For many women trying to lose or maintain their weight – THE STRUGGLE IS REAL! We’re constantly trying to stay under our allowed “budget” of calories, but how many of us aren’t actually eating enough? You may think that it’s not a big deal to cut calories or skip meals… and you may even assume that you’re doing yourself a favor by not eating, but that’s an incorrect assumption – it can be unhealthy – and unsafe.
Most people assume that the key to losing weight is eating less. While reducing your caloric intake can certainly help you lose weight, there are other factors involved that can impact your success. Focusing on quantity is often a big mistake; the truth is, if you choose higher quality food sources and eat more frequently, you can actually lose weight.
Consuming Too Few Calories Can Hinder Weight Loss
It may sound like an oxymoron, but… there are a ton of women who are having trouble losing weight and they aren’t overeating. Many are actually under eating! While a slight caloric deficit can lead to supportable weight loss, larger deficiencies may lead to changes in your body’s metabolism in order to keep your body in balance. Your body does not like drastic changes, and it will make alterations to your metabolism in order to reduce your overall caloric output.
Think of your body as a cactus, which holds on to water and nutrients as long as possible. When a drought occurs, it stores what it needs to survive. When you eat less than what your body needs, it adapts by lowering your metabolism to conserve whatever food it does receive. So as a result, your body becomes less efficient at burning calories.
Not only can eating too few calories hinder weight loss, but it can limit (or destroy) muscle growth. So if you’re not losing weight or seeing any improvements in the gym, it may be time to rethink your strategy.
What’s The Magic Number?
Weight management is a simple numbers game: calories in should equal calories out. If you’re trying to lose weight, though, you need to burn more calories than you consume. This is where things can get a little bit confusing, because consuming too few calories can actually sabotage your weight loss goals. So what’s the magic number?
There’s no simple answer to this question, since each person’s caloric requirements will vary depending upon their age, body and lifestyle. Obviously, someone who is young and active will need more calories than someone who is old and sedentary. The Harris-Benedict Equation was developed to determine each individuals caloric needs.
Once you know how many calories you should be consuming, I like to recommend cutting 300 calories per day from your diet to lose weight safely, but never more than 500. Rather than cutting a meal, have smaller portions or swap an item for a healthier choice . The average woman needs about 1,200 calories a day just for basic biological function, so if you’re consuming less than that, your metabolism could slow down and you’ll hinder your long-term weight loss goals.
How Many Times a Day Should I Eat?
We’ve been led to believe that calories are the only factor involved with weight loss, so it’s only natural for us to try to eat less calories than we burn. If you don’t want to destroy your metabolism, though, it’s 100% essential to eat enough calories – and frequently. I’ve found success with my lucky number “3” rule. 3 small meals, 3 snacks, and never going more than 3 hours without eating.
Eating small meals throughout the day keeps your metabolism going and further assists with weight loss. Never gorge on one big meal, or right before bed. To help stay on track, keep small snacks in your purse, desk, and car… nuts, fruit, protein shake or bars.
Choosing Foods and Times Wisely
Yes, we’re all busy, and sometimes it’s hard to squeeze in time for the gym. That’s OK! The good news is, you’ll see the biggest results by focusing on your diet. Try to be as conscience as possible with what you put in your body. Avoid starchy carbs, refined sugars, and saturated fats… white breads, pastas, baked goods, “vending machine” snacks, mayonnaise, butter, cream cheese, etc. Stick to fruits, veggies, proteins, whole wheats and grains (brown rice), healthy fats (nuts, avocados).
Not only will eating and snacking smart keep your metabolism from crashing, but it will help you stay focused and on your toes all day. If you have the time to stop and grab a Starbucks coffee or Monster energy drink, then you have time for a quick breakfast or light snack.
- Morning fuel – Some say breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Although you should eat regularly throughout the day, eating early fuels your body and jump starts your metabolism so it can work more efficiently. It also prevents you from “dying of starvation” by lunch, which then turns into bingeing on fish tacos and fries. Save yourself the calories by never skipping a meal.
- Lunch and post workout – Whether you’re a gym unicorn or not… your body constantly needs to be refueled. Eating midday will prevent you from being overly hungry, crashing, getting “brain farts” (yup… lack food can make us feel stupid), and once again gorging on a big, unhealthy dinner. Eating post workout is extremely important as well, since your body needs food to help with recovery; otherwise it’s going to turn to the next source of energy – muscle.
- Dinner time – We all have different schedules, but there is no reason to ever skip dinner. For those of us who eat dinner early, eat a well balanced meal and have a light snack before bed. And if you work late, eat light. Maybe skip out on that potato or pile of rice and opt for salmon and veggies. It’s ok to eat at night, but your body won’t be burning those calories off before you cash in for the night, so be mindful of what you eat before hitting the sack.
- Regular snacking – This is also a no excuse category. There are so many goodies you can pack and keep with you that don’t need to be refrigerated. Snacks provide energy when you don’t have time to eat and help prevent you from over-eating when you do get to sit down for a meal. Protein shakes, bars, nuts, some fruit and veggies, beef/turkey jerky… you get the picture!
Bottom line – if you can’t remember the last time you ate, EAT. Losing weight never sounded so good!