As long as you eat fewer calories than you burn during the day, you can lose weight, regardless of which foods you choose to eat. This means you could still lose weight eating whatever you want. However, doing this has a number of drawbacks, so you probably don't want to try to lose weight while living on an unhealthy diet consisting mainly of foods like burgers, chocolate and ice cream.
To lose weight at a healthy rate of between one and two pounds per week, you have to have a deficit of 500 to 1,000 calories from what you need daily. For example, cutting 500 calories out of a 4,000-calorie diet will likely just make you gain weight more slowly rather than take any off, especially if you should be more around the 2,200 calorie level. Your daily calorie needs are based on age, height, weight and activity level. If you have trouble cutting calories, spending more time exercising can help you burn them so you don't have to cut as drastically but will still lose weight.
If you eat whatever you want and don't think about the quality of calories going in, you may end up with nutrient deficiencies, because people on a diet have trouble getting enough of all of the essential vitamins and minerals. A study published in "The Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition" in 2010 found that even popular diet plans such as the DASH diet plan, the Atkins diet and the South Beach diet didn't provide enough of the essential vitamins and minerals. Eating fewer than 1,200 calories per day makes getting enough nutrients almost impossible and increases your risk for side effects such as constipation, fatigue, diarrhea and nausea. Your body may also slow down your metabolism, making it harder to lose weight even though you are eating fewer calories. Eat plenty of nutrient-rich foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains and seafood to get the most possible nutrients while eating the fewest calories.
Ability to Stick With Your Diet
Eating too many high-calorie foods, which could happen if you eat whatever you want, will cause you to use up your daily calories without really filling you up. You're likely to spend a lot of time hungry and unsatisfied, so you may end up giving up on your diet before you reach your goal weight. Instead, eat a variety of healthy foods from each food group, concentrating on those that contain the fewest calories per serving, because these fill you up the most. This doesn't mean you have to give up all your favorite foods, just that they shouldn't make up the main part of your diet. You can still have a small piece of chocolate at the end of the day or a slice of pizza at a party as long as most of the food you eat is healthy and low in calories.
Weight Loss Maintenance
Temporarily eating fewer calories to lose weight and then going back to your regular diet isn't likely to result in lasting weight loss. Instead, make lifestyle changes you can continue over the long term. Otherwise when you go back to eating "normally" you will regain the weight you worked so hard to lose. Drink water instead of soda, snack on fruits and vegetables and switch to low-fat versions of your favorite dairy products. Exercising helps maintain weight loss, so you get in the habit of exercising 30 to 60 minutes per day.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Losing Weight
- Help Guide: Healthy Weight Loss & Dieting Tips
- Journal of the International Society of Sports Medicine: Prevalence of Micronutrient Deficiency in Popular Diet Plans
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Back to Basics for Healthy Weight Loss
- Weight-control Information Network: Very Low-calorie Diets
Based in Massachusetts, Jessica Bruso has been writing since 2008. She holds a master of science degree in food policy and applied nutrition and a bachelor of arts degree in international relations, both from Tufts University.