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4 Reasons You Need More than 1,200 Calories

Updated: Mar 16, 2023

I saw a post this week on the "Eating Well" website that claimed to be about gut health. While it did include lots of nourishing food options, it was extremely restrictive, coming in at around 1200 calories per day. 1200 calories is the average amount of calories most toddlers need to grow and thrive. NOT the amount for a grown woman.

I have had clients come to me who wanted to lose weight and somehow got fixated on this number and started following it. What happened? They initially lost weight, but very quickly plateaued, felt like crap, had no energy, experienced brain fog, and were dragging through their workouts.

Most women's resting metabolic rate, meaning what they need to just exist, breathe, and for their organs to work is at least 1600 calories. That doesn't even include daily activities or calories burned during exercise. The effects of this kind of caloric restriction can be very detrimental in the short and long term and very counterproductive if your goal is weight loss or weight maintenance.

Here's why:

It's stressing your body the F out

This kind of caloric restriction on an ongoing basis causes a stress response, which leads the body to be in fight or flight mode and release cortisol. Elevated cortisol levels for long periods of time negatively impact the body by reducing bone density, impairing cognitive function, and decreasing immunity.

Additionally, extreme caloric restriction can cause hormonal imbalances in women, leading to irregular periods or even the cessation of menstruation. The body slows down its metabolic rate as a survival mechanism, making it more difficult to lose weight in the long run and meaning anytime you start to eat more calories, you gain weight. No one is going to maintain this kind of calorie restriction long term, but often get defeated when they rebound and begin to eat more and see the scale go up as the body recalibrates.

It's making you weak

If you are a woman and lifting weights (and you should be! You ARE lifting weights right??) this is not enough to support your strength goals and promote muscle repair. If you're doing cardio, you're just creating an even bigger deficit your body can't handle.

Consuming only 1200 calories a day is going to leave you feeling fatigued and depleted, making it difficult to perform your best during exercise. In addition, such low-calorie intake can mean your body has to break down muscle for energy, which can be counterproductive to exercise goals.

Girl, if you want those #gains, you have to eat more.

It's not doing your gut any favors

Yeah, of course, we're going to talk about gut health. If you follow me, this blog, or any of my programs, you know that gut health is SO important to everything.

When you don't eat enough calories, it can lead to reduced nutrient absorption, which can cause changes in the composition of the gut microbiome, leading to a decrease in beneficial bacteria and an increase in harmful bacteria. This can lead to digestive issues such as bloating, constipation, and diarrhea. Moreover, extreme calorie restriction can also weaken the intestinal lining and increase intestinal permeability, leading to inflammation and an increased risk of chronic diseases. Not ideal.

It's bumming you out

This kind of obsession with calorie counting and restriction can have a significant impact on mental health, particularly in the long term, not to mention it's not fun. When the body is deprived of adequate calories, it can lead to feelings of fatigue, irritability, and anxiety. These symptoms may worsen over time as the body becomes more malnourished, leading to a lack of energy, difficulty concentrating, and even depression. It can also cause changes in brain chemistry, like a decrease in the production of neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin, which can lead to mood disorders.

Yeah, no thanks.

So, what should you do instead?

Most women attempting weight loss are not eating enough, or consistently fueling for their goals. We need to shift our focus away from restriction and towards thriving, radiant health. You are so much more than a number. Your strength and worth are not based on the scale.

Check out my guiding principles on my instagram here. and focus on eating more whole foods, drinking more water, sleeping more, moving your body gently, reducing stress, and prioritizing fat and protein.

Your body deserves to feel strong, energized, and healthy to keep up with your family, do your job, crush your workouts, and be happy! Get in touch if you're ready to make a plan that works for you!

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