Know Your (Healthy) Weight Loss Calorie Intake

I have been asked many times, “How much (calories) should I be eating?”

Great question!

First of all, get it out of your head that all calories are “bad. We need calories! They are energy, an important source of fuel your body cannot live without. What’s important is that you get the right calories–nutritious ones that feed your body, not “empty”ones, which have little to no nutritive value)–and the right number of calories.

You need to find the right balance of calories every day, depending on your overall goals. Eating too many calories and not burning enough through exercise makes you GAIN weight. Not eating enough calories (to keep up with your calorie burn through exercise) will cause you to LOSE weight.

The number of calories you need depends on  individual factors such as age, weight, height, and activity level.  Generally speaking, though, a good baseline for a weight-loss calorie intake starts with 10 calories per pound of body weight. This is just a starting point and will need adjusting as your weight drops. Generally speaking, men need between 2,000 to 2,400 calories and a woman between 1,200 and 1,500 calories per day.

Then take that baseline number and divide by 5 or 6 (the number of times you will eat in a day). You can have a few more calories for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and less calories for snacks.

For example: a 150-lb. person would multiply this weight by 10 calories, which gives a total of 1500 calories a day. Breakfast, lunch, dinner = 400 and 2 snacks =150.

This is only a guideline. If you want more calories for breakfast, cut back somewhere else in your day. Bottom line: you want to expend more energy than you take in.  Without this deficit you will not see results.  Keep in mind, though, that consuming less than 1,200 calories per day can be harmful to your health. It can cause your body to go into “starvation mode,” which will make it want to hold onto calories. (Not good!)

I always recommend writing down everything you eat or drink. If writing is tedious for you, try using the My Net Diary app or another on line food tracker.   I can’t stress this enough. When we record what we eat, I’d say 99% of the time we will find things that are halting progress. We can’t change what we don’t know–and many times, what we “think” we know, we don’t!  I encourage at least three weeks of food journaling to really get a clear picture of the reality of your food choices and to “cement” your new way of eating. I know this is tedious, but the payback is HUGE.

Counting calories is not difficult. Knowing and watching your (healthy) weight loss calorie intake might just be the big breakthrough you need to achieve your 2013 health and fitness goals!


brendaBrenda Boback is a Certified Personal Trainer and Cycling Instructor at Harbor Fit. When not teaching classes, Brenda is working one-on-one with clients to help them achieve their fitness goals. She has a special interest in diabetes prevention, nutrition, and women’s health and wellness. You can contact Brenda at



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