When it comes to dieting it’s really all in the maths. If you eat more calories than you can burn during the day that means you will start to gain weight (body fat) and vice versa – if you eat less than your body burns per day you will start to lose weight. If you eat just about the right amount of calories (so called maintenance calorie intake) you will neither lose or gain weight – you will maintain your weight. That’s the basic of dieting. It really can’t get simpler.
So, why the body stores excessive calories (something we wished it didn’t do)? Your body will store the excessive energy obtained from food in form of body fat for later use. That’s something your body does by design. You can’t go against that. Why the body does that? It’s most probably because not so long ago (when we were hunters), food wasn’t available every day. When it was available (after a successful hunt) it was available in large quantities for a limited time so the body needed to make some reserve for the upcoming days without food. Makes sense. Today, organism still hasn’t fully adapted to a modern pace of life where food is (mostly) available every day in excessive amounts and still stores the excessive calories as reserve.
Back to the question if 1200 calorie diet is a healthy choice. First of all (before you start dieting), you need to know what is your daily calorie consumption. How can you find out / calculate that? It’s basically pretty simple. Your metabolism needs a certain amount of calories every day just to function properly. This is called BMR (basal metabolic rate). Breathing, thinking, keeping your body warm requires energy. That’s BMR and then there’s your daily expenditure because of activities you perform, walking, cycling, jogging, etc. All summed up together is your daily calorie expenditure.
How To Check Your BMR?
For example: if your BMR is 1500 calories and you went running today (30 minutes at a steady pace; that’s about 300 calories), your daily calorie expenditure is about 1800 calories (better add 10% to that as the numbers are never that accurate – so your daily calorie consumption is about 2000 calories). Now if you will eat more than 2000 calories that day you will start to gain weight and vice versa – you will lose weight if you ate less than 2000 calories that day. Please note that these numbers are mere assumptions, just to make an example. You can calculate your own BMR using this BMR calculator to find out how much your body burns every day, without moving a muscle (except the heart and lungs).
You’re probably asking yourself – how much under my daily calorie expenditure can I go? Basically, the less calories you eat per day the more effective the diet is – the bigger the cut the more fat you lose. Why? Because if your body doesn’t get enough calories per day from food it needs to provide the missing calories from stored fat. Which is the intent. But be careful – a really low daily calorie intake can backfire.
If you are providing your body much less calories than it needs for an extended period of time this will have a negative impact on your metabolism – it will slow down dramatically. Also, you will have no energy to perform daily activities. So, a 1200 calorie diet might be suitable for persons who’s daily calorie expenditure is about 1500 calories per day (a 20% off of 1500 calories is 1200 calories). A recommended daily calorie deficit is 10-20% off your daily calorie expenditure. This way you will lose weight in a healthy way and you will not hand brake your metabolism.