7 Hidden Weight Loss Facts on the 1200 Calorie Diet

Calories are what sustain and keep us going, they are the fuel to our body engine.

As women age and go through the different stages of womanhood, the daily calorie requirement also varies.

Pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers and those actively experiencing heavy and extended menstruation typically require more calories than others.

Individual differences such as age, gender, body mass index, physical activity level and overall health status among many are to be considered when estimating a person’s caloric requirement.

On average an adult woman’s daily calorie need is estimated to be around 1,600-2,400 calories according to the Dietary Guidelines (2015-2020) (1).

There are effective and sustainable dietary approaches for weight loss such as the hypocaloric diets (e.g. 1200 calories diet for women), low-fat diet, low carbohydrate diet, high-protein diet (e.g. ketogenic and Atkins diet), formula diet, Mediterranean diet and the intermittent diet (2).

All things considered, the 1200 calories diet is most popular with women and has remained so for years now. This is mostly because men usually require far greater calories than 1,200 and will most likely starve on this diet.

The health benefit of restricted calorie besides weight loss has been shown and proven by different human experimental animal studies.

A 24 weeks study on 13 obese women published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition provided possible evidence for the weight loss advantage of restricted calories (3).  

It is therefore crucial for women to understand and know how to safely go about a 1200 calorie diet.

When appropriately carried out, it can be a great way for women to shed extra pounds. It can also be harmful and result in nutritional deficiency if poorly implemented.

If you’re intrigued by this magical calorie number and how it came about, read on to know more about the science behind the 1200 calorie diet menu for women.

7 Hidden Weight Loss Facts on the 1,200 Calorie Diet When appropriately carried out, it can be a great way for women to shed extra pounds. It can also be harmful and result in nutritional deficiency if poorly implemented.
If you’re intrigued by this magical calorie number and how it came about, read on to know more about the science behind the 1,200 calorie diet menu for women. #1200caloriediet #diet menu #loseweight #weightlossforwomen #weightlosstips

1.  Why did 1,200 calories get the attention?

1,200 calories is the number below which a woman’s body function might begin to decline (4).

Many experts advise women not to go on a daily calorie less than 1,200 for too long as this can send the body into starvation mode unknowingly (5). 

When the body is in starvation mode, it conserves energy and slows down metabolism which can be counterproductive if you are trying to lose weight (4). Any food taken at this point is critically stored by the body as a reserve.

As you will expect, once that minimum required calorie is tipped off and the body goes in starvation, further calorie consumption will be stored and slowly broken down by the body.

Women are therefore advised not to go below 1,200 calories daily to ensure the proper functioning of the body.

TAKE-AWAY: In order to shed more weight and prevent adding more weight, calorie intake will have to be restricted. This should be done with caution to avoid starving the body, which can also forestall the original weight loss plan.

2.  The rationale of 1,200 calories (restricted diet) in weight loss

In order for a body mass to be maintained, an equal amount of calories expended during daily activity should be consumed (no less and no more).

Which is why sedentary and other less active people gain more weight, their energy expenditure is less than calorie intake.

These excess calories are stored and it accumulates in certain parts of the body over time.

This is why the same rationale is applied to lose weight. It is expected that if you consume fewer calories than your daily outlay, more pounds will be dropped off from the body.

1,200 calories is a safe estimate for a woman as it is not far from average 1,600-2,400.  Nevertheless, this can be calculated more accurately to know the exact calorie amount for a restricted diet.

This should, however, be done carefully as the majority of our nutrients are obtained from the calories we eat.

Also, any narrow approach to weight loss such as restricting calorie level alone might not be an ideal method in the long-term, though faster results can be accomplished (6).

If you are going to be restricting your calorie intake, then you have to make sure every calorie ingested counts.

Make sure your calorie sources are nutrient-packed with adequate proteins and vitamins to prevent malnutrition.

TAKE-AWAY: Consuming fewer calories than the ones used up will prevent weight gain. This will also help lose weight as the required calories to sustain the current body weight are not met and as such more fat from storage is broken down to generate energy.

3.  Calculating daily caloric requirement

The first thing you need to do is determine how much calories you burn per day which will let you know how much is needed to maintain your current weight.

We will start by calculating the basal metabolic rate (BMR) of a woman. BMR simply is the rate at which you burn energy when at rest, that is the energy you burn for simply existing.

Using the Harris-Benedict formula, BMR can be calculated using the equation (7);

655 + (4.35 x weight in pounds) + (4.7 x height in inches) – (4.7 x age in years)

For instance, the BMR of a 45 years old woman who is 5-foot 4-inch tall and weighs 135 pounds is 655 + (4.35 x 135) + (4.7 x 64) – (4.7 x 45) = 1331.55.

From the BMR, daily caloric requirements can be determined. This can be done by multiplying BMR by daily activity level index.

Different women will have varying activity levels depending on lifestyle, occupation and other factors.

The following is assigned to women based on their level of activity (1).

  1. For those who are mostly sedentary, a value of 1.2 is given.
  2. For women that engage in simple physical activities such as strolling at least twice a week, 1.375 value is assigned (1).
  3. 1.55 to women to women that engage in moderate exercise most days of the week.
  4. 1.725 to those that work out every day (1).
  5. 1.9 value for those that engage in heavy physical activities especially those whose day job requires physical exertion (1).

The figure is then multiplied by the BMR to get the number of calories required to maintain current weight.

If the woman in the above example works a desk job for a living and whose only physical activity is walking to and from work twice a week, her activity level will be gauged 1.375.

In order to maintain her 135 pounds, she will have to consume about 1,830 calories daily [BMR (1331.55) X activity level (1.375)].

For this woman to lose some weight, it will be logical for her to reduce her daily calorie intake to less than is required (1,830).

TAKE-AWAY: Daily calorie requirement can be calculated using the basal metabolic rate and activity level of the individual. Knowing this value will help you know the number of calories needed to maintain your current weight and how much to reduce intake for weight loss.

4.  Reducing calories for weight loss

Most experts advise reducing daily calorie needs by 250-500 for a restricted-calorie diet (5), (8).

In the case of the previous example, reducing her daily calories to about 1,300 will enable her to lose more weight at least about a pound or two every week (8).

The 1200 calorie diet will be suitable for this woman as it is not too far from her daily requirement.

With that said, not everyone can just jump on this diet without properly considering all the necessary elements (age, weight, BMR).

You will agree if the woman, in this case, weighs more or her daily calorie requirement will be higher which might be too much to reduce to 1,200 calories.

In this scenario, you will have to start by reducing your requirement to 500 calories less and you can work your way down as you lose the weight.

More on the 1200 calorie diet

By this point, if you understand the 1200 calorie diet better, you will know it’s not a long time plan and adjustment will have to be done along the way to match your new weight.

If this diet helps you lose 2 pounds the first week, it might reduce to 1 pound the following week and might even not make a difference over time.

It’s unfortunate that if your plan is to lose 2 pounds every week, 1,200 calories might only achieve that for a short while and lesser calories will now be needed as you lose more weight.

If you recall, it is advised that women shouldn’t go below 1,000-1,200 calories to avoid starvation. What should you do if your 1200 calories are no longer helpful?

It’s simple, you have to increase your energy spending by increasing physical activity to burn more calories.

If you burn more calories every day then your 1200 calories might just be right to shed more weight.

However, sustaining the body on 1200 calories for a long time will run it down and you won’t even have enough energy to engage in any physical activity.

The body is used to running on calories so reducing to 1200 will be really hard on the body though people say it takes some getting used to doing.

1200 calorie diet can be done intermittently and successfully so you don’t have to go on for a long time.

A human study carried out on 85 obese women found no difference in the long time weight loss effect of continuous and intermittent calorie restriction (9).

  TAKE-AWAY: Reducing calorie intake to 1200 will help lose weight for a short time and is most helpful for if you want an immediate effect. The best way to restrict calorie intake is by reducing daily requirement by 250-500. This way you don’t have to go all the way to 1200.

5.  Every calorie must count

If you’re really serious about losing some weight then you’ve got to really count those calories. Seriously, you’ve to keep track to be sure you are not eating more than you burn.

Everything that goes in through that mouth and has calorie content should be properly documented including an unplanned snack.

Since you’ve chosen to restrict your calorie, you must ensure you are not missing out on all the necessary nutrients.

Along with your calories also keep track of your minerals, vitamins, proteins, and other macronutrients to ensure your body is well-nourished and healthy.

Counting calories can seem difficult and confusing, however, this can be made easier by sticking to some habits. Some of these include;

1.       Always check the nutritional fact label on any packed food to know the calorie content.

2.       Make sure you calculate the calorie content in whatever portion you eat for when you don’t finish a serving or when you eat more.

3.       Use a measuring scale, cups and spoon of various sizes to know the exact amount (weight or volume) of the portion you’re eating.

4.       Write down every calorie you have taken so far and ensure they do not exceed your target for the day. You can also employ smart devices to keep track of your calories if it is more convenient.

5.       Plan your day ahead to know when you need the most calories and eat accordingly.

6.       Finally, keep temptation in check and don’t make a habit of exceeding your target (1200) by more than 50 calories. If it helps, you can save some calories during the day to allow for some treats at the end of the day. This can serve as an encouragement for most people.

TAKE-AWAY:  Keep track of every calorie you take, write it down and meet your daily target in this case 1200 calories daily. Also ensure your diet includes vitamins, minerals, some lean proteins for muscle, and other major nutrients.

6.  Meal samples for women: 1200 calories diet menu

Here are some samples to make a healthy meal. Breakfast, lunch and dinner ideas will be given and as well as snacks. It is important to plan your snacks especially if you eat in between major meals.

You don’t want to be unprepared and hungry in the middle of a heavy workday and you need to grab a quick bite to regain focus.

If you don’t plan for this and work it into your 1200 calories, you might end up munching on something you can’t even begin to count in calories.

So, just to keep temptation away, have your snack ready for when you will need it.

Also, don’t forget your measuring scale and spoon because, for every calorie mentioned, you have to measure the equivalent.

Check the nutritional fact label on the food to know how many calories per gram is contained.

A typical day’s meal can look somewhat like below:

1.       Breakfast- 300 calories

2.       Lunch-350 calories

3.       Dinner- 350 calories

4.       AM & PM snacks- 200 calories

TOTAL= 1200 calories

Remember, this is not a clear-cut rule and you can distribute your calorie however you want. In fact, you most likely will not arrive at exactly 1200 calories so you shouldn’t fret over.

Just make sure you don’t go beyond 50 calories extra (1250 calories). The meal plan to be discussed has a total of 1247 calories per day.

A classic American cuisine


A medium slice of whole wheat bread  70
·         A cup of regular coffee5
·         ¾ cup of orange juice78
·         1 cup of milk102
·         2 tsp of jelly or jam30
·         Half cup of cereal104
            TOTAL CALORIES389

 With the above ingredients, you can take it however pleases you.

1.       You can decide to start the day with a cup of coffee plain or with ½ cup of milk (51 calories).

2.       Then have the whole wheat bread and jelly with ¾ cup of orange juice for breakfast.

3.       When you start to feel hungry, you can have the cereals and milk (or what is left of the milk if any was used with coffee).

4.       Drink at least a cup of water before/after each meal.


·         2 medium slices of whole wheat    bread139
·         2 oz. of lean roast beef60
·         1 lettuce leaf1
·         3 medium slices of tomato10
·         1 tsp of low-calorie mayonnaise15
·         A medium-sized apple80
·         A cup of water0

Have a medium apple for lunch, then, make a nice sandwich with the above ingredients.

If you are going to add seasonings, make sure you note the calories down. Remember to have your measuring cups and balance to know the right amount to use in making you meal.

NOTE: Always check the food label to know the exact amount to use. For instance, the whole wheat bread you have might require 3 slices or less to get 139 calories. So always cross-check what you have, the quantity specified in the table is an estimate. The calories per serving are what matters.


·         2 oz. of salmon103
·         1½ tsp vegetable oil63
·         ¾ medium-size baked potato100
·         1 tsp of margarine34
·         ½ cup green beans52
·         Carrot35
·         1 small white diner rolls70
·         1 cup of iced tea0
·         2 cups of water0

These ingredients can be used to make different dinner meals, so take your pick. Finish off with the iced tea and water.


To encourage yourself always reserve extra calories for some treats.

From the above meal plan, we are almost at 1200 calories (1148 calories to be precise), so we would not want to snack beyond 100 calories. Snack option can be one of the following;

1.       2½ cup of Popcorn (70 cal) and ¾ tsp of margarine (30 cal)

2.       About half a bar of dark chocolate if the whole is about 150-200 calories

3.       A glass of red or white wine (85 cal)

4.       Ice cream serving not more than 100 calories

It is important to consume at least 32 oz. of water every day and avoid adding too much salt in the preparation of food.

Total calories per day= 1248

This 1200 calorie diet contains all necessary nutrients within the recommended dietary allowance.

TAKE-AWAY: Distribute your calories however you decide works for you. You might decide to have your snacks after a workout and not after the day. If your morning is when you need the most calories, you can make your morning meals have the most calories. Make sure whatever you decide is convenient and easy to stick with.

7.  Can you count calories when dining out?

If you are on the 1200 calorie diet, you should limit how much you eat out as it makes counting calories tricky.

But you shouldn’t go too long on a 1200 calorie diet and should be able to treat yourself every once in a while with a dinner out.

Nonetheless, whether you are counting calories or not, always go for food that are baked, broiled, poached, roasted or steamed in their own juice.

You can also ask the restaurant for some special request like;

1.         Snip any visible fat from meat and poultry.

2.         Use less cooking oil.

3.         Use margarine instead of butter for your meal.

4.         Serve fat-free milk rather than whole milk.

Never feel like you ask too much because you’re trying to stay healthy. You want to have a nice meal out that is good for you at all times.

TAKE-AWAY: Just because you are eating out and might not be able to accurately count your calories doesn’t mean you can’t limit your calories. Make special requests on your meal to fit into your diet.

The bottom line on the science behind 1200 calorie diet menu for women

A 1200 calories diet is a quick way to drop some pounds and it is a somewhat flexible diet when compared to others for most women as it allows you to eat from any class of food.

You only have to limit your total daily calories to 1200. It is not advisable to stay on this diet for too long as it can be counterproductive.

Pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers and those with a very active lifestyle will most likely need more calories and are not fit for this diet.

As a parting remark, let moderation be your guide and ensure your body is getting adequate nutrition even at 1200 calories.

7 Hidden Weight Loss Facts on the 1,200 Calorie Diet When appropriately carried out, it can be a great way for women to shed extra pounds. It can also be harmful and result in nutritional deficiency if poorly implemented.
If you’re intrigued by this magical calorie number and how it came about, read on to know more about the science behind the 1,200 calorie diet menu for women. #1200caloriediet #diet menu #loseweight #weightlossforwomen #weightlosstips
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