Many people are under the impression that they should eat as little as possible in order to lose weight, however this does not work. If it were humanly possible to maintain that kind of restriction, then everyone would be thin.

Restricting as much as possible will cause you to lose weight fast for about a week or two, however your body gets used to that very quickly. Your body will adjust to extreme restriction by slowing down your metabolism, using your muscles for energy, and increasing your appetite. That’s why almost everyone plateaus and gains the weight back when they restrict too much.

There is a caloric “sweet spot” for weight loss, and it’s determined by your resting metabolic rate, or RMR. Your RMR is how many calories you need to survive in a completely rested state. The calories you need to do things like breathe and pump your blood.

You burn a few hundred calories more than your RMR every day just by being awake, walking around, and thinking.

If you consistently eat just enough to support your RMR, then you won’t slow down your metabolism, lose muscle, or increase your appetite. However, you will lose fat because you’re still burning more than you’re taking in by moving around throughout the day. You’ll burn even more than that if you decide to exercise.

Unfortunately, I have many patients who fight me on this.

They try to restrict as much as possible because they know they’ll lose weight fast if they do. But they ignore the fact that they always gain the weight back immediately once their appetite ramps up, which it always does. They’re only focusing on the number on the scale. Once I show them their body composition, they get to see that the weight was coming from muscle, not just fat.

You might become impatient or overly enthusiastic and want to restrict more. However, you’re much better off eating the right amount every day, losing one to two pounds a week, feeling satisfied, maintaining your metabolism, and keeping your muscles. Eating less than your caloric sweet spot for even a day or two is enough to slow down your metabolism and interfere with weight loss.

As you lose weight, your RMR will gradually decrease, and you’ll adjust your calorie target accordingly. There will be more on that in Part Five. Not every weight loss plan relies on caloric intake, but it’s good for everyone to have an idea of how many calories they need.

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