Health Myths – reducing calories = reduced weight

In Blog, Health, Nutrition, Podcasts by Wendy Christien

Despite conventional nutritional advice that says we should eat less and exercise more, weight loss is unfortunately not a simple math’s equation for everyone.   

While it is important to reduce calorie intake to lose weight, dieting is seldom effective, and severe calorie reduction can actually be harmful. The average person consumes many empty calories daily and these are the areas that should be eliminated so that our daily calorie requirements can be met by healthy foods that are nutritionally dense to improve our health. A lifestyle change, as opposed to a diet is a lot more effective.

Consistent calorie reduction can cause an unhealthy body composition, meaning our fat to muscle ratio becomes compromised. When we are in starvation mode for any length of time our bodies will utilize its own muscle tissue to sustain itself and to perform vital cellular functions. Also, yo-yo dieting often contributes to weight gain because it is simply not sustainable and it interrupts normal metabolism.

Every person has what’s known as a set point, which is the weight where your body is happiest.

This set point is determined by lifestyle and genetics and can be moderately influenced if changes are not too drastic. Our bodies fight to maintain balance (homeostasis) and we are wired for survival. If anything disrupts this balance, our bodies perceive it as stressful which causes our bodies to go into a mode of survival.

Another thing that happens when calories are reduced is that our metabolisms slow down to conserve energy. Our body’s also produce less of the hormone leptin, which is designed to signal that we are full, so cravings increase, and we feel hungrier! Cutting calories can also trigger overeating, especially of “forbidden” foods. This seems counterintuitive, but if we understand the stress the body is experiencing, we can understand that it is not a lack of willpower, but a pure desire to survive that seemingly trips us up in our attempts to lose weight.

So, what do you do when you know that you are overweight and need to do something about it? 

One, you need to implement some lifestyle changes and two, you need to set realistic goals.

When we tell ourselves that we need to go on a diet two things happen. Firstly, we usually have a timeframe in mind e.g., 10 days, 3 weeks, a few months, so we tell ourselves we only have to do this for that period of time, but then we go back to exactly what we were doing before that which got us to where we are in the first place.

Secondly, we jump in with great gusto only to lose enthusiasm a few days in and therefore fall off the wagon repeatedly which results in us feeling like failures.

When making a lifestyle changes, things happen a little more slowly and in a more calculated way. There is no timeframe, it is going to be forever, and like with changing the direction of a ship, small changes have a big impact.

What do we need to remove from our day-to-day diets to lose weight without causing excess stress on our bodies?

Empty calories such as fruit juices, sodas, added sugars, high calorie snack bars, crisps, chocolates, ice cream, junk foods, etc.

Instead, choose from healthy foods such as whole grains, cereals, nuts & seeds, fruits and vegetables, dairy products, meat, fish, and chicken as well as eggs. 

When you eat foods in the right combinations it takes away cravings for the junk and it makes you feel more energized.

Sometimes we need a little help to make lifestyle changes, so if that’s you, get input from someone who can help you create new healthy habits and can teach you what healthy choices are so that you can be set up for victory and see and feel the benefits of your efforts.

Listen to my interview with Brad Kirsten from Radio Cape Pulpit on 13 May 2021 to learn more. Listen to my next interview on Thursday at 7.45am