Good client email this morning. I hear this all the time from people who want to lose body fat but struggle with nutrition.
"And some days, I am just not that hungry and feel totally fine eating 1000 calories because I am not expending much energy."
This is an important talking point actually! So I'm glad you brought it up. Having a hormonal issue, like your thyroid really changes the game for women. Your body changes the way it produces, uses and stores energy (like calories) as I'm sure you know. But to put things simply, we can really improve your situation the more consistent you are with energy intake and expenditure. The easiest change to make typically is exercise. So you're definitely moving in the right direction!
The thing about expenditure is that your body is very smart, it's always trying to work for self-preservation. If we look at your BMR (number of calories your body burns just being alive) you're roughly at 1600. Add to that the fact that you don't lay in bed all day, obviously you're gong to be burning more. I set your goal calories just under that adjusted amount daily. Add to that the fact that I'm requesting you to be so active, surely it's enough to burn fat off.
The thing with consistently under-eating, is that since your body is trying to maintain itself where it is, it will decrease it's own metabolism in order to account for days your under-eating. So by under-eating to adjust for thinking you need so much less, you're actually slowing your own metabolism down.
I was having a similar discussion with my boyfriend the other day. Now, he's not trying to lose body fat right now. But for him, he works all day being active eats maybe once during the day, comes home exhausted, eats dinner then crashes. He misses having more energy, less stress, and going to the gym more. I explained to him that not eating and not being active is adding physical stress to the already high amount of mental stress he gets from work. Plus, he can't enjoy his off-time because of his exhaustion and stress which is compounded so that his body is basically running on nothing all day. He says, well, what if I just try to be more active and get in a workout on lunch break? I told him that yes, that's great to try to work that in when you see the opportunity, he first must address calorie intake.
Say that you burn 5,000 calories a day on work days.
Your body perhaps requires 2,500 calories with your BMR
But you only eat 2,000 calories a day.
So you've taught your body to do 2,500-5,000 calories worth of activity on 2,000 calories.
Meaning, you've forced your system to slow it's own metabolism by at least 500 calories per day if not more. No wonder you're so exhausted.
So if you just add another 500-1,000 calories of activity, but not enough food to support the workout, you're only slowing yourself down more.
So, what we have to do for your body to say "OK I'm finally getting enough food every day that I don't have to hold on to extra body fat" is to consistently eat enough to raise your metabolism on a daily basis. But it does have to start with food.
Here are the ways nutrition actually does increase your metabolism:
- Enough calorie intake daily: highs and lows still teach your body that food supply is irregular and therefore you might go into "starvation mode or famine" again. Therefore the extra stored calories (body fat) is still needed in case of famine times. Yes, there are ways that people get around this, but none that I would recommend because of the potential that your health is compromised long-term.
- Enough protein, carbs, and fats: every person uses each macro a little differently in how much they actually need beyond what is required for life. And each serves it's own very important purpose in the body, especially in regards to exercise and fat loss. Cutting any too drastically will hinder progress and more importantly overall health.
- Water, fiber, and micronutrients: these all impact digestion, energy burn, and health so dramatically. To be low on these (surely you are if you are eating less than 1,000 calories) greatly impacts how well your body produces and uses energy.
- Nutrition greatly impacts hormones! Already, we know that your body needs extra support in this area. So to deny it necessary nutrients will only create a greater problem. Your body doesn't feel hungry because you've taught it to shut off hunger cues. Same with my boyfriend. If consistently he's only intaking roughly 2,000 calories, the body is going to quit asking for as much as he needs and just learn to get by with less.
I kept things very general, so let me know if you'd like further explanation on anything. But I hope it all makes sense to show you that in order for you to decrease body fat, you WILL have to eat more and eat even though you're not hungry. But it doesn't take long for your body to adjust and start ramping up again. You'll feel full all the time initially because your body is not used to eating so much. So you'll want to keep volume lower with your meals (eat smaller meals more frequently, use a few protein shakes a day, don't load up on as much greens and watery fruits and veggies). But in a week or two your body will adjust and you will get hungry at appropriate times and have a more appealing and well-rounded food intake.
We're going for long-term results. Weight loss that sticks because you've adopted new habits and changed the way you live for the better. It's a process. Not a race.
Even if you're only making one new change a week, you're still better than you were in the beginning.