The Truth Behind a Low Calorie Diet

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The Truth Behind a Low Calorie Diet
Dr. Jason Fechter

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.


3 responses to “The Truth Behind a Low Calorie Diet”

  1. I think, i am very new to That’s great article. Since 4 days i am in very low calorie diet, i.e HCG diet. May be you heard about this diet. Right now i am taking only 500 cal per day. One of my friend (also a Nutritionist) suggested me not to continue with this low calorie diet.. My question to you is, should i really continue or stop.. Please help me.
    Here is the diet i am following :

    • Thank you for your question. This is not something I am able to answer but if you give us a call I am sure that someone on staff will be able to aid you in some way.

    • I am not a doctor. I am a chef, and honestly you need to talk to your doctor about this. I can tell you this is no where close to a paleo diet. This diet looks quite unsustainable and an inverse of what we are attempting to do here. This diet is carb heavy and is not what your body needs to thrive. You will lose weight on this diet but you will most surely put it back on after you get off of it. And since it is unsustainable, you will come off of it.

      We teach healthy sustainable eating. Long term success. You didn’t gain the weight in one month and you will not lose it in one month. I think you should shat with your doctor or find someone who has a good understanding on health, fitness, nutrition and anatomy and chat with them. All indicators point me to thinking this is not healthy. Thanks. – Chef Caleb

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