If someone would have told me 20 years ago that I needed to increase my caloric intake by 30% to lose body fat, I would have laughed while continuing to lace up my Mizuno running shoes preparing for my hour long run. Now 5 kids later, a little older and a little wiser, with decades of trial and error underneath my belt, eating more to weigh less has been a key factor in my fitness journey.
A common misconception among those that want to lose weight is that you need to drastically cut calories and increase cardio workouts. This problematic approach has resulted in many trying to lose weight to only damage their metabolism. I speak on this issue not only from reading other stories, but I have personally experienced this metabolic damage which resulted in a serious health issue called Adrenal Fatigue. After everything I have learned, when I log onto My Fitness Pal and I see I see others eating 1200 calories with high calorie burns, my instincts are to immediately say, “Stop! Don’t do what I did.” As a longtime “My fitness pal” member, I recall an honest pal, Becca, specifically sharing this very concern with me that I was exercising too much, and not eating enough calories. Initially, for many weeks, I held onto the fallacy that I would attain my dream body while continuing on this path of destruction.
It was not until “my plan” to reach my “goal weight” by my 38th birthday came to a halt when my body reached homeostasis. I had reached a plateau in my weight loss journey and I was no longer losing fat, or gaining muscle. I was starving, exhausted and my body was at a complete standstill. Exasperated and feeling defeated, I went back to the drawing board to research fat loss remembering all the while Becca’s encouragement to eat more. Becca introduced me to a website for calculating calories. After spending some time on this website, I was shocked at the advice given. Based on my height, weight and activity level, I needed to be consuming 30% more calories. This line of thinking was so shocking and it went against every principle “I thought” I knew about losing weight.
I even approached my husband with my concerns asking his advice. With the research I had been doing, along with the advice given by Becca and Kiki, it was evident a metabolic reset was necessary. In terror, just 3 weeks away from attempting to reach my birthday goal, I began reverse dieting adding 50-100 calories weekly to reach my Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE). At this time I also implemented a plan to strategically count my macros. I pay close attention to the number of grams of proteins, carbs and fats I intake daily. From my research, the keys to cutting body fat are increasing calories while counting macros, reducing cardio, and increasing my weight lifting.
Well, my 38th birthday came and went. The scale never reached the number in my head, but my goal had changed during this time. I was determined to be fit and healthy versus being skinny. I continued on the metabolism reset with correct macros and increased calories while simultaneously reducing my cardio, and lifting heavy weights.
The number on the scale temporarily went up, but then my weight leveled out. One of the first physical changes I observed was my lack of hunger, increased energy level as well as the change in my body composition. My cellulite and fat began to diminish and I could see I was building muscle to form shape to my body. These major changes finally allowed me to feel more comfortable with my body.
Although, I agree with counting your macros daily food intake, I am not a fan of “If It Fits Your Macros” simply because many will eat pop tarts, snickers bars, and a bag of chips, if it fits their macros. Although, I do have a weekly cheat, I attempt to eat real whole foods. Food is fuel. As a general rule, I stay away from processed foods, which means making time for prepping meals. With a large family to take care of and working 30+ hours weekly planning meal prep time is just as important as planning my workouts.
I am a homeschooling mother of 5, and I hold a 30+ hour job outside of the home. I make time for heavy lifting 5 days a week along with meal planning. This is not a New Year’s Resolution. This is mine and my husband’s lifestyle. My continued love for fitness has propelled my desire to become a certified personal trainer to continue to learn about fitness while helping others achieve their fitness goals.
Don’t give up on your fitness goals. I believe that anyone who truly wants to be fit and healthy will make the time. There is no secret pill or supplement. Hard work and dedication will help you get to your desired level of fitness. I know the proposition of adding calories for weight loss seems improbable, but I am living proof that it works.
If you are inspired by Tracy's amazing story, make sure to follow her on Instagram!
Becca is a busy wife and homeschooling mother to five children ages 5 to 13. About three years ago, she embarked on a journey to health and fitness that resulted in the loss of approximately 100 pounds. Today, she is a competitive powerlifter and strongwoman who loves ice cream and deadlifts. As an ISSA certified personal trainer, she is passionate about helping women to get started on a lifestyle of strength and fitness.
I’ve lost 20lbs by way of restricting calories and exercising (weight traninjng and walking 3-5 miles each day. As a result, I’m not having blood sugar lows or highs, but they need to ebb and flow. Sometimes I get light headed even when my blood sugar is in normal range. All my blood work has been good “not hypoglycemic or diabetic, cortisol is good per visit with endo. Have you ever heard of someone experiencing these symptoms? I lost the weight in about 1-1/2 months.
Usually light headedness can be from not eating enough calories. Even if your blood sugars are normal, your body is still in need of more energy. Water consumption can also be a factor. My suggestion would be to increase your calories a bit more and make sure your water intake is up.
Johnathon- your comment is so SIMILAR to stuff going on recently with me! But my Endo cannot figure out why I’m having Hypo issues and low cortisol levels? Is that what your saying your having? I’ve been placed on meds for both this past year (’17). My 2018 goal is be off them.. I’ve turned to Keto to see if it will get me off these meds .. I lost 100lbs in 2007 naturally and kept off is my background- I assume I under eat before as Tracy shares & over exercise too. I’m curious to hear your answer back- maybe I’m not alone after all with this kind of stuff.. cheers friend.
Well spoken article to Becca and Tracy. I too met Tracy from MFP & follower her currently on IG too. She’s inspiring, motivating and encouraging always. I adore T. Wtg Tracy you rock my socks.
I think I have Adrenal Fatigue. How were you diagnosed?
Hi John. This is something a health care provider would be able to diagnose you with. Please speak with your doctor
Hi, over the past 5 years i have been training hard 2 hours of cardio a day 5 days a week. eating 900 cals through the week, then eating 1400 on weekends and my weight has slowly been creeping up. i first lost 1 stone in weight then i put it back on after getting injured and went back to my normal 9stone. The past year it started to go up and up. i have tried cutting cals even further and upping my workouts to find myself stressing out, exhausted as my weight just isnt budging. if anything, creeping up!! i just dont understand how im not losing weight eating under 1000cals a day and working out 2 hours a day. can anyone help!! im so frustrated and just dont know what to do!!
What you’re experiencing is not uncommon at all, it’s actually a big part of what Eat More 2 Weigh Less stands for. We know from research, our own experience, and that of others that progressively eating less/exercising more will eventually backfire (more on that here). Eventually your body just shuts down and says “no!” to all of your fat loss efforts, in order to perform it’s most important task…keeping you alive. When your body senses that you are entering a mode of starvation/famine, it starts storing fat, so that you have energy to make it through each day.
In order to regain trust from your body, you’ll need do the opposite of what you’ve been doing (even though it will feel contrary to everything you’ve been taught). You’ll do better to cut back some on the workouts (especially if you’re doing tons of cardio – you’ll want to add in some weight lifting) and get back to eating a sufficient enough amount of cals to keep your body performing at full peak. As you can see, less (cals) does not mean better results. Our free Quick Start Guide can give you step by step breakdown of how to start eating enough again.
I have just recently begun MFP and am contstantly under my caloric goal. I want to eat, but it seems like when I get close to my calorie goals, my macros really take a hit. If I really focus on healthy eating, I end up 700 calories short. What are some foods that I can snack on that wont destroy my macros?
That’s not uncommon in the beginning. Is there a specific macro that’s taking the hit? What are your macros currently set at?
I’ve been eating 1200 or less for 20 years as I got older the weight added on. I began a workout routine in 2012 and lost 20 pounds in 3 months then hit with mold spores and hadnt had the energy to go back and have all kinds of ailments. I’ll be 50 in a couple months. I started gaining weight when I cut out alcohol in 2010 before starting to workout and failing after 6 months and plateuing. How do I force myself to eat? Ive been starving myself for most of my life after watching my mother struggle with overeating. ( I under eat) I just tried to eat a second 400 calorie paleo chicken and brussel sprout meal and had to put half away. After eating tuna over spinach salad 3 hours earlier. How do I train myself to eat? Im used to 2 meals a day Salad at lunch, sensible 40z meat, potato, veggie dinner and coffee is always for breakfast.
(4 ounces of meat not 40 oz)
I’m so happy you found us! Don’t be too hard on yourself, most of us come to this way of life completely flabbergasted at what we’ve been doing to our bodies. Once the initial shock wears off, we take action (just like you’re doing!). Know from the jump that it won’t be an overnight thing, but it can pretty much be “undone” with the proper exercise/fuel, and a tad bit (ok maybe more than a tad) of patience. 20 years of underrating won’t be fixed immediately, but you can start to slowly inch those cals up to where they should be. Take as long as you need and increase only a tiny bit at a time so that it’s not a shock to your body. You can start with as little as a 25-50 cal/day increase. Once that gets easier, add 25-50 more, and so on. This allows your body to get slowly acclimated to the new calorie amount. This is the method that I chose, and most of the ladies on Team EM2WL used the “inch” method. Other members of the EM2WL fam prefer the “rip the bandaid” approach LOL. This is where you aim to get the calories up as FAST as possible in order to start the metabolism reset process. In this method, you would try to eat as many cals as you can handle per day — sometimes setting a timer to remind you to eat every 2 hours or so (in order to “retrain” your hunger cues). You could honestly use the timer method either way, its one of the quickest ways to train yourself to eat, regain natural hunger. Either method (slow vs rip-the-bandaid) has it’s pros/cons, it’s up to you to know your own body/mind and evaluate which method might suit you best. You can find more info about the metabolism reset here: Metabolism Reset Guide
Thanks Kiki, for the reply. Im doing the ripped band aid because I have to get this thing going for my 50th birthday party in January 2016!
Oh wow! It’s coming soon! I’m sure you can relate to Anitra’s story. She found EM2WL shortly before turning 50 as well,;) and now she’s a rockstar part of Team EM2WL and helping others do the same! If you’ve ever popped over in to the forums, you’ve likely seen her answering questions and guiding others in how to make this scary process work for them.
Hey thanks for that im awaiting blood tests as i have plateued for 4 months after losing 25 kg and am getting so unmotivated as nothings happening- i will be discussing metabolic reset and reverse dieting with my coach if bloods show nothing ;) i now feel hope
I just checked out my numbers on the link you provided and according to them I should be eating about 400 calories more a day! I also clean eat (food is fuel!) and I already feel pretty full with the 1300 calories I get a day! Any ideas about how to bump up the cals without eating a large amount of food? Also I do my macros a little higher on the fat and protein because that has worked better for me in the past. Thanks for the post and also thanks in advance for your reply!
It’s not uncommon in the beginning to be full on a lower amount of cals. This is the proof that our bodies have mistakenly adapted to the super low amount. That adaptation is what causes a slow metabolism (the less cals your body thinks it needs to burn, the less work it needs to do.) So increasing those cals nice and slow is essential to rebuilding your metabolism. Most newcomers to this lifestyle start with increasing fat. Good fats will help you to increase your cals without having to actually eat a ton more (fat carries twice as many cals as carbs/protein). We recommend a pretty decent amount of protein, around 30-35%, but too much and your carbs may be too low. We don’t really recommend your carbs being lower than 30% of your total cals (we find that 35-40% is just right for fat loss, and it’s healthy and sustainable for most). If you are cutting carbs lower than that, you may be doing your body a great disservice. Though it seems to work in the beginning, the long term hormonal issues can be detrimental because reducing carbs too low further weakens the metabolism. If you are eating carbs that are high in fiber and water, you should be able to stay at 30-40% or more of your total cals (the amount varies based on where you have the other two macros set). If your protein is creeping up toward and above than 40%, that is really unnecessary. You can spare some of those cals for carb/fat usage.
Hope that helps! Also, if you haven’t already, be sure to grab our free Quick Start Guide to know the steps of beginning this process ;)
Let me know if you have any further questions.
Hi, this was a great article to come across as I also have 5 children that I homeschool and a business with my husband. I workout 5 days a week (3 lifting days and 2 moderate cardio days in between), eat a whole, unprocessed diet and track my macros (aiming for 40/30/30) very rigidly through the calorie king app. I’ve slowly been losing strength and endurance but also cannot seem to get my calories up above 1,200-1,400 without messing up my ratios. I also can’t seem to lose the last layer of fat on my thighs and abdomen, and maybe have even gained some. I came across this page because I know I’m not eating enough but my question is what is the best way to calculate your necessary calories, factoring in breastfeeding and/or pregnancy? The calculators I’ve seen on bodybuilding sites vary wildly and I’m scared to death to eat more when I feel I’m gaining fat. My natural tendency is to add healthy fats since they’re so essential for health but there is a lot of conflicting information that suggests you have to restrict fats to lose the last layer over your body. Thoughts?
Hey & welcome to the site!
I’m also a homeschooling mom (actually almost done, my baby is 17!). If you’re losing strength, it’s definitely a red flag that the cals are way too low. I’m not sure how long you’ve been eating that low, but I’d definitely recommend doing a metabolism reset if it’s been a while since you remember being above 1400 cals.
Increase your cals slow, and if you can try starting with protein, and fats. You will ultimately want to end back at 40/30/30 when you arrive at your TDEE, and move to cut again, but it can take some time to get there, and your body is most sensitive to carbs at this time. So use protein and fat as your way to inch those cals up to where you need to be (fat makes it easier to hit cal goals in the beginning because it is so calorie dense). Obviously you can increase carbs as well, but look to those two as your go-to when choosing “what to eat” in the beginning.
It’s definitely scary eating more when you already feel like you are gaining. All of us here have been there. But the important thing to remember here is that the gain that is happening has everything to do with the fact that you are UNDER eating. When you get to that point, NOT increasing the cals is no longer an option. You will continue to gain fat right where you are because your body has gone into survivial mode and there’s just not nearly enough food/nutrients to go around. If you continue to restrict, you’ll not only gain fat, but likely experience some unwanted effects like brittle nails/teeth, and hair/bone loss. I encourage you to check out our metabolism reset guide for more info on that.
I can’t eat much and want to gain some weight. can u plzz guide me what should i do?
Is there a health condition that causes you to not be able to eat much? or you just can’t stomach it? If it’s hard for you do eat enough, then I would suggest starting with foods with a higher fat content. They will have more cals and go farther in helping you to eat more calories overall. Good fats like nut butters, avocados, and seeds/nuts are a great place to start. If you can handle milk products, then switching to full fat milk products are also a way to help you get in more cals while pretty much eating the same amount of total food.
Becca looks happy and her husband looks sad. Lol
THIS is exactly why I’ve increased my calories even more in the last couple weeks. I felt things were at a standstill and briefly considered decreasing my calories. But I realized that I had to recalculate my caloric needs since my activity level and training capacity had increased. So instead of decreasing, I increased my cals. No major changes yet but I plan on sticking to higher calories to match my training.
YES!! When in doubt, go UP. That is key. You can always go back down later, but it’s all too easy to get stuck on that slippery slope of calorie lowering when things seem to be moving slow. Yeah…we know where that leads, lol. Keep us posted ;)