Health & Wellness / Healthy America

The Energy Gap


For many, losing a significant amount of weight is a difficult task. Although challenging to form a routine tailored to weight loss goals, even more difficult is keeping the weight off once it has been lost. This is mainly a result of improperly transitioning back into a “normal routine” following a strict diet. Oftentimes, individuals experience the “yo-yo effect” in their weight loss journeys, in which a trend of cyclical weight gain and weight loss is prevalent. Fortunately, however, there is a way to avoid gaining weight back, following an intense diet plan, and it all starts with mindfulness of the energy gap.

The term “energy gap” refers to the difference between the amount of calories consumed prior to entering a regimen, versus the amount of calories one consumes toward the end of his diet. Usually, the go-to strategy of individuals when it comes to losing weight is decreasing caloric consumption. Furthermore, one’s caloric intake is, typically, far greater prior to entering a diet than at the end of the weight loss journey. The problem with this phenomenon resides in its un-sustainability factor.

After one cuts his calories, the body must adjust to the energy loss. This bodily process is called metabolic adaptation, and serves to maintain homeostasis. Once the body has adapted to the decrease in calories, a plateau in weight loss is usually reached. In order to break the plateau, individuals tend to cut more calories from their daily intakes. With a new decrease in energy input, more weight loss may occur, but eventually, another plateau follows.

As the cycle of constantly cutting calories progresses, the body becomes adapted to a very limited energy input. This is problematic because it can be difficult to consume few calories (less than 1200 calories a day) and feel satiated, and after the weight loss goals have been reached, individuals tend to eat much more in order to feel satisfied. This is where the energy gap must be acknowledged. Since the body is adapted to so little calories following a diet, any influx of calories is too much for the body to handle. If the body is not slowly introduced to energy increases, it will store the excess calories as it is not adept at processing them.

Moreover, in order to combat post-diet weight gain, the implementation of reverse dieting in the daily routine is crucial. When it comes to reverse dieting, the end goal is to return to consuming a reasonable amount of calories without putting on old pounds. This is achieved through slowly increasing macronutrient (carb, protein, and fat) consumption until their calories are mentally sustainable. Typically, an increase of 50 calories each week is ideal when it comes to reverse dieting. Some weight gain might occur, however, it is not substantial, especially with proper physical activity.

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