The Calorie Counter: Why Eating Less Makes You Fat and What to do Instead

Calorie counting has been the bane of many people’s existence over the last couple of decades. Thanks to programs such as WeightWatchers (or WW as of late) and other calorie counting pushers, we’ve been suckered into believing that eating less is the way to go when it comes to fat loss.

I know what you’re thinking, “But, Jerry, my Aunt Sallie does WW and she’s lost 20lbs”.

And I would not argue with that point. There are many success stories of people going through calorie counting programs and losing weight. There are 2 distinctions that I want to bring out to help you see how calorie counting may get you in trouble in the long-haul:

#1) The difference between losing WEIGHT and losing FAT, and…

#2) What happens to those calorie counters AFTER they’ve lost the weight and gone off the diet.

First, to get us started, let’s begin by understanding the difference between weight loss and fat loss.

Weight Loss VS Fat Loss

Let’s say that we had twin brothers trying to lose weight together. Each one of them is starting at 250lbs.

Let’s say twin #1, we’ll call him Sam, weighs 180lbs and is about 20% body fat. That means that he has approximately 36lbs of fat on his body, leaving the rest for muscle, connective tissue, organs, and bones.

Twin #2, we’ll call him Fred, also weighs 180lbs but is 10% body fat. That means that Fred has about 18lbs of fat on his body as opposed to the 36lbs left on Sam.

Both Sam and Fred lost 70lbs (you with me so far? I know it’s probably been a while since you’ve had to do with much instance math). Yet Fred lost 18 more pounds of FAT than Fred. But how did this happen?

Sam likely went on a calorie-restricted diet, counting his calories, making sure to stay below, say, 1200 calories a day. Because, after all, we all know that you need to create a calorie deficit to lose weight. And what better way to create a deficit than to eat fewer calories.

Fred, on the other hand, probably decided to keep his overall calorie number the same, but change the quality of the calories he is taking in. To help create the deficit he needs, instead of cutting calories, he decides to start exercising regularly and going for a walk, hikes and bike rides.

As you can see, both Sam and Fred have created the calorie deficit necessary for taking off excess weight. The difference comes in the strategy they used and what type of weight the body decided to burn in order to offset that deficit.

What Happens When You Eat Too Few Calories?

Depending on your body type and size, the body NEEDS a certain number of calories in order to feel like it’s not going into starvation. And, once in starvation, the body will burn any tissue that is using up energy and hang onto any tissue that it can keep for later energy.

For instance, our first twin, Sam, decided to cut his calories to 1200 a day. For a 250lb man, this put his body into starvation mode. Once that happened, his body started burning the active tissue that requires energy to keep around. This is called muscle.

And, instead of taking the unsightly fat that he was trying to get rid of, his body kept the fat because it is STORED energy. In other words, because the body thought it was starving, it burned the tissue that needs energy and kept the tissue that it can use for later energy.

In effect, Sam still ended up achieving his goal weight loss. But possibly to the detriment of his health and longevity due to the loss of his high-quality muscle tissue.

Why is it Bad to Lose Weight Through Caloric Restriction?

I’m sure the next question you’re thinking is, “Well, if he lost the weight he wanted to lose, why is it bad to restrict calories in the first place?”. And that’s a wonderful question to ask because it brings us to our second point and a question for you as well…

Have you are a friend/family member ever lost at least 20lbs? And, if you/they have, have you had to lose it again? Meaning, did you put the weight BACK ON and have to take it BACK OFF?

This is what happens to many people who go on calorically restricted diets (which is why the word “diet” gets a bad rap…it’s short-term). They lose weight, only to put it back on to do it all over again.

The irony is, if you do a little research to understand some human physiology, it’s absolutely predictable that this would happen.

What Happens After You Lose Weight Through Caloric Restriction?

You see, eating a diet low in calories leads you to be weak and tired. This is simply because your body NEEDS a certain number of calories to function properly and give you sufficient energy to survive. When you take those calories away, your energy goes down.

Therefore, eventually, you’re going to have to increase your calories back to normal levels eventually. Unless, of course, you enjoy feeling tired and lethargic. In which case you’re certainly welcome to continue your calorie-restricted endeavors.

This is where the strategy of losing weight by eating less comes to bite most people in the. Butt (generally by making the butt bigger, but we’ll get to that in a second). Like I mentioned before, when you eat less than normal, the body thinks you’re starving it. And, once you decide to go back to your regular calorie intake, the body rejoices because it finally has the energy it needs to function properly!

That’s great, right? Well, the body doesn’t rejoice with more weight loss. On the contrary, the body rejoices by storing MORE energy (read “storing more fat”) for later use. You see, because you’ve put your body through a time of starvation, it’s going to store as much energy as possible, as fast as possible, in case that time comes again.

This phenomenon is actually a real thing with a real name. Researchers call this “fat super accumulation”. Essentially, fat super accumulation is the process of your body storing excess fat after a period of starvation in order to protect it from starving in the future.

Sounds crazy, but it’s true. When you starve your body, it will do what needs to do in order to stay alive. Even if that means going against your wishes and adding a little extra cushion on that backside.

What to do INSTEAD of Eating Less

Like I’ve mentioned a couple of times in this article, the way to proper fat loss is through a caloric deficit. The trick is maintaining a proper amount of calories while not making the body feel like it’s being starved to death.

So, here’s a simple 3 step process you can put into place to make sure you keep your calories in check while creating a caloric deficit to lose FAT and create that toned, tight body you’re looking for:


No, that doesn’t mean that you can go to Whole Foods and eat anything they have in the store. What I mean is only eating “whole foods”. In other words, if it has more than one ingredient, don’t eat it.

Many fad diets have a tendency to interrupt your life. Instead, this step will take out the processed foods that are accumulating the fat around your midsection and replace them with nutrient-rich foods that your body can utilize for abundant energy.


NEAT is an acronym that stands for Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis. In other words, NEAT is the energy you burn through activity OTHER THAN exercise.

That means things like going for a walk, going for a hike, hitting the bike trails, cutting the grass, cleaning the house, and helping your neighbor move. As a matter of fact, you could be burning as much as 2,000 extra calories a day through NEAT movement.


MRT is another acronym that stands for Metabolic Resistance Training. Hands down, this is one of the most effective types of exercise for burning calories and creating the caloric deficit you’re looking for.

Basically, MRT is a combination of resistance training and interval training. A basic workout might look something like this:

Body Squat                  x20 seconds

Bear Crawls                 x20seconds

Split Squat Jumps        x20 seconds

Plank                           x20 seconds

REST                            x60 seconds

Repeat 3-5 times

Nothing fancy here, but you get the point.

So just remember, the next time you’re tempted by cutting calories to lose weight, you don’t want to jump on the yo-yo wagon and end up like 90% of the rest of people of diet regularly.

Incorporate these strategies into your routine and you’ll build a much more sustainable approach to fat loss, healthy living and abundant energy for the long-haul.

Are you in your 50s (or close to it!) and ready to build healthier habits into your lifestyle? 

Schedule your FREE Strategy Session so we can pick a personalized plan 

that will work just for you!

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