Time to get back to the weight loss series with an awesomely-titled post from Denis Faye on the perils of low-calorie diets.
When people get like this, the first thing they typically do is go on a starvation diet. Much to my frustration, this typically works. But it rarely lasts. Mega-calorie deficits aren’t sustainable. You lose the weight, but you don’t learn how to eat to keep the weight off, so you usually gain it all back. Furthermore, you’re more likely to burn out and quit your diet or, worse, injure yourself working out because you’re not eating enough to recover properly.
Unfortunately, this type of advice often falls on deaf ears given people tend to feel that they have control of the issue and that they are going to be that one exception to the rule that slinks through the gauntlet without a scratch. (Of course, if they had control, they wouldn’t be in this situation to begin with.) But this is all a moot point now because I no longer need to advice people using logic and common sense. Thanks to findings presented this year to the European Congress on Obesity, I can now use Science!
A study looked at two groups of dieters. Group one ate 500 calories a day for five-weeks. Group two ate 1,250 calories a day for 12 weeks. In the end, the two groups lost a similar amount of weight—19 pounds on average. So the 500 calorie folks lost weight faster,but they also lost 3.5 pounds of muscle mass, whereas the 1,250 calorie group only lost 1.3 pounds of muscle mass. In other words, 7.7% of weight loss came from muscle loss for the 1,250 group while 18% came from muscle loss for the 500 calorie group.
Long story short, when you starve yourself, your body goes into a catabolic state and breaks down more muscle for fuel. You are literally eating yourself alive. These results are preliminary and the study has yet to be peer-reviewed, but given how stark they are, they warrant consideration.
Click on through to read the whole thing, along with the study mentioned. While this topic was touched on in The Basics of Weight Loss, Denis’s post goes further and gets into the psychological issues people face when trying to move away from such plans. It’s a fairly popular topic if you happen to read gossip zines about super models (and who doesn’t?) but Denis and I can attest to the fact that those with less pressure to perform at their thinnest have trouble, too. As you can tell from Denis’ tone, we have more issues convincing our customers that they need to eat more in order to continually lose weight than any other topic. By far. So it’s important to hammer home the fact that in order to be functionally thin you need to eat enough nutrients to support your body’s lifestyle. If you don’t, not only will your weight loss plateau but your body’s ability to move, think, and even sleep will slide slowly toward an abyss.
Pic: When cutting diets go bad – Christian Bale in The Machinist