Counting up to 1200 calories, reducing 500 calories every time you see your weighing scale changing or going for a calorie deficit program is a standard way of losing weight in today’s world. But little do we focus on the fact that it’s all short-term goals. At the same time, little do we focus on how our body reacts to any weight loss programs in the long run until we reach a point where we regain the lost weight and are unable to lose our body weight again. It is at that point we wonder, why, what and how? Then we blame it to our body types or just increase our frustrations leading to depression or other disorders.
Well, I have been there many years ago. I have also been on calorie deficit plan. I used to count calories mostly on My Fitness Pal and felt starved most of the time. Unaware of the fact, that by losing weight in such an unscientifically way I am losing muscles as well. Being on a calorie deficit plan or restricting calories for a prolonged time slows down our metabolism in the long run. At that point not only, the body regains all the weight, but loses muscles, strength and fights against any future weight loss because the metabolism further slows down.
While I was doing my certification on weight management, I learnt that restricting calories may fulfill short term goals. But in the long run it further slows down the metabolism which is a hindrance in future weight loss plans. Therefore, its not about restricting calories or counting it on a daily basis it is basically a lifestyle change.
In 2016 a study by National Institute of Health which was conducted on the participants of Biggest Loser, where it was found that the participants defiantly lost lot of weight drastically. While in the program, they were under restricted calories plan and extreme fitness regime along with the guidance of trainers and medical experts. They achieved their set goals while on the TV show. However, later it was found that most of them gained all the weight back and some even more than their initial weight.
Even though they tried to maintain certain diet and exercise regime later,that is, after the show, yet their body weight acted stubborn. It was then found that due to extreme weight loss program their metabolism had slowed down tremendously. In fact, their body was fighting against any weight loss. Therefore, the study revealed that their body had developed a self-defense mechanism against any weight loss.
What happens when we restrict calories?
Our body is based on our ancestral biology. It is already proved that when our body sense any kind of starvation it will fight against it. Basically, in this case our appetite hormones, called as, ghrelin, activates and sends signal to our brains that we are hungry. It is also known as appetite hormone. This in turn decreases the metabolic rate and increases the appetite. As a result, we often tend to crave for comfort food which is sugar, fat and carbohydrate loaded. Therefore, we tend to regain weight.
The hunger control hormone called as leptin is overpowered by our appetite hormone. Leptin is a hormone produced by body fat cells. It regulates the number of calories consumed and burnt as well as the fat stored in the body.
The science behind restricting calories.
When you restrict calories, you may lose weight in the short term. However, if you have not changed your set point your body will regain the lost weight. In fact, in some cases, even more. This means that it releases more hunger hormones (ghrelin). Then, it increases the set point, thereby reducing the satiety hormones (leptin). This in turn increases your satiety level. This means that the pleasure that you derive from your favorite foods are set to even higher expectations which leads you to overeat and stretch your stomach beyond. This will have an impact on your metabolism and overtime your physiology will drive you to gain weight.
What is a set point?
The set point is a border line of consuming food and burning it. Our appetite is regulated by a complex system in our brains. We get the signal from there how much we should eat and consume calories and what should be the limit. It is not one size fit for all. It differs for every individual but when we restrict calories it varies up or down depending on the type of diet and its extremities.
Therefore, in order to successfully lose weight and maintain it, few important steps that I learnt was to:
- Avoid extremes – I stopped calorie deficit plan and do not worry about counting calories. This has a psychological effect on my appetite. My body, my taste buds and my stomach do not feel deprived. It is not practical to follow extreme weight loss program for a long term so it is important for us to have a balance of healthy eating and physical activity that fits into our daily routine.
- Diet change – I gradually changed my diet and included more of whole foods and minimally processed foods. This way nature itself watch for the calories. By eating healthy we provide our body with nourishment and all the required nutrients without worrying about supplements because healthy homemade food will take care of balancing the nutrition. It is important to eat protein in every meal and include lots of fruits and vegetables into our diet. We should make a chart of what type of foods are we eating for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. This helps us to assess our eating pattern and then bring a change into our eating habits.
- Exercise – being physically active plays a major role in boosting metabolism. Even if you are super busy and do not have an hour for exercise you can be more physically active throughout the day.
- Acceptance – lastly, instead of stressing over weight loss and diet, I understood the fact that we all are genetically different so, finally, I accepted it and now I love my body. It is true that every individual has different shape and sizes and it is nature. So, its better to accept the way we are and simply follow a healthy routine for a better overall health instead of a planning to restrict calories.
Weight loss is not only about losing weight and fitting into extra small dress size. It’s about a commitment to a healthier lifestyle for a longer time period. If we understand the basic body functioning and what happens when we restrict calories, we would be able to work accordingly and help ourselves to achieve a goal of healthy weight and active life.
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