Sunday, August 22, 2010

Eating Too Much Vs. Not Eating Enough

We all know what happens when you eat too much. Excess calories are stored by our body and over time we gain weight. I mean, this is common sense, right? We only need so many calories a day and in a world where serving sizes and portions are completely out of control it's no wonder that we are overweight or even obese as a population. But, the flip side of overeating can be just as detrimental to losing weight. Seriously!

What you need to know and remember:
  • Your body needs a basic amount of energy (calories) to function. This is known as BMR (basal metabolic rate). This does NOT include ANY activity. Not walking, not brushing your hair, not talking - NOTHING.  This is purely body survival folks. Your body processes (breathing, heart beat, organ function...etc) will use/require a certain amount of energy.
    • There is another term, Resting Metabolic Rate or RMR.  It's sometimes used interchangeably with BMR.  The main difference is that the testing conditions used to determine RMR are not as strict. 
Everyone's BMR/RMR will vary.  It's dependent on age, height, weight, lean body mass just to name a few.  You can spend the money to get your BMR/RMR tested (I went and got my RMR tested.) Testing is beneficial if, like me, you feel the need to know how your specific body works.  Most will not find this necessary and you can easily do 1 of 2 things to determine yours.
  1. Go by the general rule of nothing less than 1200 calories per day for women and nothing less than 1800 calories per day for men. Note: This guideline MAY be too LOW for you.  It is just an overall rule that is generally accepted by most health authorities. 
  2. Use one of the various online calculators that ask for some basic parameters to calculate your BMR/RMR for you.   For example: BMR Calculator
Ok, so now you know what you need or should use as a guideline.  But, WHY is it SO important that you not drop below this figure for any length of time?  See, your body is a lot smarter than you realize.  If you drop below this minimum number for too long, your body will go into what is often referred to as starvation mode.  When in starvation mode your body will slow down your metabolism (even more) in order to prevent what it thinks is starvation and eventual death.  Your body is trying to save you.  It doesn't care that you want to lose weight.  It's thinking, "I'm going to die if this keeps up.  Let me slow everything down and maybe I'll get more food if I wait this out."  While you think you're being so awesome at watching your calories, your body has another idea and basically starts working against you.

Let's look at an example of a dieter who decides to drop their calories way too low.  Dieter Danny is underconsuming, but is losing weight and excited! Woohoo!  He has dropped 40lbs in a short amount of time and is encouraged.  Soon, the weightloss begins to slow down and eventually stops.  Dieter Danny is stumped! He's barely eating, but not losing weight.  So, understandably frustrated, Dieter Danny throws it all out the window and decides it's not worth it.  Goes back to his old ways or even just decides to eat what he normally should.  What happens? Oh, yeah, you guessed it.  Not only does he gain back the 40lbs he lost, but because his metabolism slowed down due to the underconsumption (his body requires even less calories than before) he gains even MORE weight.  It will take the body time again to reset, but in the meanwhile the metabolism is slowed down by this extreme caloric fluctuation. If he does this again (and again, and again) it only gets harder to lose weight and even easier to gain it.

Trust me, I know how easy it is to fall into the mindset of less is better when it comes to dieting. Been there just like most.  You get it into your head, how eating less is what you need to do.  It's not that simple.  You need to eat the right amount to lose weight.  Tell yourself that eating the proper amount of good, healthy food is not only acceptable, but necessary!

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