A calorie deficit is what you needed to lose weight, but by cutting out too much at the outset, you are not leaving yourself any wiggle room.
Ever wondered why you have dieted like mad, done well for some time and then it all grinds to a halt. At which point you either don’t move past a certain size and weight or you get fed up, give up and go back to bad habits. Then maybe start the whole thing again – sounds familiar?
This is because most people when dieting make the common mistake of drastically reducing the number of calories they consume too quickly. Whilst a calorie controlled crash diet might provide the results you are looking for initially, at some point you will reach the dreaded plateau.
Yes a calorie deficit is what you needed to lose weight, but by cutting out too much at the outset, you are not leaving yourself any wiggle room, for when your body gets used to surviving on the amount of calories you are now feeding it.
To create a calorie deficit you have two options:
- Reduce your calories - i.e. eat less food
- Increase your calorie usage - ie. move more = exercise
You can of course do a combination of the both, but quite often the first option is what most people go for.
If you normally eat 2,200 calories (for example) and reduce it to 1,200 you will definitely lose weight because you have created a calorie deficit. Your body is used to consuming 2,200 and now needs to use stored sources of energy as fuel, triggering weight loss.
What people don’t always realise is that at some point your body will hit a plateau.
You will hit a point where you just can’t seem to shift any more weight. This is because your body is efficient and has learnt to survive on 1,200 calories per day reaching homeostasis.
Homeostasis in this instance, is the place where your body is now comfortable with its reduced calorie intake, reducing the need to trigger the response in your body to use its stored energy sources.
In other words, you can’t get past this point, as your body can now run on what you are eating. In order to lose more weight, you need to stress your body by kick starting the process all over again so:
- Reduce your calories - i.e. eat less food
- Increase your calorie usage - ie. more = exercise
But hang on– maybe you have now started an exercise routine and really couldn’t fit in any more and perhaps you dropped way too many calories in the beginning, you really couldn’t eat any less or maintain such a restrictive diet.
So what can you do? Start off the calorie deficit in the right way, baby steps, coaxing your body bit by bit to give up the fat. To start with don’t go mad with either a restrictive diet or crazy exercise plan, try and eat healthier, smaller portions, cut back on sugar and move more, making small changes a bit at a time will be easier to achieve and maintain in the long run.
When we diet we can be losing lean muscle tissue rather than the fat we were hoping to shift
Unfortunately we don’t always lose fat when we diet. By approaching weight loss in the wrong way, we can actually end up making it harder for ourselves to lose and maintain weight. Dramatic changes in diet cause our bodies to believe it is a time of famine and send it into preservation mode.
But if you think your body will now turn to its fat stores that you want to get rid of, you would be wrong. The body actually releases a stress hormone, cortisol, to access an energy source. Cortisol enables gluconeogenesis, turning proteins into glucose. This protein can come from your diet, but another source is the lean muscle tissue in your body. Your body likes to use this as an energy source first and would rather hang onto the fat you want to lose – using these as a last resort.
Aim for inch loss rather than weight loss
When you make a change to your lifestyle don’t go crazy, jumping on and off the scales every five minutes. The digits on the scales have the power to literally ruin a whole day or week. Weight is not necessarily a true reflection of what shape your body is in. The scales can’t measure how fit or strong you are. They don’t tell you how many inches you have lost. They can’t tell you what your body actually looks like – and yes lean muscle looks way better than fat - even if the scales have not moved much. So step off the scales and grab the tape measure, this is a much more efficient way to monitor the triumphs of your new healthy lifestyle.