Calorie Restriction and Weight Loss

Kea Schwarz
By: Kea Schwarz

It is widely accepted that America is facing an obesity epidemic. It is also understood that people struggling with obesity are more likely to have heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, Alzheimer’s, and some cancers.1 That being said, anyone who has ever been on a diet knows that it is not exactly easy to lose weight. Aside from trying to avoid your natural hunger cues and the desire to consume foods in a hedonistic fashion, there are also environmental variables that play a part in food consumption. Currently, food availability, variety, energy density, and portion size are all taken up in excessive amounts. Many people are generally unaware of how many calories they are consuming, either due to lack of satiation or emotional reasons. With the increase in fast food availability and convenience items, weight loss is now more difficult than ever. What it boils down to is modifying dietary choices. In order to lose weight a negative energy balance must be achieved. To do this, there needs to be a decrease in the consumption of energy. In other words, fewer calories consumed means greater weight loss. Although this is true, a person’s health status and nutrient needs should be taken into consideration, and a consultation with a registered dietitian is advisable when trying a new dietary approach that reduces energy intake. With that being said, there are multitudes of simple dietary tactics that aid in the reduction of energy intake. 2


Small changes = Big results

Even the smallest decrease in energy balance could have a big impact on weight in the long run. Simply decreasing caloric intake by 100 to 200 calories per day can lead to healthy weight loss over time. This is a very slow, but sustainable calorie restriction method. Simple behavior changes may be the only adjustment needed to create a shift in the intake of calories. For example, reducing the intake of added sugars and sweetened beverages such a soda can have a positive, long-term effect on body weight composition.2

Eating in terms of energy density

Energy density is the amount of energy (calories) within a food compared to its weight. This number is often determined by the water, fat, and fiber content in foods and beverages. The more water or fiber present in a food item, the lower the calorie density. Foods with lower energy density, in general, have fewer calories, allow for greater consumption and may assist in appetite control. A perfect example of low energy foods is fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables have a naturally low calorie density, meaning you can eat more without worrying about weight gain. They also increase satiation, are loaded with vital nutrients, and can help decrease overall food intake. A plant based diet, centered on whole plant foods, is an optimal way to consume a lot of food that is high in nutrients and low in energy density. Similarly, the Mediterranean diet is another example of a diet focused on the principle of calorie density. 2

Intermittent fasting

Intermittent fasting is a fairly new method of calorie restriction that has shown to have benefits beyond weight loss such as extension of life span and the reduction of some diseases. In addition, fasting may potentially increase the body’s responsiveness to insulin. This will help to regulate blood sugar, which helps to control food cravings and hunger.3 There are a few different methods to practice intermittent fasting. “Eat stop eat” works by fasting for 24 hours twice a week. This method of eating will reduce your overall calorie intake over the course of time, ultimately leading to weight loss. Another method involves setting a 16-hour fasting window, including time spent sleeping, which results in an 8-hour eating window. This method is best for people trying to gain muscle and lose fat with the addition of gym workouts, but this leads to an overall decrease in caloric intake in the long run even without additional exercise. These methods can seem a bit daunting and intermittent fasting isn’t for everyone. For those who do decide to take on intermittent fasting, it is important to consider personal goals and lifestyle when determining which method will work best for you.4

Physical activity

It is important not to forget physical activity. It is essential to move your body at every age. Exercise alone is not the best strategy for weight loss, but a sedentary life has been linked to higher rates of obesity. Including light to moderate exercise 1-3 days a week is great for your health and can help to shed a couple extra pounds.2

In summary, eating a calorie deficit is the primary way to lose weight. There are a variety of different methods of decreasing energy balance and the fewer calories that are consumed the more weight a person can potentially lose. With that, it is important to remember even the simplest changes can lead to positive results. Weight loss is a process and you have to stick with it to see results.



  1. Foxx M. America’s Obesity Epidemic Hits a New High. NBC News. http://1. Accessed October 21, 2016.
  2. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Interventions for the Treatment of Overweight and Obesity in Adults. http://2. Accessed October 21, 2016.
  3. Morin K. 5 intermittent Fasting methods: Which One is best for you? Diet & Nutrition. Accessed October 21, 2016.
  4. Cutting the fat: Does restrictive dieting work?; September 19, 2016. 10 benefits of intermittent Fasting. Accessed October 21, 2016.

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