What Really Counts?


Do you know how many calories it takes to keep your body functioning while you’re completely inactive, in other words, the bare minimum number of calories you should ever eat?

This website will help you calculate it.  http://www.bmi-calculator.net/bmr-calculator/.  Surprised?  It should be well over 1000, the minimum often quoted.  A U.S. Government health website states:

“The lowest intake per day recommended for women is 1,200 calories, unless they are in a medically-supervised, very low-calorie regimen which may have a daily level of 500 to 800 calories per day.  The lowest level recommended for men is 1,500 calories per day. A very low-calorie diet can also be used by males if they are in a medically-supervised program.”

Many popular diets are well below that number, including medical weight loss diets as shown above.  But there are risks with this.  One website states:

“The most common serious side effect seen with VLCDs (Very Low Calorie Diets) is gallstone formation.  Gallstones, which frequently develop in obese people (especially women), are even more common during rapid weight loss. The reason for this may be that rapid weight loss appears to decrease the gallbladder’s ability to contract bile. But, it is unclear whether VLCDs directly cause gallstones or whether the amount of  weight loss is responsible for the formation of gallstones.”

Another says this:

“Fatigue, or intense physical exhaustion, frequently occurs as a result of starvation since the body lacks vital nutrients and glucose, the body’s primary fuel source attained by eating proper amounts of carbohydrates. According to the Weight-control Information Network, those who adhere to an extreme low-calorie  diet for four to 16 weeks are likely to experience fatigue. Such fatigue can interfere with normal daily function and can dampen physical exercise efforts, which many dieters participate in. Fatigue also may lead to body aches, mood  swings and sleepiness, all of which may make it difficult to tend to work responsibilities and social activities.”

And finally, the often mentioned “starvation mode” which slows your metabolism to conserve body fat in the event of what your body interprets as a crisis.

“Quite simply, your body goes into ‘starvation mode’. This  mechanism, which is thought to have evolved as a defence against starvation, means the body becomes super efficient at making the most of the calories it does get from food and drink. The main way it does this is to protect its fat stores and instead use lean tissue or muscle to provide it with some of the calories it needs to keep functioning. This directly leads to a loss of muscle, which in turn lowers metabolic rate so that the body needs fewer calories to keep ticking over and weight loss slows down. Of course, this is the perfect solution if you’re in a famine situation. But if you’re trying to lose weight, it’s going to do little to help you shift  those unwanted pounds.”

Use your BMR that you calculated above, to determine the number of calories you need to eat daily, at minimum.  Then write out a meal plan using things you might normally eat for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks.

Then, you can find the calories in your normal diet in a website such as this one:  http://www.webmd.com/diet/healthtool-food-calorie-counter.  How are you doing?  Over or under your BMR number?  Remember that the BMR is your minimum to maintain your body at rest.  Any activity, even housework or walking the dog, requires a few more.  So don’t be fanatical about sticking to that number but rather use it as a guideline.  Try this for a week or two and see how you feel about eating the number of calories advised.

Once you are used to that, you can substitute healthier options for some of your normal foods.  For instance, if you always eat dessert, you can instead have another piece of meat or bread or (lots) more vegetables.  You may find that this is a large amount of food and should not have to go hungry!

For more information check out the websites below.

http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001940.htm
http://www.webmd.com/diet/guide/low-calorie-diets
http://www.livestrong.com/article/91290-effects-starvation-diet/
http://www.weightlossresources.co.uk/calories/burning_calories/starvation.htm

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