By now, you’re probably aware of how weight loss works: simply burn more calories than you consume (called a calorie deficit).
Easy, right? Not so much.
Like anything good, this can be taken too far, and actually do more damage and cease weight loss altogether! There is a sweet spot for caloric deficit that will ensure weight loss without threatening your overall health. And it certainly doesn’t include starving yourself.
Most people who are interested in losing weight are either looking for a way to lose it quickly and dramatically or slowly and predictably. What most don’t know is that these two approaches are not necessarily mutually exclusive.
Historically, low-calorie intake, or dieting, has been frowned upon because it causes what has been dubbed ‘starvation mode.’ Some ask if that real or just a feeling? Does it really affect the metabolism and shut it down? Or does it simply make you feel poorly because the body is used to eating what it wants, when it wants?
The body can be easily irritated by not being given what it wants. When intermittent fasting or low-calorie intake begins, the body cries out and begins to demand certain things of you. If not received, your body begins to inflict consequences:
- Intense hunger
- Stomach pain
These consequences can feel confusing and are often, therefore, attributed to “starvation mode.”
Why shouldn’t you starve yourself to lose weight? While there are many, here are the top four reasons.
1. Metabolism Slows Down
Interestingly enough, when your body is depleted of caloric intake (the source of all your energy), your metabolism (that mysterious thing that burns calories) slows down in order to conserve energy. Long story short: not eating enough actually causes your body to start storing fat and energy because it tells your brain that it’s being starved and doesn’t know when the next available food source will come.
In “starvation mode,” your body may even begin to drop muscle mass in order to conserve energy. Interestingly enough, according to some studies, starvation can actually result in the body’s fat cells being preserved in place of lean mass and muscle mass. Additionally, after starvation, individuals are more likely to gain more weight than their non-starved counterparts.
Your body is designed to protect you from starvation. It will hold onto any source of energy and sustenance necessary to keep you alive, even if that energy source is your very own fat cells and muscle.
2. Nutrient and Vitamin Depletion
When your body is deprived of a necessary amount of calories to ensure proper nutrition, it misses out on key vitamins, minerals, and amino acids needed to sustain life. According to research from e-SPEN, this has ramifications for many daily functions:
- Inability or no desire to perform physical activity
- Difficulty regulating mood swings and emotionality
- Weakened immune system, leading to sickness
- Lack of key vitamins and nutrients necessary to fight illness and disease (which are essential for our bodies, especially during this time)
If you’ve ever watched shows like “The Biggest Loser,” it feels almost too good to be true that contestants lose as much weight as they do, and might even encourage you to take drastic measures in your own weight loss journey. However, proceed with caution: 14 “The Biggest Loser” contestants were investigated in this study and the results are alarming. 13 of the 14 studied regained a significant amount of weight, and their basal metabolic rate didn’t increase with the fluctuations in weight, making it hard to maintain a healthy weight after losing so many pounds so quickly.
Let’s be clear: it is possible to lose weight in the quantity the participants do, but it is up to the individual to determine which methods and timeframe are sustainable and healthy for their body and life. Starvation will only result in later weight regain, and a depleted metabolism.
Your health isn’t a game!
Likely, you’ve experienced some semblance of fatigue or exhaustion when you skip a meal or two. Now imagine skipping multiple meals for days in a row, or eating barely enough to keep functioning throughout the day. Yep, you guessed it: your body begins to preserve energy in order to keep your most vital organs alive, and you’re left with little to no excess energy to do the things you love.
Weight loss is so much more than shedding a few pounds. Weight loss is also about creating a sustainable lifestyle that upholds healthy eating, regular exercise, and energy for relationships and hobbies.
Lastly, we would be remiss to not mention the importance of maintaining a healthy relationship with both food and the mirror as you seek to lose weight quickly. Starving oneself to lose weight may seem like a fine idea for a short period of time, but it can quickly become a means of control and toxicity in how one thinks about oneself.
Being hungry often enough can start to feel like power and control, but may take a turn for the worst into addiction and disordered eating. Anorexia nervosa is characterized by an intense fear of gaining fat, and attaches one’s value to body shape and weight. Anorexic individuals restrict what they intake often to the point of malnutrition.
Choosing not to eat as a means to feel good about yourself can become a habit that may take over your life. Make sure you have people around you who can hold you accountable, encourage you, and help you keep track of your goals during your weight loss journey.
Healthy Weight Loss with Skinny Up!®
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*individual results may vary **results not guaranteed
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