Nutrition Articles

8 Things You Always Wanted to Know about Dieting

Common Diet Questions Answered

Your best friend has the "secret" to guaranteed weight loss. So does the star of your favorite TV show. Your doctor advised you to just "eat less and exercise more." Your neighbor thinks all you have to do is give up bread. No wonder you're feeling confused! Here we tackle eight common diet questions and sort out the truth once and for all.

1.  How many calories should I eat so I don't go into "starvation mode?"
The amount of calories you need to eat to prevent your metabolism from slowing down (what people refer to as "starvation mode") will differ from person to person, depending on how much weight you need to lose and your genetics.  Most women shouldn't eat less than 1,200 calories a day (1,500 for men) simply because it's becomes really difficult to get adequate nutrition (fats, carbs, proteins, vitamins and minerals) to maintain health at such lower calorie levels. In general, to lose weight at a healthy rate that won't harm your body (or sap your energy levels), you should aim for no more than 1-2 pounds of weight-loss per week. (A pound of fat is roughly equal to 3,500 calories, so you'll need to cut or burn 500-1000 calories per day.) makes all of this simple by giving you a personalized daily calorie range (plus food and fitness trackers, meal plans and more) to reach your goal weight. So register for your free online account or download our mobile app today.

2.  Is there one food that I should absolutely avoid to lose weight?
The simple answer is no. "Remember that no single food causes weight gain," explains Registered Dietitian Becky Hand. "Weight management is based on total calorie intake—not the total restriction of certain foods, ingredients or food groups. All foods can fit into a healthy eating plan." Avoiding particular foods completely may cause you to crave them more, which could lead to binge eating for some people. For example, instead of banning chocolate from your life, you'll need to find a way to enjoy it in moderation, especially since you are likely to encounter the temptation of this food even if you don't keep it at home. The easiest way to do this is to find small portions that are individually packaged to prevent you from "reaching into the economy-sized bag" for more. Or, just get into the habit of putting anything you're going to eat on a plate and putting the rest of the package away to reduce the temptation to have "seconds." However, the biggest concern with cutting out whole food groups (think grains or dairy) is that you run the risk of eliminating essential nutrients from your diet that could actually make it more difficult for you to lose weight. While eliminating "non-essential" foods like soda, sugar, sweets and the like can help you lose weight and enhance your health, people lose and maintain weight loss and improve their health simply by cutting back on these foods rather than eliminating them entirely.
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About The Author

Megan Patrick Megan Patrick
Megan Lane Patrick has been a professional writer and editor for the past 16 years, and was a chronic dieter for at least 30. A combination of weight-loss surgery, mindful eating and daily exercise finally allowed her to maintain a weight loss of more than 100 pounds. When she's not lifting weights at the gym, you can find her walking shelter dogs as a volunteer for the SPCA.

Member Comments

  • Ephedra was not dangerous. I personally knew of no one who had suffered any side effects from it. We just considered it bad because the TV and FDA told us so. Goodness knows those two have NEVER lied. It was taken away from American consumers because it was a supplement that actually worked AND was without danger. - 8/24/2015 4:41:23 PM
  • The first question in the front page teaser asks Does chewing gum burn calories. No where in the article does it give the answer. Deceptive? - 6/24/2015 5:09:42 PM
    I love the article. Gave me some ideas. - 3/3/2015 10:36:10 AM
  • To my knowledge Alli has been off the market for quite some time. - 12/23/2014 7:15:34 PM
  • Lots of information. Thanks. - 10/27/2014 5:01:07 PM
    O.k. the whole thing about NOT cutting out sugar is bull. What about people who are so addicted to sugar that they sit there and eat enough sugar at one sitting to kill an elephant? Are they supposed to try to have a little every day anyway? Is that possible when they are so addicted to sugar that when they do it, they do it uncontrollably like a drug? Are they aware that sugar is an addictive substance, and therefore isn't an option for those of us who have developed a total addiction because if we do even a little, we get the taste for it and then want more? And by more I mean A LOT MORE! Don't encourage sugar consumption! We have a big enough problem with addictions and obesity in this country as it is! - 10/27/2014 10:39:12 AM
    There are about a BAZILLION things that can effect your diet, but armed with the good sound nutrition advice in this article you can learn to make the right choices for YOU! A little Spark People light comes on in my head every time I reach for an "illegal" (LOL!!!) snack. If I CHOOSE to consume that snack, then I better make up for it some way, that day or the next. Spark people is all about BALANCE and INFORMATION for the INDIVIDUAL. "It takes all kinds to make a world" is an old saying that I feel Spark People articles address, and knowing YOURSELF will help you choose what is right for you! - 10/27/2014 8:14:26 AM
  • The credentials of the author do not include any medical certifications and I disagree heartily with the "calories in/calories out" method for losing weight simply because it doesn't work for everyone - as CATLUVR06 also mentions. Consuming 500 calories less but eating processed (junk) food or foods that cause isulin spikes in an individual (this includes whole grains) and topping that off with diet sodas or artificial sweetners to "save" calories, is an extremely unhealthy way to lose weight.
    Sugar is the enemy in all it's forms - even fruit if you eat too much of it. Vegetables, good fats and proteins (grass-fed lean animal proteins if you're not vegetarian) are what should constitute a healthy diet.
    I wish Spark People did more to dispel the myth that success only comes with a calorie deficit and that you are free to consume all food groups - it's simply not good advice. - 7/17/2014 1:31:28 PM
  • Great article! I agree with everything, especially number 1. I've often told my friends who insist on very low calorie diets that they are just "shooting themselves in the foot" - 5/27/2014 10:07:48 PM
  • Thanks for sharing - 11/9/2013 5:39:00 AM
    I have read ALL comments, but I still maintain that a HEALTHY diet AND daily exercises, it does not matter how long you do the exercises for, are the best ways to lose weight. I have lost 7kg in 7 weeks and I feel SO GREAT, I want to just continue with my new lifestyle! Cutting out TOTALLY on pastries, sodas, processed foods and juices and CHOCOLATES, has TOTALLY helped me. - 8/29/2013 1:14:04 AM
  • RE: Starvation Mode

    Unless you have extremely low body fat there is no reason to think that your body will go into starvation mode. This is a huge myth.
    Typically a dieter will PLATEAU. This means that you are not doing enough, or you are doing to much in regards to your diet/exercise.
    But STARVATION mode is a long ways off! - 8/28/2013 12:23:59 PM
  • Some good tips, but all based on faulty "calories in/calories out" model. This has been shown by current research not to be the most effective way to lose weight. It does not take into account people's metabolisms, or that different foods are processed differently by the body. For instance, protein takes more work to digest, giving it a greater calorie burn, plus it gives increased satiety. Also the quality of calories are important - our country suffers from increased obesity related health issues, yet we keep piling on the processed foods, including them in our diets. Eating a diet with fresh whole foods is a first step to a healthy lifestyle. You mention not cutting out whole food groups such as grains or dairy. I have done just that - I rarely eat grains and I have cut way back on dairy. I don't have hardly any cravings, I am satisfied, and I am losing weight at a steady and healthy pace. It is erroneous to say that you are missing nutrients by not eating these foods - what am I missing by not eating bread, pasta, or cheese? What nutrients am I not getting that I cannot get elsewhere, and probably in greater quantities and better quality foods? Just saying, there is so much more information available on losing weight and getting healthy in a more effecient, healthy manner than this theory. - 8/20/2013 9:39:26 AM
  • Great article. Thank you - 7/17/2013 1:23:54 PM
  • interestiong - 7/17/2013 6:30:20 AM

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