Weight loss and low-calorie diets can be confusing. You make every effort to watch what you eat and avoid your favorite junk foods, but you never lose any weight. Nothing works, so you feel defeated. But why? You know the only way to lose fat is to eat less and exercise more, so why isn’t it working?
A lot of things factor into weight gain/loss, so don’t believe there’s a single diet that works for everyone. Each individual requires a different amount of calories, making a one-size-fits-all diet impossible.
Unbelievable as it may sound, I’ve noticed that women are undereating, not even consuming the minimum amount of calories required to maintain their resting metabolic rate! So why do we subject ourselves to low-calorie diets if they don’t work?
We’re often told that “less is more”, but low-calorie diets are a slippery slope. For example, imagine you start a 1200-calorie diet for women that was featured in a beauty magazine. If you think of weight loss as a simple math problem—calories gained – calories burned = weight gained/lost—then it stands to reason that consuming fewer than 1200 calories will help you lose even more weight. So you lower the bar to 1000, then 800, then 500, and before you know it, you’re not getting enough nutrition to even function, let alone reach your fitness goals!
That’s why I can’t help but notice how closely low-calorie diets resemble eating disorders: severe calorie restriction, self-esteem issues, and malnutrition.
Most mainstream dieting advice is based on weird relationships with food: Paleo and Atkins diets that cut all carbohydrates and grains, countless articles and books labeled “Eat This, Not That”, the push for 99.9% fat-free because “eating fat will make you fat” (even though it won’t, and while we’re on the subject, sugar won’t make you fat either).
With all this misinformation, it’s no wonder weight loss is so confusing! We’re always on the lookout for the next best thing, to the point where it doesn’t matter what you do so long as you get that extra weight off! And that’s when weight loss becomes dangerous and defeating. Many people even feel their only options are surgery or being fat for the rest of their lives.
So is weight loss hopeless? Not exactly. Let’s slow down a bit and go over some of these points in detail, starting with undereating.
To be clear, when I say “undereating”, I’m not talking about the “starvation myth” that says your body will hold onto fat if you starve yourself. This myth has been disproved in multiple studies, like the Minnesota Starvation Experiment.
If you believe starvation keeps you fat, try telling that to the millions of people who don’t have enough to eat or die from malnutrition. Don’t starve yourself to lose weight. It’s not safe and it won’t last.
Undereating isn’t just about not getting enough nutrients; it’s about not getting enough of the right nutrients.
So what happens if you don’t eat enough?
Let’s say you cut all carbs and only eat 99.9% fat-free foods. Right off the bat, your thyroid suffers. Your body runs on three macronutrients: proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. Everything you eat or drink is broken down into these three, so if one of them is missing, your body will slow your thyroid output to maintain an energy balance.
Muscle has higher caloric needs, so it’s the first to stop being nourished after you reduce your calorie intake. Think of the flabby treadmill runner: burning a lot of energy without replacing it afterward. Your body burns muscle to balance out your low calorie consumption, giving you a “soft” look even if you work out every day.
Your body doesn’t need much muscle to survive, which is why it’s the first thing to go in response to a caloric deficit. So what does it need? Fat! That’s right, fat plays an important role in almost all basic body functions, so you know it’ll be the last thing to go!
Pop quiz: Why is your belly the fastest part of your body to gain fat and the slowest to lose it? Because of your vital organs!
Undereating also affects your hormones. Ghrelin (the hormone that makes you hungry) increases, while leptin (the hormone that affects neuroendocrine and metabolic function) decreases. To compensate, your metabolism drops, prompting your body to hang onto fat as an energy source.
Fat is the #1 problem people struggle with. Obesity is an epidemic we’re losing against. Ironically, fat is both essential and deadly. So how do you get rid of something you need that can kill you?
YOU FEED IT!
That’s right, you feed it with proper fats and oils!
Remember that your neurotransmitters are also affected by how much food you consume. Like any other organ, the brain needs to be “fed”, so if you limit your food intake, you also limit your brain power.
For more info, check out this study that shows how undereating affects what you crave and even limits your motivation in order to conserve energy. Isn’t the human body amazing?
So if low-calorie diets won’t help you lose weight, what will? Like I said, there’s no perfect cookie-cutter diet for everyone. But there are some basic guidelines that make it easier to achieve your weight-loss goals:
1) Drink plenty of water, at least 100oz every day.
2) Eat your veggies for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Not sure which? Experiment until you find your favorites!
3) Consume “good” fats: nuts, nut butter, avocados, oils, dairy, and eggs. Just don’t overdo it!
4) Make sure you get enough protein. Eating eggs, beef, and chicken will help you retain the firmness in your body, plus protein will keep you feeling full longer.
5) Adjust your carbohydrate intake. While vegetables do contain a wide variety of carbs, those who are active need to consume more carbs, such as pasta, rice, and bread.
In truth, nothing covered in this article should be mind-blowing. You know yourself better than anyone: if you’re slacking, if you eat enough protein, if you try to restrict your calorie intake but binge eat every four days (the vicious yo-yo effect).
In the end, it’s all about balance. Eat three balanced meals, drink water, have at least two solid snacks, and be active for 30–60 minutes every day. Work hard while maintaining a healthy lifestyle and you’ll see results!
Have you ever tried low-calorie diets? How have they worked out for you? Still confused about weight loss? Share your experience and questions in the comments below, and be sure to share this article with your friends!
Jay Kali AKA, The Strength Architect is the founder of Kali Coaching. He holds certifications as a Specialist in Strength and Conditioning, Certified Fitness Trainer, Online Trainers Academy Graduate, Training For Warriors Level 2 Graduate and is a 300-Certified Yoga Teacher in Power Yoga. He is also an Amazon Bestselling Author in four different categories and has made it his mission to help women create long lasting, healthy lifestyles in just 8 weeks!