I've lost a fair amount of weight over the past few years. During this experience, I've always kept anorexia/bulimia in the back of my mind to avoid falling into any dangerous habits.

That being said, is there an empirically accepted minimum on when cutting caloric intake crosses over from "cutting calories" to anorexia? I am around 220 right now and I'd like to make it down to 180/190 (I'm 5 11 male and usually work out 4 times/week even though I could work out up to 7 days depending on my routine). I've been on all sorts of diets and have adjusted to what works best over time.

Since the last weight is so much harder to burn off, I'm resorting to cutting calories. I remember reading an article few years ago (maybe a wikipedia page or something) that 1200-1400 calories for a guy like me was considered extreme. Now I'm finding things like this:


While I realize I could be taking this out of context, it is still by the US Dept of Health and Human Services (so while it may not be the best source on the planet, I assume at least some medical professional has vetted this).

So now that all of that context is there, I can ask my question:

What is empirically considered "dangerous low caloric intake" these days? At what level of caloric intake would a doctor say "This is dangerous, you MUST eat more regardless of your weight loss situation"?

As in, when would I cross the line from losing weight to anorexia. Is it even possible to be considered anorexic if I'm still overweight?

  • Honestly, from what I've been reading (I'm a long way from it...) the best way is to clean up your diet. Not cutting calories, but eating healthier.
    – DForck42
    Mar 8, 2012 at 17:11
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    I used to think that way too, but the twinkie diet ( cnn.com/2010/HEALTH/11/08/twinkie.diet.professor/index.html ) caused me to reconsider. Also, even if you eat foods considered healthy, if you eat 3000-4000 calories a day you're going to gain weight unless you're a professional athlete. You can easily reach this eating fruit, veggies, whole grains, lean meats, beans, etc. Though, I do find that being on lower calorie diets, eating 1600 calories/day of healthier food makes you feel more full than 1600 calories of junk.
    – Dave
    Mar 8, 2012 at 17:22
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    General rule of thumb is no more than a 500 cal defecit off your BMR. Mar 8, 2012 at 19:55
  • jsut want to point you to this forum nerdfitness.com/community/showthread.php?8979-Fad-Diets
    – DForck42
    Mar 9, 2012 at 19:46
  • The twinkie diet isn't actually a diet plan and I'm not actually going on a twinkie diet...it was just an experiment to illustrate that losing weight doesn't correlate well with the type of food you eat (healthy or otherwise).
    – Dave
    Mar 9, 2012 at 20:27

1 Answer 1


If you aren't severally over weight, the rule of thumb is that you should not be running more than a 3500cal/week deficit.

As for day-to-day, I don't think it matters too much, so long your weekly deficit is in the above range. In fact, not being able to fast for 24 hours without problems (getting drowsy, hypoglycemic, ...) is a symptom of inadequate diet. There are well-designed diets, e.g. UD2.0 that call for days with 1000+ deficit.

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