I get this question a lot: "How many calories should I eat to lose weight?" In my custom training programs I give women their calories and guidelines for menus, but I understand there is a lot of conflicting information out there on this subject and it's no wonder everybody is confused.
Women still will ask me "How many calories should I eat to lose weight?" and often people find me frustrated because they seem to blow their "diets" or calorie ranges often. Some people will tell you that's just a matter of weakness, etc. I agree if you are on a deadline to lose weight that is the case. You can't afford to "blow it" and often must be hungry, etc.
But, my average client doesn't have a sporting event they are getting super lean for. My clients are in this to be healthier and feel good. Feeling good means not obsessing about the next meal because they are starving. It also means having control over their impulses so that they aren't feeling horrible the next day over a bad sugar binge.
I'm giving you an answer to one of my www.phit-n-phat.com members who emailed. She weighs a little over 200lbs and has not been able to lose weight for a long time. She's very active doing videos, running, etc., but has a problem with "doing good all day then it coming apart in the afternoon/evening." Sound familiar?
Before I post my answer I want to note the following things:
You are probably not allowing yourself enough calories each day.
You might be WAY undereating the first half the day when you are distracted and busy.
When you get home to loads of food options, your adrenaline will release, and the hunger kicks in feeling UNCONTROLLABLE.
Babe, you have been hungry all day. You were just too busy to listen to the subtle clues your body gave you. When you get home the body decides to scream and toss a tantrum like a three year old because we ALL know that will get your attention and cause you to do anything to shut them up!
Now for my answer. Actually, before I answer, let me restate the question: "How many calories should I eat to lose fat?". Now for my answer.
If you weigh over 200lbs and you are eating 1500 calories then you are eating what someone who weighs 150 should eat to lose and feel mildly hungry. You should eat based on what you CURRENTLY weigh; not what you want to weigh. The body doesn't respond well to that. It still has organs and functions to carry out and needs the fuel to do it. It will also have nowhere to go when you get smaller because you already ate in the low end of "dieting."
At your weight if you were a client I would multiply your weight by 9-12. That would be your range and you would follow menus for that based on hunger levels each day.
How Many Calories Should I Eat To Lose Weight? It Depends on Your Plan For The Day.
Body Weight (BW) x9 are the days you are busy, sleep late, go to bed early, or just so full of veggies you don't need more.
BWx10 is your wheelhouse. Pretty much eat this most days and re-do the x10 every 10lbs you lose. When I have to give a five-second answer to "How many calories should I eat to lose weight?", body weight times ten is the best short answer I have.
BWx11 is when you need that extra snack. You might be PMS'ing, having a special day, tired, munchy, salt is low, etc. It's your guilt free way of having something extra WHEN YOU NEED IT.
BWx12 is your super active and super hungry days. You don't eat here very often. It's really for days that are high in activity or a day where you know you will just eat your arm off and staying at 12 will save you.
The answer to "how many calories should I eat?" gets easier to live with the harder you are willing to work.
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AS you get smaller, move to 10-12 and around 160lbs stop x9 anymore. The goal is always to eat as much as you can and lose. Not the other way around. I like girls to eat more, exercise hard, and settle for a solid pound or 1.5lb of FAT each week (not muscle and fat and be in the 2lb range every week).
The big thing is get in your range. Eat it faithfully with HARD execise and see what happens after TWO weeks. You should lose. If you don't lose, drop the all ranges by 100 calories and try again for two weeks.
If you have to drop the range after four weeks I would examine how hard you are working out. You might need more intensity and heavier weights.
One important thing to remember, though, you must be 95% in your range and 95% with your exercise for two weeks. If you are less than 95% then the problem isn't the calorie range; the problem is you are not working your plan. I see too many people blame the exercise schedule and the calorie range when they need to examine their habits. In other words, don't ask me "How many calories should I eat to lose weight?" and then basically ignore the answer by failing to execute consistently.
I hope this helps you find a calorie range that allows you to keep those habits clean and strong.
So I want to just use myself as an example. I am anywhere from 150-155 depending on the time of the month. So if I were to take the high end and say 155×10. This would put me at 1550 calories. If I were to workout then and burn lets say 600 calories, would I then eat for that day? Putting myself at 2150? I want to understand for myself and also be an example for someone.
12 is the high end. 1860 would be your top range. In LoseIt which is what I think you are referring to there is a calculator for adding back in calories.
This formula is taking all of that into consideration and giving you a basic baseline to start with if you aren’t going to journal with a program that isn’t calcing for you.
Also, you don’t HAVE to eat exercise calories. Loseit gives them to you if you want them but they can be left if they are NOT NEEDED.
I think people get confused with just trying to eat numbers and forgetting to listen to the body. That’s why I gave the how you feel stuff on different days. We all have days we’re hungrier or just not that hungry.
If you have more questions ask.
Another question: So my LOSE it says that I need to eat 1,244 which I am constantly going over by because I am HUNGRY. Should I just count the main stuff and not count the veggies like in salad and etc? If I am not adding back in my workout calories? I am good at maintaining at this weight. I want to LOSE. I have my LoseIt set to lose at 1 1/2 lbs per week, which is aggressive.
Well, I think you answered it yourself missy! You set it to lose AGGRESSIVELY so expect some aggressive action and hunger.
If you are constantly going over reduce how much you are going to lose each week. Let me ask you this…if you are always going over are you going to lose? No. If you eat a little less aggressive but can handle moderate hunger then you should be losing.
Also, this article is geared to the 200lb plus club. You are in the 150’s so the leaner you are the more you can’t skip workouts and eat over your cals and expect any losses. Sucks but true. I’m in the low-low club these days so when/if I want to drop anything I never set it to less than .5lbs a week or I won’t lose anything for overeating. I was going to blog on this later but a sneak peak is that I just set to .5lbs knowing it’s attainable and the days I can be under due to physical activity I do that!
In the end if you set it to lose and you are maintaining you are cheating you way to maintenance and that sets BAD habits for when you really do get to maintain. Watch that.
Another point, Loseit has an override feature. If you want to use my formula versus what it gives you then just set your own calories but stick to those ranges.
don’t not count things if you are going to journal. You might as well just bump the calorie and count them.
Why are you not adding back in your workout calories when you are hungry? It’s like the old WW AP’s – use them if you need them or leave them be but NO ONE is a HERO for leaving them behind when they are hungry. You are just a binge waiting to happen.
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Hi! I am 5’9, 260. 41 yo F….how many calories would you say I should eat to lose weight? Have not started exercising yet, but will start moving more and walking soon. I was actually told that I should eat for “future me” at a goal of 160…they calculated I should eat 1900 a day. They factored in a sedentary lifestyle into the equation. Help? Thanks so much!
I would eat where you are NOW not where you are going. Your body doesn’t know the future. It acts on the stresses it is at the CURRENT LEVEL. I would do 8x’s your current bodyweight until you start walking. Then you can move your range to 8-10 x’s current bodyweight with 8 as your goal and 10 for when truly hungry. I know that means 2600 cals but they should be GOOD calories on those days your body says it wants FUEL…not cravings.
Make VERY sure you add in some weights. It’s not a good idea to just walk and do cardio for the “the first 50lbs” or whatever. Your body will lose more FAT and you will be stronger if you include weights, cardio, and stretching.
Glad I found this. I have been wondering just this very question. I am going for gastric by-pass. The doctor I seen last week wants me to try to loose 5% of my weight before they will schedule me to see a surgeon. So I have to loose 15lbs. I’m trying but not getting anywhere so far. It is so hard with the way my family eats too. Glad I found your blog. Will be reading more.