How many calories per day to lose weight?

May 20, 2019
Calories are an important consideration in weight loss and body composition, but are they THE consideration?

Spring is that delightful season when (insert lovely piano concerto music) the plants are sprouting leaves and flowers, the birds are chirping, the bees are busily humming, and (insert sounds of needle scratching across a vinyl record) we often become hyper-aware of the extra pounds we may have packed on over the winter. I know!

This means, among other things, that I’m getting lots of questions from clients about weight loss and caloric intake. How many calories should I be eating to lose weight? This isn’t a bad question, but it’s missing an important nuance. The better question is:

What kinds of foods should I be eating to lose weight in a healthy, sustainable way; and are there caloric guidelines to be considered?

Caloric content of food is a concept that folks can become overfocused on, and calorie counting can be tedious and stressful. Instead of counting calories, eat calories that count! Cultivate an understanding about food and your body because, at the end of the day, our health and weight are less about the number of calories in our food and more about the quality of the food we eat. You see, the effect of calories in our biochemistry, which is what we care about, depends largely on the nutrient makeup of the food item.

For instance, a bagel and an avocado each have roughly 230 calories. The bagel, due to its size and density, is equivalent to four slices of bread. Further, similar to most refined grain products, that bagel is comparable to a candy bar in our system about twenty-five minutes after we eat it. An empty carb like a bagel or pasta is quickly broken down into simple sugars. It contains no nutrients, is a one-way ticket to weight gain, and we’re practically guaranteed to be hungry an hour later because empty carbs are, well, empty.

Meanwhile, the avocado boasts ten grams of fiber, copious health-building monounsaturated fats, and vitamins and minerals. The fats and fiber help us feel full longer and help us lose weight, while the vitamins and minerals blast our cells with nutrients.

We find that a bagel and an avocado contain the same number of calories, but create different impacts in the body.

That said, it’s good to know that most folks require somewhere around 2,000 calories a day to run their body, and to know the caloric content of fake food. It’s instructive to understand, for example, that the Starbucks java chip frappuccino coffee that we pick up each day has close to 500 calories.

Knowing this, we realize that we’re drinking one whole quarter of our daily calories, and receiving no nutrients from any of them; but we?re still likely eating as much as we would without the frappuccino. We’re adding 3,500 nonnutritive liquid calories a week to our intake, which is akin to eating a whole extra day-and-a-half of calories. The result is fewer health-building nutrients and more body fat. This is an example of how calorie information can be helpful, in some instances.

Further, if we shift our food choices away from empty carbs and processed food, and toward more nutrient-dense foods like veggies, nuts and eggs, we become more satisfied while also naturally eating less calories.

Create Vibrant Health: BodyMindSpirit?

With love and calorie savvy,


  1. Kathy

    My husband argues with me that it doesn?t matter how you get your calories. That as long as you burn more than you eat, you will lose weight. I?ve tried explaining that it does matter where the calories come from. He is trying to lose weight and just said recently that avocados have too many calories. I?m going to send him this article and hopefully he will read it. Your explanation is perfect!

    • Laurie

      Great! I’m glad it was helpful Kathy. Yes, the old “calories in – calories out” is certainly a consideration, but the form the calories come in is also important. Even a complex carb (like oatmeal) and a simple carb (like a muffin) are going to process differently in our bodies.

  2. Andrea

    Laurie, I find this so true. I have recently changed my diet to no grains, no gluten, no dairy. I thought I’d be starving but, as you noted, eating a higher quality of food has me fully satisfied.

    • Laurie

      I’ll bet you feel really good! Those are three of the six that are removed in my 21-day Body Sass? Cleanse (with the other three being alcohol, caffeine, and soy) and those three can have a big affect in how we feel, and how we lose weight. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  3. Weight Loss

    You are sharing some great ways that can help to consume an enough quantity of calories in a day. I will keep these tips in mind. Thanks and keep sharing.

    • Laurie

      My pleasure! I’m happy you found them helpful.


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