I’m a keen student of nutrition and one of the things which really irks me about the diet industry is the generalised advice you get. Heard these before?

  • Whole foods help you lose weight.
  • Eating meat/going vegetarian diets will make you slim and healthy.
  • Drinking diet fizzy drinks makes you fat.
  • Eat this one food first thing in the morning to make you burn fat.
  • Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.
  • High-carb, low-fat diets are the healthiest.
  • And the one that bugs me the most.... “average recommended calorie intake for women is about 2000 calories per day and men 2,500 calories per day”.

Even as I’m typing this I’m shaking my head! We are all unique individuals for a start. Then add in that this is outdated, regurgitated rubbish from people who simply haven’t kept up with modern life. These figures date from the Second World War, and back then we were a darn more active than we are now.

If you REALLY want to know how little food you need to eat to keep your weight stable I’ll tell you how, because I just worked it out for myself and I was horrified!

My sister, who is younger and taller than me, has a basal metabolic rate of just 1600 calories per day. She has to go for a high-intensity walk with the dog for over an hour a day to get to the 2000 calories a day touted as the ‘norm’ for women.

Mine is even lower. At 51 years old and 5ft 4 inches, my basal metabolic rate (BMR) is just 1360 calories per day. That’s horrifying! It means that if I did no exercise every day, I can only eat 1360 calories to keep my weight stable. To give you an idea of how little that really is, that’s two Weetabix with 200mls semi-skimmed milk (243 calories); mug of tea with milk (43); an average chocolate caramel slice (518); mug of cappuccino (123); a ham, cheese and tomato toastie (442) – total 1369!

To really bring this home to you, one 200g bar of Cadbury Dairy Milk and two small glasses of red wine contain 1302 calories. That’s nearly a whole day’s worth of energy – not very much for a day’s food and drink. Now I do about two hours a day walking with the dogs, so two hours’ walking at a brisk 3mph stomp adds another 300 calories per hr – so that’s another 600 calories, bringing the total I can eat in a day to 1960. So even I (with two hours’ exercise a day minimum) don’t get to eat the recommended ‘2,000 calories a day for women’.

How do you find out what your baseline calorie needs are? I’m going to tell you here so you can work it out.

Women: The formula is 655, plus 4.35 x your weight in pounds, plus 4.7 x your height in inches. Calculate the total, then take away 4.7 x your age in years.

Men: the formula is 66, plus 6.23 x your weight in pounds, plus 12.7 x your height in inches. Calculate the total then take away 6.8 x your age in years.

What did that give you? And are you horrified at that number? Because if you’re anything like an average man or woman at average weight and height, even with average exercise added in, there’s not much chance of your basal metabolic rate being the ‘recommended’ amounts.

Start with this BMR calculation then be realistic about exercise you do and look it up on the internet. There are plenty of tables on average calories burned during exercise and if in doubt always take the LOWER number.

So if you’re wondering why your weight continues to balloon, take this challenge to find out what you really need to eat to even keep stable. Once you know, then you’ll be in a position to decide how to reduce your weight. Then you’ll also know how much you need to cut from your diet to even lose a pound (3,500 calories of fat) a week. It’s quite an eye-opener.