How Much to Eat for Weight Loss

Losing weight seems to be a goal that everyone constantly has. If you ask any of these people what they need to do to lose weight, 9 out of 10 will say that they need to eat less food. And they are exactly right.

There’s a lot of factors that can cause someone to eat more than they want and keep them from reaching their weight loss goals but before you worry about that, you need to know how many calories you need to shoot for as your daily average caloric intake.

How to know you’re eating the right amount of calories to lose weight

The best formula for fat loss that I’ve seen is Jordan Syatt’s “Weight loss calorie calculator” video.

His formula to give you your target caloric intake is your goal body weight (in pounds) multiplied by 12. So say your goal weight is 135 pounds. 135 X 12 is 1620. Which means your daily caloric intake goal comes out to 1620 Cal. 

The reason this is such a great formula is that it’s simple, there’s no proprietary calculator or anything like that, you can do a simple calculation on your own and have a good idea of where you need to be. And before you come back with all the questions, I realize it doesn’t address body composition, activity or whatever else you were thinking of, but that’s part of why it’s great. It gives you all you need to start taking action without overly complicating things. 

How to measure weight loss 

Now that you know how many calories to eat to lose weight, you’ll want to start tracking your weight. 

When you are trying to lose weight, it can be discouraging when you don’t see progress. So it’s important to be clear on what progress looks like and how you define it. Progress is not seeing the scale go down every day. When that is how you measure successful weight loss, you are just asking for serious problems with your relationship to food and exercise. There’s a whole host of things that can affect your weight from day to day including sleep, salt intake, the timing of bowel movements, and water intake to name a few.

The best way to measure weight loss is following the trend of your weight over time. You can do this in an app, spreadsheet or even writing it down every day. I use the Fitbit app but you can use whatever is easiest for you. I use the Fitbit app as one of the first things I do in the morning to see how I slept.

My weight trend from the last 6 weeks

Notice in the picture how the daily weight fluctuates a lot but the trend over time is what matters. Don’t get distracted by your daily weigh-ins, they are just snapshots in time that don’t mean anything until they are put into the context of your life over time.

Make sure your timing is consistent. You should weigh yourself at the same time each day. I find it’s easiest for me to be consistent when I step on the scale first thing in the morning after going to the bathroom. Find what works for you and be consistent.

How to measure calories accurately

One of the aspects of weight loss that is crucial for success is that you are accurate in how you measure what you eat. Really the only way to ensure that you are accurate in your measuring is to use a food scale. You can pick one up at your local grocery store or get one like the one I use on Amazon

You need to weigh everything you put in your mouth, at least to start. This includes everything you eat at meals to the random things you snack on throughout the day. Don’t forget things like dressings, oil, or treats you grab off of a coworker’s desk. 

You need to weigh everything. Everything.

If there are things that you aren’t able to weigh, use your best judgment as to the size of each ingredient and what is in it. These occurrences should be very irregular.

If you’ve never weighed food before, you’ll find that after a month or so, you get good at knowing what 4 oz of beef looks like or how much 1 tablespoon of olive oil or peanut butter actually is. And with that knowledge, you don’t need to be as strict with your weighing and tracking because you have a good idea of the calorie content of what you’re eating. 

I find that it’s helpful to return to weighing my food a couple of times each year just to make sure I’m still accurate on how much I think things weigh.

Eating out

Most fast-food restaurants and some other restaurants have the calories of their menu items listed on the menu. These are helpful when you’re being more strict on your calories. But one important thing to be aware of is they are allowed to have a 30% variance on the amounts they post. So if you’re counting on the numbers they list to be spot on you’ll probably be disappointed because you know they aren’t going to say that something has more calories than it actually does, they will always either be under or right on. 

So when you use the numbers that restaurants advertise, add 10-15% to their number just to be safe.

The right approach for weight loss

You should be in this for the long term. If you’re trying to do the 6-week wedding prep or summer shred, you are going to perpetuate the past cycle of a sprint with 110% effort, that leaves you worse off. So please, do yourself a favor and accept that good things take time and there’s no finish line.

For some people it has taken years for them to gain the additional weight that they currently have, they won’t be able to lose it and keep it off in a matter of weeks. It’s a journey that will take years. And that should be encouraging. If it takes years, you better believe that they will make it permanent.

With the perspective that the destination is the journey, you will find that there is no such thing as a “set-back” and one day of overeating doesn’t really have much effect on your long term plans.

So when you have a meal that you didn’t mean to overeat at, step back and realize first that it’s okay. Second, your progress isn’t ruined. And third, ask yourself why you overate. Maybe you’re being too aggressive with your calorie deficit or you are lacking some specific nutrients, and that caused you to overeat. Be honest with yourself. There’s no need to feel guilty.

You only have one body and you and your loved ones deserve to have it at it’s best. Do you and them the favor.


Take your goal body weight multiplied by 12 to get your target caloric intake

Progress isn’t measured day-to-day

Use a food scale as often as possible

A sustainable weight loss journey is #yearsnotweeks

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