I've written about this many times, but there is no budging the idea that 1200 calories is the 'magic' number needed to achieve weight loss. This is the number most often sold to women as the way to lose weight, so why is it so wrong?
Truthfully, you don't need any qualifications or knowledge about nutrition, physiology or psychology to bring about weight loss by prescribing 1200 calories a day. I can't remember who said it, but I saw a quote which said "any monkey can get you to lose weight by prescribing a 1200 calorie a day diet". If your trainer or friend is suggesting 1200 calories a day to you as a weight loss solution, you need better friends and a different trainer.
The major issue with 1200 calories a day is:
Adherence. Not many women can stick to eating so few calories each day every day, for days on end. This can lead to rebound eating and feelings of guilt and failure.
Energy Levels. You will struggle with energy to perform your daily tasks and the exercise that you need for strength and wellness.
Nutrients. The lower your calorie intake, the harder it is to get the nutrients your body needs to thrive. This includes, protein, fats, vitamins and minerals.
Muscle Loss. Muscle is the type of tissue we want to retain for metabolic health and strength. If we don't eat enough total calories or protein, muscle tissue diminishes along with fat stores. We want to shift excess body fat, but we want to avoid losing muscle mass.
Is there a time when 1200 calories a day is appropriate?
Under the guidance of a specially trained doctor.
Under the guidance of a fully trained dietitian.
Under the guidance of a highly trained fitness professional with appropriate sports and exercise nutrition qualifications.
These are the only times that I consider 1200 calories a day appropriate as a weight loss solution. Not only can 1200 calories a day be physically damaging, it is important to remember the psychological damage caused by feeling like you continually fail to achieve weight-loss longterm. There are a multitude of reasons for people needing to lose weight, some medical, some psychological and this needs to be taken into consideration.
So the point of this post is simple. If you are constantly on and off a diet and your diet plan only allows for 1200 calories a day, this is just a reminder that you are not failing. 1200 calories a day is unsustainable and often leads to yoyo dieting, poor self image and negative changes to your body composition. Make sure that the weight-loss professional that you are working with really understands this and if they don't, work with someone who does.
Hi, my name is Melanie Briony and I am a fitness and lifestyle coach with over 10 years experience in the fitness and wellness field. As a woman in my late 40s, I began to notice how women my age and older were missing from the conversation when it came to their fitness needs. I was also noticing changes in my own body that I couldn't find answers to which was really frustrating considering all the study I have undertaken over the last decade. Learning about menopause has been really enlightening, how did I not know this about my own body? That is why I am making it my business to bring this information to you from the best research available. Have any questions? Send me a message.