Does Calorie Restriction Work for Weight Loss?

My Experience Losing Weight with Calorie Restriction

I tried to lose weight by calorie restriction in 2009-2010. At the time I was eating about 1800-1900 calories a day, and I was already working out 3-4 hours a week. So I tried cutting the number of calories I ate to 1200-1300 calories a day, and I lost 5 pounds (of the 15 I wanted to lose), and then I stopped losing weight.

Really I couldn’t eat less than 1200 calories a day and eat enough food, so I tried to work out more. This didn’t help because it just made me hungrier. Also, although I like working out, I only had so much time I wanted to spend doing it.

 

My Experience Losing Weight without Calorie Restriction

After that, I started reading more about weight loss and nutrition. Then I started changing the composition of what I was eating. I switched out foods high in sugar and unhealthy carbs for healthy protein, lower sugar foods, and artificially sweetened foods (I don’t recommend this long-term). Then I lost 10 additional pounds (15 total) from 2010-2011. This was without cutting calories or exercising more.

I kept the weight off until I started traveling for work. I put the weight back on for a variety of reasons, but mostly because I was working more hours and traveling. I started eating whatever was easily and quickly available.

Most recently I lost 10 pounds, and I’ve kept it off so far from 2017-2018. This was while eating about 1800-1900 calories per day, and working out 3-4 hours a week. Right now I’m working on getting more toned.

What I’ve found that works for me and is maintainable while traveling for work, eating out, over the holidays, and on vacation is changing the composition of what I’m eating and also utilizing cheat meals to keep my weight loss from plateauing and to maintain eating healthy the rest of the time long term. I switched out high sugar, high glycemic index carbs, and unhealthy fats to low sugar foods, low glycemic index carbs, healthy fats, and healthy protein foods. Also, I eat 3 cheat meals a week.

 

Does Calorie Restriction Work?

Calorie restriction will work for weight loss to a certain point. Once your body gets used to the new lower calorie set point, your weight loss will plateau, but until that point, you will lose weight. It’s person to person dependent when that will be, so it’s possible that you’ll lose all the weight you want to before you get to that point. But you may also get stuck like I did before you lose all the weight you want to.

Also, you then have to maintain this lower calorie intake long term to maintain the weight loss. I think it’s easier and more efficient to utilize cheat meals and change the composition of what you’re eating long term by making gradual changes that you can maintain long-term.

 

When to Try Calorie Restriction

One time calorie restriction may be worth trying is immediately after a vacation, holiday or a week where you ate a lot of sugar, unhealthy carbs and/or unhealthy fatty foods. Then for one week afterward calorie restriction or alternate day fasting may work to offset the one week of unhealthy eating. Studies to date show that calorie restriction and alternate day fasting work similarly for weight loss, but some people find one versus the other easier to do.

The other time to consider calorie restriction is if you really are eating substantially more food than other people who are of a similar size and activity level as you. For example, if everytime you go out for brunch, everyone else eats one entree, and you eat two, this may be the time to consider you’re eating too many calories or too much food.

 

Should You Use a Calorie Counter?

I started using a calorie counter (MyFitnessPal) initially because I was doing a calorie restriction diet, then I was using it to track how much sugar I was eating, and now because I’m blogging about weight loss. I don’t think you need to use a calorie counter unless you find it helpful.  

One reason you may find it helpful to try for just one month is if you’re not sure what you’re eating too much of, sugar versus fat versus carbs. Tracking what you’re eating for one month can help you figure it out.

Want to lose weight with science backed advice? Get my free guide Lose Weight Without Cooking or Calorie Counting and start losing weight this month.

P.S. Here’s my one minute review of how I would pick what snacks to eat at work.

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