This is going to be a "quickie" post sharing a very simple truth: If you eat too little and/or have absorption problems, you may find it impossible to lose weight. In the simplest terms, eating too few calories and nutrients (or being unable to absorb what you eat) causes the body to think it's starving. As a result, the body will drastically slow down metabolism and will refuse to let go of any fat stores being held. Additionally, when too few calories are eaten, it causes muscle mass to be lost in the body. In very basic terms, muscle mass determines metabolism. A person's Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) is defined as being the number of calories the body burns without doing any exercise. Sixty percent of your daily calories are burned to fuel basic body functions. That's good news! BMR basically represents how many daily calories your body burns if you do nothing but lay in bed all day. Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) is largely dependent upon muscle mass. People that have more muscle mass as a percentage of body weight have a higher BMR and burn more calories on a daily basis without even trying.
In my practice, I use a Bio-Impedance Analysis (BIA) body scanner to measure over thirty different physiological and metabolic values such as Basal Metabolic Rate, Intracellular Water (hydration), Extracellular Water (edema), Body Mass Index (BMI), etc. I use BIA with patients and clients who are trying to lose weight and who have experienced difficulty. As we address their metabolic issues and repeat the BIA scans, it is amazing to see their numbers improve in the BIA results.
In my office, I see women almost daily who report they are maintaining a calorie intake of 500-1000 calories. They are, quite literally, starving themselves in an attempt to lose weight. The problem with this is that it does not address underlying issues such as metabolic syndrome/insulin resistance, hormone imbalance, thyroid issues, etc. My goal with every patient is to find and address the cause of illness or physical problems and address the cause instead of merely addressing the symptoms. Excess weight is often an indicator of metabolic disorders and/or absorption problems. When I address the metabolic problem, the weight falls off almost magically. (If you have absorption problems, please read my post: Top 6 Ways to Maximize Digestion.)
Consuming so few calories causes metabolism to screech to a halt. When I run a BIA on women on starvation or HCG diets, their Basal Metabolic Rate is typically far below 1000, which is very unusual. (Most people's BMR is somewhere between 1300-2000, depending on gender, activity level, muscle mass, etc.) Their body has essentially almost stopped burning calories in order to protect itself from the insufficient caloric intake. This is a very dangerous physiological state. Most of these women also have extremely low muscle mass because their body has started consuming muscle in order to provide itself with energy. This state, referred to as Ketoacidosis, typically occurs when insufficient carbohydrates are consumed, but may also result from extremely low caloric intake. Ketoacidosis is a very dangerous chemical imbalance that can cause permanent physical damage.
In my personal case, I have battled weight issues for most of my life. I no longer weigh more than 200 pounds, but I am not comfortable with my current weight of 150 pounds. I need to state that I am currently reversing autoimmune issues affecting my adrenal glands, thyroid gland and digestion, and have Type 1 diabetes, so I have multiple metabolic issues that make losing weight difficult. I also have zero appetite, so it was a shock to me to realize a few weeks ago that I had sunk into a habit of only eating once per day. This realization sunk in while on a recent vacation. During vacation, my husband and I ate very hearty (but healthy) meals three times daily and often snacked between meals. After being on vacation and eating "so much" for four days, I stepped on the scale and realized I had actually lost four pounds. How is that possible? My body had responded to my increased caloric intake by increasing my Basal Metabolic Rate. The frequent meals had also "tricked" my body into thinking it needed to keep my metabolism "revved up" all day long. Since realizing I wasn't practicing what I preached, I have gotten back into a stable eating pattern and have lost another six pounds.
I know it seems impossible to lose weight by eating more, but that is often the only way to lose weight for people who have subjected themselves to starvation diets or to eating habits that offer few nutrients. (The HCG diet fits this category. Please use caution with the diet plans used with HCG.) This is also very true for people who have severe absorption issues. If the digestive tract cannot adequately absorb nutrients, the body will slow down metabolism to protect itself. In this case, the digestive distress must be addressed first.
If you have been eating an extremely restricted diet, I encourage you to start eating more. Work up gradually so that your body can adjust, and add moderate exercise to help build muscle. As always, please ask your doctor to run a full panel of blood work to rule out any metabolic disorder or hormonal imbalances that may be negatively impacting your ability to lose weight.