We all know the basic rule of weight loss: eat less calories than you burn in a day. It’s simple. So of course when it’s time to cut weight, we start by either decreasing our calorie intake or increasing our energy expenditure or both. Unfortunately, fat loss is a little more complicated. In fact, if we create too much of a caloric deficit it can affect our well-being and even make fat loss next to impossible. Luckily, if we are aware of the signs, we can get back on track and hit our goals!
7 signs you aren’t eating enough for fat loss
You are skinny fat– You’re losing weight, but you look the same! If you have too few of calories your body will actually start using it’s muscle for energy BEFORE fat stores!!! Why? Because muscle tissue takes a lot of energy to maintain, so it is the first thing your body will get rid of if you aren’t eating enough! This means that even if you are losing weight, you won’t necessarily get the results you were expecting at your “goal weight.”
You hit a weight loss plateau– When we hit a wall with weight loss it is so tempting to lower our calories even further, but if you aren’t eating enough already this is the last thing you want to do. In fact, you may actually want to consider upping your calories to break through that plateau. It sounds counter-intuitive, but it works. I’ve done it successfully, and have seen others have similar results.
Why does this work? Because you have more energy to work out harder and/or without such a harsh deficit your body will be able retain more muscle leading to a larger calorie burn overall since muscle mass takes more energy to maintain than fat.
But wait! before you start adding in the calories, make sure you take an honest look at what you’re eating and determine if this plateau is really because you aren’t eating enough, or if it’s because you haven’t been tracking those extra bites you snack on between meals 😉
You have dry skin– If your skin is dry, flaky, or itchy it could mean that you need more fats in your diet.
You are experiencing constipation or the opposite, diarrhea– When you aren’t eating enough your body’s digestive system will slow down. This can damage your intestinal lining making it harder to digest food properly leading to constipation or diarrhea. Also, it’s important to note that if you’re not eating enough, there’s a good chance you’re not getting in enough fiber and possibly water as well (fiber can’t do anything if you don’t drink enough water to help move things along).
You are exhausted– If you are just plain tired on a regular basis, your body is reacting to it’s low calorie diet. Carbs specifically are your fuel!
You have a hard time sleeping– If you’re having trouble sleeping, under-eating could be the cause. While you sleep your blood sugar drops and your liver then releases its glucose stores to help stabilize it. If you aren’t eating enough and overexercising, your body won’t have enough stored glucose to draw on. This causes your stress hormones to raise and can wake you up in the night or even keep you up.
Your diet is just too hard– Lastly, if this low calorie diet is too difficult to follow, it could be unrealistic. Maybe you binge on the weekends, or are just hungry & irritable all the time. You’re not eating enough and it’s not sustainable. Upping your calories even just slightly, might help you stay on track in the long run so you don’t blow a good week with 1 bad day.
If you want to lose weight by cutting calories, the best thing to do is to cut as little calories as possible. That means, don’t go with a drastic calorie slash because summer’s coming up. Speaking from personal experience, going too low in calories won’t get you your dream bod. It will only leave feeling irritable, tired, and hungry.
How much should I eat?
This really just depends on you. Unfortunately, I can’t give you the exact number. Trial and error will be your best bet. Use your TDEE as a reference point and then go from there. You can use an online calculator or calculate it yourself using the Mifflin-St Jeor equation:
BMR female = 10 x weight in kg + 6.25 x height in cm – 5 x age in years – 161
BMR male = 10 x weight in kg + 6.25 x height in cm – 5 x age in years + 5
- weight in kilograms; if you know your weight in pounds, divide by 2.2 to get your weight in kilograms
- height in centimeters; if you know your height in inches, multiply by 2.54 to get your height in centimeters
Once you have your BMR, multiply it by your activity level to get your calorie intake necessary to maintain your weight (TDEE).
- sedentary= BMR x 1.2
- lightly active= BMR x 1.375
- moderately active [exercise most days] = BMR x 1.550
- very active [exercise intensely every day]= BMR x 1.725
To lose weight, lower your calories as minimally as possible. Try a moderate 250 cal per day deficit at first and work from there.