Why You Shouldn't Eat A 1200 Calorie Diet - StrongLife

Why You Shouldn’t Eat A 1200 Calorie Diet


Let’s talk about dieting and low calorie diets.

You want to lose weight so you can reclaim your confidence, feel good in the summer sun and be healthy.

You’ve heard us all go on about MyFitnessPal and to track your food at the beginning of your diet.

But you download the app and suddenly it tells you that you should only eat 1200 calories a day.

You try it and start to pull your hair out.

You’re now having some air and water for lunch because your breakfast was 400 calories.

Before bed, you cry into the mirror as you’ve gone 15 calories over.

Your tears suddenly add 10 more calories.

“To hell with dieiting! I’ll just stay fat!” you say to yourself as you hug your pillow while your belly rumbles in hunger.

Dieting is a pain in the ass.

But it doesn’t have to be.

Respecting Energy Balance

The main reason why us coaches harp on about calories so much is because they’re the sole determinant on whether or not you lose weight.

To gain weight, you must consume more calories than you expend.

To lose weight, you must consume fewer calories than you expend.

You’ve probably heard the phrase “Calorie f*cking Deficit” bandied by a certain Instagrammer.

When we talk about Calorie Deficits, we merely mean that your energy intake is less than what you expend.

That can come in the form of restricting your energy intake, increasing your activity levels or a combination of both.

So looking in a simplistic sense, running any kind of calorie deficit should be good, right?

Well not if you go too low.

Because too many clients come to me struggling with weight loss yet saying they’re on a 1200 kcal diet.

So there’s some caveats.

Why You Shouldn’t Eat A 1200 Calorie Diet

First of all, let’s talk about your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR).

In simple terms, your BMR is the amount of energy you need to simply function at rest.

If you lay in bed for a day, you still need energy for your heart, lungs, muscles, nervous systems etc to function.

It’s why if you starve yourself you will eventually die because you no longer have fuel for your body to function.

Think of it like leaving your car running,

It still needs fuel to run even though it’s not moving.

So unless you’re a 5′ 2″, 8 stone girl, you’ll need more than 1200kcals to function.

And straight away, that rules out quite a few girls reading this, yet may find themselves going super low on the calories.

The problem with super low calorie diets are two-fold:

1. You go super low calorie during the week only to blow out in extraordinary fashion at weekends.

You’ve restricted yourself so hard all week that the second you taste something enjoyable you go to town on it.

2. You eat low calorie for an extended period of time but end up feeling like crap.

The reason being is this – your body is smart.

If you go low calorie for an extended period of time, then your body is going to adapt to ensure survival.

It may down-regulate metabolism, thyroid function, hormones and even activity levels.

You will feel lethargic, not want to exercise and can suffer from concentration issues.

You’re eating very little but also not losing anything.

Because overall, you’ve become much less active due to your body protecting it’s vital functions by reducing some of the non-vital functions.


When it comes to any diet, it is a period of restriction so there will be some level of discomfort.

But you don’t want to diet to the point where you feel like crap and can’t perform well.

That’s not a sustainable solution.

And it can lead to a rebound in weight once you abandon the diet.

Other Factors To Account For In Your Calorie Intake

So we’ve covered BMR.

But there’s 2 other factors too.

TDEE – Total Daily Energy Expenditure.

So on top of your BMR, you must also consider how much exercise you do per week.

Sports, gym, classes, running etc all burn energy which need to be accounted for in your calorie intake.

NEAT – Non- Exercise Activity Thermogenesis.

This is one that people generally miss out on.

It’s all the non-exercise activity in your day.

It can range from housework, walking to the car and goes as far as fidgeting at your desk or when watching TV.

NEAT is a tricky one as it is highly variable between individuals.

You probably know that one person who’s always skinny because they literally cannot sit still.

Your Calories Need To Match Your Movement

If you move lots, play sports or exercise multiple times per week, then you WILL need a higher calorie intake, even if looking to create a deficit.

But if you sit at a desk all day, only hit the gym twice a week for an hour and don’t really do much else, then you WILL need a lower intake.

When it comes to energy intake, it will come down to the individual and their lifestyle.

But unless you’re very light and don’t move much, you shouldn’t be eating a 1200kcal diet.

A simple rule of thumb if looking to lose weight is to take your bodyweight in lbs and multiply by 12.

(As per Precision Nutrition).

So if you’re currently 10 stone (140lbs) your daily energy intake will be 1,680kcals.

But that’s not set in stone.

You will need to start with that, run with it for 2 weeks and assess your weight/body measurements.

Adjustments can then be made depending on rate of progress and dieting period duration.

Once again, it will vary depending on the individual.

Take Away Points

Funny how I’m finishing a calorie article with “Take Away” as a heading.

Ok so here’s some quick observations to ensure you see progress.

  1. Be honest with yourself  – if you overate, binged on junk etc then you need to own up to it and address it. Don’t abandon ship.
  2. Work on your discipline – everyone can diet Monday to Friday but if you throw in the towel as soon as your friends ask to go for dinner and drinks then it’s going to be a slow process. Build discipline. You can still enjoy those social occasions but just look to make better choices.
  3. Not losing weight? Then you’re not in a calorie deficit. There’s calories sneaking in there somewhere. Look out for stuff like oils, nut butters, butter, liquid calories. Misreporting is a major reason why people struggle to see progress.


So don’t go following a 1200kcal diet unless it’s specifically prescribed to you and you’re under supervision.

You can lose weight by eating a bit more and you’ll feel better in both the gym and your own life.

Weight loss doesn’t have to mean misery, but it does mean you need to be consistent.

Keep working on it, look at ways you can tweak your diet and keep up the good work.

It’ll be worth it in the long run.



P.s. If you’re a lady who wants to become healthier, happier and more confident, you can grab a copy of my book right here:

Unleash Your Bad B*tch – The Anti-Influencer Guide To Losing Weight, Building Confidence and Loving Life

Colm Duignan

Colm Duignan

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