The past couple of weeks, many of my fellow coworkers have been telling me about their clients who just don’t seem to eat. As personal trainers, most of us know how important fueling your body is when it comes to achieving your goals. We all have different viewpoints (mine certainly is different from the rest of the fitness industry), but the base of the general template remains the same: you need to EAT!
I speak from personal experience when I talk about the subject of undereating, as it is something I did for 8+ years and now am dealing with the horrible health effects of those years (and have been for the past 5 years). I’ll be the first one to tell you it is NOT WORTH IT to eat 1200 calories a day or less (I wanted to include under 1800 calories, but I think people would come after me if I did).
When we don’t fuel our body for life (which is what real food does for us), we are depriving our bodies of the nutrients it needs to function properly. Not even to thrive – just to function. We don’t get enough nutrients to support:
Healthy fatty acid levels in our bodies which make up every cell in the our bodies, make our hormones, and keep inflammation levels down
Stress which depletes nutrients so quickly and leaves our body in a not-so-great state
Liver health which acts as a filter for all of the toxins in our body
Adrenal, thyroid, and hormone health, which basically run most of the functions of our body
Sleep which is when our body literally rejuvenates itself
Weight loss (got your attention there didn’t I) because when our body is in a nutrient rich state, our body will live in a homeostatic environment (aka we will be at a weight that is healthy for our body)
Blood sugar regulation, which, left unmanaged, can lead to diabetes down the line
The prevention of chronic diseases like autoimmune conditions, thyroid disorders, heart disease, etc
Mental health, which is becoming more and more recognized as a true health condition (which it is)
Energy levels which are not fun to deal with when you are literally running on caffeine 24/7
A healthy metabolism, which drops as we age AND when we undereat or chronically diet for years
Do I need to continue the list? Hopefully my point is clear: undereating is not the answer to your problems, ESPECIALLY your weight loss problem.
Instead, what is the solution?
First, we need to start refueling our body with real, whole foods. I talk about it literally all the time, so I’ll reference you to my PFC balanced post for all the details. If you have been eating sub 1200 calories for some time, please make sure you are increasing the amounts slowly while following the other steps below.
Second, you must start strength training (no this doesn’t include tons of cardio or HIIT). Building adequate muscle mass on your body is key in bringing your metabolism back up to a normal level. Strength training 2-3x a week (not with weights in a circuit, but one exercise at a time resting between sets) for 45ish minutes is the best way to start. You may see the scale go up after starting these first two steps and this is NORMAL. We either want to stay the same weight or go up just slightly while we are focusing on nourishing the body with proper food and exercise.
Third, you must prioritize your sleep, stress, and gut health. This are the other big factors that will allow you to reach your health goals while focusing on fueling your body with MORE not less. Search through the archives on the blog for more information on those topics (there’s too many to link to!).
Last but not least, you need to EAT WITHOUT GUILT OR SHAME. Think about fueling your body with real, whole food as putting actually gasoline in a car. You wouldn’t fill the gas tank up with water would you? It wouldn’t work. The same goes when we don’t fuel our bodies correctly. They simply STOP WORKING!
Take it from me, as I’m now dealing with a hormone and gut health mess that doesn’t seem to have an end in sight. Where did this come from? All of those years of undereating and the extreme STRESS that I put my body through while trying to look a certain way. Trust me – it is NOT worth it.
Bottom line: eat the food (real, whole food that is!).