1200 Calorie Diet – Is It Really All That It’s Made Up To Be?

Before getting into the 1200 calorie diet and what’s good or bad about it, let me first offer you a 1200 calorie meal plan.

What is a 1200 calorie diet – and what makes it so effective at weight loss?

That’s because if you’ve already done your research and decided that it’s time to give it a try, you’ll have a delicious, healthy and satisfying 1,200 calorie meal plan that will slim you down while delighting your tastebuds!

After this, we’ll return to questions like:

  • How much weight will I lose if I eat 1200 calories a day?
  • Is eating 1200 calories a day safe?
  • What happens if you only eat 1200 calories a day?
  • Is 1200 calories a day enough for a teenage girl?

… and many many more questions about the 1200 calorie diet.

Weight Loss Takes Good Habits

It’s impossible to stress this too much. Until you make healthy eating a habit, you will not be able to lose weight – and keep it off.

The simplest, most effective weight loss technique is to build lasting habits that keep you on track to eating right. A 1200 calorie diet meal plan can serve as your guide to make preparations for a whole week ahead.

Take all guesswork out of your grocery shopping and cooking. Just follow the meal plan to prepare delicious breakfasts, nutritious lunches and healthy dinners… every day.1200 Calorie Diet - Monday


Breakfast – Eat 1 banana with 3/4 cup of bran flakes, along with some milk (preferably fat free)

Lunch – Make yourself a whole-wheat sandwich with 3 oz of chicken or turkey breast, a lightly roasted bell pepper, some lettuce and a bit of mayonnaise to taste. Optionally, add a bit of mozzarella cheese, and one serving of fresh fruit.

Dinner – 3 oz serving of salmon or sole along with plum tomatoes and grated cheese, broiled to golden brown. Include a cup of lightly boiled broccoli. Enjoy a scoop of your favorite ice cream for dessert.

1200 Calorie Diet - Tuesday


Breakfast – Half a cup of oats cooked for 2 minutes in the microwave with low fat milk or even water tastes delicious with a chopped or sliced apple. Add a spoon of honey and some cinnamon for flavor.

Lunch – Chicken salad with 4 oz of shredded roast chicken breast and some red grapes, almonds, mayonnaise and Greek yoghurt makes for a healthy and filling 1200 calorie diet. Have a banana along with it.

Dinner – A baked potato served with 4 oz of shrimp, steamed or baked, goes nicely with a salsa sauce and unsweetened yoghurt. Also eat 3 cups of steamed spinach, and top it off with a small chocolate bar. (Yes, it’s around 150 calories – but you deserve to indulge yourself!)

1200 Calorie Diet - Wednesday


Breakfast – Prepare a smoothie with a cup of your choice of berries, one half of a banana and a large mug of low fat milk. Add one or two hard boiled eggs if you still feel hungry.

Lunch – Whip up a cup of vegetable soup. Have it along with a vegetable burger inside a whole grain bagel. Eat a serving of fresh fruit, like grapes or an apple.

Dinner – Barbecue 4 oz of boneless chicken breast and serve with spinach sauteed with olive oil, tomatoes and garlic. Half a sweet potato adds heft to your meal.

1200 Calorie Diet - Thursday


Breakfast – Slice half an apple with an ounce of shredded low fat cheese. Microwave it for 30 seconds along with an English muffin. Enjoy it 3/4 cup of Greek yoghurt sprinkled with almonds.

Lunch – Heat up a cup of tomato soup along with a 3 oz roast beef whole-wheat sandwich. Serve with a side of sliced tomato, horseradish, mustard and lettuce. Round off your meal with a small cup of hummus, and a salad of seasonal raw veggies.

Dinner – 4 oz of poached salmon served with coleslaw (spice, vinegar, olive oil and slaw) paired with a cup of quinoa or rice makes for a filling dinner. Eat an apple for dessert!

1200 Diet Plan - Friday


Breakfast – Whole grain waffles toasted with 2 tablespoons of nut butter and topped with sliced bananas and a dash of cinnamon or nutmeg. Serve along with a large glass of milk.

Lunch – A pita sandwich with tuna, mayonnaise, cucumber, sliced onion and mustard. Enjoy it with 10 baby carrots, a cup of Greek yoghurt, and a piece of fresh fruit like apple, pear or orange.

Dinner – Prepare a jambalaya with:

  • cooked brown rice 3/4 cup
  • corn 1/2 cup
  • turkey sausage 2 oz
  • salsa 1/3 cup
  • black beans 1/4 cup

Heat it up in the microwave and enjoy it with 3 cups of sauteed spinach and garlic in olive oil.

Mediterranean diet plan


Breakfast – A cup of cheerios or other cereal, with berries and slivered almonds in fat free milk or unsweetened Greek yoghurt.

Lunch – Make a quesadilla from fat-free fried beans on a corn tortilla, topped with salsa, shredded cheese and another tortilla. Microwave the preparation for 45 seconds and serve with cucumber slices and oranges.

Dinner – 3 oz of tenderloin roasted with cinnamon flavoring, and a couple of cups of salad greens seasoned with olive oil makes up a lovely end of day 1200 calorie diet meal. Dessert can be a small chocolate bar or ice cream bar.

1,200 Calorie Eating Plan - Sunday


Breakfast – Half an English muffin layered with an ounce of low fat cheese, sliced tomato and a cup of spinach. Eat it with a poached egg and 1 grapefruit.

Lunch – Black bean salad with slices of orange, red onion, chopped bell pepper and other vegetables. Season with vinegar and olive oil. Combine this with corn tortillas and fresh fruit.

Dinner – 3 oz of broiled or grilled steak and a baked potato with a teaspoon of butter. Chase it down with a cup or two of berries.

So there you have a 1200 calorie diet meal plan for an entire week!

If that’s what you were looking for, I hope you’ll enjoy delicious meals all week.

(Want more weight loss meal plans?  Go here)

But if you’re not 100% sure that a 1200 calorie diet is a good idea, stick with me.

Let’s go through the common questions many people have about this strict calorie restricted diet and talk about the pros and cons of following it.

What is Dr Nowzaradan 1200 Calorie Diet?

The 1200 calorie diet is a restrictive diet that limits your daily intake to 1200 calories.

1200 calories may be suitable for some people. For others, it may be too low. In such cases, following a strict 1200 calorie diet may lead to malnutrition.

Dr Nowzaradan – or Dr Now – was on the popular TLC hit show ‘My 600lb Life‘. If you’ve watched this show, you’ll already know that Dr Now devised the 1200 calorie diet plan for his patients.

It often seems as if there are more items listed in the 1200 calorie diet that should NOT be eaten, than ones which are ‘allowed‘. Yet for critically overweight patients, looking at bariatric surgery as their only option, such a restrictive diet is a last ditch effort to cheat the knife!

Also, weight loss surgery (bariatric surgery) isn’t just a technical exercise of reducing stomach size. It involves changing lifestyles and eating habits. This process begins even before surgery, and a 1200 calorie diet is often a part of the conditioning.

How many calories does Dr Now recommend?

Dr Nowzaradan’s 1200 calorie diet plan breaks down into consuming plenty of plant based protein and ensuring adequate hydration. More important than what you eat is monitoring your eating pattern.

A significant downside of the Dr Now 1200 calorie diet is a daunting list of foods to be avoided. They include:

  • sugar
  • cakes, candy and cookies
  • sweetened yoghurt
  • potatoes
  • crackers
  • fruit juices
  • noodles and white rice
  • soda and energy drinks

(See more fat loss diet foods here)

That’s not all. But it’s enough to give you an idea of just how restrictive a 1200 calorie diet can be. And now you also know what to say if somebody asks:

What is Dr Now 1200 calorie diet?

While not all these items on the forbidden list are high calorie foods, they fall under the category of ‘junk food’ that people tend to eat without thinking.

Since the 1200 calorie diet is often advised as preparation for lasting weight management, developing self control and discipline are important goals of this diet plan.

Drastic and sudden changes in eating habits rarely last. Give somebody a list of things they can and can’t eat, and you usually won’t see any improvement in weight or eating habits. It takes a well-thought out plan to make the 1200 calorie diet stick.

1200 Calorie Diet - Meal Plan

Fundamentals of a 1200 Calorie Diet

Most adults consume between 1600 and 3000 calories every day. This helps provide energy for all bodily functions while maintaining body weight.

If you eat fewer calories than your body needs, you shed weight. This happens by initially burning fat, and later other tissue including muscle protein.

Because most people require a lot more than 1200 calories, it is very likely that a 1200 calorie diet will cause you to lose weight. This is useful if you’re obese or overweight.

Research also indicates that there are other advantages from a 1200 calorie diet. The NIH has demonstrated that low calorie intakes help animals live longer without diseases like cancer. But the data isn’t conclusive, and animal data doesn’t always apply to human beings.

It is also likely that the TYPE of food you eat on a 1200 calorie diet is what produces these benefits, rather than the low calorie intake itself.

Is It Safe To Eat 1200 Calories A Day?

On a restricted calorie diet, you’ll find it harder to get adequate amounts of essential macronutrients like proteins and fats, as well as micronutrients like minerals and vitamins.

That’s the reason why it is advisable to talk to a doctor before embarking upon a 1200 calorie diet.

Nutrition labels on food products typically base their recommendations on a daily intake of 2000 calories. So if you are limiting yourself to a 1200 calorie diet, then understand that your calculations must take this into account. Otherwise you may be under-estimating your intake of specific ingredients and food categories.

Nutrition expert Elizabeth Weinandy from Ohio State University says the 1200 calorie diet is “great for the right person“. Sedentary women over the age of 50 may find the 1200 calorie diet most helpful in maintaining weight.

But you should not begin a low calorie diet if you

  • are underweight
  • have eating disorders
  • are pregnant or breastfeeding
  • have menstrual disorders linked to eating poorly
  • are a young child
  • have nutritional deficiencies
  • suffer medical conditions that are worsened by low calorie diets

While lowering calorie intake may reduce weight, the same diet restrictions could lead to malnutrition if you are careless.

If you’re already overweight, the loss of extra pounds may help reduce the risk of diseases, motivating you to stick with a 1200 calorie diet.

But weight should not be the only metric on which the success of any diet is measured.

If a low calorie diet makes you unhealthy, even if you lose weight it will eventually prove harmful. That is why you should consult a doctor or dietician before planning a 1200 calorie diet.

What’s Special About a 1200 Calorie Diet Plan?

Simply this: It works!

Whenever you eat fewer calories than your body burns off, you’ll lose weight. And since 1,200 calories is below what most people burn off normally, a diet that restricts intake to this level will end up producing weight loss.

However, it is not recommended going below 1200 calories.

Beyond this point, intake of important nutrients like protein, calcium and magnesium usually drop to the point they can harm health.

Losing lean body mass is counterproductive, which is a convincing reason to combine a modest strength training workout with a 1200 calorie diet.

The big benefit from your 1200 calorie diet is that it forces you to be more disciplined in your eating. No more will you eat just from habit or reflex. You’ll avoid snacking, because you’ll have to think about every morsel that crosses your lips.

Once you’ve developed the mental attitude to eat mindfully, the benefits will last for a lifetime – especially when you eat the best fat burning foods.

How Much Weight Will I Lose If I Eat 1200 Calories A Day?

If you’ve ever attempted a calorie counting diet, you’ll know how frustrating and annoying it can be to keep track of everything you eat.

So it’s no wonder that most people ask this before starting on their diet: How much weight can I lose eating 1200 calories a day?

While all weight loss diets reduce calorie intake, some replace them with zero calorie foods, while others restrict what you eat.

Low calorie diets restrict intake to 1200 to 1600 calories every day for men, and 1000 to 1200 calories per day for women. Very low calorie diets of 800 are more stringent, and carry some risks when extended for long periods.

A 1200 calorie diet is easier to follow, highly effective, and less likely to interfere with your regular routine than extreme diets. Combined with healthy lifestyle choices like regular exercise and avoiding sedentary practices, a 1200 calorie diet can have incredible health benefits.

1200 Calories Plan

What Happens If You Eat Too Few Calories?

Research published in JAMA (the Journal of the American Medical Association) in 2016 reported on the changes that happen when you restrict calorie intake. It studied obese individuals as well as subjects with normal body weight.

After two years of follow up, the researchers found that people who followed a 1200 calorie diet lost weight, with average weight loss being 7.6 kg (16.8 lbs).

But of greater interest was that quality of life improved dramatically in the diet group, with most participants reporting improved mood, less tension and a sense of overall healthiness throughout the period of follow up.

Dieting also helped improve sleep duration and quality, with some dieters experiencing greater sexual drive and excitement which led to better relationships with partners.

So there’s much to suggest a 1200 calorie diet can be worth the short term pain of restricting yourself from gorging on your favorite foods!

What happens if you only eat 1200 calories a day?

Unless you’re in one of the exclusion categories mentioned earlier, there should not be any major problems with a 1200 calorie diet.

However, if you get a little over-enthusiastic and eat too few calories in an attempt to lose weight faster, the effort turns counter-counterproductive.

Your body goes into ‘starvation mode’ and works to conserve energy. This leads to a plateau in your weight loss attempts, often leading to frustration with the diet plan you’re following.

Is 1200 Calories Too Little?

The actual number of calories that’s right for you varies based on your age, gender and level of physical activity. Young, active men consume more calories than older, sedentary women.

Recommended calorie intakes for women aged 19 to 30 vary between 2,400 if they have active lifestyles, and 2,000 if they are more sedentary. As a general rule, you need a minimum of 1,200 calories to remain healthy.

Is 1200 calories a day enough for a teenage girl?

According to specialists, sedentary teen girls require around 1600 calories daily when they are 12 or 13 years old. After this, their calorie requirement steadily increases to peak around age 19 (when it touches 2000 calories every day). When teens are moderately active, the caloric need increases to 2000 to 2200 calories.

So while 1200 calories may be too little for some people, anything under 1200 would be too little for almost everyone.

At that point, it would be hard to meet mineral and vitamin requirements. And no, it isn’t possible to make do with a supplement – because there are some micro-nutrients that can only be obtained through your diet.

In addition, very low calorie intakes can slow down your metabolism – which is counterproductive when you’re aiming to lose weight. Whatever little you eat will be hoarded by your body, which now reacts as if it’s in a starvation situation and tries to conserve all energy for a future crisis!

This is the reason why your weight loss efforts may hit a plateau after a while, even on a 1200 calorie diet.

With The 1200 Calorie Diet, How Do You Know If Your Calories Are Too Low?

There are some signs to know that you aren’t getting enough calories.

  • You may find it harder to stick with your diet plan, because hunger and boredom are almost constant companions.
  • Your weight loss could stall, because of your slower metabolism.
  • Your energy levels will be constantly low, leaving you tired and lethargic all the time.
  • You might start losing hair. If you notice more hair coming off in your hairbrush or comb every day, it may indicate a calorie intake that’s too low.
  • Sleep deprivation is often associated with low calorie intake, and in turn leads to bad moods and emotional disturbances.
  • Irritability that’s out of character for your regular nature is often a sign that your calories are too low.
  • If you’re always feeling cold, it might be due to not eating enough food to maintain your body temperature.
  • Bowel disturbances like constipation are a common accompaniment to extreme low calorie diet plans.
  • Anxiety has also been linked to a low calorie intake, which may partly be due to a deficiency of micronutrients in your extreme diet.

So while overeating and gaining weight has its own drawbacks, there are dangers attached to not eating enough, as well. Extreme calorie restriction to below a 1200 calorie diet may not be worth the effort.

Be careful not to cross the line in your effort to shed extra pounds!

1200 Calorie Diet Plan For Week

Your 1200 Calorie Diet: Is 1000 Calories a Day Too Low?

Dieters often face an interesting paradox.

On one hand, you need a calorie deficit to lose weight. So you have to burn off more calories than you eat. (See the best foods that burn fat here)

On the other hand, you may feel you’re not consuming many calories, but stubborn belly fat refuses to melt away!

Part of the problem is that we tend to underestimate how many calories we eat.

In a recent study that followed dieters for two weeks, people who reported consuming 1,000 calories or less were really taking about 2,000 calories! That’s right. They were eating almost twice as much as they had estimated…

It’s just that they didn’t realize it.

There’s little doubt that dropping calorie intake too low can be counter-productive, even harmful.

Studies on diets that consume fewer than 1000 calories per day have shown that such extreme calorie restriction can lead to loss of muscle, and slow down the body’s metabolic processes significantly.

In addition, it leaves you feeling ravenously hungry all the while. How long can you withstand the temptation to break your diet and gorge yourself?

How Much Weight Will I Lose Based On Calorie Intake With a 1200 Calorie Diet?

Simple online weight calculators help determine how many calories you must eat in order to lose weight.

But their efficiency depends upon knowing the answer to another important question: How many calories do you burn in a day?

Speaking broadly, women on average must consume 2000 calories daily for maintaining energy requirements. If they reduce it to around 1,500 calories per day, it is likely they’ll lose 1 pound every week.

Men, on the other hand, need 2,500 calories for maintenance and must drop it to 2,000 calories daily to shed a pound every 7 days.

This isn’t a standard formula that works for everyone. The rate of weight loss based on calorie intake depends on several other factors like

  • age,
  • height,
  • physical activity level,
  • current weight,
  • metabolic disorders

and other variables.

Should You Eat Your Exercise Calories?

Discussions about a 1200 calorie diet often lead to this interesting question.

When you lower dietary calorie intake by around 500 calories, you’ll lose weight – just as long as you don’t go far below 1200 calories per day.

But what happens when you exercise as a part of your weight loss program? How many calories should you then eat in order to lose weight with exercise?

An hour of exercise burns off anywhere from 300 to 600 calories. Running consumes the most calories, with walking and cycling also being very effective at burning off calories.

So… should you eat your energy calories?

In other words, do you have to replace the energy consumed during exercise? Or even follow a specific muscle building diet or bodybuilding diet?

Experts believe you should NOT eat extra on workout days. Instead, aim to keep your calorie intake constant on all days, regardless of whether or not you exercise.

It doesn’t work like a bank account balance, where you deposit cash to later withdraw and spend. The process works over a longer time frame with respect to weight loss, and is a bit more complicated. So you must focus on eating lower calorie foods consistently, while burning more calories through exercise.

Berries Fat Burning Foods

How Many Calories Should You Eat To Lose 5 Pounds A Week?

Many weight loss plans that are designed by medical doctors or qualified nutritionists will follow the principles of a 1200 calorie diet and recommend between 1200 and 1500 calories a day.

This works well to lose between 5 and 10 pounds every week.

How many calories does it take to burn 1 pound?

Roughly 3,500 calories equals a pound of fat, so to lose 1 pound you should aim to burn off 3,500 calories.

Of course, to effectively shed extra pounds and keep them off, you must also modify your lifestyle simultaneously, with exercise and healthy eating habits being at the core of sustained weight reduction.

To lose 5 pounds a week, you won’t need to make any sweeping changes. Maybe that’s why there are so many diets for rapid fat loss!

Just as long as you can go without high calorie items like cheeseburgers or candy bars or cakes, you should be able to enjoy most of your favorite foods with tiny tweaks.

Will I Lose Weight On A 1200 Calorie Diet?

If you restrict daily calorie intake to 1,200 calories strictly, almost anyone will lose weight!

To go about weight loss in a more scientific manner, you should compute your daily calorie goals depending upon how much weight you’d like to lose, and how quickly you want to do it.

  • If you want to lose 1 pound per week, cut 500 calories a day
  • If you want to lose 2 pounds per week, cut 1000 calories a day

But when you lower calorie intake to below a 1200 calorie diet, as we have already discussed, there are counter-productive side effects that kick in to impair and hinder your weight loss efforts.

Losing weight on a 1200 calorie diet ought to feel positive and fun, not a torturous experience that you suffer and struggle through, right?

Is a 1200 Calorie Diet Good?

In the final analysis, many dieters just want a simple answer to a straightforward question:

Is the 1200 calorie diet good – or not?

As you’ve seen, the answer is nowhere near being simple or direct. In fact, the only reliable and meaningful response is to say, “It depends.”

The 1200 calorie diet is a restrictive diet that requires you to lower your daily calorie intake to 1200. And while this is fine for some folks, it is too low for others and might lead to malnourishment.

Large built persons, pregnant or breastfeeding women, and those who suffer from some medical disorders often need more calories than others. If you only need few calories, a 1200 calorie diet is safe and effective.

A more relevant way to frame the question is to ask: Is a 1200 calorie diet good FOR ME?

And hopefully all that we’ve talked about here will help you answer the question confidently.

If you’d like to give it a go, scroll up to the top of this page again and see the 1200 calorie diet plan outlined in the beginning.

See if it works for you. And monitor your weight loss, as well as for signs of too few calories.

Of course, as with any diet program, be sure to consult your doctor and/or dietician before embarking on a 1200 calorie diet.

To get more insight into calorie restricted diets and specific details of how exactly one fits into your fat loss goals, make sure you check out the Shaun Hadsall “14 Day Rapid Fat Loss Plan” and read this detailed review of the rapid fat loss program here.