What Is Your Calorie Budget?

Do you know how many calories you should be eating each day? Most people don't. Use this formula to find out.
07/15/2008 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

What is your calorie budget? Do you know how many calories you should be eating each day? Most people don't. Vitamin bottles base their information on a 2,000 calorie a day diet. A 161.6 lbs. man could eat 2,000 calories a day, without exercise, and maintain his weight. If you are a woman, and eat 2,000 calories a day, without exercise, you would weigh approximately 200 lbs.

To determine your daily caloric needs, men take your weight times 12 and women take your weight times 10. That number is the approximate number of calories you can consume each day, without exercise, to maintain your current weight. Of course we all vary in our metabolic rates but more and more studies show, not that much. If you use this formula, it will be pretty close.

Let's say a woman weighs 200 lbs. Let's also say that she wants to lose weight but just doesn't know what to do. She has tried all the diets and they work when she is on them but as soon as she goes off, she gains the weight back. What should she do?

First of all she should keep food records, accurate food records, so she can see that she is in fact eating 2,000 calories a day. Most overweight people greatly underestimate both the calories and the amounts that they eat. That's why you hear people say, "No matter what I do I can't lose weight." They will report they are only eating 1,200 calories a day when in reality it's 2,000. You have to be honest, at least with yourself, if you want to lose weight and keep it off.

Once she can see what she has been eating, she can begin to cut back slowly. I don't recommend cutting more than 200 calories a day from your regular intake. 200 calories seems to be the threshold we can cut without missing the calories and feeling deprived. Deprivation is fattening.

She should aim for 1,800 calories a day. This will take her down to 180 lbs. Once she gets there she can try to take in 1,600 a day. This will eventually take her down to 160 lbs. If she then keeps her average daily caloric intake around 1,600 and adds 300 calories of exercise per day, she would eventually get down to 130 lbs. It's math.

She can accomplish all that simply by keeping accurate food records. To do that she has to learn the calories in the foods she eats and likes. She might even have to weigh and measure at first to get the hang of figuring out portions. This gets easier with practice, of course.

The good news is that if she does it this way, she never has to go on another diet again. She can eat whatever she wants within her caloric budget. She is free.

That's it for now. Good luck and let me know how you're doing.

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