Why Am I Not Losing Weight If I Hardly Eat?

Plate of carrot sticks
Hardly eating can cause a slow metabolism. (Image: Dave King/Dorling Kindersley RF/Getty Images)

Since eating fewer calories is one way to lose weight, you may believe that you will see results faster by severely cutting your food intake. At first, you may even be rewarded with the fast results you’re after. In the long-term, however, hardly eating is an ineffective diet strategy and it is a surefire way to increase your risk of serious health issues.

Conservation Mode

Hardly eating doesn’t help with long-term weight loss because severe calorie restriction sends your body into conservation, or “survival,” mode. Your body holds onto fat when it doesn’t have enough calories to support normal functioning, according to the Waldo County General Hospital website. Not eating enough calories every day also causes you to lose muscle tissue. This loss of muscle weight may cause you to think your diet is “working,” but the loss of muscle tissue slows down your metabolism, soon stunting your ability to lose weight.

Other Risks

Fasting diets lead to other serious health issues that you should be aware of. You may develop mild symptoms such as fatigue, brittle nails and heightened sensitivity to cold temperatures, but not taking in enough calories can also lead to serious issues such as depression, decreased thyroid production, reduced immunity and heart problems. Prolonged fasting may even lead to sudden death, warns the University of Illinois Health Care.

Calorie Needs

Most people can safely lose about 1 to 2 lbs. per week by reducing their daily calorie intake by 500 to 1,000 calories or by burning off the excess calories with exercise. Ideally, you would combine the two to avoid compromising your diet and prevent burning out with exercise. Just because the average person can generally cut up to 2 lbs. per week doesn’t mean you should cut 2 lbs. a week. Calculate your minimum daily calorie needs first and do not dip below them or you will risk your health and send your body into conservation mode. Your individual needs will vary based on your size, age and activity level, but most adults should never dip below 1,200 calories a day.

Considerations

Your doctor may suggest putting you on a very low-calorie diet if you’re overweight, in immediate danger of serious health issues and unable to lose much weight with traditional diet and exercise. A medically supervised very low-calorie diet is full of high-quality protein and carbs and involves supplementation with electrolytes, minerals and vitamins. You are likely to see fast weight loss results with this carefully monitored method, but long-term results aren’t guaranteed. You are more likely to maintain the weight loss if you combine the diet with exercise, behavioral therapy and an active follow-up care plan.

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