Can Cats Tell Us Something About Weight? You Bet!

Four PillarsI came across a very interesting piece of info the other day, which I’ve since verified with my veterinary sources: The average cat needs about 200-400 calories a day.

Why should you care?

Let’s look at the evidence…

If you happen to be the guardian (I hate the word “owner”) of an animal, go to your kitchen and check the calories on the nutrition facts label for his food. I’ll wait.

Back already? Surprise: there was no such nutrition facts label, was there?

In fact, manufacturers never put the caloric content on the label of dog food or cat food.

They do, however, tell you how many cups or cans to feed your animal companion, and guess what- it’s always more than they need.

I think the exact same thing is going on with us two-legged folks.

Animal food manufacturers are no different than human food manufacturers. They’re in the business of- big surprise- selling food and they want you to use a lot of it. As someone who has had and loved dogs for a decade, I can tell you that if I fed my very healthy and trim dogs anything like the number of cups a day the dogwood manufacturers recommend, they’d look like balloons.

Now granted, I feed them very expensive, high-nutrient food. But guess what- they don’t need that much of it.

Just like us.

Lesson learned anyone?

I believe- and this is just my opinion, but when I go to nutrition conferences I find it’s widely shared among health professionals- that most people believe they “need” far more calories than they actually do.

Calorie calculators available on the internet (many based on the classic Harris-Benedict equation) will give you a calorie amount that is too high by at least 200 calories. For example, I put in the following data at one well-known site for calculating calories: Woman, 35 years old, 5’3”, 145 pounds. The calculator told me I needed 1706 calories to maintain my weight.

Maybe. But my experience tells me that’s a guaranteed recipe for weight gain.

When I talk to health professionals around the country, the formula that keeps coming up for weight loss is really simple: take your goal weight and multiply by 10. Our 145-pound woman who wants to lose a couple of pounds would be well advised to aim for no more than 1450 calories, and that’s with exercise!

Most people have no idea of how many calories they should be consuming let alone what they are actually taking in. While calories are not- repeat not– the whole picture when it comes to weight loss, they still count. Try the goal weight times 10 equation and see what you get.

And before you tell me you’d starve on so few calories, let me point out that every species studied so far has extended life by cutting calories by about 25%.

Remember, it’s a lot easier to feel full and satisfied- and get all your nutritional needs met- if you eat the human equivalent of my dog’s expensive chow rather than the cheap supermarket brand. That means high-nutrient foods like lean proteins, tons of vegetables, healthy fat (no trans-fats) and some fruits. Bar-code foods… not so much.

As my friend Barry Sears, PhD has said many times, it’s simple. Most men will lose on 1500-1800 calories and most women will lose on 1250-1400.

Try it.




  1. Lee

    Factor in the weight gain caused by low thyroid – or no thyroid being treated by our wonderful (NOT!) Synthroid. There is a metabolic factor which you have not considered.
    I am 5’3″ and if I ate any where near 1400 calories per day, I would gain about 1/8th to 1/4 of a pound per month. That really adds up.
    There is something else that needs to be addressed here and that is the abnormal metabolism someone in my category has to be cognizant of. Please don’t leave us out. There are thousands of us. I need to go down to about 1,000 calories per day of very specific pH alkaline diet per day just to keep the weight from ballooning – which it did for many years until I learned about the pH balance that needs to be maintained in the alkaline range.
    I will be undergoing HCG treatments in a few weeks (Lord willing!). With it, I hope to release the stored fat, built up by the lack of proper metabolism which will be released by the HCG hormone injections.
    That would be a wonderful thing for you to talk about one day.
    Thanks for listening!

  2. Nancy Welker

    Great article here!
    As a fellow fitness professional the idea that we are indeed being “sold” what we eat is something lots of people don’t even consider. Commercials that show the “all you can eat” specials make me cringe. Most people here in the U.S., and sadly that includes kids too these days, aren’t nearly as active as they used to be. And if give your body more fuel than it needs it’s going to cause problems.

    Thanks Jonny!

  3. Dave

    What is the problem with Synthroid?(Levothyroxine)
    I am confused by your comment Lee.
    (Factor in the weight gain caused by low thyroid

  4. Karl Wittmann

    Hello Nancy,

    Did you get an answer, I’m very interested in the information.



  5. Kathy Rushing

    Lee commented about HCG treatments for low thyroid . What is the treatment and how do you go about getting the treatment.

  6. Dr. Jonny

    Hi Karl and Kathy-

    Karl i’m assuming you’re asking about HCG treatments. I’m not a believer in this and don’t think it’s effective in the long run. No integrative doc I’ve interviewed believes in it.. you do lose weight in the short term because you’re eating a starvation diet of 500 calories. I can’t really tell you where or how to get it since I’m not a believer and don’t know anyone in my circle who does it. I admit, I have not heard of it’s use specifically for thyroid so can’t comment on that.


  7. Nancy Hamel

    Hi Jonny,

    I read Lee’s comments about Synthroid. I have been on Synthroid for 5 years now and since then I felt that it relieved my symptoms to a point but I still have the symptoms. My doctor says my thyroid is in the “normal” range and I’ve been to see him plenty to argue I do not feel normal. I have recently read that switching to a different hormone called Armour made from a pig could be my solution? Do you know anything about this?

  8. Andria

    I do agree that most people, myself included are under the impression that they need more calories than they actually do. However, at 5′ 3″ I eat no less than 1600 calories a day and weigh 111# currently. I have good muscle mass due to regular strength training but I do not exercise in excess. I prefer to get my exercise in brief but high intensity workouts that included lifting heavy weight (for me) several times per week. I had been eating more calories and actually lost a few pounds by decreasing to 1600 calories. I suspect muscle mass has alot to do with this.