Can I lose 2 pounds a week eating 1200 calories?

Quick Answer

Yes, it is possible to lose 2 pounds per week eating 1200 calories per day, but it requires creating a daily calorie deficit of 1000 calories. To safely lose 2 lbs per week, combine eating 1200 calories with burning an extra 500-1000 calories through exercise. Losing more than 2 lbs per week is not recommended for most people.

How Many Calories To Lose 2 Pounds Per Week?

To lose 1 pound of fat, you need to burn approximately 3500 calories more than you consume. This is because 1 pound of fat contains about 3500 calories.

So to lose 2 pounds in 1 week, you need to create a 7000 calorie deficit over the course of the week. This equates to a daily deficit of 1000 calories (7000 calories / 7 days = 1000 calories).

Here is a simple calories in vs calories out calculation:

Calories In (Eating) Calories Out (Exercise + Basal Metabolic Rate) Daily Calorie Deficit
1200 calories 2200 calories 1000 calorie deficit

In this example, eating 1200 calories and burning 2200 calories per day results in a 1000 calorie daily deficit, leading to 2 pounds of weight loss in 1 week.

So yes, it is possible to healthily lose 2 pounds per week eating just 1200 calories daily, provided you also maintain a significant calorie deficit through exercise.

Is Losing 2 Pounds Per Week Safe?

Losing 1-2 pounds per week is generally considered a safe rate of weight loss. However, losing more than 2 pounds weekly may not be sustainable or advisable for most people.

Here are some guidelines around safe weight loss from major health organizations:

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends losing 1-2 pounds per week as a safe and sustainable pace.
  • The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics advises aiming for 1-2 pounds of fat loss per week.
  • The National Institutes of Health (NIH) suggests women should lose no more than 3500 calories per week, which equates to 1 pound.

Losing weight more rapidly than 2 pounds per week often causes loss of both fat and lean muscle. It may also increase your risk of nutritional deficiencies, gallstones, and yo-yo dieting.

So while it’s possible to lose more than 2 pounds weekly, it’s often not recommended for long-term health and sustainable weight management.

How To Lose 2 Pounds Per Week Eating 1200 Calories

Here are some tips for safely losing 2 pounds per week on a 1200 calorie diet:

Create a Daily Calorie Deficit Through Exercise

To lose 2 pounds per week, you need to burn 1000 extra calories than you consume every day. With a 1200 calorie diet, that means burning around 2200 calories per day through exercise.

Some ways to burn 500-1000 extra calories per day include:

  • 60-90 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise like running or cycling
  • Taking 15,000-20,000 steps per day
  • Swimming laps for 60-90 minutes
  • 8-12 miles of brisk walking

Any combination of cardiovascular exercise and calisthenics that burns 500-1000 calories can help you lose 2 lbs weekly alongside a 1200 calorie diet.

Incorporate Strength Training

Cardio exercise is important for burning extra calories. However, adding 2-3 days per week of strength training will help minimize muscle loss while in a calorie deficit. Maintaining lean muscle mass helps keep your metabolic rate higher.

Aim for full body strength training workouts involving major muscle groups. Compound lifts like squats, deadlifts, rows, and presses are great options.

Focus on Nutrient Dense Foods

Getting adequate protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals is crucial when eating only 1200 calories daily. Emphasize nutrient-dense foods like:

  • Lean proteins: Chicken, turkey, fish, eggs, Greek yogurt
  • Fruits and vegetables: Especially green leafy veggies
  • Whole grains: Oats, quinoa, brown rice
  • Legumes and beans: Lentils, black beans, peas

These foods provide maximal nutrition with minimal calories to support health on a reduced calorie diet.

Drink Plenty of Water

Hydration is important for health, metabolism and exercising safely. Aim for at least 64 ounces (8 cups) of water daily. More is encouraged if you exercise intensely and sweat heavily.

Monitor Energy Levels and Hunger Cues

Make sure you feel energized enough for your daily activity and are not too hungry between meals. Increase calories slightly if needed to fuel your workouts or control hunger.

Weigh Yourself Weekly

Tracking your weight once per week lets you adjust your diet and exercise if needed. Aim to lose about 1-2 pounds each week to reach a healthy goal weight.

Sample 1200 Calorie Meal Plan to Lose 2 Pounds Weekly

Here is a sample 1200 calorie meal plan that promotes safe 2 pound per week weight loss:


Meal Foods Calories
Breakfast 1 cup Greek yogurt with 1/2 cup blueberries and 2 Tbsp granola – 360 calories 360
Lunch Tuna salad wrap made with 3 oz tuna, 2 Tbsp light mayo, mustard, lettuce, tomato, in a whole wheat wrap – 320 calories 320
Snack 1 medium apple with 1 Tbsp peanut butter – 190 calories 190
Dinner 3 oz grilled salmon, 1 cup roasted Brussels sprouts, 1/2 cup brown rice – 330 calories 330
Total 1200


Meal Foods Calories
Breakfast 2 scrambled eggs with 1/4 cup shredded cheese, 1 slice whole wheat toast – 340 calories 340
Lunch 4 oz grilled chicken breast, large mixed green salad with 2 Tbsp balsamic vinaigrette – 360 calories 360
Snack 6 oz nonfat Greek yogurt with 1/4 cup raspberries, 2 Tbsp chopped walnuts – 230 calories 230
Dinner 1 serving veggie chili with brown rice (1 cup) – 270 calories 270
Total 1200


Meal Foods Calories
Breakfast Peanut butter banana smoothie made with 1 banana, 1 Tbsp peanut butter, 1 cup skim milk – 250 calories 250
Lunch Veggie wrap with hummus, cucumber, bell pepper, lettuce, tomato, feta cheese in whole wheat wrap – 340 calories 340
Snack 20 almonds and 1 orange – 180 calories 180
Dinner 1 cup veggie fried rice (with eggs, peas, carrots) with 3 oz grilled chicken – 430 calories 430
Total 1200

As shown in these sample meal plans, it’s possible to reach a 1200 daily calorie intake with balanced nutrition including lean proteins, healthy fats, fruits, vegetables and whole grains. This supports your health while allowing 2 pounds of fat loss per week.

Exercise Suggestions for Losing 2 Pounds Weekly

To burn 500-1000 extra calories per day alongside a 1200 calorie diet, aim for a mix of steady state cardio and high intensity interval training (HIIT).

Here are some exercise suggestions:

Steady State Cardio

  • Brisk walking or running on the treadmill for 60-90 minutes
  • Cycling for 60-90 minutes – around 14-16 mph is vigorous effort
  • Swimming laps at a moderate-intense pace for 60-90 minutes
  • Elliptical machine for 60-90 minutes
  • Rowing machine for 45-60 minutes

Aim for exercising at about 70-85% of your maximum heart rate to burn 500 or more calories per hour with cardio workouts.

HIIT Workouts

High intensity interval training alternates short bursts of intense activity with recovery periods. HIIT can burn more calories in a shorter time compared to steady state cardio.

Sample HIIT Workouts:

  • 30-60 seconds of high intensity (sprinting, cycling or rowing all-out) followed by 60-90 seconds of moderate pace, repeated for 10-20 minutes
  • 30 seconds of push-ups, squats, jumping jacks or other bodyweight exercise followed by 30 seconds rest, for 10-15 minutes
  • HIIT circuits like 10-15 minutes alternating between exercises like burpees, skipping, kettlebell swings, and box jumps with 30-60 seconds rest between sets

Aim for 2-4 days per week of HIIT workouts in addition to steady state cardio to maximize fat burning.

Other Tips to Safely Lose 2 Pounds Per Week

Here are some other tips to optimize safe 2 lb per week weight loss on a 1200 calorie diet:

  • Drink plenty of water before meals to help fill you up
  • Eat more filling high fiber foods like vegetables, fruits and whole grains
  • Slow down eating and chew thoroughly to allow your body’s fullness signals to activate
  • Limit liquid calories like sugary sodas, juices and flavored coffees
  • Reduce snacking in the evening to prevent overeating later at night
  • Engage in non-food stress relief like yoga, meditation, reading, taking baths
  • Get enough sleep – aim for 7-9 hours per night to control hunger hormones
  • Weigh yourself weekly and adjust calorie intake if needed – no more than 2 lb/week weight loss is advised

Implementing these behavioral strategies along with an appropriate exercise regimen promotes safe, consistent weight loss on a reduced calorie diet.

Potential Downsides of Losing 2 Pounds Weekly

While losing about 2 pounds per week can be done safely in many cases, it’s important to be aware of potential downsides:

  • May be overly aggressive for smaller people, older adults or those with lower activity levels
  • Can be difficult to get adequate nutrition if calories are restricted too low
  • Often consists of mostly restrictive dieting which can lead to yo-yo dieting once the diet ends
  • Higher risk of muscle loss along with fat loss
  • May increase risk of nutritional deficiencies, fatigue, headaches, constipation
  • Often involves intense levels of exercise that are difficult to sustain long-term
  • Sudden large calorie deficits can reduce metabolic rate over time

Rapid weight loss may also increase levels of cortisol, a stress hormone involved in body fat storage over the long run.

For these reasons, losing 1-2 pounds per week maximum through a moderate calorie deficit and manageable exercise regimen is often the healthiest approach.

Special Considerations

Here are some special cases where a 2 pound per week weight loss pace may not be advised:

Women During Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

Weight loss during pregnancy is not recommended due to the needs of the developing baby. Most women only need an extra 300 calories daily during pregnancy.

Breastfeeding women should not try to lose weight rapidly either. No more than 1 pound per week loss is advised while nursing to maintain milk supply.

Teenagers and Youth

Children and teens are still developing, so very low calorie diets can negatively impact growth. No more than 1-2 pounds monthly weight loss is recommended for overweight youth trying to slim down.

Smaller, Older or Less Active People

Very low calorie diets combined with intense exercise provide too large a deficit for smaller, elderly or sedentary people. 1/2 to 1 pound weekly weight loss is safer for those with lower calorie needs.

History of Eating Disorders

People with a history of disorders like anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating should not attempt rapid weight loss, as it may trigger relapse. Gradual loss of 1/2 to 1 pound weekly with guidance from a dietitian is best.

In these special cases, losing 2 pounds per week could jeopardize health or be unsustainably difficult. A more moderate pace allows losing weight safely based on individual needs.

Maintaining Weight Loss After Reaching Goal

Losing weight rapidly through severe calorie restriction often leads to regaining the weight after the diet ends. To successfully maintain your weight after losing:

  • Gradually increase calories to a sustainable long-term intake – no more than 500 calorie increase per week
  • Eat nutrient dense whole foods to control hunger and appetite
  • Include regular strength training and cardio exercise in your routine
  • Aim for lifestyle behaviors you can continue indefinitely like cooking healthy meals
  • Develop a support network and have an accountability partner
  • Weigh yourself weekly to catch any regain before it escalates
  • Be prepared for some weight fluctuations – stay consistent with your new habits!

Implementing healthy eating and exercise behaviors gradually while losing weight is key for accomplishing long-term weight maintenance.


It is possible for many people to safely lose 2 pounds per week by combining a 1200 calorie diet with plenty of calorie-burning exercise. However, losing at this aggressive pace should only be done in the short term and may not be suitable for everyone.

To achieve healthy, sustainable weight loss, aim for losing 1-2 pounds per week maximum through modest calorie deficits and manageable amounts of exercise. Focus on making gradual lifestyle changes like eating more whole foods and getting regular activity.

By making sensible changes you truly can stick with long-term, you’re more likely to lose weight and keep it off compared to extreme dieting. Be patient with yourself and seek support when needed – your health and well-being should always come first.

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