Logically, it makes sense. Eat fewer calories, lose weight. Right?
Maybe not. It turns out eating less food could actually make you gain weight, if you aren’t smart about it.
What your body does when you aren’t feeding it enough
Can you gain weight from not eating enough? Yes. When we deprive our bodies of sufficient energy, in the form of calories, we actually throw them into something called starvation mode – which is not a good thing. When humans used to have to search and hunt for food in order to survive, the body needed a way to keep itself alive if food suddenly became hard to find.
In starvation mode, your metabolism will slow down significantly. Because your body isn’t getting enough energy, it needs to decrease the amount of energy it uses up in order to compensate. When your metabolism slows, so does weight loss. This is how not eating enough calories and gaining weight are related.
How to lose weight and still eat enough
Because not eating and gaining weight is exactly what you don’t want to happen, you need a plan. Everyone’s body is different, so giving you a specific number of calories you need to eat per day in order to lose weight isn’t necessarily the best method to depend on. Experts tell us that decreasing your recommended calorie intake by 500 calories, as long as you don’t ever drop below 1,200, is an effective weight loss method.
This might not be the case for everyone, though. You might need 2,000 calories per day, cut back to 1,500 and still not see any results. Losing weight is about more than eating less food. It’s about eating foods that are better for you, in the sense that you can eat reasonable portions without overdoing it on the calories.
These are called nutrient-dense foods. Take kale, for example. Kale has very few calories per serving. That means you could eat an entire bowl of kale (if you wanted to, for some reason) and end up consuming a lot of nutrients, which your body needs, while at the same time consuming very few calories in the process … at least compared to eating just one small brownie, an example of a calorie-dense food.
Put food first, calories second
The key to healthy weight loss is, honestly, to focus on healthy food above the amount of calories you are consuming. If someone is only eating 1,500 calories per day, but they are only eating French fries and hot dogs, the amount of calories in this case really doesn’t matter. That person is not eating well. They are not consuming very many useful nutrients.
It’s essential to find your own balance between the right amount of calories and the best foods. If a doctor or dietitian tells you to eat a balanced diet, they really mean it. Putting small amounts of unhealthy food into your body isn’t going to help you lose weight. Eating larger amounts of healthy foods will.
Also keep in mind that it isn’t just about what you eat – it’s about what you are expending, too. Exercise is an important part of healthy weight loss. Even walking for 30 minutes a few times per week is better than nothing. If you really need to lose weight, a combination of eating healthfully and being active will help tremendously.
So, does not eating enough make you gain weight? Yes. Eat well. Not less. That will more likely get you the results you’re hoping for.