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How Many Calories Can I Eat and Still Lose Weight?
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Calculating your Daily Calorie Needs

Figuring out how many calories a day to lose weight isn't difficult and the good news is you can lose weight without drastically reducing your calories

For example, if you weigh 200 lbs. and you want to weigh 130, start by looking at that first five or 10 pounds. It is much easier mentally to work on losing five or 10 lbs. than trying to tackle all 70 lbs, right?

Look at each incremental weight loss as a stand-alone goal. Right now you want to lose 10 lbs, and you want to keep it off. Once you're at 190, and have maintained that weight for one month, then you move to your next 10 lb. goal. You won't lose weight any slower by doing this, and it will be much more enjoyable along the way.

Choose Calories Based on What you Want to Weigh

Start with the calories required if you were just five or 10 pounds less than you are now. If you presently weigh 200, estimate the calorie needs for 190 lbs. Why not estimate the calorie needs for my true goal weight? Because restricting yourself too harshly is just making it more difficult on yourself needlessly.

A much more sensible plan is to reduce your calorie intake, while at the same time keeping it sufficient for what your body requires. Do this and your body isn't going to complain (you'll get hungry as is normal, but won't feel famished all day).

As you lose weight, your reduced body weight will continue to require less calories, but again, add a bit of exercise and you can continue to eat the same amounts, or simply make further small changes, all the while learning new eating habits. Ultimately you'll probably be eating more food than you do now. How? Keep reading.

BMR Calorie Calculation

Your BMR or basal metabolic rate is the amount of calories required to maintain your weight at rest. In other words, the calories needed to run your body, including breathing, keeping your heart beating, pumping your blood, constant cell renewal, digestion, elimination, etc. Basically everything going on within you that keeps you alive.

Since most of us get out of bed and move around each day, we have additional calorie needs over and above our BMR. A typical diet will estimate your BMR and choose that number as your daily calorie allotment. That is partly why dieters fail. If you are not eating near your daily required calories, your body and brain will respond by sending constant signals for food - nourishment. No wonder it's so difficult to stay on a calorie restricted diet.

To calculate your daily calorie needs, estimate your activity level using the chart below. The more active you become the more calories your body requires. In other words, the more active you are the more you get to eat.

Average Calories per day for Women:

Activity Level Multiplier (ALM)
Sedentary (very little activity) 12
Moderately Active (3 - 4 exercise sessions per/wk) 14

Active (6 - 7 exercise sessions per/wk)


Average Calories per day for Men:

Activity Level Multiplier (ALM)
Sedentary (very little activity) 14
Moderately Active (3 - 4 exercise sessions per/wk) 16
Active (6 - 7 exercise sessions per/wk) 18

Desired Weight X ALM (Activity Level Multiplier) = Average Daily Calorie Needs

As you become more active, your calorie needs increase; conversely as your body size reduces, your calorie needs decrease. It's that simple. To continue to eat plenty of calories, get and stay active.

How to Calculate Calories to Eat to Lose More Weight

Carol weighs 172 and wants to weigh about 135. Today she is going to calculate how many calories it would take to maintain 167 pounds (a five pound loss). Once she has achieved that five pound loss, and maintained it, she'll again reduce another five pounds. Continuing in this way guarantees the weight lost will stay off forever. She is currently exercising about four days a week (give or take) so she's going to use the ALM of 17 for a fairly active person:

167 (weight desired) X 17 (ALM) = 2,839

Yes 2,839 calories is more than typically suggested for a weight loss program. If you attempt to try to get by on a 1200 calorie diet, your body is going to strongly object by being hungry, or causing you to feel weak. You may be unable to think, you may anger quickly, or other obvious symptoms of inadequate nutrition may flare-up. It makes much more sense to eat sufficient calories, just slightly less than your body needs.

If you tried to eat 2,839 calories a day with only clean foods, i.e. not fast food, not candy bars but real nutritious food (think off the tree or out of the ground, not grocery shelf), you'll not only have a difficult time eating that many calories,you'd also easily start to lose weight.

Test my theory by tracking the exact calorie content of your foods for a week. Are you eating more or less than 2,000 calories a day? Using software such as the Food & Exercise Diary for Windows (check the Tools for Weight Loss page for this and other software programs I like), you can easily track what you're eating.

Estimate amounts, measure when you can, and bring the package right in to your computer to add the specific information on any food not already in the database. Most people each a certain limited number of items on a regular basis. Once you have input those items, it is quick and easy to calculate your daily calorie intake.

The idea is to make a small reduction and learn to live with that reduction. If you calculate that your usual lunch of Taco Bell puts you over your calorie limit, then cut back on visits to Taco Bell, or find something else better on their menu. Most people have a very difficult time changing menu items at their favorite fast food places and they have a much easier time simply cutting back on their visits to that establishment.

Restaurant owners don't want you visiting less, so maybe with thousands of people suddenly cutting back, they'll listen and create better menu choices that really are healthier, not just disguised as healthier but still high fat and high calorie salads such as they've begun offering now. Some of these supposedly healthier choices are actually worse than the burgers and fries their supposed to replace.

When new menu items come available, ask to see the nutrient breakdown and bring your calculator. Estimate how much based on weight you'd actually eat - pay no attention to the "per serving" size they choose. Their choice has nothing to do with what a person might eat and everything to do with the numbers they are trying to achieve.

Eat 2000 Calories a Day and Still Lose Weight?

Why not reduce calories more drastically. Won't I lose weight much faster? Yes, and no. Yes, you'll lose weight faster, and no, you'll not be able to keep the weight lost off so you'll just end up back where you started. If you want permanent weight loss, you need a permanent plan.

I'm about 140 lbs. with 20% bodyfat. I can eat over 2,000 calories a day, on average and I don't gain weight. How would you like to lose weight while eating 2,000 calories or more each and every day? If I can, you can.

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Kathryn Martyn Smith, M.NLP EFT Weight Loss Coach
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