Skip to main content
Get Care MyChart Find a Provider Find a Location
Rachel C Johnson
About the author
Rachel C Johnson

Calories are king, but don't restrict to the extreme.

Typically when trying to lose weight, people will restrict their calories. Very often they restrict them to a severe degree–sometimes cutting back to half of what they were typically consuming. While it is true that weight loss must come from caloric restriction, under eating to the extreme is counter-productive to weight loss.

  • You will be overly hungry. Imagine trying to drive your car the normal distance to work but with half the gasoline required to get you there. You would have to stop frequently to refill so you could keep going. Your body becomes acclimated to your normal caloric intake and when you cut back drastically you will feel very strong hunger signals. This is because your body is programmed to avoid starvation. By cutting back gradually, a few hundred calories at a time, you can avoid the strong hunger pains and set yourself up for success.
  • You will have rebound overeating. Skipping meals can seem like a great way to cut back on calories, but it nearly always backfires. This is because your body does not forget that you didn't eat breakfast or lunch, and by the time you eat dinner you're so hungry you are almost guaranteed to overeat. Focus on making small reductions at each meal, to create an overall deficit.
  • You will be focused on food. When you are severely restricting, you will be fatigued, hungry and generally only able to focus on food. For example, if I say don't think about the pen in your hand, all you will be able to do is focus on the pen in your hand. Restricting food, eliminating your favorite foods, cutting out too much of the "good stuff" will result in thinking about those things almost constantly.

It doesn't need to be this difficult. Try to make sustainable changes that you can keep up, like swapping the soda for water at lunch or having a smaller portion of your main entrée with a heartier serving of a veggie side item. Over time, reevaluate where additional changes need to occur. These little changes will add up to big results in the long term and won't be so difficult to follow in the short term.

Related articles

Woman in exercise clothing eating healthy bowl.

Protein takeover: How much is really needed per day?

Protein's superpower is its ability to satiety. Gundersen's dietitian shares protein options and how much protein you should aim to eat daily.
woman doing dumbbell curl

What exercise burns the most calories?

Discover the benefits of anaerobic and high-intensity workouts, which help burn calories and improve overall fitness. Start your calorie-burning journey today.
Nutrition and your mental health

The link between nutrition and your mental health

The foods you eat can positively impact your brain function, mood and mental health. Apply this “back to the basics” approach of focusing on simple, healthy food for the brain
Is my child getting enough fiber

How much fiber does my child need?

Learn about the importance of fiber in a child’s diet and how to incorporate high-fiber foods for kids.

1900 South Ave.
La Crosse, WI 54601

(608) 782-7300

Language Support:
Jump back to top