Today’s standards of fitness and health are often gauged by the streaming images of beautiful celebrities as the media parades them before us 24 hours a day. They look fit, most of them seem to have zero body fat and their image gives us an enviable look that we want. Hey, thin is in… and there’s nothing wrong with wanting it for yourself too.
It’s easy to find ourselves wanting to lose weight so badly that we end up cutting back on an already low calorie diet to begin with. Maybe we’ve plateaued with our progress, or we just watched a re-run of Hollywood Housewives. Either way, the temptation to go even lower with our caloric intake could end up having the reverse effect by slowing down our metabolism and, in the end, derailing our progress.
The Problem With Starvation Diets
Severely restricting your food intake creates a whole host of problems with your body’s ability to burn calories. Weight loss experts will tell you that anything below 1200 calories per day begins to place your body dangerously into starvation mode. When your body senses the possibility of starvation, it instinctively begins to protect its existing fat stores. Which is exactly the opposite of what we’re trying to do, isn’t it?
This defense mechanism causes your resting metabolic rate to slow down dramatically. It causes you to digest and process your foods much more efficiently so that the body can survive on less and less food without having to feed upon itself. Of course, the intended effect when we want to lose weight is to lose fat – not muscle or lean tissue. Yet with a slow metabolism, the opposite occurs, and now the body fights to hold on to fat… while going after other sources for energy.
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The problems that result from a slower metabolism can get even worse when you begin to look at the percentage of muscle loss versus fat loss. A high metabolism will reach for fat cells first; a slower metabolism will protect fat cells as a natural instinct to survive. This leaves muscle and connective tissue to burn. The problem is that muscle burns more calories than fat. As muscle deteriorates, this creates a cascading effect, further slowing down the body’s metabolic rate as well.
One of the most commonly asked questions is: how many calories should I eat a day? We’ve tried to answer this question here.
Unhealthy Skin And The Inevitable Yo-Yo Effect
Not only are we making it more and more difficult to lose fat, but the look is often unhealthy when weight loss is achieved by severe caloric restrictions. Our skin does not respond well because the collagen and muscle are not there to fill it out, and any chance of this type of weight loss being long-term are almost non-existent. Once you begin eating a more normal diet, the weight will come back faster than you could ever imagine because your metabolism is so slow.
The key to avoiding this is to follow a sensible, balanced weight loss plan that puts you in a calorie restricted zone without being excessive. This program should provide you with enough calories (for fuel) that will allow you to exercise, and use the burned calories from your ramped up exercise routine to be factored in and considered as an overall part of your total weight loss plan.
The idea behind this is that as you lose weight, what was once a caloric deficit for you is now, at your lower weight, the correct amount of food and calories for you to maintain your new, ideal weight. This makes perfect sense when you take the time to really plan your weight loss, with long-term results being your goal.