If you ask most people how they would recommend losing weight in the most basic form, they will usually answer “Eat less, exercise more”. Generally, they are right. The simplest way to lose weight is to burn more calories during the day than you are taking in from your food. However, contrary to what you might think, that deficit should not be too big. Rather than help you lose weight, extremely low calorie diets can often lead to weight loss slowing down.

The question is, why?

When you dramatically reduce your calorie intake, your body reacts as if it is in danger. Your metabolism, (the process by which food converts to energy), actually slows down. It adjusts, expecting that it will continue to receive too few calories, resulting in your body storing fat for future use. Conversely, those with a fast metabolism can often eat far more than others, as their body processes this food into energy at a quicker rate.

When you dramatically reduce your calorie intake, your body reacts as if it is in danger. Your metabolism, (the process by which food converts to energy), actually slows down. It adjusts, expecting that it will continue to receive too few calories, resulting in your body storing fat for future use. Conversely, those with a fast metabolism can often eat far more than others, as their body processes this food into energy at a quicker rate.

While very low calorie diets can have an instant impact on weight loss, it is not sustainable, and if continuing with a low calorie diet, your body will have adjusted. As a result, the rate that you lose weight can slow down, or even stop altogether. The problem is two-fold; you no longer lose weight on a low calorie diet, but when you increase your calorie intake your weight increases disproportionately, as your metabolism is still operating slower than it should be.

Besides not being helpful to consistent weight loss, very low calorie diets are also bad for your general health. The effects range from feeling lethargic and dizzy to low blood pressure and heart rhythm abnormalities. Understanding calories is an important part of weight loss, but starving your body is certainly not the way to go about it.

The mantra of “eat less, exercise more” needs to be taken sensibly. It does not mean cut your calories in half and start walking ten miles every day. It means having a balanced diet with an appropriate amount of calories received from healthy foods, while exercising a reasonable amount. Maintaining a moderate calorie deficit will help you to lose weight at a slow but steady pace. Starving yourself might seem like a good idea, but all you are doing is harming your chance for stable weight loss.

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