Ep #180: Breaking Down Metabolic Health

By: Dr. Sherry Price

Health, Habits, and Epic Living with Dr. Sherry Price | Breaking Down Metabolic Health

Optimal metabolic health plays a crucial role in our longevity and in how we function and feel in our bodies.

And the number of Americans today who are metabolically unhealthy is staggering and alarming.

Being metabolically unhealthy leads to a much higher risk of developing heart disease, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, and other chronic conditions. 

In this episode, you’ll learn some of the misconceptions about what contributes to metabolic syndrome and the criteria for measuring metabolical health.   Empower yourself to know your risk and what you can do to reverse it.

This is more than creating health; it’s leading you on your path to creating OPTIMAL health.  Now that’s epic.


If you want to learn how to eat for fuel and meet your health goals, come join EpicYOU!


What You’ll Learn in this Episode:

  • A common misconception around weight and weight loss.
  • The role your liver plays in metabolic health and metabolic syndrome. 
  • Understanding how the food you eat contributes or protects you from being metabolic healthy.


Featured on the Show:


Welcome to the Health, Habits, and Epic Living podcast. I’m your host, Dr. Sherry Price. The goal of this podcast is to educate and enable empowered women to take the next steps towards achieving their health, wellness, and lifestyle goals. Let’s get started.

Hello, my beautiful friend. I am excited to be with you today. So I’ve been traveling a lot and most recently I went on a trip to Florida to a hormone conference. And I learned so much about the do’s and the don’ts of using hormones for women as they navigate perimenopause and menopause. And I just want to tell you, I was so fired up during that meeting, such new data that’s been out. Ladies, do yourself justice and get educated on this, particularly if you are in that perimenopause, menopause age.

Because there was one study that was done in 2002 that just totally scared the whole medical community away from using hormones. And yes, that study was misrepresented and misconstrued. And there’s so much more data that has come out even in that same trial, showing the protective benefits of using estrogen. And as you heard from some of the experts that I’ve brought on the podcast, it’s using the right type of estrogen and using a formulation that’s specific for the goals that you have in mind.

So I’m so excited to bring this information into my community and educate women. I know that there are some women in EpicYOU that really want to learn more about this and I can’t wait to fill them in. And I look forward to addressing their concerns around hormones so they can make the best decision for themselves.

But today I’m very excited to talk about a different topic that is about your metabolic health. And I’m excited about it because metabolic health is critical, man, woman, young, old, whatever age, whatever ethnicity, whatever your background, your genes, or anything else. Metabolic health is something that is critical for not only our longevity, but how we feel and how we function. And so this is a term that gets tossed around a lot.

And so I really wanted to dedicate a full podcast to breaking down what is metabolic health. And if I am metabolically unhealthy or unwell, how can I reverse that? So recent studies show us that 88% of Americans are metabolically unhealthy. They’re metabolically ill. They have metabolic dysfunction. And there has been newer data to even say that number is as high as 93% and this number keeps rising over time. So it’s getting to the point where we need to really do something about metabolic disorder if so many of us are experiencing it.

And why it’s important is because this is a symptom or a syndrome that highly correlates to heart disease, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, and other forms of disease. So when you have some metabolic dysfunction going on, you are basically walking around with the vessel or an environment that sets you up for greater risk of these diseases. Now, I want to unpack this because it’s poorly misunderstood, sometimes even in the medical community and certainly by the lay public.

And so I want you to have this information so that you know how to best care for your body and your health. And here is a common misconception. It was one that I had as well until I got more educated on this. Many people think that if you have a normal weight that you do not have metabolic dysfunction. If you look thin on the outside you are fine on the inside and that is always not the case.

So in our culture, we are obsessed with weight, particularly women. They’re obsessed with how much they weigh. And they think that that correlates directly to health. And while weight is a metric, it’s not necessarily the most important metric to be looking at to determine your health, your longevity, and how long you’re going to live. So just by looking at somebody, you can’t tell if they are metabolically healthy or not. So if you are a normal weight woman, it doesn’t mean that you aren’t metabolically unhealthy.

And if you are overweight, similarly, it doesn’t automatically say you are metabolically unhealthy. Actually, there’s a term, MHO, metabolically healthy obese person. They have a normal lifespan. They have normal length telomeres, which is a marker of health and longevity. And it happens that they just have more subcutaneous fat and not a lot of the dangerous fat, the visceral fat. So when you measure their visceral fat, they’re metabolically healthy. And they don’t have any of the other risk factors that constitute metabolic syndrome.

So I think this is a common misconception that I want just to set the record straight. So if we look at somebody’s weight, I hope you’re seeing that that is not correlative in all cases to mean that someone is metabolically unhealthy. So as I mentioned, there’s the term MHO that talks about metabolically healthy obese patients.

There’s also TOFI which stands for a thin outside fat inside. And that’s used to describe lean individuals who have a disproportionate amount of visceral fat or fatty tissue, particularly in their abdomen. And that’s the worst kind, the belly fat, the fat around our organs, that’s the visceral fat.

And as I mentioned on last week’s podcast and other podcasts, that’s the most dangerous kind of fat, because that sets us up for metabolic resistance. That sets us up for increasing our cortisol, which we’ll probably talk about in another future podcast. And it sets us up for type 2 diabetes, heart disease, different forms of cancer and so forth. And why I wanted to spend a whole episode talking about this is because it’s rampant. It is rampant and I want to give you tools to empower yourself so you can take charge of your health.

You can take charge of how you feel, your longevity, your mobility, your agility, how able you are to get up off the floor when you’re in your 70s and your 80s and play with grandkids. And carry your luggage and open jars and all the meaningful things that lead to one classifying having a successful epic life. So metabolic health is in a state of crisis in our country and of course worldwide, but we’re just going to focus on our country here.

And since I just described how you can’t look at somebody and tell if they’re metabolically healthy or not. I want to really go into the criteria which look at how we define somebody as metabolically healthy. So when you have three or more of these criteria, that means you have metabolic syndrome. So that criteria includes these parameters, one, your triglycerides, so triglycerides above 150, that’s metabolically unhealthy.

Another parameter is your high density lipoprotein, your HDL. If you are a woman and that is below 50, that is another criteria now that you have metabolic disease. Another criteria is blood pressure, we want that to be normal off medication. Another criteria is your blood glucose, mainly your fasting blood sugar or your fasting blood glucose. And we want that to be less than 100.

And finally, your waist circumference. And as a woman your waist circumference, because that’s your waist, that’s measuring body and belly fat. And so we want that number to be less than 35 inches for females, less than 40 for males, less than 35 for females. Now, I give you this criteria to empower you so that you measure this and pay attention to these parameters, because these directly impact if you are at risk of developing metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, obesity.

Some of these factors have been causative for other conditions. We talked about non-alcoholic fatty liver disease last week. They can contribute to autoimmune disorders and of course your risk for heart attacks, strokes and cerebral vascular disease. So now that we’ve defined what really defines metabolic syndrome. We know that there are a lot of risk factors. Ethnicity is one. Age is a big one. The older you are, the more likely it is for you to develop metabolic syndrome. A family history of diabetes, smoking.

A history of heavy drinking. And I think that one gets overlooked a lot because we just normalize alcohol in our society. It seems everybody drinks on Fridays and Saturdays and nobody really counts their drinks. We just keep drinking until the fun or the event is over. But really not monitoring your drinking has the same risk as not monitoring what you put in your mouth for food. It’s like saying once the event starts, I get to eat and eat and eat and eat and eat until the event is over.

That’s how some people look at alcohol. They go to a gala or they hang out with friends and they start drinking right when they get there and they continue drinking. And my glass is empty and I’m not thirsty for another one, but now it’s time to go, it’s 11:00 o’clock, now, that’s when I stop drinking. So we have to be careful because heavy drinking is not that many glasses as we talked about on a previous episode.

Another surprising factor, particularly I’m finding amongst women that I’m helping is stress. They don’t know that stress has a huge impact on weight gain and particularly chronic stress, acute stress our body is able to handle. We came from our ancestors who ran away from tigers and lions and they were like, “We avoided that stress.” So our bodies are meant to handle acute stress. They are not meant to handle the chronic stress of daily modern living.

And I talk about openly to my community of how I tested my cortisol levels and found, wow, I was chronically stressed. And here I thought I have a pretty good life, it’s not too stressful. I get lots of time for things to de-stress me, but it wasn’t enough, particularly as I’m entering perimenopause and menopause, we become less stress resilient in these years.

Also, postpartum is a big time for women to be more stressed as their hormones recalibrate, after they have stopped breast feeding. And now they’ve got little ones at home, sometimes two, sometimes three, and they have to do all the activities of before the kids came. They find themselves over-stressed, chronically stressed and depleted. And this can cause weight gain and metabolic syndrome in those women.

Another risk factor, being post menopause because you don’t have the protective effects of all those hormones that you once had. And so being post menopause is certainly a risk factor for metabolic dysfunction. A high fat diet, and I’m even going to throw in some other ones here that you’ll want to listen to all the way till the end that aren’t really talked about a lot in the scientific literature in terms of the Mayo Clinic or doctor Google that we go and search.

But if you really look at the clinical trials, I’m like, “Why are they missing these?” These are so key and they directly cause metabolic syndrome and we know that, we have causative data. And another one is a sedentary lifestyle, not moving our bodies enough. And again we have to counteract what modern day society looks like. A lot of us may have desk jobs or might be sitting a lot. And so our ancestors didn’t do that. They were out roaming for food and out plowing the fields and out working and so they were constantly in movement and we are not.

We are saying, “Oh my gosh, we can’t even get 60 minutes of movement in a day for some people.” So movement is a big thing. So having a sedentary lifestyle sets us up for not being as metabolically healthy as we should. So those are some of the risk factors and I’m going to get into a few more here in a bit.

But at this point, I really want to stop and say something important because I said something very important in the beginning, which was your weight, if you notice, was not one of the criteria for metabolic syndrome. And it is impossible to look at somebody and know if they are metabolically healthy or not, by just the outside. We have to do that with studying the labs, measuring their blood pressure, measuring their blood sugar, measuring their waist circumference. That’s how we know.

Now, of course, the more criteria you have, the more metabolically sick you become, or the more metabolically sick you currently are. But the good news about this is much of this is reversible. Much of this is reversible without medication. And I know as a pharmacist, sometimes when I was counseling patients, they’re like, “I don’t want to take more medication. I can’t afford my medication. I don’t want to be on more medication, it makes me feel old.”

Well, one thing you can do now is start helping yourself so you don’t have to go on long term medication. And I’m not dissing medication. I believe there is a role and a purpose for that. But I also believe that we have the power to do lifestyle interventions that really make a big difference on the trajectory of our health, not just today, but for decades to come. And so metabolic syndrome and having metabolic health, I want you to know, has nothing to do with the amount of calories you are consuming. This has been shown in study after study after study. This is not about the amount of calories.

And so last week I talked about calories in versus calories out. That formula does not work for humans in terms of weight loss and metabolic health. I talked about it in my newsletter over the past week. It’s not about calories in versus calories out. That formula will not set you up for success. But I will say, it’s more about the type of food you are consuming. That has much more to do with if you develop or have or continue to have metabolic syndrome.

Because metabolic syndrome is really about your liver being able to break down what you give it. It’s about your liver’s mitochondria to work right, to process the food, which is basically energy, that you are feeding your body. And it helps to break it down so you can metabolize it and get rid of the things you don’t want, including fat and chemicals and pesticides and all the crap that’s now in our food. And really retain all the nutrients that keep your cells not only surviving but thriving. And that is the definition of health.

Notice it’s not a BMI. It’s not a certain weight. It’s if your cells are able to do the job that they came here to do. And your liver has so much to do with your metabolic rate and how healthy you are metabolically. So as I mentioned, you want to know these parameters, these particular five are critical to knowing how you are doing with your health. Because these are going to give us a picture of if insulin resistance were there, we’re in it, or if we’re at already pre diabetes or we’re already at type 2 diabetes.

And if that’s the case, we are going to have inherently reduced physical activity because our body is not going to be able to utilize glucose and the energy as efficiently as if we didn’t have these disease processes going on. So this reduced insulin sensitivity sets us up for higher abdominal adiposity, which just means belly fat. And also a more atherogenic lipid load, which means our cholesterol starts to go up, particularly the triglycerides.

Now, there are other factors that are really important, like ApoB and other levels but I’m not going to talk about those on today’s podcast. And so when you get this abdominal obesity, when you get this increased triglyceride load, your liver will develop more fat. And as we talked about, fat around our organs is considered visceral fat. And then you get fat in the organ, which is equally as bad. And so that’s what constitutes non-alcoholic fatty liver disease as we talked about last week.

And one of the big things that leads to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, particularly in people that are thin on the outside, have visceral fat on the inside, is the overconsumption of fructose. So that was not a risk factor that was identified in many of the doctor Google searches out there. But an increased risk of fructose really increases liver fat and really increases visceral fat. And this is also associated with increased risk of inflammation that’s associated with increased cortisol release because these things, these substances are considered a stressor for your body.

According to the National Institute of Health, fructose consumption leads to an increased risk of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. And this is a condition where the body stores too much fat in the liver cells. And then when the liver gets maxed, it sends it out to the visceral tissue. And so as you are thinking about the foods you’re consuming, it’s really important to know, does it contain fructose?

And we know one of the most dangerous ingredients is high fructose corn syrup. This is corn syrup that has been modified to increase the amount of fructose. So it has more fructose than table sugar, which is glucose. So if you just have table sugar, it’s 50% glucose, 50% fructose. So your table sugar contains fructose. Now, when you concentrate it and you have high fructose corn syrup, when you modify that corn syrup, it has a lower amount of glucose and a much higher amount of fructose.

It’s cheaper, it increases shelf life, it’s addictive. And so of course the industry wants to put more of that in their products. But what do we know about fructose? What did we just discuss here? It’s damaging to the liver. It increases adipocytes. It increases the fat cells inside of our liver and it increases the fat cells outside of the liver. It leads to insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, strokes and the sequela.

Alright, so that is the primer on metabolic disease. There’s so much more I can go into, but I wanted to start off with the basics. I wanted you to have a good sense of, if I want to really care about my health and my metabolic health, meaning how I process energy in my body. If it’s highly efficient, you are going to process and have a higher metabolic rate. And it’s going to be easier to maintain a healthy weight.

When you have metabolic dysfunction, it’s more difficult to process food and energy as we described by just the liver, we didn’t even get into the other organs that may struggle. And we didn’t even get into all the inflammation that is created in the body from these substances and why we get achy and joint pain over time, particularly as we age. But really just dialing into these five key metrics that you want to stay on top of.

No matter what your age is, no matter what the body type you inhabit, you really owe it to yourself to know how do I perform on these five markers? And as we discussed, if they are elevated, they could be reversed. What great news is that? So a healthy habit for you is to know your labs, particularly these five. There are others, but these five will get you started to metabolic health and get them tested routinely.

I’ve recently had mine retested because I get them tested routinely and on my most recent I had triglycerides of 41, which is amazing, and it wasn’t always that low. It was higher in the past and I’m like, “Wow, I’m starting to trend towards metabolically unhealthy in my triglycerides. Let me change my diet so I can reverse that number. I can bring it down. My HDL used to be higher, but now it’s a little lower, it’s at 70, but it’s still above 50.

And then blood sugar. This is a big one. Your fasting blood sugar should definitely be below 100. And some of the experts will even say these numbers are too high. It should be below 90. Mine was recently 83, but again it wasn’t always there. I worked to get it lower. Some experts say even the triglycerides above 150, way too high. We need to bring that number down less than 100 and some experts even say less than that.

So when I’m working with my clients and they’re like, “I really want to get metabolically healthy, help me do that.” And they come to the table with their labs, we can pinpoint exactly what we need to do based on what their lab work and their blood work shows. Now, some women hire me privately because they want to really focus in on themselves and they really want to dial this in and they want that personalized attention. But we also talk about this stuff in Tone in 10 and we talk about it inside of EpicYOU.

And just in February last month, we spent the whole month looking at how to lose weight. And we really talked about those concepts that don’t serve us like calories in equals calories out. And how counting calories is not the best metric or the best formula to get the results if you’re wanting to lose visceral fat. And we talked about eating the right types of food, the right types of macros, and getting enough minerals in because we can’t just focus on the macros.

Our body also needs minerals and trace minerals and electrolytes to keep it moving and working, not just efficiently but optimally, epically. And one of the women in the group said, “I don’t want to lose weight. Actually I’m losing weight and I want to gain some weight or I’m worried I’m not eating correctly. And what I learned in these just few weeks has changed how I thought about how I feed myself and what I eat.” Because she didn’t know all the downstream hormonal effects of choosing certain foods and how they impacted her body.

And ladies, nothing delights me more than helping you become healthy and be your best self and be your epic self. And to me, feeling epic means how I feel about myself on the inside and how I’m taking care of myself and that includes my health. And this month in March, we are talking about eating for fuel and moving our bodies. Because when you eat for fuel, you’re actually feeding your cells things that your cells want, things that benefit the mitochondria, things that help the mitochondria even replicate and develop more mitochondria. So you have more energy production.

Not the things that kill mitochondria and toxify the mitochondria. Things like refined sugar and like we talked about here, an overabundance of fructose and an overabundance of ultra processed foods, which we talked about last week and how harmful that is on the liver. And your mitochondria are responsible for your metabolism. Is it working? And please get rid of that concept that we used to talk about back in the 90s, about, we need to stoke our metabolism by constantly grazing and constantly feeding ourselves food.

Look where that’s got us. It’s got us metabolically sick. It doesn’t work. That theory has been proven to be wrong. And so for many of us, if we grew up in the 80s and the 90s, we have to unlearn a lot of what we learned because we now know it wasn’t accurate, it wasn’t correct. And so when you’re eating for fuel, you’re going to be taking these foods out of your diet. And it’s important to know, and it’s actually critical to know what you’re going to be instituting and what to put back into your diet that hasn’t been there.

So come join us if you want to learn more. Even if you just come for the month, you get access to everything that we talked about last month and in previous months. But come to learn and to implement these changes to develop healthy ways of eating, healthy habits. And if all you want to stay for is one month, that’s great, then just cancel. Do what works for you. But if you want a platform for accountability, for extra information and for implementation, because that’s really what’s going to get you success, then we are here for you inside of EpicYOU.

Alright, my friends, it’s time to increase your metabolic health and become healthier so you can feel more fantastic. Thanks for listening and I will see you next week. 

Thanks for listening to the Health, Habits, and Epic Living podcast. If you are ready to take the next step to improve your health, wellness, and lifestyle goals, head over to www.epicyou.com to check out my programs and to sign up for my free newsletter. Again that’s E-P-I-C-Y-O-U.com.

Please note that the information in this podcast is for educational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice.

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