To find out how many calories to eat, first start with where you are. In other words, find out how many calories it takes to maintain your current size, and then cut back from there. You can do it in many ways. Most people just choose an arbitrary number like 1200 calories and that’s what they eat, but in almost all cases that’s not enough to ensure adequate nutrition, not to mention the deprivation it creates.
As I lose weight and to this day, I average over 2000 calories a day and have maintained a good weight for my height for over 17 years. Remember, your body needs calories to maintain itself.
Calculation of basic calorie requirements based on activity level:
Sedentary: 13 X Weight = Average. cal / day
Sedentary does not exercise at all
Moderately active: 16 X Weight = Average. cal / day
Moderately active exercises approximately 3-4 times per week
Very active: 19 X Weight = Average. cal / day
Very Active is 5-7 vigorous exercise sessions per week.
If you weigh more than 200 pounds now and would like to weigh closer to 150, here is a calculation you can use to get started: Assuming you will add enough exercise to the Moderately Active quality, we will use 16 as to modify:
150 pounds X 16 calories per pound = 2,400 calories
Minus 500 (using the common reduction of 500 calories per day) gives us a total of 1900 average calories per day
If you started to incorporate a plan that allowed an average of 1900 calories per day, you would begin to lose weight. The mistake most people make is cutting calories too much, which ultimately sacrifices muscle and sets it up to feel starved. In the long run, it is much better to slow down, maintaining as much muscle as possible while burning calories through exercise. Remember too, even if you don’t consume as many calories on many days, you may eat more on the weekends, for example, so you end up getting closer to your goal of 1900 average per day. Take your total calories for the week divided by seven.
Remember, this average number of calories gives you a lot of leeway during the week. You can have a few treats along with everyone else or add more on the weekends. Instead of constantly saying, “I can’t, I’m on a diet,” you can now say “Thanks, it looks delicious” and enjoy yourself a little. It doesn’t ruin your diet plan because it has enough calories that if you are more careful some days than others, it will work for the average number of calories you want. I tend to eat far fewer calories during the week than on weekends, and my totals generally average between 2,000 and 2,200 calories per day.
The 500 calorie reduction is a well accepted amount. You can cut your calories even further, but I wouldn’t recommend it. There is no benefit to anyone trying to lose weight faster, in fact if you cut calories too much you end up wasting muscle in the process, which is exactly what you don’t want to do. If you want faster results, it is better to add more activity, thus burning more calories at rest.
You may be thinking I’m crazy and I recommend 1900 calories per day, but I can say with certainty that if you eat very little (1000-1200 calories is very little, in my opinion), then you prepare yourself for all of the following:
Deprivation. You will feel deprived, mentally and physically. 1000 calories is not enough for your basic metabolic needs, much less to feed yourself for your activity needs. Add more food! Just eat a little more than what you’re already eating, so for example, if they allow you 1/2 cup of veggies, will a whole cup ruin all your progress? I doubt it. Have a whole cup, or go ahead and eat two oranges. Fruits and vegetables are very low in calories but provide high nutrition.
Sure, some vegetables and fruits are high in sugar, but it is natural sugar. I seriously doubt that our planet produces killer food; the food industry that has processed those foods is more likely to turn into nothing more than a dry powder and then add more sugars and chemicals back to make it look like the original product, is it more harmful than a simple apple or banana?
If you are diabetic or have to watch your sugars, eat some protein along with your high glycemic food, like an ounce of cheese with your apple. Notice I said an ounce of cheese, not a slab big enough to feed a small country.
Metabolic slowdown Eating very few calories sets you up for a metabolic slowdown. Studies have shown time and again that a heavier person may find it difficult to lose weight, even if they eat very few calories, simply because their body’s metabolism burns at such a slow rate. As you probably already know, exercise helps speed up your metabolism, but so does eating. This is why they say that breakfast is so important, not just for feeding yourself, but because it makes the metabolic furnace burn and continues to burn all day. If you don’t eat anything until noon, you don’t turn on your oven to start burning until then.
Has the ultra-low calorie approach worked for you so far? If not, why not try something more reasonable? Join a friend who does not have a weight problem and you will see how sometimes they eat more, sometimes less, but on average they eat enough to fuel their body and maintain their weight.
Adding more food gives it additional visual appeal. If you divide 1000 calories over the course of an entire day, you will see fairly small portions on your plate each time you eat. I like to feel like I am eating enough and I do so by completing my plate with additional vegetables.
If I’m going to eat a frozen entrée, for example, I’ll cook a cup or more of frozen veggies to add to my plate. The extra veggies really fill me up, they provide the satisfaction I need, and I often have a few extra veggies to throw away. Is that wasting food? It is not smart. It’s so much better for me to have extra food to throw away than to be licking my plate because I’m still hungry. It is also not likely that I will start wanting to eat something else right after dinner if I am satisfied with the amount I have eaten.
Make an effort to learn to like food the way it is. Simple mixed greens with nothing on them are delicious. It took me a while to stop buttering them and even to stop taking Molly McButter (just chemicals and sodium). I eat them simple and yes, they are great. Nature made our fruits and vegetables naturally sweet and all those “extras” that we are used to using, like butter on vegetables or potatoes, certainly make things taste delicious, but they also make us bigger than usual. what do we need. Those “extra” calories add up.
Make adjustments slowly to what you eat or how much you eat
Stop adding sugar to your cold cereal. Read the label; all processed cereals contain a ridiculous amount of added sugar. No need to add more. My only exception is the brown sugar in oatmeal. I no longer add sugar to my cereal, but it took me a while to make the switch. Start by adding a little less, then next week cut back a little more until you completely break the habit. Small changes outweigh big results over time.
If you eat right and focus on increasing your activity, even just a little, you will continue to lose fat, build muscle, and get fitter, while increasing your metabolism so you can eat more!