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I know you’ve heard the saying “calories in, calories out.” We all have and that is truth. But I’m not starting out with the truth. I’m starting out with diet deception numero uno. You have to starve in order to lose weight. While it’s true that if you eat less and move more, you will lose weight, but you don’t have to starve to do it.
Bear with me for a second because I’m going to get a little scientific on you.
Your body has what is called a basal metabolic rate. Basically, it is a fancy term for the number of calories your body required to keep it functioning at rest, AKA your metabolism. Everyone’s is different. Age, height, current weight, current level of activity, all play a factor into your BMR.
The truth is if you eat less than your BMR, you will lose weight. The deception is you don’t have to eat so little to do it. The biggest mistake I see when people go on a “diet plan” or “program” is they drop their calories drastically. By drastically, I mean by hundreds maybe even a thousand calories. Especially women. Why do we do this? Because we think that is what we have to do in order to lose weight. That’s what people tell us we have to do. In order to get big results, we have to make big changes.
Yes, we have to make lifestyle changes to drop those unwanted pounds, but we don’t have to go to drastic and extreme measures to do so. In fact, dropping your calories too much can do you more harm than good and in many ways.
Eating too little calories can cause many adverse side effects. You will literally feel like you are starving because you are. Your body will quite literally go into starvation mode. Sure, you may see results initially because you are in a calorie deficit, but eventually your body will also start fighting back.
“Whoah, back the f— up Susan! You are starving me! I can’t live like this! Know those hips you are wanting to get rid of? I’ just going to hang onto those. They aren’t going anywhere. You want to starve me? Fine. But I’m going to make your life a living hell.”
In case you are wondering, that was your body talking.
Not only will your body hang onto those hips you so desperately want to get rid of, but it will also make you cranky and tired. Why? Because food is fuel. Food is to the body like gasoline is to a car. Your car won’t run if it doesn’t have any gas in it, correct? Well, the same thing goes for your body. It won’t function properly on so little “gas”. Your body will then slow down your metabolism or BMR so that you aren’t burning as many calories in a day in order to preserve energy, in exchange making you tired, cranky, and sometimes downright bitchy. Have you ever seen a woman who is “on a diet” and looks absolutely miserable? Maybe she’s your friend sitting with you at lunch while she eats a romaine lettuce drizzled with lemon juice while you enjoy a nice steak or even a burger all the while giving you the death glare of a thousand resting bitch-faced women as you do.
Why is she glaring at you this way? Because she is angry. She’s tired, and she’s probably about 2.3 seconds away from tackling you like a linebacker going after a fumble in the Super Bowl. (Football reference there. Did I just show my geeky side? Lol.)
Which leads me to another reason why eating too little calories is bad for you. It can actually cause you to gain weight.
Huh? But you just said that eating less than your body burns is a way to lose weight.
Yes. That’s true.
But eating too little calories can also lead to binge eating. You deprive and deplete your body so much that you can bring yourself to a breaking point. Trust me. I’ve been there. One minute you are eating celery and water and the next thing you know you are elbows deep in a gallon of ice cream drizzled with chocolate and all the fixings while washing it down with a pound of cookie dough and a cheeseburger. Not only do you feel like complete and utter shit after doing so, you also get discouraged because you failed. You gave up. You didn’t have the willpower to continue.
And the vicious cycle will repeat itself over and over and over every time you try to do it. Once you return to your normal eating habits, you are more likely to put all the weight you did lose back on and then some. Maintaining a super restrictive calorie deficit is extremely hard and almost always not sustainable.
Being on a “diet” doesn’t mean you have to eat like a bird, workout like a jack rabbit on meth, or even feel completely and horribly miserable. Our minds are a powerful force. We think that if we do things in an extreme way, we will get extreme results. When someone typically goes on a diet, their mind instant goes into “diet mode.” Can’t have this. Can’t have that. Can’t go to birthday parties or attend a catered work function because they are serving all these bad foods. In diet mode, we deprive. We limit. We restrict ourselves from having all the foods we love because it will help us lose weight…right?
For one, the world is not going to stop revolving because you want to lose weight. Your life is not going to stop happing all around you because you want to get healthy. There’s always going to be birthdays, parties, holidays, sickness, functions, injuries, and other life events. You can’t say “Hey! oldest son’s birthday! You can’t happen this year because momma is on a diet and bringing cake into this house is a big no-no.” Not only will your child be extremely disappointed, but you are again depriving yourself of a fulfilling life (and will probably have one angry kid).
Have you ever heard someone tell you that muscle burns fat? Well, that is also true. But did you know that eating too few calories can eat away at your muscle? Protein is one of the biggest macronutrients in the muscle building process, but when your body is deprived of that nutrient, it will most certainly start eating away at your muscle. That in turn can cause a whole slew of problems, not just your metabolism slowing either. Your muscles give your movement. They protect your bones. Not only that but losing too much muscle has a negative impact on your body composition itself—meaning you can “look” heavier than you did before you started restricting calories.
So how do you know how many calories to eat? How do you know what your BMR actually is? There are a number of ways to calculate your BMR from doing the math based on your age, height, current weight and activity level, to having professional body scans done in order to find out that information.
But what if I told you that you can lose weight without counting a single calorie? What if I told you that you have 2 tools that you carry with you at all times that will help you determine how much and what to eat without ever tracking a single calorie or even having to track all of your food in a fitness tracker?
Sounds too good to be true, right?
Well, it’s not. It’s actually pretty simple.
I’ll get more into that in part 2.