You know that cutting your calories to 1000 calories or less per day can’t be good for you. Maybe you read that calorie restriction is the only way to lose weight, or maybe you were even told by your doctor or trainer that you need to “eat less and move more”! But this is a trap, and it never works in the long term.
We are going to unpack why this doesn’t work. No one can maintain, for a long period of time, severe calorie restriction. Eventually, you will break. That breaking point may look different for everyone. But what happens is you end up binge eating or just eating a normal amount of calories and gaining it all back. Sound familiar?
Approaching your weight loss goals with a more modest approach may be a slower process, but in the long run, you will lose the weight and keep it off! Keeping your calories around a 20-30% deficit is plenty and you won’t have to sacrifice muscle loss with it! Remember, when you crash diet and cut your intake down, you lose muscle along with the fat, and that in turn, decreases energy expenditure making it difficult to feel good and keep your weight loss going. If you are trying to lose weight, you need to look at your activity level, what type of exercise you are performing, and your hormone health. These 3 factors play a major role in how many calories you need to look and feel your best.
Why You May Have Plateaued
There’s a point when your body adjusts to the calories and activity you are giving it and you may experience a plateau. This often leads to reduced energy expenditure. The lower your body weight is the lower your basal metabolic rate will be, which can make it difficult to progress. This adaptation is called adaptive thermogenesis- you burn fewer calories and the exercise you do every day is done more efficiently, therefore, burning fewer calories. You may also have increased hunger through elevated hunger hormones. To top it all off, your Thyroid hormones down-regulate, which also reduces the amount of energy your body expends and the calories it burns. This is what you experience with long periods of calorie restriction and why so many people plateau.
So, what’s the solution? Eat more protein: 2 grams per pound of ideal body weight. Eat real food (vegetables/fiber) and healthy fats, in moderation, ditch the cardio and lift weights instead. Make sure you are optimizing your food choices based on your individual hormone health needs. Lastly, give your body time to adjust to its new weight. Our body has a homeostatic weight range. Going below your body’s “body fat set point” can unleash cravings, increase hunger, and decrease energy. This is why a more moderate approach to your eating plan is better. It’s not so shocking to your system to lose 1-2 pounds per week and you will adjust better in the long run. Your body needs a few weeks in its “maintenance” weight before you adjust and start losing again.
Nutrition fundamentals are the same across the board, but each human is different. Our lifestyles, genetic factors, hormones, and environment all play a role in the individual approach needed when considering what you should eat and how you should exercise. Diets aren’t a one-size-fits-all solution. Anyone who has dieted knows this!
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