The current advice says, “It’s Easy! Just start counting calories. Reduce your caloric intake, exercise, and you will lose weight and be healthy!”
But that doesn’t always work. In fact, it may be the thing that is keeping us in the endless cycle of lose, gain, lose gain. It may even be dangerous. But why?
Let’s break it down. Calories = Energy. If we don’t eat enough calories, we won’t have enough energy. And if we don’t have enough energy, our bodies cannot function properly. If our bodies cannot function properly, we will get sick.
This sickness can be in many forms. Excessive weight gain or loss, loss of energy, disease, pain, and emotional turmoil.
The USDA recommends that women eat approximately 2,000 calories per day, and men eat approximately 2,400 calories per day. This varies slightly depending on age and activity level.
Eating significantly fewer calories per day than this is starvation.
It is true that starvation does cause weight loss, but it does NOT create health. There are serious health risks that come from starving our bodies, so be sure this is not a trivial matter.
We all know what happens when we restrict our calories (AKA Starve Ourselves). At first, we have enough will power and energy reserves to cope. Our bodies respond by using our energy stores to compensate for the reduction in energy intake. We then see water or weight loss, and give ourselves a pat on the back. But soon, our brain and other organs cannot keep up with the lack of proper fuel, and our brain begins to send us panic signals. EAT!!! ANYTHING!!! We then unconsciously binge on the nearest, most caloric dense food we can. Afterward, our body feels better momentarily, but we feel defeated, and discouraged. We tell ourselves, “I just need more will power!” But is that the answer?
Clearly, our bodies thrive with enough fuel. This fuel comes from carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are the most important source of energy for the body. Our digestive system converts carbohydrates into glucose. Every cell in our body uses this glucose for energy. Any extra sugar is stores in our liver and muscles for future needs.
Not eating enough carbohydrates can result in starvation for our cells.
This is the primary reason that low-carb diets do not work long-term.
However, while insufficient caloric intake and lack of carbohydrates can cause starvation, inadequate intake of nutrients can also cause this. Many times, even when people eat more than enough calories, they can still be starving their bodies because the body is undernourished. It is a natural function of the body to want more food in order to get the nutrients it needs. This is real hunger, the body’s need for fuel and nutrients.
Clearly, the answer to a healthy trim body is not to eat less.
So, what should we do?
1. Eat the Right Foods. Prevent starvation and sickness by focusing on eating high-carbohydrate, low-fat whole plant foods. These foods are naturally full of the essential vitamins and nutrients your body needs. This will ensure you have enough energy for your body to be healthy and thrive.
Examples: Fruit, Green & Cruciferous Vegetables, Potatoes, Rice, & Whole Grains.
2. Start Counting Calories the Right Way. Until you become adept at calculating your daily caloric intake, track your intake with cronometer.com to ensure you are getting enough calories and nutrients.
3. Exercise. Exercise is important to a healthy body. It can help regulate proper feelings of hunger, help you sleep better, and increase your motivation to eat healthier.
4. Educate yourself on proper nutrition. The more you learn, the better you will be capable in making and confident in your healthy lifestyle choices. Start here with A Lesson in Nutrition.
5. Stop blaming yourself. Start taking action to live a healthy lifestyle. Fad diets and calorie restricting don’t work. Start feeding your body with an abundance of energy and vitamin rich foods, and your body will naturally maintain a healthy weight and energy level.
6. Cut out processed foods. These foods are devoid of the calories and nutrients that your body needs and they will cause you to overeat as your body continues to crave the essential nutrients it isn’t getting from the foods you are eating. If you give your body the vitamins and nutrients it needs from the start, you will not be tempted to overeat or to eat unnatural “foods” to satisfy your body’s hunger. Whole, plant foods will satisfy this need, and leave you feeling amazing.
7. Change your thinking. Stop the distorted thinking that restriction is the answer. It is not. Start thinking about giving your body an abundance of energy, vitamins, nutrients, and water. Remind yourself daily that your body deserves the best. You deserve to be happy and healthy! 🙂