If you lift weights for long enough, you’ll get callouses on your hands. If you walk with no shoes the same will happen to your feet. Our bodies are very capable of adapting to a changed environment. If the change is slight, no adjustment may be needed, but when the change is great, we find out just how capable we really are.
Changes can be good, bad, intentional or made by mistake.
As a species, we’ve survived thousands of years because of our capacity to maneuver through times of restriction. Restriction can be more than the limitation of food; it may be sleep, love or a physical impairment. The prolonged absence of something we need results in involuntary reactions that attempt to take us back to a place of balance.
A severe, continuous and extensive restriction of food will cause your metabolism to downshift and run at a slower rate. You will require less energy to do the same activities. Your body becomes incredibly efficient with the limited food its being given. In many things in life, we may want to be efficient, but fat burning is not one of them. Prolonged restriction combined with excessive exercise will turn you from a gas guzzling monster truck into a fuel-sipping Prius. An over-enthusiastic approach to weight loss can have a paradoxical reaction – a reaction that is the exact opposite of what you expected.
To lose weight we want to create an energy deficit, so we strive to eat less than we need. Human nature pushes us towards doing more of anything that rewards us, and some of us thrive on imposing self-control that goes beyond what is comfortable. Any psychological thrill we get from starving ourselves is limited to our ego because the rest of our body isn’t experiencing the same high.
My observation is metabolism slows between weeks four and six on a severe calorie restricted diet. For the chronic dieter, it may hit sooner.
In the world of fitness and bodybuilding, strict pre-contest diets are the norm. I’ve watched as a competitors progress comes to a grinding halt mid-prep, despite their doing 2 to 3 hours of cardio per day. Sadly this is usually the female competitors as their male counterparts have mounds of muscle that protects their metabolic rate.
Their bodies become very efficient at burning fat, and despite what the treadmill tells them they’re progressively burning fewer calories for the same exercise.
Hours of training goes hand in hand with sleep deprivation/restriction. Doing hours of activity every day requires a time commitment that is not always available to us. To hit the exercise quota, we have to extend the day by getting up earlier or going to bed later, either way; sleep is sacrificed. The incongruity between the objective and the action is that sleep deprivation is known to hinder weight loss, increase appetite and trigger cravings for sweet food.
RESTRICTION IS NOT JUST FOOD
Restriction of our social life and family time.
It’s commendable to be goal orientated but when we do it at the expense of those around us we set ourselves up for an epic fail.
Life is busy and finding a balance is never easy. Friends and family become an option that we push to one side, recklessly assuming that they’ll endlessly cheer for us from the sidelines. This behavior is also known as being SELFISH. If to succeed you need to alienate yourself from those who love you then your success will be short-lived. I’d like to say that your failure will be due to your being a bad person but its less judgemental than that. If success is dependant on an unlivable schedule, then you will fail, not because of any lack of character, but simply because success in the long term relies upon behavior patterns that can last longer than a 12-week weight loss challenge.
An all or nothing approach to weight loss is admirable until your life becomes selfish and unrealistic. If you’re never home because you won’t miss a cardio session your relationships will suffer. If you refuse to eat out because of your diet don’t expect your friends to keep calling.
My condescending tone is directed at myself. My competitive years were self-centered and selfish, and they didn’t have to be.
Ask someone that’s in shape all year round how they eat. I doubt that they count calories or spend multiple hours a day doing cardio. I would guess that their exercise is something they love to do and they eat in a way that they enjoy.
Ask someone who gets in shape a couple of times a year what they do, and they’ll probably recite a precise meal plan and their cardio routine. Their plan is not livable as proved by their fluctuating weight. Strangely, the semi-annual transformation gets more praise than the lifestyle commitment.
Severe restriction of any sort provides at best short-lived results.
Long-term results come from long-term behavior patterns that you enjoy.
BMR (basal metabolic rate) is the amount of energy (measured in calories) you need in a rested state per day. I test my nutrition clients BMR at the start of their program and then every 4-6 weeks after that. The goal is to maintain or increase the amount of energy needed per day. Most old-school diets will do the opposite, they will reduce a person’s metabolic rate, meaning that fat burning will be reduced and as is usually the case when the diet is over the regain in weight is dramatic.
I’ve performed hundreds of metabolic tests and in every case the people with the lowest/slowest rates are the chronic dieters and sadly the fitness competitors. Heavier people always expect their metabolisms to be slow but that is rarely the case. Their extra weight means the body has more weight to move and this usually will increase their energy expenditure. It’s the ladies that constantly restrict, the ones that do diet after diet with no break that come in sub 1000 calories per day.
If we’re trying to create a deficit to allow for weight loss but the lady has a BMR of less than a 1000 calories per day AND is doing hours of exercise a day, how the Hell do we create a deficit? I say “lady” because I’ve only seen this a handful of times with men. Even inactive men have more muscle than the average woman and this muscle saves them from the metabolic pitfalls of over dieting.
I’m not here to tell you which “diet” is best for you. You may love Paleo, Keto, IF, you may even love the dinosaurs of the industry and that’s ok, because if you have found a way of eating that works for your body composition and its a way you can continue long term, then the diet is right – for you.
One thing I would suggest for long-term success is to check your BMR. I
If you don’t know your starting point I’m not sure how you know how to start
If you’re in Boise area come on over to The Shrink Shop and if you’re in Los Angeles go to Santa Monica Sports Medicine – both locations have the Metacheck Metabolic Breath Test. If you’re not close to either location contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll see if I can help.