2,000 Calorie Rule – yay or nay??

How many times have you heard that 2,000 calories is the magic number of calories you should eat per day? Well, if that were entirely true wouldn’t we all be crushing our appearance and fitness goals? This correlates with the concept of portion distortion, aligning with the thinking that we are having one serving of something but are actually having two, three, or more.

The misunderstanding comes from the fact that the FDA uses 2,000 calories as the benchmark for food labels to calculate nutritional facts. That is why you see the phrase, “Based on a 2,000 calorie diet”. However, that doesn’t mean we all should be eating 2,000 calories per day.

Calorie Need Determinants

How many calories you consume is determined by your activity level, age, height, weight, and gender. These factors compile your basal metabolic rate (BMR), meaning how your metabolism operates for you. We all go about life performing our daily living activities such as walking up and down the stairs at home or walking to the mailbox.

These little daily tasks are the baseline but pretty much boil down to being sedentary if we did nothing at all beyond these mundane items. Add aerobic activity and/or resistance training, now we have some added calorie burning taking place. A person who is active has to account for this activity in their eating.

1. Age

When it comes to age, we typically become less active with age. A retired lifestyle for most means less time up on your feet. We typically aren’t pounding the pavement anymore when we are 70 years old going for long runs, although there may be some exceptions to this.

Therefore, the body doesn’t need as much food (calories) to live on. Less is being burned, so less is needing to be replaced or stored.

2. Height and Weight

Height and Weight
Height and weight correlate with someone’s body type. A shorter person who is 200 pounds wears this weight much differently compared to someone of the same weight but much, much taller.

The shorter person would probably look overweight compared to the taller person, so if we were to consider fitness goals, eating habits would be targeted differently based upon this excess body weight. A 5’3” person who is 200 pounds would want to consume a higher calorie deficit as opposed to a 6’2” who is 200 pounds but still trying to lose weight.

3. Gender

Finally, gender should be considered because we know that the male and female body’s needs are differently hormonally which play into metabolic functioning. Women do possess a higher amount of body fat, mainly because of the childbearing role.

Mathematically, here’s how BMR can be calculated:

Males: 66.47 + (6.24 x weight in pounds) + (12.7 x height in inches) – (6.755 x age)

Females: 655.1 + (4.35 x weight in pounds) + (4.7 x height in inches) – (4.7 x age)

Determining Calories for Weight Loss

Determining your BMR
Upon determining your BMR, you can then decide a corresponding amount of daily calories to consume based upon your fitness goals. The general rule of thumb is that 3,500 calories equates to 1 pound. Knowing this, let’s say for example that you wanted to steadily lose 2 pounds per week.

You would need to then save 7,000 calories per week. If you took your 7000 divided by the 7 days of the week, you would need to save 1,000 calories per day. If my BMR was 1900 calories, I would then aim to eat 900 calories per day. That’s the math side of it, but realistically how you feel eating less just by counting calories can be difficult.

900 calories doesn’t seem like very much, so a better approach might be to focus on a weight goal that might take more time to lose, but is sustainable to keep off. Think about eating 900 calories for the foreseeable future. Seems daunting, so people say they will do this diet for 30 days or 21 days etc. Then what happens on day 31 or day 22?

Consider Lifestyle Change vs Restriction:

1. Make better selections

Make healthy eating a lifestyle, not a concept that only lasts for defined time period. This is as basic as making better food choices and keeping an eye out for sugar, sodium, and fat filled items. Read labels, but also try to eat more things that don’t have labels, meaning fresh.

Fruits and vegetables have so many health benefits and let the natural sugar from fruit satisfy your taste buds instead of cookies or treats. Eating throughout the day, not just one or two meals a day can also help curb your cravings and stabilize your blood sugar.

Waiting all day and then having a gigantic dinner typically leads to overeating. Plus, play to your body’s desires. Would you want to work with someone who starved you all day and then ate until their stomach hurt? No way. Be a good keeper of your body and take care of yourself.

2. Keep it simple

Keep it simple
Stop telling yourself you don’t have time to eat or cook. You do. You can make a salad out of a bag easy. You can shake up a protein shake anytime. You can leave chicken in the oven and take it out when it is done. You can peel a banana. You can spread a little almond butter on toast. Eating doesn’t have to be extravagant or pretty on a platter.

When you eat a colorful array of fruits and vegetables, that is fancy enough. Keep it simple. Simple is sustainable and slides right into what your life is already doing day in and day out. It’s the unrealistic idea that you will only eat 900 calories or you will make extravagant recipes that require half your cabinet of ingredients. Stop complicating eating and calories. Start with simple math.

Healthy food choices + portion control – sugar – saturated fats – excess sodium + physical activity = positive lifestyle change

3. Saving calories can save your health

This isn’t asking too much of yourself. In fact, it might pay off financially in terms of less money spent on going out and doctor’s visits due to poor health decisions.

It can even mean less skin care products and aspirin because your skin is looking better and you have less aches, pains, and headaches because you are eating right. You won’t know until you try, and I’d say this lesson on 2,000 calories might have changed your perspective on your complicated and over analyzed approach to weight loss.


Not every calorie is created equally nor is every body type created equally. We all metabolize calories differently, and the only way to set ourselves up for optimal health is to cater to our own personal body’s needs. It is also important to consider what your health goals are.

If you aim to lose weight, you would need to consume a calorie deficit, whereas if you wanted to gain weight, you would need a surplus of calories. If you are struggling with your weight, have a doctor perform a comprehensive blood panel to check hormone and nutrient levels. How your body utilizes the calories you consume can be influenced by these factors.

There is not a one size fits all, or in this case, 2,000 calories fits all menu for health. Eat clean and exercise and the calories will burn for you efficiently.