Calculating calories for weight loss

QUESTION: I’m almost 40 years old, 5-foot-5 and weigh over 200 pounds. I’m so tired of feeling fat and I’m determined to lose weight this year. How many calories should I eat each day?

 —Leah from Virginia


ANSWER: Calculating your calorie needs can be a bit complicated because you have to factor in a number of variables, including your weight, height, age, gender and activity level. But you can get a ballpark estimate using this simple formula:

  1. Figure out a goal weight.
  2. Multiply that number by 12. 

For example, at 5-foot-5, let’s say your goal weight is about 140 pounds: 140 pounds x 12 = 1,680 calories each day for weight loss. 

You certainly don’t have to hit this exact number each and every day, but it’s a good reference range. In fact, I think it’s a good idea to create a range around that number, and for you, a reasonable and effective range would be between 1,400 and 1,800 calories. 

And of course, the type of calories you’ll be eating matters, too. Focus on plenty of produce and lean protein (fish and seafood, skinless chicken, lean meat, beans, and lentils), and enjoy moderate amounts of whole grains and healthy fats. 

You can do this, Leah!


Have a diet or nutrition question you’d like me to answer? Send it my way.