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Why We Should Be Done with Starvation Diets

June 30th, 2009

After coming across yet another diet prescribing 1200-1600 calories a day to lose weight safely, I've got to get something off my chest. There are a few things about these diets that really bother me. Since this rant is going to be a little long and scattered I'll continue it on the next post as well.

Most experts say it is safe to lose 1-2 pounds of fat per week, although we've all seen contestants on The Biggest Loser drop twice that amount in a day (that's another issue for another time). So if someone has become overweight by eating 3,000 calories a day, wouldn't it be safe to assume they'd still lose a healthy amount of weight by cutting that down to 2,000?

It  takes many years for people to become overweight, why make them feel like a failure by expecting them to take it all back off in a matter of months through something so torturous as starvation? Seriously...if the average moderately active woman requires about 2100 calories a day, why change that formula if you don’t have to (I understand that there are other factors for certain people to consider and they should follow the advice of healthcare professionals). It is just reinforcing the idea that weight maintenance is about sporadic dieting and not an overall healthy lifestyle.

In one very basic way a human body is like a car. It requires fuel to run. But it is obviously much more complicated. Without fuel a car simply won’t run, whereas the human body will continue to run using stored energy. It sounds good for people wanting to get rid of excess fat. Quit giving your body food and it will start to use stored fat for energy.

But using stored energy comes at a big cost. The body reacts to a limited supply of fuel by conserving it and burning fewer calories. And when the body doesn’t get the right amount of calories for maintenance it uses muscle as well as fat for fuel, which can decrease metabolism further. So when the day comes that you discontinue your diet, and it will, you’ll be eating the same as before but with a body that can no longer burn calories as efficiently as it once could. I hope that analogy makes sense and has you questioning the value of restrictive diets. If you're exercising while dieting, there's even more you should consider.

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