Safely Reducing Your Calorie Intake for Weight Loss

Safely Reducing Your Calorie Intake for Weight Loss


Hi, I wanted to ask a question about dieting. What is the lowest number of daily calories for an adult woman (34 years old, 5’6”, 140 lbs.) that is safe but will also allow for weight loss? I’ve been even eating 1,200 or so per day, but I’m not sure if that’s accurate. Thanks!

– Jess S.


First off, 140 pounds for a height of 5’6” makes your BMI 22.6, within a healthy range (18.5-24.9). In general terms, 1,200 calories for women and ,1500 calories for men have long been used as minimum recommended intake levels. Even at these amounts it’s difficult to meet vitamin and mineral requirements unless one’s diet is exceptionally nutrient-rich and balanced. 

Using personalized estimates based on standardized equations is more predictive of actual needs. Using your age, height, weight and gender, your calculated base energy requirement, called basal metabolic rate (BMR), is 1,352-1,376 calories daily*. Your body composition, genetics and physiology, among other factors, determine your true metabolic rate which may be higher or lower than estimated. 

It’s not advised to reduce intake to BMR minimum very long for successful fat loss. Restricting intake to that level creates such an energy deficit that lean mass starts to break down for fuel. The scale may show a weight drop – often significant – from the water released as stored glycogen is used to fill the energy gap. Neither of these conditions foster fat burning or improve body composition.  

My best advice is to increase physical activity which will help retain lean mass and allow you to get sufficient nutrients from a more generous diet. There’s a lot of nutrition you can pack into 150 calories of wholesome foods. A yogurt parfait or bowl of crunchy popcorn is worth a half hour of dancing, recreational biking or swimming in my book! 

*based on MifflinSt. Jeor and WHO equations. 

Suggested further reading: 

Resting Metabolic Rate: Best Ways to Measure It – And Raise It, Too 

Calories Burned in 30 Minutes For People of Three Different Weights 

– Debbie J., MS, RD

This article should not replace any exercise program or restrictions, any dietary supplements or restrictions, or any other medical recommendations from your primary care physician. Before starting any exercise program or diet, make sure it is approved by your doctor.

Some questions have been edited for length and/or clarity.

Ask our Dietitian

Have a nutrition question? Our registered dietitian is ready to help!

Email or submit your question below and it may be featured in an upcoming article!

13 + 15 =

Recommended Reading - Q+A

Fruits and Veggies – Part 2 – Podcast Ep. 32

Fruits and Veggies – Part 2 – Podcast Ep. 32

Welcome to the 32nd episode of the Living Healthy podcast, presented by LA Fitness.

On this episode of the Living Healthy Podcast, we continue our discussion with Debbie James, RDN, to dish out the details on super-fruits and veggies. We talk about how to incorporate more into your daily diet, whether they can help you bulk up or trim down, and how you can actually alter your taste buds so they taste better!

Listen in now!

How Are We Doing? 

This podcast should not replace any exercise program or restrictions, any dietary supplements or restrictions, or any other medical recommendations from your primary care physician. Before starting any exercise program or diet, make sure it is approved by your doctor.

Timecard Markers – Fruits and Veggies, Part 2 – Podcast Ep. 32   



Brittany’s Story 


Jumping into Part 2 with Debbie James, RDN 


Are There Certain Fruits/Veggies That Help You Bulk Up or Lose Weight? 


Is it Better to Eat Locally Sourced Fruits and Veggies? 


Is There a Better Time of Day to Eat Fruits and Veggies to Bulk Up? 


Which Ones Are the Super-Fruits and Super-Veggies? 


Can You Change Your Taste buds to Like Veggies? 


Are There Any Tips to Get Kids to Eat Veggies? 


Cooking with Olive Oil versus Coconut Oil 


Does Juicing Hold Long-Term Benefits? 


Actionable Advice 




Recommended Podcast Episodes 

Living an Active Lifestyle – For Adults with Cerebral Palsy

Living an Active Lifestyle – For Adults with Cerebral Palsy

Living an Active Lifestyle With CP

October 6th is World Cerebral Palsy Day

There is no better time than now to talk about this disorder that affects approximately 764,000 children and adults in the U.S.1

Not only will we fill you in on what it is, we’ll also share some great workout information (like how to calculate your target heart rate for cardio) that individuals who are and who are not affected by CP can apply to their routine.  

What is Cerebral Palsy?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines Cerebral Palsy as “a group of disorders that affect a person’s ability to move and maintain balance and posture.”2  There are varying degrees of severity and some variants of the disorder itself. The CDC classifies them in 4 ways: 

A person with Spastic Cerebral Palsy has muscle stiffness which may affect the legs, the legs and arms, one side of the body, or, in severe cases, the whole body. Movement appears rigid and can be labor intensive. 

A person with Dyskinetic Cerebral Palsy has muscle tone that can fluctuate from being too tight and stiff, to too loose. Muscle movement is difficult to control which can make movements slower or faster than what is typical. 

A person with Ataxic Cerebral Palsy has problems with coordination and balance. Quick or precise movements can be difficult to execute. 

Mixed Cerebral Palsy occurs when a person experiences symptoms that come from more than one type of Cerebral Palsy.

Is it Possible to Both Be Active and Have Cerebral Palsy? 

Physical activity is great for the body, the heart, and the mind. This is something most of us have learned and had ingrained in our memory since childhood. With so many obstacles to free movement, you might wonder how someone with CP can exercise. 

The American Academy for Cerebral Palsy and Developmental Medicine (AACPDM) reminds us that the recommended amount of weekly cardio for adults is 150 minutes.3 They go on to say that “there is no evidence to suggest that these requirements should be any different for people with cerebral palsy.”3   

How to Be Active When Living with Cerebral Palsy

The following tips are straight from the Fact Sheet provided by the AACPDM. You can view the full document here.  

Remember that some exercises may not be safe or possible if you are experiencing certain limitations, so be sure to consult your doctor so you understand the right options for you. 

Tip #1: Do Exercises That Build Strength and Endurance 

To build muscle, you’ll need to increase the resistance, or the weight your muscles have to move. To build endurance, you’ll need to increase the repetitions, or the number of times you complete a movement. The AACPDM recommends that you should: 

  • Aim for a maximum of 10 repetitions.  
  • Start with 1 set. With time, as it becomes easier, start to increase your sets. 
  • Take at least 1 day of rest between strength training a single muscle group. 3

Tip #2: Exercise Your Heart 

To exercise your heart, you’ll need to know what your maximum heart rate is and set a goal to exercise at 40 – 85% of that maximum. Your heart rate is the number of times your heart beats per minute. 

To calculate your maximum heart rate, subtract your age from 220. 3 For example, if you are 20 years old, (220 – 20 = 200), your maximum heart rate is 200.  

Now that you have your maximum, you can calculate the heart rate you should aim for when you do cardio. All you have to do is multiply your maximum heart rate by 40% (0.40) and then do a new calculation and multiply by 85% (0.85) instead. Don’t forget to convert the percentage into a decimal by dividing it by 100.  

For example, if your maximum heart rate is 200, you would do the following calculation: 

200 x 0.40 = 80 beats per minute 

200 x 0.85 = 170 beats per minute 

Now you know that, to effectively exercise your heart, you need to get your heart rate between 80 and 170 beats per minute.  

The AACPDM recommends that you start at a rate of 40% and increase your target rate gradually. 3

Tip #3: Work on Improving Your Range of Motion 

Improving your range of motion simply means that you are improving your flexibility. The more flexible you are, the easier it is to do common daily activities like sitting, reaching, and bending. 

The AACPDM reminds us that yoga and stretching are not the only ways to improve flexibility. Using your full range of motion while doing your strength training exercises is also a way to improve the flexibility of your muscles. 3  

They also talk about how dynamic stretches help improve the muscle’s functionality and strength.3 Dynamic stretches get your body moving and warmed-up, so they are often done before you start working out.4


The Takeaways

Living an active lifestyle is not necessarily exclusive to people of a certain level of ability. Even though Cerebral Palsy affects motor function, exercise is still possible if you respect the limitations in your movement and adhere to the guidance of your doctor.  

However, depending on the exact nature of your condition, physical activity simply may not be for you. If this is the case, don’t lose hope! Talk to your doctor to find out what you can do to still care for your health without doing harm to your body. 

For more ideas on how to move more and sit less, read our post, 6 Ways to Decrease the Time You Spend Sitting. If you’re not looking to lose weight and instead, you’re looking to put on some healthy pounds, listen to our podcast on How to Gain Healthy Weight.

To access our monthly blog post highlights, subscribe to our newsletter today!


  1. “Cerebral Palsy Information.” Cerebral Palsy Guidance, 2019, 
  2. “What Is Cerebral Palsy? | CDC.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2019, 
  3. “Cerebral Palsy Information.” Cerebral Palsy Guidance, The American Academy for Cerebral Palsy and Developmental Medicine, 
  4. “The Benefits of Dynamic Stretching and How to Get Started.” Healthline, 

How to Calculate BMR and Calorie Limits After Weight Loss

How to Calculate BMR and Calorie Limits After Weight Loss


 Hello, I’m a male, age 37, my height is 5’11”, and I weigh 263 pounds. I’ve been sticking to a 1,400-calorie plan pretty strictly with a calorie counter app and weight scale, and I have lost about 32 pounds. This past month I’ve noticed that the weight loss has slowed significantly and is fluctuating much more than the months prior.
Now that I’m 32 pounds lighter, how can I calculate a new BMR? 

Along with the weight loss, I am significantly more active as well. I do work an office job 9 hours/day, 5 days a week. But I also get to the gym 6 days/week and do somewhere between 30-45 minutes of strength training and 30-45 minutes of cardio, as well as 6 personal training sessions a month. I usually finish my eating for the day around 8/8:30 pm, and fast until 10 am the next day, sometimes waiting until lunch at 12:30 pm.

I’m kind of lost on if I should keep going with what I’ve been doing, or adjust my nutrition routine? And if I should adjust it, what’s the best route to go? Keep fasting? Bump up my calories? More protein? Thanks for your help. 

– Steven M.


You’re doing great on your own, Steven! Weight reduction exceeding 2 pounds per week is not considered solely fat loss but also lean and water weight. If your rate of loss has slowed after a couple of months, that’s expected. You don’t really reach a “plateau” until you’ve not lost for several weeks. As you gain muscle the scale may not reflect any change. How has your body composition changed? You’ll want to look at both your body fat % and circumference measurements to get a sense of true progress.  

Based on your stated anthropometric measures and physical activity, I estimate your energy needs to be about 2350 calories for weight loss; a fair jump from your 1,400 per day limit. Rather than use basal metabolic rate, I’d recommend using resting metabolic rate (RMR) which includes bodily functions as your base level of calories to consume. That figure is closer to 2100 calories per day, based on Mifflin-St. Jeor equation. Still a bit greater than your current intake. 

To answer your last questions, I’d recommend initially bumping up your calories to 1,600/day by adding nutrient-rich whole foods (think veggie salad, beans and avocado), continue your routine and track your changes for the next month before deciding on next course of action. 

– Debbie J., MS, RD

This article should not replace any exercise program or restrictions, any dietary supplements or restrictions, or any other medical recommendations from your primary care physician. Before starting any exercise program or diet, make sure it is approved by your doctor.

Some questions have been edited for length and/or clarity.

Ask our Dietitian

Have a nutrition question? Our registered dietitian is ready to help!

Email or submit your question below and it may be featured in an upcoming article!

15 + 12 =

Recommended Reading - Q+A

Stamping Out Stigma – Mental Health

Stamping Out Stigma – Mental Health

October 6th – 12th is Mental Illness Awareness Week. Today, we’re breaking down the finer details of mental health. Our hope is that we can encourage a deeper understanding of what mental health is and start chipping away at the stigma. 

What is Stigma? 

Stigma is when you mentally attach shame to a person or group and this perception causes you to devalue or treat them differently. People with a mental health condition are often stigmatized because they are often perceived as different or not within whatever definition of “normal” we each carry. 

It’s not uncommon to feel like we need to distance ourselves from what is unfamiliar. Maybe we just aren’t sure how to approach or talk to someone with a mental illness. The hope is that by learning a little more, this unfamiliar territory will become less intimidating and we can start to understand that people with mental health concerns are simply, people.

Changing the Perception 

If, like many others, you find uncertainty in your interactions with those who suffer from a mental illness, consider that mental health does not fit a single definition or appearance.

In fact, there are a lot of mental disorders whose symptoms you can’t see! Even if you can see the symptoms, they can still be expressed differently among people with the same diagnosis.  

Let’s consider, for a moment, the loss of a loved one. For some, the grief is relived as though the loss occurred mere days ago. For others, it can be a more peaceful remembrance.  

Grief is not typically our first thought when we consider mental health. Often, we’ll think of disorders or illnesses whose names we hear often: ADHD, OCD, Depression, Schizophrenia, Parkinson’s, Autism, and others.1 However, the way we mentally process grief, and the way grief manifests itself in the body, (like physical exhaustion, digestive problems, stomach ulcers, etc.)2 is a great reminder that the experience is very impactful and very real. You do not need to have a diagnosable condition in order to experience the effects of atypical mental health. 

Mental health encompasses everything from everyday stress, sadness, and anxiety to diagnosable conditions like Major Depressive Disorder and PTSD. When you consider that everyone has a brain, and that brain has the potential to overreact or underreact, it’s a lot easier to think of fluctuations in mental wellness as a very normal thing. 

What About People Who Attend Therapy? 

Therapy isn’t only for people with a mental illness, or a specified “problem.” It can be beneficial to almost anyone.  

Let’s redefine therapy so it’s not exclusive to the treatment of a disorder and think about it in the sense that it is a way to care for your mental health. We always talk about protecting and healing the body, but our mind is equally in need of care.   

For example, therapy can help people address thoughts as simple as these: 

  • I got a bad grade on a paper this semester. I am a horrible student and should probably quit school. 
  • My significant other didn’t put an emoji in this text message. He/she/they is angry with me! 
  • I am bad at basketball; therefore, I am bad at all sports.  

These are all examples of cognitive distortions, or irrational thought processes. These thoughts are not so out of the ordinary. We’ve all had a moment of panic at some point and determined we were bound to encounter the worst-case scenario. Moments like these are helpful to remind us that changes in mental health affect everyone.  

Ways to Care for Mental Health 

Therapy is great when some guidance is preferred. However, caring for your mental health can take many forms. It can be that you do more or less of things like: 

  • Sleeping 
  • Exercising 
  • Getting some sunshine 
  • Playing video games 
  • Spending time with people whose company you enjoy 
  • Taking some time alone 

Closing Thoughts

Addressing the stigma starts with taking a moment to examine our own feelings about mental illness. Once you know where you stand, you’ll also know what questions you have and which blank spaces you need filled. Allow yourself some time this week to talk about it with others, to do some research, or to simply do some self-reflection.  

To hear from Rachel Robins, Manager of PR and External Relations at the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), read her post on How Fitness Improved My Mental Health. Or, learn more by listening to our NAMI Podcast or our podcast dedicated to Mental Health Month. To access our monthly blog post highlights, subscribe to our newsletter today!


  1. Grohol, John M. “Mental Disorders & Conditions – DSM5.” Psych Central, 18 July 2019,
  2. Byrne, Jennifer. “Biological & Psychological Effects After the Death of a Spouse.” Healthfully, 10 Jan. 2019,



Be the first to know about exclusive

content, deals and promotions

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Pin It on Pinterest