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How Many Calories Should You Eat for Weight Loss?

black woman with salad

If you’re on this post, there’s a good chance that you already know these two things:

1. That you need to eat healthy

2. Which foods are healthy and which ones are not so healthy

BUT you may not have the answer to how many calories you should eat for breakfast or lunch.

Whether you are trying to lose, gain, or maintain, knowing the number of calories you should eat is important for you to hit your goals. Here are some tips that you need to help you find your magic number.

1. Find Your BMR

Your BMR (not to be confused with BMI) is your basal metabolic rate. What is it and why is this important? Well, your BMR is the number of calories your body needs to function when it is at rest, like the deepest sleep ever type of rest.

It’s easy to overlook the fact that our bodies are always burning calories, even while we are binge watching our favorite shows like Insecure. Finding your BMR will give you a baseline of how many calories your body needs at rest to maintain it’s current weight and function.

Here’s an example of what a BMR result would look like for full-time mom and wife, Stacey:

Age: 36 years

Height: 5’6”

Weight: 200 lbs

Stacey’s BMR is 1619 calories when she is in the deepest sleep of her life.

Since your activity levels vary from one day to the next, the number of calories you need will vary from day-to-day as well. Remember, the BMR is the bare minimum amount of calories your body needs to carry our it’s function at rest.

So, how many calories do you need when you’re not sleeping?

Let’s take a look a Stacey again:

Remember, Stacey’s BMR is 1619 calories when she's asleep.

If Stacey binge watches Insecure all day (Sedentary), she needs 1943 calories to maintain her current weight and bodily functions.

If Stacey’s goes for a 30-minute walk (Light Exercise), she needs 2225 calories to maintain her current weight and bodily functions.

As you can see, your body needs a larger amount of calories to maintain its current weight when your activity levels increase.

But what about when you want to lose weight?

2. How to Lose Weight Using Your BMR

We’ve all heard that if want to lose weight, you have to put out (burn) more than you put in (eat). There is some truth to that statement.

But how much should you be putting in? Your BMR is a great place to start with figuring that out.

Let’s look at Stacey again:

Stacey wants to lose 1 pound a week, 4 pounds a month.

She plans to go on a 30-minute walk 4 times a week and she binge watch This is Us on the other 3 days.

How many calories does she need to eat to achieve her weight loss goals?

Stacey should eat about 500 calories less than what she needs to hit her weekly goal. In theory, a deficit of 3500 calories a week equals 1 pound.

Stacey needs 2225 calories to maintain her weight if she if she does a 30-minute walk. If she wants to lose 1 pound per week, she should eat 1725 calories.

Stacey needs 1943 calories to maintain her weight to binge watch This is Us. If she wants to lose 1 pound per week, she should eat 1443 calories to stay on target with her goals.

If Stacey wanted to gain 1 pound per week, she would add 500 instead of subtract calories a day.

Using a BMR calculator is one the quickest ways to get an idea of what your BMR is. Most BMR calculators will have you enter your age, gender, height, and weight. These factors are utilized to calculate your BMR.

Many of the BMR calculators include an option for you select what type of lifestyle you have such as sedentary or lightly, moderately, and extremely active.

Smart watches like the Fitbit Versa or Apple Watch, can give you a pretty accurate BMR because they utilize your heart rate to calculate the number of calories you burn.

3. Don’t Under Eat

As tempting as it may, under eating will not help you reach your weight loss goals any faster. In fact, it may do quite the opposite.

Some health professionals advise that you should not eat less calories than your BMR. While others believe that 1200 calories a day is the lowest number of calories you should eat.

The U.S. Department of Human Services Dietary Guidelines estimate that the caloric needs for an adult woman is between 1800 to 2400 calories.

Discussing your dietary needs with a dietician or licensed nutritionist will help you decide what your body needs to hit your health and weight loss goals.

Journaling your food intake with a food diary like the, I Got This Food and Feelings Journal will help you stay on track with achieving your goals.

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