Weight Loss

Truth about the CICO diet myth and its impact

Nina Ross
Certified Naturopathic Doctor
November 3, 2023

Are you tired of counting calories and seeing no results? Do you feel like you're constantly hungry and unable to stick to your diet? It might be time to ditch the CICO (calories in, calories out) approach and consider the role of hormones in weight loss.

First, let's define the CICO diet. It's a weight loss approach that focuses solely on the number of calories consumed versus the number of calories burned through exercise. The premise is simple: if you burn more calories than you consume, you'll lose weight. Sounds easy enough, right?

Unfortunately, the CICO approach ignores the complex interplay of hormones in our bodies and how certain foods can affect them. Hormones, like insulin and leptin, play a crucial role in regulating hunger and satiety, and can be disrupted by the types and amounts of food we eat.

For example, refined carbohydrates and sugary foods can cause a rapid spike in blood sugar, leading to a release of insulin to lower the sugar levels. This can result in a "crash" and increased hunger, causing you to crave more sugary foods and potentially leading to overeating. On the other hand, protein and healthy fats can help regulate blood sugar and keep you feeling fuller for longer.

But it's not just the macronutrient content of our food that affects hormones – the way our food is processed and prepared can also play a role. For example, research has shown that grilled and barbecued meats can contain high levels of advanced glycation end products (AGEs), which have been linked to increased inflammation and insulin resistance. On the other hand, steaming, boiling, or stewing meats can reduce the formation of AGEs and potentially have a more positive impact on hormone balance.

So, what does this mean for weight loss? Instead of just focusing on the number of calories, it's important to consider the quality and composition of those calories. A diet rich in whole, unprocessed foods and balanced in protein, healthy fats, and carbohydrates can help support healthy hormone function and ultimately lead to more sustainable weight loss.

But don't just take our word for it – there's plenty of research to back up the importance of hormone balance in weight loss. A review of 12 studies found that low-carb diets, which are typically higher in protein and healthy fats, resulted in greater weight loss and improvements in hormones like insulin and leptin compared to low-fat diets. Another study found that a low-glycemic index diet, which focuses on choosing carbohydrates that are slowly absorbed and don't cause a rapid spike in blood sugar, was associated with improved hormone function and weight loss in overweight and obese individuals.

Of course, it's important to note that everyone is different and what works for one person may not work for another. It's always a good idea to consult with a healthcare professional before making any significant changes to your diet.

In conclusion, while the CICO approach may seem like a simple way to lose weight, it ignores the crucial role of hormones in regulating hunger and metabolism. By focusing on the quality and composition of our calories and considering the impact of food processing on hormone balance, we can set ourselves up for more sustainable and successful weight loss.


"Advanced Glycation End Products in Foods and a Practical Guide to Their Reduction in the Diet" (Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 2010)

"Effects of Low-Carbohydrate vs Low-Fat Diets on Weight Loss and Cardiovascular Risk Factors: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials" (Journal of the American Medical Association, 2014)

"The Low-Glycemic Index Diet in the Management of Diabetes: A Review

Nina Ross
Certified Naturopathic Doctor

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