What is a 1200 Calorie Diet?

Karyn Maier

It’s important to understand how an imbalance of calories versus energy expenditure leads to obesity. Every time you eat, each calorie from carbohydrates, proteins and fats is converted into energy to fuel the body. If you consume more calories than are needed to sustain a healthy weight for your age and height, then more calories will be stored as triglycerides, or fat cells, instead of being used for energy. On the other hand, a 1200 Calorie diet will encourage a greater volume of triglycerides to be converted into energy and weight loss will soon follow.

Three ounces is a healthy portion of lean beef.
Three ounces is a healthy portion of lean beef.

A 1200 Calorie diet may seem very restrictive and, indeed, it is for most men. Adult men usually require more calories each day simply due to having a larger frame and size and, sometimes, a greater activity level. However, a 1200 Calorie diet is appropriate for most women who are seeking to lose weight.

A 1200 calorie diet can help with weight loss.
A 1200 calorie diet can help with weight loss.

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There may be additional benefits to be gained from undertaking a 1200 Calorie diet other than weight loss. Since a calorie restriction diet prompts the body to use more triglycerides as fuel for energy, it can be expected that total cholesterol levels will also be reduced. Studies have shown that a calorie restriction diet may also lower blood pressure and promote better utilization of serum glucose levels. The latter is particularly worth noting since obesity is strongly associated with a higher risk of developing type II diabetes.

A 1200 Calorie diet should incorporate an increased volume of fresh fruits and vegetables while keeping the number of refined carbohydrates and fats in check. Portion control is also a factor for achieving weight loss while on the diet. For instance, a satisfactory but healthy portion of lean beef or skinless chicken at dinner should weigh in at around 3 ounces (30 grams), accompanied by a one cup (240 milliliters) serving of steamed vegetables and, perhaps, a small to medium baked potato. Of course, extras such as butter, margarine or other oils must be monitored to avoid tipping the calorie scale in the wrong direction.

If you decide to go on a 1200 Calorie diet, it’s important to consult with your health care provider or a nutritionist to help you devise your diet plan and track your progress. It should also be stressed that dieting alone cannot take the place of physical exercise. The best recipe for weight loss includes moderate exercise combined with a low fat diet.

Discussion Comments


Male: I've been doing a 1200 calorie diet for nearly 30 days and added an extra 250 calories daily of exercise. I feel good, and my muscles seem to be fine and appear larger.

I control for fiber>35g daily and protein> between 83-90g daily, very little oils, breads, and juices. I've dropped from 183 pounds to 167 lbs and have a goal of 165 for the moment though that may change to 161 - I want to rest in between.

Three meals a day, very close to 400 cal/meal.


I've been trying to do a 1200 calorie diet for about four months now, with mixed success. I've lost about 15 pounds, which is great, if a little slower than I'd like. It has really taught me a lot about portion control, and pushed me to eat more vegetables - you can eat a lot more for the number of calories they contribute, so I'm less hungry. It also means that I have to write down everything I eat, and consider the number of calories each item has and what portion of my diet those calories total. Yes, I can have that piece of pie, but if it's 400 calories now, am I going to be starving later in the day?

I'm a little frustrated, though, because after 4 months, I seem to have plateaued. I think I need to find a way to get more exercise to kick things off again.

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