Hi! I'm your SANE concierge. What can I help you find today?

Scientific Fact: Eating Less Is Harmful and Doesn’t Lead To Lasting Fat Loss

While researching weight loss, University of Wisconsin researchers R.E. Keesey and M.D. Hirvonen discovered that “metabolism declines by an amount significantly in excess of that expected from the loss in metabolically active tissue. We have observed a drop of 24.6% in daily resting energy expenditure when the body weight of rats was reduced (by caloric restriction) by 14.9%.”

Translation: Studies suggest that starving our way to a ~15% drop in body weight can cause a disproportionate ~25% drop in metabolic rate.

If we want to burn fat and keep it off, the last thing we want to do is disproportionately slow down our body. If we want to improve our health, the last thing we want to do is deprive our body of nutrition. Therefore, if we want to be slimmer and healthier for the rest of our life–very different from merely weighing less in the short term–the last thing we want to do is eat less of our existing diet. We will be better served by eating more–but higher-quality–food, and doing less–but higher-quality (more forceful)–exercise. This protects our metabolism, prevent overeating, provide abundant nutrition, and produce a hormonal environment perfect for burning body fat.

“[We] reviewed studies of the long-term outcomes of calorie-restricting diets to assess whether dieting is an effective treatment for obesity…In sum, there is little support for the notion that diets lead to lasting weight loss or health benefits.” – T. Mann, University of California

“In practically every instance the weight prior to the beginning of the (lose weight by eating less) experiment was reached almost immediately and was usually materially exceeded.” – F.G. Benedict,  Carnegie Institution of Washington

“A general public health recommendation for weight reduction through dieting cannot be supported strongly with existing data.” – D.S. Weigle, University of Washington

The science is clear. The confusion comes from diet and exercise industry funded marketing and myths. It is a scientific fact that lasting fat loss and improved health is not about eating less of the diet that caused the problem in the first place.  It’s about eating more, but of different types of foods. It’s about eating more–but smarter.

  1. Weigle DS. Human obesity. Exploding the myths. West J Med. 1990 Oct;153(4):421-8. Review. PubMed PMID: 2244378; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC1002573.
  2. Benedict, Francis Gano. Human Vitality and Efficiency under Prolonged Restricted Diet,. Washington: Carnegie Institution of Washington, 1919. Print.
  3. Keesey RE, Hirvonen MD. Body weight set-points: determination and adjustment. J Nutr. 1997 Sep;127(9):1875S-1883S. Review. PubMed PMID: 9278574.
  4. Mann T, Tomiyama AJ, Westling E, Lew AM, Samuels B, Chatman J. Medicare’s search for effective obesity treatments: diets are not the answer. Am Psychol. 2007 Apr;62(3):220-33. Review. PubMed PMID: 17469900.