Losing weight and getting fit seems like an easy formula: work out and eat healthily, but as most people know, it can be a lot more complicated and challenging than that.
It can be tempting to cut your diet down by extreme measures in attempts to lose the weight quickly. But as Tom Venuto writes in his book, Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle, that’s not such a good idea. When your body goes into starvation mode, it begins to feed off itself for energy, including your precious muscle and vital organs. It’s a mode of adaptation that our ancestors developed to survive when they couldn’t catch food—and it’s not a sustainable method for losing weight.
“Whether a real famine or a low-calorie diet, your body can’t tell the difference,” Venuto writes.
If your body eating your vital organs isn’t scary enough, there are many other reasons why it is not a good idea to convert to a low-calorie diet, despite those ads promising that you’ll “Lose 10 pounds in a weekend!” In fact, taking such extreme measures could backfire, causing you to relapse or have just about no energy to do anything, like work out.
Here are three reasons why you should not buy into extremely low-calorie diets when trying to get in shape:
1. Diets can actually make your cravings stronger
Cutting down calories, in general, will make you feel hungry. After all, you’re eating less than your normal amount, and that takes some adjusting to, right? But suddenly eating nothing will cause you to become ravenous. “It’s impossible to stay on a diet when you’re battling voracious hunger, and all you can think about is food,” Venuto says. Emotions can especially come into play with harsh restrictions, which can lead to dangerous binging.
2. Diets cause your metabolic rate to slow
Your basal metabolic rate, or the number of calories that you burn while resting each day, can drop drastically if you suddenly restrict your calories. This is known as “adaptive thermogenesis,” and you’re probably familiar with the process as it manifests itself when your progress begins to plateau. It occurs because a smaller body burns fewer calories, logically.
3. Diets can stress you out even more
Most people can agree that life is stressful to begin with. As it turns out, extreme dieting can affect your stress hormone cortisol levels, as they’re inversely related. So, having a restricting diet could actually cause you to become more stressed. On that note, avoid those pills that promise to help you burn fat while suppressing your cortisol levels. According to Venuto, they’re just like a Band-Aid that adds to hormonal imbalance.
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