I caught on to the calorie counting game long before the advent and proliferation of fancy calorie tracking apps. As far back as 2008, I figured I could use my skills at Microsoft Excel to do more than creating financial models and business plans. I created my own calorie counter, following up with several updated versions (I think I even passed it on to some keen friends and relatives). The idea was to have a neat food log to track the calorie intake on a daily basis and ensure it remained at or near my Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR). I arrived at my ideal calorie requirement based on conventional wisdom of the time, and the vision I had of myself six months down the line.
That’s it, I thought. Calorie counting and control is all I need to do to crack the weight loss game.
As my food log got populated, I could see patterns emerging. I utilised the knowledge to tweak my dietary habits. Barring a few social incidents, I managed to remain fairly consistent in sticking to my ever more aggressive calorie goals. Needless to say, at the end of three months, the number on the scale had moved south significantly, despite little support in the form of exercise. I was feeling rather proud of the achievement not only because of the weight loss but also because of this fantastic tool I’d developed. That’s it, I thought. Calorie counting and control is all I need to do to crack the weight loss game.
Not so fast! Despite the shouts of success from the weighing scale, I wasn’t receiving the expected looks, compliments or appreciation from people around me. Why couldn’t they see what I could?
Have you ever had this experience? Or know someone who did? Why was your/ their ‘loss’ not apparent or as significant as what the scale suggested?
The answer, as I discussed in my last post, lies in the type of weight that was lost – water, muscle or fat. Weight loss is easily apparent to the eye of a beholder when there is fat loss. Hence, what an overweight person with a disproportionate body composition must seek is fat loss, not simply weight loss.
Coming back to the original question, eating less does indeed help you lose weight. But, and this is a BIG ‘but’, it will not necessarily help you lose fat if you are eating the wrong type of calories since all calories are not equal.
Weight loss is easily apparent to the eye of a beholder when there is fat loss.
Another phenomenon that you might notice is that the rate of weight loss tends to slow down despite maintaining a calorie deficit, i.e. eating fewer calories than one spends in a day. This is because the BMR of a lighter person is lower, in absolute terms, than that of a heavier person (not to be confused with slow or fast metabolism).
Also, remaining on a calorie-lowering spree could prove dangerous if you reach calorie intake levels so low that they threaten the normal functioning of the body, usually around 1,000 calories, for the average adult.
A collateral fallout of such low calorie intake levels is that the body senses that it is in a semi-starvation mode and holds on to its stores of energy even more closely, potentially stagnating or even reversing weight loss.
So, take the ‘eat less’ formula of weight loss, or rather, fat loss, with a pinch of salt. There are other ways to create a calorie deficit than simply through eating less.
More myths to be flushed out. Soon.