To lose weight, you need to burn more calories than you consume — so if you want to lose lots of weight very quickly, eating next to nothing will get you there, right? After all, you're creating a gigantic calorie deficit, right?
If you've tried this and you're not actually losing weight, you've already found out for yourself that things are a little more complicated. Why, though, aren't you losing weight on a very low calorie diet, one during which you may not be consuming more than 800 to 1000 calories a day?
Your Body Is Smarter Than You Are
Humans have gone through periods of food scarcity since the dawn of their existence. The reason you're not losing weight on a very low calorie diet has everything to do with survival. Drop your caloric intake to dangerously low levels, and rather than torching your belly fat and losing weight quickly, your body will adapt by burning less as well.
The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that women don't drop below 1,200 calories a a day and men get at least 1,800 daily calories for good reason. If your daily caloric intake is less than that for long enough, your metabolic rate will slow down. Before that happens, you might see the numbers on the scale drop, but don't assume that's all down to fat loss — if you're not giving your body enough energy, it will turn to your muscles to get the glucose it needs!
In short, by engaging in a very low calorie diet without strict medical supervision (which can work, but usually only for very obese individuals), you are sending your body into starvation mode. Not only can this be counterproductive in that you might not see the weight loss you were anticipating, it is also bound to be rather detrimental for your overall health. And when you quit that diet? Don't be surprised if you'll gain weight like never before!
So, What's The Answer?
Sustainable, healthy weight loss still requires you to burn more calories than you take in. You want to move your food intake down gradually, however, eating smaller meals more often to avoid sending your body into starvation mode. You also want to focus on making sure that the calories you get are the best kind — you need nutrient-dense, healthy foods, and you need to incorporate protein, carbs, and good fats into your diet.
For moderately overweight individuals, losing one to two pounds a week should be the goal. Slow and steady wins the race, remember? While you won't drop as much quite as quickly as you'd like, you can bet that a permanently changed and responsible eating plan will keep those pounds off long after your diet is over.
You'll also need to engage in regular aerobic exercise, which you probably won't have energy for if you are getting less than 1000 calories a day.
If you are unsure about healthy ways to lose weight, don't forget that your family doctor is a great source of information, and that they can refer you to a licensed nutritionist for extra help as well.
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