We’re all familiar with the weight loss mantra – eat fewer calories and burn more calories through exercise. Does that mean undereating will yield even greater weight loss success. Actually, no; here’s why.

Bodies need fuel
We don’t eat simply because food tastes good. We also eat because our bodies need the nutrients food provides to carry out the countless functions they move through each day. For example, vital organs such as the brain and heart could not function long, and would sustain damage, without adequate nutrient intake. Other systems would suffer as well. In time you may experience hair loss or loss of bone density, anemia, a weakened immune system and more.

Metabolism slows without food
When you chronically undereat the body tries to conserve, which means it goes into starvation mode. Your metabolism slows and you burn even fewer calories than you did before. Even worse, you will likely start to feel irritable and lethargic. That means you are less likely to head to the gym and more likely to fall off the wagon on a harmful carb eating binge.

Know how many calories are right for you
While it is true that you need to take in fewer calories when you want to lose weight, it isn’t true that there’s no bottom limit. Most women need 1,200 daily and men 1,500 daily at a minimum. How many calories above you’ll need to healthfully reach your weight loss goal will depend on factors such as your current weight and activity level. Use the healthy weight calculator from the Calorie Control Council to determine how many calories you should take in during weight loss. Alternately you can plan for about 10 calories per pound of your ideal weight. For example, if your goal is to be 130 pounds you should aim for around 1,300 calories daily.

chicken-933495_640Choose foods with your goal in mind
Include a variety of foods including whole grains, lean protein, fruits and vegetables. Adequate fiber and protein can help you feel fuller longer. Don’t skip fat, either. Heathy fats boost your health and help you feel more satisfied so you are less tempted to overeat. Experiment with new foods and cooking methods so you feel excited, rather than deprived, at meal times. Successful weight loss doesn’t mean you have to resort to extremes. Keep the big picture on your overall health and be patient as you wisely work your weight loss plan. Remember, slow and steady really does win the race.