Can’t loseweight when I eat only 300 calories a day and exercise daily?

Ask:

Can’t loseweight when I eat only 300 calories a day and exercise daily? and has anyone tried a water fast?

Answer:

I’m not surprised as this is a starvation diet and your body will do everything it can to retain its fat if you starve it like this.

Don’t fast. Don’t starve yourself. The ONLY way to lose weight is gradually and by eating properly. About 2 pounds a weeks is the maximum fat that it is possible to lose no matter what the diet books promise you.

Rule 1- Don’t get more than 30% of your calories from fat.

Rule 2- Watch out for sugar; low fat doesn’t count if it is high in sugar

Rule 3- Don’t eat things which aren’t food

Rule 4- Drink waterThe Rules Explained:

Rule 1- Don’t get more than 30% of your calories from fat

This is the recommendation from the World Health Organisation*. The easiest way to do this is to not eat anything that contains more than 30% of calories in fat. Modern labelling makes this an easy calculation to do:

There are 9 calories in a gram of fat, (as opposed to 4 calories in a gram of protein or a gram of carbohydrates; that is why fat is fattening) So multiply the grams of fat in the food by 9 and divide by the total calories (actually kilo-calories, sometimes denoted as kcal) the result should be less than 0.3.

e.g. My sweetened rice cakes have 40 kcal per cake and contain 0.2 g fat.

0.2 x 9 = 1.8 calories from fat

1.8 / 40 = 0.045 which is < 0.3 They are very low in fat (but quite high in sugar see rule 2)

The quickest eating makeover in the world is to go through your cupboards with a calculator and get rid of (donate to your food bank) anything which is over the limit. Take your calculator on your next shopping trip and don’t buy anything that is over the limit.

Rule 2- Watch out for sugar; low fat doesn’t count if it is high in sugar

Sugar is a carbohydrate so it only has 4 calories per gram. The trouble with sugar is that it is everywhere. It is very easy to consume many grams of it without realising. Items to watch out for:

– Fruit juices: don’t drink anything that isn’t 100% fruit and unsweetened, and even those juices have quite a lot of sugar so don’t go nuts on them

-Sweetened Drinks: Diluted beverages, fizzy pop, alco-pops, iced tea all have many grams of sugar

-Low Fat Treats: Many treats such as cookies and sweets that are marketed as ‘low fat’, like my rice cakes, are very high in sugar. That’s how they make them taste nice. Don’t be fooled.

Rule 3- Don’t eat things which aren’t food

Well maybe very occasionally as a treat, but certainly not everyday. Items which provide you with calories and no nutrition are not food. They are bundles of refined flour, sugar, food colouring, artificial ingredients and preservatives that taste nice. Not the same thing at all.

Almost all packaged snack food fits in this category, and many breakfast cereals, particularly for some twisted reason the ones they market at kids. I would include white bread in this category unless you’ve put something with more nutitional content than jam on it.

Rule 4- Drink water

Your body needs water. It needs it to clean away the byproducts of your metabolism, the residues of any alcohol you drank, to keep your blood chemistry right, to sweat out to keep you cool…. for many many reasons.

Some drinks increase the water content of your body (we’ll do the science as to why in the next lesson) and some actually decrease it. Drinks that contain significant amounts of sugar, caffeine or alcohol actually decrease the water content of you body.

Drink lots of water.

Caffeine free teas are just as good in my book.

If you must, drink low-calorie softdrinks, though I’m sure some of the sweetners in those are osmotically active so if there is enough of them they will do the decreasing thing.

The Science of Eating
This is a more detailed lesson that the first one, but it is worth reading, as knowing what your body really needs is proof against the temptations of fad diets.

Your body needs:

Air Water Carbohydrates Protein Fat Vitamins/Minerals/Essential trace substances

Air

Preferably not polluted with vehicle exhaust, factory emissions or smoke.

Water

As mentioned in lesson 1, your body uses water to clean toxins and other osmotically active chemicals out of your blood stream. Your kidneys use the process of ‘osmosis’ to do this i.e. they keep a barrier between your blood and a more diluted liquid that will become your urine: osmotically active chemicals move across the barrier from the high concentrations of your blood to the low concentrations of your urine. Caffeine, sugar, salt, alcohol and your body’s natural toxins are all osmotically active. Your kidneys aren’t selective though, so if you have a lot of caffeine in your blood stream you will lose some salt and water with it when it goes, but maybe not as many of the toxins that you really needed to get rid of. Drinking plenty of water and minimising the intake of alcohol, caffeine, sugar and salt will help your kidneys do their job of keeping your blood chemicals at the right levels.

Carbohydrates

Carbs are your body’s source of energy. You burn (metabolise) carbohydrates to generate the energy that moves you, warms you, heals you, makes your heart pump and your brain operate. If you eat more carbs than you burn, your body stores the excess as fat for use at a later date. Carbs are not fattening; as long as you don’t eat more than you need. Carbohydrates should make up the largest proportion of the calories eaten by a healthy active human.

Carbohydrates are the main component (after water) of grains (wheat, rice, oats, barley,corn) and starchy vegetables (potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams). Vegetables and fruits also contain carbohydrates but in slightly different formats.

Special Carbohydrates:

Fibre: Fibre has no calories, your body can’t digest it, but it plays an essential role in keeping the human digestive system functioning, so you need to eat it. Fibre is the cellular matter of plants: all un-refined plant based food contains some natural fibre. Refined foods; like white flour and white rice have this fibre removed, which makes them less ‘good for you’ than whole meal flour and brown rice. Fibre also helps your body adsorb vitamin C.

Sugar: Natural sugars are present in all fruit and vegetables. The reason that people go on about eating less refined sugar not just less sugar, is so that you won’t stop eating carrots and apples and tomatoes which all have a lot of sugar in them but are all very good for you. Refined sugar (usually sucrose or fructose)* is sweeter than natural sugar (glucose) and is added in generous quantities to many food stuffs. It is mainly bad for you because you can eat a lot of it without realising but it also can play havoc with your insulin levels, your mood and put holes in your teeth.

Starch: Starch is really just a complex sugar. It isn’t sweet, but your body breaks it down into sugars. Refined flour and rice and potatoes without their jackets are really little more than starch. Starch is the staple source of calories in our diets, but it doesn’t offer anything additional in terms of nutrition so it is often considered to be a source of ‘empty calories’.

Protein

Protein is your body’s building material. It needs protein to grow you new skin, hair and nails, to manufacture hormones, and repair itself. Your body doesn’t need very much protein, in western cultures most people eat far too much. The sources I can find recommend between 50 and 120 grams per day depending on your body weight. For reference, 60 g is the maximum size of letter you can post with a single 1st class stamp. Its not very much.

The problem with eating more protein than you need; especially if you eat a low proportion of carbohydrates, is that your body will choose to metabolise the protein instead of the carbohydrates. The metabolic process for proteins is (grossly simplified) messier than for carbohydrates. It produces toxic nitrogenous wastes that your kidneys have to then filter out of your blood stream.

High protein diets are a favourite with the media and the fad diet crowd. Extreme versions can be dangerous because your body can get poisoned by your own toxins and because they mess with your body chemistry. Even the more moderate versions are just a way to make people used a meat based diet not feel too deprived. I am not a believer in high-protein diets.

There are two ways to get protein: 1) eat meat 2) eat everything else.

1) Meat is pretty much pure protein. If you eat even a bit of meat everyday then you are getting all the protein you need. As I’ve noted above, its more likely that you are eating too much. Meats, particularly red meat, can be high in fat and these are the bad fats not the good ones (see fats section). Meats also contain traces of everything that that animal injested, had injected into it or swam in: antibiotics, medicines, fertiliser, pesticide, heavy metals (more on that in lesson 4).

2) Everything else: Almost everything contains some amount of protein (exceptions being those refined flours and white rice again). Whole grains, like brown rice and oatmeal, are good sources of protein. Nuts, if you can eat them, are also a good source, as are beans, lentils and other plant foods of that nature. Plant proteins are ‘incomplete’ meaning that you need to eat a variety of different types of plant e.g. lentils and rice to get a ‘complete’ protein.

Special cases: Eggs and Dairy

Eggs and dairy products are good sources of animal proteins (like meat) and like meat they are high in fat and cholesterol and contain traces of anything the animal injested. The dairy board would have us believe that cow’s milk is essential to human nutrition. It isn’t. It was designed for fattening up baby cows. Humans can easily live without it, however, it is almost impossible to avoid in our culture so my advice is to keep it to a minimum and buy low-fat versions where possible.

Fat

Your body does need fat, it can manufacture most of what it needs from excess carbs but you do need to eat a bit; fat helps your body absorb some vitamins. Fat is required in your body to cushion your organs, to electrically insulate your nerve endings and thermally insulate your body. Women need a minimum amount of fat to be able to produce estrogen or they become infertile. Most people eat too much fat, so most diet advice centres around eating less (see lesson 1). Fats come in 2 types:

1) Saturated Fats. Generally speaking saturated fats are considered ‘bad’ fats, in that they are associated with cholesterol in clogging up your arteries. All animal fat is saturated fat (i.e. all the fat in meat, dairy and eggs) the only commonly eaten plants that contain saturated fats are coconut, palm oil and avocado. A lot of peanut butters (peanut oil is a very ‘good’ fat) have palm oil added to improve the texture. Cheaper chocolate bars contain palm oil as well; a good argument for buying fancy chocolate! Fish oils are something of a special case as they are currently fashionable as a health food, but I’ll talk more about these in lesson 4.

2) Unsaturated Fats. All plant based oils, except those listed above. These will still make you fat if you eat too much, but they are less prone to artery clogging. Examples are nut oils, olive oil, suflower oil and canola oil.

A special note on hydrogenated fats: Hydrogenation is a chemical process by which an unsaturated fat is turned into a saturated one, for example in margarine. This is making a ‘good’ fat into a ‘bad’ one. In either case they will all make you fat, so keep to a minimum.

Vitamins/Minerals/Essential trace substances
All plant based food (excepting the white flour and white rice again) and animal foods (meat, eggs and dairy) contain an assortment of the vitamins, minerals and other essential trace substances that your body needs. If you eat a variety of these things you will get everything that you need in this respect. If you are nervous, take a supplement. Some special notes:

Salt: Your body needs some salt to keep your blood chemistry right. However, in western cultures we tend to eat too much salt which makes our blood too salty, so our bodies put more water into our arteries and veins to dilute the salt and our blood pressure goes up. High blood pressure helps to cake all the fat and cholesterol into the walls of our arteries and so aggravates all the conditions that lead to heart desease and stroke. A guideline is this anything that has more than 0.2 g of sodium or 0.4g of salt per 100g is considered to be relatively high in salt.

Calcium: Essential to bone strength and other things. Dairy products are not the only source of calcium. Dark-green leafy plants contain plenty as do many other plant foods like nuts and legumes.

Iron: Iron is found in ‘heme’ and ‘non-heme’ form. Heme iron is the blood of the animal that is in the meat. Non-heme iron is iron from all other sources. Dark-green leafy plants contain plenty as do many other plant foods like nuts and legumes. I have read some data which suggests that vitamin C helps with the adsorption of non-heme iron, which is why few vegetarians are iron deficient.

Folic Acid: Very important for embryonic development. This is found in dark-green leafy plants, but women planning to get pregnant or who are expecting are recommended to take supplements and to start taking them sooner rather than later.

Vitamin B12: This vitamin is necessary for human health, but is only found in animal based foods. Vegans have to get this by eating nutritional yeast or by taking supplements.

*For the pedantic lot: fructose is the sugar in honey, so it is sometimes considered a natural sugar, but the concentrated fructose syrups they use to make sweets and soft drinks are most certainly refined.

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