If you want to lose weight, you may think that slashing the number of calories you eat is the way to go. That approach can backfire and can even cause harm.
Your body needs a minimum number of calories every day to perform essential functions and give you the energy needed to work, exercise, and perform other activities. The exact number of calories you need depends on several factors, including your gender, size, age, and activity level.
Slashing Calories Can Affect Your Physical and Mental Health
If you dramatically cut back on the amount you eat, your body may not get enough essential nutrients. That can impact your health in all sorts of ways, depending on the type of deficiency.
Protein is necessary to build and maintain muscle. If you don’t consume enough protein, you can lose muscle mass. Restricting calories can also weaken your bones, reduce your fertility and make you more susceptible to illnesses and infections.
Dramatically reducing the amount you eat can leave you feeling hungry all day and constantly thinking about food. That can make it difficult to focus on work and can make you irritable. It can also make you more inclined to eat anything that’s available. If you reach for unhealthy food, you may feel guilty and feel that you’ve failed. You may even give up on the idea of losing weight altogether.
Not eating enough can leave you tired. You may struggle to make it through the workday and may not have enough energy to exercise or keep up with your kids. You may rely on caffeine to keep you going, then find it hard to sleep at night and feel even more exhausted the following day. It can become a vicious cycle.
Develop Healthy Eating Habits
Think about your long-term health. You don’t just want to lose weight—you want to keep it off. Focus on adopting healthy eating habits that you can maintain. Choose nutritious foods that will fill you up and give you the nutrients and energy you need to live a healthy and active life.
Losing weight gradually is healthier than shedding pounds fast. If you create a deficit of 500 calories per day, you should lose about a pound per week. You can create a deficit by reducing the number of calories you consume and/or burning more calories through exercise.
Aim to lose one to two pounds per week. You may feel that it will take forever to reach your goal at that rate, but a slow and steady approach will pay off in the long run.
If you eat fewer calories than your body requires on a regular basis, that can make your metabolism slow down and reduce the number of calories your body burns, even after you stop restricting your calorie intake. That can cause you to regain the weight you lost.
Everyone is different. If you have questions about the best weight-loss approach for you, consult your doctor or a nutritionist.