Sometimes I have clients come to me confused as to why they aren’t losing any weight. They eat very little, usually only one or two small meals per day, and they typically make healthy food choices. So why aren’t they losing weight?
My answer usually shocks them, because it’s very counter-intuitive: you need to eat more to lose weight. I’m sure they think to themselves, “how will eating more help? Aren’t you supposed to eat as little calories as possible to lose weight?”
Actually, no. It’s true that to lose weight you need to burn more calories than you are consuming, which can mean reducing how much you are eating. But if you start eating too little, your body will think its starving. When your body thinks its starving, it goes through changes that will actually keep you from losing weight.
Eating Too Little Will Slow Your Metabolism
Eating too little calories will put your body into starvation mode. When your body is in starvation mode, it slows down your metabolism so it can conserve the calories you are consuming. It also works to hold on to your fat stores. This means it is going to be much more difficult to burn calories or fat and you will not be able to reach your weight loss goals.
On top of that, you don’t feel as hungry once your body becomes used to the lowered calorie intake. This often tricks people into thinking they are eating enough because they aren’t hungry anymore.
How Many Calories Is Too Little?
Every person has individual energy needs based on their height, weight, gender, age, and activity level. However, it its generally understood that people should not eat less than 1200 calories per day.
Consuming less than 800 calories is called the very low calorie diet, which is a weight loss diet done under medical supervision due to its dangerous side effects such as developing gallstones.
How to Not Eat Too Little or Too Much
To lose weight, you need to burn more calories than you are consuming. But you also need to eat enough to sustain your body and keep your metabolism running well.
To get your metabolism started, eat something in the morning when you wake up, even if it is a small snack or glass of milk. Then, to keep your metabolism running well, try to eat at least 3 meals per day (frequent small meals are just as good).
You will not eat too many calories if you choose healthy low-calorie foods, eat modest portion sizes, eat slowly, and stop when you feel satisfied and not too full.
If this post helped you, share it with your friends on social media. For more tips from a dietitian on weight loss goals read Set Realistic Weight Loss Goals with This Free Worksheet and The Secret to Successful Weight Loss is Starting with Small Goals.