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I Don't Lose Weight If I Eat 1200 Calories a Day

If you sharply curtail your food intake and subsist on 1,200 calories a day, you certainly expect to lose weight. It is discouraging to undertake a strict weight-loss diet and not see results. If this is the case, you may be underestimating your caloric intake or struggling with a metabolic problem. Getting to the bottom of the problem is crucial for weight loss success.

Underestimating Calories

Perhaps the most common reason for not losing weight on a 1,200 calorie diet is when people underestimate the number of calories they eat on a daily basis. It only takes a few miscalculations to transform a 1,200 calorie diet into a 1,800 calorie diet. To ensure that you are indeed eating 1,200 calories a day, weigh and measure your food portions. Read food labels carefully, as portions are often smaller than common sense would dictate. Keep a journal and record the calories of each morsel of food that you eat, as even a few bites between meals has the potential to sabotage your diet.

Low Metabolism

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People who weigh a substantial amount to begin with often have an easier time losing weight than their slimmer peers. Men also have an advantage, as they tend to burn more calories than women. Younger people generally burn more calories than older people. Use a basal metabolic rate calculator to determine how many calories a day you will need to burn to lose weight. Your BMR can tell you how many calories you burn while at rest. For example, a 50-year-old woman who is five feet tall and weighs 120 pounds will only burn 1,224 calories a day while at rest. Such a person, when on a 1,200-calorie diet, would need to burn 500 calories a day exercising to lose a pound each week. If your BMR is low, you are likely to have difficulty losing weight without increasing your activity level. Women shouldn't eat fewer than 1,200 calories per day as it is very difficult to meet your nutrient needs with fewer calories.

Reasons for Low Metabolism

Even a person who is young or who has a relatively high weight can have difficulty losing weight if her metabolism is slow. Thyroid disease is just one medical disorder that can cause a lower metabolism. Many medications can also lower metabolism. Drugs used to treat psychiatric disorders, diabetes and hypertension are just a few of the culprits that can inhibit weight loss. If you are certain that you are eating only 1,200 calories a day and have a BMR that indicates you should be losing weight eating that number of calories, see a doctor if you continue to have difficulty losing weight.


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To lose weight, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends exercising at moderate intensity for 150 to 250 minutes per week for maintaining your weight or modest weight loss, and exercising more often or at higher intensity for greater weight loss. Exercise not only burns calories during the time that you are working out, but can temporarily increase metabolism so that you burn more calories after your exercise session. Do muscle-building workouts to change your body composition so that you appear slimmer, regardless of the number on the scale. Be sure to get enough sleep, as you produced insulin-regulating growth hormone during rest, which can help your body to metabolize fat more efficiently.