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Is 1,200 calories + exercise REALLY too low?

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Old 03-08-2011, 03:26 PM   #1
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Default Is 1,200 calories + exercise REALLY too low?

I come across many people expressing very strong opinions that 1,200 calories + exercise is too low. I am just wondering where it is coming from? I would specifically like to hear from people that have personally experienced 1,200 causing a problem, or any scientific studies you may know of. I mainly want to know, because my goal is 1,300 calories a day, but many days end up anywhere between 1,100 1,300, making my weekly average around 1,200 calories. I also started working out 5x a week. I feel great, but am I doing damage? I would really prefer to stick with this plan, I just want to be sure it is healthy.

Also, if you had success with 1,200 calories, I would also like to hear from you!

Thanks for any input
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Old 03-08-2011, 03:43 PM   #2
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if you're comfortable with it, i would just stay the course. it's possible to really fill up on lots of veggies and other good for you, but filling and low cal foods. although, difficult for most. i'm sure lots of people know better than me, and can show you the studies. still, it's all very individualized. as 5'3 it's possible your body is just fine on that range of calories. you may also notice changes in your appetite with diff. workouts. very intense cardio or heavy lifting may make you hungrier.
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Old 03-08-2011, 03:51 PM   #3
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It's true, I am shorter than average height I didn't think of it that way.. Somebody who is 5'10 would likely feel different on the same amount of calories as me.
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Old 03-08-2011, 03:51 PM   #4
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This article says not under 1050-1200 and just says it's for safety reasons. http://www.webmd.com/diet/guide/lose...o-do-it-safely


But I do know your body will adapt to whatever you're doing. So if you're eating 1200 cal/day and exercising 5 times a week, it will take less than that to lose when you are lighter.

I've been losing eating between 1500 and 1800 with VERY moderate exercise (mostly walking) and I'm almost 100lbs less than you and only an inch taller (hopefully that puts things in perspective.)
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Old 03-08-2011, 04:20 PM   #5
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Everyone has their own opinion but when you eat too little calories you may not get enough nutrients for your bodies needs and then your body will turn to your muscle (because it burns calories) instead of your fat and you don't want to lose muscle.

If a person is eating 1200 calories a day but feel like they are starving or sluggish then I always recommend adding more. Or if a person is not losing at their current calories but working hard I also recommend eating more but usually adding more lean protein and veggies because carbs can slow weight loss as well.

Of course there are people who could be making mistakes on their calorie counts or eyeballing portions wrong, etc, but usually from my 2 years here I've noticed that most plateau's seem to be broken by adding a bit more calories and/or increasing exercise. And also- wouldn't you rather eat as much as you can (healthy of course) and still lose? If you were still losing weight at 1500 calories a day, and at the same pace, wouldn't you rather have those extra 300 calories a day? I know I would!
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Old 03-08-2011, 04:38 PM   #6
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In the beginning I don't think it is, but as you progress in excersis the more hungry you will find yourself to become. I know thats how I was, but everyone is different. Try it out and if works for you great, but if you find later on you need to up your calories do so.
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Old 03-08-2011, 04:55 PM   #7
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There is a diet called the Alternate Day Diet (also known as Up day down day diet by Dr. Johnson aka JUDDD). Where every other day they eat 500 calories (some people less, totally fasting is best of all but 500 triggers the the thing u want to activate) that's your down day. Then the next day you have an up day which is much up at a healthy range. You can basically eat what you want but not be stuffed. It apparently has a whole slew of health benefits but I don't think I can do it. He suggests bars and shakes for the first few weeks while you get used to it but then move over to real foods on down days. This keeps you from going into 'starvation mode' but helps you get a net loss of calories and it also supposedly activates a gene that regenerates cells because your body thinks you are going to starve but then you don't so you have this extra stuff to regenerate. The book is interesting if nothing else.
But basically you are only 'on a diet' every other day. And he even encourages exercise on the 'down day'. The people I know (online only) who have done this do it because they get to a point where they have to eat really low calories to lose weight and it keeps getting lower and lower, so they switch to this so they can have one really down day then average it out with the up day.

I guess my point is everyone is different. But eating that low of calories consistently probably will slow down your metabolism. Your body will eventually want to adjust to whatever you are giving it daily so it can work more effectively.
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Old 03-08-2011, 05:13 PM   #8
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I think it really depends on what a person is eating. I can get 3 servings of fruit, 3 servings of vegetables, close to 100 grams of protein, plenty of healthy fats and even calcium and fit that into 1200 calories. I usually eat more by having a few extra healthy snacks in the evening, but if I wanted to eat 1200 I could and would. With exercise I probably would actually want to eat more because I'd need the fuel. I think if a person can eat and exercise on 1200 a day they should. Everyone is different, metabolisms are different. Do what works for you.
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Old 03-08-2011, 06:23 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tattoodles View Post
But I do know your body will adapt to whatever you're doing. So if you're eating 1200 cal/day and exercising 5 times a week, it will take less than that to lose when you are lighter.
This is a myth and is deffinately not true for me and other maintainers I know of. I lost 190 pounds eating 1200 calories a day. I never had a plateau, and I never had to lower my calories to keep losing. Actually I got to raise them. I now eat around 1900 calories a day to maintain my weight.
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Old 03-08-2011, 08:38 PM   #10
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At 210 lbs I started out aiming for 1,400 calories, but soon fell into a pattern of being in the 1,200-1,300 range for most days. I lost 65 lbs doing that without ever changing a thing, and a few years later(those spent maintaining) I'm actively trying to lose a little more on that same 1,200-1,300 range with a healthy weight as my starting point. As long as I stick to it, I'm achieving a regular loss on that calorie range again, and I certainly don't feel deprived as long as I get my calories from healthy, whole foods.

Oh, and as for exercise, I usually get 5-6 days a week for 45 minutes to an hour.
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Old 03-08-2011, 09:26 PM   #11
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We're pretty similar in terms of weight and height, and I haven't run into any problems with a low-ish calorie intake + exercise either. The daily range I allow myself is officially 1200-1500, which leaves room for days when I'm feeling hungier but also allows me days right around 1200 - which occur often. Frankly, on some days I'm eating in the evenings just to hit 1200 or to get some essential nutrient in (e.g. an ounce of nuts to up my good fats) rather than because I'm hungry, and then there are days when 1400 feels comfortable. I don't worry at all about the days when I'm around 1200 and have gotten a good balance of nutrients. The only days I try to really watch are the ones in which I eat too much processed, low-nutrient foods (whether those days hit the higher or lower end of my calorie range). Over the past 6 weeks I've averaged 1330 cals/day (which includes pre-planned high calorie days like Valentine's day), and have exercised 5x/week. Other than TOM (which hits me like a train and always has), I have been having no energy problems at all.

I am comfortable with my eating and my exercise, and I am losing weight. I don't feel hungry, I don't feel tired, and I like what I'm eating. If I need to up my calorie intake in the future due to feeling sluggish/tired/hungry when trying to increase my exercise or something else, I will. But in the meantime, unless a nutritionist or my doctor tells me I need to eat more, I don't plan to make any changes to my calorie intake.
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Old 03-08-2011, 09:42 PM   #12
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It all depends on the individual- what their BMR is and other elements of their health and history. For some small people 1200 is not that far from where their normal BMR rests and therefore is an appropriate place to lose weight. For others, they have a much higher BMR, perhaps because they are taller or weight a great deal more, their body needs a lot more just to stay alive from day to day. For these individuals, 1200 is way too low.

Important to distinguish between 1200 gross and 1200 net. I am on a 1200 cal diet right now but it's 1200 net; I definitely eat more when I exercise. If I run for 30 minutes that will burn a good 300+ calories, so I will ensure I make up for that deficit by eating a good number of high protein and calorie foods to get my net closer to 1200.

It's possible to get in all the nutrients required at 1200, but it definitely takes planning. With a very limited amount of calories, one has to focus on superfoods (high nutrient foods), high protein foods (eggs, nuts, etc) and make sure those get in first. No room to eat white bread or a bagel if all it is going to offer you is carbs
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Old 03-09-2011, 03:36 PM   #13
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I really appreciate all of your responses! It seems like it just depends on how your own body reacts. So, I will just stick with what I am doing, and be open to tweaking it if my body doesn't feel right, like chickadee mentioned.

As far as upping my calories and still losing weight.. I tried 1,600 one week, and lost a pound less than usual So, yes I still lose.. but much slower.

indiblue - I haven't read much on net calories, it's something I will look into.

Thanks everyone
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Old 03-09-2011, 08:05 PM   #14
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This is just a hunch, I have no evidence to back it up, but I'll bet if you survey maintainers you'll find the ones that are able to eat higher maintenace cals ate at higher ranges during weight loss and those who maintain at a lower range lost at a lower range of cals. This is just something I've kind of noticed over time when I see people state what they are losing at and then what they end up maintaining at.

For me personally, I need food! Lots of volume (aka lots of veggies) lean protien and whole grains. I exercise 6xs a week and if I don't eat enough I pay. When I was losing I'd pay by a lack of weight loss and now that I'm maintaining I pay by hunger induced binges, light headedness and feeling just off.

Anywho, that's me. But I have to ask, when you plateau, and you probably will, not all of us are as lucky as Lori and never plateau, where will you go? If you start out at 1200 there's not much room for tweaking.
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Old 03-09-2011, 08:40 PM   #15
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Well, I assume my weight loss will eventually slow, and plateauing is expected... I wouldn't go lower in calories, but would probably try things like calorie cycling, changing up my menu's, switching up my exercise, and just waiting it out.

I know there are a lot of opinions, and theory's about calories, and whether it changes your metabolism, and requires you to eat lower maintenance than if you had dieted down with a higher calorie limit. That's the main reason I made this post, I was looking for some actual evidence instead of theory, myth or opinions. I mean of course, if in the end 1,200 calories will lower my maintenance calories, and slow my metabolism then I would take the slower route, and up my calories. I would just like to see some data that supports this.

All of that said.. I am just trying to do something -I- can stick with, that is also healthy. Seeing the pounds come off faster at this point is helping me stay on track. Hopefully when I do hit the dreaded plateau, I wont give up.
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