Tuesday Tip: Can I eat too little to lose weight? 🥗
I am often asked whether consuming too few calories causes your metabolism to slow down so that you stop losing weight, and even gain weight, as the body “hangs on to fat”. People say that to get out of this “starvation mode” you need to eat more. One small problem – starvation mode is a myth!
As long as you have a calorie deficit (eating less than you burn) you will lose weight – regardless. Calories in vs calories out is what matters. A long term calorie deficit does cause adaptive thermogenesis (metabolic rate slow down) BUT it is not significant enough to stop weight loss and can’t cause weight gain! It just slows the rate of weight loss down, but what slows it even more is the fact that you’ve already lost weight so the body isn’t burning as many calories as it did initially. That’s why you need to adjust your calorie intake as you lose weight and why plateaus are common. In one famous large scale study – the Minnesota study – 36 men were put on a 24 week low calorie diet (1560 cals) and also had to complete physical tasks. ALL the men lost approx 25% body weight and ended up at approx 5% body fat. No one stopped losing weight, no one gained weight. You can’t defy the laws of thermodynamics – you need energy to fuel your body, you can’t magic it out of thin air, if you don’t eat enough you will lose
So what’s the moral of the story? If you’re not losing any weight/fat or your shape isn’t changing over a significant period of time, it’s not because your calories are too low, or because you’re in starvation mode. It’s because there is no deficit. Even if you think there is… there isn’t. If there was, you’d be losing weight!