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Common Challenges: The Vicious Cycle of eating too little

Everybody has an individual resting metabolic rate (RMR). This is the minimum amount of calories it takes for your body to function, including breathing, absorption and digestion.  An activity factor is added to your RMR that configures how many additional calories are needed to function on a daily basis.  The more activity you engage in, the more calories your body needs to function.  Once you add the activity level to the RMR you have your total energy expenditure (TEE) or estimated amount of energy it takes to perform all activities in a day.  When your body is not getting enough of the minimal amount of calories it needs to function, your body will think its starving.  Every time your body thinks its starving it breaks down stored protein and fat to provide energy to ‘get things done.’  If this becomes a consistent event, the next times you eat your body will store all nutrients as fat to prepare itself for the next fast.  In addition, your metabolism stalls and learns how to use fewer calories to function. 

So there we have the vicious cycle.  You eat too little, your body reacts and stores your food as fat to prevent a fast, it then lowers your resting metabolic rate. You go out on Friday night to have a couple beers, eat out Saturday night and Sunday and before you know it you ate or drank three hundred additional calories each night.  This total of nine hundred calories contributes to .25 pounds a week which you might not even detect on your scale. That leads to one pound a month and twelve pounds a year.  Sound familiar?

I have many clients who have come to me ready to restrict further or exercise more to lose weight.  After we sit down and discuss daily intake and exercise habits, they are absolutely shocked when I tell them the issue is that they actually have to eat more.   When I ask most if they are hungry they usually reply no. Did you know anorexia is a side effect of starvation?

Other symptoms of eating too little are low blood pressure, gallstones, heart arrhythmias, nutrient deficiencies, hair loss, brittle fingernails, dizziness, anemia, or depression.  A dietitian is the only clinician who can recommend a calorie level to an individual. He or she is licensed and registered to do so and is trained specifically on human metabolism. Everybody’s ‘number’ is different and depends on age, weight, height, activity levels and co morbidities.

Are you skeptical? Kindred Nutrition is always welcoming newcomers into our community. It’s worth the assessment if you have any of the symptoms above, have a plateau with your weight, or just need a kick start.  Good luck and be well.

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