To start losing weight, you need to cut around 500 calories a day, but if you’re doing that and still not seeing results, you may need to take inventory of your diet.
“The most common mistakes people make when cutting calories are restricting necessary food groups, skipping meals, and choosing poor quality foods,” Kim Rose, RDN, told POPSUGAR. Eliminating essential nutrients or whole meals from your diet can cause the body to hang on to calories, resulting in a weight-loss plateau. And if you’re cutting calories while still eating highly processed foods, you may actually gain weight.
It’s also important to keep in mind that, while cutting calories can help you lose weight, doing so will have some short-term and long-term effects on your body and metabolism. From the beginning, “cutting calories can result in fatigue, headaches, irritability, and an increased hunger perception, which may possibly lead to overeating,” Kim said. “These side effects can be easily fixed if you cut calories the right way.” In the long-term, drastically reducing your calories may result in slashing certain nutrients, too, which can have consequences. “Cutting calories composed of iron, calcium, and protein can result in anemia, osteoporosis, and a low muscle mass,” she explained.
This makes it even more important to make sure you’re cutting calories safely. “An effective approach means consuming foods from all food groups, limiting sweetened beverages and fats, and choosing whole foods such as fruits, grains, protein, and vegetables that have a high nutritive value,” Kim said. To do this, she recommends swapping out white breads and pasta for whole-grain alternatives; eating fruit to curb your sweet tooth instead of processed, sugary foods; filling up on nonstarchy vegetables, quinoa, legumes, and other high-fiber foods to stay fuller longer; and focusing on lean meats and low-fat dairy to make sure you’re getting enough protein without excess fat and calories.