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Discussion on low calorie diets

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  • ceiswynceiswyn Posts: 2,205Member Member Posts: 2,205Member Member
    Antiopelle wrote: »
    When I started MFP last year (certainly not for the first time) I entered my stats: 5'7 & 172 lbs - setting to sedentary as I have an office job + 2 trainings a week - wanting to lose 1 pound a week. So I'm not tiny, far from petite, I didn't want to lose quickly (now I know that 1 a week is pretty quick) and I knew that sustainability would be key.
    My recommendation was ... 1.200 kcal. Coming from former WW, I thought I needed to try to avoid adding my exercise cals as little as possible. So, I did for months, feeling frustrated every day I got over the 1.200, which was often.
    It's only when I started to read the boards here that I understood how low that was. Even if I have been on & off dieting for more than 30 years, and I consider myself well educated, I believed that 1.200 kcal was the ideal goal as MFP told me so.
    Now, I know better and I've upped my cals, adding exercise and I hope to maintain around 1.900 - 2.000 a day. Therefore, a very big thanks to all the regular posters here on the boards, who have certainly changed my view on food and health dramatically during the last months.

    MFP 'told you so' because that's how the numbers you gave it worked out.

    The problem is that most people have no idea how to choose a sensible rate of loss, or how the numbers actually work. And MFP doesn't give any guidance on that; it just sits there and lets someone who just wants to lose a few vanity pounds pick a rate of 2lb a week, and doesn't at any point tell them that that's unrealistic and that all it can give them is its minimum calorie goal which won't achieve what they've asked for.

    Then people get frustrated - and if they come on the forums, then they start to learn what's reasonable, after weeks of misery and 'slow' progress.
    edited February 14
  • AntiopelleAntiopelle Posts: 371Member Member Posts: 371Member Member
    @ceiswyn : yes, indeed, my point exactly. But what I wanted to stress is that I didn't want to lose quickly, and I thought 1 pound/week was certainly a healthy way to go. Therefore, it is not strange that there is the misconception that 1.200 is a good goal when it is even a recommendation here on MFP.
  • ceiswynceiswyn Posts: 2,205Member Member Posts: 2,205Member Member
    Antiopelle wrote: »
    @ceiswyn : yes, indeed, my point exactly. But what I wanted to stress is that I didn't want to lose quickly, and I thought 1 pound/week was certainly a healthy way to go. Therefore, it is not strange that there is the misconception that 1.200 is a good goal when it is even a recommendation here on MFP.

    Yes, as in most things the blanket recommendation that everyone has heard actually... doesn't work at all for a lot of people. A bit like the '2000 calories for a woman' estimate; I'm slightly over average height and I'd gain weight on that!

    MFP really needs to do a better job of helping people choose goals that are actually reasonable for them personally.
  • SezxyStefSezxyStef Posts: 15,236Member Member Posts: 15,236Member Member
    Antiopelle wrote: »
    When I started MFP last year (certainly not for the first time) I entered my stats: 5'7 & 172 lbs - setting to sedentary as I have an office job + 2 trainings a week - wanting to lose 1 pound a week. So I'm not tiny, far from petite, I didn't want to lose quickly (now I know that 1 a week is pretty quick) and I knew that sustainability would be key.
    My recommendation was ... 1.200 kcal. Coming from former WW, I thought I needed to try to avoid adding my exercise cals as little as possible. So, I did for months, feeling frustrated every day I got over the 1.200, which was often.
    It's only when I started to read the boards here that I understood how low that was. Even if I have been on & off dieting for more than 30 years, and I consider myself well educated, I believed that 1.200 kcal was the ideal goal as MFP told me so.
    Now, I know better and I've upped my cals, adding exercise and I hope to maintain around 1.900 - 2.000 a day. Therefore, a very big thanks to all the regular posters here on the boards, who have certainly changed my view on food and health dramatically during the last months.

    Except MFP is not WW and when doing using MFP it is expected that you would eat back exercise calories...

    If you had read the method in which MFP used you would have known that NEAT vs TDEE etc...

    As well I had similar stats to you...aka 5 ft 6 and 175...the calories it gave me for 1lb a week was 1460...I find it odd you got 1200....
  • MaltedTeaMaltedTea Posts: 193Member, Premium Member Posts: 193Member, Premium Member
    Low calorie (with occasional "refeeds") can work - in the short-term - for some people. I'm doing it now, mainly because I'm waiting to get an issue with my knee cleared later this month. In the absence of exercise beyond walking and climbing condo stairs, there's not much reason for me to often go above 1300 or so. Next month will be a different story. Personally, I like having Dexascans, blood work and other quantifiable (bio)metrics along with advice from my GP or healthcare team to know what works for me at any given point in time.
  • estherdragonbatestherdragonbat Posts: 5,208Member Member Posts: 5,208Member 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.

    Yeah, I did Weight Watchers for the first time in the late 80s. This was before "points" of any kind (smart/plus/flex) when they were doing "exchanges". As in you were allowed so many 'bread exchanges'. Each exchange was 1 slice of bread (I think they said 3/4 oz, not sure) or 1 4oz potato or 1/2 cup cooked pasta etc. Similar for protein, fat, milk, fruit, and vegetables (non-starchy veg were unlimited; you were expected to eat a minimum of 3 exchanges per day).

    And they had 3 plans.

    Plan A was 1,000 - 1,100 calories per day (and they did caution you not to be on it for more than 2 weeks at a time, though I don't recall them ever saying how long a break they recommended taking).

    Plan B was 1,200 - 1,300 and most of us wanted to be there.

    Plan C was 1,500 - 1,600, but it was sort of seen as a concession to vacations, holidays, etc. As in, "Well, if you want to be a wuss about it..." I don't mean that any group leaders ever said anything like that, but it was the feeling I got from the meetings. In general, most of us seemed to be doing A or B at any given time.

    (I do believe that the calories/exchanges were different for men, but I never saw their booklets and the meetings were nearly 100% women)
  • bmeadows380bmeadows380 Posts: 1,551Member Member Posts: 1,551Member Member
    ceiswyn wrote: »
    Antiopelle wrote: »
    @ceiswyn : yes, indeed, my point exactly. But what I wanted to stress is that I didn't want to lose quickly, and I thought 1 pound/week was certainly a healthy way to go. Therefore, it is not strange that there is the misconception that 1.200 is a good goal when it is even a recommendation here on MFP.

    Yes, as in most things the blanket recommendation that everyone has heard actually... doesn't work at all for a lot of people. A bit like the '2000 calories for a woman' estimate; I'm slightly over average height and I'd gain weight on that!

    MFP really needs to do a better job of helping people choose goals that are actually reasonable for them personally.

    I can't imagine that this would be too difficult to achieve, either: when you run through the guided setup, you have to enter your starting weight and your goal weight, so all MFP would have to do is calculate the difference and then base the recommended weight loss on that number.

    but I'm not a programmer, so what sounds easy to do in theory may be a whole other kettle of fish to actually implement.

    though it might be a very good thing to add to premium users, who are paying for upgraded service anyway.

    At the very least, a paragraph of text added to the guided setup to explain reasonable loss rates may not be too difficult to implement.
  • lemurcat2lemurcat2 Posts: 4,476Member Member Posts: 4,476Member Member
    I think more explanation on the exercise thing would be good. It's very easy to assume that the exercise is taken into account in your calories because that's common in other plans and because MFP asks how much you will exercise. When I started I had been unexposed to diet culture and had no idea about 1200 being a common recommendation and expected to get something like 1500. When I got 1200, I reran it with more and more exercise added to see what I would have to do to be able to eat more until I realized it wasn't including the exercise, but many people probably just accept the 1200 as normal.
  • AntiopelleAntiopelle Posts: 371Member Member Posts: 371Member Member
    SezxyStef wrote: »
    Antiopelle wrote: »
    When I started MFP last year (certainly not for the first time) I entered my stats: 5'7 & 172 lbs - setting to sedentary as I have an office job + 2 trainings a week - wanting to lose 1 pound a week. So I'm not tiny, far from petite, I didn't want to lose quickly (now I know that 1 a week is pretty quick) and I knew that sustainability would be key.
    My recommendation was ... 1.200 kcal. Coming from former WW, I thought I needed to try to avoid adding my exercise cals as little as possible. So, I did for months, feeling frustrated every day I got over the 1.200, which was often.
    It's only when I started to read the boards here that I understood how low that was. Even if I have been on & off dieting for more than 30 years, and I consider myself well educated, I believed that 1.200 kcal was the ideal goal as MFP told me so.
    Now, I know better and I've upped my cals, adding exercise and I hope to maintain around 1.900 - 2.000 a day. Therefore, a very big thanks to all the regular posters here on the boards, who have certainly changed my view on food and health dramatically during the last months.

    Except MFP is not WW and when doing using MFP it is expected that you would eat back exercise calories...

    If you had read the method in which MFP used you would have known that NEAT vs TDEE etc...

    As well I had similar stats to you...aka 5 ft 6 and 175...the calories it gave me for 1lb a week was 1460...I find it odd you got 1200....

    I just did the calculation again, and the result was 1250 kcals. I enter it using the metric system (171 cm, 78kg, wanting to lose 0,5kg/week), I guess that this may cause the difference (although it shouldn't).
    I agree that after reading the method I now know the concepts of NEAT and TDEE, but that information is available on the forum, nowhere in the app itself. If you are not interested in discussing weightloss on the forum, you will miss this info and I think that is a pity and a missed opportunity.
  • SezxyStefSezxyStef Posts: 15,236Member Member Posts: 15,236Member Member
    Antiopelle wrote: »
    SezxyStef wrote: »
    Antiopelle wrote: »
    When I started MFP last year (certainly not for the first time) I entered my stats: 5'7 & 172 lbs - setting to sedentary as I have an office job + 2 trainings a week - wanting to lose 1 pound a week. So I'm not tiny, far from petite, I didn't want to lose quickly (now I know that 1 a week is pretty quick) and I knew that sustainability would be key.
    My recommendation was ... 1.200 kcal. Coming from former WW, I thought I needed to try to avoid adding my exercise cals as little as possible. So, I did for months, feeling frustrated every day I got over the 1.200, which was often.
    It's only when I started to read the boards here that I understood how low that was. Even if I have been on & off dieting for more than 30 years, and I consider myself well educated, I believed that 1.200 kcal was the ideal goal as MFP told me so.
    Now, I know better and I've upped my cals, adding exercise and I hope to maintain around 1.900 - 2.000 a day. Therefore, a very big thanks to all the regular posters here on the boards, who have certainly changed my view on food and health dramatically during the last months.

    Except MFP is not WW and when doing using MFP it is expected that you would eat back exercise calories...

    If you had read the method in which MFP used you would have known that NEAT vs TDEE etc...

    As well I had similar stats to you...aka 5 ft 6 and 175...the calories it gave me for 1lb a week was 1460...I find it odd you got 1200....

    I just did the calculation again, and the result was 1250 kcals. I enter it using the metric system (171 cm, 78kg, wanting to lose 0,5kg/week), I guess that this may cause the difference (although it shouldn't).
    I agree that after reading the method I now know the concepts of NEAT and TDEE, but that information is available on the forum, nowhere in the app itself. If you are not interested in discussing weightloss on the forum, you will miss this info and I think that is a pity and a missed opportunity.

    which is even weirder for the first calculation as 1/2kg is more than 1lb so it should have stayed at 1200...but yes there is a different between those stats.

    171 is 5 ft 6,78 kg is 171 and 1/2kg is 1.1lb so a smaller person losing more gets to eat more than you?

    something is off.

    PS as for your new TDEE I would be wary as mine was 1600...and I lost 1lb a week consistently until I changed my intake when I got close to goal so I could slow the process.

    At present at 148lbs 5 ft 6 I can maintain on anything between 2000 and 2400 depending on my exercise...but I am extremely active as well...aka walking at least 5k a day for just *kitten* n giggles and lifting and biking and and and...if I didn't exercise I would maintain on about 1800/
  • lemurcat2lemurcat2 Posts: 4,476Member Member Posts: 4,476Member Member
    Antiopelle wrote: »
    SezxyStef wrote: »
    Antiopelle wrote: »
    When I started MFP last year (certainly not for the first time) I entered my stats: 5'7 & 172 lbs - setting to sedentary as I have an office job + 2 trainings a week - wanting to lose 1 pound a week. So I'm not tiny, far from petite, I didn't want to lose quickly (now I know that 1 a week is pretty quick) and I knew that sustainability would be key.
    My recommendation was ... 1.200 kcal. Coming from former WW, I thought I needed to try to avoid adding my exercise cals as little as possible. So, I did for months, feeling frustrated every day I got over the 1.200, which was often.
    It's only when I started to read the boards here that I understood how low that was. Even if I have been on & off dieting for more than 30 years, and I consider myself well educated, I believed that 1.200 kcal was the ideal goal as MFP told me so.
    Now, I know better and I've upped my cals, adding exercise and I hope to maintain around 1.900 - 2.000 a day. Therefore, a very big thanks to all the regular posters here on the boards, who have certainly changed my view on food and health dramatically during the last months.

    Except MFP is not WW and when doing using MFP it is expected that you would eat back exercise calories...

    If you had read the method in which MFP used you would have known that NEAT vs TDEE etc...

    As well I had similar stats to you...aka 5 ft 6 and 175...the calories it gave me for 1lb a week was 1460...I find it odd you got 1200....

    I just did the calculation again, and the result was 1250 kcals. I enter it using the metric system (171 cm, 78kg, wanting to lose 0,5kg/week), I guess that this may cause the difference (although it shouldn't).
    I agree that after reading the method I now know the concepts of NEAT and TDEE, but that information is available on the forum, nowhere in the app itself. If you are not interested in discussing weightloss on the forum, you will miss this info and I think that is a pity and a missed opportunity.

    For fun, I just tried it with my own age, 5'7, and 172, and 1 lb and got 1210 (I'm assuming you are a bit younger than me), which would explain the difference between 1250 and 1210.
    edited February 14
  • cmriversidecmriverside Posts: 29,522Member Member Posts: 29,522Member Member
    Antiopelle wrote: »
    SezxyStef wrote: »
    Antiopelle wrote: »
    When I started MFP last year (certainly not for the first time) I entered my stats: 5'7 & 172 lbs - setting to sedentary as I have an office job + 2 trainings a week - wanting to lose 1 pound a week. So I'm not tiny, far from petite, I didn't want to lose quickly (now I know that 1 a week is pretty quick) and I knew that sustainability would be key.
    My recommendation was ... 1.200 kcal. Coming from former WW, I thought I needed to try to avoid adding my exercise cals as little as possible. So, I did for months, feeling frustrated every day I got over the 1.200, which was often.
    It's only when I started to read the boards here that I understood how low that was. Even if I have been on & off dieting for more than 30 years, and I consider myself well educated, I believed that 1.200 kcal was the ideal goal as MFP told me so.
    Now, I know better and I've upped my cals, adding exercise and I hope to maintain around 1.900 - 2.000 a day. Therefore, a very big thanks to all the regular posters here on the boards, who have certainly changed my view on food and health dramatically during the last months.

    Except MFP is not WW and when doing using MFP it is expected that you would eat back exercise calories...

    If you had read the method in which MFP used you would have known that NEAT vs TDEE etc...

    As well I had similar stats to you...aka 5 ft 6 and 175...the calories it gave me for 1lb a week was 1460...I find it odd you got 1200....

    I just did the calculation again, and the result was 1250 kcals. I enter it using the metric system (171 cm, 78kg, wanting to lose 0,5kg/week), I guess that this may cause the difference (although it shouldn't).
    I agree that after reading the method I now know the concepts of NEAT and TDEE, but that information is available on the forum, nowhere in the app itself. If you are not interested in discussing weightloss on the forum, you will miss this info and I think that is a pity and a missed opportunity.

    Not true.

    From "HELP" at the top of every page: Under, "Using the App: "

    https://support.myfitnesspal.com/hc/en-us/articles/360032625391-How-does-MyFitnessPal-calculate-my-initial-goals-

    I mean, unless you're one of those people who buys something and doesn't read the instructions - which in my experience almost always leads to leftover screws.


  • cmriversidecmriverside Posts: 29,522Member Member Posts: 29,522Member Member
    ^^Which is why we get so testy..."I can't make this work..."

    Did you read the instructions?

    Using this site could not be easier.

    It tells you when you start to choose, "Lose 1 pound per week."

    If people did that and then entered Exercise and ate more when exercise was done like the program tells you to do, and then used some common sense by adjusting when things were not exactly right, 90% of forum threads would be gone.

    Are you unable to stick to your low 1200 calories and end up eating everything in site? Are you fatigued and losing hair? Um. Eat more?

    Thinking that a computer program can predict with 100% accuracy the calorie needs and use of every person is just...I don't know...a delusion of some sort?
    edited February 14
  • lemurcat2lemurcat2 Posts: 4,476Member Member Posts: 4,476Member Member
    If MFP gives you 1200, and everything you've read your whole life largely reinforced the "1200 is a good way to diet" message, and you feel just fine on 1200 (as a lot of us did, at least at first), then I don't find it terribly surprising that so many people assume 1200 is the right number for them.

    The only reason I read enough during the set up process to figure out how MFP worked and that I was supposed to eat back my cals and so on was because I didn't have the diet culture assumption that 1200 was the normal diet number, and so it struck me as unreasonably low and not right. (I completely admit that I'm not a "read all the instructions first" person and do sometimes end up with extra screws.)

    I think MFP could add something where it asks how much you are going to exercise to indicate "this does not go into your total calories, but will be added when you log exercise" and I also think MFP should indicate a step estimate for the different activity levels, as it currently seems from the description as nearly all with an office job would qualify as "sedentary."

    That aside, I think a high percentage of people will still end up with 1200 since diet culture says that's a good number and many want to lose as fast as possible, at least initially.
  • cmriversidecmriverside Posts: 29,522Member Member Posts: 29,522Member Member
    I started at 1200, but I had 80 pounds to lose.

    As soon as that became untenable, and I started having problems with my hair, skin, and energy levels, I ate more. I had been eating all my exercise calories up to that point too - because I blindly believed that the site wouldn't tell me to eat them if I wasn't supposed to eat them - so I had actually been eating about 1700 per day when I got to 180 pounds (5'7", Female.) 1700 wasn't enough.

    I ended up at 1600-1700 on NON exercise days and more like 2100-2200 on days I exercised to lose that last 40 pounds. It was that or sleep all day and lose all my hair. I mean, how does one not know something is wrong when they start feeling awful? Or are people chalking it up to "life" or stress or personal issues or something?

    I feel horrible when I under-eat. Really awful. I can't imagine continuing like that, and I knew enough to know that food is what makes the body run...
  • bmeadows380bmeadows380 Posts: 1,551Member Member Posts: 1,551Member Member
    I was like Lemurcat2: I was coming in without much experience at all in diet culture, and thus didn't know anything about the 1200 calorie rule. I just knew I had over 200 lbs to lose and was sedentary, so used those stats and ended up starting with something like 2200 as my goal. I've lost half of that so far, and am down to 1450 as my goal - but I'm also 5'8", which makes a big difference.

    I've lost without having an exercises program, but I know I'm starting to hit the minimum of what I can sustainably eat and have been looking at trying to get more activity in to get from sedentary to lightly active, or at least to add back exercise calories. I am, on a typical week day, a sedentary person - I bought a step counter and found that I was lucky to be getting 3,000 steps in on a good day. The frustration I'm running into, though, is getting a reasonable calorie burn for my activity. For instance: MFP says I should have burned 275 calories for 15 minutes on the elliptical (I had actually done 30 minutes, but figured I'd better cut that value in half because I've heard MFP's values are inflated). But I've only just started using the elliptical, and while I can keep a steady pace and do feel some effort, its would definitely be considered light use at best, so I figured there was no way I actually burned that many calories. The machine doesn't ask for body stats, so I know I can't trust the amount it uses, and I don't have a fitbit or anything like that.

    Most days when I do get active, I have a hard time getting into the mindset to add those calories back (or at least, some portion); I can help but feel like I'm cheating!
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