Calories are the key to weight-loss – or weight gain
Consume less calories than you burn, and the pounds will vanish like last night’s cheeseburger. Simple, right?
Actually, no. Calorie cutting works – but not as well as you might think. What’s more, not all calories are equal. Choose the right ones, and you can potentially eat less without going hungry. Choose the wrong ones, and your food could leave you wanting more.
Will I lose weight if I eat less?
Yes. Cutting calories leads to short-term weight loss, but the results won’t last forever if that’s all you do.
Weight loss is a notoriously difficult feat to pull off, and overwhelming research shows that most people who try, fail. According to a review of studies by UCLA scientists, the word on dieting is downright dismal: An average of 41 per cent of people gain back more weight than they lost within a year after starting to diet. And the researchers believe this figure is conservative – too low. It doesn’t account for people who drop out of studies because they’re embarrassed by their expanding waistlines.
That said, cutting calories does work in the short term, though it’s necessary to cut more calories than most people realize (3,500, to be exact) in order to lose one pound. According to a review of studies by the National Institutes of Health, going on a low-calorie diet (1,400 to 2,000 calories a day, depending on your current size) can help people lose eight percent of their body weight over three to 12 months.
So why do so many diets fail? There are lots of reasons. First, people are human, and diets are hard to stick with. Second, our bodies work against us: After you’ve lost some weight, your metabolism slows down so that you have to eat less and less just to maintain that weight loss. It’s your body’s way of making sure you don’t starve.
A third problem: People who are overly anxious to drop pounds sometimes cut too many calories. In the beginning, this can cause intense food cravings, although they eventually wear off. (In fact, in the long run, low-calorie diets have actually been shown to curb hunger.) Finally, if you don’t exercise while dieting, you’re likely to lose muscle mass, which slows your metabolism even more.