Trends in dieting and desire to lose weight can cause emotional struggles in even the most confident people. In my last post, I talked about why weight loss can be so grueling, but do you ever actually think about eating too little? Are you counting calories for general weight management or to lose weight? How did you come to your calorie count?
Often times, people shoot too low when they start counting calories. Weight loss aside, your body needs a certain amount of calories per day for basic functioning. There are many different way to figure out that exact number, but often times the most accurate ways are the most costly. I remember getting to try a few fancy machines when I was in college and learning my own BMR (basal metabolic rate). I was discourage to find that it was just over 1,200 calories per day, but with the high levels of physical activity that I try to maintain, this gives me some wiggle room. I also do light activity by moving around at work, walking up and down stairs, going for walks on my lunch break, and just trying to break up sedentary time in general. With activity, my needs increase to around 1600-1800 kcal/day. This number also varies depending on whether or not I am training for something or just doing my weekly workouts.
Side Note: I just used some words that I want to explain a little further. Sometimes I say the word “calorie” and just assume that it’s well know what a calorie is. Calories are the building blocks of food and your metabolism. The amount of calories in a food vary based on the ratio of macro-nutrients found in that food (macro-nutrients: carbs, protein, fat). Every person needs a certain amount of calories per day. This number can vary on a variety of things including sex, level of PA, percentage of lean body mass, height, weight, etc. This brings me to my next word to explain: BMR. BMR or basal metabolic rate is the amount of calories needed for ones body at complete rest. This means if I laid in bed all day and did not move once, my BMR would require me to eat ~1,250 calories per day to live. Many things can effect BMR as well such as age AND extreme dieting. When people cut huge amounts of calories from their diet, their BMR can eventually adjust, causing weight gain to come back in more extreme amounts once the dieting phase is over. Sometimes people do more harm than good when they decide to follow vey low-calorie diets.
So why do I bring this up at all? You’d be surprised how many people actually don’t eat enough calories, which causes some of their health goals to come to a halt. Whether you are trying to lose weight, maintain a healthy body weight, train for an upcoming athletic event, or just work on “eating healthier,” it is just as important to not under eat as it is to not over eat.
Here are 4 signs that you may be falling into this low-calorie slump. Of course each person may have a different experience, especially when weight loss is your goal, but these are things that I commonly see or talk with my patient’s about when we discover that they are in fact under-eating.
1. You have hit the plateau. Do you ever hear people talk about doing so well with weight loss and then all the sudden the weight loss stops? Like mentioned earlier, your metabolism is an amazing thing and learns to adjust with changes in your eating habits or general calorie intake. If your body feels deprived, it will start to store energy and save it for when it’s really needed. Weight loss will come at first with calorie depletion, but expect your body to adjust to your new ways and for the loss come to a screeching halt. The bad part about this? Increasing calories may in fact cause your weight loss efforts to reverse and weight gain to re-occur. This is why dieting can be so discouraging for many people and why I always recommend talking with a dietitian or using a fairly accurate app to help estimate the appropriate amount of calories you need per day for safe weight loss.
2. Your workouts are SO hard. Not only are they hard, but the next day you wake up feeling like you were hit by a truck in your sleep. I have fallen guilty to under-eating when training, and I speak from experience when I say you feel like absolute crap. Even if you are eating well, choosing nutrient dense foods, and having balanced meals, your body may be at a time where your needs are heightened due to more physical activity, pregnancy, breastfeeding, etc. Do your muscles feel sore even on days when you didn’t work out? This is another common sign that you may need to re-adjust your meals and snacks to not only add in more calories, but a little extra protein as well.
3. You experience frequent headaches and exhaustion. So many people that I see complain of fatigue. This is such a vicious cycle because feeling tired causes many people to not exercise or make food choices that they normally wouldn’t make to give them a little boost. Have a snack with a little carb and protein combination (such as an apple with peanut butter, raw nuts with a few raisins, a few pieces orfdeli turkey with crackers) and not only will you give your body a healthy source of fuel, but you will notice those headaches begin to fade and clearer thoughts arrive. Don’t forget to also drink plenty of water!
4. Those stubborn areas will not go away!!! Is there an are of your body that you feel self conscious about? Everyone has that one stubborn area, such as their tummy or arms, where no matter what they’ve done they just cannot tone up! Remember my comment about your body preserving energy? Of course the foods you choose will highly influence areas such as the stomach when it comes to losing fat and building muscle, but your body also needs to have enough energy to actually use it during a work out!
If reading these things makes you think, “hm, I may actually fall into this category,” talk with your doctor about meeting with a Registered Dietitian or look into a free app that helps calculate our your calorie needs. MyFitnessPal is a great app that I used in the past to keep myself on track and is user friendly and free of cost. Keep in mind when putting in activity levels that many people do not fit into the top two categories, Active or Very Active. If you get up from your desk at work often or have a job where you are standing more than sitting, you are most likely in the Lightly Active category. If you have an active job and are also completing the recommended 150 minutes of moderately-intense physically activity per week, then you can probably put yourself in the Active category. As always, never hesitate to contact me as well with questions or concerns! Happy Monday everyone!