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How Long Can You Stay on a 1,200-Calorie Diet?

author image Pam Murphy
Pam Murphy is a writer specializing in fitness, childcare and business-related topics. She is a member of the National Association for Family Child Care and contributes to various websites. Murphy is a licensed childcare professional and holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of West Georgia.
How Long Can You Stay on a 1,200-Calorie Diet?
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A reliable indicator of whether a diet plan suits your goals is your ability to maintain that diet for more than a few weeks. Eating plans that rely on deprivation to shed pounds quickly are generally short-lived for a reason. Individual factors, such as your weight, age and activity level all contribute to your calorie needs. While a 1,200-calorie diet works well for some people, others need more calories to support their lifestyles.

Minimum Calorie Recommendations

Although 1,200 calories is considered the minimum healthy calorie level for women, men generally need at least 1,500 to support nutritional and energy needs. For active women, 1,200 calories may not be enough. If you stay hungry on a 1,200-calorie diet, increasing your calorie target by 100 to 200 calories may help you stick with a restricted eating plan without sabotaging your weight loss.

Staying Power

A 1,200-calorie diet that provides adequate nutrition and includes a variety of filling foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins, is generally sustainable, provided you feel satisfied and not constantly hungry. While a very low-calorie diet that provides 800 calories or fewer must be monitored by a medical professional, a woman can typically continue 1,200-calorie diets without supervision for as long as she can stick with the plan. There are potential side effects, however, if you lose weight too quickly at this calorie level.

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Rapid Weight Loss

It takes a deficit of 1,000 calories per day to produce 2 lbs. of weight loss per week. Weight loss at a rate of more than 2 lbs. per week is not recommended, unless under the care and supervision of a doctor. Potential side effects of rapid weight loss include gallstones, fatigue and nausea. If a 1,200-calorie diet produces a loss of more than 2 lbs. per week, increase your calorie intake in increments of 100 to 200 calories until you find a calorie goal that supports a healthier rate of weight loss.


A 1,200-calorie diet works well for some people, but isn't the magic number for everyone. To enjoy long-term weight management, you need to commit to healthy lifestyle changes, including getting regular exercise and making balanced, healthful food choices. When you reach your goal weight, your calorie needs for weight maintenance will likely be lower than they were at your starting weight. At that point, experiment with your calorie target until you find a range that helps you maintain your weight. Consult with your doctor before starting a weight loss or exercise plan, particularly if you have a diet-related illness or a history of heart problems.

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