The metabolism is often viewed as the body’s mysterious chemical equation when it comes to weight gain and loss. Like chemistry, it confounds many of us, especially when factors like illness or menopause are added in.

“In actuality, the body’s metabolism naturally adjusts itself to meet the needs of our individual bodies. It doesn’t actually cause us to gain or lose weight. It is possible to manipulate our metabolism to a degree, and often a small change may help in weight loss efforts,” said Kamraan Madhani, MD, a medical weight loss specialist with Hartford HealthCare.

Am I eligible for weight loss surgery?

Start hereCall 855.792.6258

Healthy weight loss starts with the same basic tenets:

  • Sticking to the daily caloric intake your body requires (a number determined by you and your provider)
  • Following a regular exercise plan
  • Enjoying things like processed sugars and alcohol in moderation

But, explains Dr. Madhani, understanding the truth behind metabolism – including how it works and the factors that impact it – makes navigating weigh loss much easier.

> Want more health news? Text StartHere to 85209 to sign up for text alerts

Here are five common metabolism myths, debunked by an expert:

You can’t control your metabolism.

Menopause and its related hormone shifts might make women feel they’ve lost control of their metabolism, but Dr. Madhani said focusing on what you eat and how you exercise greatly impacts your body’s functioning. Working with a medical weight loss specialist can also help you focus on meeting your body’s vitamin and mineral needs, especially the metabolism-boosting magnesium.

Superfoods drive metabolism.

Foods like fish, berries and leafy greens have many benefits for your body, but it is important to consider the other determinants of weight including caloric balance, macronutrients, physical activity and life’s stressors, Dr. Madhani said. Consuming too much of any food, even healthy ones, is never a good idea.

Fasting helps increase metabolism.

Any weight loss that results from fasting is generally short-term, except practices like intermittent fasting, when done regularly and over the long term, Dr. Madhani said. In fact, fasting can decrease the metabolism and research shows that those who fast are more likely to add weight in the long run.

Metabolism stays the same as we age.

Women know this isn’t true, but perhaps the most interesting fact here, Dr. Madhani said, is that our need for calories naturally decreases as we age, especially if we’re sedentary.

Six meals a day is the way to go.

Eating smaller meals more often can keep you from feeling hungry and binging, but there is no clear correlation between more frequent eating and increased metabolism, Dr. Madhani said.