that works best for you. If you make it a part of your regular routine, you’re more likely to keep going.

One of the top excuses to avoid exercising is not having enough time. We’re all busy, and it can be hard to fit in a workout. But it’s important for your health and weight loss. Make a little time for exercise, even if it’s only 30 minutes per day.

What makes it personal?

What makes this something that you want to do — what drives you to exercise in the first place? Do you do it for your health? For looks? To reach a goal? Did you just sign up for your first 5k race and need to get training? Whatever it is that motivates you to go to the gym or the pool or the bike trail, find your reason and go.

Detox and Weight Loss

how toxins block weight loss

You may have reached this point of the article and thought, "I'm doing all of this, but I still can't lose weight." 

Did you know that toxins can also stop us from losing weight? If you feel like you’re doing everything right in your weight-loss efforts, yet those pounds just keep hanging on for dear life, it could be due to toxins. Here’s how that works. (51, 8)

You might be familiar with the laundry list of ailments that toxins in our body can cause. From brain fog to brain damage, hair loss to hormone problems, toxins can interfere with our bodies’ systems and lead to many health problems. Toxins come from glyphosates and other chemicals, heavy metalsmoldparasites, and more.

The mitochondria are the powerhouses within your cells. They produce energy that your body needs to perform and that you need to feel energized. The mitochondria play a big role in weight loss because they suck up the nutrients that you consume and convert them to energy rather than leaving them where they’ll be turned to fat. (33, 9, 34)

But toxins in your body keep the mitochondria from functioning properly. They’re not able to get the nutrients they need because the toxins block them. (52, 53, 8, 10)

The mitochondria then go into the equivalent of panic mode and try to fight the toxins instead of producing energy. So they cry out to your immune system for help and then try to assist with keeping your body healthy. (9, 10, 11)

Basically, your mitochondria become more concerned with simple survival than with turning nutrients and fat to energy. As a result, your body may stop losing weight, and you can develop weight-loss resistance. (54, 8, 9, 11)

To reverse that weight-loss resistance and get back on your track toward trimness, the best approach is detox. By using whichever detox process works best for you, you can pull out those toxins that are interfering with your mitochondria and putting the brakes on your weight loss. You have to get your cells functioning properly again so that you can get your metabolism working.

Emotional detox

Toxins don’t only come in the form of chemicals and critters, however. There are also emotional toxins, or toxic energies, that can affect someone’s ability to lose weight. Things like anger, anxiety, stress, and other emotional issues can hinder how well your body functions, and that includes weight loss. (12, 13, 55)

When you’re stressed, your body reacts by producing more of the hormone cortisol. Cortisol not only influences how your body deals with stress, but it also helps regulate both your blood sugar levels and your metabolism. For that reason, research suggests that there’s a direct link between stress and weight. (35, 36, 37)

People who have higher levels of the hormone cortisol in their bodies often experience weight gain. Studies have shown that stress may lead to increased food cravings that result in overeating, and it may also be connected to obesity. (35, 36, 37)

On the other hand, positive emotions have been shown to keep blood sugar and body weight levels stable, lower blood pressure, and promote overall good health. (12, 13)

Therefore, ridding yourself of negative emotions and keeping a positive outlook may be just the catalyst you need to kick your weight loss into high gear.

Additional Weight-Loss Methods

There are several other alternative therapies that could be worth a try if you’re still not having success losing weight. However, these techniques are usually recommended in addition to — not instead of — more traditional methods, such as calorie restriction and physical activity. Alternative weight-loss methods include: (56, 57, 58, 59, 1, 2, 3)

  • Acupuncture
  • Cryolipolysis
  • Diacylglycerol oil
  • Herbal medicine and supplements
  • High-intensity focused ultrasound
  • Hypnosis/hypnotherapy
  • Low-level laser therapy

Words of Weight-Loss Wisdom

Just remember that what counts is what you do every day, not just once in a while. That means that you need to develop good weight-loss habits that include eating well and staying active, and then stick with them. Doing something every once in a while won’t take or keep the pounds off.

That applies to the opposite side of the coin as well: If you slip up and eat something unhealthy or miss a day at the gym just once in a while, forgive yourself and get back at it the next day.

Try to develop habits that you can keep daily for the long term so that you can see results — and retain them. Focus on an overall wellness routine that includes eating clean, exercising regularly, having a positive outlook, and sleeping better.

Weight loss comes from a healthy lifestyle and mindset, so reflect and ask yourself, Why am I doing this? and What will best fit who I am? Finding your why for a healthy lifestyle is the most important step before your start any wellness journey, including a weight-loss plan, so you can stay motivated and centered each new day.