Monday, August 8

Losing weight: why consuming 1,200 calories a day is a starvation diet and it doesn’t work


A 1200 calorie diet is considered starvation. In addition, in the long term it leads to eating disorders, rebound effect and chronic diseases.

Photo: Karolina Grabowska / Pexels

Having a healthy weight is synonymous with health and the key to preventing many diseases. However, it is very important to lose weight responsibly and ensuring proper nutrition. Yes OK, the universal rule to lose weight is through calorie restrictionHowever, the habit of counting calories is a double-edged sword. Broadly speaking, it is estimated that the caloric intake of an average person is 2000 calories, in recent months some trends suggest that to achieve optimal weight loss it is necessary limit caloric intake to 1,200 per day and in the case of men a little more, for obvious reasons.

Collective wisdom, for years, has told us that if you are a woman looking to lose a few pounds, 1200 calories a day is the right amount, 1500 only if you are active. The idea that a woman could lose a little weight while eating 1,800 or 2,000 calories a day is almost unheard of, a feat you could only accomplish if you were an Olympic-level athlete who worked out for hours on end every day. In fact 1200 calories is the recommended number of calories that most women have been hearing their entire lives, in fact it forms the basis of almost all commercial diet plans out there. Whether it’s the sturdy old-fashioned WW (once called Weight Watchers) where you calculate points based on the nutritional value of a food, or the latest novelty, Noom also recommends eating 1,200 calories a day.

The first thing we have to say is that the 1200 calorie suggestion is quite old in fact from the 1920s. And it came about because of a book called Diet and Health: with a key to calories that was widely read by Americans. What’s more impressive is that despite 100 years of evidence that this recommendation doesn’t work, the idea just doesn’t die.

Reality: is that these diets rarely work. In principle, in general, with a restriction of 1200 calories and in the case of men, a maximum of 1,600, it is a fact that anyone can lose weight in the short term. However, over time they will end up being so hungry that they will stop the diet, and usually they end up not only recovering what they lost but more. According to most nutritionists, many of their clients have tried the 1,200 calorie diet in the past and were unable to maintain it because it is not enough food, or they stuck to this restrictive scheme for a while, maybe even lost one. significant amount of weight, but then they had a very poor relationship with food after that and eventually ended up gaining all the weight back.

There is a reason for that, which has a lot to do with the fact that, for the vast majority of women, 1,200 calories a day qualifies as a starvation diet. And for men well, it is simply unfeasible; your complexion and activity level require approximately 2,000 calories to be healthy and lose weight. In the case of women, most need more than 1,200 calories just to fulfill their normal survival functions in their body. So the fact that people are trying to live off that total calorie while exercising: it’s just ridiculous.

For more context: 1,200 calories is half the daily energy needs of the average woman.
According to recent research, published in the journal Science, the average adult woman between the ages of 20 to 60 burns about 2,400 calories a day. This is an average woman: women who are smaller and / or have a slower metabolism will burn less, while women who are larger and / or have a faster metabolism will burn more. According to the study’s lead author, Herman Pontzer, a member of the Duke University faculty: 1,200 calories a day is about half of what the average woman needs.

Today we know that our bodies have evolved to use a relatively fixed amount of energy each day, a concept known as “Limited total daily energy expenditure”. What that means is that while physical activity is extremely important to our long-term health, including weight maintenance, it doesn’t burn as many extra calories as we think, and it won’t lead to weight loss without a conscious effort to reduce it. And that is why the amount of food we consume and calories are relevant concepts in weight loss.

When people are sedentary, the body diverts that extra energy into energy-costly processes like our immune system and stress response, which in small amounts help us defend ourselves from infection and escape danger, but lead to chronic disease in large numbers. Therefore, when a person is very active, such as when training for a marathon or something similar, he will burn more energy in the short term, but eventually he adapts and our energy needs will return to an amount closer to our average daily amount. . If you gain muscle in the process, metabolism will increase along with average daily energy needs, due to an increase in the amount of fat-free mass. Another aspect that changes is hunger, which tends to increase and is the way our brain keeps us at a stable weight.

We do not want to alarm but there is a more radical comparison to completely forget about the crazy idea of ​​doing 1200 calorie diets, this amount is similar to Minnesota Famine Experiment. Since a woman’s average daily energy needs is 2,400 calories a day, this would make a 1,200 calorie-a-day diet on par with the Minnesota Famine Experiment, which was conducted in 1944 to try to establish the best way to re-feed the starving people.

In this study, 36 healthy young men were recruited for a one-year experiment. The first three months were spent gauging the amount of food they needed each day. The next six months consisted of these volunteers survived on approximately 1,570 calories a day, that was about half of her daily caloric needs. During these six months, they lost approximately 25% of their body weight. The last three months they let the participants eat as much as they wanted.

In addition to weight loss, participants developed a preoccupation with food that lasted long after starvation ended. They also developed problems such as anxiety and depression, along with eating patterns similar to those of people with anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating.

These types of deprivation diets have many negative health tenors and one of the main ones is that they can lead to a cycle of eating disorders. In real life, what usually happens is that a person will go on a 1200 calorie daily diet, survive on this amount of food for a few days, maybe even a few weeks if extremely motivated, however eventually they will feel a craving uncontrollable by eating and “replenishing” those calories.

Also, it is very likely that they are not accurately counting calories. The reality is that people are terrible at accurately tracking what they eat. It is possible that people who dieters with the goal of consuming 1,200 calories a day end up with a less extreme reduction. For the vast majority of people, these diets won’t work in the long run, meaning they will eventually regain the weight while developing a disorderly relationship with food along the way. Finally enjoy food and create a healthy context in relation to it, is the best way to live in fullness and harmony. Seeking balance and betting on the consumption of whole and natural foods is the best way to achieve a stable and healthy weight. And without living in the misery that is associated with these diets of utter deprivation.

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