This is the article / indignant rant that people have been asking me for. First up though, obviously I am a PT and weight loss service provider so it’s not another one of those stupid “stop telling people to lose weight, they’re all fine the way they are” pieces. People should be in a healthy, normal weight range, or at least pretty close to it. That’s not to say everyone has to look like a model or athlete if that’s not their priority in life, but good health should be a priority for everyone.
So the issue is not with promoting weight loss, it is with the methods that are so commonly pushed and the message that goes along with them. Here; did you guys see this video I made earlier this year?
What I start to rant and rave about at the end there is all the “weight loss industry” products that you see on the tv and at the pharmacy, with all the celebrity endorsements and whatever else. I’m talking about these VLCD (Very Low Calorie Diet) products. Whether they’re in the form of meal replacement shakes, appetite suppressants or whatever else, they’re all selling the same message, right? “Eat Less, Weigh Less”.
Now, I got a couple of issues with that as you might have guessed.
Most of these products that I’ve had a look at all seem to be based on a 1200 calorie meal plan for women. 1200 being generally accepted as “the least amount of calories required for an adult female”, for some reason. I’m going to come back to this but let’s back up a little first to the message they’re sending out which (again) is “eat as little as possible to lose weight”.
Aside from anything else, it’s not even a good strategy to maintain a goal weight or body type. More to the point though, this message directly encourages eating disorder mentality, by telling people “don’t eat, calories are bad”. If you’ve had a look at my Personal Training Testimonials page, you’ll have seen that my greatest success stories have been in convincing people to INCREASE their calorific intake to an appropriate level to support their lifestyle. Once these appropriate levels are met, the results come seemingly effortlessly. Getting people to accept that they need to eat more though, when (seemingly) the entire weight loss industry is sending the opposite message – that’s the hard part of my job.
Of course, many weight loss clients DO need to reduce their daily calorie intake. But again, we’re talking about reducing to an appropriate level and then going no lower than your minimum requirements.
Here are some facts to consider:
- For ongoing and sustainable weight loss; excessive calorie restriction is just as bad as excessive consumption.
- Obesity and its directly related health complications are at pandemic levels and one of the greatest concerns facing our society.
- Eating disorders and their related physical and psychological health complications are also a major concern especially amongst younger people.
Why then is there an entire industry based on products that promote excessive calorie restriction and facilitate eating disorder mentality? It is DISGRACEFUL.
Getting back to this 1200 calories for women myth I mentioned earlier.
Apart from the fact that 1200 calories is actually not an appropriate amount for most women, the danger here is in the message to “eat as little as possible”. In my experience, the result of this approach is that women often decide to reduce consumption even further and end up in full blown eating disorder territory. Binge eating also comes into this where after trying to eat as little as possible all day, the inevitable result is to crack and eat literally everything within reach later in the evening. This is the somewhat ironic situation where over consumption is the direct result of trying to excessively restrict.
It is far better to simply determine an appropriate amount of calories for YOUR needs as determined by your age, height, and lifestyle. As I have said elsewhere, if you actually want to be successful and enjoy the journey towards your goal weight and dream body, you should be thinking about the MOST amount of food you can eat while making progress – not the least amount you can survive on without actually collapsing in the street at some point.
I’ll repeat that your ideal amount of calories is a unique range that we can guestimate with reasonable accuracy using some mathematical equations based on your age, height, gender and lifestyle / activity level. Even then, people are all different so we take that as a starting point, closely monitor our progress and fine tune as we go. But as to this 1200 calories to lose weight nonsense, unless you are around 55 years or older, below average height, naturally petite build and entirely sedentary lifestyle, you need more than 1200 calories.
Younger people, taller people, active people; you need more calories.