Is Eating a Diet of 1,200 Calories Per Day the Only Way to Achieve Weight Loss?

If you’ve made the decision to shed a few pounds, you may have found yourself searching the web for tips and tricks on how to achieve your goal weight. At some point in your life, you have probably been advised that to lose weight you need to “eat less and move more.” What this really means is that your calorie output (the amount of calories that you burn) needs to be greater than your calorie input ( the amount of calories that you consume.) But how many less calories should you consume per day to reach your weight loss goals? One quick google search and it’s likely that you come across the notion that you must limit your daily caloric intake to 1,200 calories per day.

Don’t panic.

The truth of the matter is, each individual is unique and has different calorie needs.

Let me explain.

A healthy individual’s calorie needs are based on numerous factors including age, weight, height and activity level. There is no universal amount of calories that applies to  everyone trying to lose weight. A quick and easy way to determine your calorie needs is to use an online calculator such as the one found here. The calculator linked is based on the Mifflin-St. Jeor equation, which is a scientifically tested formula that was found to provide an accurate estimation of calorie needs. Also included in the calculation is a dropbox that allows you to incorporate your activity level.

Once you know how many calories you need to consume to maintain your body weight, you can easily figure out the amount of calories you will need to eat per day to foster weight loss!

As mentioned above, in order to achieve weight loss there must be a calorie deficit. One pound is equal to 3,500 calories. If your goal is to lose 1 pound per week, you would need to cut 500 calories per day, seven days a week for a grand total of a 3,500 calorie deficit per week. If your goal is to lose 2 pounds per week you would need to cut 1,000 calories per day, seven days a week, for a 2 pound weight loss per week. This may seem like quite a bit of a deficit but there is good news: you can incorporate exercise (after talking to your physician of course) into your daily routine to burn calories. (This means you get to eat more!) You can split it up in any way that works for you. Whether you want to burn 500 calories per day, eat 250 calories less and burn 250 calories, or just eat 500 calories less per day to achieve a 1 lb weight loss per week- it’s all up to you!

A popular (free!) resource to help you keep track of calories and physical activity is MyFitnessPal.

Photo by Bruno Nascimento on Unsplash

A few tips to help you along the way:

  • Keep in mind that eating less calories does not mean feeling hungry all the time. Eating foods high in fiber such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables will keep you feeling full for longer without providing empty calories!
  • A good rule of thumb: most things in life are not “one size fits all.” What works for you, might not work for the next person.  Find your own path on your weight loss journey. The better you can adapt a healthier diet to your lifestyle, the happier you will be and the more likely you will be to stick with it.
  • Avoid completely eliminating foods out of your diet, and focus on moderation instead. Unless you have a health condition that results in a need to restrict certain foods, keep on enjoying the food you love most- just in smaller amounts. Balance is key! Remember, weight loss results from a calorie deficit. There is nothing wrong with incorporating a treat into your day as long as you’re staying within your calories goals and eating a variety of nutrient-dense foods!

For more information on how to build a healthy lifestyle you can utilize the MyPlate website.

Photo by Jannis Brandt on Unsplash


In conclusion: 

Eating a 1,200 calorie diet is not the only to achieve weight loss for everyone. Calorie requirements are specific to each person and the amount of calories required to lose weight will differ depending on the individual and the target amount of weight loss per week. Now that you know your calorie needs to achieve weight loss, you are on your way to reaching your goals!

By Alexis Duxbury


(2005-2017). Retrieved from MyFitnessPal:

Frankenfield D, R.-Y. L. (2005). Comparison of predictive equations for resting metabolic rate in healthy nonobese and obese adults: a systematic review. Journal of The American Dietetic Association. Retrieved from

Haub, J. M. (2010). Effects of Dietary Fiber and Its Components on Metabolic Health. Nutrients,

Peele, L. (2017). Leigh Peele. Retrieved from Mifflin St. Jeor Calculator:

USDA. (2017, April 19). MyPlate. Retrieved from


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