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We have had several people with questions lately in regards to low calorie or calorie restricting diets. How does a low calorie diet work? Can I have a low calorie diet and still eat Paleo? Well the short answer is no. First, let me talk a little about how restricting calories affects the body and then how it doesn’t fit into the Paleo lifestyle.
When a person goes on a calorie restricting diet, the most common goal is weight loss. The theory is that calories consumed must equal less than calories the body burns. While that can be true, it’s actually a little more complicated than that. Most calorie restricting diets are low in fat. There are more calories in a single gram of fat than one gram each of carbohydrate and protein combined. So it is thought that in order to lower calories consumed, one must lower the fat intake. But our bodies need fat in order to work correctly. The nervous system, which controls the entire body, needs fat for all the nerve signals and brain functions. Without fat, the nervous system starts to work incorrectly and the body starts to shut down.
Restricting calories also affects the body’s metabolism. When a person eating a 2000 calorie diet, for example, and cuts the calories down to 1400, the body goes into starvation mode. The body literally thinks it is being starved, so it holds onto fat stores in order to protect itself. It also releases chemicals in a panic, which then affect how food is being processed and metabolized. The body’s metabolism comes to a screeching halt in order to best use the limited calories and nutrients it is given. This also slows down weight loss eventually, which is going against the whole reason a person is restricting calories in the first place.
Another thing to be aware of with calorie restricting diets, is the amount of processed and chemical laden food involved. Most food items that claim they are low in fat or low in calories are usually processed with chemicals and artificial sugars and flavors in order to get the calorie count low. This is very harmful to our bodies and adds inflammation and toxicity, if consumed on a regular basis. This inflammation increases the risk of almost every disease and illness out there.
The Paleo lifestyle at its core does not count calories or macronutrients. Macronutrients, or macros for short, include carbohydrates, proteins and fats that are necessary to sustain life. The true Paleo approach does not include counting macro numbers or calories, but rather ensures that one is getting a well-balanced diet of lean meats, vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds. When one eliminates processed sugars, chemicals and processed foods, along with dairy and grains, the body naturally balances the inflammation in the body. When inflammation is decreased, it can lead to changing the body shape and one might even drop a pant size or two. Weight loss is an added bonus, though, and is not the goal of a Paleo lifestyle. The goal is to feed the body whole foods that are packed with all the nutrients it needs to function, as well as removing foods that can hinder the body functioning at its optimal level.