Hands up who has been on a low-calorie diet
to lose weight?
Yep me too.
And who has lost weight pretty quickly
while on it and then put it all on again afterwards?
And again, me too.
Having been through every fad diet out
there I’m now preaching the benefits of doing a bit more research and learning
what your body needs before you start depriving it of anything.
Let’s start at the beginning. Your body has
what’s called a Base
Metabolic Rate which is the amount of calories your body will burn if you
were to spend 24 hours lying in a bed just existing. It’s a surprisingly high
number, mine is just over 1,360.
Now multiply that by your PAL
(physical activity level) and you should get to the number of calories that you
need to eat each day to maintain your current body weight. Most people end up
at around 1800 – 2200 calories each day after this equation.
Now here’s where the complicated science
comes in (not really). If you eat less than your maintenance calories or burn
off some of those calories you will lose weight. If you eat more you will gain
So technically, yes, a low-calorie diet
will work in as much as you’re expending more energy than you’re consuming.
Here’s the reality though: you only need to
cut your calories by a few hundred (300-500) each day either through eating
less or exercising more to see a difference being made. It might take longer
than crash-dieting as you should expect to lose around 1-1.5lbs each week but
it will be sustainable, healthy and you won’t get any of those horrible
side-effects of crash-dieting.
By eating less than your Base Metabolic
Rate each day here is what you’re doing to your body:
You go into starvation mode
where your poor body will cling onto every calorie desperately
Your metabolism will slow down
as your body doesn’t know when or where the next lot of calories is coming from
so it conserves energy rather than burning it
All of your lovely muscle mass
that gives you that ‘toned’ look will waste away as your body starts to break
it down for energy. Interestingly, your body will burn muscle before it burns
fat in this instance because fat is more valuable as protection than muscle
when in starvation mode
You’ll feel exhausted as you
just aren’t consuming enough calories to give you the energy needed to do
Your skin, hair and nails will
suffer as they’re not getting enough nutrients to stay strong and shiny or
Mentally you might start to get
a bit obsessed with seeing how few calories you can survive on and apart from
this not being a healthy headspace, you also get really boring to all of your
If you’re paying proper attention to your
nutrition and eating as much unprocessed food as you can fit into your calories
then you should find it relatively easy to lose weight but don’t get
disheartened if you don’t see any changes immediately. Just check that you’re
being truthful to yourself about what you’re eating and stick with it. Your
body will get with the programme.