3 Reasons Why Your 1200 Calories is Really 2400

“I’m trying to eat 1200 calories a day, and I still can’t lose weight!” Raise your hand if you have heard this, said this, or read this before. We all have. Somewhere, someone came up with 1200 as the magic number to lose weight – especially for women!

Nevermind what your size, gender, height, activity level, age, etc is – just ladies-  if you want to lose weight, you need to eat 1200 calories!

However – 1200 calories is so insanely low, especially for any person who is also exercising frequently that you are more likely to burn out, get sick, or just plain give up. I understand that their ARE outliers to this – short, young and lean women might be fine on 1200 calories – but for the most part, 1200 is insane.

Then we have “the other side” of my point, and this is the more likely scenario – you aren’t actually eating 1200 calories.

Nobody is calling nobody a liar – let me make that very clear.

Studies have shown that intake is underreported by about 40% while the output (calories burned) is overestimated by about 50% (thanks to the inaccuracy of trackers). This is 90% swing!! Crazy, right?

Here is why this is a good thing though. Maybe you think you are eating 1200 calories. Then you take the time to track and measure things out – and you are actually eating 2400! That is great!

Why? Because now we only need to lower you to 2100 or so and you should start losing weight! Much better than trying to go lower from 1200 (not recommended).

So how do these discrepancies happen? Honest mistakes really…

1) Poor Metrics of Measure

What did you have for breakfast?

“Cereal and coffee”

This could be a HUGE range… how much cereal? What kind? What kind of milk? How much? Was anything in your coffee? How much?

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I JUST HAD A BOWL OF CEREAL⁣ ⁣ Well, here are four different bowls of cereal.⁣ ⁣ 1,2,3, and 4 servings of Honey Nut Cheerios. ⁣ ⁣ …and the calorie numbers are not including milk.⁣ ⁣ This is why learning about measurements of food can be so powerful and impactful. ⁣ ⁣ None of these options are good nor bad – it all depends on the individual. ⁣ ⁣ Remember – there are no good or bad foods – only appropriate or inappropriate portions based off of the rest of your day, week and lifestyle.⁣ ⁣ Knowledge is power. And cereal is awesome.⁣ ⁣ #cereal #cheerios #honeynutcheerios #carbs #fatloss #portioncontrol #flexibledieting #awareness #knowledgeispower

A post shared by MG Fitlife – Mike Gorski, RD. (@mgfitlife) on


Servings on the label (for this example – one serving was 3/4 cup of Honey Nut Cheerios) are arbitrary measurements made up based on a balanced 2000 calorie diet. So the word “serving” is meaningless.

For me – a bowl of cheerios is equal to 4 of their servings. For someone else, this might be way too much! This is why we measure and track these things – or at least become aware.

Then what about that coffee? Check this out from weight loss expert Sohee Lee:

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Something to think about: If you’re eating or drinking the higher calorie version of something, but it’s tastier and leaves you feeling far more satisfied and satiated for longer – is that always such a bad thing? ⁣ ⁣ A lot of times when it comes to conversation surrounding moderating your intake, you’ll see many recommending that you cut back calories as much as you can, including opting for calorie-free liquids. I don’t fully agree with this. ⁣ ⁣ For example, one of my staples every morning is a small latte with two sugars. I’ll have this regardless of my fitness goal. Why? I love how it tastes, and it gives me something to look forward to as I kick off my day. It doesn’t matter to me that it contains more calories than a straight black coffee. Ultimately, the satisfaction factor is huge for me, and that will leave me feeling happier and less likely to overeat/obsess about food later. ⁣ ⁣ So while it can absolutely helpful to be aware of at least the rough calorie approximation of what you’re ingesting, that doesn’t always mean that you should go for the lightest choice. ⁣

A post shared by Sohee Lee, MS, CSCS*D, CISSN (@soheefit) on


Based on the “cereal and coffee” example – this could be anywhere from about 180 calories to 880 calories…thats a pretty big spread! 

2) Health Halo Concept

The other biggest issue I see occurring is the “health halo concept”.

“I eat clean/organic/gluten-free/vegan….”

All of these things are great if thats what you like – but it doesn’t mean they are low in calories, and calories are what matter most for fat loss. PERIOD. END OF STORY!

Avocados – a great source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats – also about 350 calories.

Almonds –  same as avocados – also about 160 calories in an ounce (which is not a lot…)

Organic, Gluten-Free, Vegan Pasta – the same amount of calories as normal, gluten-full, animal hating pasta.

Green Smoothie – sure it’s green and has kale in it, but they also (maybe) added some healthy fats, and fruit to make it taste less like puke – could easily be 500 calories.

Organic Non-GMO – Oreos – yes, they exist – and they are 20 calories MORE per cookie than the normal ones.

A Salad – the crown jewel of the “healthy diet” – well, some salads could set you back THOUSANDS of calories based on the toppings and dressing.

I could go on and on here. But the main point I want to drive home is an awareness that these foods are not magically healthier when it comes to fat loss.

3) A Lack of Daily Consistency 

Sure, maybe you are on point with your measuring, not falling for the health halo concept, but still not losing weight!

Oh, nevermind that all of the above only happens Monday through Friday afternoon.

Friday night hits – and it’s go time!

burger and beer high calories

Again – not saying you need to be so anal about your food that you eat the exact same thing 24/7 or have no fun in your life. This is about creating awareness and just recognizing when things can go wonky.

I’ll use myself for example.

Last week I was aiming for 3300 calories. I hit it pretty close Monday through Friday. Then came Saturday. Hit 4800 calories – easily. Sunday was a little less because I just wasn’t hungry.

But my weekly average calories were 3514 calories (214 more than I wanted). Now, this is only one day of overshooting a goal. Imagine this:

Your goal is 1500 calories. You hit this Monday through Thursday. Then Friday, Saturday you go out, have a good time but eat 3000 (easy to do when eating out and drinking). Sunday is about 2000 because you don’t feel like cooking, so you order some last-minute hangover Chinese (speaking from experience, Mike?)

So this is 1500 x 4, 3000 x 2, and 2000 = 2000 calorie average!

You aren’t eating 1500 calories as you think. You are actually eating 500 more than you think over the course of the week, and this is why you are frustrated!

Look – this is all okay and good to know. Again, nobody is calling nobody a liar. Awareness is the key here. Just be aware. Find a way to measure, avoid the health halo concept, and try to find some consistency in your week.

I promise that you will be shocked at your actual intake if you have never done this before, but remember this is a GOOD THING! Now you won’t need to starve yourself on 1200 calories, you can actually fuel your body as needed, and get the results that have been seeking for years.


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Stay healthy my friends,