“Calories in, calories out” is one of the most popular diet adages in existence–but too often, it leads those looking to lose weight to an incorrect conclusion: that dramatically cutting calories is the natural extension. Unfortunately (or fortunately), that’s not exactly how your body works–so I asked The Beauty Detox Plan author and celebrity nutritionist Kimberly Snyder to explain, in simple terms, why eating too little just isn’t effective.
Generally speaking, most women need at least 1,200 calories per day to maintain their energy and keep their metabolism working properly. Going below that will throw your body into a tailspin. And while it’s true that most people do eat too many calories throughout the day, which leads to weight gain, the value of a calorie also needs to be examined, according to Snyder:
If you put your body in starvation mode or overeat one macronutrient and completely restrict another (as in a ketosis-focused high protein/low carb diet), you will imbalance your body and how it functions. With the introduction of larger portion sizes of foods, your body may not metabolize them as efficiently, as it may try to keep the food stored in the body as a survival mechanism.
But for many women, without the “calories in, calories out” mentality, weight loss just feels too complicated. There are too many factors–and reducing it down to a simple idea (in vs. out) is just easier. To simplify the process, Snyder says, she recommends “focusing on eating whole, natural foods, not by counting numbers.”
Instead of restricting calories, Snyder advises, women who want to lost weight should try to maintain a healthy level of the right foods.
“Our bodies are not robotic machines,” Snyder told me. “There are dozens of complex processes involved in the digestion and assimilation of foods. A hundred calories of potato chips and 100 calories of kale will clearly have a different effect on the body. The latter is a whole, natural plant-food which contains antioxidants, minerals and vitamins, as well as a great deal of fiber. The 100 calories of kale will take up a good deal of room in your stomach while nourishing you, which helps to reduce hunger.”
By contrast, says Snyder, “the 100 calories of potato chips will do neither. Clearly, the calorie-counting mentality as the way to long-term weight loss needs to be revisited.”
Additionally, says Snyder, cutting calories in the short-term is a recipe for disaster in the long run. That’s because the mentality that goes along with restricting has a necessary counterpart–the idea that eventually, you’ll be able to go back to eating the amount you were eating before once the goal is achieved.
I recommend everyone do away with the notion of ‘dieting.’ The only way to achieve long-term health and proper weight management is to change your lifestyle, so that you aren’t ‘on’ or ‘off’ a diet at any one time. Instead, you focus on actually making better and better choices that you may integrate more slowly, but will help maintain a healthy weight.
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