Staying Healthy: My 1200 Calorie Life

Brett and my chief goal right now is staying healthy. We’re both in good health for the most part, and mainly are dealing with the aches and pains of growing older, although they are currently minor for both of us. Back in June my doctor recommended I lose 25 pounds. Sigh, the story of my life. I gained weight during our travels because although we walked a lot, I also ate a lot. Croissants and pastries for breakfast every morning in France, pasta in Italy, bakery visits in Japan, and hot cocoa and cookies every afternoon in England all came with a price.

In June I signed up once again for MyFitnessPal to track my eating, the calories and macros, and Brett and I got serious about walking every day, especially so once we decided to do a 11-day walking tour in 2022. MyFitnessPal has the biggest food & calorie list available online, and includes many, many brands. I have to do some research now and again to figure out which listing is the most accurate before I include it in my daily food plan, but for the most part I can find almost everything I eat on their lists, including things like Costco casseroles and desserts. Nothing is off the table for me as far as food is concerned these days, but I if I can’t fit it in my daily food plan or a serving means I have to go without a meal than it doesn’t get eaten.

Based on my age and fitness level at the time at the time I signed up, MyFitnessPal recommended I limit my calories to 1200 per day. Yikes! I initially wasn’t sure how this was going to work as I was sure 1200 calories would probably leave me feeling hungry all the time and I wouldn’t therefore be able to stick with it. Thankfully, after nearly five months that hasn’t turned out to be true at all, and I’m actually eating quite well these days, losing weight, and feeling great. Everything I eat these days gets measured except for vegetables – no eyeballing is allowed! Vegetables I allow myself to eat as many or as much of as I want.

Last week I took pictures one day of what a day’s eating looks like these days for me:

Breakfast: One cup blueberries, 1/2 cup nonfat vanilla Greek yogurt, and two tablespoons of my much-loved Anahola granola. Total calories: 235. I typically have this five mornings a week (because I love it), sometimes substituting fresh papaya for the blueberries. On other mornings I’ll have a slice of unbuttered toast (Dave’s 21-grain), a fried or poached egg, and one slice of bacon, or one pancake with a tablespoon of jam. I usually eat at about 10:45 in the morning because I’ve found if I eat earlier I get hungry sooner and end up feeling hungry all day. I have just one cup of half-caff coffee in the morning. I miss coffee, but I’m doing fine with one cup, and it is savored.

Lunch: Three-fourths cup leftover pork fried rice. Total calories: 251. I usually eat leftovers in some form for lunch, and try to keep my calories at less than 300.

Afternoon/evening snacks:  I have one packet of Shelley Senbei rice crackers every afternoon. Total calories: 81. I always have these around 3:00 in the afternoon, and they keep me satisfied until dinner. My evening snack is always one tablespoon of peanut butter: Total calories: 90. I eat this fairly late at night – it keeps me from waking up feeling hungry or from being tempted to go out and eat whatever’s handy. If I get to feeling very hungry between meals, which thankfully doesn’t happen often, I’ll often have something like a slice of frozen dragonfruit which is low calorie (20) as well as fun to eat, like a popsicle.

Dinner: This day’s dinner was one Sabatino’s smoked chicken sausage with basil and cracked pepper, and a big serving of roasted vegetables. I do not count calories from vegetables, but I do count the oil used for roasting. Brett and I also always allow ourselves a small dessert each evening. At the time these pictures were taken we were still enjoying a Costco pumpkin pie (divided into 20 slices), but our typical dessert is a small two-inch piece of cake or occasionally some ice cream. Total calories for dinner: 456

Total calories for the day: 1113. I never thought I’d be able to do this, but well, here I am and it’s going well. I know these days and at my age what and how much I eat is important, especially for what we want to achieve in the future. That’s been my main motivation for sticking with it. I also know it will be easier to walk long distances when I’m not carrying around a bunch of extra weight.

I drink at least six 14-ounce glasses of water every day to stay hydrated. Brett and I have a cocktail three evenings a week: Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday. We both enjoy gin & tonics, at 110 calories each, but I always fit it in to that day’s calorie allotment. I used to enjoy having a glass of wine, but wine can bother my stomach these days, and I tended to drink it too quickly while I linger over a G&T.

I take four daily supplements: two prebiotic capsules/day, two probiotic capsules/day, one multivitamin, and one additional vitamin D capsule. Although we get lots of sunshine here, the additional vitamin D helps facilitate bone health. The probiotic and prebiotic are for stomach health, and they have made a real difference these past few months. All are taken on the recommendation of my doctor. I also eat at two Tums each day, to make sure I get the recommended daily amount of calcium. 

Our walks provide me with an additional calorie allowance of 250-350 depending on how long, and how fast we walk (Brett burns more because he weighs more). Currently we’re walking 3.5 miles at 4.5 mph, a pretty fast clip. My meal plan and daily calories, however, are figured out the evening before, without the extra exercise calories added in because there’s always a possibility we won’t be able to walk for some reason (like today, for example). For now we’re walking for exercise, but once we get our distance up to five miles our daily walks will segue into walking for further distances and for endurance.

A year ago I could not have imagined doing this and enjoying it, but here I am. I’ve still got a few pounds to go to make my doctor happy, but after that I’m just going to keep going and see where it takes me.

8 thoughts on “Staying Healthy: My 1200 Calorie Life

  1. You have amazing discipline. I need to get more serious about logging food on MFP again. I am feeling sluggish and the holidays arriving without the usual gatherings won’t help my mental health. Sugar is so comforting. 😉 But I am determined not to outgrow my clothes over the holidays. The cold weather arriving is always a challenge. OK, I will download the app again. Ha!

    Your yogurt breakfast looks really good. And I love roasted veggies. The most amazing thing to me is that you two have the discipline to make that Costco pumpkin pie last so long. Impressive. 😂

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    1. Discipline comes easy when you’re socially isolating and it’s just the two of us. Also, measuring everything has been a game changer – actual serving sizes have often been more than enough, where I used to load up my plate.

      Thankfully YaYu isn’t much of a sweets eater, so we should be OK for the holidays this year. Brett and I have also discovered that just a small amount of dessert has been more than enough – who knew? I never thought we’d get a pumpkin pie to last that long but the small slice every evening was the perfect amount.

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  2. Awesome job! I’ve lost about ten pounds since the beginning of the year. A few factors for me….really just consistency. Less personal travel, zero work travel. COVID also means I’m at home & have no commute time, which is almost always my work out time. The kids have minimal weekend activities, so I can also add in longer workouts. I’m close to 350 workouts for the year (some days I actually get in two), which is by far the most consistent I’ve been in my life.

    It’s darker in the mornings/evenings, so we just bought an elliptical, to keep up the mojo.

    Food has been more hit & miss for me, but generally, no business travel and/or vacations just means I’m eating more consistently as well.

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    1. One of the”benefits” (can we even say that?) of socially isolating, remotely working, etc. is that it is easier to be more disciplined and consistent about eating and exercise. At least that’s been the case for us. Eating has been pretty consistent, and it’s been easy keeping to healthier foods and smaller servings.

      When we segue into training mode next year for our long-distance walk, cross training a couple of days a week is recommended, so we’ve talked and are planning to get a recumbent exercise bicycle to mix it up with the walking. Regular bike riding isn’t exactly the safest thing to do here unless you go over to the Eastside beach path. Swimming also involves membership fees and a longish drive, so we figured the bike was the most cost effective and easiest.

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  3. I’ve never liked large meals even as a kid…..but can pick and graze all day which is a huge calorie load as well. At almost 47 I am trying to get to a place where I feel better and am “properly”healthy. But things are not easy I guess. I LOVE vegetables and do not have much of a sweet tooth, but enjoy wine and could eat potato chips every day….eeek! I’ve been using the lose it app and it is helpful. Your walking routine is inspiring for sure. I am trying to get back into regular planned exercise. I hate the heat but will happily walk outdoors in the cold here in Massachusetts.

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    1. I was never a “big meal” person either, and more of a grazer, but like you say, it adds up. I like sweets, but usually prefer savory and I love vegetables. But I got lazy, and It’s hard now to lose weight and then maintain it. I don’t feel like I’m missing out and am motivated now to get in shape. The humidity lately has been a huge deterrent though. We still go out, but it’s not been easy.

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