There is a very common misconception out there that has people think that if they want to lose weight they should eat less. Honestly, it sounds logical, but when it comes to our bodies and the incredibly intricate system we have, it’s not just a matter of calories in vs. calories out. In fact, eating a low-calorie diet over an extended period of time leads to some pretty undesirable consequences.
For starters, eating a calorie-restricted diet places your body in a stressed state. Your brain is a seriously demanding organ that requires its “food” (glucose) constantly. Without enough calories, it will feel the impact of this restriction pretty quickly and send out a stress response alerting other bodily systems of an existing threat of food shortage. This threat then triggers several hormonal shifts in your body, one being the release of cortisol, which is a steroid, or “stress” hormone that has many important functions in the body. One of its primary functions, however, is to maintain adequate blood sugar levels and it does this by taking glucose from your protein stores (like your muscle) and through a process called gluconeogenesis, converts it into sugar, which then gets dumped into the bloodstream (Thau, Gandhi and Sharma, 2020) when blood sugar levels are low (from calorie restriction, for example).
Why does this matter? First, you really don’t want to give up any muscle, but secondly, if your goal was to lose weight, then you definitely don’t want increased blood sugar levels because that causes fat storage. This incredible built-in system helps prevent starvation and ultimately death, but it often backfires our weight loss goals when calorie intake goes too low.
Another major hormonal shift that occurs when calories are restricted is a decrease in thyroid hormone levels. Think of thyroid hormones as having major control on the dials of metabolism. When we eat too few calories, this causes our metabolism to slow down. Decreased thyroid hormone also contributes to infertility, brain fog, fatigue, depression, constipation weight gain, and more. This is obviously not what we want if our goal is to slim down.
Eating a calorie restricted diet for a sustained period of time can be detrimental to our overall health and to our weight loss goals. I’m not talking about time-restricted eating or controlled calorie restriction like fasting. If this is done well and is cleared by your doctor and dietitian, time-restricted eating/intermittent fasting can have some incredible health benefits, but fasting is not for everyone. More on that topic later.
Lastly, not all calories are created equally. It is entirely different to consume 200 calories through soda than 200 calories from wild caught salmon. Besides the complete lack of anything nutritious in soda, all of that sugar will cause a lot of dangerous belly fat storage, whereas the salmon is packed with health boosting nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids, which don’t directly translate to fat accumulation.
If you want to lose weight for good and boost your overall health instead of restricting calories and losing a few pounds of water weight, I’ve got your back! Let’s find a way that works for your body, because I PROMISE YOU it’s not only possible, it’s relatively simple. Book your complimentary consultation now and let’s make it happen.
Thau, L., Gandhi, J. and Sharma, S., 2020. Physiology, Cortisol. [online] Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Available at: <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK538239/> [Accessed 13 October 2020].