Celebrity Diet Secrets

Is Kirstie Alley's Low-Calorie Diet Safe?

The 'Dancing with the Stars' contestant says she only eats 1,400 calories a day — even though she's dancing up to seven hours. Here's why this drastic calorie-cutting could take a serious health toll.

By Sharon Tanenbaum

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For eight weeks, Kirstie Alley has literally been dancing the pounds off while competing on the 12th season of ABC'sDancing with the Stars. However, a dizzy spell and fall during practice for the May 9 competition immediately raised a red flag for her partner, Maksim Chmerkovskiy. When he asked Alley if she had eaten enough that day, she admitted to him (and the cameras) that she may be taking her weight loss aspirations a bit too far.

"Usually what I do to lose weight [is] I eat 1,400 calories, but I guess if I'm working out five or seven hours then you have to change it around a little bit," Alley, who also blamed her dizzy spell on low blood sugar, told after the show. Learning, practicing, and endlessly rehearsing the dance moves each week can have a dramatic effect — good or bad — on the contestants' bodies. In past seasons, Kelly Osbourne and Kyle Massey famously lost weight, while both Nancy O'Dell and Jewel had to pull out before the competition even began because of injuries related to the intense rehearsal regimen.

Balancing the Exercise-Calorie Equation

Sixty-year-old Alley said in March that she hoped her stint onDWTSwould help her shed some pounds. "I have 30 or 40 more pounds to lose," the formerFat Actressstar toldUs Weekly. "I think with this strenuous, rigorous dance schedule, I think it's going to work." Although the actress has recently been playing coy when it comes to revealing her current weight, she told reporters after the May 9 show that she was wearing a size 6.

While Alley is definitely sporting a slimmer figure, limiting her calories while exercising for such long hours of may be more dangerous for her than dancing in those high heels.

"She should eat 1,400 calories a day after she's finished participating onDancing with the Stars, but not during it," says Lisa De Fazio, RD, a celebrity nutritionist based in Los Angeles, who doesn't work with Alley. "When you're working out so many hours a day, you can't be so rigid with your diet." De Fazio estimates that Alley is burning around 350 calories an hour during her ballroom dancing rehearsals, or as many as 1,500 a day — significantly more than she says she's consuming.

A healthier calorie intake for Alley to maintain her current weight while she's doing daily dance rehearsals would be 2,400 calories, says De Fazio. However since weight loss is her goal, De Fazio says Alley could healthfully aim to eat around 2,000 calories a day.

The Risks of Eating Too Few Calories

While cutting calories undoubtedly helps you lose weight, if you go too low and miss out on important nutrients, you're at an increased risk for such serious health issues as muscle and bone loss, missed periods, dry skin, anemia, and even cardiac arrest. It's hard to get the nutrition your body needs to support its most basic functions on fewer than 1,200 calories each day; taking in too few calories triggers your body to enter starvation mode and slow down your metabolism as protection, which can actually cause your weight loss attempts to backfire. However, because of Alley's intense workout schedule, even the 1,400 daily calorie intake was too low. By bumping it up about 600 calories, she'll be able to get the energy and nutrients she needs – while still being able to lose weight.

Not having enough food throughout the day can also dangerously lower your blood sugar levels — a condition known as hypoglycemia — which could cause such symptoms as the dizziness Alley experienced. Other signs of hypoglycemia include blurred vision, confusion, and irritability. If left untreated, low blood sugar can cause seizures, coma, and even death.

Another mistake is eating too little before you exercise, when your body needs fuel the most. During this week's rehearsals, Alley confessed that she hadn't eaten enough before her strenuous workout. "I don't think I've eaten enough. I mean I know I haven't eaten enough. Today I've probably had 150 calories," she said during the show, a number De Fazio confirms is far too low: "She certainly should have more than 150 calories before that kind of workout. She's not going out for just a morning walk."

Eating Before Exercise: What's Ideal?

Even before less-intense exercise, it's still a good idea to nourish yourself. If you work out first thing in the morning, it's important to eat a snack about 30 minutes or an hour before. De Fazio suggests a carbohydrate-rich banana that'll give you the just-right amount of energy for your workout. Then make sure to eat breakfast afterward so your body has the fuel it needs for the day. For lunchtime or after-work exercise, make sure you've eaten a snack (a banana or other fresh fruit, yogurt, or whole grains will do) within an hour of your planned exercise.

If you've significantly boosted your activity levels, you should reevaluate your daily calorie intake to make sure you're eating enough to be healthy.

Video: Kirstie Alley Introduces the Organic Liaison Weight Loss Program!

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Date: 09.12.2018, 14:05 / Views: 61591