Can I lose weight effectively by eating less food?

Rich Fahmy , NASM Elite Trainer
Fitness Specialist

Eating less may be a good place to start because these small changes may not feel dramatic, and you will likely lose weight because you are now eating fewer calories than before. However, changing the quality of foods you eat will have a better long term impact on weight loss and weight maintenance. It's important that your hunger is kept at bay and that you have optimal amounts of energy to move more (the other side of the weight loss equation). Eating less to start with and moving in baby steps toward higher volume, lower calorie nutrient dense food choices will keep you feeling better, satiated and more active.

Judy Caplan
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist

You can always lose weight by eating less food. Eating less will help you take in fewer calories. When you cut calories you generally start to lose weight. Whenever you eat less you want to make sure the food you are eating is nutritious. Cut out the obvious high calorie culprits like soda, sweets, processed and fried foods.

Dr. Pierre Dukan
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist

In general eating less food than your body needs can slow your metabolism unless you manage to eat enough proteins to fuel and repair your body. When you manage to introduce a diet limited to protein foods, the body cannot use all the calories contained in the food. The body takes the proteins needed for survival and for the vital maintenance of its organs (muscles, blood cells, skin, hair, nails), and it makes poor and scant use of the other calories provided.

To assimilate 100 calories of pure protein—egg whites, lean fish or nonfat cottage cheese—the task is enormous. This is because protein is composed of an aggregate of very long chains of molecules whose basic links, amino acids, are connected to each other by a strong bond that requires a lot more work to be broken down. It takes 30 calories just to assimilate the proteins, leaving only 70 usable calories. At the end of the day, after eating 1,500 calories worth of proteins, a substantial intake, only 1,050 calories remain after digestion. This is one of the Dukan Diet’s keys and one of the reasons why it is so effective.

Eating sweet foods or fats does create a superficial feeling of satiety, all too soon swept away by the return of hunger. Recent studies have proved that snacking on sweet or fatty foods does not delay your urge to eat again or reduce the quantities eaten at the next meal. On the other hand, snacking on proteins does delay your urge for your next meal and does reduce the amount that you then eat.

See more about the Dukan Diet at

Laura Katleman-Prue
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist

The best way to lose weight is to either eat smaller portions or fewer calories. When you take in fewer calories than you expend, you lose weight. Keeping the weight off is a different matter altogether! It requires you to think about food differently and stop romanticizing it. When you are able to do this, food becomes nice tasting nutrition rather than emotional solace or entertainment.

Jessica Crandall
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist

By decreasing your caloric intake by 3,500 calories per week can help lose one pound a week. By simply cutting out 500 calories a day this goal can be achieved. Make an appointment with a Registered Dietitian to insure you are losing weight in a healthy way.

Brian Tanzer
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist

One can effectively lose weight by eating less food. By eating less food, one is typically consuming less calories (depending on the type of food of course) which, would in turn result in a negative energy balance and weight loss. Now, consuming less calories is an effective way to lose weight, but there is more to this issue. If one is going to try and lose weight by lowering their calorie intake, one must be consistent because your body's metabolism, or the rate at which you burn calories will decrease due to the decreased calorie intake. Once this happens, if you then increase your calorie intake you will likely gain back the weight you lost, and possibly even more than you lost as your body adjusts to the increased calorie intake.

As a nutritionist, I believe one should not focus on the number you see on a scale, but more importantly, the amount of body fat you are carrying. Other than some of the more advanced technologies used to measure body fat such as DEXA scan, one simple way to determine, at least to some degree, body fat loss, is seeing how your clothes fit. If your pants are becoming too big around the waist and other parts of the body, you are likely losing body fat. The best way to accomplish this is by following a healthy eating plan and exercising (both aerobic and resistance training such as weightlifting). This will allow you to tap into body fat stores as a source of energy for exercise, and supporting your exercise and gains in lean muscle mass, loss of body fat by consuming healthy sources of protein i.e. lean chicken, fish, beans, high fiber carbs (brown rice, fruits, vegetables) and healthy fats (olive oil, olives, almonds and other nuts, avocado). This balance will provide a biochemical environment that when combined with regular vigorous exercise, will help you really change your body. More importantly, a lower body fat percentage is associated with a reduced risk for chronic diseases such as heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and certain forms of cancer. So focus on losing body fat and not just a number on a scale.

Losing weight is a matter of creating an imbalance between the amount of calories taken in and the number of calories burned.

Weight-loss programs typically focus on creating that imbalance by reducing calories consumed—in other words, eating less food. Weight Watchers teaches you how to make the choices that will keep you satisfied for longer, while you create this caloric deficit. However, Weight Watchers also brings regular activity into the weight-loss process, helping contribute further to the imbalance between calories in, and calories expended. Weight Watchers also helps people adopt the long-term behavior changes that are needed to make these food and activitiy changes in a supportive environment, which are critical for long-term success.

Laura Motosko, MSEd, RD
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist

In theory, a deficit of 500 calories per day will produce a one pound weight loss per week. That being said, I recommend a minimum of 1,000 calories per day to maintain essential body functions and a healthy metabolism. Sufficient calories are needed to provide energy for optimal daily physical activity. Choose to omit junk foods that provide calories without nutrients. If you already have a healthy diet, consider your portion size of food servings and make a small change to reduce 100 calories from a meal.

Ruth Frechman
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist

To lose weight, you have to eat less. However, to be healthy it is necessary to also include physical activity. Vitamin PA helps lower blood pressure, cholesterol and reduces the risk of cancer. As a bonus, physical activity reduces appetite and increases mood. It's a win-win.

To acheive weight loss, no, you should not just eat less. You should concentrate on eating smaller portions of healthy foods more frequently throughout your day. And always start your day with a good healthy breakfast. This is important to get your metabolism up.

Combine that with exercise and good quality sleep and it will help you achieve weight loss.

To achieve weight loss you need to consume less calories than you expend. Eating less can certainly help. However, when people restrict calories too much they often lose lean body mass. A loss of lean body mass is not desired because it weakens the organs and muscles, and also slows down metabolism. Research has also shown that the combination of both diet and exercise leads to much greater weight loss. Exercise also appears to be the best predictor of long-term weight management.

Mike Allard, NASM Elite Trainer
Fitness Specialist

Eating less may be a great start to losing weight, but it isn't a comprehensive approach and it has it's drawbacks. When you simply eat less food, your likely to find yourself hungry after meals instead of feeling satiated. This is because your body is used to consuming a larger portion of food.

In terms of changing eating habits to promote weight loss, I would focus on the following:

  • Increase meal frequency. Shoot for 4-6 meals a day (which is about every 3 hours, snacks included).
  • Decrease the portion size of these meals. You aren't necessarily eating less, you are just spreading out the food you do eat into more meals. Use the size of your fist as a reference.
  • Balance your meals. Make sure each meal has a source of complex carbohydrates, healthy, unsaturated fats and complete protein. (If you really want to get technical, track your food using online software and shoot for specific ratios regarding the macronutrients. A good place to start is 60 percent carbs, 20 percent protein and 20 percent fats).

Most people have acquired a taste for high density, fatty foods. Because of this, it will take some time for you body to adjust to more balanced meals. Additionally, not all macronutrients are created equal. It takes a lot more energy for your body to break down and utilize protein than it does for carbohydrates.

Achieving healthy, sustainable weight loss is about more than just "eating less." It’s about sticking to a balanced, sound nutrition program and exercising more.

Kat Barefield, MS, RD
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist

You can certainly lose weight by eating less if you’re eating fewer calories than you burn. However, you’ll likely find yourself feeling deprived because of the smaller quantity of food. Instead, replace higher calorie options with lower ones so you get more food with fewer calories. Whole grains, 100 percent whole wheat products, bran products, fruit, vegetables and beans have more nutrients and fewer calories than refined foods, fried foods, baked goods and processed snack foods (chips, crackers, pretzels, etc.).

To achieve weight loss you must burn more calories than you take in. Yes, you need to eat less but you don't want to cut your calories too low where you are not feeding your body properly. Too few calories can cause slower metabolism, decrease energy and mood swings to name a few. Just make sure you are getting your 5-6 small meals a day and keeping your deficit at 500 calories a day and you will see the results you are looking for.

I can just about guarantee you'll have to eat less food to lose weight—and you'll need to do a few other things too. And, of course the devil is in the details!  How do you know it's less? How much is enough? What does my body need to lose or maintain weight? The magic answer to all of these questions is "food logging." Take in about 500-750 calories/day less than you are estimated to burn, add about 30 minutes of activity (as a bonus "burn" and a mood enhancer and health benefit) and watch that scale move!

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.