Why Calorie-Restrictive Diets Don't Work

April 3, 2014

 Why Calorie Restrictive Diets Don't Work

Nearly everyone you know (myself and probably yourself included) has dieted at one point in their life, meaning restricting calories or types of food for the purposes of losing weight. Our society is obsessed with thinness and dieting and walking through the grocery store all you see on the magazines is “Lose weight the easy way,” “drop ten pounds,” “the perfect ab diet” etc. But if losing fat and becoming trim is really so simple as burning more calories than you’re eating, why are more than 1/3 of American adults clinically obese?

Research shows that cutting calories is actually counterproductive when it comes to losing weight for good. Yes, you may lose weight in the short term, but you will gain it all back (and possibly more) once you stop dieting. About 95% of the people who diet regain the weight they lost within 1 to 5 years. This is because the body has a “set point,” or a weight range spanning about 20 pounds. When you move outside of that range, the body will mercilessly do anything it can to regain the weight, and possibly put a few more pounds on–just for safety.

Dieting through cutting calories will make a person more food-obsessed and more likely to gain weight in the long run. After just four days of dieting, your body will slow its metabolism in order to stay alive. Not only can you severely impact the functionality of your mind and body by cutting calories, you are also at risk of losing lean muscle mass instead of the fat you want to lose.

Of course, at the end of a diet people will go back to what they were eating before, usually binging on junk foods because they are so starved for calories and nourishment their weight loss diet lacked. Which leads to weight gain. Which leads to dieting…and the cycle begins again.

Clearly, something needs to be done with the weight-problem of today’s society, but dieting isn’t the answer. The key to weight loss is not “eat less and move more,” as many pundits casually prescribe. The answer to permanent health and looking great is: Eat well and move more! Make healthy versions of your favorite foods like fat-free french fries (cut up potatoes and place on parchment paper, stick in oven and turn when one side becomes crisp). Instead of ice cream, blend up vegan banana ice cream. Many people are initially resistant to the idea of eating healthy, but once you start eating this way, your taste preferences change–and your body as well as your mind will appreciate fresh, wholesome foods.

There is no real need to restrict your calories when you are not choosing foods with chemicals, additives, or deep fried in fat. It is now a well-known fact that companies use addictive food additives to make you crave more processed foods. Once you switch to whole plant-based foods, your cravings for these processed foods will also be eliminated.

Eating whole plant foods will give you the energy you need to work out, the protein you need to build muscle, and the nourishment you need to function on a daily basis. While this is not the short term weight loss people want, this will give you a healthy life, and that makes all the difference in the world.

For more information on this subject, watch this TED talk.

Also by Jessica: What Fruitarian Diet Looks Like – 3 Day Food Journal

Low Fat Gluten Free Vegan Pizza!


Photo: Katie Swayze via Flickr

Jessica Ferguson
Jessi is an American expat living in India with her husband, child, and animal companions. She has been vegan for close to a decade and cares for sick and injured freely roaming animals with her husband. If she's not chasing after dogs or a toddler, Jessi can usually be found snuggling local cows, doing yoga, or meditating. For glow-ups of cute free roaming animals, check out @Karunya4animals on twitter!


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