Eat less calories and lose weight

Calories – what are they?

Calories are a measurement of the amount of energy food contains. Our body needs energy to function, energy it gets through food. All food contains calories and fat contains more than twice the calories of carbohydrates or proteins. Since the human body come in all sizes and shapes, we all need different amounts of calories to keep the body running, but a rule of thumb is that an adult woman needs about 2000-2500 kcal (kilocalories) per day and an adult man needs about 2500-3000 kcal per day.

How do I lose weight by eating fewer calories?

The most traditional way of losing weight is to eat less, thereby reducing the calorie intake. The idea behind this is simple: the body has a daily need of energy, and if you consume less energy than your daily need, the body takes the deficit from its fat reserves.

Since fat contains a lot of calories, fat is often the food to cut down on when trying to lose weight – using less butter on your toast, drinking low-fat milk and avoiding fat sauces. Another good idea is to actively listen to your body to stop eating when you are almost full instead of very full, thereby reducing the amount of calories you actually eat.

Cutting down on calories is a good choice if you…

  • Want to lose a lot of weight
  • Have the motivation to put up with some hunger
  • Are not suffering from sugar cravings
  • Like to exercise

How do I start?

You can reduce the amount of calories in several ways:

1. Low-calorie diets

There’s an abundance of diet plans following the low calorie principle. The big challenge is often to find a diet you can manage to follow for a long time since the biggest problem with low-calorie diets is Hunger. Hunger is a built-in survival mechanism that kicks in when the body doesn’t get enough energy to cover its daily need. When the body starts using energy from the fat reserves signals are immediately sent to the brain that there’s a crisis – risk of famine or starvation. The solution is food, lots of food, NOW!

That’s where the structure of the diet is important: a diet telling you exactly what you should and shouldn’t eat, and how much, can help boost your will power so that you can overcome hunger and reduce the calorie intake even if the body craves more.

Some diets are more strict than others and will make you lose more weight, but will also lead to greater hunger and be harder to stick to.

2. Food supplements reducing the amount of calories that are absorbed

There are two kinds of food supplements that will help you lose weight by cutting down on calories: those stopping fat from being absorbed by your body and those making you less hungry, helping you to eat less – as long as you listen to your body and stop eating when full, not finishing the plate by habit.

Fat blockers are food supplements that block some of the fat you eat. These are pills with extract from the cactus Opuntia Ficus Indica. This substance creates a jelly in the stomach which binds about 28% of the fat in the food, stopping it from being absorbed by the body. Pills that do this are for example Proactol, Lipobind and H.O.P.E.

A famous appetite suppressant is the cactus Hoodia Gordonii. Basically, its active substance sends signals to the brain making it believe you’ve just eaten. Very nice if you want to cut down on the calories. Other substances, for example synephrine, can also suppress the appetite a bit, by putting the body in fight or flight mode.

3. Diet pills for those looking to reduce calories

Since the philosophy of losing weight by reducing the calories has been popular for such a long time, a number of diet pills exist that are based on this principle:

In the group of fat blocking diet pills we have Proactol, Lipobind and H.O.P.E. Most create a jelly in the stomach making some of the fat go straight through the body. Some of them also demand that you cut down on the fat in the food, to avoid nasty side-effects such as loose stool and flatulence.

Appetite suppressants are mainly those containing Hoodia Gordonii such as Hoodia Patch (Evolution).

4. Meal replacement diets (VLCD)

A common way of reducing calories is to eat some sort of meal replacement which contains very few calories, for example diet shakes. The approach is called VLCD, Very Low Calory Diet, and if you replace all your meals you get down to about 600 kcal per day. This method isn’t bad, since most shakes and bars are quite tasty and easy to use, but hunger can be a real issue.

A great advantage of the meal replacement diets is that if you replace all meals with bars or drinks, it’s very strict and clear that you’re not allowed to eat anything else. There are no grey areas or boundaries to stretch, making the method pretty easy to follow as long as you can stand the hunger and the monotony. If you keep a strict meal replacement diet you’re guaranteed to lose weight, and you’ll do it quickly.

Some of the most common meal replacement diets are the Allévo method, Nutrilett, Herbalife and Naturdiet.

5. Weight loss clubs

Cutting down on calories isn’t that easy. That’s why a lot of clubs and online-based tools have emerged that help you to count calories; they also provide menus, forums and a lot of advice and tips to make it all a bit easier. Check out for example Tescodiets.com.

Does it work? What does science say?

The logic behind low-calorie dieting is simple mathematics:

(amount of calories that go into the body) – (amount of calories the body burns) = calorie surplus (or calorie deficit).

If you have a surplus of calories, this is stored as fat reserves on your belly, bottom and legs. If you have a deficit your body will consume these reserves.

This would be correct if the body was a machine. That’s not the case however, as the body will do anything to avoid an energy deficit. First, you will feel Hunger, when the body is making sure that your only focus is getting food. When the energy deficit has been going on for a while you will enter Starvation mode where your body starts slowing down the metabolism and shutting down all non-essential systems (such as reproduction) to save energy. Once the body gets food again and pops out of starvation, it ensures that you quickly gain weight again and adds a few extra pounds just in case there is a starvation “crisis” again. This is called yo-yo dieting and a very unwelcome effect!

Over thousands of years the body has learnt to do anything to make an energy deficit feel uncomfortable – for the sake of survival – so that is unfortunately what you have to fight when you try to lose weight through low calorie diets.

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