How many calories do you have to cut to lose one pound? This all too common a weight loss question seems to have a simple answer, leading to millions of people calorie counting and cutting calories every single day. However, the truth is, what nutritionists have been telling us for years and years, is actually a total myth.
The weight loss rule that’s totally wrong
There’s a popular rule you’ve probably heard before about losing weight: for every 3,500 calories you shed from your diet, you’ll lose a pound. But just because everyone, including nutritionists with graduate degrees, keep repeating this doesn’t make it true.
In fact, it’s a total myth.
As soon as we start cutting calories from our diet, the number of calories our body expends begins to fall. “It literally starts happening on the first day,” said Hall. “And it continues to mount as you lose weight.”
“Over time, the more weight you lose, the more your metabolic rate drops,” explained John Peters, a leading researcher at the Anschutz Health and Wellness Center at the University of Colorado. “In order to keep losing weight at the rate you started losing weight, you’re going to have to eat even fewer calories. A month in, you might have to eat another hundred fewer; a month after that you might have to drop it another hundred.”
The disappointing reality dieters face is that our bodies work tirelessly to defend our weight, even when that weight isn’t ideal. The metabolic changes are actually only one of three biological adjustments that follow severe cuts in calories—there are neurological and hormonal changes that happen too, both of which make losing weight and keeping it off a significant challenge. In fact, it can be nearly impossible. For these reasons some researchers say diets don’t actually work.
Hall prefers to say that losing weight is difficult. Most people who try to lose weight, he says, end up back to where they started in less than a year. But he blames popular but misleading rules for the long-term failure of so many diets.
“People don’t have the time or energy or know-how to sift through myths like the 3,500 calorie rule,” said Hall. “So they believe them, and tailor their behavior to them.”
It’s hard enough to tell tell fact from fiction in the nutrition world, where popular fads often speak louder than science. But it’s nearly impossible when the same lie is printed in practically every nutrition textbook.
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