Now nutrition by numbers and simple terms is actually very easy. If you burn more calories than you’re intaking, then you’ll lose weight and if you consume more calories than your body burns then you will gain weight. Simple really, not so. One common thing I’ve found since working in the fitness industry is there is a very common thing with undereating, especially in females. Some people eating around 1000-1200 calories a day and not losing weight. The sad thing is these people have been doing this for a long period of time and not seeing results, so they begin to eat less and sometimes exercise more and then again, the body adapts to this and weight loss is stagnant. Unfortunately, the mindset of eat less, move more is hammered into people that it becomes the normal practise and I’ve witnessed people suffer to lose weight and it’s extremely sad.
So, what happens is when we drop our calories extremely low is initially, we will lose weight quickly, usually with this decrease in calories involves an increase in exercise, which will mean more calories will be burned and weight loss will occur usually rapid weight loss. The body can’t sustain this long term and will reserve energy as much as possible as if that weight loss continued long term you’d die. Imagine your mobile phone, lower power mode comes on to help save energy, that’s exactly what your body does. How does your body do that? You’ll subconsciously sit more, you’re more likely to take the elevator instead of the stairs, your workouts won’t be as intense and you will be more fatigued and for some females this can cause amenorrhea (loss of menstrual cycle) . Long term this can cause people to completely blow out and hugely over indulge due to the body’s ‘set point’ now this is not backed up by scientific studies that the body has a ‘set point’ however a study done from the biggest loser participants (study link at the bottom) shows the long term affects of rapid weight loss and how that can have an effect on someone’s metabolism and potentially cause permanent damage, this then enables future weight loss harder as the body has less calories to play with.
What happens when someone just consistently just doesn’t eat enough? Well the stomach will get smaller causing people to feel full with very little food in their diet. It also can lead to things like nutrient deficiency’s, lack of sleep quality lack of muscle mass, poor strength, poor performance and ill health, starving your body isn’t good and as mentioned before it adapts to essentially keep you alive, the human body was built on survival and will do that by any means possible and you can not outsmart it. Clearly this can get quite frustrating if fat loss is the ultimate goal, there’s no doubt about it and I’ve witnessed these numerous occasions as a trainer. Now I get some people reading this will be like some of these people are lying to themselves, which is always true and again I’ve also dealt with that. One study (again shown at the bottom) states that on average people underestimate their caloric intake by around 43% and overestimate their activity by 50%. People will also lie through their teeth as they don’t want to show me their bad side and think by hiding all of this from me it will help them and well it won’t. Honesty and acceptance are always a great way to start improving yourself. But as I stated previously, I’ve seen people eat literally 1,000 calories per day (95% of the time) and not lose any weight and that is a long-term affect of low-calorie dieting. Unfortunately for those people they won’t be consuming 1,000 calories every day. 1000 calories per day has now become that persons maintenance calories, in other words 1,000 calories a day will maintain that person’s weight, so in essence for that person to lose weight, they need to consume even less calories, which is almost impossible. Most of these people also have social lives and well you can’t just sit at home doing nothing all of the time. So, heading out for dinner and a night on the town, leads to a nice dinner (700 calories) two bottles of wine (1500 calories) a few shots and then a kebab after (1500) calories, as well as another 500 they may have consumed before dinner. All of a sudden in a 24-hour period this person has consumed 4200 calories in one sitting. We know their maintenance is 1000 calories, so in one night they are all of a sudden in a caloric surplus of 3200 calories. 3500 is one lb of fat. Now it’s not exactly how it works, but it gives you an idea of what potentially can happen to someone who significantly under-eats for so long, the body will be holding on to those excess calories as it has been underfed for so long. They then return back to 1,000 calories a day and they’ve also gained weight from one night. This is quite a common thing for the Monday-Friday dieter, who consume super low calories during the week, blow out on a weekend, consuming more calories in two days than in the entire week and overtime again will gain weight.
Now how to fix this? It is actually very easy, however mentally for a lot of people this is a very difficult process to follow and sadly I’ve had people drop off training from me because of the lack of trust in this method and well in all cases they’re now the exact same situation they’ve always been. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. The person in this predicament must increase their calories over time and other will need a different approach in how it’s done. Personally, I find that getting this person up to their predicted ‘maintenance calories’ is the best way and have them sit there for a few months until they can maintain their weight and performance. Some people’s metabolisms kickstart very quickly, other people don’t, previous diet history can play a big part in that. For some people it’s a case of slowly increasing their calories over time, a term known as ‘reverse dieting’ this can be a bit easier psychologically for people as the risk of sudden weight gain can be quite intimidating. I did this quite successfully with a client who was eating 500 calories per day, with minimal sleep and wanting to lose fat as she couldn’t lose ‘that last little bit’ as such. Over a four-month period we increased her calories to 2200 a day and she lost 10% bodyfat eating Quadruple the calories. I even witnessed with this with my mother who pretty much doubled her calorie intake, started training and lost 7kgs. An increase in calories, means an increase in energy and performance. Trusting the process can be tough especially when all your life, you have been told to eat less and move more, which is correct in some circumstances, but in others it really isn’t the case. Sometimes giving the body a break from dieting and strenuous exercise, alleviates the body from stress and can even sometimes result in higher fat loss if the body adapts to its new circumstances. Health and Fitness should never be a temporary thing, it should be something that should always be prioritised and we should treat our bodies with more respect. Give it enough food to fuel, let it recover and recuperate, move it more to keep it strong and durable and also do things to keep your mind happy as well. Life is too short to be unhappy.