Risks of a Low Calorie Diet

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Within the last couple of weeks, I have come across a few individuals that wanted to lose weight, and they wanted to lose weight FAST.  The typical mindset for losing weight fast, is to drastically cut calories.  I don’t agree with this thought process. I am personally more comfortable with a more “safe” approach.

Quite simply, create a calorie deficit of approximately 500 calories and then add daily exercise.

If 3,500 calories is equivalent to a pound of fat, and you burn 500 calories a day with exercise, plus a 500 calorie deficit with your nutrition plan, then you will cut about 1,000 calories per day.  Do this 6 days a week, and you can lose approximately 2 lbs per week, or 8 lbs per month.

With this method, you are not starving yourself, you are giving your body food for fuel (to work out harder), and its something that you can maintain.  What do I mean by maintain?

Most people that start a typical diet (low carb, atkins, shake diets, low calorie, etc) cannot maintain that diet for an extended period of time.  They go strong at first, but then they quit, and go back to their old ways.  They lose weight, gain weight, lose weight, gain weight.

With the approach I have explained (daily exercise and a calorie deficit) you eat healthy meals, five times per day, and exercise.  Both of these concepts are maintainable.  This is the approach I have used for years, and I have not had the “yo-yo” effect of crazy notions to weight loss.

I’m sure others will disagree, I’m not a nutritionist, and I certainly don’t have all the answers, but this is what works for me.  If you are insistent on a low calorie diet, you should at least know the risks.  This is an article from Livestrong.com and Owen Pearson.

Risks of a Low Calorie Diet

Low-calorie diets are among the most common ways people try to lose weight. A low-calorie diet consists of a caloric intake of between 1,500 and 1,800 calories per day, while people on a very low calorie diet may consume as few as 800 calories per day, according to The Diet Channel website. Although a low-calorie diet may help some people lose weight, it also poses several risks. Check with your doctor before adopting a low-calorie diet for weight loss.


According to the National Institutes of Health’s Weight Control Information Network, adhering to a low-calorie diet, especially a very low-calorie diet, carries the risk of gallstones. Gallstones, which are tiny, obstructive stones in the gall bladder, are common in obese women; however, the risk increases during rapid weight loss. The cholesterol that forms in the gall bladder may impede the organ’s ability to flush out bile. Gallstones may produce pain in the abdomen, between the shoulder blades, and behind the right shoulder.

Heart Disease.

Rapid weight loss through a low-calorie or very low-calorie diet can also affect the heart, according to Dr. James F. Balch, author of “Prescription for Nutritional Healing.” Because rapid weight loss raises cholesterol levels in the body, the veins and arteries may become blocked, forcing the heart to work harder than necessary to pump blood. This risk of heart disease may be as great as the risk of heart disease from obesity, notes Dr. Balch.

Other Side Effects.

Low calorie diets may also produce other side effects, according to the Diet Channel website. Dieters may experience nausea, constipation, diarrhea and fatigue. These side effects tend to diminish over time.

Rapid Weight Re-Gain.

Although a low-calorie or very low-calorie diet can facilitate weight loss, it is typically not sustainable. According to Dr. Balch, people who stray from these diets after losing weight typically gain back the lost pounds quickly. This is because these diets may cause changes in the thyroid gland, slowing the body’s metabolism. This not only facilitates rapid weight re-gain, it makes it more difficult for people to take the weight off again.

The original article can be read here.  Other recommended reading while at LiveStrong.com:

What is a Low Calorie Diet?

Metabolism and the Low Calorie Diet

The Disadvantages of a Low Calorie Diet

If you need help with a meal plan that is healthy, maintainable, good for you, and actually tastes good, take a look at my Review for the Beachbody Custom Meal Planner. As always, I’m happy to help you, just don’t ask me to help you plan a fitness program that revolves around drinking two or three shakes a day and/or skipping workouts…. in the long run, those type of fitness/nutrition programs just don’t work.

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