The CICO Diet: Can Counting Calories Actually Cause Sustained Weight Loss?

The CICO Diet: Can Counting Calories Actually Cause Sustained Weight Loss?

Eating fewer calories than you actually burn sounds quite simple, doesn’t it? CICO diet allows you to follow it without having to worry about proteins, carbs, fats, and even the micronutrients. This is because the diet basically focuses on one thing- calories.

It is quite easy to understand why this diet has gained success. It is simple, quite easy to follow and allows you to eat all the foods you like without having to follow a long list of restrictions.

Although the simplicity of CICO impresses a lot of people, a healthy weight loss takes into account a lot more than calories.

If you are thinking about starting a CICO diet, here is everything that you need to know.

What Is CICO Diet?

The concept of CICO diet is not new. In fact, it is a quite popular way of losing weight that has recently received a huge attention from people around the world.

The word CICO stands for “calories in, calories out”. As the name indicates, the diet mainly focuses on the caloric intake. This dietary intervention rests on the idea that consuming fewer calories than you burn can help you lose weight effectively.

People from all over the world are opting this diet plan because it is extremely easy to follow and does not require major adjustments in the diet plan that you are currently following.

However, the CICO diet remains controversial for certain reasons. While a lot of people have reported about massive success in losing extra pounds thanks to CICO diet, others have criticized that this diet plan promotes unhealthy eating patterns that cannot be sustained.

Some have also argued that following a CICO diet plan can lead to nutritional deficiencies and other adverse effects on health.

the CICO diet

Does CICO Diet Work?

Ever since the CICO diet has come into the limelight, the internet has been literally flooded with testimonials from different people. All of these testimonials report major weight loss caused due to CICO diet.

People who have literally failed to lose weight due to every other diet plan have commented how the CICO diet has actually worked for them. Does this mean that this controversial diet plan is worth all the hype it is receiving?

The CICO diet can certainly help some people shed extra pounds from their body. By cutting down your daily caloric intake and increasing the workout plan, you can spend more calories than you consume.

However, there are a lot of other factors that need to be considered for weight loss other than calories. The CICO diet definitely has its own set of benefits but there are some downsides to it as well.

Advantages of the CICO Diet

The CICO diet comes with the following three benefits

  1. It may Promote Weight Loss

The main benefit that CICO has to offer is perhaps the promotion of weight loss. In order to lose weight, it is important to achieve a calorie deficit. This means that you will have to utilize fewer calories than you use every day.

Different studies have demonstrated how a reduction in your daily caloric intake can help promote weight loss. A review carried out by the National Institute of Health says that low-calorie diet can reduce belly fat and the weight from the lower portion of the body by 8 percent in a matter of 3 to 12 months.

One pound of fat means 3500 calories. By lowering your daily caloric intake to almost 500 calories, an amount less than you burn every day, you are expected to lose one pound every week.

the CICO diet

2.     Losing Weight Can Improve Health

if you are overweight, losing even the slightest amount of weight can potentially impact your health in a positive manner. For example, a study published in Diabetes Educator indicated that losing 10 percent of your total body weight can reduce blood sugar to a significant extent in people with diabetes type 2.

It has also been suggested that weight loss can decrease the risk factors associated with cardiovascular diseases, alleviate joint pain, and fight the symptoms of sleep apnea.

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Moderate caloric restriction while maintaining an adequate nutrition can provide protection against diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, inflammation, cardiovascular incidents, and even cancer.

3. It is Easy to Follow

A lot of people who begin a new diet tend to give it up completely after a few days or weeks, mostly because it is difficult or restrictive. One of the biggest reasons why CICO has gained rapid attention is because it is quite simple and easy to follow.

The diet can fit into your daily routine smoothly because it allows you to eat whatever you want, only in smaller portions.

Pizzas, burgers, and pasta can even fit in the CICO diet as long as you eat it in the required amount and burn more calories than you are consuming throughout the day.

This makes the CICO diet an appealing option for those who are unable to follow a strict dietary plan or do not wish to give up their favorite foods.

Disadvantages of the CICO Diet

The CICO diet has a lot of advantages but at the same time, some problems may also be associated with it.

  1. No sustainability in Weight Loss

The CICO diet might lead to an effective weight loss but it is more like a short-term solution. This diet focuses particularly on restricting the total calorie intake instead of encouraging the participants to attain healthy eating habits.

This means that as soon as the participants resume their normal diet, weight gain can follow.

In contrast to the CICO, behavior modification is a technique that involves changing the patterns or habits contributing to obesity. These factors include a sedentary lifestyle or emotional overeating.


Behavior modification is a long-term weight loss regimen as compared to the CICO which can only be effective as long as you keep struggling to continue it.

2. No Focus on Nutrients

What you eat can affect your life greatly. Science says that diabetes, heart diseases, certain forms of cancer, eye diseases, and even some types of birth defects can all be avoided if you adopt a healthy lifestyle.

One of the biggest problems with the CICO diet plan is that it mainly emphasizes on the number of calories you must take rather than the nutrient levels that must be included in your diet.

This can cause certain major problems such as protein deficiency and a lack of all essential nutrients like iron, potassium, and calcium.

Nutritional deficiencies can cause a lot of health problems such as neurological deficits, impairment in the immune function and osteoporosis.

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Hence, instead of focusing entirely on the caloric intake, a healthy diet must contain all the essential nutrients to meet the daily requirements.

3. Other Factors to Consider

Another point that criticizes the CICO diet is the fact that it oversimplifies a subject which is actually quite complex. Weight loss is multifactorial and controlling just the amount of calories you take might not always lead to weight loss.

For example, people suffering from hypothyroidism are often overweight and may not get any benefit from this diet. Other reasons why the CICO diet may not work for you include fluid retention, hormonal changes, Cushing’s syndrome, the use of certain medicines, and polycystic ovary syndrome.

Counting the total number of calories you take is not necessary in every case. Some people simply require swapping their carbs with protein food to lose weight while maintaining satiety.

So, if you are thinking about going on a CICO diet, remember to eat a diet that may have fewer calories bur satisfies your daily nutrient intake.

Nancy Walker

Nancy holds a Medicine degree and a Masters of Science MS in Infectious Disease and Global Health (MS-IDGH) from Tufts University. She worked as a lecturer for three years before she turned towards medical writing. Her area of interest are infectious diseases; causes, mechanism, diagnosis, treatments and prevention strategies. Most of her writings ensure an easy understanding of uncommon diseases.

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