In the past, when most people tried to lose weight they used to do something very stupid. Which is drastically slashing their calories to something that’s completely unsustainable. 1200 calories for example.

Good thing times have changed and people are not doing it anymore. Wait. Fuck.

Google search results and heaps of 1200 kcal/day diet results

Let’s do some science stuff and see if there is anyone in the world to whom a 1200 calorie diet would be appropriate.

First, you need to know how we burn energy.

Hyperfocus on the BMR aka basal metabolic rate thing — energy your body uses to keep you alive so that you could go to work, earn money, buy a house to keep your stuff in while you are out getting more stuff which leaves you with no time for achieving your dreams (sadly, that applies to me too):

Thermic effect of food - 10% of total daily energy expenditure; Exercise activity thermogenesis ~5%; Non-exercise activity thermogenesis ~15%; Basal metabolic rate 60–70%.

Now let’s jump into one of many websites that uses the Harris-Benedict equation which is often used for BMR calculations and calculate BMR for an average 60+ years old female (based on National Health Statistics Reports, 2018):

Let’s now hit “calculate.” Meaning I hit it and you scroll down to see the result:

1379 kcal BMR

Haha, even a female older than 60 years has a predicted BMR of 1379 which is… higher than 1200. And yet we see heaps of people starving themselves on a 1200 calorie diet until they cannot do it anymore. 

No adult should ever be eating (consistently) below his/her BMR. Add energy burned due to the thermic effect of food, exercise activity thermogenesis, non-exercise activity thermogenesis to BMR, and you are destined to go off track. 

Let’s do even more science. Manini found in his review that the average BMR amongst people in their 40’s, 50’s, and even 60’s is around 1500 calories:

So if you have no metabolic disease — diagnosed by an actual doctor rather than self-diagnosis done by the Google doctor — you should not be on a 1200 calorie diet. It’s stupid. It’s nonsense. It’s immature. You will inevitably go off track and binge your face off.

Not only that but you will also lose lots of lean body mass aka muscle. And if you have read my how much fat vs. muscle do you lose in popular diets article, you know that losing a bunch of lean body mass is a straight way to fat overshoot (weight regain).

And, boys and girls, let’s not forget about cold intolerance, fatigue, headache, dizziness, muscle cramps, constipation, electrolyte abnormalities, and increased risk of gallstones.

Oh! I have one more — possible hair loss. Oh, oh! And last one — death.

Multiple deaths have been reported in extended very-low-calorie diets due to low-quality protein intake, excessive loss of lean mass, and inadequate medical supervision. I haven’t tried it but dying while eating mostly lettuce isn’t very fun as far as I’m concerned.

If you want to lose weight, create a small and sustainable calorie deficit (500 calorie deficit is a good way to start). In other words, eat as many calories as you can while still being in a calorie deficit

Do that and weight loss will not be that bad. You will have a few hundred calories to enjoy “fun” foods in moderation and you will keep deprivation at bay. This is the opposite of stupid which is being on a soul-crushing 1200 calorie diet.

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Take your GOAL bodyweight in pounds and multiply it by 11-12.

Let’s say your goal BW is 150 pounds. That would leave you with 1650-1800 calories/day (adjust it based on results). That’s your sustainable calorie deficit (if you have more than 50 pounds to lose, use 50-pound increments).

And if you just said you gotta be kidding, Egis, that’s way too many calories, that’s because you are used to starving yourself batshit crazy with 1200 calories and now everything more than that seems like oh my gosh I’m gonna end up weighing as much as a Smart car eating that much.


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Originally published by me on Medium on January 23, 2022

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