If you have an extra 50 pounds to shed stat, eating 1,200 calories per day will do the trick -- but that's as low as you want to go, as women need at least that amount for adequate nutrition. Although you can estimate how long it will take to ditch the weight, the exact number will depend on your metabolic rate as well as your activity level. See your doctor before starting a new weight-loss plan.
Creating a Calorie Deficit
You have the right idea -- cutting calories is the key to successful weight loss. The goal is to eat fewer calories than you burn, and for every 3,500-calorie deficit you create, you'll burn about 1 pound of fat. On average, women under 50 burn between 2,000 and 2,200 calories per day with moderate activity. Doing the math, most women will create a deficit of 800 to 1,000 calories per day on a 1,200-calorie diet, and thus will likely lose 50 pounds in roughly 25 to 31 weeks. That said, don't expect to lose weight faster by eating even less: Severe calorie reduction slows your metabolism, making it more difficult to shed pounds.
Technically, you could lose the weight eating 1,200 calories' worth of pastries each day, but you wouldn't feel very satisfied and would lose out nutritionally. To cut the calories with less pain and better health consequences, go for foods packed with fiber and water, which fill your stomach without contributing to calorie count. Apples, watermelon, berries, spinach, carrots and cucumbers are all excellent options, as are whole grains such as pumpernickel bread and whole-wheat spaghetti. Lean proteins, such as beans and peas, will also contribute to satiety.
Your 1,200-calorie diet will be more effective with a solid exercise routine. On most days, spend 30 minutes jogging, cycling, swimming or performing other cardio exercises to burn an extra 200 to 400 calories, depending on the intensity. In addition, perform resistance training three times weekly to build lean muscle mass. Lift weights, take a yoga class or do squats and pushups at home. Not only will the added muscle sculpt your body for sultry curves, but it will also increase your resting metabolic rate, helping you keep the weight off for good.
Tips for Success
The most effective diet is one that you stick with, so if eating just 1,200 calories per day leaves you grumpy and tired, allow up to 300 more calories into your day -- even if it means losing weight more slowly than you'd anticipated. Calorie tracking is difficult to do in your head, so keep a food diary to stay on target. MayoClinic.com also recommends focusing on lifestyle changes rather than strict goals; so while it's tempting to set your sights on that 50 pounds, you may lose weight more effectively by concentrating on your day-to-day actions instead.
- Harvard Health Publications: Calorie Counting Made Easy
- HelpGuide.org: Healthy Weight Loss & Dieting Tips
- Harvard Health Publications: Calories Burned in 30 Minutes for People of Three Different Weights
- MayoClinic.com: Weight-Loss Goals: Set Yourself up for Success
- University of Minnesota Medical School: Weight Loss Recommendations
- George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images