“Just eat less and move more”

…Also known as the idiot’s solution to obesity.

Do I believe that a negative energy balance isn’t essential to lose weight? No, it obviously is. But to reduce something with a myriad of complex social, environmental, genetic and psychological factors to one simple suggestion is idiotic.

But that wasn’t to be the point of this post.

We are led to believe by the media and those looking to make a quick buck by capitalising on society’s preoccupation with weight that we can, and should, eat as little as 1200 or 1500 calories a day, or even less. And furthermore, that we can, and should, exercise as well.

1200 calories is roughly the figure an adult male IN A COMA requires to keep his basic functions ticking over. Like, y’know, breathing, heart beating, hair growing. This is highly unlikely to be enough for a moving, non-vegetative person.

So it’s unsurprising that most of us are only able to ‘stick’ to these diets for a short time before we get utterly miserable and start eyeing up our children as a potential food source. It’s not lack of willpower, it’s called being ravenous.

But there are further consequences of attempting to create such a big caloric deficit. For women, we need an energy balance of around 40 calories per kg of lean body mass. That’s AFTER exercise. What you need left over for your body to perform its functions, especially those dependent on oestrogen.

If you try to eat this few calories, and exercise as well, you’re likely to be notching up somewhere well south of this. Levels of hormones IGF-1 and T3 decline and menstrual cycles and bone density start to suffer. You want to be thin, but do you want to be injured and ill? Infertile?

There’s a reason that 2000 calories is recommended intake for adult women. It wasn’t just plucked out of the air. And yet we’ve become so warped in our attitudes to food consumption that it seems like a dirty word. I know I would once have considered a day in which I ate this many calories a failure or a binge. Eating the recommended intake may not help you to lose 14lbs in 7 days or anything else ridiculous, but you will be able to ‘stick’ to it, and you won’t wreck your health and your mind.

So don’t just eat less and move more. Eat enough, and move enough.

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