How Much Did It Weigh Before Percent Weight Loss Math The Fallacy of the Underfed Metabolism

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The Fallacy of the Underfed Metabolism

Have you heard that eating too little would put your body into “starvation mode” and cause it to start storing fat? Or if you consume less than 1,200 calories a day, will your metabolism grind to a halt?

These ideas are common in the diet world. But are they true? Believe it or not, the answer is no.

Every person who cuts calories to lose weight sees a drop in their resting metabolic rate (RMR), the amount of energy expended daily at rest. RMR should not be confused with total daily energy expenditure (TDEE). RMR is part of TDEE, about 70% to be exact. Seventy percent of the calories you burn in a day don’t involve moving a muscle. So what about the other 30 percent?

Twenty percent of your TDEE comes from movement, including daily activities and exercise. The remaining 10 percent comes from the energy it takes to digest the food and drinks you consume.

A real customer case study

One of my clients, Jane, is 50 years old, 5’6 and 160 pounds. She had lost 10 pounds in seven weeks, but had been stagnant for the most recent two weeks.

After cutting calories to lose weight, your RMR slowed – this is normal, natural and to be expected. Reduces fat, fuel and resource conservation. The body doesn’t know if it’s running out of available food, so it slows down to protect what it sees as precious fat stores. Some people see a five percent drop in RMR when they lose body fat, while others will see a 25 percent drop, depending on genetics, previous dieting attempts, food quality, and the source and level of caloric deficit

Jane ate 1,100 calories a day while losing weight. Once her weight plateaued, she cut her calories to 800 per day. After two weeks of sticking to about 800 calories a day, she asked for my help when her weight wasn’t budging.

She said, “Maybe I need to eat more to boost my metabolism and lose weight.”

I asked him to have his RMR checked at a local university, which was measured at 1.083. That means he needs 1,083 calories a day without moving or eating.

A quick calculation on the ShapeUp.org website says your RMR should be about 1,291 calories/day. Some quick math (1291-1083 = 208: 208/1291 =.16) says his RMR slowed by about 16 percent from projected base. First, this is well within the normal range of RMR deceleration with calorie restriction. And secondly, his metabolism was not broken.

So why isn’t his weight moving?

MOST often, the problem with weight stalls is that little attention is paid to nutrition, in addition to unexplained licks, bites, tastes and sips (cramping food). Jane, however, was eating a REAL 800 calorie plan, 10 percent.

Should Jane be losing weight by eating 800 calories a day? Yes.

In addition to being a stellar eater and record keeper, Jane also exercised 280 minutes per week (40 minutes per day). This is ideal for the everyday person who wants to be healthier and leaner.

Since we know her actual RMR and how much she exercises, we can do the math to see how much she needs to maintain her weight and how much weight she should be losing if she eats 800 calories a day.

RMR + (value of exercise in calories/day) + (at least 10% addition to RMR for daily movement) + (10% addition to RMR for digesting food) = TDEE must be MAINTAINED.

1,083 + (40×6 = 240) + (1,083/10 = 108) + (1,083/10 = 108) = 1,539 calories/day to maintain.

What should I have been losing strictly by the numbers?

1,539-800=739. By eating 800 calories a day, he created what should have been a 739 calorie deficit. This multiplied by seven days in a week equals a deficit of 5,173 calories in a week. This generally equates to 1.5 pounds of body fat loss per week. For every 3,500 calorie deficit (approximate calories in one pound of fat), we lose about one pound of body fat. 5,173/3,500 = 1.5

If Jane was involved in any other diet or weight loss program, I would have told her she was a fool for eating below her RMR and/or that it stalled her metabolism. He would have been prescribed a 750-1,500 calorie increase to “restore his metabolism” so he could then try to lose weight in a more “sensitive” calorie deficit. And that would have been exactly wrong.

If he increased his calories to 1,000 per day, his RMR would have to increase to 1,283 to maintain the status quo. Because? If you ate an extra 200 calories, your RMR would have to jump 200 calories a day just to break even. If he increased his calories to the dietary gold standard of 1,200/day, his RMR should increase to 1,483/day. Are you worried about a too slow metabolism? Do you want to eat more to “restore” it? For every additional calorie you consume, your RMR must increase by the same amount, or you will gain weight instead of losing it.

If you’re not losing weight eating 800 calories a day and exercising 280 minutes a week, the problem isn’t the RMR or the numbers on paper, but the actual numbers eaten, the actual minutes of exercise, and the effort OR the fact that there are too many. people consider a five to seven day standstill on the scale a weight stop. I don’t consider a true stop occurring unless 10-14 days have passed with no change. Beyond two weeks? SOMETHING has to change.

Strictly by the numbers, it doesn’t make sense that any overweight person eating 800 calories a day and exercising for 280 minutes should be in maintenance mode.

But Jane was stuck. It could have been many things unrelated to a broken metabolism and insufficient nutrition. I discovered the answer during a short phone call.

Jane said she had a urinary tract infection and was on antibiotics. When she felt healthy again, with adequate bowel function (her prescription caused constipation) and energy, she increased her calories to 1,100 daily. This coincided with clarifying the effects of infection and antibiotics. At first he thought his weight was starting to move because he was increasing his calories. But it was just a coincidence.

The reason her weight stagnated was because she had an infection. Also, she was put on an antibiotic that causes water retention AND constipation, which was not a problem in her early weight loss success.

Once his body was clear, the problems causing water retention and constipation eased and the scale could once again show the true results of his efforts.

To add things:

  • I’m not a fan of eating less, but it has nothing to do with breaking metabolisms. It has to do with the potential for nutrient deficiencies when calories are too low, the unnecessary loss of precious muscle, and how my clients feel mentally, physically and emotionally if they eat too little.
  • I’m a fan of eating as many calories and nutrients as one can eat to achieve desired goals. If someone can eat 2,000 calories a day and lose the body fat they want and achieve their ultimate vision, I’m thrilled.
  • If 600, 700, or 800 calories a day were a true “metabolism killer,” we wouldn’t have the University of California and hundreds of other bariatric centers promoting 300-600 calorie days for months after surgery. According to the University of Michigan Adult Bariatric Surgery Program “The average weight loss after gastric bypass surgery is approximately 5-15 pounds per week for the first 2 to 3 months with a gradual decline to about 1-2 pounds per week after the first 6 months or so.” While I’m against bariatric surgery except as a last resort, you can’t argue with the results. They are, in large part, due to the incredibly small volume of food successfully consumed by patients. Are their metabolisms slower? Yes. And they lose a ton of weight anyway, as you’d expect.

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