Top 12 Tips for Calorie Restriction


For the past 12 months, the book by Michael Mosley, The Fast Diet, has taken Sweden by storm and become the latest health trend. Here it is termed “the 5:2 trend,” which basically means that you have 2 calorie-restricted days per week to improve health and regulate weight. The 5:2 model uses 2 days of restricting the calories–500 kcals for women and 600 kcals for men.  This model is being mainly promoted as a successful method for weight loss and weight control.  As I discussed in my Swedish book, Lev Ung Längre (Live Young Longer), 14 years ago, one of the most powerful and well-studied methods for slowing the aging process and progress of disease has been shown to be calorie restriction.  There are many different ways of experiencing the advantages of calorie restriction besides restricting your calorie intake by the 20-40%, which has been done in many animal studies to show significant health improvement. Reducing your calories but still maintaining or increasing your intake of nutrients is proven to be successful in animal studies and also shown in humans to bring improvements in blood lipids, blood sugar markers, symptoms and quality of life improvement.   The modern S.A.D. diet is injurious, primarily due to its lack of nutrients and predominance of inflammatory empty calories. So nutrient density gives you more “bang for your buck.”  Nutrient density gives more nutrients to the cells for energy production and less wear and tear and oxidative stress in the pursuit of those important cellular nutrients.

  1. Understand the importance of calorie restriction. It is not a trend or gimmick. It is a way to relate to food that gives you longer life and less disease. Over eating and eating empty calories puts great stresses on your body´s resources in keeping you healthy.
  2. Pick your form or forms of calorie restriction to pursue.  Choose one or more of the following mix: a) 2 days of semi-fasting (500-600 kcal daily) the 5:2 model, per week; b) 12 hour break from food every day at least 3 days per week; c) Lifestyle and lifetime calorie restriction: 1500-1800 kcal intake of plant-based foods, such as eaten by healthy Okinawans, Vilcabamba residents, etc.; d) 3-5 days of semi-fasting per month.
  3. Use your semi-fasting days (low calorie 400-800 kcal) as detox days. Add or choose powders, drinks and foods that facilitate detox and rejuvenation.
  4. Add or use the following medical food ingredients, foods, spices and herbs as detox ingredients of the calorie restricted days. Use a combination of ingredients such as: turmeric, wheat grass, barley grass, spirulina, chlorella, modified citrus extract, beet juice concentrates, cilantro, etc.
  5. Use plenty of the following foods during your calorie restriction days for better detox and rejuvenation:  red beets, watercress, spinach, arugula, kale, carrots, cilantro, apples, berries, flaxseed and sprouts.
  6. Detox smoothies or vegetable soups are great to use during the low calorie days.
  7. Drink plenty of high antioxidant herbal teas.  White tea, black tea, green tea, rooibos tea and herbal teas. Drinking plenty of water or very dilute cranberry or pomegranate juices (4-8 X diluted) or berry waters or lemon water.
  8. Find and get help with the challenge of food addiction or carbohydrate addiction.  Food addiction can be just as challenging and often leads to cigarette, alcohol or drug addiction. Sugar and many other foods act as opiates. People who are food addicted are often low in dopamine and serotonin and have neurotransmitter imbalances. Food addicted persons have much more of a challenge restricting calories, especially if they do not specifically stay strictly away from the addictive foods. Get professional help if needed or find methods to shift food as a major comfort or addiction to other things such as relationships, meditation and exercise.
  9. Calorie restriction mimetic supplements. Regular intake of supplements that have similar effects that calorie restriction has on long term health and genetic, epigenetic and metabolic markers. For instance, resveratrol, astragalus extract, EGCG and many other natural substances can influence important anti-ageing functions as SIRT 1 genes and mTOR.
  10. Set up a plan and structure. Plan certain days or weeks as your calorie restrictive times.  Put it into the calendar. If you blow it, just move on. You can always do 3 days of eating only from 7 am to 5 pm and then letting the 12 hour time in between be your rest from food. Don´t beat yourself up if you mess up now and again. Just move on.  Plan your meals, drinks, etc. Do not go into a calorie restriction time without recipes, strategy and plan.
  11. Make your days of not being calorie focused or calorie restricted count.  The great thing about natural whole foods and exercise is that if you eat whole foods and do not over consume at night time and move regularly, you usually do not have to think too much about counting calories. Eating plenty of spinach, kale, celery, apples, carrots and lean protein will not make you fat. It is much better just to eat wholesome foods than to be on a diet, but why not eat plenty of raw natural foods to fill yourself up. You can always have a treat day or treat meal, so you do not fill deprived, if it does not trigger a downward spiral of food addiction.  A 90-10 or 80-20 strategy works very well for most people and brings them great long term health.  Eat very healthy and wholesome 80-90% of the time but leave some leeway for treats, social events, traveling challenges and parties.
  12. Keep connecting to positive friends, health information and inspirational sources to keep you motivated. Health coaches, preventative health check ups, fitness clubs, apps, health programs can all help keep you on your path to greater health by adding some calorie restriction and exercise to your life. Extra support and nurturing can be needed when the winds are blowing against you.

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