Sunday, October 31, 2010

Don't Go To Low...

Here's the scenario:  You or someone you know is trying desperately to lose weight and get lean - but no matter what - it doesn't seem to be working.  Sure the scale went down at first, but the pants still fit the same, in fact they actually feel a little tighter, and weight loss has stopped even though meals keep getting smaller.  Does this mean you or this person you know is just destined to be fat? 

The answer is NO!!  One of the biggest mistakes I see people make when trying to lose weight is that they aren't eating enough.  Yep, you read it right - you must eat to lose weight!!  It doesn't matter who you are - it is HIGHLY unlikely that 800 calories per day is going to cut it.  This confuses many because the general rule is that in order to lose weight the amount of calories eaten must be less than the amount burned in exercise and daily living.  This is true - but when the body isn't getting the fuel it needs to run its everyday functions it starts to conserve and hold on to everything it's got.  Let's look at this a little further...

Our bodies are smart and when they aren't getting what they need they start turning things off.  Imagine a campfire - it will only burn as long as there is something feeding it.  When it not adequately "fueled" the fire gets smaller and smaller until it puts itself out.  Our body's metabolism works much the same way.  If we don't put enough fuel in, the body switches to a "starvation mode" and slows down the rate at which it runs in order to conserve energy. 

Additionally, fat tissue stores more energy than muscle tissue, so being "smart" the body holds on to the more valuable fat and starts breaking down muscle for fuel.  This means that instead of getting leaner the opposite is occurs.  This explains why some people lose weight on the scale, but at the same time experience an increase in body fat percentage and/or inches.  This is neither the desired effect nor is it healthy.

So, how do you know what "enough" is?  It is very difficult to make generalizations from one person to the next.  There are lots of BMR (basal metabolic rate) calculators online that use formulas that can provide a starting point.  But keep in mind these formulas make assumptions that might not fit you.  As a general rule an INACTIVE female requires no less than 1200 calories per day and an INACTIVE male should go no lower than 1800 per day.  Factor in exercise, age, muscle mass, etc. and the numbers will increase.  Once again, EVERYONE is different but the overall concept is the same - You have to eat in order to lose fat, maintain/gain muscle and preserve metabolism.

If you aren't getting the results you want it might be time to reevaluate your diet plan.  Choosing the correct foods at the right times and in the right amounts will put you on the road to a leaner, healthier body. 

Just Say No to Going Too Low!!!



  1. Amy,
    Thank you for your blog. It was about something I have questions about.
    My wife has tried a lot of different eating plans and diets and never really lost any weight. She's 5'2" and about 150lbs. The last few years she's continued to gain weight. We're both 56 (don't tell her I said her age or weight) and I follow Paleo eating about 70% of the time. She's a terrific cook and I try not to break her heart by being too strict. She's given up a lot of her happiness in eating to please and support me. I'm 5'9" and 160lbs. I eat about twice the amount of food she does. She followed my eating plan strictly for two weeks and didn't lose an ounce.
    In thirty years of marriage I've never seen her respond to any type of eating that would keep her slim. I'm wondering if it's all genetics. She comes from a group of fluffy (her word) women. The only reason I'm writing is that she hates being big. My feeling is that that's the way she is and there's really nothing that can be done but continue to let her know I love her.
    Any possible ideas?
    She doesn't exercise. Never will. She almost never eats breakfast. Don't think she ever will.
    Your faithful reader.
    Dana Law

  2. Dana,

    Thanks for the comment! As far as your wife goes, I would need to know a little bit more about her. What does her diet look like? Does she have any medical issues? What are her sleeping patterns? Etc. Please feel free to email me at Also, there may be some changes your wife will need to make in order to be succesful and if she is unwilling to do certain things, such as exercise I would sit down with her and give a little tough love. Sometimes we have to do things we don't want to in order to accomplish larger goals. I am certain that with a few changes in diet and lifestyle she will be able to achieve weight loss - the question is, is she ready to change?? I would LOVE to help you and her out please email me!!