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Changing Your Mindset On Calories with The Metabolism Makeover

Changing Your Mindset On Calories

You might remember Megan Hansen, formerly Megan Kober, from her first blog post on The Skinny Confidential where she shared tips for revving up your metabolism.

Since then Megan has totally transformed her life, left an abusive relationship, written a book, grown her business and is here to dive deep on metabolic health, why calories aren’t king, and how you can start to feel better & more confident when making food choices.

Without further ado, let’s welcome Megan back to the blog.

Megan Hansen on Changing Your Mindset On Calories

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Changing Your Mindset On Calories with The Metabolism Makeover

Five years ago I won a trip to fly out to LA to get my hair done by Justin Anderson with Lauryn. I know. Crazy. It’s still one of the coolest things to happen to me to date. While I was there, I told Lauryn all about my small nutrition coaching business that was just starting to gain some traction (I mean, I probably had like 5 clients) while we cheers’d and bleached our hair platinum together. It was so fun to be able to meet the person who pushed me to just start creating content and launch my business years prior.

I had a blast that day and it was a welcome distraction from my complete disaster of a life back home.

Megan Hansen on Changing Your Mindset On Calories
Megan Hansen

If you followed me on Instagram back in 2018, what you saw was a happy-go-lucky, fun “vodka-loving” dietitian who preached “you can drink alcohol AND lose weight!” It appealed to a wide audience and people loved that I was giving them permission to get tipsy on a Tuesday. I wasn’t getting tipsy though.

For me, it wasn’t two vodka sodas. It was 10. It was a way to – pun intended – black out my personal life and what was happening within my marriage. I was a pro at compartmentalizing and was always able to show up for my audience – no one knew what was happening behind the scenes until one night when I was on a live call in my not-yet-born daughter’s nursery with some of my clients and my ex-husband came home in a (common) drunken rage. 

I don’t fully remember what happened that night, thanks to my body’s go-to dissociation response, but I do remember three things:

  1. It was horrifying. 
  2. I was humiliated. 
  3. I tried covering it up, as usual. 

After the call, a client reached out to me and asked me if I was safe, and I knew this was the first time I wasn’t going to be able to cover it. And as devastating as this was, it was also the first time I realized this didn’t have to be my life. I was choosing it. 

In 2020, six months after my daughter was born, I was making enough money in my business to continue paying the lease at the apartment I shared with my ex-husband while renting a townhome for my daughter and I. Today, I have custody of my daughter and am safe. 

I’ve never told this story, but I wanted to tell it here because “just starting” that little business carved a way out for my daughter and I, that I never, ever would created if I didn’t have the guts – or the push – to just start. 

It’s been four years since I met Lauryn in LA, and since then I’ve worked with over 7,000 clients, have certified over 40 dietitians in my weight loss coaching method, and this year I wrote a book. I’ll be honest, writing a book wasn’t something I ever had the desire to do, but with 80 million women in America trying to lose weight at any given time, I didn’t feel I had a choice. Seven thousand women just wasn’t enough. 

Calories in, calories out is doctrine in the weight loss world because it works beautifully in a controlled environment using metabolically healthy adults.

But the problem here is two-fold:

The Metabolism Makeover
Megan on metabolic health

  1. Only 12% of American adults are considered metabolically healthy. 
  2. We live in the real world, not a laboratory setting. 

Weight loss gurus have been screaming “calorie deficit” for decades, yet we’ve seen a 30% increase in obesity in the past 30 years. So, what gives? 

This is an extremely complex topic and I don’t have all the answers, and I can tell you what I do know, but first let’s back up to twelve years ago when I was studying to be a dietitian.

I was learning how to help people with food and their weight, but there was nothing in this world I struggled with more than food and my weight. You see, what we were learning in school was exactly what diet culture is teaching you – 1200 calorie diets, 60-90 minutes of cardio a day, eat this, not that. What I was learning completely distorted my own relationship with food and over the course of five years, I gained 25 pounds while destroying my body with the binge-restrict cycle, hours at the gym, and every type of diet, cleanse, or detox known to man. 

It wasn’t until after college when I really dug into my own research, and lost the 25 pounds I had gained, that it hit me – 

We are not math equations.

If anything, we’re biology projects and our metabolic health is a far better predictor of our weight and how we feel everyday than how many calories we’re eating. 

When we think about metabolism, the first thing we think about is weight. Slow metabolism? Weight gain. Fast metabolism? Weight loss. But our metabolism is simply how the body uses calories to function. When we consume food, that food is broken down into molecules that the body utilizes to make energy, and then that energy is used to, essentially, keep the body doing what it’s supposed to do to keep us alive. When we consume more calories than our body is able to use, they are stored as fat. 

Instead of thinking about metabolism as being “fast” or “slow” I like to think about it as being efficient or inefficient. When we say that we have a “slow metabolism” what we really mean is our bodies are not efficiently utilizing all the calories we consume. This may be because we’re overconsuming, but it may also mean that something is not quite right in the body that is causing it to underutilize calories. 

When we say we have a “fast metabolism” it generally means that our body is doing an A+ job utilizing the calories we consume.

Instead of staying hyper focused on calories, let’s make sure our metabolisms are working as efficiently as possible. Not only is this a more effective approach, but your metabolic health is a key player in both your lifespan and healthspan. A “sluggish metabolism” is not only an obstacle to weight loss, it can determine if you live until your 60, 80, or 100. 

You don’t have to read a textbook on human metabolism to understand it though.

There are six key pillars that play a role in contributing to a healthy metabolism and you have direct control over all six of them:

  1. Blood sugar control
  2. Muscle
  3. Movement
  4. Good sleep
  5. Stress management
  6. A healthy gut

I can’t get into all six today, but if you were my client, I can already tell you where I’d have you start because it’s the same with all clients – blood sugar control. So let’s discuss. 

Now don’t get me wrong – food quality is incredibly important for metabolic health. Eating an abundance of nutrients through fruits, vegetables, and high-quality animal products is key. But when I start working with someone who is drinking coffee and a banana for breakfast, a salad for lunch, and 3 tacos, rice, beans, chips, queso, and 3 margs for dinner, the first place we have to start is blood sugar control before we go anywhere else. 

Controlling blood sugar has a downstream effect on your energy levels, period health, digestion, inflammation levels, sleep, cravings, hormone balance, and just about anything else you can think of. 

The way I teach blood sugar control is through a handy acronym, PHFF – Protein, Healthy Fat, and Fiber.

You want to make sure you’re including each of these nutrients at every meal to keep blood sugar balanced. When your blood sugar is imbalanced, spiking up (like, after that coffee and banana breakfast) and crashing down, not only does it cause irregular energy levels but that crash effect will also trigger your brain to ask for more sugar to bring blood sugar levels back up. This is where cravings, “I just need a snack,” and “gimme all the carbs” feelings start to come in. SO it’s not that you can’t eat carbs – or even that banana – it’s just that we want to include the protein, healthy fat,  and fiber along with them. 

Megan Hansen health tips
Megan Hansen healthy living

So in the case of that banana, that might look like pairing it with a couple of hard boiled eggs and collagen in your coffee for protein, a little peanut butter for fat, and a sprinkle of chia seeds for some fiber. Sure – it’s more calories. But it’s also not going to put you on a blood sugar roller coaster all day and it’s going to provide you with enough food so that you’re not inhaling Mexican food at 6 PM. 

Let’s breakdown some examples of PHFF: 

Protein: chicken, beef, eggs, seafood, Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, collagen, high-quality protein powder

Plant based protein:  tofu, tempeh, nuts, seeds, beans, and lentils

Healthy Fat: avocado, avocado oil, olives, nuts, nut butter, olive oil, butter, coconut milk, coconut, coconut oil, cheese

Fiber: vegetables, fruit, chia seeds, flax, acacia fiber, inulin, psyllium husk

Animal proteins are preferred protein sources as they contain all 9 essential amino acids (with the exception of collagen) and protein is the dominant macronutrient in these foods. Plant-based proteins dominant macronutrients are fats (in the case of nuts for example) and carbohydrates (in the base of beans and lentils) so just keep that in mind if you consume your protein through plant sources. 

The best part about starting to include protein, healthy fat, and fiber at every meal is how you’re going to feel.

It’s not uncommon to magically drop that second cup of coffee and 3:00 snack craving. You’ll also begin to have so much more confidence in yourself and your food decisions because it won’t be based on plugging numbers into an app or choosing the “right” or “wrong” food. It’s so empowering to start to understand how your body works and it allows YOU to take your power back from food and the diet industry. 

This mindset shift is so important, too, because if you’re eating to balance your blood sugar – aka if you’re eating to feel good – it’ll lead to far more consistency than trying to follow a set of rules you hate. And we all know consistency = results. 

I’d love to meet you on Instagram where you can find me most often @megan.the.dietitian and if you’re ready to nerd out with easy to digest metabolism science, pick up my book Metabolism Makeover and head to @themetabolismmakeover on IG where we put out fun, educational content every single day. That account is run by one of my wonderful dietitians, Elle, so go say hi! 

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Be sure to check out The Metabolism Makeover and follow Megan here & here on IG for so many quick tips. 

x, The Skinny Confidential team.

+ learn how to make your own sourdough bread at home.

++ stalk this recipe for turmeric golden milk.

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