Weight Loss and Metabolism:
It isn't all about the calories

Weight Loss and Metabolism

I know it's tempting to think to yourself,

"If dieting works, then starvation must really work."

After all, you have a dress to fit into or a vacation (or a reunion) coming up, and you have neither the time nor patience to deal with losing only half a pound per week.

You want results. Visible results. Fast.

Well, I have to tell you, as tempting as it may be, the WORST thing you can do when you are trying to lose weight is to eat too few calories!

If you cut back too much, you could actually gain weight! How's that for a weight loss and metabolism bummer???

You might think I'm not making sense. Isn't it true that when you cut back on calories you lose weight? Shouldn't it logically follow that the more you cut back, the more weight loss you would enjoy?

Well, not exactly.

Weight loss and metabolism: intimately related

When you restrict your calories to an amount less than your resting metabolic rate (also known as metabolism), your body fights back.

You see, when you cut back too much, your body thinks it's starving. So it kicks into conservation mode, hanging on to all those calories and burning them at a slower rate (by lowering your metabolism). This all happens as an attempt to prevent you from starving to death.

Think of it as The First Commandment of Weight Loss and Metabolism: If thou eat too little, thou will burn even less!

Pretty cool, huh?

Well, maybe if you lived in caveman times, but certainly not in this day and age when you are trying to lose weight!

This neat little metabolism trick came in very handy for your caveman ancestors. It's how they survived in times of famine. Unfortunately for YOU (even though you no longer have to wait to eat until some guy with a spear kills a woolly mammoth), your body came pre-programmed with this nifty "thrifty" ability to conserve calories.

(Want to know The Second Commandment of Weight Loss and Metabolism? Increase your lean muscle mass.)

When you restrict your calorie intake too much, your body doesn't know:

  1. Whether you are trying to do so intentionally, OR
  2. If you are a caveman/cavewoman trying to avoid starvation.

Your body figures it's safer to assume that you're facing actual starvation. It hangs on for dear life to the minimal number of calories you are eating.

It's not fair, I know. But on the other hand, walking around hungry all the time isn't very pleasant.

The good news is that it's also not necessary.

My advice?

Never skip a meal (particularly breakfast), and eat light, healthy snacks between meals. And I emphasize the word healthy!

These are a few of my favorite between meal snacks:

  • lowfat yogurt + berries
  • lowfat string cheese + apple
  • hard boiled egg: remove yolk and fill center with hummus. Yum!
  • rolled up turkey slices + apple
  • small handful of nuts (~1/4 cup)

Plan to eat every 3-4 hours. Eating frequently prevents hunger pangs and the urge to binge that can so often follow. Eating frequently also assures consistent energy and may be the single most effective way to maintain metabolism.

So just because you can starve yourself, it doesn't mean you should. Strive for weight loss that's slow and steady. That's the kind of weight loss that can last!

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