Dump all the flashy diet books and programs you have ever purchased…
The fitness business has grown into a multi-billion dollar industry. Even though there is an explosion of information and a range of diet programs available in every nook and corner, the people are not getting any fitter and obesity continued to rise over the last few years. The prevalence of obesity has quadrupled over the last 25 years.
Why don’t diet plans work?
It’s time to unveil the truth about calorie counting and its effectiveness (or its ineffectiveness!):
I am about to give you an inside peek at the common myth that if you eat less number of calories than you require, you will lose fat. In simple words the myth proclaims “ If you eat less, you will lose flab”
This is true only in the short term. Our body is more complex than that. Our body is built to survive. Whenever you try to follow extreme diets, the body is unable to distinguish between starvation and dieting and it thinks “ Oh no, I’m facing a potential threat. Maybe there’s no food available. I better start using all the genetic programming and survival programming handed down to by my forefathers and the millions of years evolution and survival”.
It has been recorded that the human body has a complex set of survival mechanisms and can survive upto 74 days without food.
The story of Irish Hunger Strike of 1981:
In 1981, members of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) imprisoned in England went on a hunger strike to protest their incarceration. Former IRA commanding officer Bobby Sands was actually elected into the British House of Commons while striking, helping to raise awareness for their cause.
British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher refused to bend. The prisoners drank small amounts of water, but refused food altogether. Sands died from starvation in a prison hospital on the 66th day of the strike. Thatcher remained steadfast and called Sands a criminal and his death a suicide. Nine more prisoners died from starvation after Sands. Thomas McElwee lasted the longest, at 73 total days — a full week longer than the next closest prisoner.
Medically speaking, most doctors agree that healthy humans can go up to eight weeks without food as long as they have water. The body stores energy needed to live in the form of fat, carbohydrates and proteins. About 20% of the total energy consumption occurs in the brain. The rest of the glucose consumption fuels muscle tissue and red blood cells. The carbs are the first thing to be used up without more food coming in. The fat goes next, which explains why people with more of it can survive longer. Then the proteins go. If you get to the point that your body is using up proteins, then you’re in an unhealthy state.
Lets see how the body reacts to shortage of food intake: Think of the body as a complex and advanced computer and with an advanced set of survival programming , when you starve the body, it automatically runs its survival tactics.
Survival Tactic :Slow down metabolic rate
Your body’s metabolism controls your energy expenditure. If you go into starvation, your metabolism will adjust accordingly and slow down on its own — so it can keep vital organs such as the brain and the heart going for as long as possible in the face of the perceived threat.
While it will burn fat for fuel, your body will also start burning lean muscle mass for fuel… which will slow down your metabolism even further.
So you end up burning fewer and fewer calories over time. This is one of the strategies the body uses to survive for long periods of time. This is how our early ancestors survived the during cold blizzards and famines without much food.
People on starvation diets invariably find that they regain all the weight they’ve lost (and then some) very quickly as soon as they start eating again. this is because the body has gotten used to a slow metabolism and burns very few calories and as a result it begins to store a lot of energy in the form of fat.
People cannot keep dieting forever. Therefore the moment they stop their diet, they tend to re-gain all the fat and then some.
Losing fat VS. losing weight:
Many people think body weight is an accurate measure of fitness and that by losing weight they will get healthier. While this is true in case of individuals who are obviously obese, it does not hold true for people who are in average shape and want to achieve a lean and sculpted body.
Body weight differs based on many factors, it depends on bone density, muscle weight, body fat content and many more factors, so stop being concerned about weighing yourself and be more focused on measuring yourself. Let me tell you that if your bones are heavier you will be heavier that the average fit individual and the principle applies to individuals who have a kisser bone density and lower body weight.
Let me tell you that there are many individuals who have a higher body weight and look extremely sculpted and there are people have a lower body weight and still look sculpted. So, don’t be too concerned about your optimal weight and so on. Instead be concerned about your size and measurements.
Losing body weight doesn’t mean that you are losing fat. There are many people who lose weight but find that their body fat still continues to persist and never goes away. What they have lost is the muscle weight, glycogen and water content but not the real fat.
On the other hand you could hit the gym and work out your muscles and eat a lot of protein, this will build huge muscles and increase your body weight but you are not gaining any fat.
So the important concept to understand here is that you need a clear and specific plan to target and burn that fat and it has nothing to do with gaining or losing weight. In fact don’t bother about your body weight. just focus your plan on your appearance.
The first mistake that many people make when they want to trim down is the fat is to cut down on the calorie intake. One of the biggest dangers of such a plan is that the moment you begin crash diets you immediately put your lean muscle tissue at risk.
Muscles require a lot of energy to sustain themselves. Even while you are at rest your muscles are consuming energy. So in order to help you survive in the long term your body starts losing lean muscle tissue. This is done by breaking down the muscle tissues and sending it to the liver for processing and converting lean muscle into glucose. This process is called gluconeogenesis.
It is estimated that close to half of the body weight you lose during crash dieting is lean muscle. The irony is that you need lean muscle to remain in your body because it feeds on calories even in resting state and keeps you fit in the long run.
When you crash diet, you natural survival instinct kicks in and slows down your metabolic rate. At the same time it burns muscle tissue. The result is that you have a screwed up metabolism and you’ve lost your body’s natural calorie burning machine (your muscles). That’s why crash diets are a really bad long term fat loss strategy.
If you want to lose weight and at the same time stay fit, what you need to do is increase and maintain your lean muscle mass.
Other negative effects of dieting
• Going on a calorie restricted diet (aka starving) increases the body’s production of fat storing enzymes. The main fat storing enzyme is Lipoprotein Lipase (LPL). When you go into starving mode, your body produces more LPL and simultaneously reduces the production of fat burning enzymes. So when you begin to starve, your body implements plans to store fat for survival.
• Low calorie diets influence the production of key hormones in the body. Whenever the body goes in to starving state the body reduces the production of thyroid hormone and T3 levels drop in the blood. T3 is responsible for a higher metabolic rate.
• The weight loss slows down after a period of dieting. Even though the weight loss through crash dieting may be deceptively encouraging, the weight loss rate slows down over a period of time, because the body has unleashed a new set of mechanisms to conserve energy and body mass. So with time you will have to eat less and less to continue the rate of weight loss. This puts a lot of stress on you and you’re your body and it ultimately burns you out and makes you feels exhausted and weak.
When you come out of such a phase you are going to munch at every available food just to make yourself feel good and get even.
• Eating less food will have less energy circulating in your body and this will get less amounts of glucose to the brain and this can leave you feeling dull and unable to concentrate. Under such circumstances the person suffers from less productivity at work and is unable to maintain his/her motivation.
“OK… Diets suck… What do I do instead?”
Whenever you think about weight loss:
- Think in terms of permanent results
- Keep muscle at all costs
- Use a small deficit but not more than 400-500 cals
- Eat frequent meals
- Adopt the habit mindset and develop healthy habits that will last a life time
To be able to lose fat and keep it off forever you must be able to adopt a whole new philosophy and attitude. A short term blast of will power to shed off the extra pounds is not going to serve in the long run.
You need to learn new habits. New habits are difficult to form. Once formed however they will follow you for the rest of your life. It takes about 21 days to form a new habit. Every habit has a learning curve and you will face difficulties. Most of these difficulties will be related to procrastination and you need to consciously use your will power to overcome these obstacles of procrastination and curb your pleasure seeking behavior.
If you follow some unyielding and starvation based dieting plan, it’s going to set you up for failure. But you know better and you are about to learn better and healthier alternatives to keep off the fat forever.
To achieve the kind of results you want, you need to focus on two important aspects, these are:
Exercise will help you build lean muscle that will contribute to increased calorie burning.
Muscle is your friend in the calorie burning process. It works 24 hours a day even while you are sleeping and it will burn extra calories all throughout the day. Muscle is your secret partner that will go to work for you full time, so make up your mind to build your muscle mass and maintain it at all costs.
Exercise is superior to starving because it boosts your metabolic rate and burns calories, increases blood flow to various organs and produces “feel good” chemicals that will keep you motivated towards your goal.
To lose body fat you need to combine exercise with some amount of diet restriction, By combining both you are giving your body less amount of food to burn at a higher rate.
The recommended reduction in calorie intake per day is around 20% of your total calorie consumption.
So if you are consuming approximately 2100 calories to maintain your daily activity, you need to cut down your intake by 20% i.e 2100 divided by 5 = 420, therefore you need to reduce 420 calories from your diet.
This combined with aerobic exercise and weight training will speed up fat loss while improving your shape and muscle mass.
This amounts to a reduction in anywhere between 400-600 calories based on the person’s initial intake.
After you get used to the system and gain experience, you may sometimes find it is necessary to cut down more calories. There are techniques to do that without throwing your body into starvation mode, and without losing lean body mass.
Estimating the minimum number of calories your body needs
Whenever your calorie consumption goes below the baseline your body starts to think it is starving and pulls out all the survival tactics which work against you. The best way to make sure that this never happens is by estimating your minimum calorie baseline.
According to American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) , the recommendation for minimal calorie requirements in women is 1200 calories and in men it’s 1800.
The moment you go below this guideline, you’re asking for trouble.
Eat small but frequent meals
Many people wrongly assume that if they miss their breakfast they can have a heavy brunch (breakfast + lunch) and it will compensate for both breakfast and lunch. Right?
Unfortunately the body doesn’t work that way. When you stay away from breakfast until the next day’s brunch you have kept your body under starvation for more than half a day and the body slows down as a result. don’t be surprised if you feel grumpy and lazy.
You need to eat small meals every three hours or so to avoid low blood sugar, food cravings, loss of energy and reduced metabolism.
This is a new habit you have to create. It may take some effort in the beginning to cut down your regular meals and replace them with more frequent smaller meals but this habit will work wonders for you.
Balance out your plateaus with high calorie meals
When you go on for too long on a diet with reduced calories, your body’s metabolism slows down and your fat loss becomes minimal. During such periods you need to increase you food intake. Your body responds accordingly and increases your metabolic rate and burns more calories and this high metabolic rate needs to be sustained for a few days.
After the metabolic rate has increased, you can reduce your calorie intake again. This method is called “spiking”.
Do not exceed two pounds of weight loss per week
The ACSM recommends losing weight at a maximum rate of two pounds per week. This is termed as healthy weight loss. This two pound figure is now universally accepted as the standard for healthy weight loss.
It is almost impossible to lose 100% body fat if you are losing more than two pounds per week. There is almost always muscle loss in such cases.Get a weighing scale and watch your weight consistently and aim to lose no more than two pounds per week.
If you are losing more than two pounds per week, you can safely assume that you are also losing muscle tissue. This doesn’t serve your purpose. It’s always better to lose fat at a slower rate.
If a person is very obese a loss of more than 2 pounds per week will not result in losing muscle, but in an otherwise average person a loss of more than two pounds is unhealthy. If you find yourself losing more than 2 pounds per week, then you need to increase your food intake to balance it out and avoid loss of muscle tissue. Models, bodybuilders and actors who are professionally trained never aim to lose more than 1 to 1.5 pounds per week. this is a well kept secret among professionals.