How many calories should I consume per day to lose weight?

Your question is a good one. Every person’s calorie needs (and calorie goals for weight loss) may be a little different based on gender, age, weight/height, activity levels etc. It is all about balance. One pound of body fat is equal to 3,500 calories. In order to lose weight, you must eat fewer calories per day than your body needs. For example, if you wanted to lose about a pound a week you would need to eat 500 fewer calories per day. Again, every person is different and this figure may vary.

I would start by using the Nutritional Needs Calculator on Old Orchard’s website. This will bring you to a page where you can insert your age, gender, weight loss goals, and activity levels. After inserting all of this information you will receive an approximate calorie amount to shoot for each day. Now, please keep in mind that this site does not ask for your height information. A woman that is 6’0” weighing 170# will have different weight loss calorie goals than another female that is 5’0” weighing 170# so it may be helpful to go to the “Desirable Body Weight” tab to find out what a healthy weight goal should be.

Now that you have an idea of how many calories you should be consuming each day for weight loss, keep a few things in mind. It is a good idea to first determine how many calories you are taking in each day. I advise you to keep a food journal for a few days. Record all foods/beverages consumed and the approximate amount to more closely determine your daily caloric intake. If you find that your caloric intake has been considerably high, please remember that drastically cutting calories in your diet may not lead to long term weight loss success. For example, if a person is consistently taking in over 2,500 calories each day, cutting calories to ~1,200 may not be sustainable long term. I would recommend setting more realistic goals to start. If the “Nutritional Needs” tab suggests that you consume ~1,200 each day and you know you are consuming a lot more than that, start by setting your own personal daily calorie goal at ~1,600. Follow this goal for a few weeks and then begin to reduce your intake slowly towards the 1,200 calorie goal. Those who drastically cut calories generally end up feeling jittery, hungry, and weak and many cannot sustain this significant change for long.

The most effective way to lose weight is to achieve a negative calorie balance. In other words, combine calorie reduction with increased physical activity. This way you will not have to drastically reduce the amount of food you are taking in each day (which is unhealthy and may lead to overeating later on). Reading the food’s label can help you to begin counting calories to get an estimate of how many you are consuming. You could also meet with a registered dietitian who may help you to figure this out. From there I would monitor your portion sizes; reducing portions can help you to reduce calories. Increase fruit and vegetable intake and decrease foods that are high in sugar and saturated fat. This will automatically help you to feel full and reduce calorie intake. For example, if you drink regular soda, try to switch to a reduced calorie fruit juice or water for a calorie savings. Switch your daily afternoon candy bar to a piece of fruit or cup of yogurt for further calorie reduction. Finally, try to get some form of physical activity in each day. An exercise program can really speed up weight loss and make it a healthy loss for long term. Check with your doctor before starting any exercise program. Find activities that you actually like to do (jumping rope, swimming, dancing, bike riding) and then enlist a workout “buddy” to hold you accountable. Any and all movements can add up so skip the elevator and take the stairs. Use the rake instead of the leaf blower and if nothing else…walk the dog! Good luck!

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