Nutrition Myth: Low-Calorie Diets for Weight Loss

If you’re thinking about a low-calorie diet to lose weight, you’d better read this. Low-calorie diets are great for hasty weight loss, but quickly become a problem: scientific evidence shows low-calorie diets are not the best approach to weight loss. Instead, here’s what experts suggest is the best way to lose weight (and, keep it off for good!)

What is a Low-Calorie Diet?

A low-calorie diet restricts your intake to under 1600 calories per day for men and less than 1,200 calories per day for women. The results can be exciting – fast weight loss! But, it won’t stay, say experts.

Is Eating Low-Calorie Good for Weight Loss?

After a while, the body adjusts to the low-calorie intake, slowing your metabolism, and shifting your appetite. Ultimately, these changes make it more difficult for you to achieve your weight loss goal.

The Problem with Low-Calorie Diets

Not eating enough calories can leave you feeling deprived, moody, and unsatisfied with your food. If your low-calorie diet isn’t satisfying your hunger, the cravings for unhealthy foods can become incredibly difficult to ignore. Experts agree a low-calorie diet is unsustainable. Worse of all, research shows it negatively impacts your metabolism making it harder for you to lose weight.

What Happens to Your Body with a Low-Calorie Diet?

The lack of calories causes your body’s metabolism to slow, in an effort to conserve energy. A slower metabolism makes it harder to lose weight. Other symptoms associated with a low-calorie diet include:

  • Fatigue
  • Feeling Cold
  • Gastrointestinal Issues (constipation)
  • Moodiness
  • Carbohydrate Cravings

Why Do I Crave Carbohydrates on a Low-Calorie Diet?

A low-calorie diet lowers levels of leptin and the amino acid, tryptophan in the body. That increases the susceptibility to moodiness and carbohydrate cravings.

Should I Exercise on a Low-Calorie Diet?

Yes, researchers explain that exercise can affect tryptophan levels, which could help in improving mood and preventing uncontrolled weight gain.

Are There Any Benefits of a Low-Calorie Diet?

There is one benefit to eating a lower-calorie diet. Aging studies show when non-obese, older people don’t overeat it prolongs health and may even extend life.

What Should You Eat for Weight Loss?

Fill up on satisfying foods: rich in water and fiber, vegetables and fruit can be a wonderful addition to a healthy, weight-loss-focused eating plan. This concept of calorie density is not new. A review of 31 studies found low energy density foods cause large decreases in overall energy consumed in a day. In other words, focusing on eating more low-calorie dense foods promotes weight loss. Bonus: Low-calorie-dense foods are healthy.

7 Best Low-Calorie Density Foods for Weight Loss

  • Oatmeal
  • Leafy Greens
  • Fresh Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Lentils
  • Beans
  • Potatoes

What Diet is Good for Weight Loss?

If you want to lose weight and keep it off, the secret to success is consistency, according to research. In the study, researchers found there’s more overall success with slower, consistent weight loss than with diets that cause quick weight loss at first. Plus, it’s more than what you eat – weight loss success requires a holistic approach.

4 Better Ways to Lose Weight (Proven Strategies)

Scientific evidence shows it’s more than what you eat that’s impacting your weight: biology, behavior, and environment are all factors involved in weight loss.

  1. Eat Lots of Food

Choose more Low-Calorie Density foods.

  1. Create Space for Movement.

Exercise helps prevent regain following initial weight loss, according to studies.

  1. Reduce Stress

Chronic stress has been linked to weight gain, in multiple studies.

  1. Aim for Consistency

Create goals that are small actions you can accomplish and maintain for life.

Is Stress Preventing Your Weight Loss?

Yes, stress plays a factor in your weight loss struggles. In a 2018 study, researchers compared the weight loss success of obese adults who learned stress management techniques, including breathing and guided visualization, to those who did not. The result: managing stress improved weight loss.

Low-Calorie Diets Are Not Great for Weight Loss or Your Health

Ditch the rule-based, all-or-nothing, restrictive diets that are unsustainable, making it impossible for you to consistently lose weight. Choose a holistic weight loss plan that’s based on scientifically proven, simple healthy lifestyle goals. A Registered Holistic Nutritionist can help.



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Reducing calorie intake may not help you lose body weight. Perspect Psychol Sci 2017 Sep; 12(5): 703-714.

Calorie reformulation: a systematic review and meta-analysis examining the effect of manipulating food energy density on daily energy intake. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act 2022 April 22; 19:48.

Maintenance of lost weight and long-term management of obesity. Med Clin North Am 2018 Jan; 102(1): 183-197.

Exercise is medicine. Am J Lifestyle Med 2020 Sep-Oct; 14(5): 511-523.

Impact of stress management program on weight loss, mental health and lifestyle in adults with obesity: a randomized controlled trial. J Mol Biochem 2018; 7(2):78-84.

Reduced-calorie diet shows signs of slowing ageing in people. Nature 2018 March 22.

Longitudinal study of life trauma, chronic stress and body mass index on weight gain over a 2-year period. Per Behav Med, 2020 Jun 17; 48(3):162-170

Contributed by Allison Tannis

Known for her deliciously geeky words, Allison’s articles and books are read around the world by those curious about where to find the most delicious (and nutritious) places to stick their forks. More at Follow @deliciouslygeeky.