We Don’t Mix

Hello and happy Friday!!! 😀

**I still need lots of votes if I’m going to become one of the next Love Grown Foods bloggers! Just “like” my photo. Thank you so much guys!

Just a word of caution, I will talk some numbers in this post. If that is a trigger for you in any way, please read with discretion or don’t read at all!

So, today I wanted to let you in on a little secret of mine- a low calorie “diet” and I do not mix.

I get annoyed when I read in magazines that healthy diets should be around 1500-1800 calories a day. First of all…no one person is the same and therefore everyone needs a different amount of calories. And second, for many people that are active, 1800 calories a day is not enough!


I used to believe in what magazines and other media sources were saying about how much a girl should eat. And then I took my nutrition class in college…and boy oh boy did it open my eyes.

First of all we learned about our basal metabolic rate (BMR), which is essentially the amount of calories that it takes your body to stay alive and function. It is the amount of calories that you would burn if you layed in bed all day long.

Here is the formula for BMR for women:

BMR = 655 + ( 4.35 x weight in pounds ) + ( 4.7 x height in inches ) – ( 4.7 x age in years )

So, my BMR = 1372 calories

I by no means lay around in bed all day long (unless of course I’m sick and under the weather). I consider myself to be quite active. I exercise 5-6 days a week and when I do workout I try to make it pretty challenging. I also walk to and from class most days of the week.

Enter the Harris Benedict Equation which takes your BMR and multiplies it by an activity factor. So if I considered myself to be moderately active, which is seen as moderate intensity exercise 3-5x a week, I would multiply my BMR by 1.55. If I considered myself to be very active, which is seen as hard exercise 6-7x a week, I would multiply my BMR by 1.725.


So based on a moderate activity level, I would need: (1372 x 1.55) = 2126 calories. If I was very active, I would need (1372 x 1.725) = 2366 calories.

To make things easier, and because I think my activity level is generally in between those two, I see myself as needing about 2200 calories a day, especially since I am not trying to gain or lose weight. If anything, I still could probably eat more because the Harris Benedict Equation does not take into account lean body mass- so the more muscular you are, the more likely this equation will under-estimate your caloric needs.

That’s a lot more than 1500-1800 calories! Heck, that could mean a whole meal, a hefty snack, or both! If I were to eat too few calories, I know that it wouldn’t be good for my body and I know that I would feel like crap.

Why do I know this? Because when I thought I needed that lower amount of calories, I ate less than I do now. I was often very tired, both physically and mentally and I didn’t feel like I was in the best spirits. I also noticed that my workouts never felt that great- it felt like I was climbing a huge hill just to barely make it through them. I was still pretty much at the same weight too..and what that means is that my body was partly going into survival and had slowed down my metabolism so it could ensure that it was getting what it needed!


Now that I eat the the amount that my body needs, I feel healthy and strong and my mind is in a better place. And honestly, it makes complete sense that I feel that way. My body and brain are getting the fuel they need to not just survive, but thrive!

I think my main reason for writing this post today is that sometimes I know it can be discouraging to read somewhere that you should eat around 1500-1800 calories a day if you want “a flat belly” or to “be healthy”. But that is not necessarily the case for everyone. Yes, some people can and should eat that amount of calories based on their size, age, weight, and activity level. It’s important to figure out what is right for you. Don’t compare yourself to others and don’t get caught up in what is often touted as the go-to amount of calories you should consume.


Before you worry about eating too many calories, make sure that you’re eating enough for your activity level. Tessa, has discussed some of the ways that not doing so can be harmful to you…and I suggest you check out her post to find out more! She has been writing about this lately and I find it very interesting!

I am so glad that I took that nutrition class in college and learned what I did. I feel so much better now that I eat more and it is very comforting to know that what I am doing is exactly what I need in order to be the active and healthy individual that I want to be!



What are your thoughts on this?

Any exciting plans for the weekend?


About In Sweetness and In Health

I'm Lindsay! I'm a 23 year-old graduate student in occupational therapy. I love all things health and fitness related and this blog will document my life as I learn to really love myself, try to stop worrying so much about my body, and truly take advantage of all the sweet things that life offers us.

Posted on December 9, 2011, in About Me, Health. Bookmark the permalink. 50 Comments.

  1. I got a metabolic test done a few years ago when I had been working long days, barely eating, and working out too hard – it showed how I was actually decreasing my BMR by not fueling my body properly. It was fascinating to me!

  2. Great post! I used to believe all those magazine claims too, they can be so misleading. It kind of shocked me when I initially found out how much I needed during my ED recovery, but now I can’t even fathom going back to lower numbers. I turn into the divas on snickers commercials if I’m hungry haha! 😀

    I wish more gals out there would have your view, maybe then society would change for the better when it comes to body image. 🙂

  3. Nicely written! You’re very right. We actually sabotage our progress if we eat too little because our body goes into starvation mode–it knows where we need to be to stay healthy and lively. We too often try and override that by doing unhealthy things (like eating too little).

    Thanks for posting!

  4. love this post! I am going to be honest, its really hard for me to allow myself to eat enough calories because when I first started losing weight I did so by counting calories and it worked. Now I realize that is is important to eat whole foods then 100 calorie packs, but it’s also hard for me to consume a lot of calories without thinking I’m not going to gain 100 pounds. I know that sounds ridiculous, but I’m working on it by focusing on whole, natural foods that make my body feel good!

    • That doesn’t sound ridiculous at all! I think the mindset can be very different for people who are losing weight than for those trying to maintain!

  5. Thank you for this post Lindsay… this could not come at a better time for me! You of course know I am struggling with accepting that I need that many calories a day… but I do! Having legitimate scientific evidence is very helpful of course and also I can’t say that it’s “fake” or lying to me. I am going to save this post for when I need a reminder that YEP I do in fact need that number of calories to feel at my best!

  6. i definitely agree! i find the magazines to be super annoying because they address everyone like they’re the same. loved this post!

  7. Thanks for sharing this, I completely agree with you. While there is such a science to all of this, it cannot be followed exactly because there are so many dependent and personal factors.

  8. This is so interesting! I honestly never thought much about this before. It always does bother me though when magazines talk about how many calories you should eat, etc.. 🙂

  9. Great post. People have such warped perceptions of daily calorie needs based on diets found in magazines. I think it would be different if people could understand how low calorie diets inhibit both weight loss and muscle gain, but most simply refuse to believe it. That’s just disordered thinking that is mainstream in this society.

  10. I was going to post about this same thing sometime soon! I definitely think that equation for calories is SO much more reliable. it’s what I use for myself and it has never steered me wrong. When I eat enough, I have so much more energy and just feel GOOD. Then I can get in quality workouts, my body functions optimally, and I often end up leaner from those two things than I would with drastic calorie cuts. GREAT post and topic, Lindsay!

  11. This is an awesome post, Lindsay! I definitely think it’s something we can all benefit reading because it is easy to get caught up in the numbers that magazines and other media tell us we “should” be eating. Every single person is different, so it’s obvious are caloric needs are different too.

  12. great post and very beneficial! I really despise numbers ; ) I just dont like them when it involves being food wise ; )

    Happy Weekend love!

  13. Nice post! This is a really hard concept for women to grasp. I also think we get so wrapped up in a number that we lose sight of putting nutritious foods into our bodies. You can get away with eating a heck of a lot more (and feeling a heck of a lot better) if you’re eating mainly fruits, veggies, healthy fats and lean protein than if you’re eating tons of processed foods (think 100-calorie snack packs).

  14. Excellent points. A few months ago I was eating at 1800-2000 calories and LOSING weight (by accident). I was surprised because I’m only 5’3″ and weigh less than 110lbs. I am muscular and fairly active, so clearly even for small girls the low recommendation isn’t the end-all be-all.

  15. I love this post, thank you so so much for posting about this.

    It’s an internal battle for me everyday, I find it difficult to eat more and then because I’m scared of restricting and going down that route again that I then binge… Anyway it’s messed up!

    But reading this reminds me that actually I do need to eat more and that it’s fine to do so!!

    Oh and that kitten is so so cute 🙂

  16. you know – it’s funny how you mention you always hear you should eat between 1500 – 2000 (1200 if you are trying to lose weight yada yada) but you NEVER (at least I have never) seen this equation before. oh the power of mass media production..thanks for sharing!!

  17. Love love this post!!! Though I’m mentally in a better place now, I have my moments where I read those articles touting to eat only 1500 calories a day and it definitely discourages and makes me feel bad about eating more around 2000 calories. Your posts reminded me that for us active people, we must fuel our bodies efficiently in order to give our energy to work, exercising, and our friends and family. I had my years when I severely restricted my calories and I just felt so miserable and had no energy whatsoever – like you said, it was like climbing this huge hill that I could never get to the top of. Thank you for posting this and reminding us all that we need an adequate amount of calories to live our lives to the fullest and feel our best! 🙂

    • You are welcome! I’m so glad that you are in a better place now. I still have my moments too, but it’s nice to be reminded!

  18. Thank you for this great post! I don’t think that people who are trying to lose weight are considering these factors. I think a lot of times they hear a 1,200 or 1,500 calorie diet and that’s what they shoot for. They don’t take into consideration the workouts and activity they participate in. I know that when I eat very little throughout the day, I am a total bear by the time 5pm rolls around. I’m irritable and then RAVAGE the pantry!

  19. It is easy for me to count calories during the week. I usually even stay within those respective “limits” defined by magazines. However, I got a bit overboard on the weekends. I guess it all evens out in the end, right? haha – maybe not, but that’s what I tell myself. 😉

  20. This is such a great post. I couldn’t agree more with doing what’s right for you. Everyone is different on so many levels, there’s no way to have one thing for every person. I don’t necessarily count calories, but I do eat whenever I am hungry. I think that works best for me!

  21. You are so right. I eat about 3500 cals a day with no weight problem 🙂

  22. Great post! Back in my college/grad school days, I was clueless and thought I had to eat 1200 calories just to maintain my weight. Bleck! That’s no way to live! Now I probably eat an average of 1800-2400 calories a day (sometimes more!), workout typically 5 days a week (sometimes less haha), and I actually weigh less now! God is too good to desire us to starve in order to have a certain physique. 😉 We can eat (everything in moderation, of course), stay active, and just enjoy life!

  23. Brittany @ Itty Bits of Balance

    I love this post, Lindsay! It’s great because this is all actually something I’m learning a bit about through my NASM training.

    I used to be convinced that I needed to eat SO much less than I really needed to in order to lose my excess weight. It turns out, this just made my body hold on to fat, and when I finally allowed myself the right amount of calories, the pounds peeled off! It was truly mind blowing to me– and I’m so glad you addressed this issue! We need to reeducate America about healthy nutrition 😀

  24. Thanks for this post! It’s a nice reminder that everybody–and every body–is different and that everyone needs different things!

  25. I’m SO glad you posted this! I’ve been trying to keep myself at an unrealistic calorie “number” because I feel like every health magazine in the world tells you to! It’s so STUPID. I’ve actually gotten a little “leaner” since I upped my calories, because I’m able to workout harder, and I have more energy! Not to mention I’m happier! 🙂

  26. Great post!!! and lots of good info

    and you’re right one number doesn’t fit all

    I can’t stand when ‘all’ are used…

  27. This was really cool! There’s a 600 calorie difference between my non-activity needs and moderate activity. Now I just have to figure out how many calories are in what I eat 🙂

  28. Great post! Sooo informative! I think lots of people, especially women need to read this. I’m sick of hearing all about fad diets and such, it’s everywhere. Information like this would definitely change people’s perspectives and HELP a good number of them in the process.

    Thanks for posting girl! 🙂

    • Thank you! I agree with you, I definitely think it would be helpful for people that are in the process to see this or something like it!

  29. That’s awesome! Sometimes I wonder how our bodies are able to function as well as they do since we so often overfeed, underfeed and undernourish them!

  30. Perfect timing for me to read this article! A couple of years ago I had started on Weight Watchers and lost some weight, but about a year ago I started running also. Now I run about 6-7 miles 5 days a week, sometimes more, and I was still following weight watchers (including the activity points). I became so drained and was losing more weight when I didn’t want to. Now I am trying to gain about 5 pounds. I find it hard because I am a vegetarian and eat mostly vegetables, fruits and I am starting to add in more grains. I really appreciate this article because it makes me feel like I am not the only one going through this, thank you!!

  31. Great post Linsday! Very informative, I’ve never counted calories and I actually have no idea how much I should eat per day, but I know I feel a lot better when I eat more than less!

  32. I love this post! I’ve been struggling a lot lately with this! Thanks for sharing!

    • Yay I’m glad you like it! It’s definitely something I think a lot of us struggle with. I wish you all the best in figuring out what works for you 🙂

      • Question, if I’m trying to loose that last bit of belly fat over my belly and legs- should I be cutting 500 calories from the equation you talked about here? My weight is technically healthy- but I’d still like to loose that last layer if you know what I mean. 🙂 Thanks for your help!

      • Well, I’m not a nutrition expert by any means. When we learned about the equation, my professor told us that if someone is trying to lose weight they should enter the weight that they want to get to (instead of their current weight). Play around with the equation and see if that and cutting 500 calories are similar. If the equation gives a number lower than just cutting 500 cals, then I would go with cutting 500 cals- you don’t want to cut too much out because that will be hard to sustain!

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