Sunday, February 19, 2012

Little Eating Makes Big People

Okay, so you've been on a diet for a few months, and so far it's going well.  You've lost about 5 lbs, and you're trying your hardest to stick to healthy foods.  Maybe you've been hitting the gym a few times a week, and are forcing yourself to sweat it out on the treadmill for half an hour each time.  It's not fun, but hey, it's working, right?

But then, all of a sudden, your previously steady weight loss just plain stops.  For week after week you step on the scale only to see the same number each time.  In desperation and frustration, you apply the "less and more" technique to diet and gym time respectively.  You start hacking your meals to miniature versions of their former selves and make sure to jog for at least an hour every day on that dreaded treadmill.  Before you know it you're hungry, tired, and your joints are killing you. But in a few weeks it'll all be worth it, right?  You'll step on that scale and see a lighter you, and that'll be worth the world.

But then, when weigh in day finally does rear its ugly head, you step on the scale only to face a number LARGER than what was there last week.  You're bewildered, disgusted, and ready to scream.  Not to mention you're probably ready to throw in the towel on this whole fitness thing, claiming that your body just wouldn't let you lose weight, and that you tried your hardest.  Here's what I say to that:


You ran across a very common problem with diets these days.  Many people know the basics behind weight loss, and that you have to burn more calories than you consume on a daily basis in order to be in a caloric deficit and therefore FORCE your body to use stored fat as the source of the remaining required energy.  It isn't rocket science, or at least, the concept isn't.  But in a modern world, where people look for the most efficient, quickest methods to get things done, this little bit of knowledge is a recipe for disaster.  You see, eating too few calories can actually cause you to GAIN weight.  Sounds ridiculous, but after I explain myself a bit here, I'm sure it'll make sense.

Let me start off by saying that your body is quite intelligent, and it knows how to stay alive.  Through millions of years of evolution it has determined exactly what it likes to eat, and exactly what to do if it's presented with a caloric surplus.  Heck, your body still thinks that if food became very scarce, you'll need every ounce of that stored body fat to keep you alive.  And if it's presented with a drastic caloric deficit (AKA starving), it'll do what it deems necessary to make the most out of your remaining energy stores.  You know what that means?

Your metabolism will slow to a turtle's pace and anything you eat or drink will go almost straight to energy stores, which we know better as your love-handles and beer belly.

To your body, there's no difference between an unrealistically low calorie diet, and a forced desert journey devoid of nourishment.  Either way, it thinks you're starving, and will take the necessary steps to keep you alive.  You'll feel like no amount of sleep will ever wake you up, and most likely your hunger will be insatiable, especially on such a low calorie plan.  No energy, no satisfaction, the perfect recipe for skipped visits to the gym, food binges, and a failed attempt at weight loss.  This is reiterated in an article written by David Greenwalt, a reputable personal trainer at  He discusses a typical client in this same situation and how her body will not react to weight loss because of an extremely low caloric intake:

Not only has her metabolism matched her intake, her body has maximized production of enzymes that are designed to help store any additional calories as fat. Anytime additional, immediately-unnecessary calories are consumed the enzymes are there and waiting to store the additional calories as fat. Her body is starved nutritionally and it has one thing on its mind - survival.

Being mostly sedentary, her metabolism (hormones play a large role here) can do a pretty good job of keeping things slow enough so that the pathetically low calories she's consuming are just enough to maintain.
But since certain enzymes are elevated, waiting for more calories so more bodyfat can be stored, every nighttime binge or weekend mini-feast will contribute to fat stores.

So on the days she's not bingeing her body does not lose fat, or if it does, it's very little. And on the few days or times she does binge a bit her body is quite efficient at storing fat. So, while she may lose a smidge of fat from starving it is quickly replaced with every binge.

Original Article (A GREAT READ):

This describes quite accurately that when drastically low calorie diets are employed as a weight loss tool, your body becomes extra adept at storing any little excess as fat.  Not an optimal situation for dieting, as you'll agree.

So fine, you know the details now, and you may have some returning hope.  But what do you do to turn this whole thing around?  Where does one start?  Well I don't believe the solution is very complicated at all, and it can be easily summed up in just a few simple steps:

Step 1:  Calculate the correct number of calories you need to cut about 1 lb of fat per week, if that's the rate you want to lose at.  I wouldn't suggest any faster rate, though it's fine if you'd like to go slower.  There are a bunch of GREAT calorie calculators out there, and while none are exactly spot on, they can give you a very accurate guess and a great starting point.  Here are some downloadable excel file calculators that I've found to be quite useful and accurate:

Step 2: Change up your workout.  Instead of hitting the cardio for an hour, take about half your gym time to lift some weights.  It doesn't matter if you're a man or a woman, building lean muscle mass will increase your resting metabolic rate so that any weight you do lose you can keep off for good.  Cardio will lose you weight, sure, but it's a quick fix.  You won't have the muscle mass to maintain that new, leaner you, and most likely you'll put all that fat back on in a relatively short amount of time.  More muscle=less retained fat.  It's as simple as that.  

Step 3:  Make sure those calories are coming from clean foods.  You know the drill, lean proteins, whole grains, fruits, veggies, unsaturated fats, just about everything I've ever written about.  Need diet ideas?  I've got over 100 other articles all about food, so read up and get yourself on a good diet.  Use healthy foods to fill in your correct macro levels, and you're good to go.

And there you have it!  A simple solution to weight loss bottle-up.  Not difficult, not depressing, and it definitely should NOT throw you off track.  You CAN lose the fat you want to lose, and it's not as difficult as you think.  But your body needs calories, so don't starve it, because you'll pay the price in the end.

Don't be afraid to eat, get creative at the gym, and watch those numbers carefully.  GOOD LUCK!

No comments:

Post a Comment