I first heard about Metabolic Balance and the concept of 'personalised nutrition' back in 2018, when I was attending a natural medicine conference. I was instantly intrigued, both by the name and the idea of finding the foods that suit each individual person - and made a mental note at the time to look into the program at a later stage as a possible treatment option to help improve the health of my current and future clients. As it turned out, the chaos of 2020 and all the pandemic brought with it - lockdowns and unexpected extra free time whilst my clinic was closed - turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as it gave me the opportunity to complete the certification in the Metabolic Balance method.
I was also very interested in the program from a personal point of view. As someone who has always struggled with their metabolism and found it easy to gain weight (despite being a qualified nutritionist!). Now that I am in my (mid) forties, things certainly aren’t getting any easier - in fact, my weight had crept up to the point where I was heavier than I had been when pregnant with twins! Plus I just wanted to ensure that I was taking a proactive approach to my health and wellbeing going forward.
I was very excited to have the chance to experience this world-famous program for myself, and figured it would provide me with invaluable first-hand insight into how my clients would feel when they embarked on their own journey. After telling my husband about the program, he decided he would jump on board too, as he had been experiencing the dreaded mid-life creeping weight gain.
What Is Metabolic Balance?
If you are not familiar with Metabolic Balance then let me enlighten you! The program originated in Germany, and is based around science and common sense – two things that I am a fan of! Metabolic Balance is all about personalising your nutrition, rather than using a one-size-fits-all approach to health. By using your unique blood test results, the program helps find the foods that suit your body best – as well as giving guidance as to the ideal portion sizes and food combinations that are going to be best for you (no, it's nothing like either the 'blood type' diet or the 'food combining' diets!) In fact, the very best thing about Metabolic Balance, in my opinion, it that it is NOT actually a diet at all – it is a lifestyle plan that is designed to correct the underlying reasons you have gained weight in the first place – so you have the knowledge about what works for your body, in order to maintain your ideal weight and optimal health for life. Sounds good, huh?
July 2020: Before the Leap…
Getting ready for the program had me somewhat apprehensive. After all – I didn't know which foods were actually going to come up on my personalised foods list – and which ones were not going to be there! Was the program going to be really difficult, time-consuming or stressful? How was I going to juggle shopping and creating meals that fit my personalised plan when we had 5 adults in the house (which later became 6) and I was running a clinic?
I decided that I would keep an open mind and take a ‘wait and see’ approach, as well as being prepared to give new foods a try. After all, we do tend to get 'set in our ways' when it comes to our food, don’t we? I certainly found that I would often buy the same foods week in, week out, and have the same recipes on repeat quite frequently. I also promised myself that I would prioritise time to plan meals to make the process as simple and stress-free as possible.
Hubby’s main concern with doing the program was the fact that he’d have to do without beer for a little while! I also admit to enjoying a lovely Sauvignon Blanc or three – however this had become a habit that had crept in a bit too often (and like many others, our alcohol consumption had increased with the initial lockdown). As we moved through the phases, we knew we would be able to reintroduce beer (or red wine) in moderate quantities and establish a healthier relationship with alcohol. We also took the view that embarking on the program would be a great chance for us both to actually notice how we felt 'going dry' for a while.
20th July 2020: Blood Tests & Assessments:
The first step in the program was to have a fasting blood test, to find out the 36 markers that would be used as the basis of our plan, to match our biochemistry to our ideal foods. Hubby and I went and did this the morning after I completed my coaching certification. Unfortunately he forgot that he was supposed to be fasting for 8-12 hours prior to the test and ate a Freddo Frog at midnight, which meant that he had to wait a bit to have his blood sample taken!
As I knew our pathology results would take a day or two to come back, I decided to look at what I could do to start getting ready for the program to make the transition into eating Metabolic-Balance-style easier. One of the key aspects of the program is drinking enough water – and while I always ask my patients about how much they drink, when I calculated my own water needs, I certainly wasn’t drinking anywhere near enough water! So I began making a conscious effort to increase my water intake so that it wouldn’t be such a drastic change when I officially started the program.
I also knew that Phase 1 of Metabolic Balance involves a cleanse (or as we call it, a 2-day detox) – which meant no coffee! To reduce my chances of adverse effects from caffeine withdrawal during this upcoming phase, I gradually decreasing my coffee intake in anticipation.
Hubby and I also took our pre-program measurements – our weight, waist, hip and thigh circumference. Then we worked out our goal weights that we felt were achievable and realistic to maintain.
23rd July 2020
We received the results of our blood tests within a few days, which were very insightful! As I hardly ever need to go to a doctor, I hadn’t had any tests for years, so I was surprised to see that I actually had borderline high cholesterol. My vitamin D was also on the low side, which was unexpected, as I aim to get some sunshine daily. Obtaining this information about my levels was really useful as it meant I could easily calculate the best (and safest!) dosage of vitamin D that I needed to bring my levels up to a healthy range. Hubby had a few things out of balance on his test too – so not only was the blood test necessary to create our personalised nutrition plan, it also gave me some really great info about our overall health. Our tests were performed through a private lab, and I love the fact that they provide you with info on what all the test results mean, as well as a visual of where the results sit on the range so that they are easy to understand.
Once our blood test results were entered into the system, our plans were created by Metabolic Balance headquarters in Germany - and they made for interesting reading! I’ve always known that cow’s dairy doesn’t suit me (yet I do still eat it from time to time!) – unsurprisingly, there was no cow’s dairy included on my plan. Yet apparently it agrees with my husband, as his plan included plain yoghurt and a couple of cheese options. There were also quite a lot of foods on my list that I did enjoy (including a lot of veggie varieties that I like to grow in my garden) as well as some foods that I really had never considered trying! I figured it would be interesting to give some of these a go. On our plan we were also provided with our ideal portion sizes and meal suggestions, and we were free to use herbs and spices to jazz things up.
Our next step was to start actively planning our meals, so that we knew we are sticking to our foods lists and not leaving things to the last minute (because we all know how THAT ends, am I right?!).
We also downloaded the Metabolic Balance app, which is free to use, so that we could have our foods list with us when we were out and about. This was a really handy bonus.
27th July 2020
Whilst we were doing our best to get off to a great start, as it turned out, a family function got rescheduled back a week, so my husband opted not to start his plan at the same time I did (so he could enjoy a 'last beer'). This actually ended up being a blessing in disguise, as it gave me more time to focus on myself – something I’m not always good at!
Phase 1 of the program is called the ‘Preparation Phase’ and simply involves 2 days of eating lightly, with a gentle bowel cleanse. I made sure I set aside these 2 days as much as I could to just relax and chill out. I enjoyed a breakfast of eggs, a lovely hot soup for lunch and stir-fried vegies for dinner – nothing too overwhelming. The main difficulty I found with this phase was having to go without coffee for a couple of days!
Other than feeling a little flat and developing a mild headache by the end of the 2nd day, this phase was easy to do.
Now onto Phase 2!
29th July 2020
I was excited to move into Phase 2 (which is known as the Strict Conversion Phase). This is where we say that 'the magic happens' – I would be feeding my body the foods that are most ideal for it to provide a full range of nutrients to help reset my metabolism.
I won’t lie – this phase did require a bit of forethought and planning, to ensure I was eating the right things, and wasn't grabbing food on the fly. But I tried to be as proactive as possible – such as buying chicken breast and portioning it out to freeze in case I need a quick go-to, and making batches of filling soups to freeze so that I can have a meal ready in a jiffy.
31st July 2020
By Day 5, I was quite surprised to realise that I hadn't felt hungry or deprived. I’d been able to enjoy a wide variety of foods and was able to spice up my meals with flavours such as curry powder, garlic and fresh herbs. And I got coffee back! The only thing I was missing at this point was some oils (these are restricted for the first couple of weeks) however I knew that I would be able to start to re-introduce oils (flaxseed, ghee and coconut oil were the ones that are best for my body) in just over week.
Strenuous exercise is actually not recommended during the initial phases of the program (hooray!) so I enjoyed some gentle yoga instead of heading to the gym.
4th August 2020
After completing my first week of the program, I was keen to see how my body had responded.
Weight Released: 4.2kg
Measurements: I’d lost 6cm from around my waist, which is fantastic. Storing weight around the waist increases risk of chronic disease, and using your waist circumference is one of the best ways to monitor your health, and your degree of insulin resistance (which makes it easier for you to store fat instead of burning it). For women, the high-risk category for waist circumference is over 88cm, and for men this is over 102cm. During the COVID lockdown, with the help of some extra home-cooked treats I’d managed to creep up into the high-risk category, but this measurement was 86cm which has already brought me down to the medium level. The low-risk category of under 80cm was not too far away…
Foods enjoyed: The first 2 weeks of Phase 2 are the strictest out of the entire program, however on the whole I didn't feel deprived. I love cheese, and while cow’s dairy products were not on my list, I was able to use sheep’s feta as well as goat’s cream cheese (Aldi have a great one!). I made a very tasty baked feta using zucchini and cherry tomatoes, mixed with some fresh oregano and thyme from my garden. I also tried the traditional German breakfast known as ‘mandelade’ – which sounds posh but is really just some soaked almonds and sunflower seeds mixed with a grated apple and topped with cinnamon (see pic below). Mmmmmm! The program really was simply 3 meals a day of real food, and the right water.
10th August 2020
My second week of the program ran quite smoothly – by this point I was familiar with how I should eat and had finally mastered the habit of drinking enough water throughout the day.
Weight Released (total so far) 5.8kg
Measurements to date: 7cm off my waist, 2cm off my hips. By this point I definitely had started to notice a difference in how my clothes were fitting!
Foods enjoyed: This week I enjoyed a beautifully cooked steak, as well as some grilled chicken, and because the weather had been cool I whipped up a smoky chickpea and pumpkin soup in my slow cooker.
Other benefits: This week was the point at which I noticed a boost to my mental health. I felt clearer, happier and my sleep had been sound.
17th August 2020
Week 3 saw me really getting into the swing of the program – and it got a lot easier over time! I didn't feel hungry, nor did I experience any cravings. I’d been enjoying some foods that appeared on my foods list that I normally wouldn’t have tried (such as kohlrabi and scallops).
Weight Released (total): 8.1kg
Measurements to date: 10cm off my waist, 7cm off my hips.
2nd September 2020
Weight Released (total) Just under 10kg!
Foods enjoyed: By the time I'd completed 4 weeks of Phase 2, I got the opportunity to enjoy a ‘treat meal’ – a deviation from the plan, and a chance to challenge my metabolism with foods that I hadn't eaten for over a month. Strangely enough, my tastes had adapted to the new foods I was eating, and I could actually take or leave having a treat meal! We happened to be heading out of town over the weekend to visit my parents who were holidaying at the coast, so it was good to know we could all go out for dinner or lunch easily.
By this point, I had released a total of 14kg, and had gotten to a point where I was feeling comfortable in my skin once more. In fact, I was able to donate heaps of my old clothes to charity as they had become too big! I was also able to fit into quite a few of my old dresses and jeans that I hadn't worn for years. That feeling alone was priceless!
Hubby and I went away on a week’s holiday to Cairns, and I’m pleased to say that we were able to use what we had learnt from following our plan, to enjoy ourselves and not gain any weight. The program has allowed us to eat well but also reserve some flexibility for treat meals and indulgences. What we both noticed was that our bodies coped better with this interval than they normally would have.
Weight Released (total) 14kg!
A Health Update: 28th April 2021
Out of curiosity, I decided to have some follow-up blood tests done, to see what changes may have occurred in my results compared to before starting the program.
I was very happy to see that my cholesterol levels had improved! Not only had my HDL (‘good’ cholesterol) increased, my LDL (‘bad’ cholesterol) had decreased, and my overall result had reduced.
Total cholesterol – down from 5.6 to 4.9
HDL (protective) – increased from 1.35 to 1.55
LDL (increases risk) – reduced from 3.63 to 2.80
I also noticed improvements in my inflammatory markers, and my thyroid function – both of these moved from the ‘okay’ range to the ‘optimal’ range.
One year on, I'd been able to easily maintain my weight, and the new habits I'd learnt from my plan had simply become a way of life. My journey in 2020 taught me so much about how to eat, and which foods agree with my body the best. But I'd also been able to safely include plenty of food and drink options that weren't originally on my foods list - by staying mindful and listening to my body's inner signals when it tells me what it likes (and what it doesn't!).
I celebrated another 'win' during this time. Our son was getting married, and I needed to select a 'mother of the groom' outfit. And it was a completely different experience to what it would have been before I started my program. I was able to walk straight into a shop, pick a size 14 off the rack, and it fit perfectly. If I had still been carrying an extra 14kg, I KNOW I would have felt really uncomfortable, and I would most likely have felt limited to styles that were frumpy, unflattering or that made me feel old. And who wants that when you know you are going to be in most of the wedding photos!
As it turned out, the only difficulty I experienced was that I actually found TWO perfect dresses - and couldn't decide between them. So I got both!
Now that it's been 2.5 years since I embarked on my own Metabolic Balance plan, I am still loving the effects! My weight has stayed quite stable (within a couple of kg's) and if I do find that things go off-track (hello, Christmas break!), I know exactly what I need to do to quickly bring things back into balance.
The program has also helped me to look at my health differently. Whilst I have always exercised, now I view movement as a way to manage stress, maintain bone strength and to stay strong as I get older - rather than hitting the gym to 'burn calories'. I've learnt to listen to my body a lot more - not only with food, but also work-life balance, relationships and self-development. So in a way, Metabolic Balance has been the catalyst for a new era of self-care.
One thing that really stands out to me these days is how differently I dress now. Whilst I am (obviously) not stick-thin, I feel comfortable in my clothes, I wear a lot more short/younger styles and can generally find options that fit perfectly rather than being pre-occupied with trying to hide my body. And that, my friends, is what it's ALL about!
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