Hands up who has been on a low-calorie diet to lose weight? Yep me too.
And who has lost weight pretty quickly while on it and then put it all on again afterwards? And again, me too.
Having been through every fad diet out there I’m now preaching the benefits of doing a bit more research and learning what your body needs before you start depriving it of anything.
Let’s start at the beginning. Your body has what’s called a Base Metabolic Rate which is the amount of calories your body will burn if you were to spend 24 hours lying in a bed just existing. It’s a surprisingly high number, mine is just over 1,360.
Now multiply that by your PAL (physical activity level) and you should get to the number of calories that you need to eat each day to maintain your current body weight. Most people end up at around 1800 – 2200 calories each day after this equation.
Now here’s where the complicated science comes in (not really). If you eat less than your maintenance calories or burn off some of those calories you will lose weight. If you eat more you will gain weight. Simple.
So technically, yes, a low-calorie diet will work in as much as you’re expending more energy than you’re consuming.
Here’s the reality though: you only need to cut your calories by a few hundred (300-500) each day either through eating less or exercising more to see a difference being made.
It might take longer than crash-dieting as you should expect to lose around 1-1.5lbs each week but it will be sustainable, healthy and you won’t get any of those horrible side-effects of crash-dieting.
By eating less than your Base Metabolic Rate each day here is what you’re doing to your body:
-You go into starvation mode where your poor body will cling onto every calorie desperately
-Your metabolism will slow down as your body doesn’t know when or where the next lot of calories is coming from so it conserves energy rather than burning it
-All of your lovely muscle mass that gives you that ‘toned’ look will waste away as your body starts to break it down for energy. Interestingly, your body will burn muscle before it burns fat in this instance because fat is more valuable as protection than muscle when in starvation mode
-You’ll feel exhausted as you just aren’t consuming enough calories to give you the energy needed to do anything
-Your skin, hair and nails will suffer as they’re not getting enough nutrients to stay strong and shiny or glowing
-Mentally you might start to get a bit obsessed with seeing how few calories you can survive on and apart from this not being a healthy headspace, you also get really boring to all of your friends…
Here are some tips and tricks on sticking to your recommended daily calories to make sure that you hit your goals. They’ve worked for me!
-Eat little and often – I eat up to 5 times each day because this will prevent you ever getting really hungry and it keeps your metabolism working at a higher rate
-Plan your meals for the week or even just for the day – planning and prepping in advance takes away the temptation of bring derailed
-Eat unprocessed food – it’s amazing how much more food you can eat when it’s not packed with unnecessary chemicals, sugar and hydrogenated fat
-Cut out anything that spikes your blood sugar or energy levels – I’ve cut out caffeine and cut right down on refined sugar meaning that my blood sugar levels are much more consistent and I don’t get that mid-afternoon slump anymore
-Drink water – aim for 2 litres each day or more. I never used to drink water and it’s taken a while to get into the habit of drinking this much but my skin is better, my digestion is better and my head is clearer. Have a big bottle on your desk and chug it every time you catch sight of it
If you’re paying proper attention to your nutrition and eating as much unprocessed food as you can fit into your calories then you should find it relatively easy to lose weight but don’t get disheartened if you don’t see any changes immediately.
Just check that you’re being truthful to yourself about what you’re eating and stick with it. Your body will get with the program.