What Happens When You Cut Too Many Calories?
Messaging these days can be a little confusing. And perhaps that’s the understatement of the century. Everywhere you look there’s a new diet or exercise directive that seems in direct contradiction to one that came out just weeks before. No carbs/all carbs, no fat/fat with fat snacks, no sugar/just artificial sugar, juice only/no juice because there’s no fiber, intermittent fasting/you must never skip breakfast.
What is a thinking (and eating) person to do?
The first thing to do is to assess your unique situation, because you are one body, one metabolism, and one genetic make-up. You are different from everyone around you, so treat yourself as such.
Now this is starting to sound complicated. I thought you were just going to tell me what to eat and all would be OK.
Unfortunately, this is part of the problem. Years and years of misinformation, message dilutions, and taking things to the extreme. The age-old adage of moderation seemed boring. It wasn’t quick enough, and therefore we often clung to an all-or-nothing approach.
Calorie restriction to the point of weight plateau or gain
So what happens if your body goes from consuming a consistent stream of calories and then suddenly you flip the switch? Well, your body is a well-calibrated machine. We often forget that we have eons of evolution that have fine-tuned the human body to save itself and preserve what calories and fat it has by storing it for times of starvation. Or simply said, when you starve, your body it remembers; and the next time you binge and then starve it again it remembers to store those calories and fat because it thinks it’ll happen again.
So that’s what’s been happening all this time?
Simply stated, yes. We have embarked on years of starvation diets, restrictions, cutting out entire food groups, and then we expect our body to forgive us instantly. The bounce back isn’t so simple. The body remembers what it lacked, how it felt, and it is hardwired to try to prevent that again.
That said, there’s nothing wrong with tapering off calories and eat less throughout the day. But this approach must be gradual. We have learned that a drastic deprivation can backfire. The best way to approach a limitation of calories is to gradually remove the food groups that aren’t doing you any favors to begin with. The added sugar, sodas (even diet), waffles, pancakes, desserts, and pretzels can easily be removed without your body shutting down and deciding it’s mad at you. Be smart about the calories you’re restricting and either replace them with high value foods like fruits, vegetables, legumes, and lean meats or spread out the guilty pleasures over a longer period. It’s best to moderate even though we know it’s a longer road ahead.
Intermittent Fasting – An Option?
One lifestyle regimen that has gained popularity in recent years is that of intermittent fasting. Intermittent fasting is the limitation of food by consuming it only during certain hours. It essentially shortens your window of eating, altering your metabolism. It is crucial to keep in mind that this approach must be discussed with your doctor. Intermittent fasting can be an incredible tool to aid in digestion, sleep, absorption of nutrients and a host of other benefits if it is controlled and properly monitored. What intermittent fasting isn’t designed to do is extreme caloric restriction.
How can you get your body out of this self-preservation mode?
So your body’s a little mad at you. It knows you’re going to starve it and then feed it and then starve it and maybe binge. It’s prepared for you. So, the best thing to do is try to coax it out of that pattern. Not only implement the gradual changes above but starting with light weight training to build lean muscle mass. Muscle can spark your metabolism which, in turn, ignites fat and calorie burning that keep working even while you are at rest. So even when your body is not moving, it has a directive to keep burning fat and calories and keep the furnace going.