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Calorie Restriction Diet Plan

Updated on July 9, 2009

What Is a Calorie Restriction Diet Plan?

A calorie restriction diet involves following a strict regimen of counting daily caloric intake. Many diet plans involve cutting and counting calories, but there are a number of people who advocate calorie counting not simply as a weight loss tool, but as a lifestyle.

Dr. Oz (of Oprah fame) is one of the public figures who has come forward in support of calorie restriction. Tony Robbins, the motivational speaker and author, has also written extensively in support of it. There is evidence that calorie conservation can slow the aging process, but anyone considering a calorie restriction diet plan should weigh all the potential benefits and risks before adopting this nutritional philosophy.

How to Read a Food Label

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

Calorie Restriction Benefits

Research has indicated that calorie restriction (abbreviated CR) lowers blood pressure, bad cholesterol, and body fat percentage in humans. Since humans live relatively long, it's difficult to monitor the effects on aging, but CR-supporters have several animal studies to back up the claim that calorie restriction also promotes longer life. A study from the 1930's showed that rats on a reduced-calorie diet had a lifespan twice as long as their counterparts. A 2006 experiment found that a restricted diet lowered the incidence of Alzheimer's-like changes in the brains of squirrel monkeys.

There are several theories about why calorie restriction might increase lifespan. The most recent scientific findings indicate it might be that the low-level stress placed on the body by a reduced-calorie diet places it in a defensive state to survive what it perceives as famine, which helps protect it against the causes of aging. Dr. Oz has said that feeding your body less causes it to become more efficient with what it gets, which is an idea in a similar vein.

As far as benefits like lowered LDL cholesterol, body fat, and blood pressure, these are fairly easily explained by the fact that most citizens of Western countries are overfed (in terms of calories) in the first place. Being more aware of what you are eating, as you are forced to be when you're counting calories, changes the food choices you make. Looking at a nutrition label (above right) to tally calories forces you to look at the cholesterol, saturated fat, and sugar contents of your food. When you are on a calorie budget, you tend to pick foods with more "bang for their buck," nutritionally--foods that are more filling, with less excess calories. You may also consume more fruits and vegetables, with the natural nutrients your body needs to function optimally.

Risks of Calorie Restriction

One of the major and most obvious dangers in restricting calories is that malnutrition is extremely unhealthy and sometimes deadly.  Some groups recommend between 1700 and 1800 calories a day, which is more in the reasonable range for adult women, but when calorie cutting is taken to extremes for long periods of time, it has devastating effects on your body.  Another risk is that, even if you are taking in enough energy, you may not be getting all of the essential vitamins and minerals that you need for optimal functioning.

There are also mental and emotional side effects to calorie restriction.  It can be difficult to count calories in restaurants and social settings.  Obsessing about everything that passes your lips can add a lot of stress to your life, which may reduce your quality of life and your enjoyment of food itself.  Calorie restriction can also be addictive.  People with obsessive-compulsive tendencies or with bad body image can easily cross the line into the realm of eating disorders.

Should I Restrict Calories?

If you have an obsessive personality or have struggled with disordered eating or compulsive dieting before, it's a bad idea to tempt yourself with calorie counting.  If you're looking for quick weight loss or an instant solution for all your health ills, you'll be disappointed.  If you're going to beat yourself up or stress about moments where counting calories is simply impossible, don't put yourself in that position.

If you aren't an obsessive type and want to make a long-term commitment to change for the goal of health, rather than weight loss, you may receive some satisfaction from this lifestyle, but I highly recommend concentrating on portion control and balanced nutrition instead, and only under the supervision of a good doctor or licensed nutritionist.


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    • profile image

      Denise B DuBose 6 years ago

      I can loose the weight by simply cutting portion's in half.

    • Sissi Ravano profile image

      Theskha 7 years ago from The Beautiful Ligurian Sea, Arm Of The Mediterranean Sea

      Yes, it does important to count calories we consumed. But over obsessing on it is unhealthy, and could lead to a person arrived to a depression.

    • Spider Girl profile image

      Spider Girl 7 years ago from the Web

      Quite informative hub, thanks for sharing, rated useful!

    • profile image

      riley 7 years ago

      that's not true... counting calories is VERY IMPORTANT if you want to lose weight.

    • Sissi Ravano profile image

      Theskha 7 years ago from The Beautiful Ligurian Sea, Arm Of The Mediterranean Sea

      Very useful informations you have here. I do believe as well everything is very much control by our mind. Our mind should say always eat healthy with good portion and our mind says as well that 'I am not fat and I am not over eating my self'. No stress whatsoever of obsessing how much calories we consume each day. Only good energy on this one. As many that I know of let them self come to a depression and not enjoying life to the fullest, just because worrying about their weight everyday.

    • katacham profile image

      katacham 8 years ago from United Kingdom

      i used to calorie count obsessively. It got to the point where i would cry if i ate more than 800 in a day. Naturally this wasn't a great situation to be in, but i eventually got control and calorie counted normally. From this experience i think that you also need a decent background of support from friends and family members if you are an obsessive type. Great article :)

    • ledefensetech profile image

      ledefensetech 8 years ago from Cape Girardeau, MO

      It's not the calories that matter so much, it's the types of foods you eat. High carbs high sugar diets are a sure ticket to obesity and diabetes. I know. I'm a living example. The good news is that you can successfully control your weight. I look at a glycemic index chart and try to keep my selections to food items under 50 on the index. I find that I have much better glucose control and it's very helpful in helping me lose weight. Using this system and doing something as simple as walking has enabled me to lose about 50 lbs. If you don't have diabetic problems, a few weeks of restricting yourself to 50 or less on the GI should be enough to show improvement. Even better, once you reach a weight you're comfortable with, you can add back those above 50 foods. Just keep an eye on how much of those foods you eat and you'll be able to enjoy the new-found you.

    • RGraf profile image

      Rebecca Graf 8 years ago from Wisconsin

      My problem with this is the time and energy used to track calories. I'm so busy in life that I dread adding anything else to it.

    • girly_girl09 profile image

      girly_girl09 8 years ago from United States

      I eat low calories but do not count them anymore. Never again! It is stressful to do and like you said very time consuming. Instead, one day I prepared a list of my favorite, healthy foods and now choose a few items to create healthy meals that I know are low calories. I don't have to track anything this way and love it.

    • Joel Marison profile image

      Joel Marison 8 years ago from Singapore

      Calorie restriction diet plan is certainly a good thing to follow especially if you are to achieve a higher level of fitness. Cut down sugar and you will automatically cut down more of your calories. This is the devil hidden in most people daily diet.

    • Philipo profile image

      Philipo 8 years ago from Nigeria

      This is a detailed hub. Thanks for your advice.

    • higharc91 profile image

      higharc91 8 years ago

      i like showed some views i had never seen before

    • ronibgood profile image

      ronibgood 8 years ago

      Interesting article.

    • rb11 profile image

      rb11 8 years ago from Las Vegas

      I read where there are good calories and bad calories, just like cholesterol. What is your take on this?


    • melshomecorner profile image

      Melinda Winner 8 years ago from Mississippi

      Very Helpful thank you

    • Watch Tower profile image

      Watch Tower 8 years ago from New Zealand

      Hi Maddie

      thanks for a very imforamtive peice about ones diet options