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Calorie Counting, Food Quality and Starvation Mode

I had an interesting conversation yesterday with someone about calorie counting, food quality and starvation mode. It turned out that he tried to lose weight by counting calories. In a two week period, adjusting his diet to be 200 calories sub basil metabolic rate, he didn’t lose one single kilo. Definitely a frustrating experience, but not to be discouraged and being a super intelligent individual, he figured out what was going on. His basal metabolic rate had actually dropped because of his diet. He had essentially gone into starvation mode and his body was trying to compensate!

When a person drops caloric intake by any significant amount, the body will react (appropriately) by going into a kind of starvation mode. It will actually slow down in order to compensate with the lower availability of energy. So if your basal metabolic rate requires 1800 calories, then lowering your caloric intake to 1600 may actually cause your metabolic rate to drop to that same level and as such, you end up suffering with hunger for nothing! (This isn’t all true, of course. There is lots of evidence that this “starvation mode” is actually beneficial for long term health and aging).

So what did this person do to compensate? He found out that the only way that counting calories would work for him was to eat zero empty calories. That’s zero sugar or low quality carbs. The amount of food that he ate wasn’t the only variable on his weight loss. The quality of food became a huge parameter. He started eating high quality food consisting of lots of veggies (spinach in particular) and fish (he’s a fan of salmon). After increasing the quality of his food, he noticed huge strides forward with respect to weight loss. And this wasn’t the only thing he noticed. I don’t want to make this sound as though it would be common, but his hair actually began growing in thicker and darker!

I’m not suggesting that people who go on calorie restricted diets will experience the same thing, but after noticing some grey on my thinning head the other day, I’m seriously considering following his lead.

Regardless of his fountain of youth like experience, at least it can be fair to say that low calorie diets on top of high quality food is definitely the way to go for those looking to quickly drop weight. Add a comprehensive exercise program on top of that, and your metabolic rate may not decrease as much due to metabolic “starvation compensation” and you will definitely notice serious results.