Weight Loss NHS
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Just starting ... How many calories a day should I be having?

My husband has just been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes which was a wake up call for us. We've decided that we need to lose weight, get fitter and generally try to adopt a healthier lifestyle.

We've both been on the NHS bmi calculator. It's given a recommended daily calorie intake for my husband, but not for me. Does anybody know what's a good amount for a middle aged woman who's not very active?

And is it really essential to count calories? I've never tried and it seems a lot of faff. Has anybody lost weight by just cooking healthier meals, cutting out snacks and having smaller portions?

10 Replies

Good for you, and this is a great place to start!

The standard starting amount for women is 1400 calories per day, but you can do the BMI calculator for yourself and find out exactly what is recommended for you - just choose female and enter your own age, weight and height 😀 nhs.uk/Tools/Pages/Healthyw...

Everyone is different, and it's hard without knowing what you eat now to know whether your approach will work - you could try it and see? However, I've tried that many times and just got frustrated because it hasn't worked, so I find calorie counting, whilst a bit of a pain to start with until you get used to it, works and if I'm not losing weight I know why!

Many people on here use an app called my fitness pal which helps you keep track of your intake.

Best of luck, and let us know how you get on!

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That's really helpful - thanks


You're very welcome x


Hi Cariad

There was a very interesting TV program recently in which a doctor advised a family on what to eat to control the husband's type 2 diabetes. He changed their diet and got them exercising. Cutting out snacks is definitely a good idea.

This is a newspaper article on it, hopefully it might give you some useful ideas.



That article was really interesting - especially the bit about trying to fast between 8pm and 6am (which is when I get up on a work day anyway). I do often have dinner pretty late and if we eat earlier than that I tend to have something like toast or a sandwich in the late evening. That would (hopefully) be an easy change to make.


Hi cariad2 😀 welcome to this very friendly forum. You have defiantly come to the right place for motivation and advice.

Have you looked at the nhs12wk plan it's full of information and details about how to lose weight healthily and keep it off. It's a plan for life not just 12wks.

I have lost over 1 1/2 stones by just calorie counting, portion control, drinking more, having healthier snacks and moving more.

I am now within the 'healthy bmi' weight range for my age and height so it no longer shows a calorie allowance range on the nhs bmi calculator. Maybe this is the case for you?

If you chose to not calorie count and you eat 3 good healthy meals a day with 2 healthy snacks (if needed) and cut out sugary drinks and move more you should lose weight.

If I was just starting out in would make a little food diary of what you normally eat and spend a little time working out the calories in your everyday food and drink. Just to make you aware of the hidden calories and surprises. Then make tweaks to cut back or find alternative ingredients (low fat and low sugar). You will be amazed 😃

Walking and swimming is a fantastic start to upping your fitness. Find something that you and your husband will enjoy doing together. Tennis, badminton, jogging even gardening can be fun and burn the calories.

Maybe get involved with a few challenges on this forum. I have just started the couch to 5k and have found it really revitalising and it's something I never thought I would be able to do.

Good luck with your journey.

Claire x


Hi Claire,

Thanks for taking the time to write such a long post. It was really friendly and helpful. Congratulations on the weight loss - and starting the couch to 5K. You must feel really proud of yourself.

Yes, I've seen the NHS 12 week plan. I found this forum via that. I really like the idea of adopting a healthier lifestyle rather than going on a diet.

When I went on the BMI calculator I was within the healthy range, so that must be why it didn't give me a calorie allowance. But I did only just scrape into that range. The weight's gradually crept on as I've got older and I think I need to lose about a stone and a half to be a really healthy weight.

I started off by going on the diabetes uk website for general advice about diabetes, and found a page that said that if your waist is bigger than 31.5 inches (for women) you're at a higher risk of developing health problems such as diabetes. I measured myself, got a bit depressed, double checked that measurement on the NHS website and decided I definitely need to lose some inches.

I wasn't going to calorie count, but downloaded the app that Butey recommended and couldn't believe how easy that makes it. Even if I have to sometimes guess at portion sizes, I'll have a pretty good idea of my intake.

Your suggestion about tweaking and find alternatives is a good one. I think I'll start off simply. Maybe just comparing different cereals in the morning.

The exercise is going to be more difficult for me than the eating. I know that I'm going to struggle to find the time and the motivation. I did a couple of hours in the garden yesterday, but I only enjoy that if the weather's good which rules out most of the year!

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Good morning cariad2 😀

you have hit the nail on the head it is all about healthier lifestyle and being able to sustain this for life. I've really struggled too with the exercise but started off upping my steps to over 6000 a day (use an app on your phone or get a cheap pedometer) I also bought a davina mcall dvd which I really enjoy a couple of times a wk. I also bought a set of weights which I use to tone up my arms and shoulders. Nothing to strenuous to start but now I've lost a bit I felt ready to tackle a challenge and the c25k sounded achievable as I struggle with cardio (so out of puff) and already just 3 runs in I'm enjoying it. Download wk one and walk it at your own pace. You can redo wk 1 as many time as you want.

Because I'm not on the bmi calculator anymore 😃 I stay below 1400 calories and am still loosing 2lb a wk. Tweaking my diet has helped me as with a young family have to eat with them but I buy low fat, low sugar and wholemeal bread and pasta and they don't even notice!!

Good luck and keep us posted. Claire x


Hi welcome, I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes 8 weeks or so ago similar to type 2 the main difference is being pregnant I'm not supposed to be losing weight until after baby is born. Just by subtle changes to our diet my partner nearly lost a stone. To keep sugar levels down small meals more regularly are better so make the snacks healthy or mini meals....biggest change for us was not buying processed sauces and uping exercise.


Hi Vigdis,

Thanks for the welcome. It sounds like your partner has done brilliantly. Hopefully we'll be able to do the same.

Great advice - especially the processed sauces. I hardly ever buy processed pasta sauces, because they seem so expensive when it's easy to make your own. But I do tend to rely on processed sauces if I make a curry. I'm not very confident about making a decent one without them. I guess I just need to be a bit more adventurous.

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