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The 1200kcal diet

emilystammittiemilystammitti Member, Premium Posts: 7 Member Member, Premium Posts: 7 Member
Hello Myfitnesspal-ers,

Back to a an oldie: the 1200kcal diet. There's a lot of controversy around it, with some people saying it's not nearly enough and others saying it's spot-on. One thing is true - output & input are the keys to weight loss (right?).

So here's my situation. I'm a 39 year old woman in otherwise good health. I weigh 74kg (162lb) at 174cm (5'8"). I'm generally fit, but have 'vanity weight' I want to lose, especially being a mum. Mostly the weight is around the lower tum, bum and thighs. Yay for womanhood? I'd like to ideally get down to about 140lbs, which is about the lowest I think my frame can support without looking sickly on the upper body, even when I gain in muscle.

haha, anyway, I've lost about 12-15 pounds (5kg) since starting my renewed weight loss journey in March. At first it started me at about 1600 cals a day, slowly whittling down to 1200 as my weight went down. Now at 1200kcals a day, I'm absolutely plateaued. In fact, from two weeks ago to today I seem to have gain about 2kg (5lbs) for no apparent reason. I count EVERY calorie that goes into my mouth from a cheeky teaspoon of sugar in my coffee to the milk in it. I maintain the right protein, fat and carb balances, eat 'clean' and generally only eat whole foods (no ingredients in them - they are the ingredients). Also ethical vegan, so won't consume animal products, but I use a high quality vegan protein powder plus supplements to make sure I'm getting all of the macros in (B12, iron, etc)

I also work out. I completed the C25k over lockdown, took a break and am starting from about the halfway point, and do a HIIT workout OR yoga every day (sometimes both), and generally get 12k-15k steps in a day. I eat back most of the calories I burn off so that I'm netting 1200 a day, rather than grossing 1200 a day. (don't want to get malnourished)

So this weight fluctuation and plateau... Does anybody know what gives? I drink plenty of water, avoid sodium and occasionally have a treat - but when I do, this gets counted in my calories. I'm feeling a bit down on my motivation and also confused about where I'm going wrong.

Happy to take any/all advice. Thanks very much if you've stuck with my post and offer advice. Much appreciated from a frustrated person! <3
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Replies

  • msalicia07msalicia07 Member Posts: 318 Member Member Posts: 318 Member
    Hey there! Just wanted to mention your clean and vegan diet doesn’t matter when it comes to losing weight. The only thing that does is being in a deficit.

    That being said, since you only have vanity lbs left, make sure you’ve recalculated to lose .5-1 lb a week, no more. And be sure to weigh with a food scale and track your weight trend to find if you are eating the required calories. Once you’ve calculated your TDEE, only add additional exercise calories if it’s not applied to your TDEE already, and be sure to eat at least half of those back unless they’re pretty insignificant.
  • emilystammittiemilystammitti Member, Premium Posts: 7 Member Member, Premium Posts: 7 Member
    Hi both, thanks for the input. I do weigh my food, down to the gram (as in, zero cheating by sneaking an extra noodle or cheeky half cup of whatever). I definitely feel like I’m in a deficit... to be honest, I’m constantly hungry or thinking about food, wake up in the night with hunger pangs and am probably more weight loss obsessed than is “healthy”.

    Anyway thank you both so much. I’ll review and see if I can find any I consistencies, etc. Lots of love and health to you!
  • msalicia07msalicia07 Member Posts: 318 Member Member Posts: 318 Member
    Found this for you, hope it helps. You only need to reduce about 250 calories a day from these values to lose .5 lbs a week, which is reasonable. Again, be sure to weigh your food as the margin for error is large.
    edited November 21
  • LietchiLietchi Member Posts: 1,394 Member Member Posts: 1,394 Member
    Hi both, thanks for the input. I do weigh my food, down to the gram (as in, zero cheating by sneaking an extra noodle or cheeky half cup of whatever). I definitely feel like I’m in a deficit... to be honest, I’m constantly hungry or thinking about food, wake up in the night with hunger pangs and am probably more weight loss obsessed than is “healthy”.

    Anyway thank you both so much. I’ll review and see if I can find any I consistencies, etc. Lots of love and health to you!

    You didn't actually answer my questions (except the weighing part) which would allow me and others here to give more precise advice :wink:
    msalicia07 wrote: »
    Found this for you, hope it helps. You only need to reduce about 250 calories a day from these values to lose .5 lbs a week, which is reasonable. Again, be sure to weigh your food as the margin for error is small.

    Except she isn't sedentary (12k-15k steps, not sure whether this is from the C25K or daily activity +HIIT/yoga,...) so this isn't a very precise method.
    edited November 21
  • msalicia07msalicia07 Member Posts: 318 Member Member Posts: 318 Member
    Lietchi wrote: »
    Hi both, thanks for the input. I do weigh my food, down to the gram (as in, zero cheating by sneaking an extra noodle or cheeky half cup of whatever). I definitely feel like I’m in a deficit... to be honest, I’m constantly hungry or thinking about food, wake up in the night with hunger pangs and am probably more weight loss obsessed than is “healthy”.

    Anyway thank you both so much. I’ll review and see if I can find any I consistencies, etc. Lots of love and health to you!

    You didn't actually answer my questions (except the weighing part) which would allow me and others here to give more precise advice :wink:
    msalicia07 wrote: »
    Found this for you, hope it helps. You only need to reduce about 250 calories a day from these values to lose .5 lbs a week, which is reasonable. Again, be sure to weigh your food as the margin for error is small.

    Except she isn't sedentary (12k-15k steps, not sure whether this is from the C25K or daily activity +HIIT/yoga,...) so this isn't a very precise method.

    The image shows everything from sedentary to athlete, so yes she can apply the value that fits her lifestyle.
  • LietchiLietchi Member Posts: 1,394 Member Member Posts: 1,394 Member
    msalicia07 wrote: »
    Lietchi wrote: »
    Hi both, thanks for the input. I do weigh my food, down to the gram (as in, zero cheating by sneaking an extra noodle or cheeky half cup of whatever). I definitely feel like I’m in a deficit... to be honest, I’m constantly hungry or thinking about food, wake up in the night with hunger pangs and am probably more weight loss obsessed than is “healthy”.

    Anyway thank you both so much. I’ll review and see if I can find any I consistencies, etc. Lots of love and health to you!

    You didn't actually answer my questions (except the weighing part) which would allow me and others here to give more precise advice :wink:
    msalicia07 wrote: »
    Found this for you, hope it helps. You only need to reduce about 250 calories a day from these values to lose .5 lbs a week, which is reasonable. Again, be sure to weigh your food as the margin for error is small.

    Except she isn't sedentary (12k-15k steps, not sure whether this is from the C25K or daily activity +HIIT/yoga,...) so this isn't a very precise method.

    The image shows everything from sedentary to athlete, so yes she can apply the value that fits her lifestyle.

    I should have been more clear: it does show other activity levels, but I personally don't find this method to be very helpful, as the activity levels are very broad. I find choosing an activity level based on daily activity only and then adding in exercise separately more helpful (taking into account the specific kind of exercise)
  • springlering62springlering62 Member, Premium Posts: 1,625 Member Member, Premium Posts: 1,625 Member
    How are you calculating exercise calories?

    If you’re over calculating and eating them all back, as you say, you might be overeating.

    Try to make sure your calorie burns are realistic. For example, I see someone regularly reporting 455 calorie burns for 25 minutes of yin yoga. I burn less than half that in an hour of pretty challenging dynamic yoga. Another one I often see for some reason. is grossly over calculated burns for elliptical. Not wagging fingers at anyone but make sure you have realistic standards to compare to.

    I also agree with others that 1200 base is way too low for your height and weight. I am 5’7” and at 1470, the number I pulled out of my rear end when I started, I was ready to gnaw my arm off.
  • msalicia07msalicia07 Member Posts: 318 Member Member Posts: 318 Member
    Lietchi wrote: »
    msalicia07 wrote: »
    Lietchi wrote: »
    Hi both, thanks for the input. I do weigh my food, down to the gram (as in, zero cheating by sneaking an extra noodle or cheeky half cup of whatever). I definitely feel like I’m in a deficit... to be honest, I’m constantly hungry or thinking about food, wake up in the night with hunger pangs and am probably more weight loss obsessed than is “healthy”.

    Anyway thank you both so much. I’ll review and see if I can find any I consistencies, etc. Lots of love and health to you!

    You didn't actually answer my questions (except the weighing part) which would allow me and others here to give more precise advice :wink:
    msalicia07 wrote: »
    Found this for you, hope it helps. You only need to reduce about 250 calories a day from these values to lose .5 lbs a week, which is reasonable. Again, be sure to weigh your food as the margin for error is small.

    Except she isn't sedentary (12k-15k steps, not sure whether this is from the C25K or daily activity +HIIT/yoga,...) so this isn't a very precise method.

    The image shows everything from sedentary to athlete, so yes she can apply the value that fits her lifestyle.

    I should have been more clear: it does show other activity levels, but I personally don't find this method to be very helpful, as the activity levels are very broad. I find choosing an activity level based on daily activity only and then adding in exercise separately more helpful (taking into account the specific kind of exercise)

    I agree that’s what I do as well. Which is why I stated to add extra exercise calories not included in her TDEE.
  • BeautyofdreamsBeautyofdreams Member Posts: 89 Member Member Posts: 89 Member
    What rate of loss have you selected on MFP? If it is greater than 1 pound a week, it is too aggressive. As for a plateau, unless it has been at least a month with no weight loss, then you aren't in a plateau. I frequently go two weeks plus with no weight loss then suddenly lose a pound or two. You don't mention if you weigh weekly or daily and if you are menstruating, then water weight gain is an issue.
  • LietchiLietchi Member Posts: 1,394 Member Member Posts: 1,394 Member
    msalicia07 wrote: »
    Lietchi wrote: »
    msalicia07 wrote: »
    Lietchi wrote: »
    Hi both, thanks for the input. I do weigh my food, down to the gram (as in, zero cheating by sneaking an extra noodle or cheeky half cup of whatever). I definitely feel like I’m in a deficit... to be honest, I’m constantly hungry or thinking about food, wake up in the night with hunger pangs and am probably more weight loss obsessed than is “healthy”.

    Anyway thank you both so much. I’ll review and see if I can find any I consistencies, etc. Lots of love and health to you!

    You didn't actually answer my questions (except the weighing part) which would allow me and others here to give more precise advice :wink:
    msalicia07 wrote: »
    Found this for you, hope it helps. You only need to reduce about 250 calories a day from these values to lose .5 lbs a week, which is reasonable. Again, be sure to weigh your food as the margin for error is small.

    Except she isn't sedentary (12k-15k steps, not sure whether this is from the C25K or daily activity +HIIT/yoga,...) so this isn't a very precise method.

    The image shows everything from sedentary to athlete, so yes she can apply the value that fits her lifestyle.

    I should have been more clear: it does show other activity levels, but I personally don't find this method to be very helpful, as the activity levels are very broad. I find choosing an activity level based on daily activity only and then adding in exercise separately more helpful (taking into account the specific kind of exercise)

    I agree that’s what I do as well. Which is why I stated to add extra exercise calories not included in her TDEE.

    Sorry, I read the two posts separately, I didn't put 2 and 2 together, so to speak 🙂
  • brianpperkins131brianpperkins131 Member Posts: 75 Member Member Posts: 75 Member
    It's not just food. Liquids matter. Coffee creamer, pumps of flavoring syrup, glass of wine, cask of beer, sports drink during a workout ... such easy calories to consume.
  • msalicia07msalicia07 Member Posts: 318 Member Member Posts: 318 Member
    Lietchi wrote: »
    msalicia07 wrote: »
    Lietchi wrote: »
    msalicia07 wrote: »
    Lietchi wrote: »
    Hi both, thanks for the input. I do weigh my food, down to the gram (as in, zero cheating by sneaking an extra noodle or cheeky half cup of whatever). I definitely feel like I’m in a deficit... to be honest, I’m constantly hungry or thinking about food, wake up in the night with hunger pangs and am probably more weight loss obsessed than is “healthy”.

    Anyway thank you both so much. I’ll review and see if I can find any I consistencies, etc. Lots of love and health to you!

    You didn't actually answer my questions (except the weighing part) which would allow me and others here to give more precise advice :wink:
    msalicia07 wrote: »
    Found this for you, hope it helps. You only need to reduce about 250 calories a day from these values to lose .5 lbs a week, which is reasonable. Again, be sure to weigh your food as the margin for error is small.

    Except she isn't sedentary (12k-15k steps, not sure whether this is from the C25K or daily activity +HIIT/yoga,...) so this isn't a very precise method.

    The image shows everything from sedentary to athlete, so yes she can apply the value that fits her lifestyle.

    I should have been more clear: it does show other activity levels, but I personally don't find this method to be very helpful, as the activity levels are very broad. I find choosing an activity level based on daily activity only and then adding in exercise separately more helpful (taking into account the specific kind of exercise)

    I agree that’s what I do as well. Which is why I stated to add extra exercise calories not included in her TDEE.

    Sorry, I read the two posts separately, I didn't put 2 and 2 together, so to speak 🙂

    No worries at all! We’re on the same page 😊
  • mnbvcxzlkjhgfdsa12mnbvcxzlkjhgfdsa12 Member Posts: 163 Member Member Posts: 163 Member
    Hi There! I don’t know that I have any simple answers, but I know your frustration.

    I’m 5”2 and presently 140lb. My goal is 120ib, and longer term 110Ib. I maintained 107Ib for about 3 years after losing about 40Ib, so I know I can do it, and I know I know how to do it. But that doesn’t make it less frustrating when the scale appears to be going the wrong way!

    My daily calorie allowance is also 1200. I am a lot shorter than you. I never feel hungry, I am careful about the foods I choose to eat - I’m a vegan and am careful about ensuring I eat whole grains everyday. I mostly avoid simple carbs- nothing is out of bounds provided it fits in my calories, but I’d rather eat a mountain of veggies than a slice of bread, because I know it will fill me up better. I am anal about weighing and logging everything.

    I also do C25k, completed it several times and also started it mid way through. I never eat back my exercise calories, I don’t feel like 40 mins of jogging merits it for me, but that’s not to say others shouldn’t.

    Over the last 8 weeks I have lost 5Ib. I remind myself that this is good, and that the weight I put on slowly over years will not come off in a few weeks. But, that doesn’t stop me feeling deflated when it feels like my effort isn’t working - over the last 2 weeks my weight has actually gone up twice. But I know that I am not over eating and that if I just keep at it eventually my weight will move in the right direction, probably by a pound or two. That’s just my experience of weight loss.

    I share in the hope that my experience will help you to feel like you are moving in the right direction 😀

    You say you are always hungry. I am not in a good position to tell you how many calories you should be eating, but you are a lot taller than me so maybe it should be a bit higher than 1200? Also, maybe try exploring what types of food fill you up vs which leave you ravenous. I know that for me it’s not how many calories I eat that dictates whether I am hungry, it’s what I chose to allocate them to that makes the difference.

    Good luck on your journey.
  • AndreaTamiraAndreaTamira Member, Premium Posts: 111 Member Member, Premium Posts: 111 Member

    Another one I often see for some reason. is grossly over calculated burns for elliptical.

    I don't know why, but the automatic number MFP gives me for using the elliptical is ridiculous, even if I am still quite fat. The machine itself estimates I burned about half of that and it knows my weight and age, too. - while I am not sure how accurate the machine's estimate is, it seems more reasonable. Maybe some people use elliptical without fancy display, though, or trust MFP's estimations more then the machine.

    edited November 21
  • AnnPT77AnnPT77 Member, Premium Posts: 17,085 Member Member, Premium Posts: 17,085 Member
    kshama2001 wrote: »
    Hi both, thanks for the input. I do weigh my food, down to the gram (as in, zero cheating by sneaking an extra noodle or cheeky half cup of whatever). I definitely feel like I’m in a deficit... to be honest, I’m constantly hungry or thinking about food, wake up in the night with hunger pangs and am probably more weight loss obsessed than is “healthy”.

    Anyway thank you both so much. I’ll review and see if I can find any I consistencies, etc. Lots of love and health to you!

    At 5'8" and 1200 calories, sounds like you are undereating, which is stressful, which can raise cortisol, which can lead to water retention, which can mask fat loss.

    When's the last time you had a diet break?

    Does the following resonate with you?

    http://www.bodyrecomposition.com/research-review/dietary-restraint-and-cortisol-levels-research-review.html/

    ...a group of women who scored higher on dietary restraint scores showed elevated baseline cortisol levels. By itself this might not be problematic, but as often as not, these types of dieters are drawn to extreme approaches to dieting.

    They throw in a lot of intense exercise, try to cut calories very hard (and this often backfires if disinhibition is high; when these folks break they break) and cortisol levels go through the roof. That often causes cortisol mediated water retention (there are other mechanisms for this, mind you, leptin actually inhibits cortisol release and as it drops on a diet, cortisol levels go up further). Weight and fat loss appear to have stopped or at least slowed significantly. This is compounded even further in female dieters due to the vagaries of their menstrual cycle where water balance is changing enormously week to week anyhow.

    And invariably, this type of psychology responds to the stall by going even harder. They attempt to cut calories harder, they start doing more activity. The cycle continues and gets worse. Harder dieting means more cortisol means more water retention means more dieting. Which backfires (other problems come in the long-term with this approach but you’ll have to wait for the book to read about that).

    When what they should do is take a day or two off (even one day off from training, at least in men, lets cortisol drop significantly). Raise calories, especially from carbohydrates. This helps cortisol to drop. More than that they need to find a way to freaking chill out. Meditation, yoga, get a massage... Get in the bath, candles, a little Enya, a glass of wine, have some you-time but please just chill.

    QFT.

    Also, this is a good article specifically about the question you asked, thoughts about the 1200 calorie diet:

    https://www.aworkoutroutine.com/1200-calorie-diet/

    Also, FWIW, 1200 (plus all carefully estimated exercise calories) was seriously too low for me, when I joined MFP in July 2015 at 5'5", 150-something pounds, age 59, hypothyroid (treated), sedentary outside of exercise. I admit I'm mysteriously a good li'l ol' calorie burner, but that does tend to discount the idea that *all* older, sedentary, non-obese, not-super-tall women need to eat 1200 calories in order to lose weight. I've been losing a few vanity pounds ultra-slowly (by intention) here in year 5+ of maintenance, and am down 12+ pounds nearly painlessly over the past year, at 1850 calories plus exercise, with some much higher calorie days thrown in there very occasionally (that was from upper 130s pounds to mid 120s, still sedentary, and now age 65).

    Do some people need to eat as low as 1200 to lose? Sure. People in your demographic, OP? Not so much, typically.

    I'd bet on some combination of logging issues (maybe the exercise part?), with a strong contribution from stress-related creeping water retention.
  • b120in2021b120in2021 Member Posts: 14 Member Member Posts: 14 Member
    I'm a 5'6" woman and I exercise most days. I couldn't last very long on a 1200 calorie a day diet. I'd be climbing the walls.
  • Jacq_quiJacq_qui Member Posts: 304 Member Member Posts: 304 Member
    kshama2001 wrote: »
    Hi both, thanks for the input. I do weigh my food, down to the gram (as in, zero cheating by sneaking an extra noodle or cheeky half cup of whatever). I definitely feel like I’m in a deficit... to be honest, I’m constantly hungry or thinking about food, wake up in the night with hunger pangs and am probably more weight loss obsessed than is “healthy”.

    Anyway thank you both so much. I’ll review and see if I can find any I consistencies, etc. Lots of love and health to you!

    At 5'8" and 1200 calories, sounds like you are undereating, which is stressful, which can raise cortisol, which can lead to water retention, which can mask fat loss.

    When's the last time you had a diet break?

    Does the following resonate with you?

    http://www.bodyrecomposition.com/research-review/dietary-restraint-and-cortisol-levels-research-review.html/

    ...a group of women who scored higher on dietary restraint scores showed elevated baseline cortisol levels. By itself this might not be problematic, but as often as not, these types of dieters are drawn to extreme approaches to dieting.

    They throw in a lot of intense exercise, try to cut calories very hard (and this often backfires if disinhibition is high; when these folks break they break) and cortisol levels go through the roof. That often causes cortisol mediated water retention (there are other mechanisms for this, mind you, leptin actually inhibits cortisol release and as it drops on a diet, cortisol levels go up further). Weight and fat loss appear to have stopped or at least slowed significantly. This is compounded even further in female dieters due to the vagaries of their menstrual cycle where water balance is changing enormously week to week anyhow.

    And invariably, this type of psychology responds to the stall by going even harder. They attempt to cut calories harder, they start doing more activity. The cycle continues and gets worse. Harder dieting means more cortisol means more water retention means more dieting. Which backfires (other problems come in the long-term with this approach but you’ll have to wait for the book to read about that).

    When what they should do is take a day or two off (even one day off from training, at least in men, lets cortisol drop significantly). Raise calories, especially from carbohydrates. This helps cortisol to drop. More than that they need to find a way to freaking chill out. Meditation, yoga, get a massage... Get in the bath, candles, a little Enya, a glass of wine, have some you-time but please just chill.

    Wow this really resonated with me. This pretty much describes me from September up to last week. The less I lost, the more I worked out, walked, lifted, whatever. When I started gaining, I ate less and my weight basically went up, and my stress levels went through the roof. (I've unlinked my fitbit and I'm eating nearly all my exercise cals back now)
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