The truth about how your 800 calorie diet is making stress worse

The truth about how your 800 calorie diet is making stress worse

Have you ever been on a low-fat diet? Are you on one right now and feeling the motivation leaving you with every tasteless mouthful of soulless food? Or perhaps you’re trying to stick to 800 calories a day by eating smaller amounts of the foods you love.

My goodness, I’ve been there, done that and bought the many different sized T-shirts as I jumped from one diet to the next, losing weight and then piling it all back and more besides.

Due to the way we have been constantly told since the 1980’s that calories matter and that fat is our enemy because it contains double the calories that protein and carbohydrates contain, we have been brainwashed into looking for foods that have low caloric value. We count, we restrict, we cut every scrap of fat off our meat and chuck the skin away.

The lower the better right?

The food industry has responded with chemical concoctions that tick the low-calorie boxes but don’t really taste like real food, and we ploughed on regardless.

Through my work as a nutritional advisor, it became very clear that every client I met had had an identical experience of trying and failing to thrive on eating less calories.

There are very few people who haven’t suffered from some sort of stress in the past year as we have lived through this extraordinary time. On top of that, lockdown saw comfort eating boom which is partly the reason for the effort to lose the weight gained during the uncertainty. Most people will always return to the eat less, move more adage.

But restricting calories, and more importantly fat, is causing a much bigger strain and taking its toll on your body.

800 calories (a popular aim currently) is classed as severe caloric restriction. At this level there is a strain placed upon your body which is marked by hormone changes. The most significant is the increase in the stress hormone cortisol as the body recognises a state of emergency because there is not enough food.

Cortisol is your fight or flight hormone. Its main job is to counteract the hormone insulin so that your glucose levels remain high, and you are able to have fuel to get out of a scary situation (real or imagined).

Working with adrenaline, cortisol shuts down many digestive functions, stopping the nutrients you’ve eaten from being absorbed and has the added detrimental impact of making your tissues and muscles insulin resistant. Insulin resistance puts you at increased risk of stroke, heart disease, cancer and type 2 diabetes. Is losing weight with this method worth that risk?

The wonderful thing about your body is that it has a simple method for balancing hormones, combatting stress and weight gain through food. Through eating less often and eating nutrient dense fats and proteins the hormones take care of themselves. Never count calories. Concentrate on quality instead. This makes you more resilient to stressful situations and puts a spring back in your step.

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