Today I want to talk about the dangers of fad diets and educate you on what 'Starvation Mode' really is. I know it's super tempting to jump on the Lose-Weight-Quick-Bandwagon, but you need to know the pitfalls. You also need to understand that more than likely, you're going to end up in worst shape than when you started.
Please, please, please.....STOP LOOKING FOR A QUICK FIX. It doesn't exist. I know you want it to, we all do...but it's a pipe dream. For example, if you are told about a diet where you can lose 10 pounds in one week or one you can eat all the dripping greasy bacon and sausage you want, please stop and think for a minute.
If you lose 10 pounds in one week, you are NOT losing 10 pounds of fat, you are just losing 10 pounds. Just because the scale says you are 10 pounds lighter doesn't mean you are any less fat. Live on lettuce for a week, exercise (good luck with no energy), or go sit in a sauna....oh, you'll lose 10 pounds alright, 10 pounds of muscle mass loss and water weight loss. And try a week on the Eating-Greasy-Slop-With-Absolutely-No-Carbs-Diet which results in extremely short-term weight loss (not fat loss) which not only puts you quickly up against a plateau, but endangers your health at the same time.
Come on folks, when you hear something and your bullshit meter starts dinging and buzzing, listen to it.
Hard work is the only thing that's going to work. Eat smart & exercise. Period. We all want to hit the lottery. We all want a free ride. We all want something for nothing. Not gonna happen. Never. Ever. So let me say it again. Eat smart & exercise. Period.
WHY DON'T THESE FAD DIETS WORK?
Well if it's solely weight loss your after, they do work, initially. The scale will weigh you lighter and fairly quickly at that, but it's short lived and sadly it turns out to be a wasted effort. You can only lose so much weight doing things the unhealthy way before you hit a plateau that you can't find a way around. This leads to frustration and hopelessness and ultimately a quick u-turn back to old ways and a sure fire way to get those numbers to climb right back up the scale.
So why don't these diets work? Why don't they promote fat loss? Here's the dealio. Your body needs all of the essential nutrients. It needs fats, carbs, proteins, fiber, etc. These crash diets don't allow a well-balanced diet with all of the necessary nutrients. They shell shock your body by severely restricting an important health requirement. Low-carb and low-fat diets are a dime a dozen. And they're all total crap.
The main reason some of these diets don't work is because they put you in 'Starvation Mode'. Everyone is somewhat different, but most experts agree that starvation mode is usually achieved by eating less than 1200 calories per day.
To make sure you are eating enough calories to prevent starvation mode, a great tool to use is a CALORIE NEEDS CALCULATOR (click on link, scroll down to The Calorie Calculator, and punch in your info to figure yours out). This calculator will figure out how many calories you need to maintain your current weight. Once you get a number, you then need to eat 500-1000 calories LESS THAN that number to lose weight. For example, if your number is 2500 and you want to lose weight, you will have to eat anywhere from 1500-2000 calories per day to lose weight. So going below 1500 calories in your case would bring you too close to starvation mode. Please keep in mind that no matter what your CNC # is, you CANNOT eat less than 1200 calories a day. Also remember that any exercise you do will burn calories. So in other words, the calories you burn up can be subtracted from your CNC # to help you get to your goal number.
You cannot lose weight by ONLY eating less, because you need to ensure you are indeed still taking in an appropriate amount of calories. This is why it is imperative that you exercise. Exercising will allow you to still eat in a very healthy and normal way and STILL lose weight. Let's learn more about starvation mode.
There is a ton of information on starvation mode but it all comes down to one simple thing. Your body needs to get the proper amounts of nutrients to run its countless functions and support your vital organs, if you don't eat those nutrients, your body will find them somewhere. It has to. It is a matter of survival.
When you don't eat enough calories to sustain bodily functions, your body perceives it as a threat to it's survival. Your body believes you are starving, literally. Hence, you enter 'starvation mode'. Your body is an amazing machine that will find a way to survive at any costs. Many lifetimes ago when our ancestors were hunting and gathering, food wasn't plentiful like it is today. Our bodies used the starvation mode as a survival mechanism so that body fat could be conserved for the long stretches of time that people had to go without any food.
Let's get back to these nutrients we so desperately need. If we don't eat them, how does our body find them? Well, inside our bodies we have fat cells. These fat cells can expand (when we gain weight) or shrink (when we lose weight). Even though these fat cells can get smaller or bigger, they can never disappear. You will always have the same amount of fat cells, whether you are morbidly obese or underweight. The difference is how much fat is in them.
The body looks at stored fat as energy. It holds precious the fat in those cells and looks at those fat cells like they are a pantry. Something that it can fall back on in times of an emergency. Here's the tricky part. You would think when your body perceives a starvation threat, it would then first tap into this pantry and start eating up all the 'food' (fat) that has been stored there. I mean, come on, if we aren't eating energy and the body needs energy, AND it keeps energy holed up in a damn 'body pantry', why the hell can't it just use that. Isn't that what stored energy is for? To use it when you need it? Sounds easy. Sounds right. WRONG. Here's why it doesn't go down like that...
The body is smart. I mean really, REALLY smart. The body looks at that stored fat as the LAST RESORT. We're talking 'on your death bed' last resort. So it holds onto that fat for dear life. It doesn't want to start using up all it's goodies right off the bat. Because the way your body looks at it, when all the stored energy is gone, well, uh...you're gone. So it searches for another way, another option. It tries to find a 'Plan A' before it resorts to 'Plan B: Last Ditch Effort'. So it searches and searches for some energy, it searches here and there and everywhere. And guess what? It finds it... it finds a shit-ton of it. Wanna guess where? In your muscles, that's where.
So here's our muscles just minding their own damn business and then all of a sudden, they start getting attacked. Attacked by it's own body. It's mutinous. Muscle holds some serious energy, more than fat. So our bodies do what they do best...adapt, adjust, and survive. Our lean muscle mass is broken down and used as fuel to keep us functioning and to keep our vital organs intact. It leaves the fat alone. Yep, it lets the fat stay safe and secure in their cells. It keeps that pantry stocked. And guess what? It puts all those fat cells on lock down. It actually traps the fat in there and protects it like it's gold. Because it is like gold, it's everything.
Your body thinks it is starving, it thinks you are at risk for death. It doesn't know that your stupid ass is fine and you just decided to try The Grapefruit Diet or some shit.
It's fighting for it's life, for your life... all because you're looking for a quick road to skinny.
The end result is you have less muscle mass and the same exact amount of fat. So you actually end up with a HIGHER fat percentage than when you started, even though the scale might be telling you you're down 20 pounds. I know it's hard to grasp, but this is a fact...and it is an epidemic in this country. We keep getting fatter despite all the health and fitness talk, despite all the 'low-fat' foods on the shelves, and despite all the gyms popping up everywhere. You CANNOT starve yourself. It does not work. It never will. Even if it did and you COULD stick with eating like a bird (which nobody can forever), your body would be in horrific shape and your health would suffer tremendously. We are made in one way and one way only. And that one way requires ALL OF THE ESSENTIAL NUTRIENTS. How 'bout if tomorrow, you start filling up your gas tank with something that is not exactly the unleaded gas it requires, you give it something that is only sort of like gas. See how well that car runs for ya. You can't give your body less than what it requires and expect things to run smoothly.
There is more bad news. Since you have catapulted your body into starvation mode, it will STORE ALL INCOMING FAT. Let me explain. Even if you are only eating a pathetic, puny amount of food each day, your body will take every last bit of the fat you consume and store the hell out of it. It's already found a good source of fuel, your muscles, and it needs to save up anything it gets to prepare for Armageddon.
So what I'm telling you is that you will not only NOT be able to burn any of the fat you already have, but you will add to 'the pantry' every time you eat, no matter how little you are eating. This is why every crash diet ever attempted in the history of man has ended up the same way.
The Evil Trifecta of the Crash Diet
1. You drop a quick 20 pounds.
2. You hit a plateau.
3. You quit the diet and gain all of your weight back (and then some).
As soon as you go back to eating like you did before, or even in a healthy way, your body is still in starvation mode so it's packing away everything you're eating for safe keeping. Your body is all of a sudden inundated with nutrients and calories galore...and it all gets dumped into your fat cells. Now this levels off after a while when your body realizes it's not on death row anymore and it's not starving. But by the time things get right again, the damage is done.
It takes about 3 days straight of eating restricted and insufficiently for you to kick into starvation mode, but it takes a hell of a lot longer to get out of it once your in it.
Don't get suckered into believing the hype with these fad diets. They don't work. It's physiologically impossible. You will be no different than anybody else. You will fail. Every time. If you want to lose weight and get healthy, there is no other way than the tried and true way. Eat smart & exercise. Period. Saddle up folks. It may be a long ride. But you'll get to where you want to be. And believe me when I say, it's a trip that's worth all the pit stops and bumps in the road. For reals.
To learn what you should be eating and how you should be exercising. Check out these articles:
What Should You Be Eating?
What Exercises Should You Be Doing?
"Rarely do we find men who willingly engage in hard, solid thinking. There is an almost universal quest for easy answers and half-baked solutions. Nothing pains some people more than having to think." Martin Luther King, Jr.
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