Written by: Cara George
Our world is one of instant gratification. Because everything is so fast-paced, we’re used to getting everything easily and quickly. We want it, and we want it NOW! Patience is becoming a quality that most of us don’t have time for! When you decide to lose some weight, it’s natural to want to see the results of your hard work right away. We see these fitness stars on social media and want to look like that right away, and at some level think we deserve to look like that within a few weeks of eating right and exercising. It’s easy to feel discouraged and turn what was supposed to be a health journey into a health nightmare.
Extreme calorie cutting, over-exercising, starvation diets. These all have extreme physical results, and yes extreme consequences. Let’s explore the damage that is actually happening to the body when it is starved and over-exercised.
STARVATION DIETS AND METABOLISM DAMAGE
What the doctors call “Neuro-endocrine-immune Dysfunction”, kind of a long complicated-to- pronounce name, is what we would just call “Metabolic Damage”. When you eat below your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR), you are crippling your basic bodily functions (i.e. long-term memory storage, internal organ function, circulation, etc). Your body needs a certain amount of calories from food every day just to keep your eyes blinking, heart pumping, digestion going. Without these basic calories, your body begins to shut down functions in order to conserve energy and will begin to store fat. Yes you will lose weight, but you will also lose muscle, brain function, digestive system function and many more things your body needs to do to keep you alive. Over the long-term, your body’s metabolism will begin to slow down and sometimes these changes are permanent if continued long enough.
HOW TO LOSE WEIGHT WITHOUT STARVING YOUR BODY
First you must calculate your Basal Metabolic Rate. There is a long, complicated math calculation involved, but thankfully, there are also a lot of free BMR calculators online! Once you’ve calculated this amount of energy expenditure, you must try to eat a minimum of this many calories per day to keep all your systems functioning properly. Once you have your BMR, you can then calculate your Total Daily Energy Expenditure. This number combines your BMR (what your body needs to function) and how much exercise and activity you get in a day. The total number of calories spent with activity and your BMR is your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE). In order to lose weight, you must have a calorie deficit. Eat a few hundred calories below TDEE, but do not ever eat below your BMR.
LOW CARB, NO CARB
Unfortunately, carbohydrates have received a bad reputation when they are such an essential part of brain health, muscle strength, and energy levels. Yes, you can and WILL lose weight when you cut out carbohydrates, but your energy levels will suffer, your long-term memory storage will suffer, and your muscle building goals will suffer. Complex carbohydrates help to break down fat and protein, helping us use those two macros to build healthy muscles. Our brain is the biggest user of carbohydrates and our brain consumes a large amount of energy to function. If you want to cut back on carbs, cut back on refined carbs, added sugars, and maybe even fruit. But don’t cut out healthy carbs like quinoa, beans, legumes, nuts, and vegetables. You’ll find that carbohydrates actually help you feel full longer (due to their high fiber content), help grow a healthy gut bacteria (which will prevent weight gain and disease), and they will keep your energy levels where they need to be to get in a good workout!
WHAT ABOUT FASTING?
Fasting is not long-term, therefore no metabolism damage. A 24-hour fast for instance only lasts 24 hours! It is long-term fasting (eating below BMR) that will cause you metabolism damage. 24-hour fasts should only be performed once or twice a week. Fasting is good for you because your body is able to reach autophagy or cellular repair. The best way to explain this phenomenon is to say that when your body is not focused on breaking down food into energy, it can then focus on repairing your cells and getting rid of worn out cells. According to Dr. Colin Champ, M.D.,a board-certified radiation oncologist, assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, and author of Misguided Medicine “Autophagy makes us more efficient machines to get rid of faulty parts, stop cancerous growths, and stop metabolic dysfunction like obesity and diabetes.” It’s our body’s built-in recycling program. (Read more on this subject from the author here)
“There is more progress in a health journey than what the
number on the scale says.”
Keep a journal and track your progress. This will help you from getting frustrated that you’re not “making progress”. There is more progress in a health journey than what the number on the scale says. Notice how you feel. Are you stronger? Are you happier? Are you gaining confidence? These victories are just as important as losing weight. And remember, you did not gain all that weight in a few weeks. You will not lose it in a few weeks either. Learn to love the journey, and you will find love for yourself as well!
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