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Calories: How Many Do I Need?

Achieving the right calorie balance for healthy weight loss

Achieving a healthy weight involves getting the right ‘energy balance’. The amount of energy (calories) you consume needs to be balanced with the amount you use up through daily activities and exercise.

Staying the same weight relies on energy intake being balanced with energy burned.

If you take in more energy than your body needs, those extra calories are stored as fat, which leads to weight gain over time.

If you're trying to lose weight, your energy balance should be in ‘deficit’: the calories you take in should be less than calories you burn.

Three steps to healthy weight loss

1: Know how many calories you need

This handy guide helps you work out how many calories you need. It accounts for your age, weight and how active you are.

2: Know how many calories you should cut out

A healthy weight loss target is 0.5-2lb a week. This means a deficit of 250-1000 calories per day. Generally, the more weight you need to lose, the bigger the calorie deficit you can realistically aim for.

3: Plan how you’ll achieve your calorie deficit

You can achieve calorie deficit by consuming fewer calories and/or burning more through movement and exercise.

Here are some examples to help bring it to life:

Dave wants to lose 1lb per week. Most of his extra calories come from snacks and treats. He needs to make a deficit of 500kcal per day. Some ways he could achieve this are:

  • Doing half an hour of running and cutting a 500ml bottle of cola out
  • Skipping his visit to the coffee shop for a cappuccino and Danish
  • Doing an hour of vigorous cycling or running
  • Walking 20 minutes to and from work and choosing lighter and/or fewer snacks throughout the day

Shannon wants to lose 2lb per week but struggles with portion sizes. She needs a deficit of around 1000kcal per day. Examples of how she could do this include:

  • Switching from whole to skimmed milk with her cereal, reducing her lunch size from 2 sandwiches to 1 and not going for seconds at dinner
  • Cycling vigorously for half an hour and cutting back from a bottle of wine to a glass
  • Planning portion-controlled snacks throughout the day (e.g. a small packet of healthier crisps, an apple and a low-calorie snack bar over a sharing bag of crisps, a punnet of grapes and a packet of biscuits)

Note: these are rough guides. Calories burnt through exercise varies from person to person, and the number of calories in foods varies depending on the amount eaten, brand and so on. 

Take a look at this British Heart Foundation guide to portion sizes - it is a really helpful way of instantly gauging how much is enough.

We’re here for you

Register to create your healthy living profile today and get personalised tips and support for your lifestyle goal. Consider how the support of our Wellness Coaching can help you take steps to manage your weight. A member of our coaching team can talk with you on the phone regularly, encouraging you to make and stick to your plan! Register and contact us to discuss coaching. 


How does this work?

The tailored approach LiveWell Dorset uses to come up with solutions to the things that are stopping us achieving our goals, is based upon work done by University College London developing the COM-B model of behaviour change. In this model, all behaviour is influenced by understanding a person’s capability to change, their opportunity to change and their motivation to change. By understanding which of these is the biggest barrier to change, we can tailor support accordingly. This model of behaviour change is at the centre of the support we offer, online and in person.

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