I was reminded today of how confused we are as a society on HOW to lose weight. It has been pounded into our heads:
Eat less + exercise more = weigh less.
Simple, right? Then why aren’t we a nation full of skinny people???
The Problem with Chronic Calorie Restriction
The truth is, it’s NOT that simple. In fact, if you restrict your calories too much, you’ll wind up being worse off than you started! And it’s not your fault– it’s in our genetics to store fat and protect ourselves from starvation!
According to the World Health Organization,
…a diet containing LESS than 2,100 calories a day for the average man and 1,800 calories less for the average woman is a starvation diet.
Now tell me, how many of you reading this eat less than this each day? I bet it’s MOST of you!! (I know I’m often guilty!)
The average woman dieting in America is trying to eat less than 1,500 calories a day. That means she is constantly in a state of starvation… We live with the starvation syndrome every day.
Source: UltraMetabolism by Mark Hyman, M.D.
If you eat too few calories, you ultimately SLOW DOWN your metabolism because your body perceives danger (a.k.a. a lack of food) and needs to protect itself. When you are in this starvation mode, your body triggers you to start eating and eating, forcing you to regain any weight you had previously lost.
What’s worse, is you wind up with less muscle and more body fat than you previously had! This is why yo-yo dieting is SO bad for you.
How Many Calories Should You Be Eating?
I’m sure you’re all thinking at this point, “That still sounds like a lot of calories for me. How do I know how many calories I should be eating for my height and body type?”
Well, here’s my mini-science lesson for the day.
For the average person, their resting metabolic rate is the absolute minimum amount of calories that they need to consume each day in order to keep their metabolism functioning properly. To roughly calculate this, multiply your weight by 10. For a 140-pound woman, that would make her resting metabolic rate 1,400 calories.
Let me re-emphasize: this is the minimum amount of calories you need if you don’t get out of bed! For those of you who do get out of bed, and exercise on top of that, you can see how you might need to eat a bit more– and you’ll still lose weight! I promise!
For a more accurate measure of your resting metabolism, you might want to invest in a body composition scale like the one I have. Measuring your body fat and lean muscle mass will give you a much more accurate measure of how you are progressing, rather than relying on weight alone.
Also, please keep in mind that all calories are NOT created equal. Eating 100 calories worth of a Twinkie is NOT the same as eating 100 calories worth of an apple. The apple is nutrient-dense, filled with water, fiber, vitamins and minerals. Your body knows how to digest an apple, and it will satisfy your hunger. A Twinkie, on the other hand, is filled with processed chemicals and refined sugar that your body does NOT know how to deal with. It will only leave you craving more junk. Long story short: a calorie is not a calorie.
I’m not sure where it came from, but one of my favorite sayings is “If your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize something as food, don’t eat it.” Makes sense, doesn’t it?
I could really get on a roll while I’m up here on my soapbox… but I think I’ll spare you all for now. 🙂
*For more in depth information on this subject, check out UltraMetabolism.