Thursday, June 20, 2024

How NOT Eating Makes It Harder To Lose Weight.

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( To lose weight, you need to burn more calories than you consume.  So by that reasoning severely limiting your calorie intake would be the perfect way to lose weight, right?!? Umm… well… actually… not so much. Unfortunately, when it comes to losing weight biology is not as simple as drastically cutting calories, and moreover our bodies are actually very smart at detecting when calorie intake has gone too low. So if/when you do attempt to starve yourself, your body will undergo a series of changes which make it harder to burn fat and sets you up for weight gain in the future.

Severe Dieting Triggers Starvation Mode

Even though our lifestyles have changed drastically, our bodies are essentially the same machines that they were in caveman days.  During those days, it was common for people to go through periods where little food was available.  To cope with this, the body had a survival mechanism known as “starvation mode.”

During starvation mode, our bodies undergo these changes:

  • Metabolism is Slowed: Since there is little energy coming in, blackwoman-fruit-2016your body compensates by going in energy-saving mode.  Not only do you burn fewer calories, but you also feel sluggish.  You’ll have a hard time exercising and also probably find it harder to resist those sugary junk foods. And shockingly enough, metabolism levels will stay low even after the diet is over.
  • Hormone Levels Change: During periods of calorie reduction, our levels of hormones drastically change.  Thyroid hormone production falls, which means lower metabolism and less energy. Leptin production, the hormone responsible for keeping hunger and fat storage in check, drops.  Another hunger-regulating hormone ghrelin, increases, which means increased appetite. And like with metabolism, these hormone levels do not immediately return to normal after the diet is over. No matter the cause, fluctuations in your hormones impact your life in many ways. That’s why many women turn to diet and natural hormone balance supplements to improve their quality of life.

In fact, one study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that hormone and metabolism levels were significantly lower even a year after the diet!  Leptin levels were 1/3 lower than when the subjects started the study. Ghrelin levels were significantly higher.  As a result, the subjects felt hungrier than when they’d started the study.

  • Muscle Used for Fuel: Under normal conditions, our bodies will first break down food for energy and then turn to fat reserves.  But, when our bodies are in starvation mode, they instead break down the most readily-accessible source of fuel.  Since protein is easier for the body to break down than fat, your body will tap into muscle mass for energy instead of the fat you want to burn off!

Muscle Loss = Lower Metabolism

As mentioned earlier, what is particularly concerning about starvation mode is that it causes you to break down muscle for fuel.  Not only will this prevent you from getting the lean, sculpted body you want, but it will also make it harder for you to lose weight and keep it off.

Basal metabolism rate (BMR), which is the energy expenditure while at rest, is directly related to our body mass.  In a nutshell, the more mass you have, the more energy your body requires.  Since muscle is much heavier than fat, muscle will burn more calories than fat.

Though there is a lot of conflicting (and exaggerated) information about how many calories a pound of muscle burns, studies show that a single pound of muscle burns approximately 6 calories per day.  This is a lot better than the 2 calories burned by a pound of fat!  So if your muscle mass deteriorates from dieting, your metabolism is going to take a big toll.

Stop Eating and You’ll Gain More than You Lost!

By starving yourself, you will just cause your metabolism to slow and hormone levels to drop – and they aren’t going to bounce back into gear once you start eating again.

So, unless you plan on starving yourself forever, you are just going to gain back all the weight you lost while on the crash diet.  To make matters worse, you will probably gain more than you lost.

In an analysis conducted by UCLA researchers, they found that one-third to two-thirds of people regain more weight than they lost during dieting.  Traci Mann, the UCLA researcher who led the study, said that these people would have been better off had they not gone on a diet at all: “Their weight would be pretty much the same, and their bodies would not suffer the wear and tear from losing weight and gaining it all back.”

How You Should Eat for Weight Loss

Limiting calories is still important for weight loss, but you’ve got to do it safely so your body doesn’t go into starvation mode.

There is no specific number of calories that someone should eat on a weight-loss diet.  All of our bodies are different and factors like age, height, weight, gender, and activity level all play a role.  For starters, you should figure out how many calories your body needs just to maintain weight.  Basal metabolic rate (BMR) calculators are good for this. Another better option is to use a Heart Rate Monitor.

Once you know your BMR, you can calculate how many calories you need to cut in order to lose weight safely.  As a general rule, it’s wise to shoot for losing 1-2 pounds per week. There are about 3500 calories in a pound, so you could easily cut 500 calories from your BMR and safely lose 1 pound per week. Now mind you, you can safely lose more than that, but oftentimes people who attempt this, do it the wrong way and end up cutting calories too low.

Last but not definitely not least, when cutting calories, make sure you are still eating an adequate amount of protein (hitting your target macros), as well as getting in your Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of nutrients. Also, remember that not all calories are the same!  Eat low-glycemic foods which are rich in nutrients and you will be on your way to permanent weight loss.

Written by Dr. Phoenyx

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