To figure out how many calories you should have, first start with where you are. In other words, figure out how many calories it takes to maintain your present size and then reduce from there. You can go about this in many ways. Most people simply choose an arbitrary number like 1200 calories and that’s what they eat, but in nearly every case that’s not nearly enough calories to ensure adequate nutrition, not to mention the deprivation that sets up.
While losing weight and to this day, I eat over 2000 calories a day on average and I’ve maintained a good weight for my height for over 17 years. Remember, your body requires calories to maintain itself.
Basic Calorie Requirements Calculation Based on Activity Level:
Sedentary : 13 X Weight = Avg. cal/day
Sedentary is not exercising at all
Moderately Active: 16 X Weight = Avg. cal/day
Moderately Active is exercising approximately 3-4 times per week
Very Active: 19 X Weight = Avg. cal/day
Very Active is 5-7 strenuous exercise sessions per week.
If you weigh over 200 pound now, and you’d like to weigh closer to 150, here is a calculation you could use to get started: Assuming you are going to be adding enough exercise to quality as Moderately Active, we’ll use 16 as our modifier:
150 pounds X 16 calories per pound = 2400 calories
Less 500 (Using the common 500 calories per day reduction) gives us a total of 1900 average calories per day
If you started to incorporate a plan that allowed an average of 1900 calories every day, you’d start to lose weight. The mistake most people make is to reduce calories too much, which ultimately sacrifices muscle plus sets you up for feeling deprived. It’s far better in the long run to go more slowly, keeping as much muscle as possible while burning calories via exercise. Remember too, even if you don’t eat quite that many calories on many days, you might eat more on the weekends for instance, so it ends up being closer to your goal of 1900 average per day. Take the total calories for the week divided by seven.
Remember, this average calorie number gives you plenty of wiggle room during the week. You can have some treats along with everyone else, or add more on weekends. Instead of constantly saying, “I can’t, I’m on a diet,” now you can say, “Thank you, that looks delicious,” and enjoy some. It doesn’t ruin your diet plan because you’ve got a large enough calorie allowance that if you are more careful some days than others, it will work out to the average number of calories you want. I tend to eat far less calories during the week than on weekends and my totals generally average out to 2000 to 2200 calories per day.
The 500 calorie reduction is a well accepted amount. You can reduce your calories further, but I wouldn’t recommend it. It doesn’t benefit anyone to try for faster weight loss, in fact, if you reduce your calories too much you end up wasting muscle in the process, which is exactly what you do not want to do. If you want faster results, it’s better to add more activity, thereby burning more calories at rest.
You may be thinking I’m nuts, recommending 1900 calories per day, but I can say for a fact that if you eat too little (1000 – 1200 calories is too few, IMO) then you set yourself up for all of the following:
Deprivation. You’re going to feel deprived, mentally and physically. 1000 calories isn’t enough for your basic metabolic needs, much less to fuel yourself for your activity needs. Add more food! Just have a bit more than you’re already having, so for instance, if you are allowed 1/2 cup of vegetables is a whole cup going to ruin all your progress? I doubt it. Eat a whole cup, or go ahead and have two oranges. Fruits and vegetables are very low calorie but provide high nutrition.
Sure, some vegis and fruits are high in sugar, but it’s natural sugar. I seriously doubt our planet grows any killer foods – it is more likely the food industry which has processed those foods to become nothing more than a dried powder, then add back more sugars, and chemicals so it will resemble the original product, is more harmful than a simple apple or banana?
If you are diabetic or must watch the sugars, have a small bit of protein along with the higher glycemic food, such as 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 Slow-Down Feeding yourself too few calories sets you up for metabolic slow-down. Studies have shown time and again that a heavier person can find it difficult to lose weight, even though eating very low calories, simply because their body’s metabolism is burning at such a slow rate. As you probably already know exercise helps to speed up your metabolism but so does eating. That’s why they say breakfast is so important, not only to fuel yourself but because it starts the metabolic furnace burning, and it continues to burn all day. If you don’t eat anything until noon, you don’t stoke your furnace to start burning until then either.
Has the ultra low calorie approach worked for you so far? If not, why not try something more reasonable? Tag along with a friend who doesn’t have a weight problem and you’ll 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 you additional eye appeal. If you split up 1000 calories over the course of an entire day you’re looking at pretty skimpy portions on your plate each time you eat. I like to feel like I’m getting enough to eat and I do this by rounding out my plate with extra vegetables.
If I’m having a frozen entree for instance, I’ll cook up a cup or more of frozen vegetables to add to my plate. The extra vegis really fill me up, providing the satisfaction I need, and I often have a bit extra vegetables to throw away. Is that wasting food? No, it’s smart. Far better for me mentally to have extra food to toss away than to be licking the plate because I’m still hungry. I’m also not likely to start wanting something else to eat right after dinner if I’m feeling content with the amount I’ve eaten.
Make an effort to learn to like your food as is. Plain mixed vegetables with nothing on them are delicious. It took me awhile to stop putting butter on them, and then even quitting the Molly McButter (just chemicals and sodium). I eat them plain and yes, they are great. Nature made our fruits and vegetables naturally sweet and all those “extras” we are used to using like butter on vegetables or potatoes certainly make things taste all yummy but they also make us larger than we need to be. Those “extra” calories add up.
Slowly Make Adjustments to What or How Much You Eat
Wean yourself off adding sugar to your cold cereal. Read the label; all processed cereals contain a ridiculous amount of added sugar. There’s no need to add more. My only exception is brown sugar on oatmeal. I don’t sugar my cereal at all anymore but it took me awhile to make the change. Start by adding a bit less, then next week cut back a bit more until you break the habit entirely. Tiny changes make up for big results over time.
If you feed yourself well, and focus on increasing your activity, even if only a little, then you will continue to lose fat, build muscle and get more shapely, all the while increasing your metabolism so you can eat more food!