Thursday, October 23, 2014

Living on 1200 Calories...Without Starving

One of the greatest myths to changing your lifestyle to facilitate weight-loss is that you must starve yourself in order to gain results.  This is an exaggeration made by people who really are not well informed as to the right way to do this. 

For the better part of two years I survived on about 1200 calories per day.  When I say this to people their immediate response is one driven by the aforementioned myth.  "Weren't you hungry all the time?"  No.  We very rarely experienced hunger pangs that would send us into a ravenous tizzy.  As a matter of fact I don't think that ever happened.  We didn't experience the feeling of starvation, not because we claim to be awesome superheroes with powers of restraint and will that far exceed those of your average mortal, rather it’s because we went about this with an informed method to reducing our caloric intake.

To explain this you have to understand that all calories are not equal.  This is true at least as it pertains to a calories ability to keep you satisfied.  You can think about it in a way that would characterize any food you eat into two categories; those being slowly digested and those being quickly digested.  There are a number of factors that contribute to whether something is digested quickly or slowly.  Foods that are high in fiber tend to slow the absorption of calories and sugars from the foods you eat and these foods tend to take longer to move through your system.  Lean proteins are also slow to uptake, primarily because the enzymes needed to digest proteins live in your intestines.  So these proteins will pass more or less intact into your intestine before they begin to break into smaller components and this tends to slow the process of digestion for anything else consumed with it.  Complex sugars are also slower to digest than simple sugars and foods like whole grains and vegetable based starches are very fibrous and contain parts that we can't digest at all. 

So what does all this mean?

Your body is still going to attempt to digest as much of the food as possible and if your system slows down to a crawl that means food empties from your stomach much slower and food remains in your gut being processed longer thus you are not going to be hungry quite so quickly after eating. 
The other component to this is that the foods that are high in lean protein, have complex sugars or high fiber content are typically lower calorie when compared to fatty proteins, simple sugars (table sugar, candy) and low fiber foods.  A good illustration of this would be to compare 200 calories of apples (high fiber and low fructose) with 200 calories of chocolate.  In my experience you could eat 3-4 gala apples to attain the same calories and sugar that you would from a single chocolate bar.  And I believe it goes without saying that the apples will keep you fuller longer as a result of the amount eaten but also because your body will take its sweet time and getting those apples through your system.

Jess and I never felt deprived because we approached our food choices from the perspective of understanding what effect different foods have on our bodies.  It has been said that the greatest source of inequality is the ownership and proprietary state of knowledge.  If you want to make a change in your life, educate yourself and set your feet on the equal footing we've all been promised.

Happy Running!!!

Rob and Jess