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I don't understand this magic 1200 calorie number

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Old 06-22-2011, 05:07 PM   #1
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Default I don't understand this magic 1200 calorie number

Where did this come from and how can it be accurate? How can there be some magical number that is the number women should not dip below for calories? How can a 5'0" tall woman have the same caloric limit as a 5'10" woman? It just doesn't make sense! A bigger body needs more than a smaller body, right? a bigger woman weighs more so her needs cannot be the same - she can't have the same size heart, liver, stomach, etc. No way. Smaller bodies need smaller organs. I looked it up and it's true. Maybe the variances are small (can't find info on that), but I really don't see how this magic number can be accurate in any way.

It's probably 1200 for the median, but is probably higher and lower for other women.

Here are a couple things I found:

http://www.fitsugar.com/Why-1200-Cal...eting-13080864

I got to thinking about this because I'm eating about 1200 calories a day and I think it might be too little and I'm slowing my metabolism too much. I'm exercising an hour 5-6 times a week too (pretty intense working out). I'm 5'6.5" tall and I have a large frame. I probably should be eating around 1500 calories and have dipped too low.

Could that be why so many women I know are stalling out with rigorous exercise and low calorie diets? They've dipped too low and slowed down their metabolisms too much?
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Old 06-22-2011, 05:21 PM   #2
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i'm not sure anyone can honestly answer those questions for you. there are too many diet myths that revolve around "killing" your metabolism. i will say though that you can lose weight at 1500 calories easily and that it may make your diet a little easier for you.

i'm on the 1200 calorie limit as well, with some days a little higher or a little lower.
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Old 06-22-2011, 05:26 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gagalu View Post
i'm not sure anyone can honestly answer those questions for you. there are too many diet myths that revolve around "killing" your metabolism. i will say though that you can lose weight at 1500 calories easily and that it may make your diet a little easier for you.

i'm on the 1200 calorie limit as well, with some days a little higher or a little lower.
That's it - the myths are more known than the facts!

And are you exercising on that 1200 a day too?
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Old 06-22-2011, 05:29 PM   #4
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Kudos to you for being able to stick to 1200. Once I need to get there in order to lose, I'll be at maintenance, cause I like to eat! LOL!

Seriously, I'm 5'9" and have been losing consistently since I got to 200lbs on 1500-1600 calories per day. I do work out 6 days a week, intense and I notice when I go lower on those workout days, I am dying of starvation. So I think my body burns more. And yeah, I'll always need more food than a 5'0 woman.
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Old 06-22-2011, 05:37 PM   #5
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So far, I've been losing consistently on 1400 calories per day. I'm now 140lbs; at the weigh-in, I asked my consultant if I should lower my calories and she said 'if ain't broke, don't fix it! According to her charts, my BMR is lower than 1400, but I do a lot of exercise (cardio, combat etc), so I'm probably working off the excess calories.
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Old 06-22-2011, 05:55 PM   #6
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My understanding of the 1,200 calorie line wasn't that it was a magic number, but rather that (given all the vitamins, minerals and other nutritional needs a human body has) it was difficult to get all of that eating much less than 1,200 calories.

Somewhere along the way it seemed to morph into this line that some people believe everyone needed to eat 1,200 in order to lose, and others figured it was the absolute minimum all humans needed, and going below it was dangerous.

There's also the 2,000 calorie daily amount that is used for nutritional labeling. That doesn't seem to be a magic number, either. As there are plenty of people around that are eating less than that to lose and maintain.

When it comes to getting concerned over people who regularly eat fewer than 1,200 calories... it depends on the person's height and build. I'm positive that some smaller people (by pure calorie amount) need to eat less than a person of my height or more.

Whereas I'm not really positive that I'll ever have to eat the "magic" 1,200 calories. At 5'9" I might always be able to eat more and continue losing. And gosh I hope so! I love to eat!
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Old 06-22-2011, 06:03 PM   #7
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There's nothing magical about the 1200 number, or the 1000 calorie number that preceded it.

When I first dieted in the 1970's, the "magic number" was 1000 calories. It was argued that minimal nutrition was virtually impossible on fewer than 1000 calories.

And just as today there were people saying "what's so magic about 1000," and people pushing the envelope - deciding that if 1000 calories was good for everybody then what could be so bad about 800, at least for smaller dieters?.

No matter where the bar is set, there will be people who set their personal bar above or below the recommendation.

I do think that if you're going to go under 1200 calories, it would be wise to self-educate yourself on nutrition, especially on the topic of the most nutrient-dense foods so so you can get the most bang for your 1200 calories.

That's really information we all should have though. Unfortunately there's no magic, and damned too little science available to determine a minimum, maximum, and ideal calorie level for an individual. Activity level, age, food preferences, overall diet, starting weight, there are a lot of variables that will affect which calorie level and what type of diet is easiest/best/most effective.

Trial and error is all we have, really. The science of weight loss is still in it's infancy compared to many other health issues (especially for people who are non-average in any way, because in general research participants tend to be average).

Also, we have this strange attitude in weight loss, that the absolute minimum is always the best. So if the science or common wisdom says "1200 is the minimum" (with "for everyone" being implied) then everyone should start at the minimum, because fastest weight loss is always best, which means the fewer calories the better.

There are several ways that logic can backfire. "Starvation mode" is also another magical concept in weight loss. It's not magic, the science is there, but not always well understood. There's nothing magical about the possibility of you metabolism slowing down on "too few" calories. For example, if your calorie level is too low, you may not have the energy level to be as active as you are or can be on a higher level. It's why you sometimes can see weight loss increase after a calorie increase. There are other possibilities that aren't as well researched (your body may, for example burn fewer calories towards body processes. For example on low-carb dieting, my body temperature is about a one degree higher than on a higher-carb diet. It takes fewer calories to support a 300 lb body at 97.4 degrees than at 98.2). I also have more energy on low-carb (as long as I don't go too low carb/calorie), and spread out my calories.

The most dangerous assumption in weight loss is that we're all the same, because there's a great deal of evidence that we're not. Sometimes we're not even like out former selves. When I was younger, I don't think there was as much of a difference in my weight loss between higher and lower carb diets
(although I can't be sure, because I didn't trust low-carb enough to try it for very long).

There's no magic to any of the weight loss recommendations, and some have science backing them and some do not, but it leaves most of us in the position of having to be scientist and lab rat (and often mythbuster, too).
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Old 06-22-2011, 06:12 PM   #8
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I'm doing well on 1100 (deficit of 400), but I'm small and inactive due to disability. I don't let myself go below 1000 even on days when I'm pretty much lying in bed all day, I just have a smaller calorie deficit on those days, and I realise that the weight loss will likely slow down a lot as I near goal for that reason. I'm also careful to eat a good wholefoods diet and I keep an eye on all my nutrients. Eating 2000 calories a day would pile the weight on me like nobody's business. Of course it's all relative! Someone a foot taller than me will need substantially more of everything, micronutrients as well as calories and protein and such.
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Old 06-22-2011, 06:14 PM   #9
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It really is a shame that we don't know more about how our bodies work and what it really needs. I've been trying to listen to my body and listening to what it needs in hunger signals, but even that can be 'trained' so it's not a true gauge of what I need or not.

All, I know is that for now, I'm upping my caloric intake a bit. I've upped my exercising a bit and with all of that, why am I eating so little. I started this journey losing at eating 1800 calories and I just got less and less hungry, pretty evenly too. I didn't consciously say, "i'm going to eat 1200 calories, it just slowly, slowly dropped to that level as I didn't feel as hungry. I eat fairly low carb (net under 100) but that was true for when I was eating 1800 and 1200 - at 1200 that means more of my calories are coming from carbs then, which isn't good as I have sugar issues (controlled by diet).

So yes, as Kaplods said, I'm having to be my own scientist and lab rat for my body. Just like I can't freak out and change things during my two weeks stall out on weight (I don't lose or lose very little between TTOM and ovulation and lose my month's worth of weight in the second two weeks of the month).

And, I think exercise plays a larger role in my weight loss than most peoples. If I exercise I'm much more likely to see a drop in the scales than if I just drop calories to the level as if I'm not exercising. But that's ME... because yes, we are all so very, very different!
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Old 06-22-2011, 06:30 PM   #10
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i tried "listening to my body" and doing intuitive eating...figured out that my intuition seems to be broke LOL...i "became" hungry nearly every time something good was around to eat, which seemed like always, and began gaining weight...so i discovered that i should just do what I KNOW works (low carb) for my body and quit listening to my brain tell myself that i'm hungry all the time lol
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Old 06-22-2011, 06:34 PM   #11
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There is no "one size fits all" when it comes to losing weight. We each have to find what works for the individual, and go with that.

We are different sizes. We are at different stages of our lives. We eat different foods. Our metabolisms are all different. We each have our own genetic background. We have different levels of activity.

Yes, it is a conundrum for sure.
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Old 06-22-2011, 06:48 PM   #12
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It's an arbitrary number parroted over and over, promoted in fitness magazines, TV, journalism.

1100 may be just fine for a small sedentary 5'0 older female, and 1800 may be far too little (in terms of required nutrients for recovery and stamina) for a small athletic 5'0 younger female.

Age, frame, activity level, all things come into play.
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Old 06-22-2011, 07:01 PM   #13
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All the 1200 number means is that you may be robbing yourself of needed nutrients if you consistently go below that. Many health professionals agree with that explanation. It was not just "made up" by someone on 3FC.
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Old 06-22-2011, 07:10 PM   #14
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I was under the impression that 1200 calories was the minimum for a short woman who was sedentary. I'm pretty sure that if you are working out rigorously several times a week, you need a lot more than 1200 calories.
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Old 06-22-2011, 07:14 PM   #15
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It's really that you don't get enough nutrition unless you take supplements, if you're eating below 1200. On some plans, like Medifast, you are in fact eating between 800 and 1000, but the Medifast foods have been engineered to provide vitamins and minerals as well as the particular balance of proteins/fats/carbs.

I used to totally believe in the 1200 calorie limit, but I don't anymore.

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