Addiction, Awareness, Calories, Health, Health Education, Nutrition, Psychology, Self-Care, Special Diet, Weight Loss

My Experience With Extreme Calorie Restriction + What I Do Now Instead

I cannot count the number of times I have tried calorie restricted diets.

Sometimes the goal was simply: eat as little as possible, or as few meals as possible.

Other times, I had set goals of 1600, 1500, or sometimes even 1200 calories.

I tried intermittent fasting.

I juice fasted for 30 days.

Or even more extreme, I water fasted for 21, 28, and 40 days…unsupervised each time.

*Water fasting and juice fasting can be highly effective if done for the right reasons with medical supervision. They can also be abused.*

Always, my goal was to restrict more to lose more weight faster.

Obviously, this was highly unsustainable physiologically and psychologically.

Restriction-Binge Cycle Vortex

Every single time I water fasted, juice cleansed, or otherwise restricted my calories, I set myself up for a binge.

I would crave fat especially, and sometimes even animal products.

Often, it took a while–up to 3 months–after a given fast, cleanse, or diet for me to binge.

But the binge always came.

I’d overeat with the justification that my body probably needed the food, because of the prior restriction.

And maybe it did.

Inevitably, I’d feel guilty about binging, overeating, and eating foods I didn’t want to eat (e.g. lots of nuts and plant fats, and even a few short periods eating small amounts of eggs and dairy).

The guilt and shame prompted the restriction part of the cycle once again.

Insert restriction plan of choice here.

And, then another binge.

Repeat.

You get it.

For me, this went on for years.

For others, it can last a lifetime!

No Calorie Restriction = No Binging

Finally, I have stopped restricting, and thus stopped binging.

Definition of Binge

When I say binging, I am referring to Dr. Glenn Livingston’s definition of a binge.

Binge = Eating a single bite (or more) of any food that is not on my food plan.

This could be eating a teaspoon of oil when I have made the commitment in my food plan to not to eat oil.

Or, it may be eating a pint of Ben & Jerry’s vegan ice cream, when I have committed to not eating cooked food or junk food.

The point is: I violate my commitment to myself, as laid out in the crystal clear food plan of my own creation.

I never binge or overeat when I am continually giving myself enough healthy food.

This may be different for everyone.

For me enough means: three meals a day, snacks if I’m hungry (which I usually don’t need), and no intermittent fasting.

In order not to binge, I find I need to eat no less than 2000 calories (and up to 2500 calories) of low fat raw vegan food per day.

This is more than I thought I needed! 

I thought 1600-2000 calories was enough, but it’s not. For me, 2000 calories is really a minimum.

I think this is due in part to how much I’ve starved myself and restricted my nutrition via calorie deprivation.

Plus, I am active daily.

The more active you are, the more nutrition you need!

Less Calories = Less Nutrients

We can get loads more nutrition when eating 2000+ calories a day versus only eating 1200-1500 calories per day.

Ongoing nutrient deprivation causes all kinds of cravings, imbalances, and deficiencies. 

For example, when I lived at Gampo Abbey in Nova Scotia over the winter of 2017-2018, I craved like a mad woman.

We had minimal access to fresh fruits and veggies. We relied on grains, beans, and soy for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

I craved chocolate and heavy foods constantly, because I didn’t have much in the way of fresh fruit and veggies.

Plus, I had food sensitivities to soy, gluten, corn, coconut, and grapefruit that I was not fully aware of.

I gained a lot of weight eating about the same number of calories I eat now.

The difference is: now I keep my fat percentage around 10% of calories from fat, I don’t eat any foods I’m sensitive to, AND I eat 100% raw fruits and veggies.

Makes a huge difference!

Mental and Emotional Consequences of Calorie Restriction

When I restricted calories, my thinking was toxic.

I thought about food more…

Obsessed about what I couldn’t eat…

I was cranky and irritable.

My mood was depressed and anxious.

Or, I was blissed out and completely ungrounded in a water fasted or juice fasted state, still with food obsessive thoughts creeping in at night when I couldn’t sleep.

I was emotionally unbalanced and easily triggered.

Hormonal Consequences of Calorie Restriction

Calorie restriction always set me up for high cortisol (stress hormone), which made it impossible to sleep. 

Chronic elevations in cortisol cause all kinds of health problems, including: anxiety, depression, digestive problems, headaches, heart disease, sleep problems, weight gain, and memory and concentration impairment. 

Additionally, I could forget about having a regular menstrual period. I went over 5 years without one.

With high cortisol, estrogen is usually also high in women. Testosterone may be low.

Basically, hormones can get out of balance pretty fast when calories are restricted.

Concluding Thoughts

Eat enough calories.

This article can help you figure out how many calories to eat daily.

Dr. Doug Graham also talks about finding your caloric balance in The 80/10/10 Diet.

Use the suggested calorie intake as a starting point. You may find that you need more. Trust your body with this, and test the results.

Ask yourself: How do you feel? Are you binging and craving, or do you feel satisfied? Are you losing weight, gaining weight, or maintaining weight? Is this consistent with your goals or not? How is your sleep?

Adjust accordingly.

Remember that calorie restriction:

  • Sucks you into the binge-restrict or binge-purge cycle.
  • Limits your nutrition (which causes more cravings and nutritional deficiencies, and encourages a binge).
  • Negatively affects thinking, mood, and hormones.

So don’t do it!

Love yourself enough to provide yourself with the nutrition you need to be healthy in this crazy modern world, so you can do what you need to do here.

Recipe In Photo Is…

Asian Bells! 100% raw vegan and 100% delicious. Grab the recipe here!

Get my free book: How I Lost 30 Pounds in 3 Months…Without Calorie Restriction + Photos

Do you want ongoing support in achieving your health goals?

Check out the coaching that I offer here. 

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