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How Many Calories To Lose Weight – Where To Start

by Dave on March 16, 2011

How many calories to lose weight, is probably one of the most frequent things people ask me. Back at the start of January 2009, I had a large amount of weight to lose. To lose my initial target of 56lbs I set a goal of 12 months, so a little over 1lb per week. I achieved my weight loss target earlier than planned, taking around 10 months.

How Many Calories To Lose Weight

How Many Calories To Lose Weight

To lose a large amount of weight over a long period, you need to develop a good understanding of how many calories you need. I feel that with not only losing a large amount of weight, but also in keeping that weight off, I am well placed to advise you on what you should look at in terms of reducing the number of calories to lose weight.

I know I say this quite often, but weight loss is simple, it is just not easy. What I mean by that is, if you create a calorie deficit, then you will lose weight, no matter what foods you eat. Yes I know there will be a  number of people that say there is more to it than that, but after  taking 20 years to finally win my weight loss battle, I am here to to tell you that you won’t be able to convince me it is anything more than calories in v calories out. I am proof It really is that simple.

The hard part, and the reason why I say it is not easy is you have to figure out a way how to do it that works for you. So no matter what method you are going to chose to lose weight, you first need to know how many calories you need on a daily basis, once you know this, then you look at how many calories to lose weight will be  required.

How Many Calories To Lose Weight – Take Your Best Guess

Unless were are going to spend 24 hours a day in science lab with all the gadgets known to man monitoring our calorie consumption and metabolic rate, then for those of us living in the real world, the best option we have is to make an educated guess as to how many calories we are eating. Yes that’s right, we have to guess. Put simply there is no way we can be exact about it. Food labels are a guide.  One reason we tend to put on weight is because we overestimate how many calories we burn, and we underestimate how many calories we consume. So when it comes down to calories and weight loss, turn it around. Start to guess higher for what you eat, and calculate lower for what you burn. To know how many calories your burn per day, see the resting metabolic rate  post. This will give you a benchmark number from which to start.

How Many Calories To Lose Weight – Daily Or Weekly Total

So the next thing to consider is should you base the number of calories for losing weight on a daily or weekly total ?.  My advice is to work out your weekly calories, and use this as your guide for how many calories to lose weight.

The reason for this is it easier to eat less calories on certain days than others. Weekends for example, we tend to consume more calories, often due to social engagements which usually include food and drink, but we find it easier to reduce the amount of calories we eat during the week.

Again to give you an example Iwill use my weekly calorie level of 12000 calories based on my resting metabolic rate ( approx 1700 calories per day )  Monday and Tuesday I find it very easy to keep my calories at about the 1000 mark,. So a week for me may look as follows.

Mon – 1000 cals

Tues -1000 cals

Wed -1250 cals

Thurs – 1250 cals

Friday – 2500 cals

Sat –  2500 cals

Sun – 2500 cals

This would be 12000 calories which is more or less my  RMR maintence.  If I wanted to lose 1lb of fat in one week, then I need to cut 3,500 calories from this total.

Once you have a clear plan of how to lose weight, the process becomes easier. In my case I  created a calorie deficit using intermittent fasting. After different experiments I found the eat stop eat method was best for me. We are all different, and all that matters is that you find your own way creating a calorie reduction that you can stick with. For more help with this check out my weight loss tips page

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    This is a concern for me…. I am 5ft 3 in, female. According to your chart, my RMR is 1275. If I cut 500 per day or 3500 calories per week to lose 1 pound per week, I would only be consuming 5425 calories per week, or 775 calories per day…. How can this be correct. No person should consume less than 1000-1200 per day. Am I understanding your equations correct??

  • Dave

    Donna, where does it say no person should consume less than 1000 or 1200 calories per day ? That is just one of those things that gets quoted on weight loss sites. Again it depends on the individual. A 6.3 Man eating below 1000 is very different to a 5.3 Female. Also remember there is a difference between losing body fat, and body weight. At 1000 calories a day you would be losing weight, and with fluid most likely more than 1lb per week, its 3,500 calories to lose one pound of body fat. Again, nothing is set that you have to lose 1lb of fat per week. These just numbers that get used the most often. The important thing is to knowing the number that you need to be under in order to lose weight over time.

    The chart gives you a guide figure. You could look to stick to 1200 calories a day, but then you need to increase activity levels to lose the weight. The important thing is to get some idea of what calories you need. Sadly as a 5.3 female, its low. I used to think as a 5.10 male I could eat 2,500 per day, the fact it is between 1700 and 1800. This is one of the problems we all have, sadly we need less calories than we think we do.


    Thank you for your reply. I was really wondering if you only posted “positive” questions on your blog or not. Showed me!! Thanks!

    I have been scouring over your blog for two days now. I am trying to understand it. I got up this morning my scale went up again…. UGH! 179.6!! I want to try your method but can’t quite wrap my mind around how long I fast.

    #1 Do I eat at all before dinner? Then fast until the next day eating only once a day at dinner again? We usually have dinner somewhere between 5pm-7pm. (I normally have one cup of coffee with sugar and half/half in the morning)

    If I only eat once a day is that a 24 hr fast? Or do I use a window of say….4pm-8pm to eat? IF that is the case, that would be a 20 hr fast, I presume. And do I do that every day?? Except for Saturday and Sunday…..I like your weekend off schedule…. However, using this daily window, how do I achieve my one to two 24 hr fasts??

    So sorry for all of the detailed questions. My daddy and my husband always ask me if they need to “draw me a picture”!! LOL. I just want to get the best understanding that I can. :-)

    #2 About the calories…. So to lose one pound of body fat, I should be consuming only 5425 calories per week. Got that. Would you recommend that I use say…605 calories five days a week and 1200 on Sat/Sun??? Or something similar depending on what’s going on in my life that week…..

    I lost weight on WW years ago and kept it off for several years…. So counting calories is not an issue for me. I am a pro! Just been a lazy pro for a couple of years. Thank you for your help! And by the way, I agree with you on keeping your weight loss efforts to yourself!

    Looking forward to your reply!

    • Dave

      Hi Donna,

      Cycling the calories so you have more for the times you need more, is what I would do. That is why I always look at it weekly.

      Re the fasts. There are different methods for this, but if you want to do a 24hr fast, just pick the times that work best for you., If you finish dinner at say 6pm Tuesday, then fast to 6pm Wednesday. If you are just starting out, you don’t have to do 2 24hr fasts a week. Just see how you get on. Also on your regular eating days, if you feel like skipping a meal, then go ahead and do it. The point here is you need to do what works best for you. As I say, if you get used to working to a calorie limit of around 9000 per week and look to stay below that, you should be losing. How you create that deficit over the week is up to you.

  • George

    Very helpful information! Another important pillar for the bridge to our goals! Thanks for sharing your knowledge!

  • Synthia

    Hi what do you recommend for a low calorie dinner that is filling? I’m of caribbean descent so we eat lots of meats, salt, white rice, etc. I want to lose weight- about 10 lbs or so.


  • gail

    Won’t fasting cause your body to go into starvation mode? It seems the more i fast the more weight i gain!!!!

    • Dave

      Gail, starvation mode is myth, this simply does not happen if you skip a couple of meals. There a number of studies that show no effect on your metabolism with short term fasting. This study shows the opposite and your metabolism is increased

      So simply put, if you are fasting and gaining weight, then you are eating too many calories.You are either eating too many once the fast ends, or overeating on the days you don’t fast. not magic. It’s just a way to help put you in calorie deficit, if you continue to eat too many calories you will gain weight no matter if you fast or not, all fasting may do in this situation, is slow down how much you gain, but that is all.

  • Kedi


    I need help figuring all this calories stuff figured out x_x so many numbers!

    I’m not exactly sure of my height.. I’m either 5’3 or 5’4. My weight’s almost 170 (><) and I'm 24.

    Help appreciated :)

  • LaShadrain

    Hello All,

    I just started my misson to lose weight. I just hope that I’m doing it correctly. I’ve started working out everyday at least an hour. My weight is 282.4 and height is 5’7. How much do I need to consume? I found an app on my phone and it had me at 1690 cals per day. Is this right? Help!!

  • james

    Hi Dave i’m 6’1 and weigh 16stone so i should be eating roughly 1800/1900 a day, i think is correct?
    But i can’t see how i can get to that level. E.g Breakfast 250cals, Lunch 350, Dinner 400.
    That’s only 100 cals. And obviously i don’t want to over eat when i do eat to make up the calories. Any advice would be much appreciated.
    Also have you any tips on how many calories i should each meal and should i eat more at lunch than diner ect. Cheers your site is great!

  • james

    sorry i meant: Thats only a 1000 cals. Plus if i’m doing exercise and only being able to reach 1000 cals and doing the 24hour fast won’t this be a bit detrimental? so if i burn 500 cals a day then thats only 500 cals in my body, surly that wouldn’t be healthy? Cheers again.

  • Lori

    Hello Dave,

    I am 5’2 151 pounds and I would like to lose 10 pds. According to the RMR I should consume 5285 calories weekly. Which would be 755 per day. Lately I have been tracking my calories eaten on My Fitness Pal and I have also been tracking my calories lost with a heart rate montior. In a 12 hour period i ate 1037 calories but I lost 2254 calories including exercise. So how does the calories I lost factor into the amount I should consume.

    Right now I have eaten 875 calories and lost 1604 in 9 hrs and 41 minutes. I have not eaten dinner yet. If you can help me understand that i would be happy.

    • Dave

      Lori, the calculators are far from accurate, but you best guide is simply are you losing weight ? If you are then you you know your current routine is fine. If not, the either the amount you are told you are burning is wrong, or you are taking in more calories than you think. We can only ever take out best guess, we can’t do this exact.

  • Jennifer

    Thanks so much! Extremely helpful!

  • Jim

    Hello, I have spent the last few months being a slob, and overeating and drinking. I am 5’10, when in good shape I am around 170-175. Right now I am at 200. An estimate of my RMR would be around 12000 calories a week. I was consuming roughly 35000 a week for the last 4-6 months, so I gained a considerable amount. I just started cutting back, and I would say with keeping up my eating habits like this, I’ll be eating 9000-10000 a week.  If I add in an hour of moderate exercise 4 days a week. What kind of weight loss should I be looking at per month? How quickly could I get down to 170? My problem was not necessarily food, as I am a pretty healthy eater, it was beer/booze. I decided to cut that out completely until I am down to my target weight. Thanks

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