We all know in order to lose weight the basic principle is you need to eat less, and while this is true, under eating can have negative effects on your health as well as your overall goal.
Your body requires a minimum amount of food, or calories, per day just to maintain. This means that even if you lay in bed all day and didn’t move, your body would still require fuel to do its normal functions – repairing tissue, pumping blood, basically keeping you alive.
When you add in daily activity, such as walking around and other day to day tasks this necessary amount increases.
Everyone’s base metabolic rate differs, but even at its lowest, most of us require at least 1200 calories a day to maintain. Now many people when they wish to lose weight decide the best way to do so is to dramatically decrease their food intake. While we do need to decrease our calorie intake to lose weight, doing so too dramatically can leave you tired, moody and depleted of vital nutrients. It also makes it harder to lose weight going forward.
Our bodies are highly sophisticated machines and are great at adapting to new situations. What I mean by this is best explained using an example.
Let’s take Jess. Jess wants to lose 20kg. Jess is currently maintaining her weight eating averagely 2500 calories a day. Now many magazines in the fitness industry will encourage dieters to drop to just 1000 calories a day. If we take our example of Jess, yes, she will lose weight to begin. She will probably see that first 5-10kg come off easily!
However she will then start to see her weight plateau and struggle to continue to lose weight. Now Jess is already eating only 1000 calories… so she has nowhere to drop to. She could eat less than 1000 but that leaves her lacking in many vital nutrients, not to mention hungry and moody, more likely to binge and gain back all of that weight.
Now if Jess had started her diet by taking off only 500 calories, she still would’ve seen significant weight loss. This way when she plateaued her maintenance amount is still up at 2000 calories. This gives her a lot more room to manoeuvre, she can now drop to 1800 and still be on a satisfying and nutrient filled diet AND lose weight!
Doesn’t this sound like a much better option? While it is tempting to drop what you’re eating by a lot it will only harm you in the future. Ideally we want to lose weight while eating the most that you can!
So what are the takeaways?
- Keep your food intake as high as you can, but focus more on healthy fruit and vege and lean protein sources as well as a good range of healthy fats.
- Don’t starve yourself! This will only lead to a lack of energy and a higher chance of falling off your diet. As well as this your body will turn to burning muscle for energy, the last thing we want, as muscle raises your metabolism.
- Listen to your body, if you are feeling extremely tired and unmotivated you may well be under-fuelling your body.
- If you can, try to work out what your maintenance amount is and then cut slowly from there. The higher you can keep your food intake, the better! “My fitnesspal” is a really useful tool for working out what you are currently eating and keeping track of what is in the foods that you are eating.