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If the energy input is lesser than the energy output, it creates a negative energy balance. This age-old theory of physics might have worked its magic in several spheres of life—but unfortunately, it has become rather harmful when it comes to weight loss. Thanks to the concept of calorie deficit derived from this theory, we’re all trying to cut down on our calories in a bid to lose weight.
But what is a calorie deficit?
Ladies, please understand that the energy you get from food and the energy that your body stores is basically expended on three bodily functions:
1. Digestion: The body utilises 10 to 15 per cent of calories from the food you eat to burn it and produce energy. Medical science calls this the thermic effect of food (TEF) and the amount of calories utilised for this process usually depends on what you’ve eaten.
2. Basic metabolic functions: From breathing to sending signals to different parts of your body, even the most basic functions in your body need energy to go on. In this case, the number of calories utilised depends on how fast your metabolism is. Needless to say, the faster that it is, the better it would be if you want to lose weight.
3. Physical activity: Obviously, you need the energy to exercise and to even perform basic movements like sitting, standing, and walking. The leftover calories from food help you to do just that.
“A calorie deficit happens by either eating fewer calories than your body needs to perform these functions or by burning more calories through exercise or a combination of both,” explains dietitian Deepika Dua Arora, co-founder of Mutation Diet Clinic.
“When you create a calorie deficit, your body will dig into your fat stores for the extra energy it needs. When you burn up your fat stores, you lose weight,” she adds.
But does it really work?
“Eating nutritionally-packed meals will make you lose weight faster compared to being in a calorie deficient,” says Arora.
So, consider this before you decide to cut down calories
“Being in a calorie deficit can lead to constant fatigue, low immunity, dull skin, brittle nails, and limp hair,” warns Karishma Chawla, a Delhi-based nutritionist and lifestyle coach.
This is due to nutritional deficiencies, which is a major side-effect of poorly-balanced, low-calorie diets.
Moreover, a major calorie deficit diet can lead to excess toxin release in your blood. This can be overwhelming for the body and thus, hamper your energy levels, according to Chawla.
Wait, that’s not it. Lack of protein in a low-calorie diet can lead to your body breaking muscle to meet its protein requirement. This muscle loss can lead to a slower metabolism.
Follow these steps to lose weight without being in a calorie deficit:
1. Eat as you please: You already know about the three energy-utilising functions of the body. But they tend to get affected negatively when you cut down your calories mindlessly and can backfire when it comes to weight loss.
“When you eat nutritional meals, packed with adequate vitamins, fibre, lean protein, and complex carbohydrates, the metabolism of your body works faster, which in turn gives good weight-loss results,” Chawla explains.
Now, you really don’t want to mess with your metabolism for temporary results, right?
“Your weight is most likely to bounce back once you ditch your low-calorie diet. However, if you eat proper nutritionally-rich meals, you are more likely to maintain the weight loss,” states Arora.
2. But, eat in peace: Ladies this comes from personal experience and a bit of faith in science. Whatever it is that you eat, make sure you follow these two thumb rules:
i) Chew your food properly: This tried-and-tested rule involves chewing food at least 30 to 40 times before swallowing it. I am not the only one who believes in its power. A study published in PubMed Central revealed that doing so gives your brain enough time to send a signal to the body that you’re full and need to stop eating. Thus, it protects you from the ill effects of unnecessary indulgence.
ii.) Eat in isolation: Who doesn’t love role play? There’s no harm in doing a bit of it while eating too! Basically, just think of yourself as a monk who has given up on the habit of checking social media or being lost in television or watching Netflix while eating.
In fact, a report published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition also concluded that distracted eating can contribute to weight gain. The logic behind it is fairly simple. Practicing mindful eating can make you aware of what you’re eating and when to stop. On the other hand, the distractions could keep you engrossed and stop you from overeating.
3. Swap with ease: If cutting down calories mindlessly backfires, then it’s time to rethink your food options.
“The key is to crowd out the wrong foods and add good quality foods rather than simply cutting down calories,” says Arora.
Replacing refined carbohydrates with protein can help. So can adding more fibre in the form of fresh fruits and vegetables.
The idea is to add foods that promote muscle-building and take more time to digest in order to prevent hunger pangs. Both fibre and protein fit the bill.
4. Drink like a beast: I mean water, of course. Several studies have proven how water acts as a natural appetite suppressant. Moreover, it cleanses the body of harmful toxins, keeps your metabolism fast, and helps get rid of water retention.
“Keep yourself hydrated and drink at least 2.7 litres of water a day,” recommends Chawla.
5. Sleep like a priest: As in, sleep without stress and without worries. Basically, getting quality sleep for 6 to 8 hours at night has metabolism-boosting powers that no expert or science can deny.
6. Workout and be a tease: As mentioned earlier, the calories which are not utilised in carrying out digestion or metabolic functions are utilised in performing physical activities. So go out there, walk, dance, cycle, jog—do whatever it is that makes you happy and burn those extra calories instead of cutting them off along with the essential nutrients.
So, ladies, don’t eat less. Eat the right way to shed those pounds!