Back in the day, “dieting,” meant cutting calories. It seemed simple enough—eat fewer calories than you burn and the pounds come off. But the truth is that constantly cutting calories causes your metabolic rate to slow down, which is the rate at which your body burns calories for energy. When you continue to cut calories, your body thinks it’s starving, and tries to conserve every calorie you eat, instead of burning it for energy. Meanwhile, you’re feeling lethargic, irritable and starving. You might lose a little weight initially, but depriving your body of the nutrients and calories it needs is not a long-term solution.
In fact, what might be most important is the types of food you are eating; studies show this may have a bigger effect on your weight than cutting calories. This is great news if you’re on Atkins, because cutting calories isn’t always necessary unless you are eating beyond your hunger cues—instead, you should be eating protein-rich foods like fish, poultry, lean meats, nuts, and yogurt, as well as eggs and cheese, in combination with high-quality, high fiber carbohydrates in the form of plenty of fresh vegetables, low glycemic fruits, and nuts, while avoiding refined grains, starches and sugar. In addition, it helps if you have a low-carb meal or snack every three to four hours because digesting food burns calories and keeps your metabolism humming along at a steady pace. This will help keep your appetite in check—you are managing your portions naturally, and when your hunger is under control, you’re less likely to eat more than you need.
You never really hear of people overeating salads filled with fresh vegetables, slices of grilled chicken and a delicious vinaigrette made from lemon, herbs and olive oil; you typically satisfy your hunger well before that point, while many of you have probably learned from experience that binging on a bag of greasy potato chips (and empty calories) or sugar-laden cookies from a package still doesn’t always satisfy your hunger. The end result is skyrocketing and then crashing blood sugar levels, a stomachache and a few extra pounds camping out on your waistline. But if you focus on eating right, not less, whether you’re dieting or not, this is a lifestyle you can follow.