Vail Daily column: Setting the record straight |

Vail Daily column: Setting the record straight

Jacqui Slavin
Special to the Daily
Vail, CO Colorado

Diet is a four-letter word. For some of you, math (including counting calories) may also be a four-letter word. Often, many of our friends divulge that math wasn’t their strongest subject, either, but for some reason we frequently take dieting and calorie advice from these self proclaimed “challenged” mathematicians. It’s time to set the record straight and get some solid facts about nutrition requirements, as well as safe and effective methods for losing weight.

Did you know that the World Health Organization describes malnutrition as caloric intake of less that 2,100 calories per day for small adult men, and 1,850 per day for small adult women? For women, this is 50 percent more than the “magic” 1,200 calories many believe they are supposed to eat for weight-loss. In fact, 1,200 calories is only 30 percent more than the amount the WHO considers “starvation” – 900 calories!

When our bodies do not receive sufficient calories to meet our daily requirements for a short period of time, we may shed a few pounds. If, however, this discrepancy in “calories-in vs. calories out” becomes too great, or extends for longer periods, our body will actually go into starvation mode and quit shedding.

Our bodies, just like other animals’, are programmed for survival. If we do not have adequate caloric and nutritional intake, our bodies interpret this lack of food as state of emergency and go into protection/survival mode. In this preservation mode, our bodies are programmed to save as much fat as possible in order to protect us from the elements (remember we were living in caves), and to save the calorie stores in our fat cells for the period of famine. Of course in most of the United States famine is not usually a current concern, but our DNA is still at least 99 percent the same as our caveman ancestors’. Our body is not able to distinguish that we live in the land of plenty and we are choosing to withhold food. The body goes into survival mode regardless.

It is also true that even if we are meeting our caloric requirements, but eating food of poor nutritional quality, we can still put our bodies into a “malnourished” state, which is also stressful to the body, and may eventually trigger the starvation response.

Trying to play mathematics games of “calories in / calories out” and “calorie deficit” will not work when the survival mechanism has been kicked in. If you are trying to lose weight and putting your body into this state, you will likely be frustrated.

If you are a veteran yo-yo dieter or tired of losing the same 20 pounds over and over again, feeling hungry all the time without success, it will be important to learn the truth about weight loss and understand dieting myths. Enlist the expertise of a practitioner who understands the physiology of weight-loss and not just the calorie counting.

Jacqui Slavin of Functional Wellness practices functional medicine with an emphasis on functional nutrition for weight-loss as well as the treatment and prevention of metabolic dysfunction. Call her at 970-376-7779.

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