The title is a bit of a mind-bender, isn’t it? Isn’t the whole philosophy behind weight loss to eat less? Yes, but taken to the extreme that concept will cause you more harm than good.
Loss Being impatient is probably one of the worst personality traits you can have when it comes to losing weight. We all have a little of this trait in us, but if we want to succeed at our goals, we have to find ways to control it. The problem with impatience is it causes us to make rash decisions. Once we make up our minds to lose weight and get fit, we want results – fast. So, what do we do? We cut our calories and get active. And therein lies our problem.
We likely went from eating maintenance calories (or slightly above), to a calorie deficit of 1000 calories or more. We also likely went from a sedentary lifestyle to one where we’re burning at least an extra 500 calories per day. Combined, that’s a 1500 calorie daily deficit, and one that is sure NOT to get you results.
It doesn’t matter how much less food you eat. When you cut your calories your metabolism slows down. It’s only natural. Your body adapts its hormone output, and less fat and muscle tissue results in less of a calorie demand. However, when you cut your calories drastically, your metabolism can practically shut down and slow to a crawl. Your body strives to achieve homeostasis. Such a large calorie deficit creates stress on the body. It no longer can keep up with the needed fuel demands for the added activity levels, and the sudden large drop in calories, vitamins, and minerals sends a shock to the system.
In response, your body does what it’s supposed to do – it normalizes your metabolism. It slows down important hormones like thyroid, testosterone, and growth hormone. It sheds tissue that has high calorie demands (muscle), and it holds onto needed fuel reserves for survival (fat). Obviously, this is the complete opposite of what we want. There’s a reason why people can be eating 1000 calories per day while doing hours of cardio a day and still not be able to drop a pound. The math doesn’t add up, but that’s because your metabolism has down-regulated all of its processes and is now using each and every calorie extremely efficiently.
The solution to this conundrum is to eat as many calories as possible that still enables you to lose weight. A good starting point is a simple 15% reduction in calories from maintenance levels.
The only sure way to determine your maintenance calories is through experimentation. Slowly raise your calories by 100 or so each week and monitor your weight. Once your weight has increased over a period of two weeks at the same calorie level, you know you’ve found your maintenance level. From there, you can create a small 15% deficit for weight loss. The smaller the deficit we create, the slower our weight loss, but the longer we’re able to sustain it. Would you rather lose 1 pound per week for 50 weeks, or lose 10 pounds the first 2 weeks, 5 more the next 2 weeks, and then plateau and eventually give up?
The latter is what most people set out to do, whether they know it or not. Drastic calorie restriction is great for short-term weight loss. However, more times than not, it causes weight loss plateaus, frustration, and then a reversion to old lifestyle eating habits. If you do it right, you won’t even feel like you’re dieting. The hunger will be nonexistent, and time will just pass as you slowly create new, healthy eating habits. This slow lifestyle change causes a pleasant side effect – weight loss.
Take a close look at how much you’re eating in relation to your activity levels. If something just isn’t adding up to you, you likely need to be eating more food to lose more weight. While that’s a hard concept to grasp, I can tell you that more times than not, a further reduction in calories is not the right answer.
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