Photos Highlight a Major Misconception About Calorie Consumption

September 7th 2016

Laura Donovan

You've heard the old saying, "less is more." But, when it comes to shedding pounds, consuming less calories doesn't always mean more success.

One fitness Instagram user confronted this widespread misconception by posting side-by-side photos of herself on an 800 calorie per day diet versus an 1,800 calorie per day diet.

In the right photo, which reflects a daily intake of 1,800 calories, Instagram user Madalin Giorgetta appears significantly more toned than in the left photo, which reflects a daily intake of 800 calories.

Her post is meant to show that eating fewer calories won't necessarily make the body look smaller or more fit.

Giorgetta opened her caption by clarifying that she did not have an eating disorder when she ate only 800 calories per day, but was able to feel full despite not eating a lot. Once she started using a personal trainer, however, she changed her eating habits to consume more calories and ending up being "much happier" with the results:

"A part of me may always have that mindset that relates not eating with weight loss and 'being good today.' Sometimes I may forget to eat lunch just because I got busy and for a second I will revert back to old thinking, and think 'ohh, I've done really well today and haven't eaten much at all.' That's why I love tracking my [macronutrients]. It will tell me 'Maddy, you need to eat more. Go eat 3 potatoes.' And I'll pat myself on the back for being healthy and doing really good today! If you're under feeding yourself in an effort to lose weight, don't do what I did for so long. Don't waste your time eating salad when you could be eating sweet potatoes and banana pancakes. Eat more and get fit. It actually works."

In addition to encouraging others not to beat themselves up for enjoying food, Giorgetta also started a discussion about the widely misunderstood relationship between weight loss and calories consumed.

Lisa Moskovitz, founder of the NY Nutrition Group, told Women's Health Magazine earlier this year that the body can go into "starvation mode" when people skip meals and create higher levels of blood sugar. Delaying meals can slow down the metabolism and prompt the body to store calories as fat. Eating every couple of hours can reduce hunger and ensure that your calories are converted into energy, Women's Health Magazine reported.

Dr. David Ludwig, director of the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center at Boston Children’s Hospital, told TIME in 2014 that metabolism plays a more significant role in weight management than eating less or exercising:

“If you just try to eat less and exercise more, most people will lose that battle. Metabolism wins. Simply looking at calories is misguided at best and potentially harmful because it disregards how those calories are affecting our hormones and metabolism—and ultimately our ability to stick to a diet.”

[H/T Self]