“The fewer calories you consume, the more weight you will lose.” Sound familiar? Most of us have probably heard this phrase many times and wondered where the truth lies. Eating disorders often use this false premise to lure innocent victims into a vicious pattern of restrictive eating. While it may be true that initially decreasing your caloric intake will result in a weight loss, it is usually short-lived, prompting an even more restrictive lifestyle.

So what’s the truth? We first have to understand how the body uses the food it is given. Energy (in the form of calories) is used to perform all of the body’s necessary functions such as breathing, blood circulation, nerve conduction, temperature regulation, and brain function just to name a few. When the body does not receive the proper amount of energy through food, it turns to stored forms of energy for a temporary solution.  However, if the amount of energy the body is receiving becomes severely diminished, it takes on protective properties to prevent damage to its systems. One method of protection is the lowering of your metabolic rate to keep the body from using the energy is has too quickly.

Now let’s fit the pieces together – when your body catches on to the fact that you are not giving it the appropriate amount of nutrition on a daily basis, it’s going to do whatever it can to protect itself. If it lowers the rate at which it has to use energy, it will be able to sustain you for a longer period of time on a diminished food supply.  However, this energy conservation comes with a cost.  Not only is physical and mental health severely compromised, but the weight loss results your eating disorder promised inevitably will cease.  This is due in part to a decreased rate of metabolism which instructs the body to conserve food rather than use it.

Do you ever wonder why so many people who start a diet usually sing its praises in the beginning but inevitably become dissatisfied and turn to yet another plan that offers better results? It’s because our body was designed to protect us and therefore will make all necessary adjustments to ensure that it functions the way God intended. Proper nutrition sustains our body and offers us life – why would we want to tamper with that gift by giving it less than what it needs? We’ve been given the responsibility to take care of and properly provide for the vessel in which we live – our body. Don’t allow your eating disorder to convince you that its mix of self-destructive behaviors is what’s best for you. Be thankful that your body works for you not against you – even if that means that the eating disorder’s “skinny” dream doesn’t come to pass. Life, and life abundantly, sounds much better to me.

~Ashlee Overstreet, Supervisor of Dietetic Services