Weight Loss
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1200 minimum NET OR FOOD calories?

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Hello everybody -- hope you all had a nice Monday and enjoyed beautiful weather like we did here in Toronto.

I have an amateur question about NET CALORIES:

I am 5'6, 128 lbs, sedentary, and require about 1550 cals to maintain.

I have been exercising quite intensely to get myself into better shape. (Spin x2, POWER x2, general cardiox2, /week)(averaging about 350 cals per day which I add manually to my daily burn)

I am trying to lose the last few pounds of thigh jiggle -- I imagine 5-10 lbs of fat -- before I move towards a heavy weights focused workout regime.

I am confused as to whether I am either not supposed to have a NET calorie count under 1200,    OR,    am I not supposed to eat less than 1200.

I usually eat 1500 to 1600 calories per day.


My problem is (well might just be the way it has to be) that my calorie burn at 1850 minus my food (1550) is a pretty small deficit... -300 calories... bummer!


Eating less would be a bad idea right? I doubt I would even be able to do it without tearing my bf's head off and dropping out of school! lol jk.

I know, patience. But any wisdom?



***Please don't tell me not to lose 5 lbs because I am at a 'healthy BMI'. I know my body better than BMI and I am very healthy and very conscious of my actions and motivations. Thanks for your concern though! :)


16 Replies (last)

you're currently 128 and you want to lose 5-10 pounds of fat? 5-10? 10 would put you at 118 and would be quite low.

To be honest, at your current weight your body will be quite resistant to lose! you're working out almost daily and it sounds like your workouts are intense. POWER and spin probably burn more than 350 calories actually. Also, where are you getting the 1500 calories that you add the 350 to?

I got my metabolic rate tested and without exercise I burn 1730 calories daily and I'm only 4'11. You might be shocked to find that you are burning more than you think. anyway, I don't think that reducing your intake to 1200 is advisable. You're too close to goal and you'd probably ruin your metabolism in the process while struggling to take the weight off.

Like I said, I KNOW I am healthy. And I also know that 118 is very low and puts me close to, BUT NOT IN, the underweight category. I have been struggling with these last few pounds for over a year and have committed this summer the knock them the hell out!!! Enough saddlebag thunder thighs for one chick!  And I would like note that I said 5-10 lbs, where 10 is the MOST. It will likely be somewhere in the middle, but I do not know exactly where since I have never been that lean before.

The '1550 calories' is from this site's calorie burn calculator -- I am a graduate student and am usually sitting, either reading or typing. My daily activity consists of sitting on the bus a couple times a week, going to the grocery store, and the occasional walk with a friend (calories accounted for)... 

I usually count POWER as 350, SPIN as 500, cardio varies but is usually about 300-400. Add in the day of rest and that averages about 350.


I agree -- I am very hesitant to reduce, but am also frustrated with the slow/no progress.

I just wanted to confirm because I see conflicting statements about this '1200' minimum. Some say it's about vitamins, and some say it's about deficit:

If it's about vitamins I get more vitamins that I know what to do with. I eat VERY healthy and take many supplements. My best friend is a holistic nutritionist.

If it's about deficit, the rule of thumb seems to be 500-1000, which I am not close to.


See where my confusion comes from?


Okay, well the problem is that your BODY requires 1200 calories (or thereabouts) for the VITAL metabolic processes so if you burn off 350 (average) each day then you only leave 850 for your body to do what it needs to do, which is inefficient. I would say that to be safe you need to eat a minimum of 1550, as you've been doing, and since your RMR is actually 1626....you burn about 1626+350 or 1976 calories...a deficit of almost 450 calories. You should be losing about 1 pound per week, unless you're building muscle WHILE losing fat or your metabolism is depressed.

I got your RMR from phord.com/cc so you can play with calculator if you'd like, If you plug in moderately active you'll see that you actually burn about 2100 calories per day. So eating 1550 should be about 550 calorie deficit daily. That's a good rate!

Thanks for the link. But I'm not 'moderately active'. I prefer to log sedentary and add my additional activity manually -- it is far more accurate.

Are you saying you think CC's calculators are too low?

I hope to build some muscle too. But I hear that's not possible on a deficit... Another source of confusion...


I would be happy with a 550 / 1 lb a week rate of progress...I guess I'll never know unless I get tested, or just wait to see results.

Anytime now! lol


well your RMR is 1626, which is basically you sedentary, adding 350 to that is where I get approx. 2000 calories burned and a deficit of 450 calories. However, even walking burns calories. I think that CC calculators are a bit low because they calculate your presumed BMR which is like if you were nearly dead and just breathing, existing, without movement.

That site is strange! RMR - 1350, BMR - 1600.

I went into advanced calculations and it just told me to eat 600 calories and burn 1600 to lose 2 lbs a week.

When I switched it to 'lose weight' from 'auto determine' it told me to eat 1350 and burn 1600.

Again. Confusion.


I think I prefer CC's calculators!


Here is what I got..at 25 (guessed your age) 128 and sedentary.

BMR=1345 :: RMR=1614

Your customized recommendation:
EAT 1345 calories :: BURN 1614 calories :: LOSE 0.54 lb per week


Deficits: Your deficit is the difference between how many calories you eat and how many calories you burn. Your recommended deficit is 269 calories. This is the least of your Activity Deficit (269 calories), your Safety Deficit (640 calories), and your Maximum Fat Calorie Expenditure (which cannot be calculated without knowing your body fat percentage).

Activity Deficit (269 calories): This is the number of calories you burn in your daily activities (such as being awake, driving to work, exercising, doing homework, etc.). This is an estimate based on the amount of exercise you indicated you do each week in the form above, averaged out for daily deficit numbers. For sedentary individuals this is 20% of your BMR.

Safety Deficit (640 calories): Nutritionists say that you can safely lose no more than 1% of your body weight per week. For the weight you gave (128 lb), you can safely lose about 1.28 lb per week. Because each pound of body fat contains 3500 calories of energy, your safe deficit is 1.28 lb * 3500 calories per pound per week = 4480 calories per week, which comes to 4480 / 7 = 640 calories per day.

Maximum Fat Calorie Expenditure (unknown without body fat percentage): One study found that body fat in humans can be converted to energy at a maximum rate of 31 calories per pound of actual body fat per day. Any energy you expend beyond this rate comes from your intake of nutrients and the breakdown (catabolysis) of your muscles. Weight loss in most people consists of about 75% FAT and 25% MUSCLE. Since we can calculate the actual amount of body fat in your body using your Body Fat Percentage (if given), we can determine the optimal calorie deficit to focus on FAT BURN instead of MUSCLE LOSS. To optimize your FAT BURN instead of MUSCLE LOSS, you should choose a deficit that does not exceed this value. (Persons wishing to lose muscle as well as fat can ignore this deficit limit.)

BMR is less than the RMR. BMR is the absolute minimum that they ever recommend anyone eat because it's the absolute lowest amount you COULD eat and still function.

Because you say you're sedentary it will not recommend you losing the 1.28 pounds that would equate to 1% of your body weight because doing so would require that you restrict your calories too much.

with 350 calories burned from exercise you are actually at 1614 + 350 for the day. Which is approx 1950. If you followed the minimum recommendations and ate 1350 as recommended on that site then your deficit would in fact be 600 and you'd lose more than 1 pound per week.

Original Post by healthymadison:

Thanks for the link. But I'm not 'moderately active'. I prefer to log sedentary and add my additional activity manually -- it is far more accurate.

No, it isn't - but if you find it more motivating, that's reason enough to do it that way.  (Doing it your way neglects the fact that active people burn more calories even while at rest thereby making your deficit appear smaller than it actually is.)

At your current weight, expecting to lose more than half a pound a week is unrealistic.  So, the best plan would be to aim for a deficit of 250-300 cals/day - which should be pretty easy given the amount you exercise.

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Why don't you want to lift any weights? Muscle burns calories....try alternating between cardio and weights. Your weight loss may be slower, but that is because you will be swapping fat for muscle...which doesn't jiggle.  I am in your same situation...my weight is on the lower side, but I have jiggle-yuck... I tend to ignore those who say I am fine b/c my bmi is on the lower side. I know that cellulite and jiggly fat is not healthy (or attractive). 

My husband (licensed trainer) has his clients alternating so they can burn with cardio, and build calorie burning muscle with weights. Not to be a commercial, but the 10minute trainer works well...so does p90x (10-30 min vs 60 min). Combined with a strict calorie intake, the results have been fast coming. It combines weight and cardio for the great results. 5 lbs of muscle weighs the same as 5 lbs of fat, but it sure looks different.

Thanks for the relies Susie and JR.

Susie: I figured I would just have to be patient and work at 0.5 lbs per week. It's just so slow and with the tough deficit, a little painful! But I am on a mission damnit! Yes, it would be easy if I didn't get ravenously hungry after every Spin class! lol.


JR: Nice to hear you are dealing with similar issues, well not nice, but nice to know I'm not alone! I'm trying to minimize my 'plain old cardio' and use those as 'active rest days'. Just so I can keep a deficit while eating 1500 (I cannot function on less, or sleep for that matter).

I do two full body weight endurance classes (POWER class, very similar to BODYPUMP and from what I hear similar to p90x). Within a few weeks I will up this to three classes a week, but for the time being, I need those extra days of recovery or I would be immobilized. Once I build up some strength I plan on cutting out the cardio, doing two spin classes a week and weights and the POWER class. Or another regime that is more muscle building focused, but I got some thick fat to remove first...

I am only 2 weeks into my routine. I will give it 6 weeks and if I don't see results (3 lbs) or am running into any other problems I will probably come back on CC, consult, and adjust!


Thanks guys and the best of luck to you are your goals!




Hi, I am not going to tell you NOT to lose 5 pounds of fat, but I WOULD advise that you start weight training NOW!  You could actually stay the same weight by eating maintenance calories and lifting heavy weights, and you would change your body composition so that you would lose some fat and put on some muscle, especially when first starting.  The look of your body will change and you don't even have to have a deficit to do this!  It has worked for me and I am overweight, but I think it is also really important for those very close to their goal.


Can you tell me more about your experience? Did you lose BF%?

I do not care AT ALL what the scale says. 128, 135 or 115, doesn't matter as long as this damned jiggle is gone.

I am doing weight training though. I am not sure how much more I should do being a beginner. More than two POWER classes? Or do you mean free weights and machines.

I much prefer the classes, they are FUN!!!

I'm scared to eat maintainence!!!

Hi!  I came around to weight training because I was counting my calories to lose weight (have already lost 75 lbs, working in 25 more and I will see how I feel) and I had no clue what kinds of exercises to do.  I was mainly walking on the treadmill, playing around with different inclines to make it a more intense workout.  Then I kept reading on this site about how beneficial weight training is to lose fat.  I never knew this; I thought it was more for people who were already thin and trying to build more muscle mass.  First I started with the beginning and intermediate routines on about.com on their exercise section.  But soon after I felt I needed a more structured and progressive program and I began the book New Rules of Lifting for Women.

I have definitely lost body fat percentage, but I could not tell you how much exactly.  I have some issues with eating, and although I eat clean and balance my macro-nutrient ratios, I tend to just eat too much food.  So for the first few months I did the program, I was eating around maintenance calories and I lost maybe 3 lbs on the scale.  However, I dropped a clothing size in both tops and bottoms and noticed some very exiting changes in my body.  Even though my upper arms and thighs are still fatty, I can actually see muscles on them.  My inner thigh still jiggles but no other part of my leg jiggles.  My legs are firm and my quads and hamstrings are becoming more and more defined.  My stomach and butt have a more "lifted" appearance.  I can see collarbones and shoulder blades - I forgot I had them!  I have been doing the program for about 5 months now, have lost 6 lbs on the scale, and have dropped from size 16 to 14 bottoms and I even just got a 12.  Tops I went from XL to larges and some mediums.

The program in New Rules of Lifting for Women does use free weights and lifting heavy.  By heavy, it means that you could not lift the weight more than 12-15 times.  I enjoy classes too and I do them for my cardio (spinning and Zumba specifically).  But the weights are fun in their own way, for me.  Every day I lift, it's a new challenge to try and lift more and keep my form good.  I was also concerned about being completely new to weight lifting and jumping in with heavy weights.  I would encourage you to search for some threads about heavy lifting and read for yourself; I think you will be convinced.

As far as calories go, I am by no means an expert!  I struggle with eating every day.  I think the book makes a good case for eating maintenance level or keeping just a slight deficit like around 300 cals.  Truly, when I first started, I was ravenously hungry the next day (this told me it was working!) and would end up eating maintenance most days whether I intended to or not.  And still I lost a clothing size.  I imagine after a long period of eating a deficit, it would make one nervous to eat maintenance (although I clearly have no problem with it...haha).  The worst you can do is try it.  You might at first see an increase on the scale for a couple of reasons: 1. "Newbie Gains"...technically it is not possible to put on muscle mass while in a calorie deficit, but those new to lifting heavy weights will initially gain some muscle mass which will taper off (for me, it did after a few months...I actually never gained lbs on the scale, I THINK because I still have a lot of fat available left to lose but someone closer to their goal might see a couple of lbs increase) and 2. Water retention...essentially by lifting heavy weights you create small tears in the muscle, and then your body heals them and they become stronger than before.  This is why rest days are important, but in terms of what you may see on the scale, your muscles will retain water during this period because it is needed to repair them.  So if you decide to go with a heavy weights program, don't let a slight increase on the scale freak you out.  Pay more attention to the changes in your body and the way your clothes fit.  That would be my advice.

That ended up being a lot of info!  There are other women (and men) more experienced than me on the fitness forum that I'm sure could answer your questions as well, or recommend other programs.  I am only familiar with New Rules of Lifting for Women, but I love it and recommend it to any woman who wants to see positive changes in her body and is tired of calorie restriction and endless cardio.

Original Post by healthymadison:

Thanks for the relies Susie and JR.

Susie: I figured I would just have to be patient and work at 0.5 lbs per week. It's just so slow and with the tough deficit, a little painful! But I am on a mission damnit! Yes, it would be easy if I didn't get ravenously hungry after every Spin class! lol.

But you shouldn't have a tough deficit; that was my point.  At your size, you need to keep the deficit small so that you don't hurt your metabolism.

Hey there,

Thanks for posting, all the replies have been super helpful with my own questions!  Just a thought about the plateau you've been on for a year (way to hang in there!)  I've heard that fluctuating your calorie deficit can help break those, so have a day or two of a much lower deficit than normal before returning to your normal deficit.  It will feel weird eating more than you're used to, but I've heard (sorry, no link, but totally google-able) it sort of jolts your system a bit.  Hope this helps!  Stay healthy!

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