How sustainable is a low calorie diet?

This morning I woke up feeling anxious cause I feel less rested. This occurred ever since I had started exercising in the morning and evening. To add on, it has been about 1 week since I last consulted a doctor and I wanted to weigh myself. Shockingly despite me sticking strictly to my 1200 calories a day and exercising 5x a week, I had started gaining weight. Albeit, it was 1 kg but still detrimental to ruin my day.  Throughout my journey to the office, I kept googling on what could be reason since I am sure I had not exceeded my calories intake to have gained weight. 

It was anger and disappointment that drives me to dig deeper only to found nothing concrete except that it is normal to fluctuate and it could be water weight. I know losing weight is not easy but it was supposed to be direct and simple as ultimately, it comes down to calories entering and leaving the body.  Being in an energy deficit – taking in lesser calories than you expend shouldn’t be such a hassle and painful experience.

MAP: low calorie foods

My peers have been telling me to fall in love with the journey and the more I perceive eating healthy as punishment, it is more likely I will gain back the weight lost and yo-yoed massively as a result.

On the brink of helplessness, I indulged on research papers and articles to understand if the calorie deficit would work best for me. As mentioned earlier, I  have been taught that losing weight is a matter of simple math. This idea of ‘a calorie in and a calorie out’ when it comes to weight loss is outdated. The truth is that even careful calorie calculations don’t always yield constant results as the way the body burns calories depends on a number of factors, including the type of food, metabolism rate and even the type of organisms living in the gut. One can eat the exact same number of calories as someone else, yet have very different outcomes when it comes to their weight.

Based on the Harvard research, there are three main factors that affect how your body processes calories.

1. Your gut microbiome. Researchers have found that people who are naturally thin have different types of organisms living inside their gut than those who are overweight. It’s been said that some types of organisms in the gut are able to break down and use more calories from certain foods than others.

2. Your metabolism. Each body has a different resting metabolic rate which measures the number of calories the body uses just running its everyday functions. The more active you are, the higher your metabolism rate is which then in turn became very challenging to regain some weight because of “metabolic adaptation”.

3. The type of food you eat. Your food choices may also influence your calorie intake and not just because of their specific calorie content. One 2019 study published in Cell Metabolism found that eating processed foods seems to spur people to eat more calories compared with eating unprocessed foods. In the study, 20 people were offered meals with the same number of calories, as well as similar amounts of sugar, sodium, fat, fiber, and micronutrients. But there was one key difference: one group was given unprocessed foods, and the other got ultra-processed options. People who ate the ultra-processed food gained weight.

If counting calories is not a dependable way to lose weight, what should we be doing to actually lose the extra pounds? 

Focus on diet quality 

When planning your meals, try to cut down on or eliminate processed foods, which can drive your body to consume more. Instead, focus on choosing unprocessed foods, including lean meats, whole grains, and lots of fruits and vegetables in their natural form.

Exercise regularly (as well as vigorously). 

Aim to get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each week. While any movement is better than nothing, work toward achieving a more vigorous level of exercise when you can.

Sleep soundly. 

Poor sleep quality can lead to weight gain, as can a sleep schedule that is out of sync with the body’s natural daily pattern, known as circadian rhythm. A lack of sleep affects your weight in much the same way as hormonal shifts, making you want to eat more. So, addressing sleep problems with your doctor should be a priority.

Reduce your stress levels

 Stress can lead to weight gain. Controlling stress can help you monitor your weight gain.

Consult a professional

As with other medical conditions, many people will need help from a doctor. Successful weight loss may require more than just diet and exercise. Don’t be afraid to seek help if you need it.

With that all being said, let’s stay motivated and be more smart in doing physical exercises.

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