You've heard of Atkins, Paleo, South Beach, and even the Cookie Diet—so what's new in the fad diet sphere? It's CICO, and it stands for "calories in, calories out." The diet craze is based off the premise that you can eat whatever you crave (such as potato chips, ice cream, and burgers) and still lose weight as long as you are expending more calories than you are taking in.
Too good to be true? "CICO goes against everything we know about nutrients in food and how they benefit health," says NYC-Based Registered Dietitian, Natalie Rizzo, MS, RD. "Not focusing on the nutrient density of a food and eating calories that are devoid of nutrients will cause issues with sleep, energy, and overall health. In the long-term, you may lose weight, but it's not a healthy way to live."
Need more convincing that this fad is not for you? We've compiled 10 reasons to deter you from this diet as well as 30 Reasons Your Belly Fat Isn't Going Away for when you need sustainable solutions.
Vitamin & Nutrient Deficiencies May Strike
"Not all calories are created equal," Lisa Davis, PhD, Chief Nutrition Officer at Terra's Kitchen asserts, adding that nutrients are essential, too. "So while eating two Oreos is technically equal in calories to eating one apple, the apple contains fiber, water, vitamins and minerals which will ease digestion and prevent spikes in insulin; the Oreos provide only empty calories."
You May Not Get Enough Protein
Stock your freezer with ice cream and your pantry with potato chips, and your body will miss out on protein. Let us remind you why we all need this muscle-building macro: besides aiding in tissue repair, protein helps the absorption of certain nutrients, boosts your metabolism, and fights hunger.
You May Not Get Enough Good Fats
"Healthy fats aid in cognition and heart health and fiber helps with weight management," Rizzo explains. "When it comes to just calories in and calories out, many people tend to shy away from healthy fat foods, like avocados. They think, 'I would rather eat something like ice cream than an avocado.' But in doing so, they miss out on all the folate, fiber, potassium, good fats, antioxidants that this creamy fruit provides."
You're Probably Overloading on Carbs
If you're fulfilling your inner carbivore and packing your plate with sugary desserts, French fries, and bread, you risk overloading on empty carbs that are void of satiating fiber. Not to mention, devouring added sugars and refined flour can contribute to weight gain and energy dips.
You'll Lack Energy
Take on this diet and you may notice yourself refilling your cup of joe too often. Indulging in refined carbs that lack fiber and are chock-full of added sugars can cause insulin spikes, which spell out seriously bad news for your energy levels. To sustain all-day energy and avoid the 3 p.m. slump, choose these 25 Best Carbs That Will Uncover Your Abs instead.
It's Not Maintainable
Slurping up lo mein instead of chomping on grilled chicken and veggies sounds appealing; but even if your daily calorie intake remains low, you still won't see the results you're vying for. "In the long-term, you may lose weight, but it's not a healthy way to live. And it's definitely not sustainable," Rizzo tells us.
You'll Be Hungry
"Foods that lack protein, fiber, and healthy fats don't keep you full, and, therefore, it makes it very difficult to stick to a certain number of calories," Rizzo explains. "In the long run, you will probably feel hungrier and eat more than you intended."
Your Digestive System Will Take a Hit
Insufficient intake of whole foods, especially fiber, means that you may be spending more time in the bathroom than usual. According to a study conducted by the Technical University of Denmark, "you can help food pass through the colon by eating a diet rich in fiber and drinking plenty of water," in other words, not by eating a diet full of fast food.
Your Metabolism Will Become Sluggish
Shying away from a balanced diet brimming with lean protein, satiating carbs, and healthy fats can wreak havoc on your fat-burning furnace. A study in the Food & Nutrition Research journal found that participants who ate a sandwich made with whole-grain bread and real cheddar burned twice as many calories than participants who ate a sandwich made of refined grains and processed cheese.
It Can Cause Inflammation
"Diets shouldn't be solely focused on calories; nutrients count, too. Eating a diet high in processed foods can cause spikes in insulin, and can cause systemic inflammation over time," Dr. Davis tells us. "This chronic inflammation can lead to health issues and disease." Fight back with these potent 30 Best Anti-Inflammatory Foods.