Starve Yourself Fat
We’ve all heard the advice over and over again…Eat Less…Move More. But is that all there is to the story? It seems like if that simple math equation was the “end all be all” answer to weight loss then everyone would be at their ideal weight with a little effort.
While it’s true that the old adage is a good place to start, and may even work short-term for many, we have to adjust our strategy from there. Many other factors come into play, but what I’d like to do today is to help shed some light on the question that I hear fairly frequently.
"Why don't I lose weight (or gain it) even though I hardly eat anything"??
That’s a fair question given the “golden rule" that we're always handed. So let's jump right into it...
I think that most of us have a basic idea of what metabolism is…those with “higher” metabolisms require more calories to maintain or gain weight then those with “lower” metabolisms. So it makes since then to just cut out a lot of calories for weight loss right? Well…to an extent…
See when you restrict your calories beyond a certain point – let’s say 500 calories below your daily energy expenditure, you can run into problems. Initially you may drop weight like gang busters but it’ll quickly come to screeching halt!
For this example let’s look at someone who burns 2,000 calories a day. He/she should likely shoot for 1,500-1,800 calories a day for quality, sustained weight loss (keep in mind that we want FAT loss…not muscle).
This person decides they’re going to expedite the process and only take in 1,000 calories a day. Problems are a comin’…and here’s why…
- Starvation Mode – this is when our bodies draw upon the ancient wisdom of our ancestry. We’re not getting anywhere near the calories we need to perform the daily tasks at hand, much less the extra exercise. Our body is going to pull the emergency brake on our metabolism and it’s going come to a crawl so fast it’ll give you whiplash.
- Fat vs Muscle – Now that our metabolism is inching along at a snails pace, it’s going to have to make some tough (ok it’s not so tough) decisions. Hold onto our fat stores during this famine (remember it’s starving)…or eat/burn off our muscle. With that said it’s kind of a no-brainer for our bodies. Fat’s purpose is to provide energy at a slow sustained pace and muscle can be catabolized (broken down) for energy. The end result is that you’re body will burn off the quality muscle and hold onto fat. Ever heard of the term “skinny-fat”?
I think we can all agree that the “skinny-fat” frail build most likely isn’t what you’re going for.
Another consideration that we need to keep in mind is the potential for nutritional deficiencies. It can be challenging enough to get all the vitamins, minerals, photo-nutrients, etc. that we need with a diet ample in calories. Strip those all away and it’s a high probability that you’re going to put yourself into a nutritional deficit of one form or another. Health issues usually follow…sometimes quickly…sometimes down the road.
Hormonal Imbalance/Stress Response
By putting yourself into “starvation mode” as mentioned above, another ugly consequence is hormonal imbalances – including the stress response hormone: cortisol.
Cortisol is a necessary hormone that fluctuates throughout the day. It’s involved in many functions such as body temperature regulation, glucose regulation, inflammatory regulation, etc. Ideally it acts in symphony with all the other hormones of our body. It’s also known as the “stress hormone” as it increases/spikes when we’re under duress…whether legit or imaginary (I mean we’re not usually being chased by a sabertooth tiger).
Going overboard with calorie restriction is stressful to the body to say the least. It’s no wonder that cortisol levels go through the roof as our bodies are trying to “hold out” until the perceived famine is over. We’ve already talked about catabolism (breaking down the tissue) and cortisol is the king of muscle wasting/fat storage. See how we have this nasty circle back to “skinny-fat” town?
This is just one of the many hormones that will become imbalanced. You also have increased estrogen, insulin, and more. It truly is a royal cluster @$*& in our bodies.
What’s the Answer?
Hopefully by know you know what the answer is NOT. Calorie restriction as part of a weight loss program is a strategy that has to be looked at carefully. Keeping around 200-500 calories below what your expending on a daily basis.
Remember that life isn’t a sprint…it’s a marathon. Short term success with diets and weigh loss usually (over 90% of the time) end with the person gaining more weight than he/she had to start with.
Health, Fitness and Wellness are long term. Invest in yourself and take the time to create life-long habits that will serve you and the ones you love.
“Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going” – Jim Rohn
I’d love to hear your feedback…please share below!