1200 Calorie Diet: Getting Started!

So you’d like to lose some weight and the faster the better. Right? Yes, you and millions of other people! If you are choosing to get started with a 1200 calorie diet plan to lose weight without lowering your metabolism, there are a number of things to keep in mind to be successful.

For starters, take the time to determine your basal metabolic rate. (BMR Calculator) This is how you determine if 1200 calories will work for you. Your basal metabolic rate may be lower than 1200 calories a day but more likely than not it will be more than 1200. Make sure your caloric intake each day is not less than your estimated BMR.

You will also need to add additional calories each day to cover the energy cost of exercise. In addition, for added insurance, to keep your metabolic rate from slowing down and making it even more difficult to lose weight, consider cycling your calorie intake a little higher (more than BMR + energy cost of exercise) every third day.

Something else to keep in mind is to distribute your calories throughout the day. Do eat breakfast! Keep your meals small and allow for snacks. Doing this will help keep your metabolism running well and you will be less likely to become famished and resort to eating everything in sight!

Choose nutritious foods. 1200 calories is very little and getting the nutrients you need to stay healthy can be a challenge. There’s no room for “empty calorie” foods such as candy that provide calories with few if any nutrients (save candy for occasional treats).

I’ve designed a basic 1200 calorie diet plan that will help you make good choices (You can find the plan with this link or click on the link in the menu at the top of this page). Adhering as closely to this plan as you can will help you achieve weight loss success and give you a more balanced intake of nutrients than otherwise. I recommend that you choose foods that are not only a good source of nutrients but also those which are high in water and/or fiber. Both water and dietary fiber will help you fill up and not feel as hungry as you might with other plans.

To learn more about high fiber foods and weight loss read my article on dietary fiber that I posted earlier. (High Fiber Diet for Weight Loss) Remember to drink plenty of water when you choose high fiber foods.

Foods you will want to limit include refined carbohydrates such as white bread and white rice, sweets, and high fat foods. Also limit nutritious choices such as nuts, seeds, and dried fruit because they tend to be high in calories.

Here is a sample 1200 calorie menu:

Breakfast:

1 cup Oatmeal Squares by Quaker

4 oz. skim milk (nonfat)

4 oz. orange juice

½ cup blueberries

Midmorning snack:

8 TLC Crackers – Kashi Original Whole Grain

1 piece mini Babybel light cheese

Lunch:

1 slice Flax & Fiber bread by Arnold

1 tbsp. peanut butter – natural creamy

1 medium apple

8 carrot sticks

water, unsweetened tea or coffee, or diet soda

Afternoon snack:

Your choice of a 100-calorie snack

Supper:

Make a large salad

1-3 cups spinach leaves with salad greens

½ chopped ripe red tomatoes

½ cup drained and rinsed chickpeas (garbanzo beans)

½ cup lowfat 1% cottage cheese

½ tbsp. salad dressing light Ranch

water, unsweetened tea or coffee, or diet soda

½ cup light vanilla ice cream

Total calories about 1215

(Remember to add additional calories to cover YOUR basic energy needs (BMR + Exercise)

A 1200 calorie diet is a challenge. However, you may have learned that your caloric needs are higher than 1200 calories by two to three hundred or more. This is good news! You get to eat more food right? And your metabolism will not be as likely to slow down.

As you lose weight just be sure to recalculate your BMR and make adjustments over time. Why? Because your BMR will be lower as you lose weight. This change in BMR with weight loss is not a slow down in metabolism but rather a reflection of less body mass.

So that’s the gist of it. Keep track of your BMR as you lose weight. Choose healthy nutritious foods that are high in water and/or fiber. Cover the energy cost of exercise. Cycle your calorie intake up by a little every third day. And remember to distribute your calories over the day.

If you intend to follow a low calorie diet, I highly encourage you to keep track of your caloric intake with some of the tools online. Fitday is free but I prefer the Calorie Counter at MyFoodDiary.com for many reasons (read my review here).

I hope to provide more sample menus for a 1200 calorie diet over time. (Update: I’ve added links for more sample menus at the bottom of the page for the 1200 Calorie Diet Plan.) If you need more ideas, I encourage you to join the Anne Collins weight loss membership site. Anne provides dozens of low calorie plans with menus for different types of diets. For only $1.66 a month it is by far the bargain on the web (read my review).

To learn lots more about the ins and outs of being on a low calorie diet see: 1200 Calorie Diet

Have any questions or comments? Please don’t hesitate to ask!

[Disclaimer: This article is for educational purposes only. You are responsible for checking with your medical doctor before going on any low calorie diet. Also, this plan may or may not be appropriate for diabetics. Check with your doctor or dietitian for appropriate plans for diabetes.]

  • Marci November 11, 2011, 2:42 pm

    Hello….The BMR is obviously NOT accurate for those severly overweight. It shows I need 2000, but I don’t see how a person can lose weight without lowering calories to at least 1500. I’ve been on a 1200 calorie diet for 2 1/2 months and have lost 30 pounds, but I’ve been reading that 1200 is too low and may cause your body to go into starvation mode, thus decreasing weight loss. That’s why I am writing. How do you know if 1200 is too low, or how many calories you should consume? —Marci

    • Lori November 11, 2011, 3:06 pm

      Hi Marci,

      You’ve asked an excellent question and one that will be very difficult to answer. I can’t tell you that I have the right answer for your situation but then I doubt any other weight management specialist does either. First of all each person is somewhat different. That’s the first challenge. Secondly, you are absolutely right that the BMR tables may or may not be accurate for someone who is severely overweight.

      However, I can tell you eating enough of the right kind of food matters. I am happy that you’ve lost 30 pounds and I would like very much for you to continue. There are exceptions to everything. I hope you are an exception! Most people find that they can lose weight even a substantial amount of weight on a low calorie diet. But most everyone who loses weight by taking in too few calories (significantly below BMR) will have a great struggle to keep the weight off and will typically put the weight back on and more. Why? Because metabolism slows down.

      Some people manage to maintain a tremendous weight loss by doing an incredible amount of daily exercise. For most everyone else it’s just too hard to make the time for that much exercise.

      If your doctor agrees you might look at increasing your protein and dietary fiber intake. Choose lean meat, fish, poultry, beans (legumes), low fat cottage cheese, and low fat plain greek yogurt. Supplement with LOTS of non-starchy vegetables. Include a little whole grains, fruit, nuts, and seeds. By doing this you will keep your metabolism running well and be able to eat plenty without having to count calories or worry. (High protein foods and high dietary fiber foods are very filling so it’s hard to overeat!) Avoid added sugars and refined carbohydrates as much as possible!

      Hope this helps,

      Lori

  • esther October 10, 2011, 1:58 pm

    Lori,

    I have gone to the doctor and he is working with me to lose weight. I originally started at 370lbs. He gave me a menu for 1800 per day caloric intake. Which to me it seemed like a lot compared to what I used to eat. I used to be busy all day and eat one or two times a day and not very much. So this was a huge difference and I started eating 5 times a day. I also brought some excercise into the picture. Well..I lost 50lbs in 5 weeks! It was amazing! Every week 10, 10, 10. I couldn’t believe it. Well it’s now been two weeks and I have stayed at 320. I just turned 40 two months ago. So I’m not sure if my age has anything to do with this. I’m still working out and counting my calories of 1800 per day. Why will I have reached a plateau? I’m 5’8″ and I know those calories are for a woman about 180lbs with my height. Can you please give me some advise and what I can do to help myself out. I did feel weak and lethargic the last two weeks which has never been normal for me. Actually when I weight 370lbs and never moved like a woman that heavy. I move even faster now constantly going except for the past two weeks. Please help!

    • Lori October 11, 2011, 9:23 am

      Hi Esther,

      Congratulations on your weight loss success so far! I’m sorry to hear you’ve hit a plateau. Plateaus are all too common and frustrating. As I’m sure you already know you are fighting thousands of years of evolutionary adaptation that causes our bodies to try and protect us from starvation.

      When you lose a significant amount of weight as you have, your body reacts by adjusting your metabolic rate to hold on to your remaining fat stores. I talk about this and more in my two part article on weight plateaus.

      You may have to do some experimenting to discover what will work best for you to get unstuck. Although it is counter-intuitive, I would recommend increasing your food intake by 200-600 calories for a few days to see if that gets weight loss going again. (2000-2400 calories total). Let your body know you are not starving then go back to 1800 calories.

      There are also some other tactics you might try with your doctor’s approval. If you are not eating breakfast now, make sure you do and include plenty of lean protein. (Eggs (hard-boiled, scrambled, omelettes, etc.), greek yogurt, turkey bacon, low fat cottage cheese, etc.) If your health will allow it, include 15-20 grams of protein with each breakfast. Include veggies to round out your meal especially leafy greens.

      Give up fruit juice for while and limit your fruit intake. But do eat lots of veggies. When you do eat grains make sure they are whole grains. Reducing your overall carbohydrate intake should help a lot.

      Hopefully one of these suggestions will help. Let me know how it goes.

      Good luck!

      Lori

  • Christine September 8, 2011, 6:19 pm

    Lori,

    Thank you for putting together simple and understandable 1200 & 1500 calorie diet lists. Following the daily servings seems to be an easy method. I am 47, 5 ft 2 inches tall and 155 pounds. I hit menopause quite early (age 43) but have been steadily putting on weight for the past decade. My goal is to get back down to 120 pounds which is a nice healthy weight for me. Due to other health issues, I cannot exercise more than a few times a week, and only yoga or light walking. Is 1200 calories too restrictive?

    • Lori September 8, 2011, 6:42 pm

      Hi Christine,

      Glad to know the basic diet plans might be of help. Given your current weight and age, it seems your basal metabolic rate may be closer to 1400 calories. So I would suggest you give that a try. As you lose weight your metabolic rate will slow somewhat (this is normal). You may need to shift to 1300 calories or so when you have lost 15-20 pounds.

      Watching your caloric intake will make a difference, however, don’t feel like you can’t eat more from time to time. Many people find that adding an additional 200-300 calories or more once or twice a week can be helpful. The additional calories can keep your metabolism running smoothly and help you avoid hitting a plateau by letting your body know you are not starving.

      Good luck!

      Lori

  • dena September 5, 2011, 3:52 pm

    Thanks!! Tomorrow is my “start” day. Planned my meals out for the week and went grocery shopping. Will try the alternatives as
    suggested for the milk.
    One thing I would like to point out, by sitting down and making my meal plan out for the week made me realize what a horrible eater I have become. A bag of chips, jerky and a cup of ramien noodles for breakfast is really awful!! Lunch is worse and then normally no dinner. It’s going to take a lot of effort to change those “bad” habits. I looked at my menus and my first thought was, this is way to much food for me to consume! Then realized, hey, I’m getting older going through menopause and really need to make an effort on feeding my body responsibley.
    My neighbor and I are going to start riding our bikes at night and I am going to make it a priority to get back out there and start walking the dog again!
    Thanks for the great website!!

  • dena September 4, 2011, 10:11 am

    Hi Lori
    I too stumbled across this website with hopes of losing weight, getting in shape and just plain feeling better about myself!!
    I would like to start with the 1200 plan and see how I feel after a week before increasing the calorie intake if needed.
    I am 45 yrs old, 5’5″ and weigh 178. Most people would not put me at that weight but I know it. My job is physically demanding and spent the majority of the time outside.
    One question that I have is, what can be substituted for skim milk while getting the same nutritional value? I am not a fan of “drinking” milk. I can tolerate it with cereal but only after most has been soaked up! I do like smoothies and can drink them at home. I have no access to a frig. during the day so it must keep well in a cooler with ice. 1 cup of skim milk would = ???

    • Lori September 5, 2011, 9:05 am

      Hi Dena,

      My apologies for the delay in responding, my husband and I were out of town for the holiday weekend.

      You have a great question. Although I have touched on the many alternative choices to getting key nutrients found in milk such as protein and calcium, I don’t have a comprehensive article on my site. Because it is a rather complicated issue, I would like to refer you to a well-written article by a dietitian: An Updated Guide to Soy, Rice, Nut and other non-dairy milks. Some of the grain and nut based milks are sold in individual sized cartons that do not need refrigeration (unless saving a portion for another time after opening). Read the nutrition labels carefully and watch in particular for the protein and calcium. These alternative milk products vary widely with respect to calories and nutrients.

      I drank skim milk regularly for most of my adult life and then woke up one day and decided I just didn’t like it any more. Like you I use skim milk for my cereal, especially hot cereals such as oatmeal. I also enjoy 1 cup a day with coffee. I drink soy milk for convenience when traveling or when I’m busy in my office and don’t want to stop in the middle of a project. I happen to like Soy Dream enriched soymilk. It has 120 calories per individual carton with 7 grams of protein plus calcium and vitamin D.

      The flavor of different products varies considerably so you may need to try out a few once you determine the source ingredient (soy, rice, almond, etc.) and nutrient combo that will work best for you.

      Hope this helps!

      Lori

  • Lauren September 1, 2011, 12:51 pm

    Hi Lori,

    Like many people on here i happened to stumble upon this website. It has been interesting to read because i started my weight loss program in march. Since then i have lost 40 lbs and i need to lose more! When i started out i started out at about 2000 calories and have worked myself down to 1200 calories. I feel great which i know is a good thing! I work out 7 days a week and do about 2 hours of cardio. So i burn anywhere from 9000 to 10000 calories a week. I am still losing weight, but i have notices the past few weeks i have felt sluggish so i bumped up my calorie intake to 1500. I am terrified of plateauing out! I never given it much thought till i started reading articles about it. How can i prevent this!? I started out at 240lbs (disgusting i know), but i weigh 200 now and still have a lot of fat in my bell region i need to get rid of. My BMR suggest i eat 1700 calories but im terrified to eat that much! I have been unhappy for so long about my weight and to gain any right now would devastate me!

    Also, i drink LOTS of water during the day. Does this have anything to do with my weight fluctuation? Some days its as much as 5lbs…..

    Thank you so much for the articles and am opened to any suggestions

    • Lori September 2, 2011, 6:11 am

      Hi Lauren,

      First of all congratulations on your weight loss so far! I can see from this success and the kind of questions you are asking that you have what it takes to reach your ultimate goal. That’s rare.

      I can understand your concern about reaching a plateau after all your hard work. I believe you were wise to raise your caloric intake to 1500. Are you feeling better with the increased intake? Given all the exercise you are doing it still seems to be on the low side as far as keeping your energy level up. On the other hand, the exercise is likely helping to keep your metabolism running well in addition to burning lots of calories.

      I would think you could safely increase your caloric intake to 1700 or more given the amount of exercise you do. I would encourage you to at least give it a try if you are still feeling sluggish. What you need to do is more of what you are doing already. That is, keep paying attention to what your body is telling you. Don’t feel you need to be a slave to a certain calorie level. Try experimenting with cycling your calories up and down within a certain range. Also, allowing yourself to have a relatively high intake (within reason) every so often can be a good thing to let your body know you are not starving. (Only do this if you can get back on track the very next day.)

      As for the weight fluctuation, yes it is probably due to shifts in water weight.

      I wish you the very best,

      Lori

  • lisa August 30, 2011, 2:54 am

    i decided i needed to lose some weight so i went from eating 1800-2000 calories a day to 800! i was completely clueless about calories as the only diet ive ever tried before is weight watchers,i managed to be comfortable eating only 800 calories a day as weight watchers ready meals are only around 300 cals,when i lost 7 pounds i increased my calorie intake to 1200 which im still currently eating and ive lost a further 10lbs my bmi is 1460 cals looking at your commments about bmi im getting pretty worried what should i increase my calorie intake to as i would like to maintain my weight that im at now and most importantly be giving my body the calorie intake and nutrients it needs!
    lisa

    • Lori August 30, 2011, 6:05 am

      Hi Lisa,

      I need more information to be of any help. How old are you now? What do you currently weigh? How tall are you? Do you exercise or are you otherwise physically active?

      When you say your bmi is 1460, I believe you are referring to your BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate) and not BMI (Body Mass Index). BMI can help you determine a healthy weight range for someone of your height. BMR will give you a start in determining how many calories would be appropriate for you whether or not you are on a weight loss diet or attempting to maintain.

      Yes, 800 calories is too low and 1200 may be also.

      Lori

  • Eve August 17, 2011, 2:55 pm

    Hi Lori

    Thank you so much for your weightloss tips and suggestions you are a blessing.

    sincerely,
    Eve

  • Donna August 14, 2011, 9:42 am

    Hi,
    I would like to lose weight and get healthy. I have a real problem with sweets, so to even put them in my daily plan in not good. I get a taste and thats all it takes for me to get off track. I am trying to understand BMR. I am not sure how to figure it out. I am 52, 5’5, and 177lbs. I want to lose 20 at first. But I need to figure out a menu that I can afford. It will probably include alot of chicken. Any suggestions would be welcome.
    Thanks

    • Lori August 14, 2011, 2:40 pm

      Hi Donna,

      My quick estimate suggests you have a BMR close to 1500 calories per day for your height and current age and weight. To read more about BMR and how to understand it better you may want to read my series on metabolism beginning with It Must Be My Metabolism

      You are wise to avoid all sweets knowing how difficult you find to avoid eating more than you need (a common problem!).

      Have you seen my sample menus? I have one week long sample menu for 1200 calories (that you can boost to 1500 quite easily) that is centered around chicken and other low cost foods. I does involve cooking however. But cooking for yourself can be one of the best ways to keep your food bill lower and eat healthy at the same time.

      See: 7 Day Sample Menu Plan

      Let me know if this helps.

      Best of luck,

      Lori

  • Eve August 13, 2011, 10:42 pm

    I’ve been struggling with my weight a long time and I can’t seem to lose a pound, I’m 41, 5’7, and 206 lbs. I workout 5 days a week and have weight training sessions I probably would see some results if I could control my appetite so my question is do you recommend I take something to control my appetite?

    • Lori August 14, 2011, 9:14 am

      Hi Eve,

      There are different ways to manage appetite with both food and lifestyle. My preference is to make sure you are getting plenty of protein and dietary fiber. You will also want to limit food in your environment so you aren’t eating “just because food is available.”

      I would also encourage you to keep a food diary for a while so you understand exactly what you eat, how much, and when. Tracking calories isn’t fun but if you do it for even a little while you will have a much better sense of how you can cut back even a little to begin losing.

      Something else you might find helpful is my article on weight loss plateaus (click on the articles link on the menu bar). Hope this helps.

      Lori

  • Mer July 21, 2011, 1:15 am

    Hello, I stumbled upon your website. I just want to ask you something. Is it ok for a student like me go on a diet? I’m 16 by the way, 167.5 lbs, and 5’4″.

    • Lori July 21, 2011, 1:27 pm

      Hello Mer,

      Glad you found my website and took the time to ask a question! Whether or not it would be o.k. depends on many different factors. You would be best off asking your family physician that same question.

      However, in the mean time I would encourage you to get enough calories for your age, height, and weight. One of the most common problems people have in achieving and maintaining a healthy weight is either eating too many calories or NOT enough. Although I would imagine you are still living at home, do try to eat as healthy a diet as possible and watch your portion sizes.

      If you think your parents might need a bit of help with preparing healthy meals, you might offer to help cook if you do not do so already. I bet they would be thrilled! I just recently shared several articles about how to plan for, shop, and prepare healthy meals.

      At sixteen, you are not far off from being an adult yourself. Everything you can learn now will help you achieve the healthy great looking body you’d like to have.

      Best wishes,

      Lori

  • Kallay July 13, 2011, 2:25 pm

    I forgot to add that I’m 248 and 5’9″ and looking to lose around 90 pounds to get down to 160.

  • Kallay July 13, 2011, 2:24 pm

    I’m glad I stumbled upon this website! You have LOTS of great tips. I’m really confused about the BMR portion though.

    My BMR is around 1900, so eating 1200 calories a day would be a bad thing, right? If I ate 1900 and exercised to burn around 400 calories per day, that would put me at around 1500 calories per day, right? Or am I completely missing the mark here?

    • Lori July 13, 2011, 2:44 pm

      Hi Kallay,

      Beautiful name by the way! Yes, you seem to have the right idea. It is confusing because the suggestions I provide are only estimates of what might work for a given individual. It gives you a starting point and then you can see what does and does not work for you.

      By eating 1900 calories of food you will be satisfying your physiological needs and hopefully keep your body from thinking you are starving. You don’t want your body to work against your weight loss efforts by slowing down metabolism.

      There are physical trainers and others who suggest you would be better off also compensating for the additional calories burned in exercise. That would mean eating a total of 2300 calories to cover the 400 calorie “cost” of exercise. In theory this will also prevent metabolic slowdown. In my experience it seems to depend on the individual. So you could try doing it the way you suggest of consuming 1900 calories.

      Either way you will lose weight because you have a need for calories for every day activities other than exercise. Let me know what you choose and how it goes for you. I would be interested in knowing.

      Best of luck!

      Lori

  • Dianna July 10, 2011, 10:06 am

    Hello, I stumbled upon your site and was glad I did. My life appears to be in complete and total chaos. I was injured a few years ago and those injuries do limit me a bit in what I can do. Needless to say, I gained some weight (a lot) to my already overweight body. Recently I have been facing unemployment with possible employment overseas. The list goes on and on as to stressors in my life.

    The thing is I decided a couple of days ago to at least do something about my weight. I started on Friday at 276 pounds (egads awful to admit) at 5’4″. I am trying to exclude soda (diet or regular) from my daily intake and instead have attempted to follow the guideline of drinking 1/2 oz water for each pound of weight…I haven’t quite gotten to the full amount, but am drinking a whole lot more water than I used to.

    I am attempting to get to the gym at least 4 times a week and will wear a pedometer every day with the hopes of reaching 10000 steps a day.

    I have been trying to follow the 1200 calorie guideline, which believe it or not the first day I didn’t make it to. I have increased my veggie (not as much as I should but working on it) and fruit intake and cut out the sweets and extra bread type of carbs.

    To make along story short, I am so glad I found your site because some of the articles have helped me figure out the right ratio of fat, carb, protein so that I can attempt to have a well rounded diet. At 49 years old I want to increase my abilities to be around when my grandsons grow up let alone to enjoy life now rather than hiding out because I am big as a house. Sure, I would gather that losing weight will increase my odds of getting dates too, but mainly I just want to get healthy.

    As I said, due to the injury, I am not as active as I used to be (or as active as I would like to be) but I have found the recumbent bike at the gym and I take along my headphones and watch some tv on the precor while pedaling away. It may not be much but at least it is something :)

    Thanks for your postings, they are really beneficial and if you have any suggestions for me I am more than open to them.

    • Lori July 11, 2011, 7:47 am

      Hi Dianna,

      Thanks for sharing your story! I’m sorry to hear of the challenges you are facing. That is a LOT of stress. I hope your job continues and you are not sent overseas at this time. people can only handle so much at a time without it wreaking havoc on health. It’s no surprise your weight has crept up on you. We live in an environment surrounded by unhealthy food!!

      I believe you are definitely on the right track. You’re making the kind of choices that can bring you the weight loss you seek. You just need to find a way to keep your motivation high! Do keep the thought about being here for your grandsons foremost in your mind. That can be a powerful motivator.

      You might also use anger. Look at the many things you have done right in your life and use those things to remind yourself that you are strong and capable. You can do what it takes to care for yourself!

      Something else that can help is to get encouragement from others who have dealt successfully with incredible challenges. I recently read about a woman who weighed nearly 600 Pounds and she has managed to take off 300 so far without surgery, drugs, or supplements of any kind. Her strategy was the same I teach here. Eat a nutritious balanced diet, use portion control, and be more physically active.

      1200 calories is on the low side for you. I would suggest going higher than that unless maybe your doctor is in agreement.

      I wish you the very best! let me know if there is information you are needing that I could provide for you.

      Lori

  • Julie January 6, 2011, 3:19 pm

    I too have started the new year with a goal of losing 40 lbs. I am 36 years old, I weigh 180 lbs and am 5’4. I feel miserable all the time and during Christmas I went to buy new clothes and that was when I decided I did not want to have to go
    up another pant size! I have been following a Calorie Diet. I just did the BMR test
    and noticed that the caloric intake was much more than what I had been following. I am will need to increase my calorie intake. I hope that I can stick with the program. I have been exercising (treadmill) and doing some aerobics. I hope that I can use you as a support system. I really need some motivation.

    • Lori January 6, 2011, 5:21 pm

      Hi Julie,

      I’m glad you found my website/blog. Weight management is tough. With very few exceptions, most every woman I’ve ever met has had struggles managing weight wether they openly admit it or not. For that matter, I have a sister who is tall and stick thin and she obsesses about her weight more than anyone else!

      Anyway, I’m glad to hear you have chosen a more realistic calorie intake. I believe you will find it to be easier to follow than one which is too restrictive. I hope you also choose a healthy diet along with portion control as often as possible. No one including nutritionists and dietitians gets it right all the time. I certainly don’t. Understanding that it matters is important along with making the effort to learn more about nutrition and make the best choices you can as often as you can. Yes, absolutely I’m here to help. Never hesitate to ask me a question.

      Do you use Facebook? I’ve started a Facebook Fan Page for 1200 calorie diet (http://www.facebook.com/pages/1200-Calorie-Diet/55778628390) and 1500 calorie diet (http://www.facebook.com/pages/1500-Calorie-Diet/135918765645). I’d encourage you to join us even if your calorie intake is higher. I share tips about weight loss, nutrition, and health. I also have links to my website when I’ve posted a new article. I’d really like it if more people would join in and participate to help one another!

      Hope I hear from you again here or on Facebook. Good luck!

  • Brandi January 3, 2011, 5:18 pm

    Hi. You suggest that my caloric intake each day is not less than my estimated BMR. Can you please explain that in more depth. I am not clear as to why that would be such an issue. It seems to me that as long as I am eating a balanced diet and eating regularly (every 3-4 hours), that my metabolism should keep up. On the other hand, I also understand that restricting too many calories may cause my body to go into starvation mode and actually hold on to the fat.

    I have just begun a 1200 calories a day diet and exercising at least 5 days a week. My BMR is between 1650-1700. Am I shortchanging myself? Will eating regulary negate starvation mode? Thanks for your help. I stumbled onto your site and now have it as a favorite.

    • Lori January 3, 2011, 5:27 pm

      Hi Brandi,

      I’m so glad you asked why you should not eat less (fewer calories) than your estimated BMR. I would like to give you the best response that I can to hopefully make it a little easier to understand. I need to go make dinner now so I will get back with you later tonight or tomorrow morning. Thanks again for speaking up and for marking my site as a favorite! I’ll get back with you soon.

      Lori

    • Lori January 4, 2011, 11:30 am

      Hi Brandi,

      Thanks for your patience. I attempted to give you a more detailed explanation in answer to your question and I ended up writing an article. I hope to post it later today. It will go into depth about the importance of BMR and the need to get enough calories for weight loss and health. In the meantime, I’ll give you a shorter and probably less satisfying answer.

      Your goal, I would assume, is to lose a certain amount of weight and for most of the weight lost to be fat loss. Some of the loss will be water loss and a little will be other/lean body mass. What you want to avoid is losing a great deal of lean body mass. You don’t want your body to be pulling calories for the energy it needs (to keep your lungs breathing, your heart beating, and your organs functioning) by breaking down muscle tissue or other organ tissue.

      Unfortunately, burning too much lean tissue for energy is precisely what will happen if you reduce your calories for a length of time below BMR. Stored carbohydrates are minimal and can be burned off quickly. And your body will hang on to your fat stores to protect you from what it may perceive as a long period of possible famine.

      You need muscles for everyday living and to maintain a shapely figure. Beyond this, as you lose muscle tissue your basal metabolic rate will drop lower because muscle is much more metabolically active than fat. This in turn makes it even harder to lose weight.

      I go into more depth about why this happens in my article. Just keep in mind that the primary issue with respect to maintaining a healthy metabolism is calories. Eating healthy food on a regular schedule matters but not as much as getting enough calories.

      As you lose weight your BMR will change and you will actually need to adjust to a lower calorie intake. But for now 1200 calories will not likely be enough for you and you may find yourself getting tired, sluggish, and/or irritable from lack of food. You may also experience reaching a weight loss plateau which can be difficult to break.

      I include links to more articles on my site about metabolism and weight loss plateaus in the new article. I hope you let me know what other questions you might have.

      I wish you the best and genuinely want you to succeed!

      • Brandi January 6, 2011, 10:38 am

        Lori,

        Thank you very much for your response and the article. I am increasing my calorie intake to 1500 and will closely monitor my body and how it feels in the next couple of weeks. I have been struggling with weight loss for over two years now. I take responsibility for a lot of the failure and now understand that it came from attempting to follow several fad diets and never really adjusting to a healthy and active lifestyle. Like many others, I am guilty of wanting the quick and easy fix. They just always seem to add more weight than I started with. Diabetes, high cholesterol, obesity, plus more, run rampant in my family tree. Its time I take preventitive measures and adopt a lifestyle that will benefit both myself and my future children. So, as of today, I am a 26 year old female, 5’9″ and weigh 195 (yikes, it’s harder to type than I thought). I have good muscle tone and typically test in the 85-90 percetile on strength tests for my sex and age group. I just really need to lean out and increase my endurance and physical activity, while losing about 30 puonds. Any advice to get me started is appreciated.

        Best,
        Brandi

        • Lori January 7, 2011, 11:11 am

          Hi again Brandi,

          I applaud you for making the decision to choose a healthy and active lifestyle. In the long run it is the ONLY thing that works. I know all too many people my age and older (50s+) who regret not having made better choices when they were younger. It is never too late to get healthier but the younger you start the better off you will be. And as you mentioned, making the right kind of choices for yourself now will prepare you to set a good example for your future children.

          Getting back to today, it’s good to know you are physically strong. That’s a plus! There are plenty of “skinny” fat people in our society. Being thin does not automatically make someone healthy! So muscles are good. Given that you test high for strength the results you get with a BMR calculator may be underestimated. That’s not a bad thing! It means you will be burning calories at a higher rate than average for someone of your height and weight.

          I believe 1500 calories may still be on the low side for you. But you can give it a try and cycle up the calorie count by a few hundred once or twice a week. Hopefully that will help keep your metabolism running smoothly. Also, choose some kind of exercise that you will like! It is so much easier to be active when we’re doing things we like to do and when we can participate with others. I discovered I like doing something I never in a million years would have thought I could do. I’ve run two half-marathons. One at age 54 and then age 55. My 23 year old daughter didn’t think she could run a half-marathon either but she gave it a try this fall because after all her “OLD” mother had done it. She did very well.

          I only share these things because we both thought we were totally unathletic. I mean I was the kid who got picked last to be on any kind of team sport. So find something that suits you! There are all kinds of ways to be physically active from pilates to yoga to belly dancing to horseback riding etc.

          I hope you’ll check back in a while and let me know how you are doing. If you’re on Facebook you might want to join the group there. We have a 1500 calorie diet and a 1200 Calorie Diet page. I share the same information in both places so it doesn’t really matter which page you join. (There are more people on the 1200 calorie page than the 1500 but both are growing.)

          Maybe we’ll see you there. Best of luck!

  • Cindy October 24, 2010, 6:15 pm

    Hi. I stumbled on your site while looking for 1200 calorie diet information. I started on a 1200 calorie diet as the result of reading a Southbeach heart health book and the meal plan 1st week detox guide in a SlimQuick weight loss pill box insert. I noticed that both reading materials had a lot in common as far as the foods, quantities, vitamins, nutrients, etc…

    Instead of taking the SlimQuick pills, I decided to just give the 1200 calorie diet a go. I am constantly referring back to the SB heart health book to make sure that I’m only putting foods in my mouth that have some type of purpose, whether it’s a glass of Pomegranate juice for antioxidants, Walnuts for Omegas or Salad for the phenols. I have completely cut out all High Fructose Corn Syrup and Aspartame. I read EVERY label. You know what they say… Junk in Junk out.

    I’ve only lost 2 pounds in 2 weeks, which is very disappointing because I have been absolutely dedicated. I’m 40, female, 5’3″ and 164lbs. I’m sure that I ate far less food before and now it seems that I am eating way more food than I ever did. Some days, I omit parts of the menu simply because I don’t have time to eat it or I can’t fit it in. I do feel awesome though, but I’d rather have my clothes fit. Saving money on clothes would make me feel awesome too!

    So, I’m wondering what I’m doing wrong?

    On a typical day, this is what I eat:

    Detox Rise & shine:
    Glass of warm water with juice of 1/2 lemon

    Breakfast:
    320z shake made of the following ingredients:
    - 1 cup 1% milk
    - 5 ice cubes
    - 1 scoop of sugar free, gluten free “about time” whey powder
    - 1 cup frozen blueberries
    - 1 banana

    Mid morning snack:
    - 20 raw almonds
    - 1/2 c fresh strawberries (about 3 or 4 whole, sliced up)

    Lunch:
    Salad with the following ingredients:
    - 2 cups of bagged spring salad mix
    - juice of 1/2 lemon
    - 1 tbs olive oil

    -and-

    Salmon salad with the following ingredients:
    - 1 serving canned salmon (read serving size on can)
    - 1 tsp chopped prepared garlic in a jar
    - juice of 1/2 lemon
    - 1 tsp olive oil
    - 2 tbs chopped onion
    - 2 tbs chopped celery

    -optional if you can fit it in –
    - 1 cup steamed broccoli or cauliflower

    Mid-Afternoon snack:
    - 1 leg of celery sliced up into sticks
    - 1 tbs garlic hummus or low fat ranch dressing
    - or -
    - 1 sliced apple
    -or-
    1/4 c walnuts

    Dinner:
    - 1 fillet of meat. (fish, chicken or turkey)
    - same spring mix salad as listed for lunch
    - 1 cup steamed veggie (broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, ect…)

    Sweet snack: Fudgesicle no sugar added chocolate Popsicle

    I load up on the vitamins. I don’t take a multi. Instead I opted for individual vitamins in either liquid or gel form. The vitamins I could only get in pill form, I put in the coffee grinder to form a powder and I put this in my glass of water/lemon juice to maximize absorption.

    The only stray from this daily regiment are the following:
    - Occasional 1 tsp Agauve in a cup of Oolong tea
    - 4oz Glass of Red Wine for the flavinoids every 3rd day
    - Glass of 2oz Pomegranite mixed with 2oz Acacai juice every other day

    Is it the drinks that are throwing me off the wagon?

    Thanks,
    Cindy

    • Lori October 24, 2010, 6:57 pm

      Cindy,

      Thanks for sharing the challenges you face with weight loss. On the whole, I believe you are absolutely on the right track with your diet. The weight may not be coming off as quickly as you might like but I believe each pound you lose will more likely be predominately fat rather than a mix of fat and lean tissue (muscles, organ tissue, etc.). You say you are feeling great. That’s a good sign you are giving your body what it needs as the weight comes off.

      Your weight loss range (in terms of calories) is quite small. This is may be especially true for you because I did not see any mention of exercise/physical activity in your comment. Given your relatively small caloric range (influenced by your age, sex, height, weight, physical activity) you are doing very well. If you would like me to explain this better just let me know. I would be happy to elaborate tomorrow when I have a little more time.

      Remember the positive aspect of your weight loss pace. At a pound a week in a just a few months you could be at a very comfortable weight compared with today. Don’t give up! (If this makes you feel any better I am older and shorter than you. That means my weight loss rate is even slower than yours. After a week on a 1200 calorie diet, I am lucky if I’ve lost 1/4 to 1/2 pound and that includes doing a LOT of physical activity.)

      Best of luck!

      Lori

      (There are a few minor changes I might suggest with your diet but otherwise you are on the right track.)

  • Lori April 24, 2010, 10:44 am

    Amanda, it seems like you are off to a good start. I’m glad you haven’t reduced your calorie intake to less than 1500 calories. I also admire your efforts to stay away from sweets. That may very well be the BEST thing you can do!

    Lots of people have trouble giving up ALL sweets so I do include a little in the diet plans. You’ve learned that having even a little can get you off track, so by all means avoid it! I like your suggestion to take your kids out for a single sweet, not having to deal with having sweets at home, and getting exercise!! Great idea!

    I would like to respond to your question about overcoming plateaus with an article. I will be traveling for a little while but I hope to write something soon (in the next few weeks). Be looking for it.

    In the meantime, I wish you all the best!

    Lori

  • Amanda April 23, 2010, 12:39 pm

    Your site says I need 2022 calories a day for the best metabolism, I have eaten 1500 a day STRICKLY, for 9 days. I need to lose A LOT of weight and realized it when I almost maxed out a scale at walmart! (I don’t have a scale at home OR full length mirrors)…Anyway, I feel energized (most days I wear my kids out..lol) I feel a lot better about myself (even though I probably haven’t lost an ounce. LOL, I guess it’s psychological..hee, hee) I haven’t eaten even one sweet thing since I started! I am determined!!! While I like your idea of adding in the icecream, that is why I never stuck with diets. These companies make so many different sweets (slim fast is mostly sweets) that are low cal or whatever and its so easy to just go back to eating a regualar brownie instead. However, with this plan, I made for myself, I don’t buy snackcakes, low calorie icecream or cakes, NOTHING sweet! That way, it’s not calling my name all dang day! And, i’ve found, that when the kids want something tasty it’s more fun to walk to the store and buy them something-singly-then it is to make them something to call my name at home. Then I get excersize and they get a treat, so we both win! Well, I win TWICE (if you ask me) because I don’t have some homemade cinnamon rolls or cake to contend with. LOL.

    Anyway, what I’m getting at here, is that I am determined to stick with this forever! I have a HUGE overall goal of losing 125 pounds (dang, that sounds bad, like I’m going to lose a whole person) For my build, even at 5’4″ I look most healthy around 150-160 pounds, even though most suggest that is considered overweight! But I don’t think people take into consideration that I have a large frame, so I’m obviously going to look better with 10-20 pounds extra.

    Once again, I have strayed from the subject…I have a small goal (to begin with) of 20 pounds! That will seem like a miracle. I am planning to keep a 20 pound goal! Each time I lose 20 I will make a new one of 20! That way, I stay motivated and don’t get discouraged!

    I have one question though. I have tried the slim fast diet (lost 30 pounds on it 2 years ago then got confident and quit) and also the carb diet (honestly, it made me feel horrible!), weight watchers (I lost 10 pounds and gave up), and many others and I find that I get to a certain point where I stop losing weight. Like my food intake is leveled out or something for my metabolism! So, how do I bypass this plateau so that I can continue to lose weight, religiously?

    I am going to continue with NO SWEETS until I get to at least 200 pounds, that way I don’t lose sight of my goals! :) I don’t even crave sweets anymore on this self made diet, actually. So, that makes it easier, for sure!

    I guess, I better tell you what my daily menu consists of []‘s are calories

    Breakfast (8am)
    2 large biscuits original shredded wheat cereal(sprinkled w/ cinnamon and 1 packet of splenda) [160]
    4 oz. non fat milk [40]
    1 banana [85]
    2 pc. 35 calorie wheat bread [70] w/ 1/2 T. butter [25]

    TOTAL [380]

    Lunch (12pm)
    1c. Veg Soup [100]
    Sandwich (2 pc. 35 cal bread) [70] w/ 1 T. peanut butter [90]-1/2T. honey [30]

    TOTAL [290]

    afternoon, small meal (3pm)
    1c. beef stew [170]
    grilled cheese (2sl. 35 cal bread) [70] 1 slice real cheese (I don’t eat fat free cheese because flies won’t even land on it so it’s probably more plastic then cheese..LOL) [70] 1T. butter [50]

    TOTAL [360]

    6oz. Lowfat Yogurt [160]

    TOTAL [160]

    Supper (6 or 7pm)
    4 C. salad [40], 1 sliced tomato [25], 1 boiled egg [70], 4T. olives [40], 5 round ritz crackers crushed into salad [85], 2 slices turkey (fat free)chopped up [40], 1T. lite ranch dressing [40]

    Total [340]

    TOTAL OVERALL: [1530]

    (FYI, I drink unsweet tea w/ splenda, or water, or crystal light…NO Soda of ANY kind, not even diet—doctor says it’s worse for you then the regular—I will occasionally have 100% fruit juice, but I always count the calories in it if I do)

    I find myself hungry about every 4 hours…but I feel better eating more often then I did when I was consuming 3000+ calories a day!

    I can’t imagine getting that up to 2022 calories! I am completely satisfied on meals like this! IS it bad that I only eat 1500? Will it do more damage then good?

    So, like I asked earlier, I really just want to know how to fight the flat line period where I stop losing weight!?!

    (The only idea I can come up with, is to go on a COMPLETELY different diet for a week…Like the carb diet! And then go back the next week to eating 1500 calories. Will this allow me to continue to lose? Or should I just stop the diet all together and go back to 3000 calories and then go back to 1500 calories the next week?—eeek, I can see that as being a BAD idea. I might lose my dicipline. lol)

    Thanks sooo much for your time, Amanda

    • cloudie April 25, 2011, 5:44 am

      Hi ,
      I am not an expert on nutrition, but I do have 45 years of personal experience! I’d say cut down on the bread. Maybe toast one peice and slice in half if you have to have it??? Is the soup homemade? Try making homemade ones if you love soup. There’s a cabbage soup recipe out there that is really tasty only I would make sure the ingredients were all fresh and use bouillion instead of the soup mixes recommended online in the recipes. If fact, try making your own dressing as well. Make sure you eat every 2 – 2 1/2 hours. Walking to the store with your kids is a great idea, but maybe you could take a more walks? It sounds like you have a great goal and are on the right track to getting your weight down! Wish you the best!

    • Erin McAdams November 14, 2011, 1:05 am

      Hi Amanda, I am in a similar boat and have lots of weight to lose, with a BMR of about 1700 calories. I am taking a nutrition class (almost done!), and I read something interesting about plateaus. A different way to look at them…so after you have lost some weight, your body is desperately holding on to what it can. Keep feeding it 1500 calories or whatever you are doing for a length of time. This gives your body time to adjust to your lower weight, and helps prevent relapse when you do get nearer your goal weight. 125 is a lot to lose…take some time to realize that it will take quite some time, possibly years, to reach this…at least safely and in a method where you won’t gain it all back. So while nobody likes plataeus, try recognizing it as a ‘break’ from the weight loss…keep eating healthy and maintain that weight for a few months before taking other steps like cutting breads or calories. You might be surprised when you start losing again without cutting anything…

      • Lori November 14, 2011, 8:33 am

        Hi Erin,

        Thanks for sharing what you are reading and learning! That’s an interesting perspective on plateaus. However, I’m concerned it might set someone up to have further problems.

        Scientists have yet to figure out precisely what causes plateaus and how to overcome one. On the other hand we can observe what happens when someone succeeds in losing a lot of weight. If someone lives on too few calories for a long period of time (even if weight loss continues after a plateau) there seems to be an adjustment in metabolism to live with the lower caloric intake. It makes living with the final goal weight extraordinarily difficult. In other words, if a woman of average height and weight (who has always been close to that weight) needs 2000 calories to maintain the woman of the same height and age who loses a great deal of weight by consuming too low of a calorie count to reach that same weight may find she needs to stay at 1500 calories or less just to maintain. That’s not fair but it happens all too often.

        By getting enough calories when losing weight the loss may be slower but in the long run the maintenance will be far easier. The other factor to keep in mind is eating the best food possible. By focusing on healthy lean protein foods and lots of non-starchy veggies as the primary (but not only) foods, it is possible to encourage metabolism to function at its best and allow for a higher caloric intake while losing weight and a more normal caloric intake for maintenance.