When you hear someone say that you should try “calorie restriction“, you might feel as if this involves starving yourself, day after day, and forgoing all of the foods that you really enjoy. This couldn’t be further from the truth in my experience. When you practice a calorie restriction diet, you should be including a wide range of foods in your diet, so that you meet all the nutrient requirements that your body needs to thrive.
It’s not simply about just eating less of everything, but it’s about eating more quality foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds; which will naturally lead to you consuming fewer calories overall. In fact, many people who start calorie restriction quickly realize that they find it hard to consume enough calories and some people end up losing more weight than they thought they would.
A calorie restriction diet is about providing your body with the best nutrients so that you can live your life to its full potential. The body adapts, depending on the environment we live in and how daily habits. So, while it might not be the best idea to embark on a calorie restriction diet if you are a marathon runner, rock climber, or serious martial artist, it can be good for the vast majority of people who live the more sedentary lifestyle and also only exercise moderately to keep themselves fit and in shape.
In some places like Japan, it’s not uncommon to see skinny people everywhere. It’s normal for people to have food portion sizes that are much smaller than people in the west consume. In the west, people eat too much food and this is why we see the obesity crisis today. It’s not enough to try and exercise away calories you’ll get from eating a large portion of fries or a burger. The most important thing is what you’re putting inside your body, that’s where you should focus your efforts first if you want to get healthy.
Here’s a quote by Jack Lalanne: “What you eat today, you will wear tomorrow!”
Remember, everything that you put into your body determines how you feel and look. We are complex and resilient machines that can really take a lot of insults and damage before we notice the physical effects of a bad diet. Heart attacks don’t just appear suddenly, the damage gradually builds up over time. Sometimes we can quickly see the effects of bad dietary choices because they show up on our waistlines and make us look tired and ill.
Calorie restriction is about making the best choices and packing the most nutrition into our diets. When you do this, the results will come! You will lose weight, have more energy, and start to look healthier. A common mistake when starting the diet will be as I mentioned above: people eat too little and feel tired all of the time.
This diet is not about eating a lettuce leaf, a carrot stick, and a celery stick for dinner. On a calorie restriction diet, you can eat a lot of food! On an average day when I first started this diet, it was normal for me to consume around 5 lbs of vegetables and fruits every day!
Don’t eat too little; but also don’t eat too much!
I’ve seen many posts by well-known YouTubers who are recommending 30 Bananas a day and an unlimited amount of calories. It all looks good on the surface but it will do terrible damage over the long term. Unfortunately, people are attracted to these fad diets.
To be able to eat an unlimited amount of calories and be able to stay lean with no short term or long term negative effects? Everything we know about health and longevity says that overeating is a bad thing for our health. Vegan diets’ should have a wide range of foods to get all the essential nutrients and not limit yourself to one food group.
Another bad thing about 30 bananas a day is the excessive intake of sugar. Sugar is very detrimental to health in the long run. It’s such a convenient idea to live off of bananas because they taste great and are quite cheap to buy, but the diet does not hold up to scrutiny. In my opinion, 30 bananas a day is one of the worst diets to come out of the vegan community in recent years.
Many people in this 30 bananas a day community equate doing calorie restriction with a messed up metabolism. Again, this is not true. People on calorie restriction show extremely good health and a healthy metabolic profile. We have multiple studies which back up this claim.
I’m not against eating fruits either, but the vast majority of my calories come from vegetables, olive oil, legumes, and maybe some whole grains.
Why we do CR
Longevity for many people on a CR diet is simply a bonus. If people doing calorie restriction for the last 20 years or more felt bad, they would not still be doing it. If on the other hand, you are feeling bad, then maybe you really do need to eat a bit more food. Maybe you need to focus on your nutrition more and make sure you are getting everything you need.
One observation I’ve made (and also from experience) is that you need to pay attention to things like protein, omega 3, and zinc, which can be difficult to get on vegan diets, so in these cases, you could supplement.
For myself, CR is simply a tool that I use to enable me to live long enough to benefit from the advances in science and technology to extend my lifespan. If calorie restriction was not working for me and my blood work was off or I felt horrible, I would simply change my diet and even consider increasing my calorie intake.
Practicing calorie restriction has improved my health in numerous ways and over the years. I’ve learned so much about nutrition and health and I’ve also started to eat a lot more variety of foods. I eat so many different foods now compared to when I was eating a standard diet. And the best part is that I really enjoy the foods I eat, so it is easy for me to stick to.
We cannot afford to be delusional and develop biases that lead us to make bad decisions. We must think rationally and act accordingly as we acquire new information.
We must be open-minded, use our intuition, experiences, and also use science to guide our decisions.
Calorie restriction is not a starvation diet because starvation typically leads to ill health, frailty, and death. Calorie restriction leads to a much healthier and much longer life. It’s backed up by 80 years of good studies and thousands of experiments. The diet works to slow aging and improve health in every species tested.
As long as you’re sensible and take the right approach, the diet can work for you. You will add years to your life. Not bad years, but very good years. You will also feel and look younger for a longer period of time. And it’s not “all or nothing” either! Even milder forms of CR can offer some protection against the diseases of aging and even increase your lifespan.
Article reviewed and updated: February 2019.