How eating too little can be just as bad as eating too much!

We all know that eating too much and giving our bodies excessive calories leads to gaining weight. When trying to lose some of those unwanted kilo’s, most people make the mistake of eating too little to reach their desired weight. Now, don’t get me wrong you will definitely lose weight; but you will definitely NOT keep the weight off and you may even gain a few extra unwanted kilos’ as well. You force yourself to follow a diet that is often: not enjoyable, not affordable, time consuming and not sustainable long-term; just to end up back at square one.


So, why does this happen? Most people are under the impression that eating less is the way to go if you want to lose weight. This is definitely not the case…our bodies need nutrients to support and maintain all bodily functions and processes.  When you restrict your calorie intake too low, your body goes into ‘starvation mode’; because it is not receiving enough of the right fuel. So, when you do eat your next meal, your body stores more of it as fat for starvation periods (times when calorie intake is too low). This in turn causes more fat to be stored in the adipose cells and less of to be used as energy; resulting in decreased fat oxidation. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying eat as much as you want; you need to ensure you have balance of whole-foods that provide nutrients the body needs.

In cases of severe calorie restriction, not only will your body store more food as fat when you do eat; but the body will take the nutrients it needs and is not getting, from muscle tissue. So, not only is your body now storing more fat, but it is also going to start using the body’s muscle tissue to get essential nutrients to keep the body functioning (a catabolic effect is created). In turn, your body fat will increase, and lean muscle mass will decrease. This will also affect bodily processes and the body will not function as efficiently.

The body’s chemistry and how it effects your progress:

Bodily functions run off signals amongst the cells; most of these signals are conducted via hormones; including appetite, fat storage, metabolic changes and so forth.  How you eat effects the release of these hormones and in turn, effects weight loss and muscle mass.

  • Leptin:

Leptin acts as a hormone, primarily in the hypothalamus. Research suggests that leptin from adipose tissue signals sufficient energy stores and promotes a negative energy balance by suppressing the appetite and increasing energy expenditure. Changes in energy expenditure primarily reflect changes in basal metabolism (the energy expended during rest). Leptin is also released from the stomach cells in response to the presence of food, suggesting a role for both short-term and long-term regulation of food intake and energy storage. Leptin plays a role as a satiety signal that helps decrease appetite; it also acts a starvation hormone that signals energy deficits. When energy intake is low, leptin levels decline, and metabolism slows in an effort to reduce energy demands. Leptin plays a big role in energy regulation.

  • Adiponectin:

Adipose tissue secretes another protein known as adiponectin. Adiponectin correlates inversely with body fat: lean people have higher amounts than overweight people. Adiponectin has beneficial effects of inhibiting inflammation and protecting against insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular health.

  • Ghrelin:

Ghrelin also acts a as a hormone primarily in the hypothalamus. Ghrelin is secreted primarily by stomach cells and promotes a positive energy balance by stimulating appetite and promoting efficient energy storage. Ghrelin triggers the desire to eat- levels typically rise before a meal and fall after a meal. Ghrelin fights to maintain a stable body weight; research indicates that one of its roles is to maximise fat stores during time of famine. The body fights to maintain a weight that it’s use to; this explains why maintaining weight loss can be difficult. The body’s metabolism needs to adjust and adapt to its new weight. Weight loss is most successful with exercise as ghrelin levels are relatively low and less calories are stored in the adipose cells. Ghrelin also promotes sleep, lack of sleep increases ghrelin levels which in turn increases appetite and decreases the satiety hormone leptin.

  • PYY:

Ghrelin levels decline in response to high levels of PYY, a peptide that the gastro intestinal cells secrete after a meal in proportion to the calories ingested. Individuals with higher levels of PYY have smaller appetites and consume fewer calories than those that have lower levels of PYY. PYY signals satiety and decreases food intake.

The average healthy women’s daily calorie intake from ages 19-50 should be +/- 1900kcal; and for men is +/- 2200kcal with moderate exercise 3 times a week. In order to lose 500g-1kg a week you need to decrease your daily calorie intake by 500 calories (for men and women). You should have decent size meals for breakfast, lunch and supper, with plenty of healthy snack between your meals. Meals should be +/- 3-hours apart with snack every 1-2 hours. So, if you’re trying to lose a few unwanted kilo’s make sure you are eating enough and eating the right foods.



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