As a nutritionist and naturopath this is one topic that gets under my skin. The amount of clients I get asking me about low calorie (and low carbohydrate) diets for weight loss is endless. The perception of the results you will get when going on these eating regimes is so far from the truth. What people don’t realise is when you put your body under this type of deprivation it has a good way to resist and go under a form of stress. What does this mean? Your body will stop loosing weight, and start holding onto every form of food you put in it.
What happens to your body
When we put our body under any type of stress (especially extreme dieting) our system tries to act like a seesaw to keep our body in balance. At the start it will have no problem in keeping this homeostasis (balance). In fact weight loss may occur and you may think that you are on the right track. However after continuous dieting and stress on our adrenal glands (which produce our stress hormones) this seesaw effect will get stuck and pushed to one side. This one side is known as the sympathetic nervous system (alert, stressed, fight or flight), leaving our parasympathetic nervous system (rest, digest, recover) to be neglected. When this happens the following can occur:
- decrease stomach acid for food breakdown
- disrupted sleep
- waking with high heart rate
- low motivation
- digestive dysfunction (IBS, reflux, bloating, gas)
- aching joints
- fat gain despite eating less and exercising more
When our adrenal glands are compromised like this our whole hormone system is also greatly affected. Our hypothalamus and pituitary gland (also known as HP) control our adrenal glads which co-ordinate signals from the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous mentioned above. Not only does the HP control the hormone signals of the adrenals, but also our thyroid and gonads (ovaries and testicles).
So what does this mean? When our adrenal glands are in overdrive the HP axis struggles to keep up with all these signals and eventually become resistant to all the hormones under the HP axis. This results in our metabolism slowing down (thyroid hormone disruption) and/or our reproductive systems possibly being compromised (ovaries and testes), leading to weight loss hinderance or even weight gain.
Get professional advice
I am not completely against 1200 calorie diets as they have their place if applied correctly for a certain period of time under the supervision of a qualified health practitioner. However when people believe that going on these low calorie diets will help them with KEEPING the weight off then they are completely fooled. If anything it may do more damage then good in the long run.
Nutrition should be individually tailored and one diet plan doesn’t fit all. It’s about nourishment, nutrient timing and other contributing factors that may be affecting your weight journey. A full health assessment needs to be taken and appropriate caloric restriction for you, as an individual needs to be worked out by a health professional. It’s not as easy as lets go on 1200 calorie diet and expect miracles to happen. So before you sign up to a diet fad or program, just make sure you seek professional advice to see if it’s the right thing for you.
* Disclaimer: My posts are not to be used to treat or diagnose health concerns and provided as information only. They should not be used as individualised treatment plans and programs. Contact your health professional to investigate what advice is best for you.