Are you eating enough to lose body fat?
An odd question? Not really...
Many people, and women especially, say they are struggling to lose weight, having tried every diet and fad eating plan under the sun. The one thing that comes up time and again is that when they are in 'weight loss mode', they don't eat enough to lose body fat.
This is particularly common with women in their late thirties, forties, and fifties.
Common things they say include;
- "I used to be able to diet and the weight would come off easily, but as I've got older, it doesn't shift any more, no matter how little I eat!"
- "I can't eat any less and I'm still not losing weight!"
So, what's the reason for this? Well, there isn't one answer - there are several things.
Firstly, repeated restricted diets affect the production of the hunger and satiety hormones, leptin (satiety) and ghrelin (hunger), making us much more likely to overeat in the longer term. Have you ever done a diet, finished, and then started eating normally again, feeling ravenous all the time? Decreased body fat decreases leptin levels and can make you more hungry. There's more to it than that, but the point to understand is that crash dieting affects the way these hormones work and thus works against us.
The body regulates metabolism according to food intake over time. If the body thinks that restrictive dieting is going to continue, it will down-regulate the metabolism, reserve energy, and store fat. The result? It becomes harder to lose body fat.
We lose lean muscle as well as body fat when we 'crash diet', but when we put weight back on, it is stored as fat, not muscle. Fat burns (uses) less energy than muscle (you can see where this is going) - it just gets harder and harder each time we crash diet.
There are many more factors, including changes in hormones as we reach the period of perimenopause (the lead up to menopause when our reproductive time ends, and the time when many women suffer from hormonal changes), but as you can see, if you have been on a cycle of diets over the years and you suddenly find you are no longer able to lose the weight that you could in your 20's or early 30's, any of the above could be a factor.
Understanding the basics of the effects of food and nutrition on our body, and how metabolism and blood sugar balance works, is, in my opinion, the first step in making significant and long-lasting changes to both how we look but, much more importantly, how we feel.
It has to come from a holistic approach to health and well-being, looking at all areas of how we look after ourselves; not just what we eat, but our stress levels, hormone balance, and self-care.
This is a long term and sustainable approach, and once you start on this journey, you won't want to return to restrictive dieting again.