In a society where dieting is all the rage, it can be hard to navigate truths in a sea of false information. That’s why I’m here to dismantle the praised and cruel misinformation on eating and exercise that have led you to failure, self-shame, and harm.
It’s not as simple as “calories in, calories out” no matter what fitness junkie or influencer told you so. It sounds valid, but it’s really an oversimplification and can actually cause more harm than good. Your health is complex and requires individualized care that emphasizes balance, sustainability, quality, and focus on behaviors rather than numbers.
In the pursuit of health, most people believe they need to eat low-calorie and partake in excessive amounts of exercise. Here’s why that doesn’t work:
It is unsustainable.
Your body cannot thrive in a calorie deficit for long periods of time. It will go into survival mode, which might feel good and energizing at first, but it will end up depleting your body leaving you fatigued, depressed, and with a long list of other negative side effects.
Undereating is not healthy.
Undereating can cause detrimental side effects, which can take a lot of time and energy to recover from, such as:
Gut health issues
Altered mental health: depression, anxiety, etc.
Decreased immune function
Muscle catabolism (breakdown of muscle)
Malnutrition and nutrient deficiencies
Hair loss, brittle nails, weakened teeth and bones
Development of eating disorders
These side effects are clear examples that restriction does not equal health. Restriction may benefit fat loss in the short-term due to being in an overall caloric deficit, but the long-term symptoms are not worth the effort to constantly restrict your body's needs. The best practice can come in finding a balance in foods. This will allow you to still enjoy the foods you love and have no guilt in doing so since you are still getting the nutrients and calories needed from other high-quality foods.
Over exercising is not healthy.
Over exercise can include workouts that are too strenuous for your unique body or simply working out too much, especially when underfueling. Feeling “addicted” to exercise is a major red flag. Potential harms of over exercise include:
Depression and altered mental health
Weakened bones and joints
Plenty of people in the fitness world advocate for pushing your body and mind to its limits in order to achieve the greatest physical and mental strength. Just like underreating, it may be beneficial in the short-term, but you will start to notice that our bodies cannot physically or mentally keep up with these strenuous demands, and you may start to lose passion for your exercises since it was originally based off of the wrong motives in the first place. Instead, try repairing your mindset with movement. This starts with doing physical things that you have cherished your entire life even back when you were a kid! Movement does not have to be a military boot camp every time we partake in it . It can be as simple as enjoying a walk on a sunny day, playing with your children out in the yard, or doing some dancing and mobility work to music that you love. This will keep you coming back for more, rather than dreading the high intensity workout that will make you want to pass out when you're done.
It increases cortisol levels.
There are plenty of harms that come from undereating and over exercising, and the risks are only increased when the two are combined. Cortisol, the stress hormone, is released in response to undereating and over exercising. Increased cortisol causes a ton of negative impacts on health, especially inflammation. In these circumstances, it actually causes your body to store away fat as a protective measure since stress is seen as a threat to survival. Chronic cortisol and inflammation often lead to belly fat, which is counterproductive to your goals.
Eating less and moving more is not the answer. Seek help from a Registered Dietitian, nourish your body adequately, move in a way that’s appropriate and feels good for your body, and treat it with kindness and respect!! That’s why at Energize Nutrition LLC and as a registered dietitian who had my own journey with food relationship , under-eating and overexercising years ago, I am so passionate about helping you find your balance in life with nutrition, mindset, and lifestyle including all foods, shifting to body confidence, and being able to navigate every situation with confidence.