The obesity epidemic...a result of overeating or eating all the wrong things...right? Unfortunately the massive amount of information (misinformation) and the countless diet plans, books and methods telling us the best way to lose weight has left most of us completely perplexed, ready to call it quits and trade in our skinny jeans for yoga pants forever.
When I first set out to be a Nutritionist, I thought the majority of clients I would see were going to be middle aged women who wanted to lose weight. I suspected that in analyzing their typical diet I would see a pattern of over-consumption in combination with poor food choices. I was totally wrong. The vast majority of clients men and women, young and old are eating far LESS than they should, I'm talking in the range of 500-1000 calories less. In communicating with those clients they express frustration with being a product of the diet industry that has taught them to restrict calories in order to "detox" or lose weight rapidly...and they've paid big money to get this advice.
Moderate calorie reduction can be necessary to aid in weight loss efforts. In today’s society with a new fad diet hitting the market almost daily the general population has become confused about calories and occasionally even afraid of food. This has led towards an influx of people who are often unknowingly creating massive calorie deficits on a daily basis. Restriction of calories at more than 20% of your daily energy needs can have some serious consequences to your general health and wellbeing. While under eating will produce fast weight loss in some instances the results are always temporary. Here are some of the systemic reactions that can occur due to extreme calorie reduction without medical supervision:
- You are wasting your time…aggressive weight loss efforts should always remain reserved for those who require medical intervention and supervision surrounding weight loss. Otherwise, you will leave your body and mental state in ruins which always leads to the sensation of deprivation and can quickly turn into a host of unwanted eating behaviors or disorders (binge eating, night eating, overconsumption etc.).
- Over time excessive calorie restriction will cause rebound eating which is referred to as “yo-yo dieting” which can cause the body to become resistant to weight loss by slowing down your metabolism.
- It is nearly impossible to get the proper amount of nutrients your body needs when you are restricting below 1200 calories. This can lead to serious problems later in life such as reduction in bone density, hormone disruption, reduction of muscle mass, infertility and decreased immune response
- Extreme calorie reduction forces your body to use lean tissue (muscle) as an energy source but, will continue to store fat as it requires less energy than muscle tissue.
- Creates the presence of catabolic hormones, such as cortisol, and the lack of anabolic ones, such as insulin, disrupts protein synthesis, amino acid uptake, and immune response.
- Reduction in calories even over a small period of a few days can reduce thyroid function and sexual health (desire). Your thyroid is responsible for fat, carbohydrate, and protein metabolism among other things. Your body has the ability to slow down thyroid output in an effort to maintain energy balance
- Decreases energy levels – There are many physical actions your body takes when you’re not eating enough calories, but there are also some mental ones. Neurotransmitter production is limited, which can lead to a lack of motivation. It’s your body’s way of telling you to “slow down” – conserve your energy.
Weight loss is not a race, it’s a journey. In order to be successful and have a chance at maintaining your hard earned weight normalization you should never restrict calories at more than 20% of your Basal Metabolic Rate in addition to your daily energy needs. Working with a health professional will ensure that you can safely achieve your weight loss goals.