published Thursday, August 19th, 2010

Ask a doctor

Q: I am a petite woman (5 feet, 4 inches) and find it very difficult to maintain my weight near the 120- to 130-pound range I am told I should fit in. Are average daily calorie intake estimates published in cooking and nutrition magazines generally accurate?

A: This is a common complaint. Despite aggressive efforts at diet and exercise, many individuals find it impossible to maintain or lose weight. I think this is often due to an overestimation of the total calories needed per day. Many nutrition and cooking magazines write that women under age 50 need 2,000 calories per day. In reality, using a body composition analysis machine to estimate resting metabolic rate, the average 5-foot-4-inch tall woman weighing around 130 needs no more than 1,200 to 1,400 calories per day to maintain her weight (depending on her muscle mass). Consuming 2,000 calories per day would lead to an extra 600 to 800 calories per day, or over 1 pound gained per week.

— Dr. Jessica G. Scotchie, Tennessee Center for Medical Weight Loss; member, Chattanooga-Hamilton County Medical Society

Readers: To submit an obesity-related question for a medical doctor, e-mail it to Clint Cooper at See this space each week for answers, or go online to

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