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I love reading the blogs of other people. People who remind me that the overall goal will happen if I keep working because they already reached theirs. People who are just starting because then I get to watch them completely change their lives. People who help others for a living because then I get great tips about food and exercise. Last night I came across a weight loss blog where the writer regularly includes what he is eating and I realized he is not eating enough. Reading his blog has inspired this one.

I think the number one mistake people make when they decide to lose weight is to stop eating. I can see that it makes sense to do that. I mean, eat less… lose weight. I get the mentality, but it is wrong. To lose weight, we need to eat. I will explain why.

There are 2 major concerns with not eating enough. One is that it completely shuts down our metabolism. The second is that it puts our bodies into starvation mode.

 1)      Metabolism

Our metabolism is the powerhouse of our bodies. It converts the fuel in the food we eat to the energy needed to power everything we do so that our body can maintain itself. Whether you are exercising, sleeping or eating, your body is constantly using energy and burning calories to keep you going. Our metabolism speeds up and slows down based on the food we eat and exercise we do.

In a nutshell, the higher the metabolism the easier it is for you to lose weight.

Picture a campfire. You go to sleep and while you are sleeping the fire gradually dies out. When you get up the next morning you need to get the fire going again. To do that, you add logs. If you throw a ton of logs all at once, the fire will die out because you smothered it. If you add logs slowly to the fire, it will blaze.

Our metabolism works the same way. When we go to bed our metabolism slows down. Your metabolism will not start blazing again until you eat. This is why they say breakfast is the most important meal of the day. If you skip breakfast and wait until lunch to eat, you are wasting hours without your metabolism working at its peak.

As I said above, to lose weight you have to eat! People may think when they skip meals that they are doing a good thing because you’re saving the calories, right? WRONG. You are hurting your metabolism by skipping meals.

So what should you do? You should eat every 3-4 hours. Breakfast, Snack, Lunch, Snack, Dinner. Picture yourself adding logs to the fire to keep it blazing. You don’t need a feast or an ‘all you can eat.’ Just eat smaller portions and eat throughout the day.

2)      Starvation Mode

Lose weight = eat less + move more. There is no need to take that to the extreme by starving ourselves. There are so many articles out there with different opinions about starvation mode that it becomes a headache to truly understand.

Before I get into what I understand about it, please note I’m not a doctor or a professional so I am only sharing what I come to know through my own research and what makes sense. The internet is free… explore it and come to your own conclusion.

That said, my understanding of starvation mode is that it exists and it is very, very, very (did I mention VERY?) bad! It can hinder our weight loss and slow our metabolism and overall it’s just not necessary.

Starvation mode is caused by drastically cutting our calories. There are different theories for how little is too little, but a common number is 50%. So starvation mode can be caused by cutting calories to less than 50% of what our bodies require per day and doing this over an extended period of time (weeks and/or months).

Note it says over periods of time. If you’re sick for a few days and simply too ill to eat that will not cause starvation mode. If you are busy at work and miss lunch that will not cause starvation mode. However, as noted above you should avoid skipping meals because it hurts your metabolism. Now, if you’re dieting and purposely not eating or eating very little that can cause starvation mode and this is bad for several reasons.

1)      Eating too few calories is not sustainable. Weight loss takes time. We need changes to our everyday diet that we can handle because what happens when you get to your goal weight? You will go back to your old habits and gain that weight back. The changes we make now have to be lifestyle changes. Changes we can continue even after we meet our goals. What happens too when you are starving and it becomes too much? Then you may quit your diet altogether.

2)      Nutrient intake – our bodies need a certain amount of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals every day to support normal body functions. Not having those nutrients can lead to serious health issues that is so complex I won’t even get in to.

3)      We need energy. It is important to consume enough calories that you have energy to perform the daily activities you want to and stay healthy. The point of losing weight is to be happier and to be able to live again. The goal is not to starve ourselves to the point of malnutrition and have so little energy we can’t do anything.

4)      Some say, and this goes back to the different theories, that starvation mode can lead to our bodies storing fat because our body thinks it is starving. This goes hand in hand with losing muscle not fat. As muscle burns up to 90% more calories than fat, losing muscle is a bad thing.

5)      Some say that starvation mode slows our metabolism down. I’ve read others say that’s not the case and that metabolism was slowed in studies because the people weren’t working out. Regardles, a person with a slower metabolism will lose weight at a slower pace than that of a person with a metabolism functioning normally.

6)      Any kind of starvation can harm our bodies. An extreme starvation, such as anorexia, can result in brain damage and organ failure. Organ failure occurs when there is a shortage of essential fatty acids and amino acids that our bodies cannot produce. These are provided by the food we eat.

7)      After eating very little number of calories over time, when you go back to a normal diet you will likely (very, very likely) gain the weight back.

All in all, starving ourselves is not necessary. When I saw the blogger list his foods, it made me sad because I can see the struggle in that. Again, that struggle is NOT necessary.

If I’ve learned anything over the last year it is that this is a life change not a diet. You cannot expect to diet, lose weight, get to your goal weight, and go back to your old habits without gaining the weight back. Why not just cut that cycle by learning how to eat and live healthy so that the weight we lose doesn’t come back? Yes it may be a longer process, but do it right the first time and you won’t have to repeat it. Any quick fixes are usually not good for you and often don’t work anyway.

What does work is a healthy diet, exercise, portion control, and knowingly making good choices every day.

As I said above, I’m not a doctor, a trainor, or a nutritionist. I just know what works for me. I have been able to lose over 60 pounds and keep it off and I eat all day every day. I don’t consider this a diet. A diet you eventually stop. I don’t feel deprived from the foods I try to stay away from because I’m never hungry. Instead, I feel full of life and that is why I started this blog. I want others to find that it can be just as easy. Start here: Water, Exercise, Eat Healthy. It is that simple.