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How Many Calories Should I Eat To Lose Weight 2023?


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Medically reviewed by Kimberly Langdon, MD

Losing weight isn’t always easy. The good news: if you’re able to burn more calories than you take in every day, you’re already on the road to success.

Here are some of our top tips on using the power of calories to meet your own expectations. A slimmer waistline doesn’t take much, and you can get started today.

What Are Calories?

In short, calories are a unit of measurement[1] that quantifies the amount of convertible energy that a given food or beverage contains. The textbook definition is the amount of potential chemical energy that it takes to elevate the temperature of one gram of pure water by one degree Celsius under ordinary atmospheric conditions.

One single calorie on a food label is actually something called a “kilocalorie”—in places like the UK, labels actually use an analogous term, “kilojoules,” instead of what our system uses.

The body itself runs on adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is a byproduct of the digestion process. It’s broken down at the cellular level by way of hydrolysis after being synthesized and acts as the energy “currency” of all cellular activity. This, essentially, is how our bodies “eat” calories. 

What Do Calories Have to Do With Weight Loss?

If losing weight is your goal, you’ll need to maintain a daily calorie deficit. What does this mean, exactly?

A person’s daily energy balance[2] compares the number of calories taken in on a given day to their calorie expenditure—the calories burned by physical activity, one’s metabolic activity, and other things like cellular repair and combatting illness.

Weight gain occurs when our daily calories taken in exceed what we expend through any of the above. A sedentary lifestyle and a diet that includes many high-calorie foods both make a person much more likely to gain weight over time.

How Many Calories Should You Eat to Lose Weight?

Objectively speaking, the only way to lose weight is through the balance of calorie intake vs. caloric expenditure. There are many, many ways[3] to achieve a caloric deficit, but, unless you’re able to tip the scales in this way, you won’t lose weight no matter how much intense exercise you can commit to.

How many calories can I eat to lose weight? In a general sense, a diet consisting of anywhere from 1,000 to 1,500[4] calories per day can be considered to be a reasonably low-calorie diet, depending on one’s lifestyle and activity levels. Maintaining a calorie deficit of at least 500 to 750 calories per day is considered by many to be a great avenue for sustainable weight loss and weight management.

The only way to know where you stand is through calorie-counting—fortunately, it’s really easy to track your calories consumed daily through a food journal. Apps like MyFitnessPal and Chronometer both offer you a huge library of foods and their macronutrient and micronutrient content, which can make things significantly easier.

Should You Count Calories?

You might be asking: how many calories should I eat a day? Unless you’re counting them, this question will be difficult to answer.

If weight loss and weight maintenance is your ultimate goal, counting calories is probably the best place to start. Sometimes, it can be easy to take excess calories in, even if you adhere to a reasonably healthy diet ordinarily. Things like salad dressing, coffee creamer, and caloric condiments like ketchup can all add up quickly, spoiling your otherwise balanced diet.

With that being said, it can be easy to get lost in the numbers. If you’re already quite thin, you should instead choose a more active lifestyle over restricting your intake further—a new cycling hobby or a yoga routine can both help you maintain a healthy weight without depriving yourself of the healthy foods your body needs to function.

Mostly, calorie counting is useful because it gives you a solid understanding of your nutritional profile on average. If you are carrying excess body weight, you’ll be able to see where you can cut back and sub in healthy alternatives—cauliflower rice, calorie-free sweeteners, and other weight loss aids that might get you ahead.

How To Reduce Calorie Intake

Self-monitoring, self-assessment, and accountability for everything you put on your plate will all be facilitated by counting calories and documenting what you eat. Once you know what needs to change, what are the best ways to meet your weight loss goals?

  • Cut the junk: Even taking one indulgence off the table a day might be enough to make a big difference. Removing junk food from your diet entirely might even be able to help you reduce cravings[5] and instead seek other treats—ideally, ones with less fat and less added sugar.
  • Make food at home: On that note: cooking as many meals as you can at home is the best way to control exactly what you’re putting into your body. It gives you the opportunity to recreate what you’re craving with healthy fats, complex carbs, and whole grains—think about the difference between a Cinnabon and a similar treat made in your own kitchen. Influencers like The Minimalist Baker offer thousands of healthy recipes on their blogs, often using vegan, whole foods as the star ingredients. Medjool dates, for example, can often be used as a sweetener instead of white sugar.
  • Choose high-volume, low-calorie foods: Big salads, veggie roasts, hearty, plant-based soups, and the like can help you feel fuller without taking on extra calories. Cauliflower pizza and riced cauliflower are two popular, low-carb alternatives, as is using lettuce in lieu of something like a hamburger bun. Often, you’ll be able to satisfy food cravings for things like noodles or pasta with alternatives like shirataki noodles, which are zero-calorie and very filling.
  • Eating more mindfully: Avoid vegging on your phone or watching TV when you eat—engaging with your food and even making an effort to feel gratitude for it not only makes you more likely to process it more thoroughly, but it may also slow you down and prevent you from exceeding[6] your intended caloric intake.

Aside from these tips on your daily calorie intake, we can always recommend more physical activity as another tool in your arsenal. Staying fit can help you tackle your calorie intake and will also help you prevent muscle loss while building lean body mass. Diet pills may also be able to help you close the gap, so to speak.

Final Thought

Is fewer calories always the answer? It’s definitely one of the first steps toward improving your appearance, body composition, and health overall. If you don’t want to gain weight, watching your calorie intake is the best way to maintain and craft a leaner figure.

+ 6 sources

Health Canal avoids using tertiary references. We have strict sourcing guidelines and rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic researches from medical associations and institutions. To ensure the accuracy of articles in Health Canal, you can read more about the editorial process here

  1. Osilla EV, Safadi AO, Sharma S. Calories. (2021). StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK499909/
  2. National Research Council (US) Committee on Diet and Health. (1989). Diet and Health: Implications for Reducing Chronic Disease Risk. National Academies Press (US).
  3. Institute of Medicine (US) Subcommittee on Military Weight Management. (2004). Weight Management: State of the Science and Opportunities for Military Programs. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK221839/
  4. Kim J. Y. (2021). Optimal Diet Strategies for Weight Loss and Weight Loss Maintenance. Journal of obesity & metabolic syndrome, 30(1), 20–31. https://doi.org/10.7570/jomes20065
  5. Apolzan, J., Myers, C., Champagne, C., Beyl, R., Raynor, H., & Anton, S. et al. (2017). Frequency of Consuming Foods Predicts Changes in Cravings for Those Foods During Weight Loss: The POUNDS Lost Study. Obesity, 25(8), 1343-1348. DOI: 10.1002/oby.21895
  6. Simonson, A. P., Davis, K. K., Barone Gibbs, B., Venditti, E. M., & Jakicic, J. M. (2020). Comparison of mindful and slow eating strategies on acute energy intake. Obesity Science & Practice, 6(6), 668–676. https://doi.org/10.1002/osp4.441

Medically reviewed by:

Kimberly Langdon

Emma Garofalo is a writer based in Pittsburgh, PA. A lover of science, art, and all things culinary, few things excite her more than the opportunity to learn about something new." It is now in the sheet in the onboarding paperwork, apologies!!

Medically reviewed by:

Kimberly Langdon

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