The generally accepted rule of thumb for weight loss is as follows… Eat fewer calories, lose more fat.
In general, this is correct. But there are a few things you need to consider when reducing your calories!
Your body has what’s called you BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate). This is how many calories your body needs in one day to sustain life.
Read that again – your BMR is how many calories you need to simply live and breathe. This is not counting getting up, walking, exercising etc.
When dietary professionals write a meal plan for you and tell you how many calories you should be consuming, typically they are using an activity factor to determine roughly how many calories you burn based on your BMR and your activity level, which helps them determine how many calories you need to maintain overall.
When you want to lose weight, they take that number and subtract a couple hundred to help you lose weight depending on how fast you want to lose.
Generally accepted, this is a safe and effective way to lose weight. The problem?
Far too often in my experience with helping clients with their eating habits, they take this idea of calorie reduction to the extremes in order to lose weight faster.
They think that if they can reduce their calories even more, they will reach their weight loss goals faster, but this isn’t the case.
Your body needs calories. And when you restrict your calories too much, you can unintentionally put your body into a state where it thinks it’s starving. This is A) not sustainable and therefore not good for a long-term health plan, and B) it also can cause you to ruin your metabolism.
When the body thinks it’s starving for calories, it will quickly work to find a way to need less calories to sustain. How does it do that? The quickest way is to break down your muscle tissue, because your muscle tissue burns a lot of calories during the day. And the body has an ability to break down muscle tissue and convert the protein to carbohydrates for energy. It's a double whammy to your body!
By eating too few calories, you can ultimately cause your body to break down your muscle, thereby also decreasing the number of calories your body can burn in a given day.
I’ve had many clients tell me this same story “Years ago I went on a diet, I lost 40 lbs total. But then I didn't stay on my diet, and I bounced back, only this time I gained even more weight than I lost. And now it's even harder to lose weight, I don't know what I'm doing wrong this time.”
It's not that he/she is doing anything wrong. They are probably following a similar model they used the previous time to lose weight - which in theory, should work. The problem is that they starved their body and lowered their metabolism by decreasing the amount of muscle tissue they had on their body. When they couldn’t maintain the restrictive calorie deficit forever, they went back to their old eating habits, which may have been the same calories as before the diet – but because their body couldn’t burn as many calories anymore, they gained more weight. And this time they are restricting their calories again - but because they lowered their metabolism, they would have to restrict their calories even more to lose weight this time.
It’s the unfortunate story I hear ALL the time, and it pains me to hear clients say they are eating fewer than 1200 calories, especially when they are weight training or doing other high calorie burning activities like interval training.
But here’s the good news – you get to (and should) eat more! It's crucial to figure out how many calories you really should be eating for you goals and the activity you are doing.
Ask your Koko FitCoach for help on how to be sure you’re eating the right number of calories for your goals! Your MyKoko Fuel Plan calculates your metabolic rate based on your FitCheck readings and your goals. It's a great starting place for you to read up on your metabolism, daily focus, calories, and other helpful food tips.
And if you feel like the above scenario describes you - don't fret! Your metabolism can be improved with the right combination of strength training and healthy eating. Once again all you have to do is ask your Koko FitCoach for help!