If there’s one thing that celebrity nutritionist Haylie Pomroy wants you to know, it’s that “good” metabolism isn’t about winning some kind of genetic lottery. Her philosophy—one that she’s imparted to clients such as Jennifer Lopez and Reese Witherspoon—is that everyone can optimize the way their body uses food for fuel. All it takes is a few sneaky hacks, most of which run counter to the conventional “eat less, exercise more” wisdom that we’ve all been fed over the years.
Pomroy’s new book, Metabolism Revolution, dives into her method for kick-starting stalled metabolism, while pinpointing reasons your body stores fat so you can use food strategically to release it. And she promises that weight loss isn’t the only result you’ll see if you follow her rules. “A plan that feeds you—rather than depriving you of food and nutrients—can keep you from losing energy, experiencing extreme hunger, cannibalizing muscle, and sapping strength,” she says. “When you eat more, but choose the right foods at the right times, you can actually raise your metabolic rate, build strength, improve your skin tone, and get more energy.”
Here, Pomroy outlines the dos and don’ts of upgrading your metabolism for weight loss—all designed to be super sustainable over the long-term, ensuring a lasting shift in the way you feel. (There’s a reason she’s been dubbed the “Metabolism Whisperer”…)
Check out these nutritionist-approved tips for boosting your metabolism the healthy way.
Eat real food
Okay, so we’ve all heard this one a million times before. But what does it mean, exactly? “Food is something that was once alive and came from the land, sky, or sea,” explains Pomroy. This basically includes fruit, vegetables, grains, meat, eggs, and fish—and it excludes man-made chemicals like artificial sweeteners, dyes, and preservatives, many of which are believed to disrupt metabolic activity.
The easiest way to ensure you’re eating real food is to avoid anything processed. But since that’s kind of hard to do 100 percent of the time, Pomroy says reading labels is the next best thing. Her number-one rule: If there are lots of ingredients on the package that you don’t recognize, put it back on the shelf.
Don’t obsess over calories
You know the drill: You’re ready to get serious about losing weight, so you skip lunch or eat a few bites of grilled chicken and cottage cheese and call it dinner. But Pomroy adamantly believes that cutting portions in half is the wrong approach, as it’ll make your body think you’re starving—which will subsequently result in a metabolic slowdown. “Eating less actually makes the situation worse,” she explains. “When your metabolism is too slow, you’ll store even lettuce as fat, and you certainly won’t burn any fat.”
In fact, research shows that food quality matters a lot more than quantity when it comes to reaching your weight-loss goals. That means you have full permission to have a second (or third) helping of your heart of palm pesto pasta—as long as it’s made from whole-food ingredients, that is.
Eat within 30 minutes of waking up—and at regular intervals
So you say you’re not a breakfast person? Consider this: If you don’t eat right after you wake up in the morning, you’re requiring your body to operate on zero fuel. (As if an early-morning commute and 9am meetings weren’t tough enough already.) And this kind of stress causes a metabolic SOS situation. “In response, your adrenals will produce [cortisol], an emergency hormone that tells your body it had better start stockpiling fat, because who knows when you’ll get more food,” says Pomroy.To keep this from happening, Pomroy suggests having a meal—even a small one—within your first half-hour of waking. She also recommends having three meals and two snacks every day, which roughly translates to eating every three hours. Studies show that this may help keep your metabolic fire stoked, helping you to more efficiently burn through the food you eat. Exercise strategically According to Pomroy, it’s not just about how much exercise you do, but also what kind. She suggests a mix of cardio and strength training throughout the week, with recovery like massage and Epsom salt baths added in frequently. With cardio, she says, your goal is to raise your heart rate between 120 to 140 beats per minute for 20 to 35 minutes—but not go over 145 beats per minute, as cardio overload can sabotage your weight-loss efforts. “The level of intensity will depend on your level of fitness,” she says. With weights, aim for one or two times per week to stimulate fat burn. “Work with stacked reps in sets of three,” she suggests. “Start with eight reps, then six reps, then four reps. The weight should be heavy enough that you can just complete the reps to muscle exhaustion.” Pomroy also stresses the importance of having something small to eat before you work out. “Your adrenals will otherwise stimulate [cortisol] to break down muscle for fuel during your workout, cannibalizing the muscles you’re trying to build,” she says. Her pre-workout snack of choice? A piece of fruit. Change up your meal plan often Let’s say you’ve created the perfect, healthy power salad for lunch—congrats! But according to Pomroy, you should find ways to mix it up so you’re not eating the same thing five days in a row. Not only will this keep you from getting bored (and reverting to your old, not-so-nutritious favorites), but research actually shows that the more varied a person’s healthy diet is, the lower their odds of having excess body fat or metabolic syndrome symptoms. (These include high blood sugar, belly fat, and abnormal cholesterol or blood pressure.) In her book, Pomroy presents a systematic rotation of targeted foods to be eaten on specific days and times—all designed to help the body move between rest and active recovery of the metabolism. But if you’d rather keep it simple, just try to switch up the proteins, veggies, and fruits you’re buying each week. At the very least, it’ll keep your meal-prep game interesting. Eat foods that you love If you try to stick to a restrictive diet full of foods you’re not that into, you’ll never be satisfied with the results. “It’s certainly not effective, because your natural food-sensing system gets all messed up,” Pomroy says. “Pleasure is powerful.” Allowing yourself to enjoy food stimulates the secretion of endorphins and reduces stress hormones, which in turn improves metabolism. So go on, have a slice of pizza or a plate full of tacos every once in a while if it makes you happy—and make it your mission to seek out everyday fruits, veggies, and proteins that give you that heart-eyes emoji feeling, too. (Might I suggest starting with some cauliflower gnocchi?) More From Well + Good: One of The Most Commonly Used Beauty Ingredients Might Be Making You Break Out Get The Most Out Of Your Workout By Avoiding These Common Recovery Mistakes The First Thing You Should Do When You Get Off A Plane, According To Health Pros