If you're trying to lose weight, you've probably amassed a menu full of calorie-cutting tips and tricks. The weight loss industry is a multi-billion pound industry filled with low calorie meal plans. You probably also know that by cutting down sugar and eating plenty of veggies, lean protein, unprocessed carbohydrates, fruit, and healthy fats will help you to slim down.
So if you eat low calorie and healthy foods but still can’t seem to lose weight, or even end up gaining weight, it can be very frustrating.
We’ve all been there - following a plan that’s supposed to get you lean, cutting calories; battling with intense hunger and cravings; getting irritable and grouchy; having poor sleep; dropping a few pounds initially and then it starts going nowhere. Suddenly you feel desperate, disheartened, and don’t even know the reason why your diet has failed.
These diets are designed to strip away stubborn fat and give you the body of your dreams – but they might be actually sabotaging your results, and be responsible for you rebounding and gaining weight.
In this world of calorie-counting and cutting portion sizes, it’s easy to believe that simply lowering your calorie intake will result in weight loss, and help you torch body fat. So it may come as a shock to learn that many of the ones you've sworn by are actually slowing your progress.
In reality, your body adapts and compensates for this low-calorie intake by burning less. By slashing your calorie intake, your body descends into survival mode and tries to store everything you eat, meaning you’ll stop burning fat.
Keep reading to find out more about low calorie diets.
What’s a low calorie diet?
This diet is based on the a simple and logical mathematical fact: 1 gram of protein and 1 gram of carbohydrates has 4 calories, while 1 gram of fat has 9 calories. So eating 1 gram of fat would yield 9 calories and 1 gram of any other food would yield 4 calories. The conclusion is that you should eat less to weigh less and fat is bad for you. So the natural next step is reducing the calorie intake. If women are supposed to consume 1200 calories/day and men 1600/day, then the goal is to keep your daily intake below those figures.
The fact is that very low calorie diets work for short term weight loss but the question is what are you doing to yourself in the long run?
These diets can cause you problems in the future.
Problems associated with low calorie diets
As soon as you cut the calories too low the body thinks it is starving. Then, your metabolism begins to slow because the body wants to conserve its energy.
Once your body has exhausted its supply of available carbohydrates, it will start to breakdown fat and muscle for fuel. This is dangerous and exhausting for many reasons.
- You will lose muscle mass – When your body isn’t given enough energy to survive, it willstart drawing energy from your muscles because they burn more calories than fat. Also, the high caloric demands of muscles make them very important in weight loss. One of the main reasons we gain weight as we age is due to the decrease in muscle mass and associated hormones.
- You will lose testosterone – Testosterone levels decrease with caloric restriction, making it much harder to maintain muscle mass.
- Your leptin levels will decrease, and you will feel exhausted – Leptin is one of those hormones that helps signal to your brain that you’re hungry. Low leptin levels register as “I’m hungry!” which is no surprise in this case. Also, low energy sets in with low calorie intake. So forget about trying to exercise on a calorie-restricted diet when you’re hungry — it’s just not happening.
Reasons why you’re gaining weight on a low calorie diet:
Besides all the problems mentioned above, there might be other reasons why you’re not losing weight while on a low calorie diet.
Just because a food is considered “healthy,” doesn’t mean you can eat unhealthy amounts of it. Yes, you know you need to control your portions when you have a piece of cake or bowl of ice cream. But you may not have realised that the same goes for grains, healthy fats, and even fruit. You might actually think that you’re on a low calorie diet because you eat low calorie foods while that’s not the case. When you load up your plate with healthy nuts, berries, greek yogurt and oatmeal, you need to remember that those aren’t free of calories. No matter how healthy the food is for you, those calories can still add up, causing you to experience a weight loss plateau or even weight gain.
Lack of Protein
Protein is a very important nutrient for losing weight. Eating protein can boost metabolism and make you automatically eat several hundred fewer calories per day. It can also drastically reduce cravings and desire for snacking.
Breakfast is the most important meal to load up on the protein. Studies show that those who eat a high-protein breakfast are less hungry and have fewer cravings throughout the day.
There are certain medications that might be stimulating your weight gain. If you look at the list of side effects for the medications you are taking and see “weight gain” on the list – then make an appointment with your doctor. Perhaps there is another drug available that doesn’t cause weight gain.
If you’re doing everything right and still aren’t getting results, then perhaps you have some underlying hormonal disorders, particularly hypothyroidism.
Not having enough sleep
Good sleep is one of the most important things to consider for your weight loss efforts. Studies show that poor sleep is one of the single biggest risk factors for obesity. Adults and children with poor sleep have a 55% and 89% greater risk of becoming obese, respectively.
A lack of sleep can make us feel hungrier. It will also make us tired and less motivated to exercise and eat healthy. If you’re doing everything right but still not getting proper sleep, then you won’t see anywhere near the results you might expect.
Not Drinking Water
Water has a lot of benefits for weight loss. It boosts the amount of calories burned by 24-30% over a period of 1.5 hours.
High stress levels
Unfortunately, it isn’t always enough to just eat healthy and exercise. Being stressed all the time keeps elevated levels of stress hormones like cortisol. Having chronically high cortisol levels can increase your hunger and cravings for unhealthy foods.
Not Eating Whole Foods
Food quality is just as important as quantity. Eating superfoods can improve your health and help regulate your appetite. These foods tend to be much more filling than their processed counterparts. Eating more nutrient-dense, healthy foods may well be the answer to your fat loss prayers.
“Diets” almost never work in the long term. If anything, studies actually show is that people who “diet” gain more weight over time. What you eat makes quite a difference. Just counting calories won’t matter much unless you look at the kinds of calories you’re eating.
Focus on nourishing your body instead of depriving it, and let weight loss follow as a natural side effect.