3 Reasons Why Low-Cal Diets Don’t Work

You’re doing everything “right”. You’re exercising a TON and you’re eating very little…but nothing. No weight loss.

And, it doesn’t make any sense at all! Your fitbit is telling you that you’re burning more calories every day than you’re eating! How is this possible??? 

The math says you should be losing many pounds every week. But nothing. Nada. Nothing is moving.

And to make it worse, your family, friends, and/or trainer don’t believe you. The ONLY thing that makes sense is that YOU’RE doing something “wrong”. Either you’re “cheating” (I greatly dislike that word), or you’re not exercising as much as you’re saying. 

And I’m here to tell you – you’re not doing ANYTHING wrong. Your calories in vs. calories out equation can be perfect AND still not lose any weight.

I see it ALL the time…and I have a solution for you (stay tuned :)

Let’s start here, the top 3 reasons why calorie restrictive diets just don’t work 

1. Even if they work, they don’t in the long run 

Our body has an amazing protective mechanism that came about when food was scarce. It’s from a time when we had to work very hard for our food, and so maintaining our healthy body weight was a very important job of our metabolism.

It’s only been a very short period of time since food has become abundant and with just a quick phone call we can have a full feast delivered to our door. Our bodies haven’t adapted to this sort of abundance yet.

So, our body assumes that the weight you’re currently at is your ideal weight…even if you have a different idea.

When we go on a calorie restrictive diet and begin to lose weight, our body goes into panic mode and tries to stop the madness (or what it believes is a sign that we’re dealing with a famine).

The first thing your body does is to SLOOOOW down. It slows your metabolism, it reduces your energy, and it eliminates any extra energy output. 

We actually burn a surprisingly high amount of energy fidgeting, and research has found that we fidget a lot less when we’re eating less.

For some, this survival mechanism can trigger a weight loss plateau, for others, it can stop any weight loss to begin with.

And, unfortunately, because your metabolism has slowed it makes it very easy to gain your weight back. This study that followed The Biggest Loser winners showcases this very annoying issue.

(and please, don’t get discouraged, I do have a solution for you :)

2. Your body always wins (the trouble with cravings :)

Have you ever had a craving that was so strong that it was all you could think about? Did it sit at the back of your mind until you finally satisfied it?

Yup. Me too. I think it’s a universal human experience :)

This is a body craving for a food. Sometimes it’s purely emotional, your body wants you to feel a bit of pleasure. But usually, your body wants something from that food.

It might be some extra salt (chip craving), or magnesium (chocolate craving), or some carbs/starch (sweet craving).

It wants something…and it ALWAYS wins.

And, it can look pretty sinister when it’s actually just about balance. 

Like – you’re following a protein/veggie/low carb style of diet. You’re feeling really good, your energy is steady…but MAN! Those cookies look really good (or whatever sweet loveliness you like). 

You say no over and over again…but eventually you’re just too tired. Those cookies look just so darn good and then you (guiltily) indulge…and maybe with more than one (like the whole package).

I can’t stress this enough – this isn’t due to a lack of willpower (you used TONS to say no so many times). It’s not (usually) emotional eating either. Instead, it was your body talking.

And, your body won. It got what it was looking for.

Simply put, it didn’t like your low-carb diet and wanted some starch. Many of us are fuelled on healthy starchy foods (like sweet potatoes and squash), and the only issue with them is that they’re out of style right now.

The nutrition fashion of the day is – “carbs are bad”. But they’re not, just like fat wasn’t bad in the ‘80s.

In a nutshell, when you’re restricting food or eliminating whole macronutrients, your body won’t be happy and eventually, it’ll win. 

It always does.

3. Sometimes there’s something else going on –

Low thyroid function and adrenal fatigue (aka burnout or chronic exhaustion) can stop any weight loss in its tracks.

The first thing to do is to have your thyroid levels checked. It’s a free test through your doctor and it’s a good thing to check regularly. 

This is especially important if you’re feeling – cold, slow, tired, losing hair, or have a bad case of the blahs.

Your adrenals also get pretty darn tired pretty darn quickly in our current go go go life. First, you start with high cortisol, which gives you tons of energy and you feel good…until you finally sit down and then you crash. 

Eventually, your adrenals get tired and now you’re dealing with low cortisol. 

Low cortisol feels like a chronic state of exhaustion. You’re tired all day long and you’ve lost all of your drive, motivation, and your “I CAN DO THIS!” old self.

High cortisol can add 10 – 20+ pounds of weight around your waist…and low cortisol levels can make that weight unbelievably stubborn and won’t move until your adrenals are happier.

Thyroid issues usually happen after your adrenals have been overworked for a long time, so these two issues frequently come together.

Adrenal fatigue/insufficiency is harder to test for. Your cortisol levels can be tested through a spit test (email me if you’d like a discount coupon for a test), or you can look at your symptoms. Click here to grab my Adrenal Fatigue Quiz and see where you’re at. 

(it’s not a diagnosis, but it can give you an idea of what’s going on :)

Now for…The Solution!

So, what we’ve learned is our body doesn’t like restriction of any kind…so how do we lose weight?

The answer is simple AND it means you don’t need to starve yourself. You can actually feel satisfied. 

And the answer is – Nutrient Density.

Nutrient density is a research-proven way to lose weight and keep it off. It also means you can EAT! And really enjoy your food.

The focus is simple – eat food that’s high in nutrients :) 

Like, every veggie (even the starchy ones), fruit, nuts, seeds, whole grains, proteins, and beans. Basically, eat lots of unprocessed whole foods.

Eat less of the low-nutrient, high energy foods like – foods made with refined flour and/or sugar, sugary drinks (incl. sweetened coffees), pre-packaged foods, fast food, and “I-wonder-what’s-in-this” kinda foods.

But most importantly, enjoy every bite of the food you’re eating. Relax, chew, and enjoy. By eating your whole foods consciously you’ll feel fuller faster and automatically eat the perfect amount.

And, nutrient-dense foods are also a great way to support your adrenals and thyroid while also providing the nutrients your body is looking for and that’ll reduce your cravings.

What does this look like?

It’s surprisingly easy. If you’re craving something sweet – have a piece of fruit. Fill your plate with lots of non-starchy and starchy veggies.  Add some fruit or veggies to breakfast. Or sprinkle some nuts and seeds on your rolled oats. Every nutrient-dense whole food is a win!

My blog is full of tips and tricks to eat more healthy foods. Like this one, or this one, and this one too :)

What’s your favourite whole nutrient-dense food? Or your favourite recipe? Share it with all of us in the comments below :)