What is your first instinct when you decide you want to get healthy or lose weight? I am writing this because I know what mine is and I know the mistake I made. It was one that had the potential to lead me down a dangerous path, but I am thankful that I had the insight to see what was happening.
When I started wanting to lose weight, one of the first things I resorted to was reducing my caloric intake. Now it is common knowledge that in order to lose weight, you need to burn more calories than you take in. So, remember how we talked about our bodies being like an engine? When your engine is running, your burning fuel. Your body is constantly running to some degree. Fuel is continuously needed. Even if you were completely sedentary, your body would still require a certain amount of calories to maintain function. So, say that I take away the fuel. The engine begins to sputter, not work correctly, and eventually gives up all together. Right?
You have to find the correct balance.
There are several “calorie calculators” online and on apps, that are able to give you an estimate of your body’s requirements to maintain the current weight it is. They base this off of your height, weight, sex, age, and activity level. Remember, not everyone’s needs are the same. Although many seem to vary slightly, these do give you a good rough estimate of how much your body requires daily to function appropriately and maintain weight.
So, you’re wanting to lose weight… The thing to do would be to reduce your caloric intake appropriately. It is said that 3,500 calories is comparable to 1 pound of fat. Therefore to lose 1lb per week, you need to ideally reduce your caloric intake by 500 calories each day.
The problem is, so many people go on these diets that are <1,300 calories a day. This is not healthy, first off, and it does not help you to lose weight. Sure, it may work initially if you are holding on to a few extra pounds, but eventually it will stop. You will begin to plateau and may even gain weight. I know, I’ve been there.
I reduced my caloric intake way below what I knew I should have. I am a healthcare professional. I know better. But I wanted to lose weight and that seemed to be my main focus. I would get to where I would eat a maximum of 1,100-1,300 calories in a day. And while it helped at first, it eventually ceased my weight loss. I even gain back a few pounds. On top of that, it made me feel moody and experience symptoms of hypoglycemia.
I tell folks when it comes to food and water, that your body is like a sponge. If you only put a little bit of water in it, it’s going to hold on to it. It won’t start dripping until it gets what it needs. Your body is the same way. If you do not give it the nutrition it needs, it will go into survival mode. It will hold on to everything it can before it gives any extra up. After all, it doesn’t know when it will get its next meal.
While reducing your caloric intake slightly (say 300-500 calories a day) can enhance your weight loss, creating a large deficit can cause your body to take drastic measures and change your metabolism in order to maintain function. This can mean that you may not lose weight and may even experience some unsatisfying side effects.
Remember, you may have wants, but your body also has needs.