The modern-day image of the stick-figure goddess has prompted millions of people to start counting and cutting calories. Already low-calorie diets are reduced to a bare three figures in an attempt to shed that extra pound or two a week. But surprisingly, cutting calories may not be the way to lose weight - it may actually work in the exact opposite way.
When your body has a severe drop in calorie intake, your body, put quite simply, goes into "starvation mode." This mechanism, which is thought to have evolved as a defense against starvation, causes the body to effectively get every bit of use it can out of each calorie it takes in. To do this, the body stores fat calories and protects those stores, which means it uses muscle and lean tissue to burn as energy.
So what happens when your body burns muscle tissue instead of fat?
The biggest effect is that your metabolism slows down. This actually reduces the amount of weight you lose over a given period of time! How much muscle you have has a big impact on your metabolism. In general, more muscle means a higher metabolic rate. To lose the most weight as possible, keep up a good muscle tone through exercise, while cutting fats and refined sugars. High-fiber diets help keep things running, and proteins such as egg whites, fish, nuts, or meats make you feel fuller longer. Calorie-wise, you can eat a much larger amount of vegetables or fruits than you can junk food without all the extra calories from fat.
Fat can replace muscle lost during starvation, so if you do start eating more calories again, you are more likely to gain fat rather than muscle. This only slows down your metabolism more, creating a vicious cycle of weight gain and loss. In every aspect, yo-yo dieting and starvation mode is bad for your body!
Being physically fit and having a healthy diet are some of the most important things you can do to stay healthy. So instead of only eating 700 calories a day, eat 1500 calories’ worth of fruits, vegetables, fiber, and protein. It’s good for your whole body, reduces cholesterol and risk of heart disease, and helps you lose weight and keep it off. Set goals for yourself, exercise more, and cut down on junk foods. Don’t push yourself too far. And above all else, be patient! Losing weight the healthy way does take more time, but being able to keep off the pounds is definitely worth it.