Use Our Weight Loss Calculator to Determine Your Daily Calorie Goal to Lose Weight

young woman looking at her phone while eating a healthy salad in her kitchen
When it comes to healthy weight loss, calories count but less isn't always best.Abdullah Durmaz/iStock; Adobe Stock

Creating a calorie deficit, consuming fewer calories than your body needs to maintain its current weight, is a fundamental approach to weight loss. You can achieve this by eating less, increasing physical activity, or both. To tailor this approach to your individual needs, tools like Everyday Health’s weight loss calculator, developed by registered dietitian-nutritionists (RDNs) and the team at Lose It!, provides personalized daily calorie goals. The calculator suggests minimum daily calorie intakes of 1,200 for women, 1,350 for nonbinary individuals, and 1,500 for men. We recommend you consult with a healthcare professional to determine the best approach for you.

Everyday Health Weight Loss Calculator

Follow the prompts in the weight loss calculator below to see how many calories you should aim to consume each day to reach your desired weight.

You might be unsure about what your daily calorie intake should be to lose weight. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's 2020–2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans estimate daily calorie needs based on sex assigned at birth. Women typically need 1,600 to 2,400 calories per day and men need 2,000 to 3,000 calories per day. These ranges are for weight maintenance, not loss.?

If you have a history of an eating disorder or disordered eating — as detailed by the American Psychiatric Society — or any other health concerns that you might need help managing, consult a healthcare professional. An RDN can help personalize a healthy eating or weight loss plan that’s safe and customized to you.

How to Lose 1 Pound

How to Lose 1 Pound

How Many Calories Do You Need?

We all need a basic amount of energy for our bodies to function, commonly called basal metabolic rate. Your body requires this amount of energy each day even if you’re resting comfortably in a bed the whole day, awake but not moving other than breathing. These functions provide energy to cells and tissues, circulate blood, assist with breathing, and support all your organs, like the lungs, brain, digestive tract, and kidneys.

Other factors, on top of the basal metabolic rate, can influence your calorie needs. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, daily calorie needs vary based on many factors, including age, sex, height, weight, physical activity level, and pregnancy or lactation status.

To maintain your weight, you need to consume about the amount of daily calories that your body requires to support your basal metabolic needs and all your regular physical activity. To lose weight, you need to eat fewer calories than your body requires at your current activity level.

A common assumption is that a deficit of 3,500 calories will lead to the loss of 1 pound (lb) of body weight. Research suggests that this rule of thumb overpredicts weight loss.

To calculate your estimated daily energy needs, consider the following factors.

Current Weight

To determine the number of calories you need to maintain or lose weight, start by weighing yourself to find your current weight. If your weight is already in a healthy range for your height, you should aim to eat the number of calories required to maintain your weight. Healthy weight can be a subjective term, but the American Cancer Society provides a chart on healthy weights and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides guidance on calculating your body mass index (BMI).

If you’d like to lose weight, use a weight loss calculator to generate estimated calorie needs for gradual weight loss at your current weight.

Goal Weight

Choose a realistic goal weight (more on this later), or try a few different goal weights to see what the calculator will suggest for your calorie needs. Most weight loss calculators will use your goal weight to generate a calorie amount that should lead to gradual weight loss.

Date to Achieve Desired Weight

Weight loss calculators often ask your desired goal date for your desired weight to help determine your calorie goal. If you wish to lose weight faster, the calculators give a lower daily calorie goal. If you have more time for weight loss, the daily calorie goal may be higher.

Note that all weight loss calculators have limitations, and they may give you an unsustainably low calorie goal if you enter a large amount of weight to lose with a short goal date. Although this number varies depending on body size and activity level, as an RD I recommend no fewer than 1,200 to 1,300 calories per day for women and 1,400 to 1,500 calories per day for men to cover basic metabolic needs.

Birth Sex

Biological sex affects calorie needs because of varying muscle mass and body size. Biological men tend to have larger body frames than women, with more muscle mass. Larger body sizes and more muscle mass increase calorie needs.

Age

Calorie needs are generally higher when we’re younger and decrease over time as we age. This decrease in calorie needs results from reduced physical activity, loss of muscle mass, gains in fat mass, and lower basic metabolic needs as we age. A woman who is 35 and active has higher calorie needs than a woman who is 65 with the same activity level.

Height

A taller person generally has more body mass than a shorter person. Bodies with more mass need more energy to carry out essential life functions, and they use more energy during physical activity, too.

Activity Level

Your level of physical activity affects your daily calorie needs. Consider whether you fit into one of these general activity levels listed in the Dietary Guidelines:

  • Sedentary?includes only the physical activity required for independent living, like showering, eating, and moving from room to room.
  • Moderately active?means a person walks 1.5 to 3 miles per day in addition to the activities of daily living.
  • Active?means walking more than 3 miles per day in addition to the activities of daily living.

Highly active people tend to have multiple vigorous exercise sessions (running, mountain climbing, intense interval training) most days of the week or a very physically demanding job (military or careers that require a lot of physical labor).

How to Set Realistic Weight Loss Goals

Your goals need to be attainable and realistic if you're going to lose weight and keep it off. You likely won’t have a lot of long-term weight loss success if you radically change your habits quickly, but gradual, steady progress can lead to lasting change. Per the CDC, people with gradual weight loss of 1 or 2 lbs per week are more likely to maintain their weight loss than people who lose weight more rapidly.

Instead of picking an arbitrary weight loss number, consider starting with a simplified goal. A loss of 5 to 10 percent of your weight over a few months or 1 or 2 lbs per week is a realistic place to start.

Weight loss data from more than 16,000 Lose It! users supports the idea that slow and steady wins the weight loss race. Users who successfully met their weight loss goals tended to have less-aggressive weight loss plans of ? lb per week. On average, users who met their weight loss goals took about 187 days to reach their desired weight.

days-to-reach-goal-weight
Lose It! users who successfully met their weight loss goals tended to have less-aggressive weight loss plans of ? pound per week.Loseit!

When you are overweight or have obesity, the loss of even a small percentage of your body weight may offer benefits. Participants in the CDC's National Diabetes Prevention Program who lost 5 to 7 percent of their starting weight and increased their exercise by 150 minutes per week decreased their risk of type 2 diabetes by up to 58 percent.

Remember, any healthy change is positive progress, even if it doesn’t result in immediate or quick weight loss. For example, if you increase the amount of vegetables you eat per day but don’t see any weight loss, you’re still getting more nutrients to nourish your body and improve your overall health.

The Role of Diet in Weight Loss

It’s essential to pay special attention to your diet when you're trying to lose weight. Make sure you consume the right amount of calories while also meeting your nutrient and vitamin needs for good health.

A generally healthy diet is vital, regardless of weight loss goals. A healthy diet is low in highly processed foods, added sugars, and refined grains, but includes:

  • Foods from each macronutrient group: carbohydrates, protein, and fat
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Healthy fats, such as avocado, olive oil, nuts and seeds
  • Whole grains
  • Lean proteins, like fish, pork loin, chicken breast, beans, tofu
  • Low-fat dairy or dairy alternatives such as soy, almond, or oat milk products

Registered Dietitian–Approved Tips for Adequate Nutrition During Weight Loss

  1. Eliminate empty calories found in sugary beverages, snacks with highly refined grains and sugar such as potato chips, crackers, and packaged cookies and cakes, candy, and alcohol. Avoid these types of foods and drinks, and opt instead for nutrient-rich foods while staying within your calorie goal.
  2. Focus first on the major food groups. Ensure you include a protein source, healthy fat, nonstarchy vegetables or a serving of fruit, and whole grains at most meals.
  3. Instead of reaching for a less nutrient-rich snack, focus on vegetables and fruits as snacks, too. Try apple slices with a tablespoon of peanut butter or carrot sticks with hummus.
  4. Focus on foods that are lower in calories but higher in nutrients so you can eat more volume and feel fuller. Eat a vegetable-rich soup with dinner to feel satisfied, and add a large spinach or lettuce salad to your lunch.

The Role of Exercise in Weight Loss

According to the CDC, exercise has numerous potential health benefits beyond just promoting weight loss, including reducing the risk of health conditions like diabetes and heart disease, strengthening bones and muscles, promoting healthy aging, and reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression.

According to weight loss data from more than 16,000 Lose It! users, those who exercised on average one day per week or more were almost twice as likely to reach their weight loss goals as those who exercised less or not at all (7 versus 4 percent).

That said, the effect of exercise on weight loss is less profound than you might expect. If you don’t make any dietary changes, it will be difficult to lose a significant amount of weight from exercise alone.

High levels of aerobic exercise may lead to weight loss, but the amount of weight lost from exercise alone is generally modest, research suggests. One review found it’s possible to have a modest weight loss of 2 to 3 kilograms (kg), about 4.4 to 6.6 lbs, with greater than 150 minutes of exercise per week.

Research shows people tend to eat more when they exercise more because they're hungrier, among other potential factors, such as hormone shifts. Also, there’s a limit to how much exercise a person can do daily, especially while maintaining a job and other responsibilities. High levels of physical activity are difficult to maintain over a prolonged period of weight loss efforts.

RD Tips for Incorporating Exercise Into Your Day

  • Use your lunch break to take a walk. Even if it's just a few laps around a parking lot or building, you’ll feel better after moving around in fresh air away from your desk for a few minutes.
  • Use exercise as your social time. Meet up with a friend for a group fitness class, or meet at a coffee shop to order a drink to take with you on a walk instead of meeting for happy hour.
  • On Sunday nights, look at your schedule for the week and plan which mornings or nights you can fit in a workout. Add them to your calendar so you remember your intention to exercise. Even 15- to 20-minute bouts of exercise can add up when you incorporate them consistently.

Monitoring Your Progress

Self-monitoring is important for weight loss, according to research. This typically includes tracking exercise, calories, and weight changes, and keeping a food diary. Self-monitoring can be done either with the use of technology, like an app or website, or a paper log.

One retrospective study of 2,113 people enrolled in a weight loss program found that those who used self-monitoring behaviors more consistently were more likely to lose weight. People who logged food for three or more days per week, weighed themselves three or more times per week, and had a higher percentage of weeks where they logged foods five or more times had greater weight loss success. These self-monitoring behaviors were statistically significant predictors of weight change.

Along with tracking food or changes in weight, it’s also important to monitor your other progress so you can celebrate all of your healthy wins, not just weight loss.

“It’s easy to forget how much progress you’ve made while going through your day-to-day life, but running longer without stopping, lifting heavier weights at the gym, or having better sleep and energy levels are successes, too,” says Melissa Mitri, RD, a nutrition writer and the owner of Melissa Mitri Nutrition?in the New York City area. She recommends logging your habits and your successes so you can see how far you’ve come.

Calorie Tracking Apps to Monitor Progress

If you’re interested in using a calorie tracking app for weight loss after you calculate your calorie goals, try one of these apps, which have 4-plus stars in both the Apple Store and Google Play.

  1. Calorie Counter by Lose It!
  2. Calorie Counter: MyNetDiary
  3. Track: Calorie Counter or Nutritionix Track
  4. MyFitnessPal: Calorie Counter
  5. Calory: Calorie Counter Macros
  6. Calorie Counter: EasyFit
  7. Calorie Counter by Cronometer

  8. Calorie Counter by FatSecret

Note that the Lose It! app is owned by Everyday Health. As you lose weight, plug your information in the Everyday Health weight loss calculator periodically to see if your goal calorie level has changed.

How to Overcome Common Weight Loss Challenges

During the weight loss journey, people often run into common pitfalls, such as facing emotional eating, hitting a plateau, or losing motivation.

Emotional Eating

If you’re having trouble with emotional eating, you might need to learn new ways to manage your emotions and stress instead of turning to your favorite comfort foods. Talk to a friend if you need support during a stressful situation, or consider seeking out therapy if you need more help than your friends and family can provide.

You could also try taking a few deep breaths to steady yourself before considering whether you need a snack. Breathwork exercises may help with stress and anxiety, which may decrease emotional eating.

Work Through a Plateau

If your weight loss has stalled, try some of these tips from Mitri.

First, reassess your habits. If you’re keeping a food log, “look back at your food and exercise logs from the past few weeks to see if anything has changed. For example, have you started eating larger portions, eating more sweets or processed foods, or do you need to be more diligent about exercising?”

If you’re not keeping a log to track any habits or food intake, a weight loss plateau might be a good time to start.

Then, try to adjust your calorie intake or output, because your “baseline calorie needs decrease after you lose a certain amount of weight. You will often need to increase your calorie deficit a bit more — either through lower calorie intake, more exercise, or both — to continue to lose weight.”

A drastic decrease isn’t necessary. Per Melissa, simply, “decreasing by 100 to 200 calories per day is often enough to get things going again.”

Stay Motivated

Mitri also has tips to stay motivated while losing weight. She advises people to “remember your why,” or the reason you wanted to lose weight in the first place. To do this, “keep your why front and center, such as in a journal or on a motivational poster nearby to keep your momentum going. This is especially necessary when you feel inclined to give up, or it feels especially hard.”

Above all, remember that: “weight loss takes time, and it's okay to reflect and reset when needed to keep your motivation up. Consistency wins over perfection every time!”

The Bottom Line

If you’re interested in losing weight and don’t know where to start, try using a weight loss calculator to estimate the amount of calories you need to consume daily for weight loss. Use the Everyday Health weight loss calculator as part of the puzzle during your weight loss journey, along with a healthy diet and plenty of physical activity.

A weight loss calculator can give you a goal calorie level per day that should lead to weight loss, but the calculator uses only the basic information you provide to estimate this. If you’re unable to make sense of a goal given by a weight loss calculator or if you need help achieving your goals healthfully, please seek help from a registered dietitian or other healthcare provider.

This content is meant to be informative, but should not be taken as medical advice. It is not intended for use as diagnosis, prevention, or treatment of health problems. Always speak with your doctor before trying new pills, supplements, or regimens.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the benefits of tracking food and calorie intake for weight loss?

According to a?study published in the Journal of Diabetes Research, consistent tracking has a significant impact on weight change over time. Individuals who opted for digital tracking of their diet or physical activity stayed more engaged and consistent in using their digital tools compared to those relying on traditional methods like handwritten records. This heightened engagement correlated with better weight loss results, with regular tracking emerging as a key predictor of success. For example, maintaining consistent tracking led to an extra 7 lbs of weight loss throughout the program, underscoring the significance of ongoing and personalized tracking for successful weight management.

How accurate are weight loss calculators in determining daily calorie goals?
The accuracy of calorie deficit calculators varies due to individual factors like metabolism and activity level. While these calculators provide a reasonably accurate estimate of daily calorie needs, it's essential to use them as a starting point and be open to adjustments based on your personal progress. Consistent tracking and being mindful of potential discrepancies are crucial when using these tools.
What are some common things to remember when using calorie deficit calculators?

It’s important to avoid common mistakes like underestimating portion sizes and not tracking snacks or liquid calories. Ultimately, while calorie calculators offer valuable estimates, they should be used as a guide, and adjustments based on individual progress are recommended for effective weight management.

How can a weight loss calculator help in achieving weight loss goals?

A meta-analysis published in 2024 in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity looked into whether feedback helps people stick to healthy behavior changes. It found that keeping track of food intake, exercise, and weight are crucial. The study stressed that self-monitoring is the top predictor of losing weight.

Editorial Sources and Fact-Checking

Everyday Health follows strict sourcing guidelines to ensure the accuracy of its content, outlined in our editorial policy. We use only trustworthy sources, including peer-reviewed studies, board-certified medical experts, patients with lived experience, and information from top institutions.

Resources

  • Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020–2015. U.S. Department of Agriculture.
  • What Are Eating Disorders? American Psychiatric Association.?November 17, 2023.
  • Thomas D et al. Can a Weight Loss of One Pound a Week Be Achieved With a 3,500 Kcal Deficit? Commentary on a Commonly Accepted Rule. International Journal of Obesity. April 8, 2013.
  • Normal Weight Ranges: Body Mass Index. American Cancer Society.?June 9, 2020.
  • Assessing Your Weight. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.?June 3, 2022.
  • Losing Weight. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. June 15, 2023.
  • National Diabetes Prevention Program. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. August 1, 2023.
  • Benefits of Physical Activity. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.?August 1, 2023.
  • Swift D et al. The Role of Exercise and Physical Activity in Weight Loss and Maintenance. Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases. October 11, 2013.
  • Donnelly J et al. Appropriate Physical Activity Intervention Strategies for Weight Loss and Prevention of Weight Regain for Adults. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. February 2009.
  • Blundell JE et al. Appetite Control and Energy Balance: Impact of Exercise. Obesity Reviews. January 22, 2015.
  • Spencer Ingels J et al. The Effect of Adherence to Dietary Tracking on Weight Loss: Using HLM to Model Weight Loss over Time. Journal of Diabetes Research. August 9, 2017.
  • Painter S et al. What Matters in Weight Loss? An In-Depth Analysis of Self-Monitoring. Journal of Medical Internet Research. May 12, 2017.
  • Krukowski R et al. Impact of Feedback Generation and Presentation on Self-Monitoring Behaviors, Dietary Intake, Physical Activity, and Weight: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity. January 4, 2024.
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