Reality television shows are earning top ratings by flaunting the dramatic weight loss of individuals desperate enough to endure punishing diet and exercise regimes.
Next time you hear someone moaning about a super restrictive diet, understand that it isn’t just a hissy fit. It’s real. The emotional and physical torment of deprivation challenges the very core of human nature and its inherent survival instincts.
Each time you jump from low carbs to low fat to low calories to high protein you are harming yourself. No-one wants to be fat and it’s great to become pro-active about getting in shape but we have to wise up about how it’s done. It won’t happen with fads, starvation or anything that even resembles torture but by re-booting your metabolism, it will happen and the best news is that it can stay that way. Diets which restrict calories too far may cause a reduction in weight but it almost always causes a reduction in metabolism. Once you begin on this downhill spiral, you are entering a destructive cycle where it is virtually impossible to lose fat without starving and over-exercising.
Too many people are following fads with the best intentions but inadvertently damaging their bodies by losing muscle tone, depleting your fat-burning capacity, your metabolism, your self-esteem, not to mention your overall health and energy levels. When you starve your body your fat-storage enzymes become ultra-efficient, stocking up on fat reserves in preparation for the next famine. Not unlike a bear in hibernation, in preparation for the next anticipated ‘drought’, your body will become a skilful fat-storing machine!
The good news is that even the most seasoned ‘yo-yoers’ can retrain their bodies and re-boot their metabolism, enticing those fat-releasing enzymes out of submission.
You expend energy/kilojoules regardless of your activity levels – even during sleep. Your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) represents the energy your body burns over a 24-hour period to maintain normal functions and sustain life, without activity. This is determined by your age, height, weight, gender and, most importantly, your level of lean body weight (muscle tissue). Men commonly have a higher metabolic rate than women due to the fact that they have more lean muscle. Muscle tissue is more metabolically active than stored fat tissue and therefore requires more energy to maintain.
Over-restrictive dieting can reduce your BMR by as much as 20 per cent!
Your BMR generally decreases with age and this decrease is exacerbated by kilojoule-restriction that leads to lean muscle loss. The less muscle / lean weight you have, the lower your metabolism. Fad diets often encourage the loss of lean weight because it produces a favourable result on the bathroom scales (lean muscle is heavier and more dense than stored body fat), however, this only works to your detriment in the long-term. Conversely, if you eat a sensible amount of kilojoules and participate in regular strength-promoting exercises, your metabolism can be rejuvenated and maintained for a healthy, lean, permanent result.
A sluggish metabolism causes an inefficient environment to effectively burn kilojoules, making you prone to excess body fat storage and making fat loss increasingly difficult. In an attempt to lower kilojoule intake, we inadvertently consume fewer calories and consequently, fewer nutrients. With this comes low energy levels and sluggish digestion, just at a time where higher energy levels are necessary for simple maintenance, let alone fat loss.
When your metabolism is functioning at its optimum, you have the freedom to consume more food without storing excess fat. Excessive exercise becomes completely unnecessary to maintain a fit, lean and energetic body. A higher level of nutrients can be consumed to promote optimum health and energy, without the looming risk of excess fat storage. In essence, your body becomes an efficient fat-burning machine!
Estimating your personal BMR
The most accurate way to calculate your BMR is to have your body fat measured, however, the chart below will provide you with an indicative figure to get you on the right track:
|17.7 x weight (kg) + 657||13.4 x weight (kg) + 692|
|15.1 x weight (kg) + 692||14.8 x weight (kg) +487|
|11.5 x weight (kg) + 873||8.3 x weight (kg) + 846|
|11.9 x weight (kg) + 700||9.2 x weight (kg) + 687|
|8.4 x weight (kg) + 821||9.8 x weight (kg) + 624|
For example, a 32 year old female weighing 68kg: 8.3 x 68 + 846 = 1410 BMR
Tips for correcting metabolic meltdown
- Don’t allow your body to go into ‘starvation mode’. Keep your kilojoule intake just above your Basal Metabolic Rate and don’t skip meals in an attempt to lose weight
- Don’t be seduced by over-restrictive fad / short-term diets that promise ‘fast’ weight loss. The weight you lose will likely be your valuable lean muscle!
- Be consistent, but not excessive, with your exercise regime. Incorporate both strength and cardiovascular elements and remember quality, not quantity.
- Limit your intake of over-processed, kilojoule-dense and nutrient-poor foods. Stick to ‘real’, unrefined and nutritious alternatives. It need not be time-consuming or boring to eat well!
- Re-asses your goals and make a promise to yourself to change your daily habits for a lifetime, not simply to fit into your new jeans on the weekend! Remember, the physical and emotional torture of yo-yo dieting is a price too high to pay.