Moderation is a boring word.
I don’t like saying it and it is hardly motivating. It doesn’t invoke images of success or promise great results and by its very definition implies a state of averageness.
Yet, when it comes to your diet and fitness efforts moderation is exactly what you need and will benefit from most, especially if weight loss is your aim.
The human body enjoys comfort, nearly every process in the body is driven by something known as homeostasis:
Homeo – similar
Statis – standing still
This means that for every action or change which takes you away from the comfortable middle ground your body will produce a counter effect to bring you back.
If you get hot you sweat to cool down
If you get cold you shiver to warm up
If you eat too little your appetite increases
If you exercise too much you move less during the day
It is also important to consider that the bigger the change in one direction the more aggressive the counter response will be.
Any reductions in calorie intake or increases in activity will be opposed by the body.
So if every time you try and eat less or exercise more the body will simply counter your efforts, how then do you create change?
By taking those changes very slowly.
Let’s say for example that your energy needs for the day are 2000Kcal and your aim is to lose weight. A lot of popular diets and exercise programs will have you eating as little as 800Kcal a day and exercising 3-4 times a week.
This can leave you with in excess of a 50% calorie deficit.
Yes, you will lose weight initially but here are some of the other things you can expect to happen.
- An increase in appetite and obsession with food
- A reduction in energy, motivation and libido
- Reduced calorie expenditure
Because we are designed to store fat much easier than losing it our bodies defend against fat loss much more than fat gain.
If you overeat on one day you need to eat the following day won’t be proportionately decreased.
However, if you undereat, the following day your appetite will be increased significantly more.
This is a pretty tricky situation to be in if you find yourself wanting to lose body fat and there are several factors including genetics, environment, resilience and personal history that will dictate how well you cope with this situation.
Large calorie deficits are defended against more aggressively than calorie excesses
Smaller calorie deficits of 10-20% from a combination of reduced food intake and increased activity resulting in fewer adaptations and can prevent the backlash often seen with following extreme weight loss ideas.
In practice, if your calorie requirements are 2,000Kcal a day then eating 1,900Kcal a day and doing an extra 100Kcal of exercise (30 minute fast paced walk) will give you a 200Kcal deficit with little to no negative effects.
This will give, on average 1/2lb fat loss a week, which for many just seems far too slow and negligible. Over the course of a year though that equates to a 26lb or 2 stone or 11Kg loss, with enough time for your body to adapt/adjust as the weight loss occurs.
Moderate calorie deficits and exercise routines are much more sustainable
You don’t have to eat the same food every day or stick to the same daily calorie targets to get results. In fact, your body is designed to cope and thrive on variety. It’s when you try and spend too much time at one end of the scale that you can start to experience problems.
Eat cake just not as often as you eat vegetables
Train or exercise hard but give yourself plenty of rest after
Eat more or less than you need on occasion but avoid eating with too much restraint or abandon.
As Oscar Wilde said:
“Moderation in everything including moderation itself”