Why You Aren’t Losing Weight Eating 1,200 Calories

You’re eating a tiny amount of calories, eating in a huge calorie deficit, exercising often but aren’t losing any weight? Sound about right? Hungry, tired and frustrated you keep on going, hoping to one day see the scale start to go down rapidly. Maybe your body just needs a bit of time to adjust to your new eating and exercising schedule. You’re eating next to nothing so surely the scale has to start going down? Well, this actually isn’t necessarily the case at all. Yes, weight loss does happen when you eat in a calorie deficit. However, it’s not all about the foods you’re eating and the amount you’re eating. There is so much more that goes in to losing weight. In this article we delve deeper in to the reasons you may not be losing weight eating 1200 calories a day.

Calories Are Too Low

Yes, eating too few calories per day can actually make you GAIN weight instead of lose it. It is estimated a healthy person will burn on average 1200 calories if they were to lie in bed all day and not do anything. This is the amount of fuel your body needs just to survive. Fuel for things such as – breathing, pumping blood around your body, working your internal organs, blinking, healing wounds…etc.

For maintaining your weight, it is estimated for an average woman 1600 – 2300 calories per day, depending on your activity levels. Whereas for a man 2300 – 3000 calories per day. The more active you are, the more claories you will need to maintain your energy levels.

So, say you’re only eating 1200 calories a day, which is the base amount your body needs to survive. Everything you’re eating is going in to keeping you alive so your body goes in to storage mode for survival. EVERY calorie you put in to your system, your body will store. It can’t afford to let anything go as it needs all the energy it can get. This means more fat will be stored in your cells. In this storage mode, you might feel the cold more as all the energy you’re giving your body is going in to working your major organs. You’ll feel lethargic most of the time and some people have been known to grow extra fuzzy hair across their bodies for extra warmth.

Once you start to increase your daily calorie consumption, your body will slowly come out of starvation mode. When this happens, you’ll start to see the scale going down as your body lets go of the extra fat it’s stored up. So, if you’re eating very low calories, maybe try eating a bit more each day and see if that helps.

Slow Metabolism

Another reason you might be gaining weight on such a low caloric intake could be due to your having a slow metabolism. Having a slow metabolism generally comes from under eating for long periods of time. Again, this is due to your body going in to starvation mode. It slows down your metabolism to try to preserve as much energy for as long as possible. Your body will adapt to the amount of calories you put in to it (within reason). So, if you have been under feeding yourself for months or years, you’ve probably actually damaged your metabolism.

However, this generally isn’t permanent and can be fixed by doing a reverse diet. A reverse diet is where you SLOWLY begin to increase your daily calorie intake. Maybe start with 50-100 extra calories a day, and work up to somewhere more around the base levels mentioned above for men/women. Your body will start to get used to having more calories given to it and gradually increase your metabolism again.

Tracking Calories Incorrectly

This is something that is actually very common. It can be very easy to incorrectly calculate your calories. For example – say you track 1 teaspoon of peanut butter. It should be one flat teaspoon of peanut butter. However, you’ve been having a heaped teaspoon instead of a flat one. Right there the difference in calories could easily be 100 – 200 calories. The same with things such as olive oil, spreads, jams, sauces…etc. Most of these things are VERY calorific and are commonly either forgotten about when it comes to tracking, or calculated wrongly.

Try using an app such as My Fitness Pal and track out ALL your food by weighing every item. This will give you a much better idea of how much you are consuming on a daily basis.

Over Exercising

Another very common thing for people to do while trying to lose weight is to over exercise. The combination of under eating and over exercising could be doing you more harm than good. If your body feels over worked and under fuelled, it’s likely to be stressed and tense. You’re not giving it time to heal properly in between workouts or giving it the nutrients it needs to replenish its stores.

Your body has the ability to adapt to anything you throw at it, including being over worked. When over worked, it will again try to hold on to anything you fuel it with, holding on to fat for energy. You MUST give your body time to adapt if you’re new to exercise but you must also give it the fuel it needs to thrive.

It’s like not putting fuel in to your car and expecting it to be able to keep on driving. At some point it’s going to break down if you don’t put more fuel in.

You should avoid excess amounts of cardio. Depending on your fitness levels, maybe just try doing cardio twice a week and opt for a HIIT workout instead. This won’t put as much strain on your body as it’s a much quicker option. However, it will give you more bang for your buck as it gets your heart rate up higher, for longer.

Over Consuming Alcohol

Alcoholic beverages are again, very often forgotten when it comes to tracking food. In fact, alcohol is VERY calorific and can have a huge effect on your weight loss journey. Obviously if you like to have a glass of wine or beer then go for it, however maybe more in moderation and perhaps just the one small glass.

By drinking alcohol, your body will prioritise trying to get this out of your system as fast as it can as it sees this as a toxin, instead of any food you’ve consumed. Meaning any food you have eaten won’t be used as fuel and instead stored as fat. Also, by drinking alcohol will lead to hormonal suppression, resulting in a decrease in testosterone. Any time testosterone is decreased in the body, means you’re more likely to store the calories as fat.

Medical Reasons

And finally, the last reason you might not be losing weight eating 1200 calories could be due to a medical issue. Although very unlikely, you could have an underlying medical reason as to why you’re not losing weight.

Conditions such as hyperthyroidism can make weight loss a lot more challenging. Your thyroid, is where your hormones are controlled in your body. So, if this isn’t working properly, your body could find it harder to lose excess weight. If you think this could be an issue for you, make sure you go and see your GP who can direct you for tests.

However, there are also some prescription medications that can also make losing weight much more difficult. Medications such as – antidepressants and steroids are known to make weight loss harder, and in some cases can even make you put on weight. If you’re concerned about this and are currently taking either of these medications, make sure you go and speak to your GP.


There isn’t a one size fits all when it comes to weight loss or calorie consumption. It’s about finding what works for you. Try a few different things from the above list (one at a time) and see what helps you. It’s all abut trial and error until you find it. Losing weight eating 1200 calories is a very unlikely outcome.

There is NO quick cure or magic potion that will do this for you – no matter what some ‘influencers’ might say! An 8 week beach body plan will ONLY work if you’re pretty much there anyway. See your weight loss journey as a new lifestyle, not a quick fix. Don’t fixate on the end goal. Enjoy the process and learn from your experiences.

What are some of your top tips for why you’re not losing weight eating 1200 calories?

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