Most women are under the impression that the less they eat, the more weight they will lose. In theory, that should and does work—but not for very long. The problem with eating less is that once your body adapts to eating this way, two things will happen. First, your body will eventually get used to not getting enough nourishment so it will begin to store and hold on to fat. It goes into what is called survival mode. Your body begins to hold onto fat thinking that it is getting ready to enter a starvation period. The second thing that happens is that you are going to quickly see a decrease in the amount of energy and stamina you have to effectively exercise. Eating less is not the answer to long-term weight loss—nor should it be. You cannot stick to a 1000-calorie (or lower) diet for the rest of your life. You may lose weight, but what you will gain is a myriad of health issues including thyroid problems, missed periods, fatigue, light-headedness and low blood pressure. And let’s face it…is it worth losing those pounds in exchange for all of these other, more serious problems? Probably not.
So what is the answer? There is a small bit of truth to eating less, but it should start with eating less of the foods that are not good for you including processed foods, sugar, soda and junk food. Just the mere act of not eating high fat, high sugar, high processed foods, will help you start losing weight pretty quick. After that, you need to move on to eating the right kinds of foods. This means swapping out your white potatoes for sweet potatoes, your white rice for brown rice and your fatty steaks to leaner cuts of meat and poultry. Eat more fish, fruits and vegetables. Yes, eat more of these things as they are packed with nutrients and vitamins that help your body stay healthy and strong. The sky really is the limit when it comes to healthy foods. If you exercise regularly, and if you exercise at high intensities, it is a must that you eat more. Think about this—if you are about to perform a one-hour session of high-intensity exercise and/or heavy weight lifting, how much energy will you have to give it your all if the only thing you ate was half a banana and a cup of coffee? The caffeine will only get you so far before you start feeling tired and weak. And once that begins to happen, your workout will suffer. You will not be able to continue at the high intensity pace and you will most likely have to decrease the weights you lift. This is counterproductive since the goal is to get stronger and faster. You cannot do that if you are not fueling your body with enough food.
Now what happens? Because you cannot workout as intensely as you want, your workouts suffer and then weight loss suffers because you can no longer workout as intensely. In effect, your workouts have become less effective and less efficient in terms of helping you lose or maintain your weight. Do not be surprised if you start seeing some weight gain. Much talk has been made about “cheat” days or “cheat” meals. This works on two levels. First, it allows you to go off your healthy diet once a week and indulge in the foods that you crave. Fighting cravings is not always easy so this allows you to give in to them once a week for some much needed emotional and psychological relief. It also makes fighting those cravings a lot easier because you allowed yourself to have what you wanted that one time. The second benefit of cheat days/meals is that your body actually gets used to eating the same healthy foods and the same amount of calories each day. By enjoying a day where you do not have to pay so much attention to what you eat, your body gets thrown off a bit from the extra calories and digesting foods it is not used to getting all the time. This actually resets your metabolism a bit because your body is now working differently (and harder) trying to figure out how to process these unfamiliar foods.
Do not be afraid to eat. Food is fuel and what your body needs to function on a daily basis. And remember, the more active you are, the more food your body will require. Forget about all those waif-like celebrities with their bones sticking out from their ribs. Aside from looking wrong, it is just downright unhealthy. Starvation is not a diet, but a recipe for future health issues. Eat what you want, just make sure it is healthy and gives you the right amount of energy you need whether you are about to run a marathon, lift weights or spend the day chasing after the kids. Food is not the enemy—bad food is the enemy.