I went on the internet and calculated my daily calorie intake to lose weight and it says i need to eat 800 calories to lose 1lbs a week! Isn’t this too low and unhealthy? I am 4′10 tall!
The calculator may technically be correct, but that doesn’t mean 800 calories a day is necessarily the best course of action for you.
It’s also not the only course of action you can take to achieve your long-term goal.
The calculator is simply taking your desired inputs and backing into a number. Once you understand the math behind weight loss, you can customize your approach.
The most important thing to understand is that one pound is 3,500 calories.
Since a pound is 3,500 calories, you need to generate a 3,500 calorie deficit per week or a 500 calorie deficit per day, on average, to lose 1 pound per week.
If your maintenance calories are roughly 1,300 calories per day (which isn’t unreasonable for someone your height), then you’d subtract 500 calories to get to the 800 calories per day recommendation.
Personally, I think it would be difficult for anyone to maintain both 800 calories a day and their sanity so let me propose a couple of alternate approaches for you.
You can increase your activity level to raise your maintenance calories.
If you burn an extra 200 calories per day, that would increase your maintenance calories to 1,500 and you’d be able to eat 1,000 calories per day instead of 800 calories to achieve the same 500 calorie deficit and the same rate of weight loss of 3,500 calories or 1 pound per week.
This will require a little bit of effort on your part, but that’s the price you pay for allowing yourself to eat more. If you go this route, I suggest incorporating a simple daily walk into your routine.
Depending on your weight, you can burn upwards of 50 calories per mile walking, which means walking 3-4 miles should get you there. This may seem like a lot, but keep in mind a mile is only 2,000 steps on average.
If you want a more accurate estimate on how many calories you’d burn walking, use this online calculator:
I prefer walking to running or a formal exercise program when I want to increase my daily maintenance calories because walking is easier to commit to. Running may also increase your appetite, which will make it more difficult to regulate your food intake.
You can lose weight more slowly.
If you lower your rate of weekly weight loss from 1 pound per week to 0.5 pounds per week, then you only need a 250 calorie daily deficit and you can target 1,050 calories per day instead of 800.
When your calories are already low to begin with, an extra 250 calories will make a big difference. Sure, it will take you longer to achieve your goal, but your journey will be less stressful.
If your long-term goal is to lose 20 pounds, you’ll be on a 40-week timeframe instead of 20 weeks, which isn’t that much more time in the big picture. But your likelihood of success will be much higher on a more manageable calorie intake.
When it comes to weight loss, you’ll always have options, so it’s important to pick an approach that you can stick with long enough to actually see results.
As you can see, losing even a small amount of weight takes some time.
You should also consider your health and well-being. Your gut instinct was that 800 calories is too low and that should also be a red flag that maybe there’s a better way to go about things.
If you want to plan out your customized weekly weight loss on a schedule, I created a free weekly weight loss spreadsheet you can use.