Is this you? I know, I know, you've probably read or have seen posts about this a lot, but you'd be surprised how often this topic comes up, in the gym, the office, even the grocery store. Some people use the simple formula of just eating less and getting themselves more active. Now that's a good equation, and I follow that all of the time. But you have some people, and unfortunately, there are quite a number of them that think "More is Better" and they tend to swing too much to the far end of the pendulum and really cut back on their food intake thinking that they will drop more weight, faster. Well, they soon find that even though they have continuous hunger pains, the weight seems to have stopped dropping off. Then they think they need to cut back on their calorie intake even more. Wrong, wrong, wrong!
These people are not only stuck in park, but there are other unforeseen consequences as well. Your body enters what is commonly referred to as the "starvation mode" when you don't eat enough to sustain your bodies regular processes, which can cause slower than expected weight loss and plateaus.
For simplicity sake, we can explain it easier this way. Your body uses a certain amount of energy each day. We get all the energy we need from food. When we take in either more or less energy (food) than the body uses each day, our weight changes (increases or decreases). For example, an average man needs about 2,500 calories per day to maintain his weight (women need a lower amount). If he were to eat 3,000 calories in a day, the body would have to deal with a calorie surplus (too much energy) of 500 calories (the body would need to find something to do with the extra 500 calories coming in from the diet). The way the body deals with a surplus is by storing that extra energy as fat causing weight gain.
If that same man were to eat 2,000 calories in a day, the body would now have to deal with a calorie deficit (not enough energy) of 500 calories (the body would need to find non-food sources to make up for the shortfall of 500 calories coming in from your diet). The body deals with a calorie deficit by drawing on fat stores for energy causing weight loss. That is why there needs to be a balance of how much you need to eat when you are trying to lose weight, and it is also necessary to eat the "Right Combination" of food groups, fats, good carbs, and lean protein! And yes, that will be a topic for another day!
This "starvation mode" kicks in when your calorie intake drops too drastically. If your body needs 2,500 calories per day (to maintain weight) and you start eating 1,000 calories per day, you would expect your calorie deficit to be 1,500 calories leading to substantial weight loss. The problem is that if you cut your calorie intake to 1,500 below what you burn, your metabolism would slow (starvation mode) and burn a lot less than 2,500 calories. Your calorie deficit would turn out to be a lot smaller than 1,500 calories.
Remember the amount of food you eat affects your metabolism. Our bodies have a built-in protection from prolonged periods of reduced calorie intake, if taken to the extreme, (starvation). Today it easy to acquire food such as in a grocery store, vending machines, and fast food restaurants. Today food, luckily in the US. is widely available. Back when our ancestors used to hunt and gather food, they would go long periods of time with little energy intake,(food). To help us survive, our metabolism would slow down in order to conserve the little energy we had left. This can be compared to driving slower when you're almost out of gas and are unsure of the distance to the next gas station.
If you want to lose weight, the right way, all you need to do is bring the level of your food intake under your level of energy use, but NOT drastically. Consistently eating less calories than your body burns will force your body to draw upon fat stores for energy causing weight loss. You have two opportunities to influence this energy balance equation: food and energy use.
In addition to eating less, you can also expend more energy (exercise) which will widen the gap between how many calories you burn and eat. This balanced approach of eating less AND moving more will yield the best, healthiest and longest lasting result. Problems arise with weight loss strategies when dieters rely too much on cutting calories rather than also exercising more.
A key factor that helps determine how your body burns your fuel,(food) is called your metabolism
Your metabolism can be described as the sum of all the energy needed in the body. Your body needs the energy to digest & absorb food, support the brain, heart, liver, kidneys and other organs, repair damaged tissue, move your blood around, by having your heart pumping and you're moving around (physical activity). Even without exercise, your body still has a need for energy to simply keep you alive. Your metabolism or daily energy needs are not set in stone. Instead, your metabolism is fluid and can speed up or slow down based on inputs such as the amount of food eaten and exercise performed.
Cutting your calorie intake drastically is a bad weight loss strategy for a number of reasons. The main reason is that cutting calories drastically is not sustainable. The changes you need to make to cut 1,000 or more calories from your daily intake is too much for you to handle. Taking this path might last a few days or even a few weeks but eventually, your diet will prove too much and the changes you have made will lead to a failed diet. Once you go back to your old ways, the weight will come right back on. Remember hearing the term sea-saw dieting, this is it.
Another reason that a drastic calorie cut is a bad idea is nutrient intake. Your body needs a certain amount of vitamins and minerals each day to support normal bodily functions including energy metabolism, immune functions, and tissue repair. The typical American diet is already deficient in many nutrients. Reason being, most of our foods that we eat in the old US of A, are processed. This means they've been white-washed. Or cleaned up for us to eat. This has been done over the years by companies, and even farmers who use different treatments to first the soil, then in the processing, packaging the food so that it lasts longer on the grocery shelves or in the meat cases. Because of this, we are getting less, raw nutrients with our food. Eating less, on a crash diet, will further decrease your intake which can lead to some inconvenient if not serious health issues. Slower, more sustainable weight loss options that include exercise will lead to healthier and more long lasting results.
Losing weight by moderately cutting your calorie intake and increasing your physical activity will yield the best results. Moderately cutting your calorie intake will not have the same negative consequences (starvation mode) involved in drastically cutting your calories. While cutting calories can negatively impact your metabolism, increasing your physical activity level can do the opposite.
Exercising burns calories because moving requires energy. The more you move, the more calories you burn. In addition to the calories you burn while exercising, your metabolism is also increased for 24-48 hours after you stop exercising. Physical activity speeds up your metabolism even after you stop exercising due to the recovery phase of the exercise. The recovery phase of exercise involves repairing damage sustained to the muscle fibers while working out and replenishing energy stores used up during exercise. All of this burns calories.
So, the key word here is "Balance", it seems a little funny doesn't it, that word "Balance", If we really think about it, having a balance in our lives can solve almost all of our problems. From keeping your work stress in "Balance" to balancing your time so you spend enough of it with your family. Keeping your eating, and physical activity in balance with one another will create the right combination to make sure that you Will lose weight, the right way!