Hands up if you have you ever gone on a “diet” only to find yourself starving and throwing in the towel because it’s all too hard? I know have – more times than I care to count! Everday on TV, in magazines and even on social media, we are blasted with the latest and greatest diets to end our struggles with weight. How do we know what to believe, especially if we’ve been chasing the dream of losing 5, 20, 50 kilos or more for years? There’s lo-carb, no-carb, paleo, liquid, meal plans and more! Whatever path you choose you need to be clear on one thing and it’s one of the biggest myths in weight loss – are you ready?
Myth: Following low-calorie meal plans (below 1200 cal/day for a woman – 1500 for a man) are the way to shed pounds and keep them off.
Reality: You have to EAT!!!! Period.
There it is – yes – you have to eat.
Okay so I can hear you saying – yes I eat that’s how I got in this mess in the first place! Just wait and hear me out and let me explain what happens when you don’t eat enough calories. Let’s say you decrease your calories below 1200 cal/day in an effort to lose weight. At first you will lose weight and that lower number on the scale may make you happy, except there is a problem. Because your body won’t have enough calories to efficiently run, it will turn to your own muscles for the fuel. Yes you will lose weight, but you will also lose muscle (and this includes vital organ muscle.) The more muscle you have, the higher your metabolism is and the more calories you burn. On the other side of the coin, the less muscle that you have results in a slower metabolism and less calories burned.
So, let’s say that you’ve lost weight (AND muscle) on your low-calorie meal plan. You can’t stay on your low-calorie meal plan forever, so guess what happens when you increase your food intake…even just by a couple hundred calories? Because you’ve inadvertently slowed your metabolism down due to loss of muscle, you will actually GAIN weight EVEN EASIER than you did before you started.
So what’s happened? Basically, you’ve traded muscle for fat…a faster metabolism for a slower one…all in your bid to lose weight. The new buzzword for this is ‘skinny fat’. Once you start eating ‘normally’ and then gaining weight, you won’t fit into the clothes you want and your body won’t look tight & tone. You get frustrated and start the whole cycle over again…losing even more muscle and slowing your metabolism down even more than the last time. A vicious cycle occurs and it becomes harder and harder each time to lose weight.
Basal Metabolic Rate and what it means for you
We all have a basal metabolic rate (BMR.) This is the amount of calories that your body needs per day just to function as though you were sleeping. If you drop below your BMR for an extended period of time, you risk losing muscle. You can find your BMR several different ways through scientific testing but for most of us it’s easier to use a basic formula which looks something like what I have below – if you want a simpler way try this link here:
Women: BMR = 655 + ( 4.35 x weight in pounds ) + ( 4.7 x height in inches ) – ( 4.7 x age in years )
Men: BMR = 66 + ( 6.23 x weight in pounds ) + ( 12.7 x height in inches ) – ( 6.8 x age in year )
Using the calculator it gives me a BMR of 1718! That means just for my body to function at the weight I am right now I need to eat 1718 calories to not have muscle loss (this also doesn’t take into account that I am breastfeeding either) however, remember that doesn’t even take into account how active I might be on any given day so this means on days when I am more active I would need to eat more than this or I would have no energy!
Moral of the story DO NOT be afraid to eat, people. You aren’t doing yourself justice by following a strict low-calorie meal plan. Get off the Yo-yo diet trip and stop hurting your body. The key is to eat highly nutritious healthy foods, not empty calories, to fuel your body. Eat clean, go for a walk or if you are up to it join a gym – and clear the junk from your body with a nutritional cleanse and you can achieve your health goals, I believe in you!
I’m still on my weight loss journey and I’d love for you to join me or follow me here on my blog or on my Facebook page
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