What is the CICO diet, and is it really as bad as people are claiming?


As we enter the new year

, weight loss, healthy eating and more time spent exercising are sure to be topics of conversation. And, as expected, a trendy diet has already started to make its way across the internet, and it seems easy enough.

The diet, known as CICO, stands for “Calories In, Calories Out.”

To follow, each day you simply must consume fewer calories than you expend on physical activity and vital functions, including breathing and keeping warm, according to Health magazine.

So, if you are following the CICO diet and want to eat 600 calories worth of chips, you just need to lose 601 calories during that same day. Those in support of CICO argue that it does not matter what you eat as long as you create a daily calorie deficit.

“It meets the needs of people who ‘want to have their cake and eat it, too’ as long as the piece isn’t too big,” registered dietitian Sonya Angelone, a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, told Women’s Health magazine.

The CICO subreddit on Reddit is filled with the stories of CICO followers who credit the diet for losing weight.

One woman, who goes by the username StartledDungBeetle, said she is over 50 and credits the diet plan for losing 15 pounds in 55 days.

“All the zillion diet books I’ve read over the years made it all so damned complicated — when it is so simple,” she wrote.

Another woman, Crazypeanut88, said she lost 46 pounds in 20 weeks with CICO.

“I eat everything I want to eat, just less of it,” she wrote. “A lot less.”

And while it seems simple, this diet is not much different than everything else – if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. The diet may help you lose weight, but will likely not help you get healthy.

“At the core of it, it’s true that calories will rule things when it comes to weight loss,” registered dietitian Dawn Jackson Blatner told Health magazine. “If you’re eating just a ton, you’re not aware of calories, you will not be successful. That is true in the most crude, raw possible way.”

However, losing weight and getting healthy is about much more than calorie counting.

“Eating all junk, but keeping it low-calorie, will still wreak havoc on things like your skin, your mood, your gastrointestinal functions,” dietitian Cynthia Sass told Health magazine.

She said CICO is an outdated way of thinking, as 300 calories from a blueberry muffin made with refined flour and sugar will not affect your body the same way a 300-calorie muffin made with oats and topped with almonds and blueberries will.

Nutritionist Malina Linkas Malkani told Business Insider that the main problem with CICO is that users are only following the numbers.

“When people focus solely on a number of calories per day but eat only junk, they can end up suffering from a long list of issues,” she said. “Being thin doesn’t ensure health, and I think that’s really a key thing people get confused on. There’s always a focus on people that are very overweight, but thin people have heart attacks too.”

Despite all the criticism on CICO – a quick ‘CICO diet’ Google search yields only negative results – some CICO users have only become more motivated.

Reddit user AceDynamicHero wrote that he/she heard a co-worker trash-talking the CICO diet.

“It actually boosted my mood,” the user wrote. “Every time I watch this person eat something fattening or hear them scoff whenever I talk about my diet, it’s gonna push me that much harder.”

Reddit user MastermindX wrote that dozens of articles have been published trying to discredit the diet.

“They call CICO a ‘new fad,’ ‘the latest thing,’ ‘a popular trend that is taking the internet by storm,’ etc., implying the principle of ‘eating less’ is a novel concept that someone just came up with,” the user wrote. “They all mention Reddit, sometimes in the title, and blame it for the spread of this dangerous fad, as they warn you about the dangers of believing what you read on the internet (ironically).”



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