A straight-forward formula exists that can help a woman of any height, weight and age estimate the amount of food she should eat every day to properly fuel her body.
A Helpful Equation
This formula, called the Harris-Benedict Equation, uses Basal Metabolic Rate to estimate caloric intake. BMR is simply the amount of energy a person's body burns every day at rest. A 38-year-old, 5-foot, 8-inch, 145-lb. woman has a BMR of 1,574; this was determined by using the calculator linked under the Reference section below.
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Factoring in Activity Level
The final step is to determine which one of the following activity levels you belong in. If sedentary, multiply BMR by 1.2. For light activity, multiply BMR by 1.375. Moderate activity, multiply BMR by 1.55. And for heavy activity, multiply BMR by 1.725. For example, if the 38-year old woman above never exercises, she would have a daily caloric need of 1,888 to maintain her current weight.
To lose 1 lb. per week, you'll have to cut 3,500 calories from your weekly caloric intake, or 500 calories per day. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest not exceeding weight loss in excess of 2 lbs. per week.
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