If you’re dieting right now, you may be like thousands of other people causing more harm than good to your body. Many of today’s popular diets put too much emphasis on caloric intake, often recommending people cut their calories lower than is truly healthy. While the amount of calories you eat can and does have […]
If you’re dieting right now, you may be like thousands of other people causing more harm than good to your body. Many of today’s popular diets put too much emphasis on caloric intake, often recommending people cut their calories lower than is truly healthy. While the amount of calories you eat can and does have an effect on your weight, that effect can often be negative.
Simply put, each person has a range of calories that will allow for weight loss. You probably already know that consuming too many calories will cause you to gain weight, but did you know consuming too little calories can have the same result?
Let’s back up and review what exactly calories are and how they fit into your day-to-day life. In relation to dieting and food consumption, a calorie is a unit of measure for the energy value of a food. Each gram of fat provides nine calories and each gram of carbohydrates or protein provides four calories. Throughout your day, calories provide energy as you go about your activities, just as gasoline provides the necessary means for a car to operate.
So what happens if your caloric intake is different from the amount of energy you use? Excess calories are stored in the body as fat, causing weight gain. A deficit of calories causes you to use an alternate source of energy, either fat, the primary source of energy, or glycogen, the secondary source of short-term energy. That all being said, it seems to make sense that by cutting calories, you will burn fat to provide energy and in turn, lose weight, right? At first, you probably will, especially if you have never cut calories severely low before. But long-term, this method won’t work! Here are a few reasons why:
- If you take in too little calories for too long, your metabolism reacts by going into a storing mode where your body starts to store the food you are giving it to provide energy when it is really needed;
- Often times, low-calorie diets completely eliminate food groups or nutrients (like fat since it is higher in calories) which starves your body of nutrients it needs;
- When you suddenly go back to consuming a normal amount of calories, your body sees that as an excess and will gain weight and fat until it adjust again.
The question now is how do you lose weight? First, find out your basal metabolic rate, the amount of calories you burn daily without any activity, as well as the additional energy you use through activities, work and exercise in order to determine your appropriate caloric intake. Second, be sure you are eating the proper ratio of nutrients (fat, carbs and protein), which can vary depending on the types of activities you do. Third, if you have been cutting calories too low, slowly wean your way back to normal. It will take some time for your body to adjust but once it does, your weight will become more stable. Finally, remember that permanent weight loss takes time. Losing more than 1-2 pounds per week is a recipe for trouble (despite what you see on TV!). Be patient and know that you will see results with health, balanced eating and an active lifestyle.