Hello my name is Lateshia S., I am 5’6” and weigh 170 pounds. I was trying to figure out how many calories a day would I need to eat, and what foods should and shouldn’t eat in order to achieve my goal of becoming leaner. When I did my fitness assessment I believe my BMI was about 27% and so I’m trying to get down to about 20-22% and I already exercise for an hour, 3 days a week since starting my membership in late June. So as far as dieting goes what should I do to see a change?

– Lateshia S.


As far as calories go, you can use the base of 1,800-2,100 calories per day for a 5’6”, 170 lb., 30-year-old woman with your activity level to lose weight and adjust by 70 calories for every decade your actual age differs from thirty.

Some people have success by shifting to smaller portions or lower-calorie options of what they currently eat. Others do better with a more drastic change by eliminating fried items, fast food, and pre-packaged meals while adopting fresh wholesome salads, grilled poultry, and home-cooked meals. Even shifting calories to earlier in the day by eating a bigger breakfast and foregoing anything after a certain hour (say, 8 PM) can help prevent excess calorie storage.

Generalities of “eat fewer calories”, “reduce fat” and “increase fruits and vegetables” can apply to the vast majority of people looking to become leaner. What you need to eat depends on what you are currently eating. Only you know what and how much you are consuming. If you don’t know – find out by recording your intake and examine a few days’ worth with a decent diet analysis program. You might identify areas in which you need to improve.

– Debbie J., MS, RD

This article should not replace any exercise program or restrictions, any dietary supplements or restrictions, or any other medical recommendations from your primary care physician. Before starting any exercise program or diet, make sure it is approved by your doctor.

Some questions have been edited for length and/or clarity.

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