How many calories do you need to lose weight?

As a fitness and fat loss coach for the past 20+ years, one of the MOST common questions I get asked is “How many calories do I need to lose weight?”

Fair question.

And its a much better question than simply “How do I lose weight?”, because it tells me the client is already aware than they need to create a calorie deficit for weight loss to happen.

Calorie deficit explained (super simple)

Imagine a car that needs 60 litres of fuel to cover the days driving. But you only put in 45 litres.

The car would conk out.

Now imagine your body burns 2000 calories in a 24 hour period, but you only consume (eat and drink) 1500 calories. It doesn’t conk out.(If that were the case the human race would have died off millions of years ago).

Instead the human body has a handy reserve energy system. BODY FAT. The 500 calorie “deficit” gets pulled from the excess body fat you have on your body.

I love the above calculator because it highlights all the ways we burn calories in a 24 hour period.

  • Most of the calories we burn are simply to keep us alive (imagine a car with its engine running but not going anywhere)
  • We burn a little bit more when we move around during our 16 waking hours (slow driving)
  • We burn a little bit more when we exercise – ie – move with intensity (fast driving, or driving up a hill)

Applying it for success 

Once you determine roughly how many calories you burn each day, you can also determine how to consume a little bit less than that in order to lose weight.

Calorie deficit = weight loss 

Or consume the same amount as you burn each day in order to maintain weight

Calorie Maintenance =  weight maintenance 

Or consume more calories than you burn in order to lose weight

Calorie surplus = weight gain 

However please remember, this gives you an estimate only. No need to get super obsessive about counting every single calorie IN and OUT.

How many calories to lose weight?

There is no perfect amount, but I would advise to start with around 20% less.

Example – If you enter your details into the calculator and it tells you that you burn approx. 2500 cals each day, then try a 2000 calorie budget and see how you go with that.

I have some tips for how to reduce calories below 

Or you could join my latest coaching program for a complete step by step guide.

Last important notes

1 ) Calories are NOT the enemy. They are the fuel we need to live out lives. However EXCESS calories should be avoided if you don’t want to gain weight.

2) Most people don’t need to go as low as 1200 calories in order to lose weight. Its like saying ALL cars need XX litres of fuel regardless of the size of the car and the amount of activity done each day.

3) Calorie deficit / surplus applies no matter what “diet” you choose. Ie – you can lose or gain whilst eating healthy, clean, paleo, keto, vegan, intermittent fasting, or any other protocol. Dependant on the amount of calories consumed and burnt.

4) It helps to choose calories that keep you full for the relative calorie “spend”.  #ValueCalories

5) It takes way more time to burn off a few hundred extra calories than it does to eat or drink them. 🙁

6) Us Aussies use the term kilojoules. 1 calorie = 4.2 kj

7) Weight gain usually happens from a tiny calorie surplus one day, then the next day, and so on. You hardly notice until X months or years later when you wake up xkg heavier.

Weight loss happens the same way. Consume a little bit less than you burn today, then tomorrow, then repeat. It takes time, but its worth it.

8 ) The advice to eat less calories doesn’t necessarily mean to eat less food. If you choose lower calorie / high nutrient foods that keep you full, you get to eat plenty.

I am NOT saying its “easy”

Here is the part I want to stress. This post is not me sitting in an ivory tower telling you that eating less calories and / or burning more is easy and you are somehow “a failure” for not doing it.


I am however saying its SIMPLE. Way simpler than following a BS protocol with complicated rules and guidelines you must follow for success.

Simple, but not easy

We eat and drink for so many messy human reasons other than hunger AND we sometimes eat foods that don’t keep us full.

Weight loss is hard enough.

Stop making it complicated too. 

Want more help with your health, fitness and weight loss goals?

Chriss Tinslay is one of Australia’s leading fat loss experts.

Find out how she can help you achieve your weight loss goals without strenuous exercise or giving up any of your favourite foods.

Check out the latest coaching programs HERE 

All of the coaching programs cover…

  • Meals
  • Movement
  • Mindset / Motivation
  • Methods
  • Mantra’s

Get your free weight loss video training HERE