Skip to main content

How to Lose Weight by Calorie Counting


Basic Weight Loss Principle

Before you even start trying to lose weight, you need to know a few important weight loss principles.

  1. One pound of body fat is equivalent to 3,500 calories.
  2. To lose weight, calories in (food and drinks) must be less than calories out (burned). (You need a caloric deficit)

Calorie Counting

Calorie counting is all about the numbers.

  • The number of pound you want to lose.
  • The number of days you plan to lose it in.
  • The number of calorie deficit needed to lose the weight.
  • The number of calories you are eating.
  • The number of calories you are burning.
  • The number of calories you need.
  • The number of net calories you have consumed in a day.

Daily Calories Needed

Calories are needed for our survival. It is possible to not have enough calories. You cannot just starve yourself and expect to lose weight. If you do not eat enough, your body will shut down and you will not lose weight. Even if you slept all day long, your body would still burn calories to keep your body functioning. Just while sleeping, I burn around 53 calories per hour. So, if I slept all day I would still need 1272 calories to maintain my weight.

The General Rule is:

For women, your minimum caloric requirement is 1200 calories. For men, your minimum caloric requirement is 1500 calories.

Calorie Deficit Needed to Lose Weight

For every 3500 calories above what you need that you consume, you will typically gain one pound. So, it follows that to lose 1 pound of fat, you will need to burn 3500 calories more than you eat. You can create a caloric deficit by increasing your calories out or decreasing your calories in.

If your goal is to lose 1 pound per week, then your daily caloric deficit needs to be around 500. If your goal is to lose 100 pounds in a year, your daily caloric deficit needs to be around 960.

When deciding on your caloric deficit, you need to keep in mind the minimum amount of calories your body needs to function. Do not go below this.

The best rule to follow in creating your caloric deficit is to not make it larger that 20% or the calories needed to maintain your weight. This accounts for heavier people being able to lose more weight than lighter people. The 20% rule also keeps the weight loss slow and steady and more likely to stay gone. This is the healthiest rate of weight loss.

For Example:

If you are a 5 foot 5, 300 pound, 25 year old woman who is not active, you need 2,531 calories per day to maintain your weight. Therefore, you can safely reduce your calories to 2,025 and expect to lose 1.01 pounds per week.

If you are a 5 foot 5, 120 pound, 25 year old woman who is not active, you need 1550 calories per day to maintain your weight. Therefore, you can safely reduce your calories to 1240 and expect to lose 0.62 pounds per week.

Scroll to Continue

Calorie Counting Tools

When your counting calories, you need to keep of calories in and calories out. For the most success, you need to be as accurate as possible. For calories in, you need to count every single thing you put into your body. For calories out, you can either use the numbers given for your particular activity level or track each and every activity you do. Most people over or underestimate their activity level, so I suggest tracking everything.

There are tons and tons of apps and websites to track your calories. But, some of the most popular are:

Calorie Counting Is not a Perfect Science

Don't get discouraged if you do not lose exactly the amount of weight that your calculations say you should be losing. The math isn't the only thing to consider in calorie counting. Sometimes, there are factors that you can't put into a perfect little equation. Sometimes your body just doesn't respond well. Stay focused and keep working at it and it will eventually pay off.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2013 Megan Garcia


Megan Garcia (author) from Florida on January 14, 2013:

alcosin - I've always had a thing for Calorie Count. But they seem to be a lot alike.

Aurelio Locsin from Orange County, CA on January 14, 2013:

Sensible advice and here's a vote for MyFitnessPal, which I think is the best of the free calorie websites. Voting this Up and Useful.

Megan Garcia (author) from Florida on January 08, 2013:

Thanks for the tip. I'll will do that.

Dr. Ben Griffes from Southern California on January 08, 2013:

Great job explaining the "calorie in - calorie out" principle. I have found it useful, however, to reread and edit my writing :)

Related Articles