Yes, You Should Eat 1200 Calories…

…If you lay in bed all day AND you’re on a diet.

I’ve been getting a little frustrated recently seeing friends, bloggers and even strangers believing that eating around 1200 calories a safe and healthy way to lose weight. Many people know to not eat below 1200 calories, but that means it’s a bare minimum.

Do you also walk during the day? Run? Lift weights or do body weight exercises? Do you play sports? All of those activities require EXTRA energy, whether you’re on a diet or not. Eating too few calories is dangerous for your health. Been there, done that, and let me tell you: it doesn’t work out in the end.


You might try and tell me – I’m not anorexic or bulimic, I just watch what I eat! Well let me tell you: there are so many ways to have “disordered eating” without falling into one of those two categories.

At the end of my college career I decided I was going to take control of my weight for once and for all. I started calorie counting and would eat anywhere from 900-1200 a day. Obviously I lost weight. I started reading blogs and weight loss websites and learned that these low numbers were unsafe. Since I’d lost the weight I wanted, I figured I should follow their advice. I upped my calories to 1200-1400 a day, while also training for races and weight lifting.

Eventually any weight-loss I had experienced had not only plateaued, but I started slowly gaining weight back. I started binge eating my healthy foods on the weekends. I’d finish off a tub of greek yogurt and a container of strawberries in a sitting. I’d find myself sitting on the kitchen floor with my hand in a cereal box and not able to stop eating even though I was stuffed full. My body was starving.

Eventually I started gaining weight and didn’t understand why. I thought I was eating enough because I wasn’t ever truly hungry – but this was because I’d taught my body to ignore hunger cues. I could no longer tell when I was actually hungry or not – I just ate what I was “supposed” to eat.

When your body is in starvation mode, every time you do feed it, your body holds onto the fat that you give it rather than burning it. Because of this I was gaining weight any time that I binged or “indulged” and my body refused to get rid of it no matter how clean I ate. I finally sought help and started eating more food and more intuitively, but again gained weight because my body was scared that I’d go into starvation mode again.

So you can see the problem: I starve myself to lose weight and in the end I end up gaining weight and destroying my metabolism.

So no. You should NOT be eating only 1200 calories day. Please, learn from me and don’t make this mistake yourself. It took me years to get to where I am today and I am definitely still not perfect, but I wanted to share my experience as a way to reach out to anyone else who might be dealing with something similar. At the end of the day, loving how you look has nothing to do with the scale, it’s something that comes from within.


Here are some great resources that I’ve found, and if ever have any questions, please feel free to email me at Also, please remember that I am NOT a doctor or a dietitian, but am speaking from my own research and experience.

The 1200 Calorie Myth

Restoring Slow Metabolism

Why 1200 Is So, So Wrong

The Weight Issue

Less Is Not More

Should You Count Calories for Weight Loss? 



What do you think of calorie-counting diets? 

Have you ever had experiences with restrictive eating, either yourself or a friend? 

59 thoughts on “Yes, You Should Eat 1200 Calories…

  1. Diane @ Life of Di.

    I can 100% relate to this post. I had a very similar (if not exact) mindset when I first started loosing weight and it was great to see the results I had so long desired. Unfortunately, about 1.5 years into the journey, I began to plateau and started to binge eat several times a week. I’d approach the next day with the attitude of restriction restriction restriction which only made me binge again that night or the following day. I can honestly say that my pregnancy has been one of the best things to help me relearn my hunger cues and learn how to eat ‘intuitively’. I’m hoping to maintain this awareness once my baby comes but I believe this issue will continually be a sin issue (an idol) if I’m not intentional.

    1. Katie Post author

      yes, it sounds like we’ve had the same path! It’s such an idol for me as well, hopefully we’ll both learn to manage it well.

    1. Katie Post author

      So easy to get caught up in numbers – ditching the scale was the best thing I could have done for myself!

  2. Kaitlyn

    LOVE this. My experience is far, far too similar to yours :). I read an article once (which was confirmed when I worked with a nutritionist) that active women should aim to eat between 2000 and 2500 cals/day minimum! I definitely believe that, and I can always tell when I haven’t eaten enough. Good for you for recognizing the changes you needed to make! 🙂 It’s definitely a very difficult change, but a necessary one.

    1. Katie Post author

      Thanks, Kaitlyn! It really is difficult but it’s made a huge difference in my happiness!

  3. Jaclyn @ BumpSweat

    Love this! I relate so strongly with this post. I subsisted on so few calories that it jacked my metabolism up so badly. And that damage lingers – even when I started eating almost double that, my metabolic rate remained in the can because I was over-exercising. People want the quick-fix, but what they don’t realize is that that route creates so much havoc that can take years and years to come back from, if you ever do. And all our moms, who were told to go on these low-calorie diets, wonder why they’re overweight now. I could go on and on, but I’ll spare you 😉

  4. Sam @ Better With Sprinkles

    You know I can 100% relate to this post! 1200 is such an arbitrary number, but so many people look at it as the number to lose weight. But that’s so devastatingly low, and like you said, just serves to create issues. If you’re an active woman, you need almost double that, if not more so! So, so ridiculous.

  5. Chelsey

    Thanks for this! As a clinical nutrition grad student I see many people get obsessed with eating as few calories as possible when trying to lose weight! You need FAT to lose weight, and while it’s caloric, it’s important for our brain health, our cells, and for sustainable energy! Thank you for continuing to raise awareness of an important nutrition concept!

  6. chelcie @ chelcie's food files

    this is amazing. i experienced the same thing. when i wanted to lose weight junior year going into senior year of high school i restricted my intake to 1200 or less a day (sometimes even 700 wtf) and i was working out. I lost weight quickly, but eventually stopped losing weight and would gain weight very easily if i ate more than 1200 calories a day. like you said, i destroyed my metabolism and my body was starving! i had to gain a lot of weight back, almost 25 pounds, before i could lose any weight a healthy way to repair my metabolism. so yes i 100% agree with you, 1200 calories is SO wrong!

    1. Katie Post author

      Me too – I hate that it’s in magazines where thousands of women will read it!

  7. Gianna @ Run, Lift, Repeat

    Oh yes. I can relate. I was very much overweight and drastically upped my exercise + extremely lowered my intake. I lost weight but also gained very disordered eating and binging etc. I will track my calories here and there bc good habits can lapse but I also eat a ton (especially in marathon training). My bare minimum day is about 1750 (rest day). Most days well over 2000! I am one angry person on so little food!

    1. Katie Post author

      Definitely over 2000 is needed for marathon training! I wish I’d realized that when I was training or I wouldn’t have ended up binge eating so often! It was a difficult cycle to be in.

    1. Katie Post author

      Definitely – although I still have far to go. Writing these kinds of posts are always helpful for me though to see how far I’ve come!

  8. Kim @ Racing Bananas

    Yes, yes, yes! I fell into the same trap for so long – only eating 1200 calories because that’s what My Fitness Pal recommended for the amount of weight I wanted to lose. Except I was starving and my migraines came back like crazy. My body hated it and it took me a long time to realize that 1200 calories just isn’t enough!

  9. Sienna

    Love this post! I think it’s such a shame that if you use the MyFitnessPal app it recommends a net calories intake of only 1200 for a 1-2 pound weekly weight loss. While that weight loss is healthy that calorie intake is not. I believed what the app said and tried to eat that little but was never able to average 1200 for the week because I’d get too hungry! I had to be obsessive about food because there was no other way to consume so little. As you can imagine that led to a whole host of other issues. In the past six months I think my metabolism has increased thanks to me consistently eating more calories. Now I can’t imagine how I even used to eat 1600 without being hungry all the time. Hope others find your post and realize the shouldn’t be cutting their calories that drastically.

    1. Katie Post author

      Yes – I get so frustrated by that app. And then people don’t realize that they need to eat more when they exercise!

  10. Amy @ Run with Perseverance

    How brave of you to share all of that on your blog! I pray that it will help someone, somewhere who is dealing with those same issues.

    I have never been one to count calories. Sometimes, I’ll input my food into MyFitnessPal just because I’m curious. Most of the time, I just try to eat good things when I’m hungry and not wait until I’m ravenously hungry to eat.

    1. Katie Post author

      Thank you, Amy! That’s why I hope up about these things, so that it can help someone else!

  11. Andrea

    I SO agree with you!! I don’t know how the whole 1200 calorie thing got started, but it makes me so mad. In the medical field, I see people advise overweight patients to limit calories to 1200 a day. If someone overweight does that, they will be starving, eating low calorie junk, and maybe lose weight for a minute, but end up rebounding and binging because they are so stinkin hungry! They end up gaining more weight in the long run and that’s why sooo many calorie restricting diets fail! I don’t count calories myself but I know that if you eat real foods until you’re full, eat when you’re hungry, and listen to your body- you will eat what you need and it’s probably way more than 1200 calories!! Okay, sorry for the rant- but I’m so glad you posted this! You are 100% right 🙂

    1. Katie Post author

      Exactly! and yes, you end up eating high volume, or “diet foods” instead of real food! No good.

  12. Lauren

    WHO STARTED 1200 calories? Ugh I tried to do 1200 +exercise a while back and lost some weight-but guess what I lost muscle too. I’ll never be that weight again because hello my body is hungry? I couldn’t eat only 1200 if I tried if I workout and train. I just tweeted my anger at this today and alas was pointed to your post! Glad we think the same way. I got really angry because someone was eating 12-1400 and another woman said she ate 700 on rest days. WHAT do you eat for 700 calories?!

    1. Katie Post author

      Oh my gosh, I can’t even imagine only 700 calories, that’s just doing so much harm to your body!

  13. lindsay

    Amen sista. I don’t ever think our ancestors counted calories either. they ate when they needed and nourished. I wish calories were never defined, we be better off, right?

    1. Katie Post author

      Hahahaha no – I don’t think they counted calories at all, or even cared!

  14. Purelytwins

    totally agree!! well said! you need calories to live life 🙂 we learned that the hard way too! focusing on real foods (mostly) to us is what is important even if that turns out to be 2000! our bodies know what to do when properly nourished!! xoxo love this

  15. Alanna

    I have been in the exact same position! A couple years ago, I was counting calories and being so restrictive that it got stressful. I also binged on dry cereal where I would eat 3/4 of the box in one sitting. Being an RD I knew better, but didn’t want to face it. Thank you for this wonderful post!

    1. Katie Post author

      oh my gosh, I did the same with cereal. I can’t even buy it right now because I still have the instinct to eat it all!

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  18. Marissa @ Where I Need to Be

    Yes! If you eat mostly whole foods and know how to listen to your body and it’s hunger cues, there is never ever any need to count calories. Food is fuel and my hope is that everyone can eventually see it that way.

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  20. Mila

    Thank you for addressing this! However I would like to point out that (in agreement with Kaitlin above on caloric needs)even 2000 calories is a losing diet! It is a huge myth that it is substantial for even a lightly active person (maybe someone completely sedentary). 1200 is for a practically vegetative state. Add in brain function, digestion, shifting around, sitting upright….there’s calories burned without even feeling it.
    And if anyone makes it out on the other side of dieting (or an eating disorder) they need insane amount of calories to make up for he damage

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  22. Kathy R.

    Hi Katie, I’m new to your blog and just wanted to say ‘Thanks so much!” for sharing your thoughts. I’m 50 now and have dealth with weight issues since childhood. I look forward to reading more of your posts! And by the way…you’re GORgeous!!

  23. Leora

    I LOVE this extremely important piece. It’s such a terrific reminder about how innocuous the beginnings of a binge eating disorder (or other EDs) can be. You follow the advice that you think is right, that EVERYONE says is right, but inevitably… it turns into disordered eating. No way is 1200 calories a day a healthy way to eat. Thank you writing this and telling your story. It’s important to get this message out there.

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