Why Undereating Won’t Actually Help You Lose Weight

Trinh Le, MPH, RD
by Trinh Le, MPH, RD
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Why Undereating Won’t Actually Help You Lose Weight

We all know that calories matter a lot when it comes to weight loss. As long as you eat fewer calories than you burn, you should lose weight. The logic is sound for most healthy adults, but we can also take that logic too far. In the case of healthy, sustainable weight loss, more restriction doesn’t always lead to better weight loss. In fact, regularly eating too few calories can put you at risk of malnutrition, resulting in unhealthy weight loss and nutrient deficiencies.

To prevent this, MyFitnessPal automatically has a minimum daily calorie goal of 1,200 calories per day for women and 1,500 calories per day for men. These minimums, based on recommendations from the National Institutes of Health, ensure the majority of us trying to lose weight do so safely and get enough essential nutrients from food to prevent malnutrition.


The difference between fasting and chronically undereating (which can lead to starvation) is a matter of duration. Fasting is commonly practiced on a timescale of several hours, but while the term has earned itself a bad reputation from notorious fasting or “detox” diets (think: cayenne pepper diet), fasting for weight loss can be safe. Our bodies were actually designed to handle short-term fasts, like when we don’t eat for eight hours during sleep. We also go anywhere from 4–8 hours without eating when we skip meals during life’s busier moments.

On the other hand, going without food for several days or eating less than the calorie minimum for weeks to months puts you at risk of malnutrition. As well-nourished individuals, we do carry enough stored fuel to meet our needs for 1–3 months in the form of muscle tissue and fat. However, our body can only store 1–2 days’ worth of glycogen (the body’s carbohydrate stores), which, if not replenished, is quickly used up to maintain blood sugar.

After several days of undereating, the body switches to energy-conservation mode, meaning your metabolism slows way down, making you feel tired and edgy. As carbohydrate stores run low, protein and fat become the dominant sources of fuel. After 48 hours without food, your body runs out of glycogen to power the two organs that need it the most: red blood cells and the brain. While glucose is the only fuel blood cells can run on, the brain will begin to adapt to power itself with ketone bodies made from fat. To meet basic energy needs, your body ramps up breakdown of muscles and organs in addition to fat.

To learn more about how your body fuels itself, check out A Beginner’s Guide to Your Metabolism.


Although it’s not advisable for the average adult to eat less than the calorie minimum, there are individuals who benefit from following a medically supervised “very low calorie diet.” The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease defines a very low calorie diet (VLCD) as eating less than 800 calories per day. Eating at such a low calorie level makes it very difficult to obtain all the essential vitamins and minerals through just food alone. This diet involves eating specialized shakes, soups and bars that can fit in more micronutrients per calorie and regular check-ins with a doctor who specializes in weight loss. It’s not a good idea to jump into a VLCD without checking with a health professional to determine if you are a good fit. Even so, a VLCD is meant to last 12 weeks at most—enough time for someone who has a lot to lose to jump start their weight loss.


For most of us, consistently eating less than the calorie minimum is a bad idea because it leads to a:

  1. Slower metabolism and lousy side effects. With too few calories on board to power you through your daily activities, your body learns to live on less by significantly slowing your metabolism. Short term, you may feel sluggish, irritable and apathetic. Once you stop undereating, it takes awhile before your body to recover and your metabolism to rev back up.
  2. Loss of valuable muscles and organs. Just because you’ve adapted to using ketone bodies doesn’t mean your body won’t need glucose at all. A minimum blood glucose level must be maintained to keep you alive so your body continues to break down muscles and organs. It’s a major problem in the long run, because your body doesn’t distinguish between essential tissues (think: heart, kidney, blood cells) and less essential tissues (think: skeletal muscle). Over time, this breakdown weakens and damages your vital organs.
  3. Higher risk for nutrient deficiencies. Eating very few calories will also decrease the variety of foods you can eat, increasing your risk for nutrient deficiency. The type of nutrient deficiency that can occur depends on the food(s) that are being restricted. While not everyone who chronically undereats can automatically be diagnosed with an eating disorder, anorexia gives insight on the types of nutrient deficiencies that are likely to occur from prolonged starvation. This includes but isn’t limited to deficiencies in calcium, iron, zinc, vitamin D and the B vitamins, in addition to dangerous electrolyte imbalances and protein malnutrition.

Every body is different, so it’s important to experiment and see what works best for you. Just know that undereating is not a good long-term solution for living a healthy life or achieving or maintaining weight loss.

About the Author

Trinh Le, MPH, RD
Trinh Le, MPH, RD
Trinh is a registered dietitian by day, blogger at Fearless Food RD by night. She loves helping folks develop a better relationship with food, which includes lots of cooking, eating and learning about nutrition. When she’s not snapping mouthwatering shots of (mostly) healthy food, you can find Trinh HIIT-ing it at her local gym. For more, connect with her on FacebookInstagram and Pinterest.


185 responses to “Why Undereating Won’t Actually Help You Lose Weight”

  1. Avatar Midwest_Product says:

    This is insanity. Eating less food causes weight gain?! I thought MFP had gotten rid of their delusional “starvation mode” warnings, but I guess not.

    A dramatic reduction in caloric intake will result in a reduction in energy expenditure, but not nearly enough to compensate for the decrease (let alone enough to OVERcompensate for it). If someone eating and exercising at a maintenance rate cuts their intake by 500 kcals per day, their daily energy expenditure might drop by 100 kcals per day, but that’s still a 400 kcal deficit compared to where they were before. They’ll lose weight, not gain it.

    The only reason undereating “fails” as a weight loss technique is because most overweight people lack the willpower necessary to stop snacking and actually track their food intake accurately.

    • Avatar ThermodynamicsCantBeViolated says:

      Thank god someone said it. Tired of the “starvation mode” fatlogic. Disappointing to see this from MFP.

    • Avatar Smarterthanyou says:

      It’s talking about long term starvation and then picking up eating. Like not eating for a week and then eating regularly afterwards. because the body is in starvation mode it will hold any and all fats that are taken in resulting in a drastic weight gain.
      starving yourself might help you lose weight, but once you get to where you desire to be it will be near impossible to maintain that.

      • Avatar Sarah Hinckley says:

        Starvation mode is not a thing for someone who is normal weight or overweight. It only applies to the very small minority who are severely underweight.

    • Avatar Meechity says:

      overweight people lack the willpower necessary to stop
      snacking and actually track their food intake accurately.” This is an ignorant (and frankly hurtful and insulting) comment. “Willpower” to under-eat literally means you’re denying yourself the food your body is ASKING for with hunger signals. I find it incredible that people still
      think it’s somehow normal to ignore ACTUAL hunger cues when you’re eating too few calories… you don’t have to undereat to lose weight, and it’s certainly not a pleasant way to live.

      • Avatar disqus_Qkhunj1G3Q says:

        I am going through this right now I lost a lot of weight and then started gaining I eat very healthy and work out a lot. I’m seeing a dietician now she is helping to add more calories that my body needs to speed up my matabolim I amazing not loosing wrong and actually gaining it because of all the damage I have done to my body I’m hoping to repair all the damage I have done if you need to lose weight get a good dietician and learn how to do it property.

    • Avatar Master V says:

      Did you read the article? Apparently not. Read it before commenting.

    • Avatar Carolyn Bryant Schaub says:

      “Most overweight people lack the willpower”…buddy- we all lack the willpower to maintain starvation.

    • Avatar Open_Your_Mind says:

      I gain weight every time I eat less than 2500 calories a day. Starvation mode is real, it’s not a myth. For me to begin losing weight, I have to eat nearly 4000 calories a day, every day, consistently. Which is pretty impossible for me – someone who was on a 500 calorie a day, very low carb, ketogenic, paleo diet. I busted my metabolism thinking, like you, that calories & carbs in versus calories & carbs out was all there was to weight loss. THAT is the myth, friend. There’s always a lot more to it. Hormonal structure is what really needs to be addressed, because overweight is ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS about hormone imbalance. And if you don’t have enough energy and nutrients to make the hormones your body needs, then guess what happens? Your body will hold on to every bit of food you take in, while your metabolism slows down dramatically to force weight to stay on… and it doesn’t automatically come back off just because you start eating more. I had the sad misfortune of gaining 120 pounds within 18 months before the weight gain leveled off, and even now, if I forget to eat, as I habitually do, the weight gain starts again. Think I could make it stop by telling my body that starvation mode is a myth? Yeah, tried that. Body says otherwise. Too low calorie/low carb for too long a time shuts off thyroid function – not just at the thyroid/pituitary level, but also and especially at the cellular level. Meaning that the body’s cells become resistant to thyroid hormone, meaning thyroid hormone delivery and conversion at the cellular level isn’t happening – meaning you’re not making ATP, and so in addition to gaining weight, you also don’t have the energy to live life, much less move your body.

      To think that fat people are fat because of overeating is a gross misunderstanding of what’s happening. Fat people are fat because they’ve dieted and have therefore damaged their metabolism. For me, it’s entirely the opposite. I lack the willpower to eat enough, where in the past, my willpower to eat too little prevailed. And it damaged my body, for how long, I still have yet to find out. I never snacked. I skipped lunch. The mass perception is wrong. But don’t take my word for it. Research the facts for yourself. Even 1500 calories a day for a man is a STARVATION level diet! Don’t believe me? Research the Minnesota Starvation Study. The article written above is a good one in that it helps folks to open their eyes to the truth and get out of the mass consciousness drone-like thinking that calories in/calories out and “fat people are fat because they lack willpower necessary to stop snacking” mentality. Oh please, if I had that “problem” I could finally stop GAINING weight. But people don’t want to open their eyes to the truth because calories in-calories out is easy – hormone imbalance is extremely complicated, and nobody wants to hear that the so-called easy way is the lie. Just take care not to break your metabolism like I did, or you will be forced into researching for years, as I have been, for the sake of your own weight, well-being, and life. Don’t be willfully ignorant like the herd. Educate yourself. Learn the facts. Be thankful for articles like this one above that get you to challenge your thinking, and hopefully open your mind to the possibility that what’s preached throughout the land is nothing more than a fairy tale. I WISH that somebody would have clued me in before I ruined my body by believing and following the herd.

    • Avatar sara says:

      Obviously this article was not written for you. I am an overweight individual that struggles to eat 1000 calories a day. Working with a nutritionist and using fitness pal has made us talk and me realize that this has been a fact of live since my college days (25 years ago). My husband now will call me when he eats lunch to remind me I need to eat. I have always been one of those people that only had dinner. Oh, and yes, I am and have been on prescription strength vitamins for several years. Yes, I have an eating disorder that because of a dietitian asking me to record everything in my fitness pal I now work on eating several times a day. Since the realization, about a month ago, I have lost 6.5 pounds. I have only twice made it to my goal of 1200 calories, however, I keep trying.

      • Avatar Devin_MacGregor says:

        I think the obvious part is that the article was NOT written for YOU actually. MOST people who are overweight and let’s be frank here obese (if you are 30+ lbs overweight) are not that way simply because of other factors other than overeating. They reduce their calories but then sneak in food here and there. Or they are good and reduce their calories, lose the weight but they go back to overeating. If you are obese long enough you may have other complications that are happening due to the obesity.

        So we go from not looking at our Food Industry that has gone nuts in serving us several meals at one sitting that now we are accustomed to believing these are normal sized meals so we duplicate this at home to now well I am only fat because of muh hormones or something. We have skinny fat people out there as well. It all has largely to do with the foods we have available for us to buy.

        We need to be taught what actual serving sizes are and to have portion control. This is for the vast majority of us not the exception who may have medical issues that are not due to their obesity. This is the elephant in the room that we keep ignoring. Future generations will be obese if we do not stop this cycle. Our Food Industry is being exported around the world and we are seeing a rise in obesity. We were not gym rats in the past nor this myth that we went outside and did these immense workouts. Sure some of us worked in manufacturing but still a lot of us worked in offices very little difference than today. What changed for us? We see it everywhere, it is right in our faces all the time, as to what changed.

        Our bodies only need so many calories a day to function and most of us are not athletes who need 1000s and 1000s of calories a day to function. Most are not gym rats trying to do 4000 calories workouts. Most of us do not have the time to even be able to do a 1000 calorie workout. So we see our skinny fat self and we head on home but go through the Starbucks drive thru to get that muffin and frap to reward ourselves and blow that entire workout.

    • Avatar Devin_MacGregor says:

      I agree with you for the most part. We OVEReat most of the time. We eat far more calories than we need. I weighed 145 when I was 18 and entered the Army. In my late 20s my weight approached 200 and by 40s reached over 300. Our meals sizes have greatly increased since the 70s.

      I lost over a 100 pounds in 2010 due to cutting calories as in NOT overeating but eating to what I wanted my weight to be. I as well was riding a stationary bike 2 hours a day. My thyroid levels dropped and it took them a year through meds to get the levels normal. I have a physically defective heart that can only be fixed through surgery so heavy exertion is something I am supposed to avoid. So no P90X for me.

      This is not directed all at you but to those who have responded to you. Sure many who are obese have medical issues BUT for the most part we are like this because as a nation OVEReat. My Dad is a juvenile diabetic and as a kid when we went out he would always by default eat only half the food on his plate. This is what we should be doing now since we are being served so much more food. Instead we just tell people, hey go to the gym you lazy ass. No, stop eating that pizza and donuts. And if you have one have a slice just not half the pizza or a single donut not donuts.

      These terms are also misleading like under-eating. Under-eating compared to what? What your ideal body weight should be from your current overeating? We have a poster saying they have to eat 4000 calories a day to lose weight well that is not normal. Most people will gain weight eating that much as they do not do enough exercise in a day to balance that out. I know what starvation mode is and have read articles and books by nutritionists for more than 20 years to which not all say they same thing and some are way out there.

      Now every time I gained weight it has been precisely because I was overeating and not watching what I eat. Now I can blame it on the stress as I am a stress eater but that does not change the fact that I do this without thinking and it is none the less still overeating. If I go out I do not up the sizes of the food. At sit down restaurants I do what my Dad does, cut the food at least in half. And I avoid impulse food buying.

    • Avatar joe says:

      I work with people on weight loss for a living and I constantly battle people who under eat and DO NOT LOSE weight. You can eat to few of calories. This is probably my biggest challenge this is a great thing that they are doing. That average female needs to eat 1600 – 1800 while trying to lose weight.

  2. Avatar James says:

    As a 6’4″ male, I went from 315lbs to 185lbs in 6 months by eating 1200 calories or less a day. While I don’t recommend what I do to others, saying it doesn’t work is just silly.

    • Avatar chris says:

      thanks man, I’m 6’0″, 335 to a current 270 and people say I shouldn’t try to eat less (currently doing about 1800 cal/day) because it will back fire, seems silly to me, less calories=less weight. I’d like to first try to maintain 1500 / day and then eventually get down to 1200.

      • Avatar Master V says:

        It wont be silly when you regain, and I guarantee you – you will.

        • Avatar chris says:

          well I’m down 78 pounds so far and have completely altered my lifestyle…if I can magically regain that weight without re-becoming an alcoholic and junk food eater then you might be right.

          • Avatar Victoria Rejuney says:

            I think that is what he is saying. It isn’t sustainable, because realistically the majority of people will go right back to old habits. it also isn’t good, because like the article states, you may not be getting enough nutrients to keep your body functioning properly if you decrease your calories too much.

          • Avatar Eliot says:

            The majority of people who go on any kind of diet gain at least some of the weight back. Again, the article is talking about sustained – i.e. uninterrupted months – of significantly under-eating. And, if you are very sedentary, you don’t need as much calories.

          • Avatar RVABREAD22 says:

            Its much easier than you realize to revert to your old ways

          • Avatar Open_Your_Mind says:

            I went on low carb, low calorie, ketogenic diet, dropped 120 pounds. I thought it was such a great thing… until my body stopped working, I got sick, gained 80 pounds back while I reduced my calories and carbs even further, thinking that was the answer, when that was, in fact, what was making me gain weight by shutting off my thyroid function. Then I went through a series of personal traumas, and my adrenals stopped working, because my starved body did not have the resources to handle the emotional and physical stress, and at that point, my body put more than 100 pounds on and established a new “set point” based on not being starved again. This is what happens, and it is a normal, human, physiological response to starvation. It’s how we are designed. Someone above said “it’s not normal” but, in fact, it is. Even more so for women than for men.

            “We all know…” BS. “We’ve all been programmed to believe”… is what this should read, that calories are what makes weight gain or loss happen. It’s a myth. Think about it. If you consumed 500 calories less per day, per year, if “calorie math” was accurate, then 365 x 500 = 182,500. 3500 calories = 1 lb of fat, for a loss of about 52 pounds per year. If you keep this up for 10 years, then why don’t you lose 520 pounds? Because you don’t have 520 pounds to lose? What prevents that from happening? What prevents your body from disappearing and completely disintegrating? See the issue here?

            The body responds to reduced caloric intake by re-regulating the hormones to adjust to reduced ENERGY intake (calories are ENERGY!), and slows down your metabolism. Your body temperature goes down (I should know, mine went down to 95 degrees!), your heart rate slows, your blood pressure goes down, and we think that’s healthy??? Really? It’s not. My blood pressure went so low that I blacked out every time I stood up, between my starvation diet and my over-exercise problem – yeah – I exercised in excess, at 80 pounds overweight at the time, while my body continued to pile on more weight, on a very strict and rigid “lifestyle” of 500 calories a day, with 20 or less carbs daily. What had worked for me to lose 120 pounds in the first place was the very “lifestyle” that broke my body and put 200 pounds back onto it.

            So when you plateau, and you will, just remember: INCREASE your carbs and calories and salt. DO NOT do what I did and reduce your energy intake into practically nothing. If I can save you the shame and the pain and the heartbreak that I have gone through then I’ve done something good here by sharing my story.

          • Avatar Elise says:

            Open_Your_Mind How were you able to increase your calories to more than 2500? How tall are you? I’m struggling with the same issues you have outlined above. I gained 30lbs due to extreme exercise and low carb and ever since i haven’t been able to lose weight. I’ve tried different things with no luck and these days i’m just trying to fuel my body with health protein, fats and carbs.

        • Avatar Eliot says:

          That’s a stupid thing to say. Reminds me of a just out of school doctor saying “You know, you can never eat another cheeseburger again.” The method that is best for losing weight is the one you can stick to. Which that is for any particular person depends on that person. This article, like all others on the subject, is a guide, not a commandment.

      • Avatar Amanda Kuehl McCready says:

        It’s not just calories. It’s what you eat. A diet rich in fruits, veggies, meat, etc will work much better than the same calories of donuts and pizza. Focus on health, not just the scale.

        • Avatar Bianca lynn says:

          I agree!!! It’s not just about HOW much you’re eating but WHAT you are eating. Some people don’t realize that they need to stop being on a “diet” that has an expiration date and focus on making a healthy life style that will last forever. I’m 53 lbs down since March and there is no way I’m going back! Coworkers and friends ask me,” So, when are you going to stop?” I reply, “Never because then I’ll be right where I was before I started.”

      • Avatar Kelley Lee says:

        You can do it Chris!!! Keep up the good work!!!! ☺☺☺

    • Avatar Meechity says:

      The article doesn’t say it doesn’t work. Everyone KNOWS it works – science and all that. It’s simply an UNSUSTAINABLE lifestyle for most adults.

      Excuse my assumption: are you insulted to think your preferred method of weight loss is being called out as unsustainable and potentially derailing to SOME people trying to lose weight? Please don’t be… I was there, too.

      The article is NOT saying you’re wrong. I believe the article is trying to reach out to the many, many people (on MFP and beyond) who are trying desperately to stick to a 1200 calorie diet and simply can’t overcome their unique bodies’ desire for a more appropriate amount of fuel.

    • Avatar Veronika Noble says:

      Seriously you lost 130 pounds in 6 months? That’s crazy.

    • Avatar RVABREAD22 says:

      Almost everyone I know who lost weight on an extremely low cal diet gained it all back within a few years or less

    • Avatar Val Prism says:

      I agree. Of course you’ll lose weight if you eat fewer calories. They are connecting eating fewer calories, in your case 1,200/day, with chronically not eating at all or eating “very few” calories for days and weeks on end. They are not the same thing and just lends itself to more misinformation.

    • Avatar Jenna K. says:

      Well, GOOD FOR YOU! It sounds like it was a hard won goal, and that’s something to be proud of. I don’t agree with the others who say you will definitively gain it back, especially if you’ve changed both your eating habits and your lifestyle. (I would say — sorry, the mom in me coming out — I hope you worked with your doctor, too, to keep you safe.) Keep encouraging people with your hard work and success! 🙂

  3. Avatar Gordo says:

    You can get all the nutrition you need on surprisingly few calories (with or without taking a multivitamin). Also recent research has shown remarkable health benefits from a 3 day water only fast. Do your own research and decide for yourself. Occasional extended fasts will rebuild your immune system and help reset your taste preferences (a great way to kick bad habits like drinking soda, or encourage new habits like eating vegetables.

    • Avatar Meechity says:

      Would you cite your scientific sources, please? I’ve been hearing this in and out, but for the life of me I can find no scientific support for these claims. Lots of anecdotes, but nothing legit. Where did you get your researched information, please?

      • Avatar Gordo says:

        I tried to post the links, but it said something about being moderated. You can find more detail by googling “Fasting for three days can regenerate entire immune system”. Also go to pubmed and search for keywords like fasting or intermittent fasting, lots of interesting study results come up.

      • Avatar Gordo says:

        For some reason this site won’t let me post links, but just google: 3 day fast rebuilds immune system
        There are also many articles in pubmed about the benefits of fasting, some recent studies have proven in double blind studies for example that chemo works MUCH better in patients who fast for 3 days before getting the treatment (they have much milder side effects, and better outcomes).

  4. Avatar Donna Pasquill says:

    Hogwash, gain weight my foot, my mother stopped eating July she lost loads of weight, yes she couldn’t maintain not eating as she was dead by end of August, but she did not gain one single pound due to starvation mode, it really annoys me hearing starvation mode as a way to cover up the fact people are overeating on high calorie food, also, how do you actually know how many calories are in processed food, manufacturers have a 10% leeway, so you could be eating 10% more calories can equate to 1/2 lb a week, plus high calorie foods tend to be morish

  5. Avatar NotSoBlah says:

    Most of the people commenting negatively do not seem to have read the article. It doesn’t say that you will gain weight while starving yourself. It says you will probably not lose weight as fast as you expect, because your metabolism will slow down. And it says you may gain weight back more quickly AFTER the starvation diet, because your body will be trying to recover from nutritional deficiencies and, perhaps, also will be anticipating that another period of starvation may be coming.
    I use My Fitness Pal, and am losing weight as a good but safe rate (about 1 pound per 10 days, currently). And yes, it scolds me if I don’t record 1200 calories for a day. It’s kind of a novel experience for me — being told I **need** a bedtime snack!

    • Avatar Anna says:

      It does scold you! I kind of need The reminders though and it’s always nice to see there is more room for another snack!

  6. Avatar Camp3 says:

    Read what is said and understand what was said before you spout off

  7. Avatar Michele L'Intenditore says:

    I’m using myFitnessPal to record my calorie intake, and I’m following a diet prescribed by a doctor my GP sent to. Meanwhile I relocated and I lost 10 kg in two months. I suppose moving furniture and turpetine waxing the wood flooring counts as exercise and the overall stress induced by herding the couriers and the linemen helped to lose weight, especially coupled with the fact that a couple of pints of beer with some chips after the dinner are strictly forbidden.

    Anyway sometimes happened I eated less than 1200 caloies in a day, but feels not sustainable …

    Next time I’ll see the doctor, anyway I’ll ask if I could lift the ban of beer, that’s heavy…

  8. Avatar larmish says:

    this is an eye opener. I went to my physician to look for answers why I gained 30 lbs in two months. my eating patterns hadnt changed(750 cal/day), except I got married, bought a house…etc (eustress)and the doc advised me that eating one meal a day was the way to go because I was eating too much. so stupid me, I decided to do it. after two months, the scale was down three pounds, but I felt horrible, was very dizzy, lathargic, and could hardly focus. finally after realizing what a rediculous purposal the doc recomended, I started eating regularly again and pushed up my caloric intake to 1250/day and im starting to feel like myself. I am a plus size woman, with zero health concerns… i mean zero…. I am lost and just cant figure this weight bs out. its only been aweek and a half since eating again, but is it possible to be malnutritioned and be plus size?

    • Avatar Zena Mason says:

      The doctor’s advice wasn’t entirely unwarranted. But if you eat only one meal a day it needs to be a huge meal (look up intermittent fasting).

    • Larmish, yes it is possible to be overweight/obese and be malnourished.
      There is NOT a 1 size fits all approached to weight management. We all have various genetic factors that effect our metabolism as well as different personalities and stressors in our life. If you felt bad on 1 meal per day that is an indication that way of eating isn’t good for you. I recommend you find a good dietitian that is a good fit for your personality & situation. You will have to work on getting well nourished and boosting your metabolism first but there is hope if you can be patient. I also highly recommend the book Intuitive Eating

  9. Avatar Joanne says:

    I personally do not like the automatic minimum calorie. Some days I do not eat 1200 calories that is my fact. The app forcing you to log a certain number of calories means I either enter a candy bar that I didn’t eat or I simply can not complete my log in for the day. This is my only complaint with the app and hopefully I will find one that is user friendly and doesn’t cost $20 a month like weight watchers does.

    • Avatar Veronika Noble says:

      I track my food on spark people free app sets min and max as guidelines only:)

    • Avatar KW says:

      It doesn’t force you to input something. It just gives you a message if you eat under 1000 calories. You can still complete your day.

      • Avatar Joanne says:

        When I said “force you ” I was referring to the fact that it will not complete your entry for the day until you reach near 1200. I have removed the app and went back to weight watchers which always works for me.

        • Avatar KW says:

          That must be something that changed before I started using it last year. I, like you, often have days where I don’t eat 1200 (like 800 or so). I always am able to complete my entries. That being said, I’m glad you found something that’s working for you! 🙂 WW is a great program, and I hear they’re planning on making some good changes, like focusing on overall health, not just weight loss. Best of luck!

      • Avatar Nancy Doering Leslie says:

        It won’t let me complete my entry for the day if I’m under 1000 calories. I add everything to the day but cannot click on complete and have it say I logged my stuff for the day. I have the free version. maybe that’s why?

        • Avatar Carolyn Hayes says:

          I usually dont eat all of the 1200 calories. It still lets me log my entry & i hv the free version.

          • Avatar Nancy Doering Leslie says:

            even if you are under 1000 calories? Mine lets me complete with anything over 1000 calories but it says I’m going to be malnourished and to keep a professional for help (or something like that) if I try to ‘complete’ my entry and I’m under 1000 calories. This has only happened twice – one time the day I was doing the prep work for a colonoscopy and had to be on a liquid diet.

          • Avatar Carolyn Hayes says:

            Yes. It did that to me once when i had only had 9hundred sumthn calories. It said i wasnt eatn enough & all that. Bt it still let me complete the entry.

          • Avatar Eliot says:

            It still lets you complete the entry. It just won’t post it to the website for others to see or share it through the website. It does, however, post it to your own history.

    • Avatar Scott Heitman says:

      look at cronometer. I enjoy both that and this

    • Avatar Diane says:

      iTrackbites is only $3.99 for the app and works just like WW! I love the app!

    • Avatar Chris Richardson says:

      It’s easy to increase daily calorie consumption to 1200 without much of an increase in food intake – simply add a few healthy items to your daily routine and bam, you’ll be at a healthy 1200 calories. My favorites are high protein, full fat Greek yogurt of Skyr (Icelandic yogurt), 1/2 oz of nuts, vinegar & healthy olive oil on a salad (instead of chemically enhance diet dressing), or a banana smoothie (1 cup plain, sugar free almond milk, 1 banana, 1 tsp vanilla, 1 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa – yum). By keeping your body fully nourished with both macro and micro-nutrients, you’ll actually lose weight faster 😉

      • Avatar Kalifornia Kook says:

        But like Jeanne said above, sometimes I don’t feel like eating anything else – I’m full. So, I add my personal recipe – Fake Food – which is good for 25 calories, and I eat as many of those as I need to get me to 1200 calories, and get the weight projection.
        Actually, I made my weight, so now I just watch my weight. I don’t bother putting in my foods. After using that for a year, I have a good feeling for what 1200 calories – now 1600 for maintenance – feels like. I give a lot of credit to MyFitnessPal for learning that – and learning which foods I was eating that were really loaded with calories!

    • Avatar renee says:

      The fitbit app logs your calories ,is very user friendly and is free if you own a fitbit

    • Avatar Nancy Doering Leslie says:

      I have the same problem Joanne. A few times I was at 1000 calories and it said it wouldn’t let me log my day because I was eating dangerously low calories. I do like the app other than this not being able to complete the log for the day when under 1000 calories (which is extremely rare)

    • Avatar Erin says:

      It is trying to encourage healthier habits. I know it’s a pain sense i hate having to eat. When I do eat it normally is none processed foods. This app wants me to eat about 1,850 calories in a day. It’s hard to just get 1000 in. Normally I have to figure out how to just get the extra calories without too much salt or sugars

      • Avatar rumproof says:

        may be good to get a blood test. I am 50lbs down in 6 months, and all seems well. the app works well, and I am glad to lose the weight. But, everyone is different, and you may have more nutrient needs.

    • Avatar Phillydog says:

      IMO, the problem with what you are doing is, you are NOT learning how to eat long term. Long term, you need to learn to like, no love fruits and veggies. I know of no one that stays thin that does not consume huge amounts of fruit and un-buttered veggies.

      • Avatar Stu Chisholm says:

        That would be me. Don’t eat near enough fruit n’ veggies, but still lost my weight because I burned more calories than I consumed. But that said, you’re right; it’s much, much easier to lose weight eating fruits & veggies, not to mention much healthier.

  10. Avatar David Scheinman says:

    In the spring of 2011 I shed 22 lbs. in a month wandering around Utah’s five southern national parks. It was remarkably easy and initially unplanned. A month earlier a pick up truck slammed into my car in the snow outside of Logan, UT. When I returned a month later to fetch my car, I had some free time so my host advised me to visit Moab.
    Took a few short hikes in Arches National Park. Then went shopping and realized I could pack berries, fruit, salad greens, and deli meat easily in an ice chest. And so it began. I stayed in motels and ate whatever free fare they served for breakfast. I hiked on and off all day so usually wasn’t hungry until evening. If hungry, ate an apple and drank much water. In the evening I rolled my ice chest into my motel room and ate a big salad — with a bit of deli meat.
    Soon I developed a regular routine and watched in amazement as the weight melted away as I hiked through Arches, Canyon Lands, Capital Reef, Bryce, and Zion National Parks. The terrain was up, down, flat, and uneven. I walked just five-10 miles a day, usually on a few short trails. I felt fine, rested a lot, and calculated I burned around 5000 calories a day and took in maybe 1200-1500. Since 3500 calories = a pound, it worked out mathematically.
    Since then I haven’t gained back my 22 lbs. BUT, haven’t lost any more either. So I’m ready for another excursion. This is the ONLY program that’s worked for me. I walk and swim and watch my diet. But just stay even, don’t lose.

  11. Avatar Kyle McHattie says:

    I maybe wrong but I was under the impression that most of the science in the last decade or so shows that caloric intake is only one factor of weight loss and that the kind of fuel is far more important. You can cause a calorie deficit by eating 3000 calories a day and burning 3500 all the while losing fat and building muscle depending on what kind of calories you’re eating. Under eating is a bad idea. If you can’t maintain basic bodily functions because you aren’t eating enough, and not eating the right food, it doesn’t matter if you lose weight. You will be sick and tired and caught in a spiral of being sick and tired due to low energy from a compromised metabolism.

    • Avatar Sarah Hinckley says:

      No, caloric intake is the only thing that truly matters. In terms of HEALTH, what you eat matters. You can lose weight eating nothing but McDonald’s (it’s been done!) so long as you eat below your TDEE. You would be malnourished, however, eating only McDonald’s. And, unless you are fairly overweight, it is not possible to truly gain substantial amounts of muscle while being in calorie deficit. This is why people go through cutting and bulking cycles. Bulking provides fat/energy for muscle (and weight) gain. You are correct, though, eating a poor diet contributes to weakened immune systems, low energy and cognitive impairment. It will not, however, really harm your metabolism so long as you are overweight (i.e. not significantly underweight), because the excess calories you store will be used.

      • Avatar Kyle McHattie says:

        You’re making my point though. If you eat too few calories, your body is going to work harder to extract the nutrients, slow your metabolism and store some as fat. When your body knows it is getting enough food and you are causing a caloric deficit through exercise, you lose more weight and are healthier because your body doesn’t need to store anything as fat. Virtually every study done in the last 2 decades confirms this. Eating too few calories does cause the body’s metabolism to slow down and when a supposed ‘ideal weight’ is reached, if caloric intake is increased, the metabolism over compensates causing excessive weight gain. Not to mention that when in starvation mode our bodies start to produce far too much cortisol and our homocysteine levels get too high. There are a host of studies that show under-eating (starvation) is a bad idea in general.

  12. Avatar Erisagirl44 says:

    So, once you have been eating 1200 calories or less for a extended period of time, vainly trying to lose middle-age weight, and now have a horribly low metabolism, how can you get back in the healthy zone without gaining weight back? 45 sucks already and I miss eating real food, but if I eat 1400 calories I gain weight. Help!

    • Avatar Anomaly says:

      Exercise and you can eat more calories. Gain muscle and you will be burning more calories throughout the day. Very simple.

    • Avatar Stu Chisholm says:

      I know it’s almost a cliche, but it’s all about making better choices. So while we love our “real food” (which is usually code for the crap we Americans have become accustomed to, like McDogfoot’s, KFC and pizzas the size of wagon wheels), we should consider those things TREATS. By all means, eat what you love! Just don’t confuse treats with staples. Your everyday food should be nutritious, tasty and low calorie when possible.

      Use the database here liberally. Sometimes that healthy sounding wrap or chicken salad is actually MORE caloric than that fried “Filet-O-Fish” or chicken sammich. Learn how many calories the things you really like are. Then simply control how much of it you have.

      Substitute snacks with glasses of water or zero/low calorie beverages. This is how, at 57 years old, I managed to dump 95 lbs. Of course, I AM a guy, and it’s a sad fact of mammalian physiology that estrogen actively inhibits weight loss. (Or, more accurately, promotes weight gain.) Smaller body size, too, means you need less calories – the shorter you are, the less you need before your body starts socking away the excess energy as fat. These two factors are FAR larger considerations than age!

      Whatever you do, NEVER feel deprived. Know that if you crave something, you can have it! Just don’t overdo: eat only the amount of calories you’re budgeted and then stop. All the taste and flavor, none of the guilt! And if you’re like me and your tastes run to the truly awful food, then make sure to include a good multi-vitamin supplement. You’ll find that you not only feel better, but having all the vitamins and minerals your body needs actually helps facilitate weight loss. True story!

  13. Avatar dopp says:

    Sound advice for the merely overweight, but it’s a bit different for the obese. You can draw about 30 calories daily from your fat stores for each pound of fat. [See PubMed “A limit on the energy transfer rate from the human fat store in hypophagia.”]

    If you carry 60 lbs. of body fat, you can get a maximum of 1800 calories per day solely from your fat stores. Obviously, this does not meet your nutritional needs aside from bulk calories, so eating is necessary to meet those requirements, but 1200 is not a magic number.

    • Avatar mtnpeak says:

      Interesting information on maximum caloric draw. I hadn’t run across that. I do agree with you that 1200 isn’t a magic number. It is a good one to figure with though even if it is designed for the mythical average adult. The problem with that mythical guy is as I suspect you know he’s average. By the time people like my self get to that level of “morbid” obesity they have often messed with their metabolism so much that they are essentially Don Knotts in cased in a fat suit and will need help to balance their caloric need or true BMR with the nutrients they have to have to lose weight in a healthy way. But the my fitness folks have no way of knowing whether their program is being abused by an anorexc or bolemic or whether the person involved is on a supervised plan or not. I suspect THAT as much as anything is why they don’t give positive feed back to diets below 1200. That said it would be nice if there were a way around it for those whose diets have to be in the lower caloric range.

    • Avatar Phillydog says:

      How do you come up with 1800 calories a day is not enough. When you are trying to lose weight, that sounds like about the right amount. Not saying you should fast but isn’t 1800 about right?

  14. Avatar Tim says:

    I was told by my doctor to go low-carb so I haven’t had potatoes, pasta, bread or rice for 6 weeks now but haven’t had much weight loss. I’m primarily eating meat and salads. Kind of bummed.

    • Avatar karinas1999 says:

      That could mean you need a bit more good carb selections perhaps?

      I’ve ditched the more heavily refined carbs such as bread and sugar for more whole food types like red potatoes and basmati rice (which clicks in at just 29 calories an ounce). Plus, a diet where you get some of what you want is important. Still, after a few weeks in, I realized I didn’t miss bread at all.

      There’s usually a solution there, sometimes it’s hard to find the balance a body needs. Good luck 🙂

    • Avatar Sarah Hinckley says:

      Cutting out carbs is irrelevant if you do not lower your caloric intake.

  15. Avatar Dramos says:

    If only everyone knew that people starting out eating about 4000 cals a day and then drastically dropping their calories to 1500 or lower isn’t going to work AS WELL as someone who starts out eating about 4000 calories and drops it down to about 3700 cals and SLOWLY drops their calories.
    Look up Layne Norton on YouTube. He talks about all of this in greater detail.

  16. Avatar Славојка Шаренац says:

    Hello ella, sorry to bother you, but what program are you doing? Thank you!!

  17. Avatar patstar5 says:

    I’ve been in ketosis for over 3 months now. Your body naturally goes into this state when you run out of glycogen.
    A ketogenic diet is really healthy and as long as you eat enough protein and fat you won’t be losing any muscle.
    The problem is when you don’t eat anything and then your body has to take it from itself.
    I guess that’s good if it’s taking fat, 60lbs gone but I wonder how much muscle I have lost. Going to start keeping track of protein

    • Avatar Robert Taylor says:

      I’ve been in ketosis six months now, steady weight loss, and increase in strength. Feel much better, much healthier.
      I think this post was written with old information, etc…
      And yes I measure and track protein, fat & carbs daily.

      • Avatar mtnpeak says:

        I did a ketgenic ( Adkins ) diet a few years back and lost down to 210 where I plateaued. I did everything in the book to break the plateau as did my dearly beloved who was also plateued. We were still fighting it when a “life event” occured that essentially took the heart out of even trying for us occurred. In the interveneing years I slowly crept back up to 235 and the dearly beloved went higher regaining all that she’d lost and more in a typical yo-yo. I studied the diet alot before I did it and found the areas where most people seem to fail with Adkins and Adkins like diets . 1) They don’t read the book. They just cut out all the bread, milk, veggies and any other carbohydrates they can find and tell folks they are on “Adkins” . The only thing, Adkins this resembles is the induction phase. But that will only get you into ketosis and not power healthy weight loss. 2) They don’t drink their water. Weght loss is powered in the body by a chemical process known as hydrolysis (water cutting)without enough water for this you can place your body in a very dangerous position and this is where some have damaged their kidneys also as water stores are depleted if I remember correctly, the body tends to go after the muscles more easily and the diet becomes less muscle sparing. I work in a hospital and some of my physician friends were concerned that I was doing “Adkins” until I reasured them that I had read the book and was making sure that I was getting my water. 3) This is really more almost rewording of number 1) Adkins and Ketogenic diets are not NO carbohydrate diets they are Low Carbohydrate diets. This is where the Veggies and fruit that you add in the in the other phases come in besides the vitamins and minerals they give you the majority of them are carbohydrate positive enough to power your bodies energy production without being dense enough to throw you out of ketosis like starches. This is why you steer clear of a lot ofcorn carrots and peas while still going for the green leafies. 4) And here is where I think my dearly beloved and I failed, PORTION CONTROL. Even though the fat in Adkins contributes mightily yo satiation, even with the advantages of ketosis, to many calories are still too many calories and at some point you can reach an equilibrium. One of the main problems is that even though the diet says that at some point you may have to limit portions the book doesn’t place much emphasis on this aspect. I think in part because of its billing as a no hunger eat as much as you want diet. I really had no idea where to start there because I didn’t know how to allocate the portions properly to mesh with ketosis and still keep me from binge eating from hunger. I didn’t even know what a proper portion should look like. Today the dearly beloved and I are on “Slim for Life” It is from what I can discover probably the second most expensive diet to do behind Jenny Craig. I would say that we are talking some where close to the amount of money for one of us to have a “gastric bypass” or lap band procedure. That said I have been on the diet since May and have lost weight almost as quickly as if I’d had a proceedure but at a healthy 2 – 3 pounds a week. Though I haven’t been “exercising, I have continued my work and life schedule and have more stamina. I weigh 182.4 pounds and hope to break into the 170s in the next couple of weeks. When I do I’ll only have 24 pounds to go to get to my calculated ideal body weght! After that I plan to increase my muscle mass so that I won’t have to watch the calories as closely. There IS light at the end of the tunnel folks so don’t give up! I KNOW its hard but by participating in the forum you ARE doing something about it. The weght comes off! Just keep going.

        • Avatar Sue Thompson says:


          • Avatar Flyercrazy says:

            After all mtnpeak wrote your only reply was to correct his spelling. Maybe they should call it Fatkins for people who want to put on weight or just want to be fat, huh, may be a good catchy idea.
            You would have thought the dearly beloved would have noticed the spelling error or maybe Adkins is an off shoot of Atkins, could be, maybe we should ask.
            If you are around, either mtnpeak of his dearly beloved will you please clear this up for us?
            Thanks so much.

        • Avatar Margaux Milchen says:

          They do drink water, it is stressed heavily.

        • Avatar Flyercrazy says:

          How is the “dearly beloved” coming along? You failed to mention how the dearly beloved has been doing since you started on this new diet plan.
          Don’t you think if you started to put on a bit of muscle now it would keep your skin from sagging? You will gain some weight but it would be healthy weight and make you look better overall.
          There is some debate whether or not putting on muscle helps one to lose weight while you sleep due to maintaining a faster metabolism. Do you or the dearly beloved have any thoughts on that?
          Thank you

        • Avatar Phillydog says:

          Sounds like you are eating a lot of meat (protein). At some point you need to learn to love fruits and veggies…without butter on them. Emulate the Asians….whom do NOT have a weight problem. If you don’t change, you’ll just gain it all back again.

    • Avatar Beniboy says:

      pat stay above 800-1000 calories daily. If im correct the body uses it own fat to make-up the deficit. When you consume less than 800-1000 calories it starts feeding on your muscles….not good.

  18. Avatar IraK says:

    In my seventies and have been on an 800 calorie self-imposed diet for almost a year. Work full-time from my home as a consultant. Up at 6:00 AM, down by 11:00 PM or so. I spin on my stationary bike 5 days a week for 40+ minutes and have lost about 35 lbs. My BMI is 22.4. I eat carefully; fat-free yogurt/fruit, vegies and fruits, white meat only (chicken and turkey), nuts and whole wheat bread, no pastries or other confections. Drink only sugar-free flavored drinks. Only take vitamin D and baby aspirin daily. My cardiologist and endocrinologist are happy with my results. No health issues. 800 calories daily works fine for my age and metabolism. Feel great. . MyFitnessPal app daily diet diary keeps my on track and syncs with my wrist tracker. As far as I can see, nothing wrong with approximately 800 calories a day for weight loss and maintenance if managed properly.

    Most people I know are overweight and sluggish because they think 1,500+ calories a day is what they should eat. I think that is a myth. People should know their daily breakeven on calories and adjust calories, diet and exercise to their own metabolic needs and physical capabilities. Everyone is different.

  19. Avatar Dee says:

    I have a question about how this works. I am a dance instructor and teach dance 7-8 hours a day. I round my calorie count down a bit from 7 hours to approx 5 hour or 300 min. burning 1666 calories. I eat 1200-1400 cal per day. I am not losing the weight it says I should be. In fact other than going down 1-2 lbs once in a while I have gained. 6lbs. Am I gaining wieght because my calorie intake is so much lower than my out put?

    • Avatar Bianca lynn says:

      If you’re burning that many calories you might want to add to your calorie intake.
      Our bodies will hold on to water and fats if it feels deprived of these.
      That could be the weigh gain.
      Drink more water and eat a little more.
      Preferably before 7pm
      Not an expert but this has seemed to help me and my workout buddies.
      Best of luck.

    • Avatar Stu Chisholm says:

      Two things: your body may be at peak efficiency. This happens with atheletes. In short, it’s making the most of the calories you consume. So you’re not going to burn them as quickly as my slovenly, sedentary self. And this is a GOOD thing. Healthy people don’t do that, so congratulations!

      Secondly, it’s true what they say: muscle weighs more than fat. And by a substantial amount. (Think of a cube of Jell-O and a cube of beef. The latter weighs substantially more per cubic inch than the former.) So you will end up looking less flabby, yet maybe weighing the same or even a bit more. It sounds like the combination of these two things might be what’s happening.

      It’s physically impossible to gain weight when taking in less calories than you burn, with the exception of water weight. (You should be getting plenty of hydration all the time. Your body will cyclically hang on to it and release it, depending on many factors, as most women well know early on.) So don’t sweat the occasional upward blip. Stay on track. If you DO creep up any more, then you can either add more exercise (at your level, that’s probably excessive, though) OR drop your intake by another 100 calories. But resist the urge to drop below 1200. If you’re anywhere near 5 foot tall, then doing that can indeed lead to malnutrition.

      Best of luck!

  20. Avatar Tina Ries says:

    This is all well and good but what about when you are sick and can’t eat? I have the flu and am not eating like I normally would be because I am drinking more fluids and sleeping way more. What advice do you have in this situation? I have been logging my food in Myfitnesspal…

  21. Avatar Some Dude says:

    I find that when I restrict my calories, I start to crave food. My body can only go so long before it caves in, and then, when it does, I binge. It defeats the purpose of dieting. I try not to think about it too much, because it becomes a headache. When you restrict too much, your body reacts. A better goal for dieters is to eat to fuel for your day. If you plan to do little to no moving (desk job) maybe turn one your meals into a healthy shake instead of food. If you’re planning to use more energy, consume more. It’s tedious, and psychologically tormenting to count your calories.

    • Avatar Stu Chisholm says:

      I think that’s why most diets fail. Rather than constantly think about what you can’t have, or feel deprived of the things you love, I say ‘go ahead and HAVE them!’ I’m a huge fan of KFC. Still eat the stuff. Buuuut…. rather than woof the whole bucket, I go onto the Database on this here website and look up the calories of what I’m eating. So I know that I can have three original recpie drumsticks, or two and a thigh, and maybe some ‘taters and still stay within my “calorie budget” for that meal.

      Think of it as having a bank account. You wake up each day with a certain amount. (My “budget” was 1860 calories.) So I might have 300 calories for breakfast, then I’d do my 3 pc. KFC for lunch (600 calories), then a decent dinner of about 600-700 calories. This still leaves me with enough left over for a bit of chocolate! Each day, I budgeted between 210 and 420 calories for a Kit-Kat bar, or some other bit of sweetness. I lost 95 lbs. doing that.

      Rather than snack in-between, I guzzled my Crystal Light and/or zero calorie Vernors. You may have other flavor preferences, but the main idea here is that you can keep your beverages to zero (or close to zero) and then use those to satisfy snack cravings. After all, those are often simply your mouth needing something to do. I don’t sacrifice flavor, and the Crystal Light gives me plenty.

      You WILL have to get used to having an empty stomach most times. Make that your default position. Most Americans think that’s the signal to “fill up.” WRONG! That’s the daily norm for most people everywhere else in the world. Get used to it and eat only when you’re actually hungry. Never eat out of boredom. And above all, NEVER feel deprived! If you want pizza, then by all means, HAVE some! Just don’t woof the whole pie – get the calorie count and stay on-budget. Lastly, it’s true what they say; if you eat a meal and want to be done, but still have that hungry feeling, wait 20 minutes. If you still feel hungry, then have a bit more. But most times, you won’t – your body needs to “catch up” with the meal you just had.

      Anyway, that’s been my experience. Don’t let it stress ya, bruh. Just make it a habit. That’s what’s been workin’ for me. Best of luck!

  22. Avatar Stu Chisholm says:

    Calories are not the only consideration! One could simply eat candy to achieve their maximum calirie intake, but that’s not exactly healthy, is it? You STILL need good, nutritious food and, lacking that (or if you’re unsure), include a good multi-vitamin supplement. Health is more than just a good weight.

    • Avatar Sarah Hinckley says:

      That’s not to say that you will not lose weight if you eat below your TDEE, because you will. Eating candy is fine every once in a while or in small amounts (I eat a fun size candy bar every day) and eating to excess will definitely not be good for your health and you will be malnourished, but it is still possible to lose weight on a candy-only diet!

      • Avatar Stu Chisholm says:

        Very true. Plus, a lot of people fail because they feel they’re being deprived. Sometimes knowing that you CAN have something eases the impulse to overdo it. Personally, I think that sugar gets a bad rap. Yes, most Americans eat WAY more of it than they need, but given that it’s the only thing our bodies burn for energy, we DO need it, and when you’re physically active, you need more of it. Just gotta keep it real. 🙂

  23. Avatar Peggy says:

    I am 61 5’3″ and 165 lbs. and know exactly where my break even point is. I can lose 1 – 2 lbs. per week if I eat 1100 calories a day. I remain even with 1100 – 1300 and I gain after 1300. I’m sure I’d lose weight quicker if I cut down to 800 calories, but I’m fine with 1 -2 lbs. a week. I exercise at least 30 – 45 minutes a day. I still have 40 lbs. to lose, but I’m ok with the slower progress. As long as I see the scale go down each week, I’m happy.

    • Avatar Stu Chisholm says:

      Great attitude, Peggy! Also, if you’re averaging 1 or 2 lbs. a week, just think: in a year, that’s 52 to 104 lbs! Since you’ve only got 40 to go, that means you’re between 20 and 40 weeks away from goal! (Maybe 30?) So by the time next summer rolls around, you’ll be lookin’ awesome.

  24. Avatar Hate to Eat says:

    So, not eat and get fat or eat and get fat. Well, this is a conundrum.

  25. Avatar Virginia Kramer says:

    Knowing your personal metabolic rate is key. Each person is different so the average or minimum caloric guidelines may be not be appropriate for specific individuals. Find a qualified center that provides accurate metabolic testing. It’s worth the time and money to ensure safe, effective weight loss.

  26. Avatar MaryAnn says:

    I have, though not intentionally, dropped almost 20 lbs in 4-5 weeks because of major surgery. The narcotics have killed my desire to eat. I am making an effort to eat something, but I know it’s minimal and am just sustaining right now. I don’t want to put this weight back on, but within a week or so, I’ll be off medication and know my appetite will come back. Unfortunately, my only exercise right now is physical therapy, but hope to increase activity as time goes on. Any helpful suggestions to NOT putting this weight back on is appreciated.

  27. Avatar bigsister86 says:

    This is why I quit MFP. While starving isn’t a good idea, you WILL lose weight if you eat less! Have they never met an anorexic? Someone with gastric bypass? Come on, people.

    • Avatar Rae Sandberg says:

      Bigsister86, when you quit MFP where did you go? I’ve lost 52 pounds and I can’t lose anymore. How do I start losing again?

  28. Avatar Lynn says:

    your metabolism does not slow down. there is no such thing as starvation mode. disappointed MFP keeps spreading these myths. While it’s not good to undereat for many reasons (some discussed here) slowing your metabolism is not one.

  29. Avatar Maria says:

    You can change your calorie intake, I have mine set for 1070, because that was what my nutritionist recommended!

  30. Avatar Joanne says:

    I don’t understand why the calories to eat are 700 if I’m supposed to eat 1200. Is that 1200 before or after calories burned exercising?

  31. Avatar Chester says:

    I’ve set My Fitness Pal daily caloric goal at 500 less than I need without exercise, and have kept it there for two years. I then use Map My Ride to log my daily cycling exercise and set my weight on MMR at 60 pounds less than I actually weigh–in my experience, MMR overestimates calories burned at my actual weight. This is important because, everyday, I make sure to eat back all the calories MMR says I burned in exercise. This has kept my body well-nourished–I’ve lost 60 pounds and kept it off without ever feeling like I’m suffering.

  32. Avatar Michelle Tinal Zeman says:

    This article is helpful to those who don’t understand the important relationship between feeding and fueling your body. The foods I chose to eat are to sustain my high energy lifestyle. Once you realize you can go further on a 200 calorie snack that is healthy balance of protein and carbs versus 200 calorie doughnut it will all come together. There will never be a reason to skip a meal if the last meal was packed with awesome macro nutrients and you just left the gym after an hour feeling great. Each day that you live a clean life you will soon realize there is nothing in your old habits of yo yo dieting to be missed cuz you will feel awesome ! Recommend books by dr. Andrew Weil gave me great insight on my relationship with food and lifestyle 🙂 MZ

  33. Avatar Karol says:

    I have had bariatric surgery and am on a 900 calorie diet which is supervised by my doctor I use the app to keep up with my calorie intake but never complete the diary for the day. I don’t follow the apps guidelines for carbs or sugar I just simply use it to keep up with what I eat so I don’t have to try and figure it out all day on my own this is so much easier!

  34. Avatar Nancy Doering Leslie says:

    interesting. I thought the 1200 recommended calories on myfitnesspal for me was the maximum I should eat unless I’m exercising. So I’ve been trying to keep to that calorie intake on any day that I do not exercise (which is rare). Any time I want to record less than 1000 calories, it will not record and tells me I’m on my way to malnutrition. One of those days was the day I had to fast on liquids before a colonoscopy!!! lol

  35. Avatar Greg Dahlen says:

    the best way i’ve found to maintain is to pay attention to my body. if i feel full and sufficiently nourished, I don’t eat, if not, I do. Maintaining at 168 pounds, six feet, one inch.

  36. Avatar Margaux Milchen says:

    I am losing weight under the guidance of a nutritionist. 1000 calories is my goal..but if I go up to 1200 some days, I don’t get upset. I have lost 47 lbs in 5 months and have 70 to go. I will continue on this plan all the way through. I eat healthily and sometimes it is hard to get up to 1000. On those days I will have a cocktail (low cal cucumber vodka and Zevia soda or red wine). If it isn’t broke…yada yada. 🙂

  37. Avatar Steve says:

    So I had the app set to lose a few pounds and it figured what my calorie intake should be to achieve this. Now I want to gain weight and have set the app for what weight I want and it has adjusted the calories accordingly. What I don’t understand is now I’m eating more than I normally would and when I show calorie surplus (room to eat more) due to exercise it says if I continue at this I will still lose weight in 5 weeks. That doesn’t make sense to me.

  38. Avatar John Crooks says:

    Hi, could i use coconut oil for everyday cooking? Is it a healthy fat? Thanks

  39. Avatar CalinX says:

    There’s a little bit of an issue with this feature. I personally don’t ever “complete entry” so I don’t really care, but for those who do this restriction may not make sense due to the following simple reason. You may not eat your weekly calorie goal in a balanced fashion, for example if you train hard Saturday and train light during the week you might do 1200/day with a 5500 Saturday making 12,500 weekly which is more than 1500/day every day…. This needs to be considered.

  40. Avatar Christina Baldivino says:

    MFP will not post your finished day under calorie goal on your wall if you hit the complete button and are under 1000 calories. And will not give you a 5 week loss weight estimation. I know why they do it but I dont like it either because there are days that are just like that now and then, or days you didnt feel well and had to skip dinner. I wish they would just give the little message with advice about undereating, because there are people who need the information, but wish they wouldnt stop yiu from completing your post and successful day. Because some days are just low calorie days for various reasons. Doesnt mean its a habit.

  41. Avatar Maria says:

    Maria 51 yrs old. Today I find out that I need to know my BMR which is 1599.85 also in order to lose weight I need to know my TDEE which is 1913 if I want to loose weight I need to deduct 300 or 500 from my TDEE which is 1413 calories I need to lose weight to avoid any harm to my body. My question is: I have Hashimoto’s hypothyroid since 2001and It’s been very difficult to loose weight. Will this approach help me?

  42. Avatar S says:

    The only feature I dislike about MFP is the below 1000 calorie cut off. And preachy message. I’m just over 5 foot with a small frame. You need to rethink the cutoff for women. I’m consistently under 1000 calories.

    • Avatar Savannah Claire Turner says:

      Finally! It has me at 1200 cal and my 5’9 sister . Im 5’5 and I have a slightly younger (full grown) sister whos 4’10 it also has her at 1200 cal . Theres clearly a problem here.

      • Avatar La Bandita says:

        I agree. I am 5 7 130 and 1200 calories is too much for me. When I ran track I was always under weight, but in reality it was just my weight, my body. And my petite friends couldn’t eat as much as me and my friends that were bigger and taller thought I hardly ate.

  43. Avatar Blackdawn_70631 says:

    People could try eating extra every couple days. With the extra goodness your body actually needs. Not ice cream, candy , cake and chips. Your body won’t break down so much.
    I was on 1,700 for weight loss. But when I started lifting, I wanted gains. And I’m only 10 pounds off my weight goal. So I started eating more.
    The days I don’t lift, my minimum is less than 1,900-2,000 or less. The days I lift, I eat as much calories as I burned from the day. Which can be 2,200-2,400 or more. On really heavy burn days I’m eating 3,000 calories.
    I do watch my calorie intake and never go over. Or rarely. Non days I leave a deficit and Fast at night while sleeping and three hours before bed. Lifting days I try not leave a large deficit.
    What’s funny about this is I lost three pounds in three months. It is a very slow pace of weight loss, but I’m not starving myself.
    I’m fueling my body, and fueling my muscles.
    The thing about this, I’m a 34-year-old woman.
    Not saying that everyone needs to do this. But food isn’t the enemy. Many people are very afraid of eating.

  44. Avatar The100thMonkey says:

    I stick to the minimum limit for 2lbs a week loss and have lost over 100lbs. So calorie restriction definitely worked well for me. I did not restrict the type of food or do excessive exercise to accomplish my goal. 3X a week for 1hr. I also did not eat the extra calories I burned over my daily limit. If you do have a lot of weight to lose it’s a good Idea to take supplements.

  45. Avatar Anthony hurst says:

    I’ve been on the Dr Michael Mosley 800cal x 8 Weeks. Week 4 I had lost 11kgs felt great. For done reason I felt as though my body needed a break. Ate like a pig, there were social reasons for that, but gained 3kgs back. If I had eaten normally I don’t think I would have gained any. After a weeks break I’m back to 800 calls daily and starting to feel great again. Our bodies aren’t designed to have 3 meals per day. It needs a break and the chance to expend energy on other areas like cell repair etc. Dr Michael Mosley is not a fad dieteer. His advice is always on the cutting edge of science. After I lose the 20 kg I will then switch to his 5/2 fasting diet to maintain healthy weight. My main motivation is getting rid of my belly fat which is a good indicator of fat around my organs and other beasties. Good luck everyone but keep an open mind when googling Michael Mosley (who is very mainstream in the UK, and Australia where I’m from)

  46. Avatar Dave says:

    It is my understanding that the “starvation mode” metabolic hypothesis arising from the Wisconsin studies in WW2 has been largely debunked. Can you link to quality data supporting your opinion ?

  47. Avatar Cai says:

    When you a grain- free, soy-free vegan diet, you eat a lot of fresh veggies. While I try to add a few calorie dense foods like olives, avocados, seeds, and nurses—lots of fresh foods otherwise don’t have that many calories. 2 cups of broccoli or cauliflower have barely 50 calories! Even a salad or soup with raw or steamed veggies, before adding condiments, is barely 150-200 calories, and I try to keep oils and topping to a minimum.

    While it matters to at least eat, numbers aren’t everything. Vegan and plant-based diets tend to be very nutrient dense but not as calorie sense as those based on grains or animal products, especially if your diet is plant based but you can’t eat dairy, soy, or grains.

  48. Avatar Mano says:

    I’m 57 kg and I want to reduce it to 50kg. 1200 calorie is not enough for me. I don’t get enough nutrients. My belly falls below my waist line. It is so soggy after my pregnancy(it has been 2 years, its a c-section). I want to loose my fat and strengthen my muscles. I don’t get enough time exercise also. Please, help me.

    • Avatar Stu Chisholm says:

      It’s important to not get carried away with calories. If you honestly answer the questions here, it will give you two calorie options. One is to lose weight and the other is to maintain it. At my height/weight, and being a male, I lose weight if I stay under 1860 calories, and I maintain my current weight at 2100. My wife, on the other hand, only gets 1400 calories.

      Being a tiny bit under each day isn’t horrible, but going drastically under is NOT healthy! Plus, you really need to make those calories count. So be sure to have high-quality calories, with plenty of protean, vitamins and minerals. Try and keep the “junk” calories at 25% or less. Of course, it’s hard to do all the time, so the best strategy is to take daily vitamin supplements to assure your body is getting what it needs.

      I’ve also discovered that it is NOT possible to spot-reduce. When you lose weight, it comes from your entire body. You can’t “target” one spot or another. But this DOES work with muscles! So, if you’re concerned with your belly, you can do exercises to tone-up those muscles specifically. A good friend of mine who had been VERY heavy became very svelte, and got some pretty decent abs, by joining a rowing club. I’m guessing the machines at a gym might deliver similar results if you put in the same amount of time. If time is an issue and you have the room, maybe something like that might be a good investment to have at home. (Although actually joining a rowing club provides much better scenery, not to mention making new friends!)

      Sadly, loose skin takes a very long time to retract, if it ever does, so even after weight loss it might stick around. I know – I have to use a book mark these days to find the true place where my legs meet my butt. So once you’ve slimmed down to your desired weight, you might consider a “tuck” surgery to look your best.

      Hope that helps a bit. Best of luck! 🙂

  49. Avatar pSK says:

    how does this advice interface with the 5:2 diet – i.e 2 days of 500 calories, with 5 days of normal eating. Its working for me, but interested to hear if this is considered dangerous at all?

  50. Avatar Ashley Ventura says:

    1200 calories is too much especially if your trying to loose weight.

  51. Avatar E A Corley says:

    So if my calorie goal is 1,800 / day and I am eating 2,100 / day BUT my excerise discounts 900 calories : am I still considered to be undereating in the context described in this article?

  52. Avatar Jeanette Q says:

    Great article, thanks for sharing. We all need a reminder sometimes that without proper nutrition, we can’t function properly and can cause ourselves long term damage.

  53. Avatar Bah13 says:

    I don’t understand what the hell you’re talking about. If anything the Minnesota Starvation Experiement proves the opposite of what you claim. Those men lost a drastic amount of weight on a restricted diet of 1500 calories a day (being active military they needed 3000-3500 a day to maintain weight because all of the exercise and physical labor). Then to regain their healthy weight they were slowly put onto a 4000 calorie a day diet.

    Did they continue to lose weight on that 4000 calories a day like you claim? FUCK NO! They got back to their healthy weight. So what the fuck are you talking about? The MSE proves CICO not “starvation mode”.

    • Avatar Flyercrazy says:

      This is exactly why I do not like to take advise from people on forums such as this. Someone makes a point which makes a lot of sense and many people fall for it because they take what was said as gospel without researching it for themselves.
      Had it not been for you coming along I may or may not have researched the ” ‘Minnesota Fatts’ Starvation Experiment”, by the way, thanks for interceding….I think. But now I have to double check what you said so now I have twice the work to do because I don’t trust what you have said yet, will have to research the Experiment to make sure which one of you is the nut case.
      Thanks for your post.

  54. Avatar Stu Chisholm says:

    Well… yes and no. First of all, calorie counts do not equate with good nutrition. Keeping within your “calorie budget” is simply a way to reduce and maintain a healthy weight. And that DOES work. It’s basic physics; your body consumes X amount of energy each day. If you consume less energy (in calories – a measure of energy content, just as octane is for gas, or BTUs are for heating/cooling) than your body burns, it is impossible NOT to lose weight, because your body is forced to consume stored energy (fat). This can even become a problem, because if you get below a 8% fat/body weight ratio, your body will start burning muscle mass.

    Anyway, the main challenge is to make those calories you consume count; they must contain all the nutrients your body needs to build the over one TRILLION cells it will make today, and maintain all the cells already working. Humans are omnivores, and those on the vegan tip are living at one end of the spectrum – what we might call an “extreme” end – as are the Atkins people who eat only meat/protean. The absolute best diets are balanced; we need things from both plant and animal groups. Yes, with supplements we CAN exist at either end of the spectrum, but to do so requires significant research and making very specific choices. Humans NEVER did this at any time in history. Balance is, was and always WILL be the key.

    And we can do that by looking at what,, exactly, the body requires and in what proportions. It turns out that we consume WAY too much of two groups: sugar and meat. Sugar gets a bad rap, yet it is the ONLY thing the body uses for energy. Anything that supplies energy (starch, carbs, etc.) must first be converted to sugar in order for the cells to burn it for energy. Unused sugar/energy is converted to fat for storage. Happily, this process consumes energy! Yes, it takes energy to convert sugar to fat AND vice-versa! But we have an abundance of energy, because we eat so damned much sugar.

    We omnivores/carnivores also eat too much meat, proportionally. We think of the meat/protean as the centerpiece of our meal, with all else as “sides” or garnish. But any dietitian will tell you that, if you’re a meat eater, it should only be about 1/4th to 1/3rd of any meal, the rest being fruits, vegetables and maybe a starch (potatoes, etc.). Oh, and we don’t eat NEARLY enough fruit! In fact, if one had to choose between fruits and veggies, the better choice is fruit, as it contains everything veggies offer plus fructose (easily absorbed sugar) and more minerals, which are essential for absorbing vitamins. (Veggies do the latter, too.) Any meat on your plate that you intend to eat at one sitting should be able to be completely hidden by the palm of your hand. It’s a handy gauge, which you always have with you!

    I tend to hedge my bets.taking daily supplements, because like most normal people, I don’t always get to choose well-proportioned, balanced meals. We have lives; we grab whatever we can in the narrow time we have for lunch, or we go out with friends to bars or restaurants that don’t always offer the most healthy fare. And face it; we’re human beings. We’re gonna indulge every now and then, and this should NOT be a moral sin! If it IS only an occasional indulgence, that nasty cheeseburger or bowl of ice cream isn’t going to be the end of the world. And, in fact, being ABLE to indulge every now and then, and KNOWING it, helps one be more able to resist the routine temptations because we don’t feel trapped in some sort of diet “jail”. If you feel like that, you’re doomed to failure.

    So that’s my armchair assessment, in any case. I’m down 95 lbs and feel like I did in my ’30s. (I’m 58 now.) I AM lax when it comes to exercise – I’m WAY too sedentary for my own good – but will be taking classes soon that will radically increase my physical activity. This also has another side-benefit; vigorous activity gives you BACK some calories in your budget! 20 minutes of vigorous walking, for instance, burns about 280 calories. So, when I’ve had my full daily amount, I’ve gone on a brisk, hour-long walk and earned back the candy bar that I end each day with. (Yes, I’m a certified choco-holic – LOL!) My wife can attest that, the entire time I was losing a pound a day, I had an XL Kit Kat bar every day.

    Anyway, that’s what worked, and is working, for me. If what you’re doing is working for you, then great! But if anything I’ve said might be of any help, well… that’s why I put it here. I wish you much luck and success, and above all, good health!

  55. Avatar Alicia says:

    I don’t like the auto calorie thing as well. The only way I’ve been able to lose any weight is by eating right around 800 calories a day. And even then I have to exercise and burn at least that many calories to lose any weight. I tried eating the 1200 calorie way but with my small 5′ frame that way of eating made me gain weight. It’s always been simple math-burn more calories than you consume to lose weight. There should be an option to log your day even if you eat below the number of calories recommended.

  56. Avatar Brenda says:

    Did ya’ll ever stop and think a gastric bypass patients always eat lower calories!

  57. Avatar Sylvi says:

    Should I be concern? Five/Seven day I end up with positive calorie, because I exercise , I burn anywhere from 600 to 800 calories a day. I eat breakfast,lunch,dinner,and snacks. I watch the calories/ portion control.

  58. Avatar Havolas says:

    What she said about the body damaging heart muscle in the absense of carbs is true. People have died from undereating due to myocardial (heart muscle) problems even when they were on a “protein-sparing” ketogenic diet. Your ability to make glucose from muscle is supposed to be a last chance survival mechanism. You can still eat 65-75g of carbs during the day and maintain ketosis at night no problem. Just stay away from processed carbs and stick with a variety of leafy green veggies and maybe a fruit or three. Whole foods are key. You’ll still lose weight while getting your vitamins and minerals as well as giving your body the carbs it needs so it isn’t accessing your organs for fuel!

    • Avatar Havolas says:

      The requirements for a well-crafted FAT loss diet from all my research are:

      1.) A calorie deficit brought on by EITHER (not both) under eating, or activity,
      2.) A 4:1 or less ratio of Omega-6 (~14g of linoleic acid) to Omega-3 (~3.5g long chain fish or algae derived) fatty acids (you should see the research on telomere lengthening here – fascinating)
      3.) At least 48g of plant fiber daily (leafy greens for the win),
      4.) Around 65-75g of highly bioavailable protein daily (if not pumping iron)
      5.) Low (but not zero) saturated fat
      6.) Low, or better yet zero fried foods (especially fried in plant oils — major cause of heart disease — even more so than red meat consumption)
      7.) Lower than 300mg of cholesterol daily,
      8.) Lower than 2g of sodium daily,
      9.) Greater than 4g of potassium daily,
      10.) Vitamin D3 supplementation if you don’t get much sunlight,
      11.) The majority of your dietary fat should be monounsaturated (think avocados, walnuts, etc.). But no more than around 35g daily.
      12.) Eat carbs, proteins, and fats at every meal to guarantee proper assimilation of all vitamins and minerals.

      You’ll get everything you need from this, and as long as you are in a calorie deficit, you WILL burn your own body fat for fuel (especially at night while you are sleeping — the natural ketotic state for humans that starts about 4 hours after your last meal).

  59. Avatar Kelly says:

    I seem to eat 2500-3000 calories a day. It has 1,800 a day for me to lose weight. I’m addicted to food, and always drink.

  60. Avatar Anne Newkold says:

    I am so glad this was posted! I had started a discussion in one of the communities on myfittnesspal and got a lot of hateful comments by a lot of ignorant people. My doctor had had this discussion with me many years ago. I sure hope they are read this. Most of the comments were so hateful I had to have the topic I started deleted.

  61. Avatar Ask Helen says:

    These are also the reasons why I’m not undereating. I still think a balanced diet and a regular exercise can help you lose some weight.

  62. Avatar laura says:

    Eat 1200 calories a day is under eating. If you eat 1000-1200 calories a day that is so bad and you are hurting your body so much. My breakfast this morning was 1200 calories

    • Avatar Stu Chisholm says:

      That depends entirely on your body size/weight and activity level. If you’re a petite female who is sedentary, you might only NEED 1200 calories. When my wife took the assessment quiz, she was given a 1400 calorie limit. She’s 5’1″ and has a low to moderate activity level. Of course, 1400 is to lose weight. Once she hits goal weight, she gets back 200 or 300 calories. As a large male, I got 1860 calories; if I stayed at or below that, I would lose weight. It worked: I went from 278 lbs. down to 185. Once I got to goal, I can have 2100 calories. I’ve maintained my weight for over a year now.

      The MAIN thing is to give yourself good nutrition! Good food choices, keeping the carbs and starches to a low roar and, if in doubt, taking a good vitamin supplement.

      That said, if your assessment says you can have 1400 calories, then HAVE 1400 calories! You can’t starve yourself into shape, and it really won’t go any quicker by denying yourself an extra 100 calories here and there. Remember: you didn’t gain your excess weight overnight! So why expect to lose it overnight? It’s all about making better choices, meal by meal, day by day, ounce by ounce. Just keep at it, and over the course of a year you’ll be amazed!

      • Avatar Paul says:

        Good advice Stu.
        It took me 2-1/2 years to go from 260 to 180.

        Along that way, habits change. In a crash diet, habits are sublimated and roar in the back ground. When you hit your goal that way, they come roaring back. Yo-Yo.

        • Avatar Stu Chisholm says:

          Precisely! Diets always fail. What one needs to do is make a wholesale lifestyle change. These days, I habitually count my calories. I know them so well, I no longer have to consult the database. And, on those instances where I have no idea, I’ve gotten good at guesstimating.

          Congrats on your weight loss, bruh!

  63. Avatar tland1973 says:

    I have been taking Phentermine and following a low carb paleo diet since May 3rd and have dropped 40 lbs. I exercise 5 days a week which includes walking and lifting weights. I set my carb goal at 25g. per day. I will allow myself 30g. occasionally. I have energy all the time and love the changes in my body so much!! I went from 225 lbs size 18 jeans to 185 lbs and size 12 jeans. I see my doctor once a month to stay on track and make sure that I am doing this correctly. So far he says I am doing great! Im 42 years old and feel like i did when i was 15!! Phentermine has literally saved my life!!

  64. Avatar Oli says:

    The worst article I’ve ever read

  65. Avatar MR_BIG18 says:

    ive been doing keto on and off for a few years now, helped me maintain a 30in waist on my 200lb 6ft frame..

  66. Where is everyone getting it makes you eat 1200 calories…1200 is my maximum and suggests not to go under 1000 calories…I am only 5.1 so is some people different than others?

  67. Avatar Phillydog says:

    Baloney. 2500 a day is hardly starvation. Half the world’s population lives on less than that. You want to lose weight? You really want to lose weight? Contact me and I will tell you how. philipp10@yahoo.com

  68. Avatar Phillydog says:

    This article is a bunch of BS. The problem is America is we don’t have a clue what the rest of the world is doing. My Chinese girlfriend (and all her fellow Chinese) have it right. Go over and see how they live, the weight will come off. You might NOT like the diet, but 1.3 billion people prove, it works.

    All this “ketosis” and “science” is BS. Just look how the rest of the world is doing it everyday. BTW, my gf is 5’4″ and 99 lbs. If anything, I wish she would add a few pounds. I suspect when she moves to the US, she will.

  69. Avatar Stu Chisholm says:

    Laughable; undereating, if done long enough, can’t HELP but cause weight loss. Trouble is, it will cause all sorts of worse maladies along the way! Don’t risk damage to vital organs by robbing your body of nutrition! All other health concerns aside, there’s some basic physics going on here.
    1. Even when you do nothing but sit on the couch all day, your body consumes anywhere from 800 to 1100 calories, on average. This is because your cells are radiating energy. (Ever see an episode of “Cops” where they track the movement of bad guys with FLIR? You literally glow in the infrared light a light bulb!) Your body will produce tens of millions of new cells today, and does so each and every second of every day. And the brain, when engaged, consumes most of the body’s energy. So exercise is overrated, at least for weight loss. Still important for health, but not as a weight loss tool.
    2. When you wake up in the morning, you’re burning pure fat. Your reserves are all digested and your body is drawing from its stores. My own weight loss was bolstered by this, as unlike most people, I don’t wake up hungry. I ate nothing for the first three hours I’m awake, which is also when I’m most physically active.
    3. Like a car with a tank of gas, if you’re burning more “fuel” than you take in, you cannot help but lose weight as said fuel will run out. Unlike your car, your body then switches to its reserves, a.k.a. fat.

    When undergoing any weight loss regimen, it’s a good idea to take a vitamin supplement to assure that you have the necessary vitamins and minerals for all of that cell building! Do NOT rob your body! Just take control over what you’re eating by knowing its value (calories) and staying within your “budget”. Weight loss is then assured. It’s physics.

    • Avatar Alex Zalewski says:

      Started working on my goal in July ’16, started at 283 and now I’ve hit another plateau — 263 for over a month now — my kids really saw my drive and seeing that things weren’t going so well got me a heart monitor and and Orange Theory Gym membership for X-mas– so when I do my Total Gym workouts I use the Heart Monitor and find when I do my TOTAL GYM workout I find that my HR is only about 65-70% of what my max should be — any suggestions to getting it up some more?? I have been increasing the level of incline – and I have trimmed down the lower half of the Body — but upper area and abdomen are not doing so well — Thoughts??
      I have a couple of special needs – I’m over 60 and a diabetic, working with my disease manager –I’m maintaining my blood sugar levels to her acceptable levels
      For the nutrition, meals are giving me a avg daily intake of 2,00-2100, the exercising is taking an avg of 2,200 a week off — and to maintain the current body weight – the tables say I need 3,300 a day, so really I’m doing a deficit of at least 1,000 a day and with the exercise — I should be seeing more of a loss — well by the tables and numbers it should 🙁
      My Frustration level is increasing — still have this last 13 lbs to be below my goal weight of 250 by mid March (which I should have been by now) — would LOVE to be well below that for a good buffer —

      • Avatar Anne says:

        One- HR at 65-70% of your max is right around where you should be working out for fat loss! Second, I recommend three things for your plateau, since it seems you are well-monitored. The first is to increase your strength training regimen. Increasing muscle mass can kickstart your metabolism for fat burning, especially if you deviate from exercises you’ve been doing regularly. Plus, you’ll look thinner even if you aren’t losing lbs because of the more defined muscles. Second – always part of these regimens – increase water intake. Like, a lot. Third, try something called calorie cycling. The idea is that we need to trick our bodies, because they are so efficient at getting fat, by changing up our diet. If my daily calorie limit is 1,400, some days I’ll eat like 1,200 and then others – usually weekends – I’ll take those “saved up” calories from the week and spend them on weekend outings. Just be sure to actually use all your calories within the week. One smartphone calorie tracking app that works really well with this feature is LoseIt. In addition to the daily info, it shows you how many calories you are under for the week total.

  70. Avatar Brian says:

    I have lost 43 pounds since Sept and trying to lose at least 31 more to be able to take my Boy Scout troop hiking at the Philmont Scout ranch in northern New Mexico. Their requirement is to be at 246 pounds for a 6’1″ adult and have recently plateau’d at 271. I have until when we leave in aug to get there.
    I tried Ketosis for three weeks but never got rid of the “flu” so I switched to lifting weights/cardio and watching what I eat.

    My issue is that despite tracking calories And knowing that I cannot under-eat, I am getting frustrated at not really losing much as what I was losing before. I don’t know what my “magic number” is in tracking and despite having a full blown “health check” at work back in November when I was given a caloric range with what I needed to be in order to lose weight, I understand that the number goes down when you lose weight. So now I’m at a point where I have no idea what to do to kickstart this diet in order for me to continue to lose weight.

    • Avatar Stu Chisholm says:

      Your body’s metabolism adjusts. Once you implement your change (I never call it a diet, since you’re making a lifestyle change), you tend to lose weight very quickly. Then your body catches on, and goes into “crisis mode”, since we’ve evolved a “feast or famine” type response. Yet it remains a fact that if you burn more calories than you take in, you cannot help but lose weight. (Sometimes water will fool you – don’t let it! A 1-3 pound daily swing isn’t unusual.) So just keep on keepin’ on. You didn’t gain your weight all at once, so you won’t lose it all at once. Just hang in there. Hey, even if you’re only losing a pound a week, by this time next year you’ll be 52 lbs. lighter! Best of luck!

      • Avatar Brian says:

        Thanks, but what is bothersome is I need to drop 31 more by the beginning of August as a requirement to go on this trip. So I know there isn’t a “magical way” of doing this but it’s frustrating to eat less calories, work out more and not see anything move on the scale. I did realize not drinking any water before bed helps when I weigh in the morning.

        • Avatar Stu Chisholm says:

          Excellent – that gives you more than half a year! Working out is good for your general health, and you can also earn back calories if you’ve overdone it a bit during the day. While I was losing weight, I finished my day with a 420 calorie candy bar. Of course, sometimes I overdid dinner and either had to forego my daily treat OR go on a brisk walk for about an hour and 20. The point, though, is that it IS all about calories in and calories out, so the idea is to burn more than you take in. If your weight loss plateaus, then just adjust your caloric intake down by 100 calorie increments.

          Yes, there are many things that can toss a monkey wrench into this admittedly simplistic scheme, because the human body isn’t a car engine. Water weight, for one thing. Women know this well, but often we guys are clueless. Still, it is important to stay hydrated. Maybe skip it for the last hour before bed (which may stave-off the midnight wee-wee run), but you otherwise are hard-pressed to drink too much water.

          Another trick: don’t have anything (except the aforementioned water, or maybe your morning coffee) for the first 2-3 hours you’re awake. At that point, your food has been digested and you’re burning pure fat stores. This process stops at breakfast. I had thought that my cutting out soda (which I really overdid quite a bit) was the “magic bullet” in my diet, but it turned out that this probably did just as much if not more, at least according to my nutritionist.

          And above all, keep on keepin’ on! Don’t let a scale bum you out. You WILL succeed; it’s a mindset. All you need is just slightly over that pound a week at this point. It’s within your reach!

          • Avatar Brian says:

            Thanks Stu.

            I’m curious on your comment there about holding off on breakfast for the first 2-3 hours in the morning. Every workday, I make a banana, spinach, unsweetened almond milk, PB2, flax seed smoothie usually around an hour after I wake up. So I should be waiting another hour until I get to work to drink it?

            I had a Dr’s appt yesterday and my Dr. said I should increase my cardio from 30 to 50 minutes every other day as my weight lifting was fine where it was at. So normally I did the elliptical trainer for 30 minutes but as of earlier this week, I added walking on the treadmill at a 10% incline for ten minutes. He suggested adding more time for more of the burn. He also said to see him in two months and if needed, there are pills to suppress hunger. Unfortunately, they are $1/pill but I have a friend who told me last night that she took them and dropped 40 lbs. I’m wondering if that is an good option to use (as long as I count my calories throughout the day until I leave and then I would stop the medication).

            Finally, what is the general consensus on drinking a protein shake after cardio? I have never done that before buy I was reading articles last night about the recommendation to do so since you are possibly tearing down muscle while doing cardio. Thoughts?

            Thanks again for your advice. I’m actually pretty depressed now because i have hit this plateau and I am wondering if I will ever reach this goal. Even though it’s less than 7 months away, factoring in a pound a week of weight loss, puts me at an average of 28 lbs and unfortunately this camp is strict with adults being at a particular weight based on height.

          • Avatar Stu Chisholm says:

            Wow, your smoothie sounds insanely healthy! Great breakfast!

            My info comes from my physiology class, where I’m currently studying massage therapy. Our profession has been scooped-up under the medical umbrella, so we have to pass MBLEX in order to graduate. In short, my prof mentioned that when you wake up, you’re burning stored energy (fat) because all of your food from the previous day has been digested already. So whatever calories you’re burning come directly from fat. Unlike most people, I don’t wake up hungry. I don’t get hungry until about 3 hours after I’m up. So that seems to have helped me a lot.

            While very healthy and relatively free from fat, whatever your smoothie contains in calories must be deducted from your “budget”, so I’d say the main concern is to determine the caloric content of your breakfast.

            Another thing I did was discover Crystal Light. (I know – I sound like a commercial.) If Aspartame doesn’t bother you (some are allergic and or get headaches), then it is a great alternative to soda and other drinks. I simply can’t stand plain water. I also use it to offset snacks; instead of grabbing the chips, I’ll grab a glass of Crystal Light. 5 calories, no guilt. Hell, I could have ten glasses in a day’s time and it only adds up to 50!

            Not sure re: your cardio question. It sounds sensible if you’re trying to build muscle, and any type of “shake” may be a bit expensive calorie-wise. Again, I’d want to know what it costs me from my calorie budget. Otherwise, it again sounds very healthy! But no, you’re not tearing down muscle when doing cardio. In fact, it’s the opposite! When you work your muscles, you’re actually storing energy. Muscles get bigger the more you use them for this reason. This, in fact, is the only real way to “sculpt” your body, since weight loss occurs overall. So work the muscles where you want to be bigger and less so where you’re satisfied.

            Final note: a pound of fat weighs the SAME as a pound of muscle! It’s just that muscle is denser, so a pound of it takes up slightly less space. Both, though, are mostly water, so that size difference isn’t as big as some might think. So don’t let cheesy bumper-sticker slogans and the whole “fitness” hype mindset discourage you. There’s plenty of time to achieve your goal and you have the resources to get there! Just meter your caloric intake, don’t sidestep good nutrition (at least take a supplement), choose the wiser options whenever possible, hydrate and stay active. You seem to have that last part in the bag! 🙂

    • Avatar Alex Zalewski says:

      Brian — I’m with ya bud !!! same boat here — selected to go to Jamboree in July — started last july at 283 – now plateaued at 263 for the past month — but I need to be at 250 by mid march and frustration level is through the roof now

  71. Avatar Eve Richter says:

    1200 calories is actually EXTREMELY low for an athletic person. If I did that, I’d eat my muscles away. I try to get a minimum 1800 on a normal, active training day.

  72. Avatar Sean Hoade says:

    This was very helpful, thanks!

  73. Avatar david says:

    People are worried about poor nutrition while in ketosis????? Look at the crap most Americans eat in a well balanced SAD, (well balanced SAD! Talk about an oxymoron). Again repeat after me there is no daily requirement for carbohydrate. Eskimos…blubber and protein Masai people, blood, milk, meat and fat! 99.9 percent of every human being that has ever lived, no bread, no snacks, no cookies…… just vegetables, roots tubers meat fish eggs and fowl! You can be in ketosis and function just fine for a lifetime!!!!! You body can manufacture all the glycogen it needs from ingested protein. It takes a long time if at all before we start breaking down muscle, especially if your protein intake is adequate. It is the kind of junk science put forward in this article that has made America obese and sick.

  74. Avatar Sam T says:

    But I was steadily gaining weight while eating strictly 1200 calories a day?

    I’m not quite sure the BMR my fitbit calculated for me is correct honestly.

    • Avatar Stu Chisholm says:

      Obviously something’s off, unless you’re unusually small and/or sedentary, or have some illness or condition that makes you retain water, etc. It’s nearly impossible to consume less calories than you burn and gain weight, unless you’re retaining fluids somehow. Keep at it and keep a wary eye on your fluid intake (stay hydrated!) and urine output. The two should be an identical match.

      • Avatar Sam T says:

        I’m fairly active. MFP even recommended that I eat 1500 calories a day based on my activity level. And based on my activity level my fitbit is reading, the fitbit calculates what’s being burned, which on average is between 2700 and 3200 calories a day. I try to drink 48- 64 Oz of water a day.

        I’ve always been like this though. I brought it up to my doctor (when I had one) and she completely ignored me when I brought it up, just told me I was stress eating and gave me anti depressants. Nothing ever came out of it, she just kept insisting that I was over eating and wouldn’t look at my food logs.

        • Avatar Stu Chisholm says:

          Hmmm… I can see why you’re scratching your head! Another possibility is that your body has gone into “crisis mode”. When you restrict calories, your body eventually adjusts, as our ancestors often faced feast or famine situations, and uses calories far more efficiently. I don’t think our cute little tech toys take this into account. And again, being a physical impossibility to retain weight while burning more calories than are consumed, it could again be a fluid retention issue. This is usually more true of women, but we guys can have it, too. Rather than rely solely on the fitbit, use the database and keep an eye on actual calories being consumed. Another idea: consult a massage therapist for a lymph drainage session or two. This can help with fluid retention. And, as always, your doctor is the best ear to bend. (Maybe consider getting a new one?) S/he could test to make sure you’re not retaining excess fluids. If you’re taking medication, these, too, can sometimes influence your digestion, etc. Otherwise, it sounds like you’re on the right track. Just because the needle ain’t moving, or is moving slow, don’t get discouraged! It’s every bit as important to maintain as it is to drop a few pounds.. Stay healthy!

  75. Avatar Alex Zalewski says:

    Started working on my goal in July ’16, started at 283 and now I’ve hit another plateau — 263 for over a month now — my kids really saw my drive and seeing that things weren’t going so well got me a heart monitor and and Orange Theory Gym membership for X-mas– so when I do my Total Gym workouts I use the Heart Monitor and find when I do my TOTAL GYM workout I find that my HR is only about 65-70% of what my max should be — any suggestions to getting it up some more?? I have been increasing the level of incline – and I have trimmed down the lower half of the Body — but upper area and abdomen are not doing so well — Thoughts??
    I have a couple of special needs – I’m over 60 and a diabetic, working with my disease manager –I’m maintaining my blood sugar levels to her acceptable levels
    For the nutrition, meals are giving me a avg daily intake of 2,00-2100, the exercising is taking an avg of 2,200 a week off — and to maintain the current body weight – the tables say I need 3,300 a day, so really I’m doing a deficit of at least 1,000 a day and with the exercise — I should be seeing more of a loss — well by the tables and numbers it should 🙁
    My Frustration level is increasing — still have this last 13 lbs to be below my goal weight of 250 by mid March (which I should have been by now) — would LOVE to be well below that for a good buffer —

    • Avatar La Bandita says:

      2100 calories a day is still a lot. And anyone eat 3,300. a day has a problem. I think you need to cut additional calories, BUT also get more rest. You’re stressing out and that adds weight. And switch it up – start lifting and doing yoga.

  76. Avatar Patti Broom says:

    I am in a mess, dieted one way and another for 25 years without more than a fortnights break. On this site i have been dieting and gone form 1600 cals to 1200, because not losing. My problem is on just under 1600 I lost nothing, staying same weight so now in desparation I’m on 1200 my weight shot down a week ago and today its skyrocketed up beyond that I have keytone breath and are going a bit dizzy on laying down sometimes.
    My main problem is I an in a chair, disabled 68 and have gastric band which ( they say I should eat under 800 calories a day. ) I log everything every day but I can eat very little meat and veg. I try my very best to do seated weight training and movements. But I am at a loss to know which waty to go for the best! Can anyone advise me please?

    • Avatar Stu Chisholm says:

      It sounds like you have multiple things going on that can influence your weight and any diet should be under your doctor’s supervision. I’m particularly concerned by your mention of keytone breath and dizziness, which are hallmark signs of diabetes. So seriously, consult your doctor. It’s time.

      If you weren’t diabetic, I would suggest increasing your intake of carbs. If you easily maintain your weight at slightly under 1600 calories, then adjusting to, say, 1400 should result in some weight loss. 1200 may have been too much too soon. Your body needs resources to maintain homeostasis! You’ll be building the better part of a trillion new cells each and every day. You also constantly radiate energy 24/7, all of which consumes energy, so it’s important to provide that baseline calorie count as well as provide the raw materials (vitamins, minerals, proteins, etc.) for new cell building. So, if your doctor agrees, a good vitamin supplement is always a good idea. Second, get ALL of your calories! If you are allowed 1400, then get them all. Try to stay +/- 100 calories each day. Measure, read labels and use the database here if you need to. Like gallons of gas and octane ratings, the fuel for your body is precise, and so is your body’s consumption of energy. It’s a physical fact that if you burn more calories than you consume, you cannot help but lose weight.

      Some things DO cloud the issue! For instance, you might be one of those people who has infrequent bowel movements. Not to sound gross, but if you’re carrying around your food for the past 3, 4 or 5 days, it’ll look like you’re ballooning up even when you’ve been being good and following your plan. Do NOT despair! Keep on track. Then, when you finally DO have a bowel movement, weigh yourself THEN. (Also be sure to void your bladder and weigh yourself naked. You’re not trying to weigh clothes and anything not YOU.) You WILL, then, see results.

      Exercise is a poor device to lose weight. It IS excellent for maintaining muscle tone, building muscle, maintaining and improving blood and lymph circulation and other benefits! And while it DOES burn energy, it doesn’t burn it as fast as some think. Anyone who has ever watched the “calories burned” digits on their stationary bicycle or treadmill knows what I’m talking about. Our fast-twitch muscles are incredibly efficient. They consume energy very frugally. When I was on my weight loss regimen, I would often go over my calorie limit. I wanted to end my day with my candy bar – my one indulgence – and budgeted 420 calories each day for it. If I ate too much, though, and wanted that candy bar, then I had to hit the road before bed. Each 200 calories required an hour and ten minutes of brisk walking! Yes, there were days when I just said, “screw it,” but I spent a LONG time covering my 2.5 mile route in order to have that chocolate!

      Another thing that can throw off your weight picture is water weight. We men don’t usually suffer as much from this (unless you’re in congestive heart failure or some other horrible malady, in which case your weight is NOT top priority), but depending on where you are in your cycle, even post-menopause, you CAN be retaining water, which translates into bigger numbers on the scale in the morning. So you might want to use the calculator function on your phone or computer and, rather than sweat your daily numbers, simply record them. Then do an average at the end of the month. You’ll be VERY surprised! You will also be able, seeing your daily numbers, to visually see the up and down of your water weight cycle. If your computer does graphic charting, it’s even cooler.

      So again, I implore you to consult your doctor. I also know that, being in a chair, you are facing some huge differences from the rest of us! You no doubt understand that movement is life, so even those limbs that no longer function need to be exercised regularly, as much as possible, to prevent atrophy and circulation issues. If your insurance affords regular PT, I would take full advantage in your position. Massage, too, if possible. Health is a bigger issue than simply reaching an ideal weight, and diet, exercise and lifestyle all go hand-in-hand to bring you to your optimal level of health. I hope you found anything in there useful and wish you all success! I also hope you’ll keep us posted on your journey.

  77. Avatar Garry says:

    Simple Weight Loss System – it’s the only system which worked for me. not keto, not if, not any crash diets, only this one. highly recommend this!

    • Avatar Barney says:

      thanks Garry for recomending this one (can be found here – parental-love. com/weight-loss/simpe-weight-loss-system). I love this kind of approach!

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