As frustrating as weight loss can already be, low calorie diets are not the answer to losing fat. Many diet programs exist that recommend an extremely low calorie intake to lose fat. To keep things in perspective, the average amount of calories a woman should eat per day is 2,000 and a man 2,500. Low calorie diets recommend a caloric intake around 1500 calories and lower for women and 1800 calories and lower for men. Low calorie diets that offer such extreme restrictions will most likely cause more harm than benefit. In addition, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association, 21 percent of dieters fail low calorie diets after two months and 45 percent quit by the end of the year. Further, 90-95 percent of those who lose weight with low calorie diets gain the weight back in three to five years!

Why Low Calorie Diets Are Ineffective

  1. Believe it or not, restricting your caloric intake to such extreme measures can actually cause your weight loss progress to slow. Low calorie diets slow down your metabolism, which is the key to your fat burning potential, according to Leibel, Rosenbaum & Hirsch (1995). Even worse, you may be in the 21 percent who fail these low calorie diets in the first two month, and now you have a lowered rate of metabolism. The end result- a higher weight than when you began dieting! Yo-yo dieting, or up and down dieting not only can increase your total weight gain over the long-term, it can also increase your risk for heart disease and premature death (Brownell & Rodin 1994; Lissner et al. 1991). To be honest, you may be better off avoiding dieting altogether than going on binge diets.
  2. Low calorie diets may also cause more muscle loss than fat loss. If calories are restricted too suddenly, your body will allow the breakdown of muscle tissue to support bodily functions before it breaks down fat. Therefore, you end up with little muscle, but a higher body fat ratio! You may be losing weight overall, but you are losing more muscle than fat.
  3. Low calorie diets can be depressing. If your caloric intake is already too high, then cutting out all unhealthy foods abruptly can cause “withdrawal” type depression symptoms. You may notice you are less pleasant than usual and may eventually overeat to control your mental symptoms

At all costs, you must avoid low calorie diets and diets that cause you to immediately reduce your caloric intake. If you are noticing fatigue, impaired thinking and feel sad after dieting, you have probably decreased your calories too suddenly. Remember that gaining weight was a continual process over many months to years and losing weight must also be a slow, continual process for it to be done correctly. There is no cheating here! You must slowly reduce your intake of unhealthy foods, begin eating more foods associated with the Mediterranean Diet, and exercise for at least 20 minutes per day. Do not waste anymore time or money or quick-loss diets because they will do more harm than good in the end! Incorporate healthy foods into your daily meals, reduce your intake of high calorie foods, reduce your portion sizes, stay away from juices and soft drinks and the weight will come off! Many resources are available on ExerciseMenu.com to help you on your journey!

What experiences have you have with low calorie diets? Share your thoughts below!