Another Diet Myth

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On my Diet Myths page I ask for your submissions for other diet myths.  Thanks to Karen for submitting this one:

Eating less than 1,200 calories a day slows metabolism and makes it impossible to lose weight

I added this as Diet Myth #5 and here’s what I wrote about it:

My belief:  In the short-term, say over about a week or so, I believe there is some truth to this.  When you dramatically cut your calorie intake, I believe your body responds by lowering your metabolism which makes it harder to lose weight.

But, eventually, physics wins out.  Even at a lower metabolism, your body likely needs a minimum of 1,200 – 1,400 calories to “keep the lights on” or pump your heart, expand and contract your lungs, maintain your body temperature, etc.  If you’re move around you likely need more.

If you aren’t getting this energy in your diet, you’ll get it from your fat and muscles.  Anorexics are the real world evidence of this.

That being said, I do not recommend an ultra low calorie diet.  I don’t think it’s necessary and I think you are asking for physical and psychological trouble.  For example, ultra low calorie diets might cause issues with thyroids, hormone balances and who knows what else.  Psychologically, it can become addictive and lead to anorexia.

I’m a believer in eating the rough amount of calories that your body is designed to take in.  If you want to weigh around 150 pounds, eating 1,500 (no significant physical activity) to 1,700 (moderate activity) will get you there eventually.  If you want to get there faster, I recommend doing it through exercise rather than fewer calories.

Great Question

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I received this e-mail from a friend today:

By eating right, my daily calorie consumption is at a comfortable 2000 calories. I am not experiencing any effects, i.e.- hunger, weakness, etc. In fact food is actually better and my body is feeling stronger and more efficient.

According to my BMR and daily exercise routine, for my weight and age I am burning nearly 3000 calories.

Q-Is it OK to continue a daily net calorie burn? Will my body just continue to lose weight until it eventually arrives at an equilibrium point (cal eat=cal burn) ?

My answer: Good question.

If you want to maintain your weight, you need to eat about the same number of calories that you burn.  If you continue the net calorie burn, you will continue to lose weight and die. That’s physics.  When you reach your desired weight, you need to balance your calories in and out.

It’s a great sign that you’re not experiencing any effects – hunger, weakness, etc. That means you are eating right, you’ve balanced your hormones and got your body to tap into those fat reserves to fuel any deficit. You also have a lot of muscle reserve that your body will metabolize if you keep up the deficit.

I think you will start to feel effects when you’ve lost most of your fat reserves.  I did.  When I got down to 130, I had no fat reserves.  If I missed a meal or snack by 15 minutes I’d start to get light headed and weak, even though I wouldn’t get hunger pains.  As long as I was eating I was fine.  I added back 5-6 pounds to get some fat reserve back and that helped.  It was weird to start eating more.

Here’s where a scale can help you.  As you get closer to your target weight, I recommend incrementally increasing your food intake.  I wouldn’t recommend going from 2,000 to 3,000 cal per day immediately.  I’d recommend going up in increments of about 200 calories for 2 – 3 weeks at a time and monitor your rate of weight change.  The standard estimates of calories in food and calorie burn have large enough margins of error when applied to individuals that I wouldn’t trust those outright as the sole guide.  That’s why the scale comes in handy.

For example, you may be more efficient than average at exercise so you may only burn 75% of whatever it is that you base your exercise burn on and you’ll find that you can maintain your weight on 2,400 to 2,600 calories a day.  If you go to 3,000 cal/day you may put 10 – 15 pounds back on within a year or so.

Great Video

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I enjoyed this video and I think I learned something.  If you have acid reflux, you should watch this.  We never think about the pH balance of food we eat.  This illustrates that there’s other impacts to the body to consider about our diets than just weight loss.

This made me wonder about something.  My father-in-law swears by taking a spoonful of honey and lime juice several times a day to fight off colds.  Perhaps the lime juice helps balance his pH.

I Heard from Friend Today

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He says he read my book, liked it and used some of my suggestions and has pulled his belt back four notches since June and now he needs to buy some new clothes!  I’m happy for him and I’m glad that something I wrote a few years ago could help him out now.  That’s why I did it.

He also reminded me of something I’ve learned over and over again since I wrote my book.  We all have to have our own “epiphany” to want to lose weight.  Bad food habits are like other bad habits – smoking, alocholism, gambling – you can’t get someone to change their ways until they decide its right for them.

Why are you fat?

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The answer to that question is key to getting started losing weight.

I was fat because I didn’t know how my body worked.  I believed in myths, I knew bits and pieces about how my body works and uses calories, but I hadn’t put it all together.   Once I figured it out, I had to stay on top of psychological barriers and hold myself accountable to sticking with what works.

What’s keeping you from making a change?

My Book is Cheap Health Care

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For such a small price ($0.99 on Kindle or I’ll e-mail you a free .pdf if you send me your e-mail address) you can get the information that knocked 30 pounds off me and has kept it off for 8 years and counting.   Most diet plans are very similar and based on the same principles.  They just have different names.  Mine cuts to the chase and lets you know what you need to know in less than 30 pages. 

It’s also a good reference.  I review when I find a few pounds sticking to help me find the bad behavior and correct it. 

It can be free.  What do you have to lose except a few pounds?