1200 Calorie Diet Review: Does It Work for Weight Loss? (2024)

Some people follow a 1,200-calorie diet plan to promote fat loss and reach their goal weight as quickly as possible.

While it's true that cutting calories is an effective way to lose weight, research shows that cutting calorie intake too drastically is not good for long-term health or weight loss.

This article discusses 1,200-calorie diets and addresses the potential pros and cons associated with low-calorie eating patterns.

1200 Calorie Diet Review: Does It Work for Weight Loss? (1)Share on Pinterest

A 1200 calorie diet is a restrictive way of eatingnumber of daily caloriesyou use up to 1,200. This diet is considered a low-calorie diet because it contains significantly fewer calories than most adults need to maintain their weight.

Many health professionals, including doctors and dietitians, prescribe low-calorie diets as a weight loss strategy.

A common recommendation for weight loss is to reduce caloric intake by 500-750 calories per day. This typically amounts to a low-calorie diet of 1,200 to 1,500 calories per day for adult women and 1,500 to 1,800 calories per day for adult men.1).

Keep in mind that 1,200 calories is on the low end of the recommended low-calorie diet for women.

Some researchers categorize low-calorie diets as eating patterns that provide 800 to 1,200 calories per day, while very low-calorie diets are categorized as diets that provide less than 800 calories per day (2,3).

These diets are typically followed for short periods of weeks to months to promote themfast weight loss.

Low-calorie and very low-calorie diets are often used in medically supervised clinical settings such as weight loss centers, but they are also popular with the general public.

Many weight loss coaches, personal trainers, and popular diet websites offer 1,200-calorie meal plans that promise that following a 1,200-calorie diet will help you "lose weight fast."

These diets typically promote the use of 'low-calorie', 'fat-free' and 'low-fat' foods to keep calorie intake low, and usually involve calorie counting so dieters ensure they stay under their daily limit.

While a 1,200-calorie diet may be appropriate in the short-term in certain situations, 1,200 calories is far too little for most adults.

Additionally, studies show that low-calorie diets rarely work for long-term weight loss, even though you may experience rapid weight loss when you drastically reduce your calorie intake (4,5).

Creation of acalorie deficitis necessary for weight loss. Reducing calories by 500 to 750 calories per day, as some health professionals recommend, will likely promote weight loss, at least in the short term.

Many studies have shown that following a low-calorie diet, including 1,200 calories, can promote weight loss.

For example, a study of 2,093 obese people found that a medically supervised 1,200-calorie meal replacement diet resulted in an average fat loss of 4.7% over 12 months (6).

In another study, adults followed a commercial weight loss program that provided 500, 1,200-1,500, or 1,500-1,800 calories per day.

After a year, those who ate 1,200-1,500 calories per day experienced an average weight loss of 15 pounds (6.8 kg). But 23% of the 4,588 people who followed the 1,200-calorie diet dropped out of the study (7).

Research has shown that although initial weight loss when using low-calorie diets, such as 1,200-calorie diets, is usually rapid and significant, it is often followed by more weight loss.weight again, compared to diets with only moderate calorie restriction.

In the commercial weight loss study mentioned above, researchers found that rapid weight loss during the first three months was associated with greater recovery during the nine-month maintenance phase of weight loss in all three diet groups.7).

Another study of 57 overweight or obese people noted that after following a very low calorie diet of 500 calories for 5 weeks or a low calorie diet of 1250 for 12 weeks, study participants regained an average of 50% of the weight they they had lost in 10 months (8).

This is because low-calorie diets induce metabolic changes that conserve energy and prevent weight loss, including increased appetite, loss of lean mass, and reduction in calories burned, all of which make long-term weight maintenance difficult (9,10,11).

This has led many health experts to recommend eating patterns that use only small reductions in calorie intake to promote weight loss, while minimizing the negative metabolic adaptations associated with low-calorie diets (12).

Following a 1,200-calorie diet may provide some health benefits, but it's important to note that these benefits are related to calorie restriction in general and are not specific to 1,200-calorie meal plans.

Regularly consuming more calories than your body needs can lead to many effects, including:weight gainincreased risk factors for heart disease and diabetes (13).

Consuming the right number of calories is essential for the overall health and well-being of your body.

Many studies have shown that calorie reduction can benefit overall health by promoting weight loss, reducing risk factors for heart disease such as LDL (bad) cholesterol, and reducing blood sugar levels and inflammation (14,15,16,17,18,19).

There is no doubt that losing excess body weight has positive health effects and that it is best for your body to stay within your individual calorie needs.

But the methods used to promote weight loss are important. Consuming very few calories is strongly associated with a greater likelihood of weight gain over time.

Although losing excess body weight can benefit your overall health, it is important to choose healthy,sustainable weight lossmethods over more extreme dietary patterns.

Note that some studies have shown that moderately or severely overweight people who follow a low- or very low-calorie diet under medical supervision lose weight and improve their blood sugar and lipid profiles, which can improve overall health (20).

However, these diets are typically followed for short periods of time and are usually associated with high dropout rates due to their restrictive nature.

Nevertheless, if you are interested in following a low-calorie diet to lose weight, it is important to speak to a qualified healthcare provider for advice.

Calorie needs are highly individualized. They depend on many factors, including body size, age and activity level. A 1,200 calorie diet is not suitable for most adults.

Although calorie needs vary from person to person and exact needs can only be determined using specific equipment or calculations, the average adult woman needs about 2,000 calories per day to maintain weight, while an adult man needs about 2,500 .21,22).

Again, these numbers are just averages. They do not reflect the differences in calorie needs due to factors such as age, activity level and height. However, these estimates give you an idea of ​​how low 1,200 calories are.

A 1200 calorie diet is far too low for most people. It can cause negative side effects such as dizziness, extreme hunger, nausea, micronutrient deficiencies, fatigue, headaches, and gallstones (23).

Additionally, a 1,200-calorie diet may set you up for failure if long-term weight loss is your goal.

Restricting caloriesleading to metabolic changes in your body. These include an increase in hormones like ghrelin and cortisol, which cause hunger, as well as a decrease in resting metabolic rate (RMR), or the calories you burn while at rest (12,24).

This leads to greater chances of gaining weight over time, as well as a cycle of repeated periods of weight loss followed by weight gain, often leading to feelings of despair.

Weight cycling is harmful to mental health. Research has shown that repeated dieting and weight cycling can put strain on the heart and lead to a higher risk of eating disorders, type 2 diabetes, and even death (25,26).

Often people who want to lose weight choose a diet based on how quickly they can produce the results they want. However, it is important to consider the long-term health consequences of restricting calories.

Although choosing a restrictive, low-calorie diet that supplies well below your daily calorie needs will likely lead to rapid weight loss, keep in mind that some of that weight loss will come in the form of muscle mass. Muscle loss and othersmetabolic adjustmentscan lower your RMR (12).

Large calorie deficits not only lead to adverse changes that make it more difficult to lose weight, but can also have serious consequences for your emotional well-being.

Most research suggests that diets don't work. Instead, using healthier, less extreme weight loss methods is a better choice to support weight loss and weight loss over time.

For example, instead of limiting your intake to 1,200 calories (which usually involves a lot of calorie counting, which can be time-consuming), try some of the following evidence-based, sustainable weight loss tips:

  • Eat whole foods:Prioritize whole foods, including vegetables, fruits, beans, fish, nuts, seeds and eggs. Whole foods are packed with fiber, protein and healthy fats that your body needs to thrive.
  • Limit or avoid added sugars:Reduces youradded sugar intakeis a healthy way to promote weight loss. Common foods high in sugar include soda, pastries, ice cream, candy, and breakfast cereal (27).
  • Make more meals at home:Limit or avoid takeout, restaurants and fast food, and cook more meals at home. People who prepare more meals at home tend to weigh less and have healthier diets than those who eat more away from home (28).
  • Increase daily activity:One of the best ways to promote healthy, sustainable weight loss is to create a calorie deficitincrease the number of calories you burn. Try adding daily walks outside, taking fitness classes, or going to a gym (29).
  • Work with an expert healthcare provider:Weight loss can be scary and stressful. An expert dietitian or other qualified healthcare provider can help you lose weight in a sustainable and affordable way.

Although it may take longer to lose weight through healthy, sustainable nutritional interventions, it reduces the adverse adaptations that occur in the body during extreme calorie restriction. It can also help increase your chances of preventing weight loss.

A 1,200-calorie diet is a low-calorie eating pattern that typically involves counting calories and eating low-calorie foods to promote rapid weight loss.

Although a 1,200-calorie diet will likely promote rapid weight loss in the short term, metabolic adjustments that occur during calorie restriction make long-term weight maintenance extremely difficult.

Additionally, 1,200 calories is well below the average number of calories most adults need to fuel their bodies.

Although diets that contain 1,200 calories or less are a popular means of losing weight, it is better for your overall health to choose a diet that fuels your body in a healthy way and promotes slow but sustainable weight loss that you can last your entire life.

1200 Calorie Diet Review: Does It Work for Weight Loss? (2024)


Can you eat anything on a 1200 calorie diet and still lose weight? ›

You can lose weight eating any kind of food there is. It's entirely a matter of a sustained calorie deficit. 1,200 calories is too low for just about anybody. If you're small enough to safely eat that little food then you aren't overweight.

How much weight will I lose if I eat 1200 cal a day? ›

To calculate your weight-maintenance calories, multiply your weight by 15. If 1,200 calories a day is more than 500 calories lower than your weight-maintenance calories, you can expect to lose more than 1 to 2 pounds per week.

Is 1200 calories enough to lose weight? ›

The 1200-calorie diet is geared toward women. Men's bodies require a higher caloric intake. This means that a typical woman can eat between 1200 and 1500 calories a day to lose weight. A typical male body needs about 1500 to 1800 calories daily to lose weight.

How long will it take to lose 15 pounds on a 1200 calorie diet? ›

After 1 year, those eating 1,200–1,500 calories per day experienced an average weight loss of 15 pounds (6.8 kilograms). However, 23% of the 4,588 people following the 1,200-calorie diet dropped out of the study ( 7 ).

Why am I not losing weight on a 1200 calorie diet? ›

If you're not losing weight despite following a 1200 calorie diet, it could be for any number of reasons. You might be underestimating how many calories you consume, the scale might be masking fat loss or you could be eating the calories you burn from exercise.

Will the body go into starvation mode at 1200 calories? ›

It is often repeated that adults require at least 1,200 calories per day for basic bodily functions and to stay out of starvation mode, but that is a low amount. It is not necessarily healthy.

How long will it take to lose 30 pounds eating 1200 calories a day? ›

For example, it would take one 3 to 6 months on average to lose 30 pounds on a 1200 calorie diet. It is based on CDC; one can lose 1 to 2 pounds per week on average.

How long will it take to lose 20 pounds? ›

That said, many healthy weight-loss guidelines say you should aim to lose one or two pounds per week (whether you have five or 50 pounds to lose), that means it could take anywhere from 10 to 20 weeks to lose 20 pounds.

How long will it take to lose 40 pounds on a 1200 calorie diet? ›

1 pound of fat is equal to 3,500 calories. Doing a simple math for a 2 pound shed per week, you have to cut your calorie intake of 1000 calories per day. With that pace, you will be healthily losing 40 pounds in around 4-5 months.

What happens if you eat 1200 calories for a month? ›

Whilst the 1200 calorie diet can help you to lose weight fast, extending it past 2-4 weeks can often result in more harm than good. Over-restricting and under-nourishing yourself with a low calorie diet can often leave you feeling depleted of energy, fatigued and unable to get through your day.

Is counting carbs or calories better? ›

Eating processed carbohydrates such as white bread, white rice, potato products, and sugar can drive up insulin levels in the body and lead to weight gain.

What is the minimum calories to lose weight? ›

In order to lose at least a pound a week, try to do at least 30 minutes of physical activity on most days, and reduce your daily calorie intake by at least 500 calories. However, calorie intake should not fall below 1,200 a day in women or 1,500 a day in men, except under the supervision of a health professional.

How did Kelly Clarkson lose all her weight? ›

In an exclusive interview with People, she revealed that she's lost weight because she's now taking her wellness seriously and walking more. She's never shared whether she has a gym routine but said “Walking in the city is quite the workout."

Can I lose 25 pounds in a month? ›

While it's possible to drop a lot of weight in one month, we don't recommend it. Anything over 8 pounds is likely water weight that you'll gain back. Crash dieting leads to gaining more weight long-term and slows your metabolism.

How to lose 50 pounds in 3 months? ›

To lose 50 pounds in three months, you will need to create a weekly calorie deficit of at least 14,000 calories, in order to lose about four pounds a week. That means you will need to create a 2,000 calorie daily deficit.

How long will it take to lose 50 pounds on a 1200 calorie diet? ›

Although you'd need 50 weeks, or close to a year, to reach your goal of 50 pounds, 1 pound per week is a reasonable rate of weight loss. Organizations such as the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute suggest that 1 to 2 pounds per week is a reasonable rate of weight loss.

What food can I eat for 1200 calories a day? ›

Traditional American Cuisine: 1,200 Calories
DinnerEnergy (Kcal)Exchange for:
Baked potato, ¾ med.100(1 Bread/Starch)
Margarine, 1 tsp34(1 Fat)
Green beans, seasoned with margarine, ½ C52(1 Vegetable) (½ Fat)
Carrots, seasoned35(1 Vegetable)
6 more rows

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