Rebloggable by request
Argh. Where do these myths come from?! Seriously where has 1200 come from?!
1200 is too little for almost all people. Unless you are very short and small, it is likely too little for you.
There are a few numbers you need to know in relation to calories. The big one, is your BMR. Basal Metabolic Rate is how many calories your body would burn if you were to do nothing but rest for 24 hours. It represents the minimum amount of energy needed to keep your body functioning, including breathing and keeping your heart beating. It DOES NOT include any daily activities like showering, eating etc, or any kind of exercise. This number is the number you should never eat below consistently. Eating below this amount, consistently, is what sends the signal to your body to slow down your metabolism. (This does not happen within 1 day, so that junk about eating every few hours to keep your metabolism from slowing down is absolute nonsense). It takes about 72 hours (3 days) for this to take effect and for any kind of “starvation mode” to be a factor.
There are various calculators to calculate your BMR. This one or this one are examples. (These numbers are not exact. They have been worked out in a lab based on a few subjects. You will never know YOUR exact BMR unless you go through some vigorous testing which is not really available to the general public).
Next, is your daily calorie expenditure (so, the amount to maintain your current weight) that includes normal daily activities. All this is, is a multiple of your BMR. So if you’re sedentary, you’d multiply your BMR by 1.2. Lightly active, multiply by 1.375. There are various multiples depending on what calculator or equation you use. You have to be careful with this step because if you include your activity in your multiplier, you can’t count it again later. (Like if I choose my activity level is “very active” because I exercise 6 times a week, I can’t count my exercise in again each day because it has already been counted in my maintenance calories).
Basically, in summary, to lose weight, you need to eat somewhere between your BMR and your maintenance amount.
- Eating below your BMR consistently = potential signal sent to your body to slow down metabolism and become more efficient. Our bodies are survival machines. They are not going to work and burn calories when you indicate to it that there’s a famine. They want to preserve and be efficient. Go back and read what I said BMR is. It’s the minimum amount your body needs for basic functions like digestion and brain activity. Thus, it is easy to see why this signal to preserve and be more efficient would be sent if we were to eat below that.
- And eating above your maintenance rate consistently = no weight loss (and potential weight gain). Note that this is some peoples goal. (If it’s your goal to gain mass, you will definitely need to eat back any calories you burn through exercise on top of your maintenance rate).
Notice I say consistently because one day eating above or below what you’re supposed to does not matter. It’s about what you do on average. So if there’s a day when you’re sick and only eat 1000 calories, that’s ok. Similarly, if you go to a friends party and eat 2500 calories, that’s ok. It’s about what happens over time.
There is no hard and fast rule about how many calories to eat. Some people say eat your maintenance rate minus 500, some people say eat your BMR and then eat back your exercise calories. But the most important one is making sure you eat your BMR.
There are studies which talk about how people who have lost weight permanently need fewer calories to maintain their size than someone the SAME size, who was never overweight in the first place. I strongly suspect this is due to long term dieting and eating below their BMR. Lean body mass is a factor in determining your BMR (a person with more muscle but the same weight/height/age/sex as someone else will have a higher BMR). Someone who has been eating below BMR over a long period of time is likely to lose more lean body mass than someone who loses weight slowly (by eating between their BMR and their maintenance rate), or who never had to lose weight at all. So, not only are they now “skinny fat” (because yes they may weigh 120lb but they could be 90lb lean body mass and 30lb fat, as opposed to someone 100lb lean body mass and 20lb fat). This means their BMR is lower. Thus, they find they cannot eat as much as their 120lb friend who is not “skinny fat” to stay the same size. (This is why muscle is so important. Remember, you burn more calories when you have more muscle, AND you look amazing).
Yes, eating 1200 calories per day will show you scale results in the short term. But, you’ll lose more muscle than someone who is eating above their BMR (your body needs fuel to maintain that muscle, it won’t stick around for nothing), and you risk further implications in the long run. It’s just not worth it.
An example, if it helps.
Lets say my BMR is 1600. And lets say my lifestyle is sedentary i.e. desk job, drive to work. A sedentary multiplier is 1.2
So, my maintenance calories are 1600*1.2 = 1920
Remember, this amount includes basic living now. Showering, eating, walking around a bit, up to what is included in a sedentary life.
This gives me my guidelines. I do not want to eat below my 1600 BMR. And, if I want to lose weight, I need to eat below my maintenance rate. So if I eat between 1600 and 1920 per day, on average, weight will be lost. Tadaa.
Now, if you had exercise (which we can count, because we have not included exercise in our maintenance calories, because we said we are sedentary), you would burn more. You can eat these back, you can eat some back, or you could not eat them back. I don’t pay much attention to this part to be quite honest because trying to measure the calories burnt during exercise is really hard to do reliably. If you’re exercising though, you will need more fuel. So I personally think you should eat back at least some of what you’re burning.
Lets say you burn 500 calories with exercise.
Your BMR is 1600, so you can’t go below that. Maybe you decide to eat 2000 calories. That’s 80 calories ABOVE your maintenance rate, but remember you burnt an extra 500 calories. So, overall for the day, you’ve “lost” 420 calories. Or, you’ve burnt 420 more calories than you’ve expended.
A figure commonly quoted is that 3500 calories = 1 pound. So 420 calories “lost” in a day would be about 0.12lb. But there’s some argument about the 3500 figure and it’s not exactly proven. But it is a good baseline and has been reasonably accurate in my experience.
It is worth noting that none of this is exact. None of us are “model humans”. We will never get perfect calorie counts of what we eat, even if we weigh everything, and we most certainly will not get perfect calorie counts of what we burn, even with a heart rate monitor watch.
It can also be quite a slippery slope to get too obsessed with calorie counting.
There’s a lot more I could say on the whole issue but hopefully this clears some things up & you start eating more than 1200 calories :)
Had my first proper try of training weights. I didn’t lift heavy but I can tell this is the start of something amazing. I loved every minute of it.
Just bought these. I now have no excuses if I can’t make it / be bothered to go to the gym. I WANNA BE STRONG.
I get so mad at myself when I think about how much I’ve let myself get so unhealthy.
I can’t wait to finish my studies so I can help people and not let them ever feel the way I do now.
I think the only secret for confidence that has ever actually worked for me is pretending to have it.
Fake it til you make it.