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Discussion on low calorie diets

Jay9201Jay9201 Posts: 115Member Member Posts: 115Member Member
Hi all, I wanted to have a discussion about low calorie diets.

I'm 5'5 female weighing in at 177lbs , I workout 4x a week alternating between HIIT and pilates and my workouts are fasted - just my preference. Now my TDEE is 2083 some calculators will say more and I eat at 1400 calories everyday , I track my calories on a food scale and I will lose 1lb - 1.5lbs a week which is great as my goal is to drop to 130lbs by xmas.

I've been seeing a lot of the 1200 calorie diet trends so I did this for a month again tracking through my food scale. The scale budged slightly but then I wouldn't lose body measurements wise I was losing inches. But I had a bad experience with 1200 cals for me that number is way too low, I was extremely hungry and tired, mood swings. My sleep was affected even working out was affected so I knew this was due to eating too less.

But it is interesting to see why 1200 calories is trending and why people eat so low. surely that can't be sustainable ?

Would like to know your thoughts on this.
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Replies

  • tinkerbellang83tinkerbellang83 Posts: 7,345Member Member Posts: 7,345Member Member
    I think the reason 1200 calories gets bandied around a lot is that it's the lowest recommended amount for women to get minimum required nutrition, MFP bottoms out at 1200 on it's guided set-up for this reason. There is so much misinformation in the media and online with articles like "Lose 20 pounds fast" and adverts for weight loss/detox products promising amazing results make healthy rates of loss seem slow.

    1200 calories may be right for some people, if they're very short, very sedentary, a lot older or if they are being monitored by their doctor on a VLCD program because the risk of undereating outweighs the risk of managing a medical issue.

    In my experience, the vast majority of people on 1200 (female)/1500 (male) calories on MFP arrive at that figure because they have chosen the wrong activity level and/or too aggressive a rate of loss. Many also don't eat back exercise calories because they don't understand the way that MFP calculates the calorie goal (NEAT rather than TDEE). Luckily, a lot of people also don't log their food that accurately and are eating more than they think (see all the "I am eating 1200 calories and not losing weight" threads.

    And you're right for a lot of these people it won't be sustainable in the long term, not just from a compliance point of view but also from a health point of view.
  • LietchiLietchi Posts: 293Member Member Posts: 293Member Member
    As tinkerbellang83 has said, unless someone is very short, inactive, old and/or under medical supervision, 1200 kcal isn't a good idea, nor very sustainable.

    I see it as a lack of patience (wanting to lose too fast) and lack of thinking long-term ("I will eat like a mouse to lose weight and then I will go back to eating normally"). Perhaps a sign of the times, or simply human nature?
    I feel like a freak here sometimes :wink: I started at a BMI of over 34, and yet I set a weight loss rate of 0.5lbs (0.25kg) per week. Slow? Sure, but after more than 6 months I'm still going strong and feeling good!
  • lemurcat2lemurcat2 Posts: 4,503Member Member Posts: 4,503Member Member
    Yes, I think it's easily explainable: lowest normally recommended option and people wanting to lose as fast as possible.

    I also think with medical professionals there's a cynical element of "people will eat more than recommended so if 1500 or 1600 is sensible, 1200 or lower will be a good goal," especially once people have failed at higher goals (and this is why doctors also may casually toss off "try 1000" in a non supervised context.
  • magnusthenerdmagnusthenerd Posts: 1,107Member Member Posts: 1,107Member Member
    Pretty much that MFP bottoms out at 1200 calories for women. You won't see many men asking on here asking about 1200 calories, even accounting for the difference in number of posters and users. The other part is that people think there are two speeds they should be losing weight: done tomorrow or done yesterday. No one wants to accept how fortunate they are that what took years to put on can actually come off in months - they want it even faster.
    Not that I'm the patient or realistic goal type myself. I just happen to be familiar with the reality of it enough to separate it from what I'd like.
  • magnusthenerdmagnusthenerd Posts: 1,107Member Member Posts: 1,107Member Member
    There's also a moderation pressure that keeps anyone from really seeing much of threads with numbers below 1200. Unless there is a very specific medical context, most of those threads get cleaned up.
    If you had the misfortune of viewing a pro-Anna board, you might be left wondering how so many people can have a 0 calorie or 400 calorie goal. I'm not sure how any of them stay functional besides the fact that there might be a survivorship bias on those boards of people with genes that actually make the conditions worse - it seems some people become more energetic, restless, and actually up TDEE when in a deficit.
  • Jay9201Jay9201 Posts: 115Member Member Posts: 115Member Member
    There's also a moderation pressure that keeps anyone from really seeing much of threads with numbers below 1200. Unless there is a very specific medical context, most of those threads get cleaned up.
    If you had the misfortune of viewing a pro-Anna board, you might be left wondering how so many people can have a 0 calorie or 400 calorie goal. I'm not sure how any of them stay functional besides the fact that there might be a survivorship bias on those boards of people with genes that actually make the conditions worse - it seems some people become more energetic, restless, and actually up TDEE when in a deficit.

    Oh that is awful I didnt even know there was such thing as pro ana board! I can't understand how someone would be functional eating so low, surely that can be good for your health.
  • magnusthenerdmagnusthenerd Posts: 1,107Member Member Posts: 1,107Member Member
    Jay9201 wrote: »
    There's also a moderation pressure that keeps anyone from really seeing much of threads with numbers below 1200. Unless there is a very specific medical context, most of those threads get cleaned up.
    If you had the misfortune of viewing a pro-Anna board, you might be left wondering how so many people can have a 0 calorie or 400 calorie goal. I'm not sure how any of them stay functional besides the fact that there might be a survivorship bias on those boards of people with genes that actually make the conditions worse - it seems some people become more energetic, restless, and actually up TDEE when in a deficit.

    Oh that is awful I didnt even know there was such thing as pro ana board! I can't understand how someone would be functional eating so low, surely that can be good for your health.

    Well no. By definition, anorexia is disordered and therefore not healthy.
    The boards can be mixed. There are ones that aren't really pro, but rather than trying to force anyone to change, try to encourage change and minimizing harm. Other ones are literary encouraging it, and luckily those ones tend to get shut down for a combination of moral and legal reasons.
    Unfortunately, on the internet, there are dark corners for just about anything someone can think of, certainly more ones than I can.
  • SezxyStefSezxyStef Posts: 15,236Member Member Posts: 15,236Member Member
    1200 calories is the lowest recommended intake for adult women.

    they are bandied about due to lack of education. Most people claiming to eat 1200 really aren't...it's more like 1500-2k if they were to log it accurately.

    Now don't get me wrong I can do 1200 for a day...but then I need to recover. 1400 is my minimum where I can function normally.
  • magnusthenerdmagnusthenerd Posts: 1,107Member Member Posts: 1,107Member Member
    There's also a moderation pressure that keeps anyone from really seeing much of threads with numbers below 1200. Unless there is a very specific medical context, most of those threads get cleaned up.
    If you had the misfortune of viewing a pro-Anna board, you might be left wondering how so many people can have a 0 calorie or 400 calorie goal. I'm not sure how any of them stay functional besides the fact that there might be a survivorship bias on those boards of people with genes that actually make the conditions worse - it seems some people become more energetic, restless, and actually up TDEE when in a deficit.

    I am someone who feels energized and restless on very low calories (until a few months in, where I eventually hit the wall). It also feels "comforting" to me psychologically. I actively avoid this, as it's terrible for me and doesn't support my long term mental or physical health (and it hurts my running). It's certainly a thing.
    Yeah, it seems there is a lot about some of the disordered eating that can be physiological, not just psychological based on the behaviors bodybuilders get going into and coming out of shows.
    I think being energized on low calories can happen in obese individuals. When I was morbidly obese I would find myself eating nothing or just a PB sandwich for days when I started losing weight - not even intentionally - but I kept feeling my energy being high and indifferent to a bit happy about the weight dropping. I could see keeping that up if I had not become concerned about my protein intake because I wanted to keep lifting.
  • cmriversidecmriverside Posts: 29,569Member Member Posts: 29,569Member Member
    yeah, the "fasting euphoria" isn't something we talk about a lot here - for good reasons.
  • AnnPT77AnnPT77 Posts: 13,742Member Member Posts: 13,742Member Member
    I think there's also some cultural history involved. I grew up to adulthood (1960s/70s) in an environment where calories were firmly a known thing, and absolutely seen as being behind weight management**, but it wasn't at all practical for the average person to track them arithmetically. No internet, no apps, no spreadsheets or even home computers; just books, pencils, paper.

    At that stage, there were lots of published books (or magazine articles of the sort "just eat these exact things for your meals" with specific rotations of measured widely-available foods, even among reasonably nutritious diets let alone crazy faddy ones. It was, if I recall correctly, pretty common for those to be based on 1200 calories daily, since pretty much anyone will lose weight on 1200 calories. (It wouldn't be all that practical to publish a book with dozens of different detailed prescriptive meal plans for different calorie levels for different activity levels, and - reminder - there weren't apps.)

    So, that 1200 calorie diet idea kind of got fixed in the popular imagination.

    Also, human nature wasn't different then, so things were trendy and people talked among themselves. Women tended to be more "diet as a hobby" than men, I think, and it was kind of seen as on-trend, feminine and charmingly delicate to be on one of those special 1200 calorie diets.

    I don't think the cultural baggage of that has fully died out.

    ** Actually, I think more people may've bought into calories as the key back then, because they were then the magical science-y thing that you couldn't really pin down and harness scientificially in your individual life in a practical, non-obsessive way.
  • janejellyrolljanejellyroll Posts: 21,530Member Member Posts: 21,530Member Member
    AnnPT77 wrote: »
    I think there's also some cultural history involved. I grew up to adulthood (1960s/70s) in an environment where calories were firmly a known thing, and absolutely seen as being behind weight management**, but it wasn't at all practical for the average person to track them arithmetically. No internet, no apps, no spreadsheets or even home computers; just books, pencils, paper.

    At that stage, there were lots of published books (or magazine articles of the sort "just eat these exact things for your meals" with specific rotations of measured widely-available foods, even among reasonably nutritious diets let alone crazy faddy ones. It was, if I recall correctly, pretty common for those to be based on 1200 calories daily, since pretty much anyone will lose weight on 1200 calories. (It wouldn't be all that practical to publish a book with dozens of different detailed prescriptive meal plans for different calorie levels for different activity levels, and - reminder - there weren't apps.)

    So, that 1200 calorie diet idea kind of got fixed in the popular imagination.

    Also, human nature wasn't different then, so things were trendy and people talked among themselves. Women tended to be more "diet as a hobby" than men, I think, and it was kind of seen as on-trend, feminine and charmingly delicate to be on one of those special 1200 calorie diets.

    I don't think the cultural baggage of that has fully died out.

    ** Actually, I think more people may've bought into calories as the key back then, because they were then the magical science-y thing that you couldn't really pin down and harness scientificially in your individual life in a practical, non-obsessive way.

    The first time I counted calories I was in college. I tracked everything in a little notebook! A lot of my calorie counts were what I now realize were very rough estimates, but it worked for weight loss because my goal was . . . 1,200 a day. I can't even recall how I "learned" that should be my goal, it just felt like I knew that was how much a woman should eat to lose weight. I'm guessing it came from weight loss articles in teenage/women's magazines.

    It wound up not being a sustainable habit for me, partly because it was harder to track. But another factor is that I still had a really rigid conception of good versus bad foods that made any kind of structured eating unnecessarily upsetting.

  • SylphadoraSylphadora Posts: 72Member Member Posts: 72Member Member
    I can't do low-cal. For me 1,200 cals is such a ridiculously small amount of food. I can only sustain such a diet for so long. I can fast for a whole day but not eat 1,200 cals several days in a row :D
    edited February 12
  • NovusDiesNovusDies Posts: 6,718Member, Premium Member Posts: 6,718Member, Premium Member
    I see a lot of "If more is better, most must be best" type thinking here.

    If some weight loss is good for me than doing the most I am allowed to do is the best.

    If more nutrient dense food is good then if I eat nothing but nutrient dense food it is best.

    If more activity is good then taking every class the gym offers is best.

    The reality is that moderation is almost always going to be the right course of action. Lose at a healthy and sustainable rate. Eat your chicken and broccoli and also eat fun food. Take a class at the gym but remember that you need to ramp it up slowly and no one in your life is going to appreciate it if you are gone 5 hours a day working out.

  • magnusthenerdmagnusthenerd Posts: 1,107Member Member Posts: 1,107Member Member
    yeah, the "fasting euphoria" isn't something we talk about a lot here - for good reasons.

    Because we're secretly a cult and using it to get people to obey dear leader? That's one of the other areas fasting euphoria gets abused.
  • SuzySunshine99SuzySunshine99 Posts: 1,267Member Member Posts: 1,267Member Member
    1200 is not appropriate for most people IF THEY ARE COUNTING ACCURATELY. I think this is an important point. I have a feeling that doctors, nutritionists, and RDs sometimes recommend 1200 because they are assuming a margin of error and people will likely be eating more than that. Most people are not weighing all of their food, so their counts are probably not so accurate.

    In my personal experience, as a short woman, I set my goal at 1200 when I was losing weight. But I estimated my food intake, and I lost really slowly, so I know I was eating more than that.
  • SuzySunshine99SuzySunshine99 Posts: 1,267Member Member Posts: 1,267Member Member
    1200 is not appropriate for most people IF THEY ARE COUNTING ACCURATELY. I think this is an important point. I have a feeling that doctors, nutritionists, and RDs sometimes recommend 1200 because they are assuming a margin of error and people will likely be eating more than that. Most people are not weighing all of their food, so their counts are probably not so accurate.

    In my personal experience, as a short woman, I set my goal at 1200 when I was losing weight. But I estimated my food intake, and I lost really slowly, so I know I was eating more than that.

    I don't know if it's common, but I've specifically seen an RD confirm in an interview that 1,200 is given as a goal (at least to some patients) because she knows people will be eating more than that. (My personal opinion: it would be more useful to help patients understand how to accurately estimate their intake, but whatever).

    I agree...it would definitely be better. Especially if someone really DOES log accurately, then they end up not eating enough. But I guess in reality they figure most people wouldn’t takes the time to weigh and log accurately, even if given instructions.
  • hesn92hesn92 Posts: 5,799Member Member Posts: 5,799Member Member
    I think there were some excellent points made above. Almost any woman will lose weight on 1200 calories a day, so that's been recommended over the years I guess. Most people who are looking to lose weight want to lose weight NOW so they pick the most extreme method.
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