Most of us would like to lose a few kilos of weight and that too instantly. And many people think the best way to lose weight is by starving ourselves. However, not eating enough is the worst thing you can do if you want to lose weight. Your body needs to be in a calorie deficit to lose weight, but it is different from going into starvation mode. In fact, not eating or eating very little will have the opposite effect on your weight-loss efforts.
Keep reading to find out why not eating isn’t a good idea for weight loss and how to implement other, healthier weight-loss strategies.
What Happens When You Don’t Eat?
It is no surprise that if you overeat, you’re very likely to gain weight. Conversely, the biggest myth is that if you stop eating altogether, you’re not adding any new fat and will lose a ton of weight. However, that is not how it works.
Studies show that over-restricting calories are not healthy or sustainable in the long term. If you stop eating altogether, your body will go into starvation mode, leading to problems like increased appetite, cravings, fatigue and poor sleep. Eating less or skipping meals may make you lose some water weight during the initial days, but most of the weight lost while not eating or eating less comes from burning muscles, not body fat!
Here are some potential health risks that arise from starving yourself.
1. Not Eating will Slow Down the Metabolism.
If you’re not eating enough calories, your body will start to slow down its metabolism to try and conserve energy. It will cause your resting metabolic rate to drop, making it harder for your body to burn calories, leading to weight gain. When you don’t eat, your body goes into ‘survival mode and starts to slow down all its functions to conserve energy. It can be harmful to your health in the long run.
2. Not Eating will Hamper the Regular Functioning of the Body.
The longer you stick to a low-calorie diet, or the longer you go without eating, the more your body will start to prioritise primary functions over secondary-essential processes. It means that your hair and nails may become less healthy, your immunity may decline, and you may experience problems with your skin, reproductive health, and digestion.
3. It Harms Your Mental Health
Eating disorders are classified as mental health disorders because they involve harmful dieting behaviours that can damage your mental health. These behaviours are usually the primary causes of developing disordered eating.
4. You Will Burn Lean Muscle
If you’re not eating enough, your body will start burning lean muscle and skeletal tissue for energy. The body does so because the more tissue there is, the more calories it needs to burn. However, your body needs muscle and skeletal tissue to survive; not eating for long can be detrimental.
5. You Might Gain More Weight
One of the drawbacks of not eating is that you will eventually regain the weight you lost during that time. Although you may lose weight quickly by not eating, you are likely to gain more weight than you started with once you start eating regularly. That is because your body has become accustomed to having fewer calories, and it will consider the regular calorie intake as excess calories and convert it into fats.
The HealthifyMe Note
There are many side effects to not eating. While you may lose weight in the short term, it is not a healthy or sustainable weight loss solution. Your metabolism slows down, you burn lean muscle and store fat, and your body’s overall function decreases. Additionally, not eating has the potential to cause serious harm to your mental health. You may also find yourself gaining more weight than you initially had.
Signs of Not Eating Enough
Consistent Thoughts About Food
Are you dreaming about eating a delicious meal without worrying about calories? It’s not because you are bored or need something to do. Instead, those persistent thoughts about the next meal you might have or the food you want to eat at that moment are because of consistently not eating for an extended period.
Your body, in survival mode, is constantly seeking food and energy. But, if you’re getting frequent headaches, it’s time to take a step back and see how much you have eaten throughout the day because your blood sugar may have dropped.
No significant changes are evident in the menstrual cycle when an individual is relatively healthy. However, when you don’t eat enough, then it’s likely that your period becomes irregular as well. You may even experience early menopause because your body doesn’t have enough fat and energy to release the hormones necessary for menstruation.
Frequent Feelings of Tiredness and Irritability
If the body does not get food, it won’t have the energy to last through the day. Furthermore, going too long without eating leads to lower blood sugar levels, affecting your concentration, patience and focus.
What’s the Right Way to Lose Weight?
Healthy weight loss is eating just enough calories to maximise fat metabolism and keep your blood sugar levels within normal ranges. A study shows that eating small frequent meals throughout the day keeps your metabolism working and is a better way to lose body fat. Moreover, this approach makes you feel less hungry, and you won’t eat as much without resorting to starving yourself.
Here are some other healthier weight-loss strategies:
Do Not Skip Meals
Skipping meals like breakfast every day or surviving on just one cup of coffee until lunch is not the way to lose weight. Cutting too much from your regular diet schedule can make you feel psychologically and nutritionally deprived.
Start by eating healthy foods, and gradually replace the unhealthy ones with healthier alternatives. The priority should be to consume more nutritious and wholesome food. Then you can pave your way onto a balanced diet.
Start With a Small Calorie Deficit
Start with something that doesn’t restrict you so much, as it focuses on providing your body with the nutrition it needs to get to a sustainable weight. Aim for a slight calorie deficit, around 20-25% less than what you usually eat, or remove 500 calories daily from a 2000-calorie diet.
Optimise Your Workouts
Aim for a balanced workout with cardio exercises and strength training for at least 30 minutes daily. Strength training in your daily activity will help preserve and build muscle tissue, especially during weight loss.
A weight loss diet should not be a starvation diet. Starving yourself may result in short-term weight loss, but you’ll gain more weight once you resume regular eating. On the other hand, starving or not eating enough is bad for weight loss and overall health. Therefore, eat small, healthy meals throughout the day along with regular workouts. And if you feel the need to limit your food intake, then mindful intermittent fasting can help.