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Diet Diva
Diet Diva

Get advice on healthy eating, nutrition, and weight loss from expert dietitian Tara Gidus. 

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How Low Can You Go?

I read an excellent article today on calorie restriction. Have you heard of this? I know you have heard dietitians and doctors talking for many years about reducing your calories to lose weight. But this concept of “calorie restriction” (CR) is taking it to the extreme. People subscribing to the CR philosophy eat far fewer calories than they need, to the level of a starvation diet. Some research has shown that it could prevent many chronic diseases and possibly extend life.

My problem is this: I love food. I love cooking food, eating food, socializing with friends around food, visiting new restaurants, trying new foods, etc. I have a sweet tooth and love chocolate. I work at balancing my intake with my exercise to maintain a healthy weight. If I were to subscribe to the diet recommended by advocates of CR, it would mean the end of a lot of fun times involving food.

As a dietitian, I advocate eating healthy most of the time. I believe in the 80/20 rule where most (80%) of your food is pretty darn healthy, but some (20%) of your diet can include foods that are not so healthy (but pretty darn tasty). An extremely low calorie diet as advocated with CR would not include that 20%. In addition, you would have to train your body to expect a lot less food, therefore feeling hungry quite often. It is well documented that very low calorie diets lead to a slower metabolic rate, causing people to continue to have to restrict calories to prevent weight gain.

To lose weight, you do need to somehow eat fewer calories than you are burning. But there is a big difference in what I advocate to lose weight and what is recommended with these CR diets. If you want to lose weight and reduce risk of chronic disease, cut out a few hundred calories and burn an additional few hundred calories.

My question is this: What is it worth it to you to potentially live a few more years? Is it worth it to you to literally starve yourself for years on end just to gain a few years when you are in your 90’s? I personally would rather have my cake and eat it, too (in moderation, of course). I have known many people in their 90’s who are independent and sharp. However, this is not the norm. Most elderly people need assistance for simple tasks of daily living and are not enjoying a happy life into their golden years.

Bottom Line

Medical science is advancing and people are living longer. However, I think we need to look at what is sacrificed to live that long. And more importantly, what is your quality of life going to be when you are 90? Enjoy food, enjoy life, but do everything in moderation!


Photo courtesy of celebdu
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About the Author


MS, RD, CSSD, LD/N

Tara Gidus is a nationally recognized expert and spokesperson on nutrition and fitness.

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