A 1200-calorie diet has become synonymous with weight loss… but are low-calorie diets doing you more harm than good? Here’s why 1200 calorie diets don’t work for women over 40.

We’ve been coaching women over 40 for over seven years at Trinity… and 1200 calorie diets are a huge misconception which we come across frequently. We’ve worked with thousands of women who have thought this was the only way to lose weight…

Some women are able to make decent progress in terms of fat loss on low-calorie diets… however, this is usually only common for women in their 20s and 30s. For women over 40, this tends to be a different story…

Low-calorie diets are definitely not ideal for your long-term health as a woman over 40.

Most of the time, our clients have previously struggle on these plans. They often see excellent results for a few weeks… but this then comes to a screeching halt. Eventually, they hit a plateau that feels impossible to break… and this is never a nice position to be in.

In the long run, women following a 1200 calorie diet often see the weight piling back on… and they sometimes gain even more weight than they started with! It then becomes harder and harder to get the scales moving again… and this can be incredibly frustrating.

Do 1200 calorie diets work for women over 40?

Starving yourself on just 1200 calories a day is not the ideal approach for women in their 40s and 50s.

In theory, eating less leads to more weight loss. However, this is only true up to a certain point. Women over 40 often struggle with these restrictive diet plans, and it’s clear to see why!

In our most recent podcast episode, we broke down why low-calorie diets usually don’t work in the long-term. Keep reading to find out why!

It triggers your stress response

Surprisingly, acute stress is a positive thing which actually helps you lose weight. For example, after a strenuous workout an increased stress response will help with recovery. However, stress management is key to sustainable weight loss or women over 40.

Your body responds to different stressors in the same way; by increasing your stress (cortisol) levels. And, while increased cortisol levels can be beneficial… chronically high levels have some serious side-effects.

For example:

  • Leptin resistance, which can lead to increased cravings
  • Insulin resistance, which means you’re more likely to store fat… especially around the middle
  • Thyroid deregulation, which slows down metabolism

Following a long-term, low-calorie diet will trigger this detrimental stress response. With significantly higher cortisol levels, your body is far from being in the optimum space for weight loss!

As you get older, this stress response becomes bigger and lasts for much longer… this can lead to:

  • Making diets much harder to stick to, and you may feel constantly hungry
  • Seeing worse results due to a slow metabolism and poor consistency
  • Stubborn belly fat being difficult to lose

Think of it like this… dropping your calories too low is like driving with the accelerator and break on at the same time!

It disrupts your hunger hormones

In most cases, those who follow low-calorie diets don’t see results in the long term. One of the reasons for this is down to your hunger hormones.

Researchers found that, after following a low calorie diet for too long… your hormones will be disrupted for up to a year following. This makes gaining weight much easier, as your body is craving calories! Your key hunger hormones, Leptin and Ghrelin, don’t return to normal levels… this is even the case if the diet only lasts for a few months.

In essence, this makes it very likely that you’ll regain all the weight you lost.

Increased muscle loss

Most low-calorie diets don’t include exercise, which can cause some adverse weight-loss effects.

It’s increasingly difficult to sustain exercise when lacking energy. So, most low-calorie diets exclude this from their plan. This means you’ll see progress on the scales… but you’ll sacrifice much more in the long run!

You’re likely to lose drastic amounts of muscle on 1200 calorie diets… which means you’ll be weaker and have less energy. Plus, your metabolism will be much lower!

You develop a slower metabolism

So, why do low-calorie diets cause your metabolism to slow down? This usually happens for two reasons…

Firstly, the more muscle you have, the faster your metabolism will be. By contrast, the less muscle you have the slower your metabolism will be…

Secondly, it effects the number of calories needed to maintain your current physique. Your ‘maintenance calories’ are dependent on your lifestyle. They adapt easily depending on how much you’re eating. So, if you only eat a little bit less than your body needs every day, your body won’t really notice! However, if you eat a drastic amount less… your body will clock on. This quick change means your metabolism will manifest in higher hunger cues…

Essentially, our bodies haven’t evolved much in the last 10,000 years. Back then, starvation was a real risk, and it was our body’s goal to prevent this! Nowadays, this means that if your body senses that there’s a lack of food… your metabolism will slow down to preserve yourself.

At the end of the day, this means you’ll need to eat less and less to see progress. This is highly unsustainable in the long term.

Nutrient deficiency

Nutritious food is jam-packed with vitamins and minerals that keep us healthy and strong. So, by contrast, the less you eat… the more likely you are to become deficient in such vital nutrients.

This can lead to a drastic lack of energy, poor recovery… and in some cases, more serious issues like osteoporosis. To make the matter worse, your immune system will also weaken!

We can combat this by ensuring our calories are high enough to meet our minimum micronutrient requirements. If these are up to scratch, you’re in a much better place to see progress on the scale.

Low-calorie diets are difficult to stick to

Consistency is key when it comes to long-term, sustainable weight loss. When eating just 1200 calories or less… you’ll be constantly battling hunger and cravings. This means you’re more likely to go off track…

On any diet, it’s imperative to keep your average weekly calories to plan. By blowing out at the weekend or in the evenings… you’re sadly never going to reach your goals. This is a key reason why many people fail in the long-term.

Weekend blow outs, late-night snacks and takeaways become even more detrimental on low-calorie diets. You’re more likely to give in and go off track, which means these events will spiral.

Instead, we recommend eating enough to fuel your body… so you never feel like you’ve lost control.

It doesn’t teach you how to stay lean in the long run

Low-calorie diets are not sustainable. The results you do see won’t stick around… and they’ll do a surprising amount of long-term damage to your health.

Most people following low-calorie diets go straight back to how they ate beforehand. However, they’re starting with less muscle, a slower metabolism… and no knowledge of how to eat a balanced diet. This leads to slowly regaining weight, undoing the hard work! They often end up back at square one.

So, what’s the solution?

We recommend eating the right amount for your body. Take into account your age, height, weight, hormones, and other health conditions. You shouldn’t be eating too much, but also not too little… the number of calories you require will be unique to your body. We run through this number with all of our clients to ensure they see maximum results.

Combine this with the right amount of exercise, and you’re onto a winner! LIST training works best to build lean, toned muscle whilst keeping stress levels low.

If you’re interested in finding a long-term, sustainable diet designed for women over 40, you can find out more about working with us here!

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