Is it healthy for a woman to eat 1200 calories a day?

Dramatically cutting calories can have unexpected health effects
Dramatically cutting calories can have unexpected health effects
(Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Is it safe to eat 1,200 calories a day?

'For some women it could temporarily shut down their fertility.'

Kashmira Gander
Wednesday 05 October 2016 12:40

Could you survive on 1,200 calories per day?

That's the potentially dangerous challenge thousands of people are setting themselves in pursuit of the perfect body.

Countless apparent fitness gurus swear by the saying "1,200 is plenty", while the indulgences of the holiday season have caused Google searches of 1,200 calories to spike every January since 2005.

But restricting food can impact fertility and cause anxiety, a dietitian has warned.

There is, of course, a Reddit community devoted to the diet, where users share images of their neat and colourful but sparse meals.

However, nutrition expert Ursual Philpot, a spokesperson for the British Dietetic Association, has warned against this approach to eating.

While 1,200 is the minimum level of calories that the average person can survive on without the body going into starvation mode, that does not mean it is healthy, she told The Independent.

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An older person who is inactive or an overweight person may be able to eat 1,200 a day, she said. But there is no one size fits all solution for diet, and it is difficult to get the right level of nutrients with a strict regime unless a person carefully plans their meals.

On a 1,200 calorie diet, your body has to make adjustments. You cant live optimally on that. If you are young and active, you would lose weight and fat over time, but your body would make metabolic adjustments.

"You might get cold hands and feet more easily, and you would be preoccupied with food a lot of the time. You would feel anxious, and you wouldnt feel well overall.

"For some women it could temporarily shut down their fertility."

She explained that calorie recommendations should simply be seen as a starting point for considering what to eat.

It is like saying all men should wear size 9 shoes. You get people who can live on 1,200 and others who need 2,400.

It depends on how you feel. If you feel dreadful, tired, cold, preoccupied with eating and food, and a bit spaced out and dizzy then it is way too low.

Show all 11

Celeriac root

We had a kale obsession in 2015, but 2016s vegetable sine qua non is predicted to be the knobbly celeriac root. Celeriac milk (Tom Hunt at Poco in Bristol serves it with winter mussels and wild water celery), celeriac cooked in Galician beef fat (from Adam Rawson of Pachamama, hot new chef in the capital) and salt-baked celeriac (to be found in Matthew and Iain Penningtons kitchens at The Ethicurean in the West Country) are just a few examples.

Getty Images

Middle Eastern food

The Middle Eastern Vegetarian Cookbook (£24.95, Phaidon) by grand-dame Salma Hage, author of the bestseller The Lebanese Kitchen (whose halva is pictured here), is out in April

© Liz & Max Haarala Hamilton

Non-alcoholic cocktails

Grain Store mixologist Tony Conigliaro has created Roman Redhead, a riot of red grape juice, beetroot, pale ale and verjus, and Rose Iced Tea (black tea, rose petals, anise essence, pictured here)


The discerning will be slurping Hepple gin from chef Valentine Warner and cocktail guru Nick Strangeway which is punctuated with bog-myrtle nuances

Argyll and Bute

Restaurant followers are getting in a froth about Pam Brunton in Scotland, who opened the Inver restaurant in Argyll and Bute to acclaim last year

Andy Olivers Som Saa

One of the most eagerly awaited restaurants of 2016 will be the permanent incarnation of Andy Olivers remarkable pop-up Som Saa opening very soon in east London. Oliver, who worked at Thai god David Thompsons Nahm in Bangkok, raised a whopping £700,000 through crowdfunding, and is renowned for his piquant Thai flavours and obsessive attention to detail, including in his home ferments and DIY coconut cream

© Adam Weatherley


Another ruminant in vogue is venison, with Sainsburys doubling its line for 2016. It provides a protein-packed punch, with B vitamins and iron, and its low in fat. Its entry into the mainstream is in part thanks to the Scottish restaurant Mac and Wild, just opened in London, whose Celtic head chef Andy Waugh (who also runs the Wild Game Co) has been touting it as street food for years (his venison burger pictured here)


From Brett Grahams The Ledbury to Angela Hartnetts kitchens at Lime Wood Hotel in the New Forest, Cabrito is the go-to goat supplier among the chef cognoscenti (roasted loin of kid pictured here) but this year, domestic cooks can get in on the action, as Sushila Moles and James Whetlor of Cabrito offer their meat through Ocado

Mike Lusmore /


Coffee sage George Crawford is launching the much-anticipated Cupsmith with his partner, Emma. Crawford believes that 2016 is the year purist coffee will finally meet the masses; Cupsmiths mission will be to make craft coffee as popular as craft beer on the high street. The company roasts Arabica beans in small batches, improving its quality but sells it online, at, in an approachable way: expect cheerful packaging and names such as Afternoon Reviver Coffee (designed for drinking with milk no matter how uncouth, most of us want milk) and Glorious Espresso

Julia Conway

120-day-old steak

Hanging meat for extremely long lengths of time has become an art. In Cumbria, Lake Road Kitchens James Cross is plating up 120-day-old steak (pictured here). The beef is from influential ager Dan Austin of Lake District Farmers, who is currently investigating the individual bacterial cultures that go into this maturing process

Lotus root

Diners can expect root-to-stem dining - cue the full lotus deployed by the Michelin-starred Indian Benares in its kamal kakdi aur paneer korma

Getty Images

The food that individuals should eat also differs, she added. An active person should eat fat and carbohydrates, while someone who is overweight may be able to lose weight with a low carbohydrate and high protein diet.

"If I had to recommended a diet, I would say the Mediterranean with a moderate amount of low GI slow release carbohydrates, high quality protein, lots of vegeteables, olive oil, oily fish, nuts and legumes," she said. "But how much a person should eat is highly dependent on factors including age, genetics and activity levels.

Those aiming to lose weight should aim to shed between three to 10 per cent of their body weight to avoid gaining the weight back.

Be sensible. The populations that are slimmest and healthiest dont live of 1,200 calories, they dont cut carbs, they dont blend their own green milkshakes. Think about the bigger picture here and think about health and longevity and enjoying food.

"If a diet has worked for one person that does not mean that is the way that everyone should be eating.

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1/1Is it safe to eat 1,200 calories a day?

Is it safe to eat 1,200 calories a day?

'For some women it could temporarily shut down their fertility.'

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