You’ve probably heard the advice that weight loss simply comes down to calories in versus calories out- eat less calories than you burn and you’ll lose weight.
One of the biggest problems with this advice is that it is so vague. What all good coaches know is that ‘less calories’ means different things from one person to another, depending on the amount of exercise they perform, the amount of lean tissue versus the fat tissue that they are carrying, how many calories they are currently eating, age and many other factors.
What I see and hear from people a lot is that they started a fat loss program, lost a ton of weight in a very short amount of time and then pout it all back on again, plus a little bit extra!!
No doubt you know a lot of people that have done this or maybe you’ve even done it yourself. They put in a massive effort to drop the weight, yet end up in a worse situation than before they started…with another failure under their belt!!
We get so many people into our facility that have taken this approach and the most common theme we see among them is that the majority of them massively slashed their calorie intake which always ends in frustration.
As an example, one common calorie recommendation I hear a lot for women is to eat 1200 calories a day. But where did this number come from? I also recently saw a diet plan for a lady that contained less than 900 calories a day.
To put that in perspective, we currently have a lady who has been eating between 1750 and 1900 calories per day and has dropped an estimated 17% body fat. Her plan included nights out, her favourite foods and of course, lots of tasty, nutritious foods- that 550 tho 700 calories a day more than what I hear recommend to so many people and double the sub 900 recommendation I saw recently- which is insane.
Except for a day or 2 over the course of her program, she hasn’t struggled with hunger which is a massive factor in adherence- imagine what ladies following the flawed advice above must have gone through- absolute starvation!
On a few occasions we even increased her food consumption to slow the rate of weight loss. This was to ensure we were losing body fat and not lean muscle tissue. The results was a slight increase in weight and a lower body fat reading.
And that point is key. Massively slashing calories without a plan always results in weight loss that includes a lot of muscle tissue. Adjusting calories in a structured and not going excessively low shifts the emphasis to fat loss while preserving as much lean muscle tissue as possible.
And it’s not all about calorie reduction either.
Lets say a client needs to eat 2000 calories a day to maintain her weight. If she has been eating 1200 calories a day and we increase that to 1700 calories per day over at the course of a few weeks we are still hitting a 300 calorie deficit even after adding in 500 calories per day!! Plus the increased food will massively affect her satiety levels, motivation, metabolism, etc.
What you are looking for is a HEALTHY caloric deficit relevant to your required maintenance levels. You can achieve this of course by eating less but you can also achieve it by eating the same (and often times more) while increasing the amount of calories you use on a daily basis through exercise, an increased metabolism, more general activity such as gardening, walking to the shop, etc. (more commonly known as NEPA- non-exercise physical activity).
A combination of exercise to increase metabolism, calories burned, build lean muscle tissue, etc. and a healthy caloric reduction are the best ways to achieve this- not simply slashing calories.
And trust me, it’s much easier to eat more and add in a little bit of additional exercise than it is to continuously reduce your calories. If you continuously reduce you calorie intake to the point that they go extremely low, and continuously increase your exercise levels, you’re going to end up in a very bad place and you’ll run out of room to make changes.
You can’t decrease your calories any further because they are already drastically low and most likely starving, and you cant increase the amount of training your are doing because you also have a life to live, work to do, children to mind, etc. Plus the little calories you are eating have left you with no energy and no motivation to drive things forward as your body starts to revel in order to preserve what precious energy and muscle it has left.
When your body enters starvation/famine mode it will do everything in can to survive- reduce your metabolism, reduce your drive to exercise in order to preserve precious energy, increase your appetite so you are in eating mode, eat your lean tissue to fuel vital bodily functions and so much more
What you are left with is a complete rebellion of the mind and body and the inevitable resulting crash. You eat all around you, gain back a ton of excess weight plus more, throw your metabolism into chaos and end up in a worse situation than when you started.
Your body gets the signal to get as much into you in case you go into starvation mode again in the future. If you do it’s going to need supplies so shuttle as much of that food you’ve been gorging on into your fat cells for use in times of famine.
See how the whole ‘yo-yo-‘ dieting/weight loss cycle works?
I hope you can see how prone the whole ‘massively slashing your calories’ approach is to your longterm health and fat loss results. Yet it is still the most common method used by uninformed people who set out with good intentions.
Nothing beats getting educated on a subject that has the potential to massively improve the quality of your life.
If sustainable weight loss ids the goal, avoid this approach at all costs as it has been proven on every occasion to fail.
Take home point is to eat healthy diet and a little less than you are currently doing (often achievable by simply making healthier food choices), exercise regularly and live a healthy lifestyle (sleep, hobbies, not too much tv, etc.) Avoid fads and quick that require massive changes in short periods of time as you’ll end up right back where you started which is exactly where you didn’t;t want to be in the first place.
If you’ve any questions then just leave a comment below.
Donal herlihy says
Absolutely true. Well done. Donal
Thanks for reading Donal and glad you found it useful. You are a perfect example of how to get and stay healthy the right way. Keep up the great work.