Caloric deficit dieting is one of the most well known, more frequently done diets. People think if too much is going in - you gain weight. If you just take in less calories, you'll lose weight - right? Well, not really. This is truly one of those topics that seems like it should be common sense but what seems like common sense will lead you to the completely wrong answer.
Growing up in a world of cheerleading I saw this type of dieting a lot; the "if I just don't eat anything I will be little enough" diet. Believe me when I say it's not just cheerleaders and high school girls who do this. It's males and females of all types and it wrecks the body. Even before a full blow eating disorder diagnosis is used- this devastates the body.
I will be honest, this is post is a little more tough to read. It's got a lot of information and it not that fun nor is it cheery. However, this is extremely important to read so you are informed about what poorly designed diets do to the body.
Okay, so let's dive in...what is a calorie?
Calorie comes from the latin word "calor" meaning heat and tells us how much energy it takes to raise the temperature of 1 gram of water. This is important because heat causes reactions in the body the same is it does outside of the body. So, ultimately, the calorie unit of measurement telling us the amount of energy in certain foods.
But here is why that isn't that helpful:
Contrary to popular belief, calories in a food do not tell us whether or not a piece of food is "healthy" or not. In fact, that mentality really only comes from people that made lazy assumptions and yet still somehow got their words thrown into magazines and the media. This largely started in the 1940's and only growing in popularity from there. The problem is, low vs. high calorie and healthy vs. unhealthy just isn't that black and white. Just think, if being low calorie foods were healthy and high calorie foods were bad then that means it would be better to eat a cup of marshmallows than it would to have a cup of a smoothie bowl made with fresh fruit and topped with quality granola, fruit, and nuts. See my point?
The amount of calories in food is far less important than where they come from.
The body needs energy and that comes from the things we feed ourselves.
Our body NEEDS protein. It needs carbs (sorry not sorry keto). Those are each 4 calories per gram. It needs quality fats (they're 9 kcals per gram). The fact is nutrition dense foods provide a lot of energy. In turn, they may be high in calories and that's okay. What is important is that your body is getting what it needs to function and function well. It's all about asking "why is this food high in calories" not "is it high in calories". If it is high in calories because of processed sugars and high glycemic index carbs, that is no good. If it is because it has good fats, protein, and low glycemic carbs, that's great!
It destroys the metabolism ultimately delaying weight loss
As I stated above, the body needs sources of energy. If there is any law of physics most of us will remember from high school it is that energy can neither be created nor destroyed. The body cannot create energy to run the millions upon billions of biochemical reactions that your body must do every single day - on it's own. You must feed and it will not accept any other option.
That means that when you don't eat or reduce your calories below the bodies function threshold, your brain picks up on that and flips on "starvation mode" to protect itself. That is why initially someone who has significantly decreased caloric intake may lose some weight semi-quickly but then the results reduce significantly. When the results begin slowing, it's because the brain has caught on to what is happening and then STOPS the body from burning fat holding on to all the weight it can. You see, within that fat the body is storing is valuable nutrients that the body has saving for an emergency and it will not let that go if it doesn't know when or how it will replenish that supply (aka when the body will get it's next meal).
Once the brain realizes that you aren't feeding the body anymore it preserves this storage by holding on to every little thing it can in hopes of helping the body survive. Basically, it's scared. Even worse, once you have done this it takes approximately three years to restore the metabolism before you can lose weight effectively again. This is basically the process of your brain learning trust that you will feed the body consistently and restoring what has been damaged.
I wish desperately for high school and college aged individuals to know this information. I knew more people, including myself, who tried this than people who did not. Knowing the real damage that you are causing when you do this is important and I genuinely believe that if more people knew this they wouldn't do it. They would choose something that is good for both their body and their mind. They would know that more importantly than losing weight is being healthy because no one is a number. Not from a scale, a ID, a test or GPA, not a number from anything.
Until next time,