You may have wondered how few calories you can consume without sending your body into starvation mode, the survival mechanism that slows down your metabolism to conserve energy. The answer is unique for each person, but there are a few guidelines.
The American Dietetic Association, The Obesity Society, and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute all recommend a maximum daily calorie deficit of 500-1000 calories. However, women should consume no fewer than 1000-1200 calories a day, and men no fewer than 1200-1600, without medical supervision.
What is a daily calorie deficit? If you burn 3000 calories a day but consume only 2500, your daily calorie deficit will be 500 calories. That equates to weight loss of about one pound per week, and a daily calorie deficit of 1000 calories equates to weight loss of about two pounds per week.
Our tutorial Calculating Daily Calorie Needs explains how to determine the number of calories you burn in a day; or you can use our food calculator to determine how many you have been consuming. Then you can create a calorie deficit of 500-1000 calories a day by consuming fewer calories, exercising more, or a combination of the two.
If you find that you stop losing weight, it may be that you are trying to lose weight too quickly. Try increasing your calorie intake by 100-150 calories a day. Adding a healthy snack like a piece of fruit should do the trick and get you back to losing weight again.
Before restricting your calorie intake, you should talk with your health-care provider. You may also want to seek the guidance of a registered dietitian who specializes in weight reduction.
Megan Porter, RD