The way in which you lose weight consuming 1,200 calories a day is a lot like any other type of diet. You watch what you eat while increasing energy expenditure to promote weight loss. But according to the National Institutes of Health, a 1200-calorie diet is only advisable for women. Men shouldn't consume less than 1,500 calories a day, unless under the care of a medical professional.
Talk to your health care provider. The National Institutes of Health recommends talking to a physician or a dietitian before starting any diet, even those purported to be medically or nutritionally safe.
Establish a goal. With any sort of weight loss program, the Cleveland Clinic claims that you need to establish a target weight loss in pounds and time. If you're hoping to lose 25 lbs., you also need to determine the amount of time in which you'd like to accomplish this. However, this goal needs to be attainable, so stating you'd like to lose 25 lbs. in a month may be rather high, since that works out to be almost 7 lbs. a week, which is 5 lbs. more than recommended for a healthy weight loss.
Determine how much of a caloric deficit 1,200 calories creates over a course of a week. For women, start off by estimating your current caloric need: [(4.35 x weight in pounds) + (4.7 x height in inches) - (4.7 x years) + 655] x 1.2. Then, subtract 1,200 calories from this total.
If you establish that your daily caloric need is 1,750 calories, eating 1,200 calories a day provides a caloric deficit of 550 calories, which adds up to a 3,850-caloric deficit for the week. This provides a weight loss of over 1 lb., since 3,500 calories is equivalent to 1 lb. of fat, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Eat a breakfast high in fiber. A high-fiber breakfast is an important part of any diet, advises the Harvard Medical School. Even a 1,200-calorie diet should begin with a breakfast high in fiber. High-fiber cereals mixed with high-fiber fruits, like apples, pears, bananas, blueberries and raspberries, can provide a great deal of fiber to start the day.
Eat a healthy, well-balanced lunch. To keep calories low, stick with vegetables, legumes, whole grain pastas and lean cuts of meats. Make sure to measure out the servings to help estimate calorie consumption for the meal.
Eat a light supper. Get your protein from fish, poultry or legumes, and make sure to include many vegetables and whole grains, since they're naturally low in calories. This should help to keep you around 1,200 calories for the day.
Leave room for snacks. A midmorning and afternoon snack can help to keep hunger at bay, so leave caloric room for a couple of snacks, such as fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy and even nuts.
Pay attention to what you're drinking. Since 1,200 calories is relatively low for caloric consumption, pay close attention to what you're drinking. Many juices, sodas and coffees have over 100 calories per serving, which can increase your caloric consumption over 1,200 calories.
Avoid foods high in sugar and high in fat, urges the National Institutes of Health. These products typically contain more calories than fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
Encourage additional weight loss with exercise. You can increase your caloric deficit, and thereby encourage further weight loss, with an exercise program, even on a 1,200 calorie diet. The National Institutes recommend 30 minutes of exercise upward of three days a week. The Mayo Clinic advises 30 to 60 minutes most days of the week. Discuss which option is best for you with a medical professional.
Consider starting a weight loss journal. A weight loss journal can help you track your calorie consumption to maintain a 1,200-calorie diet as well as estimate the number of calories you burn during exercise.