How many calories should I eat to lose weight?

One of the many questions dieters have is: how many calories should I eat to lose weight?

I have a question to fire back:

Do you want the long version or the short version?

I’ll give you the short version first. Then I’ll give the long, more thorough answer.

I’ll go in-depth and explain why all calories aren’t equal. I’ll go over why you shouldn’t be counting calories in the first place. I’ll also tell you what you should be counting instead of calories.

Ready? Let’s go.

The short answer

How many calories to lose weight?

I recommend 2,000 calories for women and 2,400 calories for men.

Where did I get those numbers? The USDA.

The USDA recommends that Americans eat that many calories per day. Most Americans eat way more than that. By decreasing the calories you eat to the number recommended by the Government, you should lose weight and become a healthy weight.

In theory at least.

The long answer

The long answer starts with the dreaded “it’s complicated.”

Like the short answer, eating 2,000 (or 2,400 for men) calories per day will help you lose weight.

Sure, you can decrease your calories to lose weight. But you don’t have to. The number of calories you eat isn’t the only thing that matters.

The number of calories isn’t as important as the source of your calories.

A calorie isn’t a calorie


Fast Company released an article earlier this month titled How giving up refined sugar changed my brain. Among other lessons, the author showed that it’s not just the number of calories you consume, but the type.

The author cut out refined sugar out of his diet. The result? He lost 12 pounds in two weeks. The author didn’t change the amount of calories consumed. He simply cut added sugar out of his diet.

Calories from refined sugar, oil, refined grains and processed foods are junk. It’s junk foods. They don’t have the quality that the calories from fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes and seeds do.

Freelee the Banana Girl eats between 2,000-5,000 calories per day from plant foods. More often it’s around 3,000. Most of her calories come in the form of whole fruits, like bananas, mangoes and dates.

And she’s one of the leanest YouTubers you could ever meet.

Freelee is another living example that the number of calories you consume isn’t what’s most important. It’s the type.

Stop counting calories

How many calories should I eat to lose weight? Stop counting calories. They're not the most important thing.

How many calories should I eat to lose weight? How many calories are needed to lose weight? How do I reduce my calories for weight loss? What is the best calorie counter to lose weight?


All of these questions focus on the calories. None of them are focusing on the bigger picture: the food.

I’ve done calorie counting. It’s horrible. No fun at all. I understand why people get fed up with it and return to their old style of eating.

It’s exhausting!

I’ve already demonstrated that calories aren’t the biggest issue at play.

Stop making calories so important. Don’t calculate calories for weight loss. Pay attention to the foods you’re eating.

Eat foods that you know are nutritious. Fill your belly up with fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes. Eat bananas until your heart’s content. Gorge on salad. Stuff your face with sweet potato. You cannot eat too many bananas, salads or potatoes.

They won’t make you fat. These foods make and keep you lean.

Count nutrients

Instead of counting calories, start paying attention to nutrition. See how much nutrition you can eat in a day.

Dr. Fuhrman created a great chart so you can easily see which foods have the most nutrition.

Dr. Fuhrman's nutrient density chart

You already know that vegetables are extremely nutritious. But did you know that legumes (beans, peas, lentils and chickpeas) are next? Most Americans don’t eat the recommended amount of legumes by the USDA. That’s one reason why the US is having the obesity epidemic it is.

Quit asking the number of calories needed for weight loss. Start asking yourself how much nutrition you need in order to be healthy. Healthy individuals are healthy weights.

Instead of worrying about calories, worry about:

Eat as many calories in the form of healthy carbohydrates as you can. Fruits, legumes, whole grains and vegetables are full of healthy carbohydrates. Don’t worry about protein. You’ll get plenty from lentils.

Make sure to minimize the foods found on the right side of the chart. To get the best weight loss results, cut the following 3 foods completely out of your diet:

  • Oil
  • Refined sugar
  • Refined grains

These 3 foods can be hidden in processed foods. The best way to avoid them is to avoid highly processed foods altogether.


You now have two options. You can either:

  1. Keep counting calories
  2. Eat as much food as you want

For the people who want to keep counting calories:

Reduce your calories to the number of calories the Government suggests. That’s 2,000 for women and 2,400 for men.

For the people who want to eat as much food as you want:

Stop counting calories.

Calories aren’t the enemy, junk food is. Stop eating tiny portions of fat-promoting foods that leave you hungry.

Eat as much healthy food as you want. You’ll not only lose weight, but you’ll thrive. You’ll be beautiful. You’ll be healthy.

Isn’t that what weight loss is all about?

Rainbow Plate Dietary Guidelines for Healthy Living

See: The Rainbow Plate Dietary Guidelines for optimal health.
How Many Calories Should You Eat to Lose Weight? ~ Carob Cherub. See how many calories you should eat for weight loss. Read the whole thing for an even better method to lose weight. It's not all about the calories!
  • Updated 3 years ago
Sara Binde

Sara is a health and nutrition coach. She advocates for a whole foods plant-based lifestyle and teaches the world how to achieve weight loss.