Generally, when a client is trying to lose weight, the question “How many calories per day should I eat?” will come up. The answer really depends upon a number of factors, including body size, desired body size, activity level, gender and body condition. That being said, it is generally accepted that one should not dip below approximately 1,200 calories per day when trying to lose weight.
Why? Anything less than 1,200 calories is so restrictive that it becomes quite difficult to get all the nutrients one needs in a day.
Why else? Anything less than 1,200 calories is so restrictive that it is difficult to adhere to and likely to result in failure.
Why else? Anything less than 1,200 calories is below the average person’s daily resting metabolism and will tend to lead to significant muscle weight loss in addition to water and fat loss. While you may hope to be long and lean, I doubt “skinny fat” is the look you’re going for...
Last week I had the privilege of trying, for 2 days, the NIM Diet (Nutrition in Motion). The NIM Diet is a daily diet delivery service currently available in Montreal, Toronto and the ROO (rest of Ontario... ha ha... just kidding - if you're Canadian, you'll know that Torontonians think we're the center of the universe). But seriously, they deliver throughout Ontario.
I got to experience what approximately 1,200 calories actually feels like. Ordinarily, 1,200 calories would be far too few for me on a daily basis, even while trying to lose weight (remember those factors we discussed in the beginning – activity level, body size, body condition, etc.). But for 2 days I was on a diet! I stuck to it as best I could – adding a pickle here and a glass of milk there to round out my pickle and calcium needs, but generally sticking with the prescribed diet.
So what did I get for about 1,200 calories? More than I expected!
Breakfast: spinach & cheese omelette
Snack: Terra Chips (about a handful)
Lunch: salad with chicken, red peppers & southwest dressing
Snack: curried chickpea & eggplant roll-ups
Dinner: steak, corn & coleslaw
Dessert: two whole wheat chocolate chip cookies
Breakfast: cheese frittata
Snack: roasted pepitas/pumpkin seeds (about ¼ cup)
Lunch: hearty beef soup
Snack: turkey, hummus & lettuce roll-ups
Dinner: lemon chicken breast & roasted root vegetables
Dessert: flourless chocolate cake
Pretty good, right? I was a bit sceptical of the freshness level and flavours I would experience (or not experience) on a prepared diet... but the lettuce was green and crisp, the steak was a nice medium-rare, the cookies were crunchy... it really did taste fresh.
And who can complain about fresh food showing up at your door each morning AND calculated to total a certain number of calories which will almost definitely cause you to lose weight if you:
(a) Stick with the plan.
(b) Exercise so any weight lost is fat, not muscle, and does not pile back on when you resume eating a higher number of calories after losing your desired amount of weight.
I have had clients and friends who have enjoyed great success with meal plans like those of Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers and the like. If you are pressed for time and good at doing as you’re told, a home-delivered diet might be the ticket to your weight loss goals. Along with a healthy dose of exercise 3-6 days per week, of course...
When I unpacked my food on the first day, Sweaty Hubby was impressed at the quantity and quality. It truly defied the definition, “diet food.” But the price tag, at $34-36 per person per day, is certainly out of the realms of budget reality for our household. If you already eat out 1-2 meals per day plus spend money on lattes, bottles of water and other consumables, you might easily swallow the NIM Diet price tag and save yourself some money wasted on that next diet pill you were thinking of trying...
As for me, I enjoyed my 2 days of pampering, but I’m back to a bit more than 1,200 calories per day now. There's no room on a 1,200 calorie/day diet for wine.