How Many Calories Should I Eat A Day to Lose Weight?

Reviewed on 11/18/2020

What Are Health Risks of Excess Weight?

To lose about one pound per week, aim to eat 500 fewer calories per day. Do not go below 1,200 calories per day without a doctor's recommendation or medical supervision.
To lose about one pound per week, aim to eat 500 fewer calories per day. Do not go below 1,200 calories per day without a doctor’s recommendation or medical supervision.

Being overweight and obese can lead to numerous health problems, such as:

Weight loss can help reduce the risk of developing these conditions.

How Can I Determine My Ideal Weight?

In order to know how many calories you need to eat each day to lose weight, you first need to determine what an ideal weight is for you, which depends on your gender, age, height, frame size, and fat and muscle proportion. 

Body Mass Index (BMI) is a tool doctors use to determine if a person is overweight, and to what degree. BMI is often used to determine ideal weight ranges. 

BMI is calculated from the weight and square of the height:

BMI = body weight (in kg) ÷ height (in meters) squared
BMI less than 18.5Below normal weight
BMI 18.5 to under 24.9Normal weight
BMI 25 to under 29.9Overweight
BMI 30 to under 34.9Class I Obesity
BMI 35 to under 39.9Class II Obesity
BMI 40 or greaterClass III Obesity

How Many Calories Should I Eat A Day to Lose Weight?

Caloric intake depends on your current and target weight, gender, and activity level. The best way to figure this out is to talk to your doctor or a nutritionist to help determine the caloric intake that is right for you. 

In general, daily caloric requirements for adults range from: 

  • 1,600 to 2,400 calories per day for women
  • 2,000 to 3,000 calories per day for men

The low end of the range is for people who are sedentary while the high end of the range is for people who are active. Calorie requirements also tend to decrease for adults as they age. 

People who lose weight gradually, about 1 to 2 pounds per week, tend to have more success over the long term than people who try fad diets.

To lose about 1 pound per week, aim to eat 500 fewer calories per day, or burn those calories from exercise. Do not go below 1,200 calories per day without a doctor’s recommendation or medical supervision. 

There is not necessarily a single "best" weight loss diet that works for everyone. The diet that works best for you is the one you are able to stick to.

QUESTION

Weight loss occurs in the belly before anywhere else. See Answer

What Are Tips to Lose Weight?

There are four main components to making lifestyle changes that can aid in weight loss:

  • Identify triggers that make you want to eat
    • Write down what, where, and when you eat, and how you feel when you eat
    • This helps identify triggers such as time of day or a certain place or feelings that cause you to want to eat
    • Change eating habits
    • Use smaller plates
    • Eat more slowly
    • Add more colorful foods to meals
    • Keep healthy snacks on hand such as chopped vegetables, fruits, and nuts 
    • Add more vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and nuts to the diet
    • Avoid foods such as French fries or chips, sugar-sweetened beverages, red or processed meats, foods that contain trans fats, and processed foods 
  • Set goals and using rewards
    • Do not use food as a reward
    • Reward yourself for changing unhealthy behaviors, not for pounds lost
    • Rewards can include buying new clothing, getting a manicure or massage, or watching a movie or playing a game
    • Small rewards each time you choose healthier options help reinforce the the healthy behavior
    • Set clear goals, i.e. avoiding snacking or losing 5% of your current weight by a certain date
  • Add more activity into the day
    • Aim for at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, such as brisk walking
    • Add activity whenever you can: for example, take the stairs instead of the elevator or park farther from the store
  • Other factors that contribute to successful weight loss 
    • Enlist a supportive friend or family member to help reinforce healthy behavior
    • Learn to avoid temptations 
    • Learn to say "no" when urged to eat at social gatherings
    • Develop strategies for events before you go, such as eating beforehand or bringing your own low-calorie snacks and calorie-free drinks 
    • Practice positive thinking
    • If you make a mistake and eat something unhealthy, instead of thinking you’ve blown your diet, think of ways to get back on track
  • Reduce stress
    • Stress can trigger eating, and food choices when we are under stress can be unhealthy
    • Try deep breathing, mediation, yoga or other stress reduction techniques
  • Organized weight loss programs such as Weight Watchers, Overeaters Anonymous, and Take Off Pounds Sensibly (TOPS) may work for some people

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Reviewed on 11/18/2020
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