“If you want to drop weight, eat less and move more”. This is a great basic formula and weight loss tip for people who are trying to lose weight and improve their physique, but when taken to the extreme, this combination can be a recipe for disaster. An extreme, low calorie meal plan coupled with an excessive workout routine can not only contribute to adrenal fatigue, metabolism slow down and overall unhappiness, but it can actually sabotage your fitness goals all together!
As a Weight Loss Coach, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had clients (some with over 100 lb to lose), come to me claiming they were only eating 800-1300 calories per day on a meal plan and not losing any weight. While they had initially lost weight, they were all of a sudden unable to see the scale budge. It wasn’t until we brought their calories up to a more sustainable level, that their weight dropped. This may seem to go against everything you have ever learned about how to lose weight… but let me explain.
Let’s take it back to middle school biology where we learned about a phenomenon called homeostasis. Homeostasis is “the tendency of the body to seek and maintain a condition of balance or equilibrium within its internal environment, even when faced with external changes.”
When it comes to eating and metabolism, if you decide to go on a very low calorie meal plan and consume 1200 calories per day, you may lose weight at first but overtime your body will become accustomed to eating that amount. When weight loss stalls, what do you do? Add in some more cardio perhaps? Lower calories even more? This can get pretty dangerous. When you are underfed and overworked, your body is operating in a state of stress. You see stress is a POWERFUL thing, when our bodies are operating in a state of stress, the fat-loving hormone cortisol is running rampant in our system. High levels of cortisol can mean that our bodies will literally refuse to lose weight! In fact, we end up storing more fat! So, not only are you severely under-eating, and unable to lose weight, but you might actually be gaining weight! Ugh– how frustrating!!
It’s true that the energy equation is VERY valid when it comes to weight gain or loss, however, when you restrict calories to a level that is TOO low, your body goes into starvation mode and will do whatever it can to preserve fat for survival.
If you do this long enough, your body will become accustomed to surviving on little calories. And eating 1200 calories for the rest of your life is not only not fun, it can be detrimental. We all have what is known as a BMR or Basal Metabolic Rate, in short, this is the total amount of calories needed for your body to perform basic bodily functions given you were literally lying in bed all day. This in no way takes into account the walking, talking, exercise and NEAT that you perform each day.
You can find our what your maintenance calories are by using an online calculator (I like this one over at Precision Nutrition). Once you find our your maintenance calories, you can use the same calculator to determine a healthy caloric deficit so that you can lose weight in way that is sustainable. Note that calorie counting is ONE way to create a deficit to achieve fat loss, but for many it can be too “in the weeds”. Plus, calorie counting is not always accurate for many reasons, for example we all process energy from food differently.
If you want another solution that does not have you counting every single calorie/macro, check out my [FREE] guide to Eating for Optimal Fat Loss.
It’s true that you will need to create a deficit when trying to lose weight, but this does not mean you should be killing yourself in the gym for hours a day, or drastically under-eating. Don’t get me wrong, losing weight and achieving your fitness goals takes commitment and sacrifice, but it does not mean you need to be miserable and most importantly unhealthy on the path to reaching your goals.
Ready to take charge of your workouts and nutrition? Not sure where to start? Get in touch with me for a free consultation!