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Who knew? Too few calories can keep you from losing weight!
Old 01-24-2018, 04:41 PM   #1
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Who knew? Too few calories can keep you from losing weight!

A few weeks ago DW and I both began a weight-loss program at the gym (they actually call it The Wellness Center) in an effort to lose "that last few pounds" that bugs most people. Both of us would like to lose at least five, and I'd prefer to lose ten, but I'll settle for five. BTW, I'm male, 5'9" and 155 lbs. I have a light build. To start, they put us both (separately of course) on a machine that calculates, via measuring the oxygen consumed at rest, what one's ideal calorie intake should be in order to lose weight, but not too fast, which most people know is not a good thing.

We've also been keeping food logs, logging everything consumed and the respective calorie content, except water since that has no calories.

According to their machine I have a high metabolic rate, which was no surprise since I've been that way all my life and until the last five or so years, never gave calorie consumption much thought. If I wanted to lose a few pounds I just ate less, or more low-calorie foods, and that worked. Until now.

It turns out you can take that too far and make it harder to lose weight, which is apparently what I was doing. According to their calculations I should be consuming 2,000 calories a day and that would result in a slow but steady weight loss. The trouble is, going by my food logs, on most days I'm consuming less than half that. This being winter doesn't help since I hate cold weather and that cuts way down on my outdoor activity.

"So how come I don't look emaciated?" I ask. It turns out that if you don't eat enough your body goes into "starvation mode" and hangs on dearly to every calorie, not letting any go until it absolutely has to. Here's the link to the article she sent:

https://www.everydayhealth.com/weigh...etabolism.aspx

I read a few more articles on the topic and it appears that paradoxically I may have to actually gain a few pounds in order to convince my body that I'm not actually in any danger of starving.

But apparently I'm eating enough that I don't show any outright symptoms, such as brittle hair, irritability, dizziness, and some others I read about. I eat until I'm full too, I'm not hungry all the time.

Hopefully, I ask "So I can go down to King's New York Pizza and get a couple of gluten-free pizzas and resolve this, right?" Well, no. Bummer.

Next stop is an appointment with a dietician.
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Old 01-24-2018, 04:50 PM   #2
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But apparently I'm eating enough that I don't show any outright symptoms, such as brittle hair, irritability, dizziness, and some others I read about.
You sure?

Kidding aside, I'm really surprised you can eat only 1,000 calories a day and have no symptoms of food deprivation. Hope you get it all worked out soon.
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Old 01-24-2018, 04:57 PM   #3
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Thatís gotta be my problem. Iím not eating enough. I do agree with everything you wrote. In 2016, I went on a paleo diet, counted my calories, and didnít come close to getting the calories I was supposed to get. The problem with these diets is that they only allow a select group of foods to choose from and itís tough to get in required calories on a select group of foods. And the select group rarely includes ice cream and other high calorie foods making it more difficult
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Old 01-24-2018, 05:24 PM   #4
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I don't think science is on the side of this 'starvation mode'.
While there are adaptations (lower body temp) of the body when you limit calories for a time the effects are quite small. The big changes that occur are in what we do. They call the calories we burn just moving about and fidgeting etc NEAT. It seems subconsciously we avoid all kind of energy expenditure after some time on reduced calories. Stuff like parking closer to the store etc.

Over the last 8 months I dropped my weight from 257-177lbs. I did this by weighing everything I eat, making sure I eat a minimum of protein, fat and fiber and of course limit the calories I consume each day. When you do this and talk to other that do it (successfully) you find out that there are many pitfalls. Stuff like accepting portion sizes on labels rather than using actual weights, using cups instead of grams etc, having stuff you don't log or making mistakes on cooked vs raw weights etc.
Unless you're tiny 1k calories is probably too low and you are probably eating way more than that. You just don't know it. If I eat 1k cals per day my weight would plummet. A large portion of the loss would be lean tissue though. I don't think I could stick to it though.
I started my journey at 2100 kcals /day and of course as I got lighter I adjusted down. I am at 1800 kcals / day now and that's a little on the aggressive side for somebody who is 5' 10".
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Old 01-24-2018, 05:34 PM   #5
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My approach, which has no basis in fact like my investments, is that you need to provide fuel for your engine. I eat about 5 times a day but small portions. Combined with exercise which is not much more than 2-3 mile walks and weight lifting, provides a slow weight loss. This is evaluated weekly and adjusted.
The benefit I see is to combat the prediabetic condition I was diagnosed with over 10 years ago. I can't declare victory but am holding my own.
However if I were 5'9" and 155# I would be even more conservative in my approach. Go for a little exercise of your choice and ditch the 1000 calorie plan. You risk more harm than good. At that level you're losing muscle including your heart which will not replenish itself.
The medical field is only now beginning to understand the needs of middle aged and beyond patients.
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Old 01-24-2018, 05:34 PM   #6
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1000 calories is not much. I'd be surprised if that's all you really eat. Are you sure?


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Old 01-24-2018, 05:48 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by Neill View Post
I don't think science is on the side of this 'starvation mode'.
While there are adaptations (lower body temp) of the body when you limit calories for a time the effects are quite small. The big changes that occur are in what we do. They call the calories we burn just moving about and fidgeting etc NEAT. It seems subconsciously we avoid all kind of energy expenditure after some time on reduced calories. Stuff like parking closer to the store etc.

Over the last 8 months I dropped my weight from 257-177lbs. I did this by weighing everything I eat, making sure I eat a minimum of protein, fat and fiber and of course limit the calories I consume each day. When you do this and talk to other that do it (successfully) you find out that there are many pitfalls. Stuff like accepting portion sizes on labels rather than using actual weights, using cups instead of grams etc, having stuff you don't log or making mistakes on cooked vs raw weights etc.
Unless you're tiny 1k calories is probably too low and you are probably eating way more than that. You just don't know it. If I eat 1k cals per day my weight would plummet. A large portion of the loss would be lean tissue though. I don't think I could stick to it though.
I started my journey at 2100 kcals /day and of course as I got lighter I adjusted down. I am at 1800 kcals / day now and that's a little on the aggressive side for somebody who is 5' 10".
+1

At 1000 calories daily you should have seen physical issues.

This has been discussed over at MFP many times. Most believe there's no scientific basis for starvation mode. The standard line there is your not weighing your food and logging it properly( do you weigh and log every bit of food? It's tough).

After logging 6,000 meals for DW and I, I'll say it's not easy. Especially after reaching your goals. The less you weigh the harder it becomes.

However I can be convinced that no two folks are identical in their dietary needs or also how our bodies process food. Before I stuffed myself uncomfortably full and tried to see what happened I'd double check my weighing and logging.
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Old 01-24-2018, 05:50 PM   #8
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Walt34 says I am not eating enough
RobbieB says I am not spending enough
My friends say I am not drinking enough (I gave up beer)
DW says I am not .........enough

Apparently, I can't do anything right.
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Old 01-24-2018, 06:02 PM   #9
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This has been discussed over at MFP many times. Most believe there's no scientific basis for starvation mode. The standard line there is your not weighing your food and logging it properly( do you weigh and log every bit of food? It's tough).
I use MFP. Kinda changed my life. Something about logging and the macros (Fat, Protein and Fiber) trigger an ability to treat food sensibly. I just started thinking it would be fun to try it and didn't expect it to work. I read a lot of forums within the first few days and quickly learned to log accurately.

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After logging 6,000 meals for DW and I, I'll say it's not easy. Especially after reaching your goals. The less you weigh the harder it becomes.
That ls 4 years worth? Impressive. I am convinced a guy like me needs to log for life. I think I am in month 9 or something like that.
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Old 01-24-2018, 07:00 PM   #10
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If it were true, then anorexics would not be able to do their unfortunate "thing." And no, I am not making fun of them. Anorexia is a serious, sometimes deadly mental illness where the victim continually restricts calories to keep losing weight.
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Old 01-24-2018, 07:22 PM   #11
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In my opinion, restricting calories in an effort to try and lose weight does not work, at least for most people. This is because caloric restriction causes your basal metabolic rate to drop 10, 20 or even 30%, and you can actually gain weight by eating less. What will usually work for weight loss is restricting your consumption of carbs.........especially grain-based carbs.
You might want to try a low-carb style diet, consisting mostly of vegetables, healthy fats, a moderate amount of protein, and very few (if any) grain-based carbs, and see if that helps you lose those last few pounds. It worked for me, and it has worked for many others as well. And you don't feel hungry, as you can eat as much of the non-grain carb foods as you like. No need to count calories at all.
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Old 01-25-2018, 08:56 AM   #12
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Rae - my experience is exactly what you wrote. For me, calorie restriction alone results in decreased metabolic rate. If I reduce my calories by 300 and my BMR drops by 150, then my real calorie drop is only 150. A pound of fat is 3600 calories, so fat loss takes for ever.

I noticed this back in the early 90s when I went on a diet. My heart rate dropped from mid 60s to upper 40s. Couldn't loose body fat (love handles).

So, I combine 2 tactics; calorie deficit with HIIT.
So, if my BMR is around 2200 calories a day, I will eat and additional 300 calories a day. But, I will do HIIT and exercise such that my MR is 3000 calories a day. This gives me a 500 calorie a day deficit.

I don't experience any drop in Metabolic rate as my heart rate stays in the upper 70s or low 80s.

This plan is easy to implement during ski season. I burn maybe 300 calories per hour and can ski 5 hours a day. I eat a little more to sustain my activity level and can have nearly a 1000 calorie deficit during ski days!
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Old 01-25-2018, 09:30 AM   #13
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What RAE said......

My strategy has been to limit foods that spike insulin and force my body to store calories as fat thus forcing me to eat more to meet my energy needs. Not so good. So, yes, I count carbs, especially carbs in sugar and highly processed foods but I am not fanatical about it. Invite me over for dinner and serve me your home make apple pie and I WILL ask for seconds.

What I won't do is fill up on highly processed carbs or eat very carby meals 3 times day. So far this works for me. The goal is to avoid insulin spikes.

I highly recommend Dr. Ludwig's book - Always Hungry for a rational, reasonable approach to limiting carbs while heating a great variety of healthy foods.

Of course, we are all different. I am just sharing what works for me.
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Old 01-25-2018, 09:58 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by Walt34 View Post
A few weeks ago DW and I both began a weight-loss program at the gym (they actually call it The Wellness Center) in an effort to lose "that last few pounds" that bugs most people. Both of us would like to lose at least five, and I'd prefer to lose ten, but I'll settle for five. BTW, I'm male, 5'9" and 155 lbs. I have a light build. To start, they put us both (separately of course) on a machine that calculates, via measuring the oxygen consumed at rest, what one's ideal calorie intake should be in order to lose weight, but not too fast, which most people know is not a good thing.

We've also been keeping food logs, logging everything consumed and the respective calorie content, except water since that has no calories.

According to their machine I have a high metabolic rate, which was no surprise since I've been that way all my life and until the last five or so years, never gave calorie consumption much thought. If I wanted to lose a few pounds I just ate less, or more low-calorie foods, and that worked. Until now.

It turns out you can take that too far and make it harder to lose weight, which is apparently what I was doing. According to their calculations I should be consuming 2,000 calories a day and that would result in a slow but steady weight loss. The trouble is, going by my food logs, on most days I'm consuming less than half that. This being winter doesn't help since I hate cold weather and that cuts way down on my outdoor activity.

"So how come I don't look emaciated?" I ask. It turns out that if you don't eat enough your body goes into "starvation mode" and hangs on dearly to every calorie, not letting any go until it absolutely has to. Here's the link to the article she sent:

https://www.everydayhealth.com/weigh...etabolism.aspx

I read a few more articles on the topic and it appears that paradoxically I may have to actually gain a few pounds in order to convince my body that I'm not actually in any danger of starving.

But apparently I'm eating enough that I don't show any outright symptoms, such as brittle hair, irritability, dizziness, and some others I read about. I eat until I'm full too, I'm not hungry all the time.

Hopefully, I ask "So I can go down to King's New York Pizza and get a couple of gluten-free pizzas and resolve this, right?" Well, no. Bummer.

Next stop is an appointment with a dietician.
And time of day that your body is in starvation mode is key in relation to your latest high-intensity workout. Busting your butt and downing 2000cal is not good, similar to downing 2000cal and then busting your butt.

It's all about balance. Balanced workout, balanced nutrition, balanced psyche.
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Old 01-25-2018, 10:45 AM   #15
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I am taller than Walt34 and weigh less than Walt34. I've weighed myself almost every day for the past 3 years. I weigh myself in the morning before eating breakfast. At the present time I weigh about 5 pounds more than my lowest weight in the past 3 years.

I have a pretty good idea of what causes me to gain weight and what causes me to lose weight. If I want to have the lowest weight, then I have to weigh myself after sitting down on the toilet and making sure everything possible is out. That means eating more fiber by about lunchtime the day before. I also don't want excess water weight, so that means very low sodium for the previous two days. It is also helpful to bike ride the day before on a hot day and sweat a lot. One can drink water, but don't overdo it.

I can weigh myself just before going to bed. I know that just by sleeping overnight, then defecating and urinating in the morning that I will lose 1 to 2 lbs.

An evening meal at my favorite TexMex place with all the chips and salsa that I can eat plus a couple of margaritas will cause me to weigh 3 to 5 lbs more the next morning. The weight will come off (or through) over the next few days.

So your Resting Metabolic Rate may be efficient, but you can still starve yourself and lose weight. Just don't eat that TexMex (or BBQ) meal after losing weight.
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Old 01-25-2018, 10:48 AM   #16
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And I'll put this in a separate post: Just because you track calories of what you eat does not mean that your body absorbs them and you do not simply poop them out. Nuts are/is an example of that. Unless you make nut butter, many of the calories of nuts that you eat go right through you.

Best place for nutrition facts is probably nutritionfacts.org as mentioned many times on this forum. One can watch one or two of their videos a day (access them through youtube, too) and learn quite a lot.
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Old 01-25-2018, 11:07 AM   #17
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I don't experience any drop in Metabolic rate as my heart rate stays in the upper 70s or low 80s.
I'm not sure what heart rate has to do with it. My resting heart rate is in the low 40s, but I am happy to ride a bike for an hour or more with HR above 90% of my max heart rate.

And thanks to Walt34 for starting this discussion. I'm going to [try to] lose that 5 lbs over the next couple of months. I'll start with a 30 mile bike ride today.
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Old 01-25-2018, 11:45 AM   #18
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I'm not sure what heart rate has to do with it. My resting heart rate is in the low 40s, but I am happy to ride a bike for an hour or more with HR above 90% of my max heart rate.
I am fit and have a normal resting HR of 65 or so. I also routinely get my HR at 90% of Max HR when mtn biking and skiing. But when I stationary bike for fat loss, I keep my HR around 70%. Which sucks as the MAX HR declines each year.

But, I have noticed when I diet without HIIT cardio, my resting HR will drop... suggesting to me a drop in metabolism. I have never been able to lose body fat by dieting alone. (fat loss is different than weight loss). I also experience a general coldness throughout my body (especially during the winter).

There is also a concept of Body Set point that your body tries to maintain with respect to calorie consumption. In addition to lowering resting HR when dieting, I also experience a significant increase in resting HR when I consume excess calories from worthless carbs and alcohol.

I have recently been struggling with a resting HR of 95. Yes, a bit high. Turns out, if I give up my nightly scotch/bourbon or two, my resting HR will return to normal. (the process takes about 2 weeks).

The lesson to me is that my body is optimized for burning excess calories as opposed to storing those excess calories. Likewise, it will slowdown metabolism when calories are restricted.

>> many of the calories of nuts that you eat go right through you.

I doubt that. Nuts are loaded with fat and fat is very digestible. If I eat too many, I will eventual gain belly fat. Portion control is key.
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Old 01-25-2018, 12:22 PM   #19
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I mentioned on another thread that I also signed on with a nutritionist. She's all about controlling blood sugar spikes, and she has me eating 5 times per day (versus mu usual 2 times per day). Each time is a balance of fat, protein, and carbs (in the form of veggies, mainly, and some fruit). So I'm now eating a lot more than before but am quite full all day long. The goal for me is to avoid blood sugar spikes so as to reduce the urgent cravings that lead to binging. So far, it is working. I can expect to lose about 1 lb per week (I'd like to lose about 10 lbs; my program with the nutritionist is 12 weeks so this should be do-able).
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Old 01-25-2018, 12:24 PM   #20
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Nuts are/is an example of that. Unless you make nut butter, many of the calories of nuts that you eat go right through you.

+1

An excellent point.

Apparently about 25% of the calories in nuts are never absorbed by our bodies.

https://blogs.scientificamerican.com...bout-calories/

Quote:
Nuts flagrantly do their own thing, which might be expected given that nuts are really seeds whose mothers are invested in having them escape digestion. Peanuts, pistachios and almonds all seem to be less completely digested than their levels of protein, fat, carbohydrates and fiber would suggest. How much? Just this month, a new study by Janet Novotny and colleagues at the USDA found that when the “average” person eats almonds she receives just 128 calories per serving rather than the 170 calories “on the label.
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