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Home Learn The dangerous cult of calorie cutting - how some are eating less than a 7 year old for the perfect post-lockdown body

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The dangerous cult of calorie cutting - how some are eating less than a 7 year old for the perfect post-lockdown body

When the roadmap announcement was made in February, we instantly saw a surge in searches for diets and weight loss tips on Google, as Brits rushed to shed those lockdown pounds in preparation for being out in the world again.

We decided to investigate this trend further, to see how we’re trying to lose weight and what our common diet methods are. The results of our research were enlightening and somewhat disturbing, as we discovered that an alarming number of Brits are eating fewer calories per day than what’s recommended for a 7-year old!

Here’s exactly what we found when we surveyed 2,644 British adults:

  • 80% are currently trying to lose weight in time for restrictions lifting in May
  • Of those currently dieting, the majority of women (92%) and a third of men (35%) are eating below the recommended daily intake of calories for a 7-year old (1,530 and 1,649 calories a day respectively)*
  • Two in five women surveyed said they are currently eating less than 1,200kcals a day – putting themselves at serious risk of health issues in the process**.

The NHS recommends that men consume 2,500 kcals and women consume 2,000 kcals*** on a daily basis, in order to maintain a healthy weight. When it comes to wanting to lose weight, our registered nutritionists recommend that to diet safely and sustainably you should reduce your calories between 10% and 20% initially.  

However, some of the most popular diets in the UK, take a much more dangerous crash-course approach and in some cases see participants consume less than 900kcals/day – creating a huge 65% calorie deficit to the recommended intake.

To find out which diets were currently most popular in the UK, we took to Instagram to find out which ones were receiving the most hashtags. We then asked our survey participants to record their daily calorie intake if following one of the top seven. Here were the average results we found.

1. Slimming World - 1,670kcals
2. Herbalife - 1,308 kcals
3. Weight Watchers - 1,500kcals
4. Slimfast - 1,245kcals
5.
Huel - 1,290kcals
6. Exante - 979kcals
7. BoomBod - 876kcals

To help you find out how many calories you should be eating each day and how much you can safely cut out to lose weight, use this handy calculator:

Social media is clearly having a big impact on dieting, as four fifths of our survey respondents (79%) said that it is now their main source of diet information and inspiration, with Instagram the most popular platform, followed by Facebook and TikTok.

Social media diet trends are also having a bigger impact on younger generations, with our survey finding that those under the age of 25 were the most likely to be consuming the least amount of calories in an attempt to lose weight as quickly as possible.

Losing weight quickly is dangerous, and not recommended by our nutritionists. It can lead to nutrient deficiencies that could result in hair loss and fatigue, gallstones, muscle wastage and dizziness – no matter what age or gender you are****.

Feel Nutritionist, Lauren Craven-Niemczyk (NTDip mBANT rCNHC) said,

“It’s not news that many of us have put on a couple of pounds over lockdown, and with the end of the restrictions in sight, many Brits are looking to lose weight over the next few months, before the country opens up once more. At Feel we’re all about promoting health and happiness, and if someone is wanting to budge a few pounds then we think it’s important they do it in the safest way possible.  

“Unfortunately our society and social media feeds are full of crash diet promotions, which often result in some nasty side effects as well as unsustainable and short-term weight loss. Restricting calories is a legitimate way of losing weight, however like with everything moderation is key, and it was startling to discover how much people are restricting themselves by. 

“We hope that by sharing our results, Brits will reassess how beneficial their diet is, with their main goal to feel happy and confident come the summer time, without putting their body through months of malnutrition.”

*https://www.nhs.uk/common-health-questions/childrens-health/how-many-calories-does-a-child-of-7-10-need/
** https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/calorie-counting-made-easy
***https://www.nhs.uk/common-health-questions/food-and-diet/what-should-my-daily-intake-of-calories-be/
****https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/losing-weight-too-fast#TOC_TITLE_HDR_4 

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About the author
Katie Hipwell - Katie is an AfN Registered Nutritionist (RNutr) with a specialism in food and is Head of Nutrition at Feel. Katie has worked in the food supplement industry for 10 years. She has completed a Master's degree in Human Nutrition and an undergraduate degree in BSc Sport and Exercise Nutrition.
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