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As long as you consume fewer calories than you burn, you should lose weight, right? Well, that's not strictly true. Here's why... Th...




As long as you consume fewer calories than you burn, you should lose weight, right? Well, that's not strictly true. Here's why...

The idea behind the CICO (calories in, calories out) weight-loss strategy is that in order to lose weight, you can eat anything you like as long as you take in fewer calories than you burn every day. In other words, it doesn't matter what you eat, but rather how much of it you eat.

Calories do have a [raring on weight loss, but it's not as simple as a direct relationship. Most nutritionists agree that CICO has more to do with shedding kilos fast than it dæs with shifting your attitude towards food, and as such is unsustainable in the long term. A CICO strategy may help you lose weight, but it won't necessarily help you create a better relationship with food, or create healthy food habits to ensure that you keep the weight off once you've lost it. 


With CICO, calorie counting is put front and centre. To maintain a stable weight, the calories you take in need to balance, not exceed, those you burn; to lose weight, you need to burn more calories than you consume. That is what's important, not what those calories are made up of. For example, if your daily calorie intake is capped at 1 500 in order to lose weight, the theory goes that you could eat ice cream and to fill those 1 500 calories and still lose weight by staying within the calorie limit.

But the reality is, our individual experiences with weight loss and our needs are vastly different, which makes it difficult to accurately determine how much weight can be sustainably lost using the CICO method. And, when it comes to weight management, there are many other factors to consider, such as metabolism and individual health concerns.

As humans we also have different hormonal responses to different types of f(Xkl, even if we have individual health concerns. Reduced hunger and controlling the production of insulin are key for sustainable weight loss. Carbohydrates have the most profound impact on insulin levels. Thus lower carbohydrate intake can help to reduce aprx•tite, as well as limit and control the responses of the hormones insulin, glucagon and leptin. Your endocrine glands secrete hormones using your bloodstream to regulate certain internal processes. When your hormones are in balance, your metabolism is reslx)nsible for maintaining how many calories your body burns when active and when at rest.

The two important hormones that shape your hunger signals are leptin and ghrelin. Put very simply, leptin decreases your appetite, and ghrelin increases it. Once your normal energy maintenance levels are reached, overeating can numb the leptin receptors in your brain, leading to leptin resistance and, ultimately, weight gain over time.

Research suggests that excess insulin can make you fat — and also keep you fat. When you eat sugary foods or drinks, you keep your insulin working overtime to lower your blood sugar levels — which it clæs by storing the excess sugar as fat. Once your body finishes absorbing glucose and other nutrients from your blood-stream, it turns to your body's fat stores for energy, which is when your bcxly enters its fat-burning mode. Insulin increases the storage of fat in the fat cells, and it prevents fat cells from releasing fat to be burnt for energy.

Either way, it's clear that your hormones need to be in a balanced state for you to lose weight, which makes calories less impactful in the process. Rather than cutting calories and dealing with the constant hunger, unrelenting cravings and low energy, use focxl to balance your hormones and these effects.

Different focxls can affect your hormone levels in different ways. Glucuse and fructose are a good example. These two simple sugars provide the same number of calories per gram, but your body metabolises them differently.

A diet too rich in added fructose (not the type naturally found in fruit) is linked to insulin resistance, increased blood sugar levels and higher triglyceride and LDL cholesterol levels — all higher than a diet providing the same number of calories from glucose.

On top of that, all calories are not created equal. Remember that your nutrient intake will also impact your hunger and feeling of fullness. A serving of protein will reduce your hunger way more effectively than eating a 100-calorie serving of because fo(k-ls that are rich in protein are more filling than foods that aren't. The sweets will also most likely lead you to overeat later in the day, as glucose tends to increase your ghrelin levels.

It's clear that different affect your metabolism differently: some require more work to digest, absorb or metabolise than others. The measure to quantify this work is called the thermic effect of focxl (TEF). The higher the TEF, the more energy a food source requires to metabolised. Protein has the highest TEF, and fat has the lowest. This means that a high-protein diet requires more calories to metabolised than a low-protein diet does.

In the end, different foods can impact your hormones, hunger, feeling of fullness and metabolism differently regardless of the number of calories they contain.

Although fcrusing on the number of calories you eat day could help you lose weight, it's not a healthy or sustainable solution if you don't take into account the kinds of you're eating too. Eating unhealthy has negative effects regardless of calorie limitations.

Potential problems with a CICO diet

• Vitamin and other nutrient 

• Lack of energy 

• Digestive issues 

• Lack of sustainability

• Inflammation 

• Sluggish metabolism 


A CICO strategy may look good on but weight loss and general health are far more complex than putting numbers into an online basal metabolic rate (BMR) calculator. Our bodily functions are influenced by factors beyond calorie counting, and should carefully considered before jumping onto what seems like the simplest way to drop weight.

CICO is associated with weight loss, but it is not the basis of a healthy or sustainable way of eating. Because CICO places no emphasis on nutrients, it could have significant negative effects. The quality, composition and management of a diet are components that make for a healthy, happy body.

6  ways to change your diet to help control your hormones

• Eat more high-fibre foods, which will help to delay gastric emptying and increase satiety. Cruciferous vegetables, nuts and seeds are riCh in fibre and low in carbohydrates.

• Focus on protein and healthy fats, as this has little impact on your blood sugar. By shitnng your macronutrient composition to include more protein and fat sources, you will ultimately reduce your insulin production by reducing blood sugar spikes.

• Reduce your consumption of highly palatable foods, as these foods lack nutrients and limit your ability to feel hunger. Tasty snack foods like potato chips are difficult to put downonce the packet has been opened; it's much easier to halve your portion of broccoli!

• Limit your consumption of sugar, especially added sugar sources, as too much sugar has an impact on your insulin levels and can lead to increased cravings and hunger. If you're craving sweetness, opt for fibre-rich fresh fruit like berries — the fibre content helps to slow down the blood sugar response.

• Practise mindful eating. Finding mindfulness in your relationship with food can also affect your food intake. When you feel hungry, ask yourself whether you are truly hungry or just bored, stressed or distracted.

• Get good sleep. Various studies have shown that getting less than seven hours of sleep on a regular basis can disrupt digestive enzymes, causing hunger and cravings.

How to create a healthy meal pattern


• Select foods based on their nutrient density rather than their calorie content.

• Incorporate foods like healthy fats and proteins, which promote satiety and leave you feeling full for longer. 

• Staying active may not make you lose weight per se, but it's an excellent way to increase serotonin levels, thereby increasing your feeling of wellbeing.

• Prioritise your health by eating foods that address your individual health concerns. 

• Develop useful methods to manage stress.

• Drink enough water.  

By shifting your macronutrient composition to include more protein and fat oourceø, you will ultimately reduce your insulin production by reducing blood sugar.