As a nutritionist and wellness counselor, I can’t begin to tell you how surprised my clients are to hear me say they're not eating enough to lose weight.
I know you've heard the phrase “energy in, energy out," but what does that actually mean? Take a car, for example: if you over-fill the gas tank, it'll overflow and the gas will leak out. Think of your body like a car and the gas as the food you put into it: eat too much and it will show up as extra fat on your belly.
But in the same respect, a car can't run on fumes alone!
When you eat less energy than your body needs, the body adapts by becoming amazingly good at making the most of whatever food it does receive. It holds onto fat stores and begins using the muscle to provide the energy you're depriving it of by not eating.
This loss of muscle mass slows down your metabolism. That's because the more muscle you have, the more fat you burn at rest (i.e., binge watching your new favorite show). To make matters worse, research has found that restricting your food can make you irritable and uncomfortable, aka hangry. This stress can cause a rise in cortisol, which increases the storage of visceral fat cells in areas like your stomach. This response is the complete opposite of what we try to achieve from dieting!
So, in case you've been curious about this trend of intermittent fasting, I have three words for you: Don’t do it.
Fasting isn't a long-term lifestyle change. Besides the fact that you'll miss out on nutrients, you’ll be a cranky, hangry person. Losing weight should be about progress, not suffering. It should be about realizing that you're ready to start living a healthier life, and you should feel happy and radiant while doing it.
If you’re looking to lose weight (and keep it off permanently), eat more, not less. Here are some tips to get you started:
1. Start your day with a big breakfast and snack about three hours later.
Maybe nosh on a piece of fruit or some whole wheat crackers with peanut butter.
2. Have lunch at a reasonable time and snack about three hours after that.
Perhaps some carrot sticks and hummus? That way you can snack and eat your veggies!
3. Your dinner should probably be the smallest of your meals.
Aim to fill half your plate with vegetables and about a cup of rice or pasta.
4. Hungry before bed? Having a light snack won't wreck your waistline.
Reach for whole grains and lean protein instead of potato chips and cookies.
5. Listen to your body! If you’re hungry … EAT!
Don’t get to the point of absolute ravenous hunger or (chances are) you’ll overdo it. If you’re hungry at an unusual hour, drink a glass of water and wait 10 minutes. Sometimes the body registers dehydration as hunger. If the hunger goes away, you were dehydrated. If it doesn’t, ask yourself, Am I really hungry or am I just bored?” If it’s just boredom, keep yourself distracted. If you are hungry, go ahead and eat something … your body will love you for it!