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You’re Not Eating Enough Calories to Lose Weight

plate with 3 peasThe majority of the time when you’re having a problem losing weight, it’s not because you aren’t making good food choices. The reason why your weight loss has stagnated is because you’re not eating enough calories to lose weight.

What Happens When You’re Not Eating Enough Calories?

When most people start dieting, they slash their calories and add a large amount of exercise to their daily routine. That’s fine, but they usually cut their calories way too low. Add in the extra exercise, and all of a sudden you have an extreme calorie deficit that is working against you.

Not eating enough calories causes many metabolic changes. Your body is a smart machine and senses a large decrease in dietary energy. Your large calorie deficit might work for a few days or even weeks, but eventually your body will wake up and sound alarms that it needs to conserve energy.

It doesn’t want to just waste away. It needs that energy (fat) to survive. So, what does your body do when it senses prolonged energy restriction? Not eating enough calories…

  • Slows down thyroid production – Your thyroid is responsible for fat, carbohydrate, and protein metabolism, among other things. Your body has the ability to slow down thyroid output in an effort to maintain energy balance [1].
  • Decreases muscle mass – Muscle is highly calorie intensive to maintain. In a prolonged extreme calorie deficit, it is one of the first things that your body looks to get rid of. Your body needs the fat, wants the fat, and the muscle can be spared. It breaks down the muscle tissue and uses it for energy.
  • Lowers testosterone levels – An important hormone for both men and women, testosterone is just one of many hormones that are affected with severe calorie restriction [2]. Testosterone is anabolic to muscle tissue. Without it, it becomes that much harder to maintain, let alone put on muscle mass.
  • Decreases leptin levels – Leptin is one of many energy regulating hormones. More importantly, it’s a “hunger” hormone that tells you whether to eat or not. High leptin levels signal that it’s OK to stop eating, while low leptin levels are a signal to eat more energy. Because of this, leptin levels decrease in calorie restricted environments [3].
  • Decreases energy levels – There are many physical actions your body takes when you’re not eating enough calories, but there are also some mental ones. Neurotransmitter production is limited, which can lead to a lack of motivation. It’s your body’s way of telling you to “slow down” – conserve your energy.

How Many Calories Should You Be Eating?

Your goal should be to eat as many calories as possible and still lose weight. You always want to start high and then come down with your calorie intake. It’s much easier to do this than come up in calories after your weight loss has stalled and you’ve lost all your motivation.

How many calories should you eat? There is no perfect number. Each person’s metabolism is different. Calorie calculators are a good starting point, but they can’t take into account all the individualistic variables.

To do that, you need to find your calorie intake either through:

  • Experimentation – I laid out a plan to determine this number in – How Many Calories Should I Eat? You might want to give it a read.
  • Measure it with a device – I have personally used the BodyMedia FIT Armband to determine my calorie burn. You can read more about it here. I’ve found it to be accurate within a 10% margin of error.

The problem is most people want the weight gone, and they want it gone now. Weight loss is a patience game. It takes time and consistency to make it work.

Losing 1% of your body mass each week is the most I would aim for. At this pace, it will ensure that the majority of your weight loss is coming from stored body fat instead of muscle. You will also give yourself the best chance to build muscle while you lose fat, which is what you should be striving to do.

To find out what portion of your weight loss is fat and what portion is muscle, I highly recommend you pick up a cheap pair of body fat calipers to measure your body composition. It will make weight loss much easier if you can hold onto your muscle, or even put some on in the process.

So if your progress has stalled, but you think you’re eating the right foods and exercising intensely, more than likely your problem is that you’re not eating enough calories to lose weight. Eat as much as you can, get in as many nutrients as possible, and your weight loss will start moving forward again.

  • Mary Ann MacKay

    Many people drastically cut calories to lose weight, however, as this article states, that is a self defeating plan. Instead, follow healthy eating plans with plenty of physical activity and watch the pounds melt off naturally.

    • lynn

      Question though- what about when you try to up your calories to fix it and you gain back crazy amounts of weight? I was 285, went to 165 (I’m 5’10) and was eating 400-800 calories a day for many many months and working out 2+ hours a day in the gym on high intensity machines and also using weight machines. I also biked 16 miles a day on hills to work and went swimming every other day. It took me 6 months to go from 185 to 165. The first 100 lb took a year, the next 20 took 6 months and then just stopped altogether. I was forced to up it to 1200-1400 calories a day and cut back exercise and I gained 20 lbs in 3 weeks.. back up to 185.
      I didn’t stop though, because I had people making sure I was eating, etc, and a few months later got pregnant. I ate about 1600-1900 calories a day when pregnant (after I stopped puking all day long-which, by the way, I still gained weight doing. Not eating and puking non-stop… and I gained 10lbs in my first trimester..) and by the end of it, I gained 60lbs. Not fair. I never binge ate or gave into cravings. I ended back at 245.
      I am back at 185 now… I lost the first 45 the first 2 months postpartum and now here we are almost 5 months later (almost 7 months pp) and I’ve lost 15lbs more. In 5 months. Eating 1500 on avg calories a and going to the gym 2 hours a day 5 days a week. Sometimes I still go swimming if someone can babysit and my husband can come and I walk alot on my off days and even on the days I go to the gym as well. I also use my elliptical at home. And I breastfeed! Most women lose a ton of weight by breastfeeding alone and eating whatever and little exercise..
      So little results… I haven’t lost weight in over 2 weeks. I gained 5lbs of water weight (no idea why. This happens a lot. I have a pregnant looking belly that swells up throughout the day no matter how small I get.) that is finally coming off… that is all. If I wasn’t breastfeeding, i swear I would just not eat. I know it doesn’t help, but when I try to actually eat like a normal person or exercise like one, I gain crazy amounts of weight. I don’t know what to do. I had a year of eating relatively normal. Probably should have eaten a little more being pregnant, but I gained 60lbs as it was, so no.. But that didn’t seem to reset anything. I started out at 1650-1850 a day just after birth to make sure my milk supply was good and to not have this calorie reduction/stall problem again. It didn’t work so I slowly lowered it. And here we are. Please help. :( Does anyone have ANY advice? No one knows what to do with me. I know more about nutrition and healthy eating and exercise than my doctor and he just doesn’t know what to do with someone who actually does things right and doesn’t cheat. I mean, I make 2 different meals for me and my husband every day because he eats completely opposite as me. He eats only bad things and eats 3-5X more than me depending on the day, and he is stick thin. :/ I track all my food and calories and exercise and I should be losing on avg 2.75 lb a week + maybe a lb for breastfeeding (burns on avg 500 cals a day itself.) I have lost 15 in 5 months. I spend all my time free time exercising. Don’t even see my husband much because I exercise when he gets home and can watch our son. I miss him. :( But I’ve only got a few months of maternity leave left. i need to finish this.

  • Serena Michelle Barnett

    It took me years to figure this out on my own… I remember walking more than 35 miles in a week, eating healthy, appropriate portions and being outraged when I didn’t lose a single pound while my friend who didn’t eat nearly as healthy and did not exercise continued to lose 2 pounds a week.

    While I do know my medications were partially to blame – but it’s extremely frustrating and discouraging to work so hard and not “see” the results reflected on the scale. Ultimately I’d get so upset I would quit because I didn’t see the purpose in working so hard with nothing to show for it.

    I wish I would have realized then that I was simply creating too large of a calorie deficit and my body was compensating. Nevertheless, I’m glad I finally had this realization so this time around – I won’t get discouraged and quit – I’ll fight back; train smarter and not harder and continue my journey to the end!

    • Coach Calorie

      I like your attitude Serena. Good luck!

      • Lorie

        This week has been my first week of trying to eat healthier to lose weight. I have substantially cut carbs and calories and have been very good about it. Each day this week I have consumed between 550 and 950 calories and my carbs per day haven’t gone over 50. I started at 216 lbs and I am now at 213 and today is day 6. I am 5’6″ and ready to see real change. I have a job that I work 55-60 hours a week then I go home toy family for dinner and to go to bed, no time or will for exercise. Please help me do better to see results that feel like the efforts I am putting in..!?!!

    • Amanda

      Thanks for sharing Serena. I’m wondering how long after u upped your calorie intake that you started to see results. I feel like I’m eating too much. I feel bloated and sluggish and have gained weight. I doubled my intake to get to 1500 calories and since I eat whole foods that is a lot of food. Just wondering how soon I might feel better so that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

  • mjones332

    I once did 1500 calories for about 18 months combined with approximately 80min of exercise daily between weights and cardio (3 days weights +45min, 4 days 80 min cycling). Doing this I went from ~250lbs to 189lbs but I still had a gut, prob 15-20lbs more to go at least. When I say 1500 calories it was 1500, if I miscalculated and ate 200 extra calories one day, I removed 200 calories the next.

    However the last 3 months were spent bouncing between 189-192lbs and I was extremely frustrated so I gave up, I eventually ended back up to 260lbs. That is when I learned that weight loss is not as simple as eat less and move more like is often touted, and that its hard to force your body to make rapid changes without some sort of reaction. Plan all you want, your body has its own plans, its better if you line up with your body’s plans and make a reasonable adjustment to drop some fat. Looking back I probably could have dropped that 60lbs in 6-8 months, and gotten past my plateau and down to my more ideal weight, had I just tried to take a more reasonable approach.

    • Coach Calorie

      Good point. Everyone wants what they want, and they want it now. Unfortunately, it takes time to create a new set-point for your body, and drastically cutting calories isn’t how you do it. Slow and steady will always win with weight loss in the long term.

  • Samantha

    For months now I haven’t been eating enough calories to lose weight. On what I consider a ‘good day’ I consume about 7-800 calories. How can I safely increase the number of calories I consume each day to begin losing weight but not gain weight in the interim?

    • Coach Calorie

      Without knowing your macro breakdown, I would add some protein and healthy fats to your diet. If you need more carbs, try adding them in after your workout. Weight gain should be minimal if any. Try increasing your calories by 500/day and see what happens.

  • Dee

    I have been playing around with eating more calories because my body seems to have stalled. I am working on that stubborn last couple of pounds and am working to find the caloric means to defeat them. When upping your calories is it normal to gain a bit of weight before beginning to lose it? Here are my stats:
    21 year old girl
    138 lbs
    26% body fat
    I workout 6 times a week and eat about 25% protein. I upped my calories to about 2300 but gained 5 pounds! Should I continue here and have faith that everything will figure itself out soon?
    Thanks for all of your posts! They are very helpful!

    • Coach Calorie

      What did you increase it from, and how long were you eating 2300 calories before you gained 5 pounds? 2300 calories sounds a bit high for your body weight. It is possible to gain some weight if the majority of your increased calorie intake came from carbohydrates. Carbs result in more intercellular water retention because of increased glycogen storage. Let’s see your diet…

      • Dee

        I upped it from about 2000. I’ve dropped it to 2000 again and am trying to cut out some of the carbs. I get way too hungry at anything below, so I’m assuming that can’t be right. My diet varies from day to day but I eat a lot of eggs, fruits, almond butter, and whole grains. I was only eating 2300 calories for about 2 weeks before the gain. I think one of the calculators must have overestimated quite a bit, but finding the sweet spot for calories is getting difficult.

        • Robbie

          Try cutting out some of the grains and fruits and replace them with vegetables. Also remember that vegetables varies in the amount of calories as well. Potatoes, lentils and the such contain much more starch than other vegetables so education on the caloric levels of vegetables is extremely important. The more starch in the diet the more the blood insulin levels are effected and if indulged upon can leave you feelin sluggish and tired…not to mention craving more starch. This can happen in whole grain foods as well as fruits [because of the fruits natural sugars]. For the vegetables, the lower the caloric level the more you can eat for fullness and still have the carbs for your energy source. Also, it’s important that you measure. A good example is olive oil used for sauteeing vegetables…there is 120 calories in just 1 tbl of olive oil. It’s easy to ‘forget’ about the calories in our ‘cooking tools’.

  • http://none Crystal

    I have a question. I wanted to know if we are talking net calories or actual calories. I am using my fitness pal every day to track calories and exercise. I am starting heavy at 280 and they reccomend 1900 calories. I am doing c25k three times a week, walking on opposite days, and yoga every day. I feel awesome. But when I enter my exercise into my fitness pal, it adds calories. So… Do I only stick to the original goal or use the added Calories as well.

    • Coach Calorie

      Exercise uses calories, so you want to make sure you deficit is created (not too big) with the exercise added in.

  • Vania

    Im super confused and I’m exercising and not losing weight for a year ! I actually gained 20 lbs . I went to the doctor last weak and did all the blood work and everything came out normal . They also put me some machine to determine how many calories I burn just by living and the number came out almost 1700 cal. Here is my question . How many cal should I eat ? I’m 28 yrs old female , 5’4 145 lbs . I run on high intensity 80% to 95% about 40 miles per week , I also do spinning classes 3 times per week which requires the same heart rate , I also do zumba at least 2 times a week , bootcamp once a week , and other 2 classes once a week . All together I burn between one thousand to 1800 cal per day and guess what? I’m 30 % body fat ;/ on the wellness clinic on army post they said I need to eat about 2300 cal a day for my type of exercise . Is that truth ? I wonder how can I eat all those 2300 cal in healthy way :/ it’s crazy but more I exercise less hungry I feel . If I do 100% clean I can barely eat 1300 cal . Pls help me to figure out how much I should eat to lose fat . by the way the other reason I exercise too much is to reliever anxiety .

    • Coach Calorie

      That is a lot of exercise being fueled by very little nutrition. You need more calories to lose weight. I’m surprised you aren’t worn down. I would start eating 2000 calories, and if your weight still does not go down, increase it another 500. Keep doing this until you either start losing weight or you start gaining it CONSISTENTLY (ie over the course of at least 2 weeks). Try this –

  • http://donthaveone Alena

    I honestly don’t believe this.
    Why does your body want to conserve fat? Fat is there for a reason: extra energy in case there IS a famine. It makes absolutely no sense that your body would eat muscle first when fat has absolutely no function. Fat doesn’t make you move, it doesnt help you get up and walk. Muscle does that. It’s self-sabotaging for your body to eat up muscle when you aren’t taking in “enough” calories. Fat’s purpose is to provide extra energy when there isn’t enough food around. And once you get down to your essential fat zones, your body is forced to lose muscle by that point.
    And what determines this magic number anyway? My best friend doesn’t eat a whole lot, and of course she’s thin. She’s got good muscle tone and about 16% body fat. She doesn’t have all that much of an appetite, so what, she’s going to eat more than she needs? No. She maintains 110 pounds at 5’6.

    This article makes no sense, and where are the studies to prove this?
    I don’t mean to bash you, I’m asking serious questions. I’m sick of conflicting information. I lost weight just fine eating 1000 calories a day. I went from about 150 to 129 pounds and kept it off to this day.

    • Coach Calorie

      Hi Alena, thanks for your comment.

      I provided the studies in the article. Prolonged calorie restriction causes reduced thyroid levels, reduced testosterone, lowered leptin levels, decreased muscle mass, and reduced energy levels.

      Your body will conserve as much muscle as is required to function in your day to day life. The extra muscle just expends unneeded energy that needs to be used for vital functions. Your body needs fat. There’s a reason you can’t get down to 0% body fat levels.

      My advice would be to read this article with an open mind. Weight loss and fat loss are not the same thing, and overly restricting your calories will slow your metabolism, and at the very least will negatively alter the ratio of fat loss to muscle loss during your weight loss. We aren’t talking about maintaining enough muscle to survive. We’re talking about maintaining enough muscle mass to be physically fit and active.

      What determines this magic number? Your own individual metabolism does. Some people need more calories than others. While there are obviously many people eating too many calories to lose weight, there is a very high percentage of people who are having difficulty losing weight because they are exercising intensely all week long and aren’t providing the proper nutrition to fuel that activity.

      Eating too few calories also restricts your ability to eat a nutrient dense diet. It’s more than just calories. Your body needs those nutrients to maintain and preserve muscle mass and to provide a metabolic environment that is conducive to fat loss.

  • Liz

    I have an office job and compensate by lack of movement by running and walking everyday. I am training for a half marathon and am running 12-16km 3-4 times a week and walk every other day. I try and stick to around 1200 calories each day and am just not losing weight (5ft 9 and about 135lb) I am trying to lose a little bit of with but it jus won’t budge! I tend to gain and lose muscle pretty easily. Any advice? I just want to feel a bit smaller particularly in the legs which feel bulky from all the running. I am scared that if I reduce exercise I will put on weight even at 1200 cal as I spend most of the day in front of computer! Thanks

    • Coach Calorie

      Liz, let me ask you a question to stimulate some thought:

      If you’re eating 1200 calories and not losing weight, do you think that creating a 1000 calorie deficit from there (eating only 200) calories will help you lose 2 pounds per week?

      In other words, do you think you need to eat 200 calories per day to lose 2lbs/week? Highly unlikely.

      You are nearly running a marathon several times a week. You probably burn close to 1000 calories during one of your runs. Eat more food. Eat more carbs. Endurance athletes need more nutrition.

      Do yourself a favor and increase your calorie intake by close to 1000 calories per day and keep them from whole foods. I guarantee you will start see changes in your body composition and you’ll have better workout performance too.

      • Liz

        Great, thank you so much. I know that a long run burns around 800-1000 calls and of course what you are saying makes sense, if I burn 1000 and only eat 1200 I am trying to live on 200 cals (although I am not a stupid person, sometimes you dont think of it like this!) I will up my intake and let you know how I go. Thank you! Liz

  • Liz

    Sorry just confirming, gross cals 2200 and net cals should be 1200 (2200-1000 from exercise)

    • Coach Calorie

      That’s right, but you might want to try increasing your calories by 500/day for a week or two and see how things go. If you need another 500, you can always add more back in.

  • Stacy

    Hey Coach,

    Quick question on nutrition….

    My stats: 135lbs, 5’6
    My daily macros: 1360 cals / 135 protein / 100 carbs / 45 fat
    Exercises 4 to 5 times a week: includes cardio, and strength training for muscle building…all exercise at a moderately high to high intensity each workout.

    I stay really close to the my macros each day. I am not sure if 100 carbs is enough, but since decreasing my carbs and only eating carbs for breakfast and after my workout, I have noticed that I do not retain as much water…which is a plus. No weight loss at all after 3 weeks of this adjustment.

    In your opinion, do I need more calories? Also, do I need more carbs? I read in one of your articles that 100g of carbs is needed just to maintain body functions, so maybe I am defeating my efforts by not eating enough carbs to supply my workouts. Not sure.

    Any advice is appreciated.

    Thanks for you advice. :)

    • Coach Calorie

      Hey Stacy, you’re macros/calories actually don’t look too bad.

      100 grams of glucose (not necessarily carbohydrates) are needed on average every day to support the brain and nervous system. Depending on the intensity of your workouts, you may need more, but that is a personal decision based on your energy levels.

      What do your meals actually look like? You are going low carb, and fairly low fat. If you’re going to eat 10 times your body weight in calories, you have to make sure you are getting in all your nutrients (EFAs, vitamins, minerals, etc).

      • Stacy

        Thank you for your response.

        A typical day of meals are:

        Breakfast: veggie egg white omelet, 1/4 oatmeal with 20g protein powder

        Lunch: a lean protein (ground turkey breast, grilled chicken), greens of some sort

        Dinner: similar to lunch

        Post workout meal: 35-40g of carbs and 35-40g of protein and little or no fat … this is sometimes oats with protein powder or a protein smoothie with frozen fruit

        Snacks as need of apples, nuts, natural peanut butter, or cottage cheese

        I keep my macros within these type meals. I do not cheat very often at all. If I do, it’s just a taste of something sweet or a few chips.

        With this information, do you think I need to increase my calories to lose weight?

        • Coach Calorie

          Sorry I missed your response Stacy. Do you know your body fat percentage? Based on your height and weight alone, you don’t look like you have much to lose. You say you don’t cheat really, but I think you should be, especially as you approach lower body fat levels. It will really help to reset many of your hunger hormones and can get your metabolism going again.

          I would take one of two approaches going forward:

          1 – carb cycling. Cycle your carbs between low and high days. Try to have the high days on strength training days. Do 3 high carb days of around 200 grams of carbs, and on low days eat around 50 grams.

          2 – incorporate a cheat meal once a week. Don’t be so concerned about keeping it clean. Try to get in around 300+ grams of carbohydrates that day.

          • Stacy

            Hi!! I don’t know what my body fat percentage, but I need to get that checked. I would like to lose 5 to 10lbs…but not sure if that’s feasible. I did my first fitness competition in Aug 2011 (bikini class). My weight never did get below 133, but I was much, much leaner than I am now. I know I can’t stay at competition physique 24/7, but since backing off intense 6 days a week training, I have lost some tone and of course the water weight has returned. My body just isn’t as tight as it used to be and maybe I am tricking myself into thinking I need to lose weight…when really maybe I should bump up the intensity of my current strength training schedule. My upper body is fine. It’s the lower body that is my struggle.

            At any rate, I will try approach number 2 for a month or so and see if I get results… then if that isn’t successful I will try approach number 1.

            I will keep you posted.

            Thanks for the great info!!

  • Rebecca

    I don’t know if I am eating enough calories. I have been eating around 1,500 calories per day. Then I exercise for an hour, everyday. Some days I exercise more. On another note, my weight either stays the same or goes up. Before, I got down to my goal weight by just consuming about or over 1,500 calories and not exercising. Should I be eating 2,000 calories a day?

    • Coach Calorie

      I really don’t know Rebecca. Your stats will help determine that, but only through experimentation will you really know. Are you strength training at all? What are your 1500 calories comprised of?

  • dawn genovese

    I am so frustrated! I have hypothyroidism and have no appetite what so ever but cant seem to lose weight. My body is turning into a big jiggly blob and cant figure it out. I dont eat breakfast,rarely eat lunch and sometimes skip dinner.I just started walking early morning for an hour a day and nothin! What am I doing wrong?

    • Coach Calorie

      Hi Dawn, try doing some form of strength training and eating more food. You can’t be skipping all those meals. Less is not better. You need nutrients. It’s not just about calories.

  • wanda

    I am soooo confused!! Man i don’t know what to do now. I hear different things from different articles! URG. I want to loose weight, i am 36% fat and probably 30 lbs over weight. I am 5.0 tall, well short, lol, 152 lbs but i have naturally a muscular body. I have big quads and strong arms but at the same time i see the fat in my thighs and arms and stomach. I read a book that is called “escape your shape” and its about how to work out for your body type. I am a hourglass. meaning i loose and gain weigh evenly. So i don’t want to work out too much with weight cause I gain muscle so easily and bulk up, i want to slim down. And now i am eating around 1200-1250 some times 1300 calories and burning from exercise around 300-600 calories a day/6 days a week. Its been 3 weeks of this being consistent, and i don’t see any results. I am weighing to early?? I don’t know now if i am doing it right, by the way i am a vegetarian, so its harder to have more calories. i do eat eggs and cheese thought. help!

    • Coach Calorie

      Wanda, weight training is not going to bulk you up – eating too much is. You need to be strength training. Women’s fears of getting bulky are overblown. Eat right and it will benefit you.

      What are you actually eating? 3 weeks is not very long, especially if you are using the scale to gauge your progress. Have you taken body fat measurements?

  • Chantelle

    Hey Coach…. Very Confused at the moment!! Trying to fig out if I’m getting in enough calories, would love your help :)

    5’5″ (.5″)
    125 lbs
    about 21% body fat
    I eat a very clean, low carb (40-50 grams/ day) , low sugar (20-25 grams/ day), (protein 70-100 grams/ day- Fats 15 grams/ day- Fibre 40 grams/ day) diet. Currently consuming between 800-1000 calories a day (5-6 small meals). I dont feel I need to be eating more, but the weight does not change. I sit at a desk all day, than weight train at night for about an hour. I would like to get down to 115 in 3.5 weeks. I am so scared to up my calorie intake, in fear I’ll gain weight :s. Please helppppp!!!!!

    • Coach Calorie

      In my opinion, unless you weight under 100 pounds, there’s never a reason to be eating under 1000 calories. Eat more food. 15 grams of fat a day is very little. Fats are essential. You can’t go low carb and low fat and expect to remain healthy for long.

      Don’t be so concerned about the number on the scale. It means very little. Take body fat measurements and put the scale away. Track your progress that way.

  • Dorothy

    Coach Calorie, I definitely identify with this reasoning for stagnant weight… For the past year and a half, I’ve pretty religiously logged everything I eat into MyFitnessPal. As a 5′ 5″ 150 lb. woman, I started at a net calorie goal of 1500 kcals/day. When 6 month of that, with consistent cardio and weight training exercise, did nothing significant for me, I assumed (and my PCP agreed) that my body was just “efficient” at absorbing nutrients and calories, so I dropped the net goal to 1200 kcals/day. It has been about a year of this, and I still haven’t seen any significant difference. It doesn’t make sense with how much I work out & how controlled I eat.

    I plan to increase my calorie goals as you said, but would you mind giving advice to someone who has been overly restrictive for an extended amount of time how to safely increase food intake? I’m also conscious of macro nutrient ratios (currently 40% carbs, 30% protein, 30% fat), and am curious what you feel is the best ratio for someone athletic and has a goal of losing weight.

    • Coach Calorie

      Hi Dorothy, try increasing calories by 500 for now and see how that goes. Keep them from whole foods and you should be fine. If you want to take it a step further, try moving your carbohydrate intake to around your workouts. You are working out, right? With a 40% carb intake, you should be working out intensely “every” day. If you’re not, try dropping it down some and filling the calories with protein and healthy fats.

      • Dorothy

        I exercise intensely most days a week – mostly CrossFit, then running (training for a marathon in October), and yoga regularly. I eat my carb-rich foods around my workout (2/3 of a banana before a workout, 1/3 after – although now I’d like to focus on low GI fruits), and generally stay away from grains. I’ve cut dairy mostly, but have incorporated plain greek yogurt into the mix after realizing it’s hard to eat enough while limiting dairy, soy, & grains. Again, what macronutrient ratio do you recommend?

  • Lisa Eirene

    This is such a common mistake! So many people ask me why they aren’t losing weight and they are eating 1200 calories a day. While I’m not a nutritionist, I know that 1200 is not enough calories–especially if you’re exercising as well.

    When I started my journey to lose 100 pounds, my goal was to eat under 2,000 calories a day. Eventually it lowered as I hit plateaus. My goal now, as a maintainer, is to eat around 1600 calories.

  • Jessica

    I’m confused.
    I thought my net cal number was supposed to be a negative number. I’m trying to focus on eating better. Not that I ate bad before. I don’t drink soda, stay as far away from sweets as I can, eat whole grain breads, and eat meat and veggies over pastas for dinner. I’ve cut back on my breads, eating only one piece of butterless toast with my eggs in the morning. (Egg whites, actually, with spinach, tomato and light seasoning, onions when I have them) instead of fajitas and tacos we eat salads with all the meats and veggies. (I make my own seasoning as well, my bf likes to be as low sodium as possible) so for lunch and dinner I have a salad. Bigg salad, with whatever leftover meat I have, and depending on the flavor of the meat it has green and red peppers, a hard-boiled egg, tomato, avocado, mushrooms and a little bit of cheese. (Less than a quarter cup) or it’ll have blueberries, strawberries and sliced raw almonds. I snack on nuts, beef/turkey jerky and yogurt. I don’t eat pork. Since cutting my carbs from between 200-350/day (yowza!) I eat between 60 and 100 now, just over 100 grams of protein but can only manage about 1300-1400 calories a day. My recommended is 1900.
    With that said, I’m at about 220lbs at 5’4. I walk my dog 4 times a day about 20 minutes each. We’ve started to pick up the pace because I’m trying to start jogging with him. I’ve started doing yoga every other day. I’m trying to start slow with both lowering calories and carbs and getting active. I am worried about my calories. 2 days ago I started the carb thing, and it cut my calories to under 1000. I upped it, but have had to force myself to eat. With the calories I burn just being alive plus my activity I’m looking at a deficit of about 2000/day. And this makes me feel like I’m doing it wrong. I’m new to this, so I’m still researching how to be healthy without depriving myself. I am afraid of eating too little so I basically force extra calories on myself.
    Any advice or help would be so greatly appreciated. Sorry for the length and detail.

    • Coach Calorie

      Yes, it should be a negative number. However, less is not always better. After all, you could eat 0 calories, but does that mean you should? Your metabolism will slow to a halt in no time.

      Try adding some healthy fats to your meals. They are an easy way to get in some extra calories when you already hit your carb and protein requirements.

  • Jessica

    Also I was told to drink half my weight in water. I’m trying, but that’s 110oz a day. I’m finding that difficult as well. I drink about half that. And had to give up milk. Now I have a cup of my favorite beverage every other day. (The milk) before it was almost a quart a day.

    • Coach Calorie

      Try drinking a glass right when you wake up. Also have one at each meal. You should be close to that number by just doing that. Give it some time, and I think you’ll start adapting to a higher water intake.

  • Diane

    Help! I have been dieting for about 1 1/2, years although have taken breaks here and there. I lost 40 pounds in the first 6-8 months but can’t seem to get the last few pounds of belly fat to go away. I had been working out at home and doing a 1200 calorie diet.

    So to bump it up I went to a personal trainer who placed me on his body building diet, although in the last couple of months it has changed here and there it is under 1100 calories, appox 50% protein, 25% fat and 25% carbs. I work with my trainer for an hour 3 times a week doing weight training I also do 45 minutes of cardio on those days. On the other three days I do HIIT training. Honestly I am hungry and tired and not losing weight or inches. I keep telling my trainer I need more calories as I have been at this so long. Any advice….

    I am 53 years old
    weight 122 lbs
    height 5 ‘ 3”
    I walk at 3.5 mph for 45 minutes 3 days a week, I do HIIT for 40 minutes 3 days and weight training for 3 one hour sessions. Other wise I have a pretty sedentary life

    • Coach Calorie

      If you’re tired and hungry all the time, obviously something needs to change. That kind of diet just won’t be sustainable long-term. My advice is that if your trainer is not listening to your concerns, it’s time to find a new one.

      You certainly are small compared to the average person, but 1100 calories isn’t much. I don’t necessarily have any problem with his macro breakdown, but you do exercise quite intensely during the week, and 1100 calories just might not be enough. I would try bumping up the cals some. Bring it up to 1500 and see how you feel over the next couple weeks. You can keep the same macro proportions.

  • Becky

    I’ve worked since January to shed some weight for our beach vacation and just to lose this unhealthy weight. Lose…gain…lose…gain! I’m eating the healthiest I’ve ever eaten and also exercising some and I’m back to where I started. I myself have cut my calories to 1000

    I’m 46 5’1 and weigh 168 and also on thyroid meds. Just really very discouraged! In talking to my son last night and trying to figured this all out he mention I might not be eating enough. I like most women think cut ur calories lose weight…… Ummmm NOOO. I need help in fixing this mess and better understanding of what I need to do to get healthier and back to wellness and drop this unwanted weight forever. Can u point me in the right direction or a website with a meal plan. At this point I’m just confused!!!! Hard to wrap to mind about eating more but I’ve gotten no where and want a answer. Well ….. Beach vacation in 6 days but this will not defeat my willingness to solve this problem! Looking for answer

    So happy I found this this morning….. Answered prayer!

    • Coach Calorie

      I’ve never seen anyone need to eat 1000 calories to lose weight. Why not bump them up some and see what happens. It’s a lot harder to put on weight eating whole foods than people think. The weight gain comes from eating too many processed foods.

      Are you strength training?

      Let’s see what a typical days diet looks like.

  • KLH

    Dear Coach,

    I’m a 38.5 year old female (5’6) and have gotten up to 212 pounds since the death of my father. I’m really ready to get back in shape. I sit at a desk most of the day so I have started getting up at %:30am for an hour or moderate paced walking 5 times a week. I don’t mind brisk walking and light resistance training but I’m confused about how many calories I shoudl be taking in. I’m hoping to lose 25 pounds by the end of September for a company trip to Hawaii (I’m using this as my motivation). I am fine to lose 2 pounds per week (3 would be better but IO want to be realistic and healthy). The problem some places say to eat 1200 calories a day, others say don’t go below 1700 or to zig zag teh calories. I’m motivated but just need to get on the right path, please help. ALso what % or carbs, fats ect should I be taking in? Please help. I want to do this the right way so that I can be healthy and sustain the loss.

    • Coach Calorie

      You first step is going to be to cut out processed foods. Don’t concern yourself so much with calories right now. Eat whole foods and exercise until it has become a consistent habit. You will get very far based on that formula alone. Once you have that down, you can start nailing down a good calorie intake. You need to develop healthy eating habits before you start focusing on the finer details of macros and calorie cycling.

  • Diana

    Hi Coach,

    I am obese. I thought by cutting my calories, I would lose weight but already my weight has stalled. My BMR is like 2280 and I was eating 1500 cals a day. I also work out. I thought this would be enough for me to lose weight, I’m watching my sodium and everything but my weight has stalled. Is this because my body wants more food? I don’t understand. I already have so much fat stored on me, it can’t possibly think it’s going to starve… I’m so down about this.

    • Coach Calorie

      How long has your weight stalled for? Are you taking body fat measurements?

  • natosha

    i wonder i’ve been replacing calories with mircale noodles zero calorie noodles only
    so i could fake the body of eating more it does fill but i think cause that i lower calories too low

    it took me down to 800-1000 calories is this bad i need to lose few pounds but i did just get off low carb diet too 3 days ago . i was wondering can body tell a fake intake of calories

    and how can i have carbs and eat a good amount calories to still lose

    i think they say 1200 is limit to go below since i’m sedentary disabled and
    just not sure where to start

    • Coach Calorie

      You body can definitely tell the difference between processed and whole foods. Stick to whole foods, eat enough protein and essential fatty acids, and then eat a carbohydrate intake that is commensurate with your activity levels. If you don’t do much of any exercise, 50-100 grams/day should be plenty. And yes, do not go that low on your calories.

      • natosha

        thank you:)

        i decided i’m doing a big change spent 150 on this stuff known to be health food, and just dumped it. gave some to family memebers and stuff that no one would eat dumped. I know pricy but feel great, out of site out of mind and no more fears of facing it again to think it will help.. In long run i rather stick to whole foods. so back to delicious grass fed bison, and eggs, nice real cheese provolone, and herbs.
        stick to the natural and whole food idea.. using one word ingredients lol no processed junk

        I use to eat like that all the time then my family forced the idea i need more to eat more and tastier foods, even tho to me it was so tasty. when i changed i gained weight and wow i got depressed and still am, with goal lose the 6 pounds i put on my food is now back to what i love most whole foods

        water, herbs, spices, meat, butter, cheese, eggs, fish, any thing thats natural not processed with salt and any thing i’m not a salt taker i use salt sub so get loads potassium. and prefer natural and cooking myself lol

        thank you i think try for 1500-1800 calorie range see what fits today was 1507 i think cause i’m not that big i might need be lower end but i’m also doing a atkins plan so
        its like half based atkins so my carbs stay 20 under but since its my own creation of it having it like 10 so far as high at the moment
        and keeping my self occupied to keep mind off food and depressing state

  • Lori

    I understand the healthy way to lose weight is to not lose more than 2 pounds in a week. I am 5’2″ tall, 44 years old and weigh 212 lbs. I need to lose about 80 lbs to be at a healthy weight. I have been sedentary for the last 5 years or so – working a desk job. I adopted a hyper-active Border Collie last Friday, and I began walking about 2 miles in the evenings with her, I started aerobic dancing every evening for 45 minutes, and cut my calories to 1256 as the LoseIt app for iPhone calculated what my intake should be. I am keeping a log of my foods, but I haven’t lost one pound. I am not sure what I am doing wrong. I have never been one to eat sweets, or white breads, and I don’t like sodas so I never buy them — I usually drink water, milk or coffee. I eat my main meal at breakfast time, eat 4 ounces of meat and two veggies and fresh fruit at lunch, andwith my son away at college and it is just me – I stopped cooking or eating dinner – so I am having a hard time making myself eat as I am not hungry, so I have started a Shaklee Complete Meal Protein Shake. I was consuming about 1900 calories a day prior to starting this diet, and consuming 1250 calories now and I haven’t lost a pound at all, as a matter of fact, I have gained 3 pounds. I am not sure what I am doing wrong. (This is day 8 of my “diet”)

    • Coach Calorie

      Hi Lori, 8 days is very little time to see any meaningful changes in your body. My advice is to not get so caught up on your weight. Especially in the beginning, your body makes a lot of adaptations in intracellular water retention and body composition. Measure your body fat percentage. The scale is your enemy right now. Eat whole foods and exercise. Be patient and consistent, and the weight WILL come off. You have to have a little faith. Don’t get inside your head.

      • Lori

        Thanks coach. I really think I am not eating enough calories. I feel like I am starving all the time. I think the myfitnesspal and loseit apps calculated my caloric intake way too low. I have lost 2 inches in chest, waist and hips and still, no weight loss. I have increased exercise to high impact dance aerobics five times a week with upper body weight exercises 3 times a week. I am not sure with me being 5’2″ at 212lbs (44 years old and post menopause) what I can do to jump start the weight loss. I have been eating whole grains and lots of fruit, water only (I have never liked soda) to drink, and one Shaklee Soy Protein complete meal that I drink for my supper (i eat breakfast and main meal at lunch).

        • corina

          I read one of Suzanne Summers books and she said you also have to find out what you are allergic to….can cause inflammation and weight gain. My holistic doctor also did allergy test on me, very helpful. A lot of people are allergic to wheat and or glutton, and dairy. Could be anything though.

  • Seung

    I am so glad I found this article! Please help me Coach Calorie!

    I am:
    21 years old
    136 pounds (lost about 8lbs in the last month and a half with Insanity)

    I am pear shaped and respond quite well to exercises.
    I have been eating around 1300-1370 calories daily and I am almost wondering if I am not eating enough.
    I saw weight coming off and toning up like I have never before in my upper body (not so much in the buttocks, hips and thighs). I am not sure if you’re aware of Insanity workouts but with each workout except for 2 easier workouts, I can burn around 400-600 calories. I noticed I have been eating like crap (donuts, ice cream, etc in one sitting) and I am wondering if I’m severely deprived but then again, I don’t want to be wrong and up my calories to gain all I’ve lost so far. I did lose 8 pounds during the first month of Insanity (easier phase but not easy) but I didn’t see my scale move during the second month (way harder and longer than month 1). Could those 8 pounds have been water weight and I’m just not eating enough?
    Please help me. I’m willing to listen! Both my ears open.

    • Coach Calorie

      1300 calories is definitely on the lower range that you need to lose weight, but it’s not necessarily too low based on your stats. What are those calories comprised of? Are they quality calories? Also, if you’ve been eating those 1300 calories every day for a month, I’d consider a day or two of eating double the calories. Having this refeed has many benefits and can keep the weight loss moving forward.

  • Jenny

    Hi Coach,

    Currently I am 5’5 1/2 and 127 lbs. I don’t have time to workout at all because I am interning 60 hours a week/taking online classes. But I am eating very clean, around 1000 calories a day of mostly lean protein/fruits and vegetables. However I cannot seem to get below 127 pounds. I am scared to eat more because I am sitting all day. Typical meals look like:

    Breakfast: 1 cup Non-fat Greek yogurt with 1 cup blueberries
    Lunch: 2 egg whites, 2 cups steamed broccoli, 1 cup watermelon
    Snack: 1 cucumber, 1 apple, 1 laughing cow wedge
    Dinner: Cabbage soup, 2 cups steamed vegetables, 1 serving tofu
    Along with 9-12 glasses of water everyday.

    Should I be eating differently even though I have no time to workout? I am doing low-fat because I read that is the best diet to get rid of lower body fat.

    • Coach Calorie

      Hi Jenny, that is very little nutrition, and I only count around 40-50 grams of protein there. I also highly recommend that you do some form of strength training. Even just 10 minutes a day can do wonders, and just about anyone can wake up 10 minutes earlier to do a bodyweight workout.

      I would be aiming for at least 20-25 grams of protein at each of your 4 “meals”.

      • Jenny

        Ok , I will definitely start my day with 10 minutes of strength training. What are some ways that I can add protein to my diet since I’m vegetarian? Should I just eat more of the foods that I already am? Also, will not eating grains harm my weight loss attempts?

  • Brent

    I am a 41 male my weight is 235lbs . I work out hard 4 to 5 times a week with Crossfit and have been stuck at my currant weight . I have lost 35lbs so far. I want to loose 15 more lbs.I have been staying at 2000 cal per day. Do you think I am not eating enough to drop the weight. If so what do you think I should add and at what portion of carbs, fat and protein .

    • Coach Calorie

      Do you know your body fat percentage? Crossfit can burn a lot of cals, and at your weight, you could need more cals. Unless you are extremely obese, I rarely see people need to go below 10 x their body weight in calories.

      If you feel like you’re eating quality calories, you might try moving your carb intake to first thing in the morning, and after your workout, and then having protein/fat/veggie meals the rest of the time.

  • Talon

    I have been trying to lose weight all summer starting around June 1st. I am 22, male, 6′ tall, I started at 281.5 lbs and now see a fluctuation on the scale of between 262-265. I try to eat around 1200 cal/day (300 in Cheerios and skim milk breakfast, 3-400 in a lean cuisine lunch, and usually chicken or steak or ground beef and salad or something for dinner). I haas been losing pretty consistently until about 275 then it stalled for about 2 weeks and now I am stalling at around 264. I workout every other day for about 2 hours doing elliptical and arm/AB machines at the gym. What am I doing wrong? It is so frustrating and depressing to work so hard and not see any difference and all articles I read say something different. I need a change and help please!!!

    • Coach Calorie

      Hi Talon, I’m not going to lie, your fitness program needs some serious work. Here are a few pointers to get you steered in the right direction:

      – Double your calories. Yes double.
      – Get rid of the Cheerios and Lean Cuisine, and start eating whole foods.
      – Divide up your calories into 5 smaller meals and space them out evenly throughout the day.
      – The cardio is fine, but forget about the arm/ab machines. Get under the bar and do some squats. Do compound exercises (bench press, rows, pullups, deadlifts, squats, etc). Don’t even worry about doing ab work. I promise you that you have abs. Get rid of the body fat to see them.
      – Base all your meals around protein
      – Make sure you’re drinking water.

      Do this stuff one at a time until they are habits. Once you have them down we can start looking at macro breakdowns and other fun stuff.

  • Minivan Mom

    I can’t get this right this summer with going back to swimming. First I dropped pounds like crazy, was lethargic, cranky, and figured I needed more calories. I started eating more, but then I think went overboard (I am ALWAYS hungry since going back to Master’s swimming – much more so than running!) and then went “EEK!” when I got on the scale and saw I put back on 4 of the 5 pounds I dropped (in like a week). My body is yo-yoing all over the place, and I’m still always tired and cranky.

    But maybe I’m always tired and cranky because I’m home with the kids all summer. ;)

    I need to consult with your wife. My body is in shell shock with all the exercise and not knowing how to eat.

    • Coach Calorie

      Hey T, I’d definitely get with my wife, but I’d highly recommend you take some body fat measurements. It is not uncommon for people to put on weight after starting a strenuous workout program. Swimming uses a lot of muscle glycogen, and if you are just starting it again after a long layoff, it’s very possible that you’ve increased your muscle glycogen stores and the intracellular water that goes along with it.

      If you’re going to train like an athlete, you’re going to need to eat like one too!

  • P. Stark

    As someone who was born with Hypothyroidisum, Many people who are Coaches and Fitness experts have a hard time understanding why we have such a hard time loosing weight. it’s alot more difficult to find a balance in knowing how many Calories we should be eating and how much we should be burning off? Hypothyroidism can really screw up your whole Body’s metabolisum Period!

    Sure I/ we take Thyroid Medications, which through annual blood tests will determine if our body is functioning properly according to the dosages we take to opomize our Metabolisum to our body’s needs. But with all the food we eat or all the exercise we do, we still tend to gain weight no matter what.

    Sure I’ve lived with Hypothroidism for 55 years! It’s been a roller coaster of weight loss and weight gain… If I ate to much I gained weight.. and if I eat too less I gain weight. I run, I walk, I bike, I do some strength training but because I have Congenital Hypothyroidism (being born with it) my Muscle make up is much weaker than a normal person so I can’t always build a strong muscle base to help me to burn the Fat calories. It doesn’t matter how may calories you think I should eat, I can because I will still gain weight! If I had to eat 2000+ calories a day…( currently weight 160lbs so I would baloon up to 200+ lbs) Even with all the running, walking and Biking I do, to get a 500 cal deficit, I wouldn’t even put a dent in the calorie burn for me to loose one lb. If I push myself to the hardest of my limits to burn off the fat… I always wind up getting injuried… it’s a blessing that i can do a still run/walk and run a 5k race and currently training for a 1/2 Marathon.

    I’ve recently tried some fitness /weight loss programs at my Local University through Heart Rate training… I lost 10 lbs in 2 months but that was also contributed to Retireing from my Office Job of 35 years so that also contributed to the stress that i was under for 35 years I was aware that stress and eating -snacking continually can factor in my extra weight issues. Then i found that I have a Wheat Gluten sensitvity… by omitting certain wheat products i lost a total of 14 lbs… but in the end… the body becomes resistant to all your efforts in weight loss…and I gain some back again :-(

    so the bottom line is I’ve been there done that… and eating more caloires doesn’t work for me or anyone with my condition….Sure I would love to loose the weight and have a Beach Body I can be proud of…but when you factor in my Hypothyroidism and my family “Fat” genes… I’m stuck!

  • Ashley


    I am aiming to lose weight.. I want to go from 247 to around 160. I have been exercising 4 times a week doing high intensity cardio and then followed by some strength training. I have a desk job and according to myfitnesspal, for my goal, I should be consuming 1400 calories. I usually end up consuming around 1300 calories, but I feel hungry almost all the time. I am eating a lot of eggs, fruits and vegetables, but what could I eat to ease the hunger? I have been following this for about 2 weeks and have lost 3 pounds, I was just curious if my calorie intake was correct for my goal and what I could do to not feel hungry all the time.

    Thank you for your help.

    • Coach Calorie

      Hi Ashley, I personally would have started my calories out a bit higher (maybe 1800) and adjusted from there. A lot of hunger has to do with how many calories you eat, and of course the types. High fiber foods that are low on the glycemic index will help keep blood sugar levels steady and hunger under control.

  • Donzjo

    Hi, I am 5’4″ , 39 years old, 173lbs and work at a physically demanding job (packaging/shipping) I am constantly moving and lifting for a total of 8hrs a day. I try to walk each evening after work for an hour or more, but sometimes don’t because I’m tired after a long day. I have seen results with healthier eating but have hypothyroidism, which makes it even harder to lose weight! Being active, and about 26lbs over weight, what are my daily caloric needs? I follow an app on my phone, which estimates about 1650 calories….is this correct? If this is relevant, I build muscle easily, then see results on the scale. Help!

    • Coach Calorie

      It’s hard to nail down your calorie intake. I would suggest 10-12 times your body weight as a starting point. I’d start at 12, and adjust from there. I’d also start waking up earlier to get in a workout instead of waiting until the end of the day when you end up talking yourself out of it. Make 30 minutes in the morning a dedicated strength training time. Combine that up with whole foods, and the results will come.

  • Helen King

    I am a 54 yr old female, 5’1″ and currently at 156 lbs after losing 17 lbs from January to April 2012. I now have a body fat of 27% with a weigh goal of 115. I started at 1200 calories, eat clean and worked out slowly with walking 3 miles , then hiking 3 miles, Aeropilates for resistance and core, and Turbo Jam for cardio. I started to plateau and had no weight loss for over a month from April to mid-May. I increaased the cardio more HIITs) and add weight training with a pump program. Took a 3 wk vacay to UK (no weight gain) and when I came back, I decided to cut the cardio and go with the pump program which is 3 days of 30-45 mins of weights (I’m in phase 2 now), 1 day of abs/walk 1.5 hr, 1 yoga 30 min, 1 day walk 1.5 hour and a rest day. I have had 2 laminectomies and have 2 cervical bulges but am currently pain free (for a long time)…I am very careful and set my limits. The pump program is awesome and I finally broke the plateau and recently lost 2 lbs. I’m losing inches everywhere except my mid section and I’m attributing this to my perimenopause/menopause (I’m a late bloomer). I’ve increase my protein but now I’m looking at your article and it looks like I need increase my calories. Any suggestions?

    • Coach Calorie

      Helen, at your currently weight of 156lbs and 27% body fat, you have 114 pounds of lean body mass. To get down to your goal weight of 115lbs, you would need to lose a lot of muscle. Instead, aim for a body fat percentage, and let your weight settle wherever that is. Weight means nothing. Body composition is everything!

      If you set a goal of 15% body fat, that would put you at a goal weight of 134lbs. That will give you abs and a nice fit looking body.

      1200 calories isn’t much for your body and activity level. I would increase it to at least 1500 for a while. Also, if you’re loosing inches everywhere else, it’s only a matter of time before it comes of in the places you want. Be patient.

  • Kym

    I commented on your FB post yesterday about having fried my metabolism. I hired a personal trainer once I realized what had happened and doctors were making things worse by dropping my calories even further instead of listening. However, 5 months in and still no progress. I have a bodybugg and follow eating/workout she sends, but I’m getting more frustrated by the day. Do you have any experience with how to repair once damaged or know anybody with successful result?

    • Coach Calorie

      Kym, what are you defining as no progress? Is your body fat not changing either? It’s hard to give you feedback without knowing more details. What does your daily diet look like? What are you doing for exercise?

      • Kym

        I’m 39, 5’11” and at 185 trained for and ran half marathon on 1200 calories per day(based on hearing that’s the best number for women). Initially lost down to 170 then stalled. Hair falling out, cycle stopped. Went to dr who discovered Testosterone in single digits, she thought early menopause. Said my weight loss stalled due to this, gave me Testosterone pellet implant and said weight still obese(looking back at pictures, there is NO WAY I was obese!) and put me on 800 calorie diet. I did for a couple weeks but was so weak I couldn’t function.

        I started gaining rapidly, 30 lbs so far. Finally put pieces together myself in Feb and increased my calories to 2000. Found trainer in March and weight finally leveled off.

        I eat 1c egg whites and oatmeal for breakfast. Then 4 meals of 4-5 oz chicken or fish, one w/ just almonds, 2 with brown rice or sweet potato and veggies, one w/ just veggies. Protein shake as meal 6 w/ flaxseed added. I get one “cheat meal” per week.

        Cardio 30-45 min depending on intensity 4-5 days per week (usually a spin class) and weight train 4 days per week, free weights and machines. No progress = no change in measurements, no change in scale (until I went up AGAIN 4lbs last week after 5 months unchanged), no change in bloated belly. Is it possible it’s beyond repair and I’ll just keep gaining and gaining?!?

        Thanks for ANY advice.

        • Coach Calorie

          Kym, I would listen to your trainer. He/she obviously knew to up your calories, and the foods he picked for you look good too.

          Your workout program looks good too. Do you feel burned out at all? Sometimes we can overdo the cardio.

          Do you know your body fat percentage? Are you making progress in the gym? I’d be curious to see if your body composition is changing at all. That could help pinpoint whether your calorie intake is at a good level.

          If you gained 4 pounds in a week after it not changing for 5 months, I can assure you that is nearly all water weight.

  • annaf1973

    Hey Coach! :D

    I just wanted to get your opinion on my current workout and eating regimen, and see your thoughts, comments and suggestions for improvement?

    I am a 39 year old female, 119 pounds & 18.5% body fat. I have previously been doing cardio for at least 60 minutes, but usually 120 minutes a day in an attempt to burn remaining body fat. But I did not see the results that I was hoping for (and learned I am not supposed to do that much cardio???), so I have recently switched to Weight Training, to both burn body fat, but also build some good muscle size (good for a woman, of course! :P Not female bodybuilder, though!! LOL!). I am doing a Body Part Split – 5-6 days a week, a different body part/group each day, and then follow it with a 10 minute HIIT session (sprint 1 min, slow 1 min, repeat), and then 20 minutes of moderate intensity Spinning.

    I currently eat around 1800 calories per day, all clean and whole foods, at a 40% protein, 40% carb, 20% fat ratio. I would like to cut some remaining body fat (upper legs, glutes and abdomen, of course!!!), so is this calorie level good? Or should I go with more……less….???

    My next question is regarding the proper mixture and timing of weight training and cardio. I feel good about my weight/resistance training, but I am really wondering about the cardio side of my workouts. I have read where I should also do at least 30 minutes of cardio to cut remaining body fat, so as I mentioned above, I have vut it back to only 30-60 mins max so I can focus more on the weight training.

    I do my weight training first thing in the morning (usually 5:30am) and it lasts approx. 1.5 hours, and then I do the HIIT for 10 mins, and transition to Spinning for the remainder of the time. How does this sound to you?

    And my next question is should I do the cardio immediately after the weights, or should I break them up in 2 separate sessions in the day (morning and evening)? And is it better to do the cardio in the morning or the weights in the morning?

    Also, after weight training, I am eating my highest carb meal (and highest calorie meal for that matter) of the day. (70+g carbs, 50+g protein) Does this ratio sound good for proper recovery and nourishment of the muscles for muscle growth?

    Thanks for your time and knowledge!!!! :D :D :D

    • Coach Calorie

      Lots of questions there. Let’s see if I can knock them out ;)

      – You were right to drop your cardio down

      – How is the progress with 1800 calories? It’s definitely on the higher side for your body stats, but not unheard of for your high activity level. Is your weight changing at all? Body fat?

      – If you’re comfortable at that calorie level, I’d consider cycling your carbohydrate intake. Right now you’re at 180grams per day. Have you tried dropping them down on the days you aren’t working out?

      – You do work out for quite a long time. Is it not possible for you to cut your weight training down to under an hour?

      – I would personally prioritize weight training and do it in the morning, and then go ahead and do your cardio afterwards. I’d save the 2-a-days for a time if you ever desire to get an extremely low body fat. It’s just not necessary right now.

      – post-workout meal looks good to me!

  • fionna

    Hi there I am stuck please help me!! I struggle with the fact that eating more can help me weigh less but at this stage it is the only thing I have not tried as I am scared I will blow up!

    I am 40years old weight 66kg and am 5ft 6in. I would like to get to 60kg and been trying since I had my daughter 4 years ago. I am and have always been very active and was 60kg before having a baby. I track my food and exercise daily and it looks something like this.

    total calories 852 fat 5-8% carbs 29% protein 65% this is an average day
    (i use buddyslim to get this info by entering everything i eat)
    Exercise is interval training on treadmill, bike for 45min burning 750 cals on average
    on other days I do kick boxing or cardio conditioning 55min. I exercise 5 days a week.

    Using buddyslim an online weight loss toll, it tells me i should aim for -250 to -750 calorie deficit per day and I am running at -1914. I don’t know what to do, I eat oats, protein shakes, chicken and vegetables and one piece of fruit a day and don’t know what food to add in so that I wont gain. I am not hungry at all so don’t crave extra food.

    Please help me or I think I will go mad!!! Four years of trying and no results.

    Thank you so much.

    • Coach Calorie

      Fionna, I can confidently say that you are extremely under-eating. 852 calorie is nothing, and 5% fat is only 5 grams of fat. I didn’t even know that was possible to do! ;)

      Here’s what I want you to do. Leave your carb and protein intake as-is, but add in 400 (45 grams) calories worth of fat.

      Fat is an essential nutrient. You are clearly fat-phobic. You do not get fat eating fat. Eat more nuts, fish, eggs, fish oil, seeds, avocado, olive oil, etc.

      I think you’ll almost immediately see an improvement. I have honestly never seen a fat intake that low before. Good luck!

  • gene

    how do you know how many calorie you are burnning a day so that you can set your calorie intake i have lost a 163lbs and have been fat all my life until now and i do not want to gain my weight back i have kept it off for two and a half years now but i want to add muscle and not fat and my body fat is at 11% and i am a vegetarian that does not eat beans breads or nuts and i eat mostly fruits and veggies and some time i gain and loss weight

    • Coach Calorie

      Gene, you have to experiment. At 11% body fat (I’m assuming male?) you probably aren’t that interested in losing anymore weight. I would try starting off with body weight times 15.

      I am curious though where you get your protein from as a vegetarian that does not eat beans or nuts…

  • nerdyhockey


    I’m 18 and 5”1 and I weight 122 pounds. I went from 132 to 118 in like 4 months, but I just hit a plateau and couldn t lose anymore weight. I was eating 1200 calories a day and doing cardio 6 days a week and weight training 3 days a week. I tried to up my calories intake to 1600 a day but I gained 4 pounds in about 3 weeks. I have to admit I really don’t know what to do and I don’t want to gain all my weight back.

    • Coach Calorie

      Gaining 4 pounds of fat in 3 weeks seems highly unlikely. That means you would have to be eating 650 calories per day OVER your maintenance levels. That would mean your maintenance calories are 950/day, and you would need to eat 450 cals/day to lose 1 pound a week.

      Do you think that sounds realistic? ;)

      More than likely, the weight you gained was water weight from increased calories and glycogen storage. Did you measure your body fat over that 3 week period? Let’s see what your diet looks like on a daily basis…

  • Shannon

    I ve been working out since DEC. I have gained i was 155 now im 163.4 Im working out and eating right..I started my fitness pal and they put me on a 1300 cal diet i will eat my burned cals back so on a day i might eat 1700 cals…varies….why am i not seeing the results i want??

    • Coach Calorie

      Hi Shannon, has that been a slow 8 pound gain over the course of 8 months? Or was that all during a specific time period? Are you consistently eating the calories you’re supposed to, or are you overeating at all during the week? Do you know your beginning and current body fat percentage?

  • brixton chick

    I tried for 3 months to loose weight flowing a 1400 a day diet plan,i also exercise 4 times a week ,most days included strength training with cardio. My training week included interval training one day with weights, the next training session would be spin class along with strength training, another day would include balance ball exercises focusing on the core, and on other days I may do an hour of pure cardio followed by stretching. or a weight circuit with my trainer who i would see once a week, my trainer likes to focus on whole body exercises like pull ups dip, lunges, squats, hack squats, dead-lifts and lots of core training on the stability ball and balance ball. despite doing all this exercise and sticking to my diet i didn’t loose one pound and but I did loose an inch or 2 around my waist and 2 inches around my thighs but that was about it. I tried so hard and gained so little results so i eventually gave up. I am 5 feet 2 inches and weigh 178 pounds an want to loose 40 pounds.
    In the end I joined a free diet website and decided to give it another go but again I failed to loose weight. I asked one of the members how she lost weight and she told me that she always ate back the calories that she burned after exercised and she felt that wasn’t eating enough. so I thought I would give it ago and still I didn’t loose weight and actually gained a pound or two. i am so discouraged that i have given up with dieting and now i only do a 90 minute walk 2 or 3 times a week just to keep fit. i still want to loose weight but I have no idea how to do so and i am tired of seeing friends and family start and finish their weight loss journeys successfully while i am still stuck . I have had success in the past with fad diets, but as we all know these never ever last and are bad for metabolism etc. i just wondered if some one could help me.

    • Coach Calorie

      Hi Brixton Chick, I really think you need to change your mentality. Don’t make your goal weight loss. Make your goal better health. With good health comes a better body. Weight loss is a side effect of a healthy lifestyle.

      You were making good progress before. You got stronger, lost body fat, and improved your health. No, you didn’t lose weight … yet, but that will come.

      All that being said, I do think you need more nutrition. 1400 cals is not much for your weight and exercise levels. Above all else (even calories), make sure you are eating quality foods.

      • Brixton Chick

        Hi Coach,

        At my height and weight what would you suggest I do? I have now ditched the gym membership and have decided to stick to walking and strength training at home using the ball, resistance bands and own body weight. I will also continue to do an hour of body conditioning once a week with my trainer ie squats hack squats dips pull ups etc with the olympic bar and weights pullu up bar etc etc. I know you said up my calories but how much should I eat? I am already putting weight on again and I don’t want to let it get out of control. I am still walking 2 or 3 times a week for an hour or so and I have up and down days when it comes to eating for example today I ate
        a small bowl of porridge (no sugar) water only and a small handful of raw almonds
        I had a banana and pinapple smoothie
        Large homemade chicken 30z (breast meat) fajita made with onions and mixed sweet pepper
        Punnet of Blue berries with low fat greek style yogurt
        salmon (3oz) and miso soup made with wakeame and tofu

        I don’t eat as healthy as this every day but most days I try to. yesterday I ate similarly the only difference was I had a medium slice of peperoni pizza at the end of the day with the kids.

        but I don’t do that every day. The thing is I do enjoy eating good food, but I hate weighing and measuring and i don’t like resricting myself because that would be an imposible life long commitment. I just want to learn how to have a good balance and not feel as if I am on the perpetual hamster wheel of grueling dieting and punishing training. I’m getting a bit fed up of putting in the effort and seeing no results. I have been fighting the battle of the bulge for 15 years( since my first child was born). my weight has gone up and down but I haven’t ever been able to sustain my goal weight and I determind to reach that goal but I need help !!

        • Coach Calorie

          I’m assuming you eat well and exercise for a while, don’t see the results you want, and then revert back to your old lifestyle. This is what needs to be changed. Don’t worry about calorie intake yet. Focus on forming good lifestyle habits first. What habit can you work on changing this week? Pick only one and work on that until you can do it for a week or two. Then, we’ll add in another one. Do this until a healthy lifestyle is “normal” for you, and the weight will be gone as a side effect.

  • angela

    I just finished a (metabolism reset) due to years of eating below my bmr (1300) and exercising daily including cardio and strength training. I gained 7 lbs through the 3 months of the reset. I have now begun to zigzag my calories daily and i have lost 3 of those 7 lbs but now its stopped again!!! I just dont understand why i cant see results from anything i try? My numbers are 135lbs and 43yrs old and 5ft i have my goals at 1300bmr and 1800 tdee. I have a fitbit and it gives me a daily burn of average 1800 calories and i dont usually wear it when id do cardio so my hrm says average 450 calories an hour and 190 hour for strength training on alt days. Whats your thoughts and advise?

    • Coach Calorie

      Hey Angela, my advice would be to try not to get too frustrated ;)

      Take some body fat measurements and put your scale away. It’s obviously causing you much grief. I don’t know how many calories you are eating, or what you were eating during your “metabolism reset”, but at your stats and exercise level, I wouldn’t doubt you need at least 1600 calories to see any weight loss.

      In addition, I would be weary about the numbers your Fitbit puts out. It seems to only use an accelerometer to determine calories burned. Not sure how accurate that can really be.

      • angela


        I will def not take the fitbit to seriously, haha. I will stay around 1600 and see what happens!


  • Cathy

    Six months ago I changed the way I eat. I eat mostly non processed foods and I have been eating lean protein, tons of vegetables, some fruit and I gave up junk, pasta etc.. I also do cardio at least an hour a day, five days a weeks. I started at 302lbs and have lost 61 lbs. I am constantly learning about food and nurtition.
    My friend has lost 90lbs in the same amount of time (and looks fantastic) She eats 1200 calories a day like I do ,but isn’t as concerned about the source (eating prepackaged diet foods) She is on the treadmill 3 hours a day and burns off 1200 a day to get to zero. She looks great and feels great. It doesn’t seem to be hurting her in anyway. She tells me to try to eat less and work out more. Everything I read says that she shouldn’t be losing weight since her body should be in starvation mode, but she still is. Should I be doing that also? Like I said, it doesn’t seem to be harming her.

    • Coach Calorie

      Hi Cathy, don’t compare yourself to your friend. We all have unique bodies. You are making great progress. Stick with it. This isn’t a race or competition. Do things the right way – the healthy way. There is more to health than your appearance on the outside. Your friend is eating processed food. That will catch up to her in the end.

  • Selene

    Hi , i found this site and wondering if you can help me. I’m going through a mentally difficult process . I sort of developed an eating disorder that has been with me a few years now. i restricted my calories for too long sometimes as low as 500-800 perhaps on some occasions lower. I stopped losing weight and have gained a few lbs and have been scared to eat more because of the damage ive done to my metabolism.
    I’ve been trying to fix my metabolism and been slowly increasing calories over the last 5 weeks, tracking everything on myfitnesspal. I also stopped training completely, except for some light exercise and day to day activities.
    I am currently up to 1500 calories and i feel like i dont want to go any higher. my weight has stayed about the same maybe 1 or 2lbs up which i think is just the weight of the food. I bought a fitbit to keep track of things and it estimates my daily burn as average 1900. I feel like this is too high than what id like and im worried of going higher than 1500. I also miss training and i want to start again.
    im 24, 5’6 and about 125lbs my goal is just to lose a bit of body fat, to get lean and have more muscle, be stronger and be able to maintain on enough calories. I would like your advice on if I could start training again and keep eating 1500 calories or do you think it is still too low if i am training? I’m just not sure what I should do to get to my goal but being able to eat 1500 is a huge accomplishment for me.

    • Coach Calorie

      Hi Selene, unless you have reason to not be training, you definitely should be. If you feel like 1900 calories is going to cause you extreme mental pain, just eat the 1500. However, think about this – for you to gain weight eating 1900 calories would mean that you would have to eat less than that to just maintain your weight (maybe 1700), which would mean you would have to eat 700 calories to lose 2lbs/week (1000 calorie deficit). Does this seem reasonable to you?

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  • Faith Wilkins

    Good resource this is. I have been brisk walking/jogging 4-8 miles, 4-5 days a week for the past three weeks. I have also been dieting and not an ounce of weight loss. What could i have been doing wrong? Should i incorporate other forms of exercises to drop em pounds?

    • Coach Calorie

      I always recommend strength training. No fitness routine should be without it. I would also have a lot more patience. 3 weeks is nothing in the big scheme of things. We are looking to make this a rest-of-your-life thing. Put the constant worrying about time and weight aside. Eat right and exercise…the weight will take care of itself in time.

  • Phil

    Hi I’m a 42 yr old male 5. 10″ I’m trying to lose 2 pound a week and eat about 2500 cals a day I currently weigh 203.8 Ibs and in my 3rd week journey of weight loss and started at 208.8 lbs. I have skinny legs and arms and look 8 months pregnant currently (was 9 when started) as I store my fat around my mid section.
    My main question is if I eat my daily amount of calories but burn say 1500 calories on my cardio days and 500 on my weights days am I eating enough calories or to much?

    I do cardio x2 a week
    weights x3 a week

    Thanks for all your help.

    • Coach Calorie

      Hi Phil, I’m not sure what you mean when you say you burn 1500 calories on cardio days. Is that 1500 cals just from cardio? If that is the case, that’s highly unlikely. The average person burns 100 calories/mile. It’s also unlikely that you’re burning just 1500 calories the whole day.

      That’s besides the point though. You’ve lost 5 pounds over the course of 3 weeks. It sounds like you are right on track. Your calories look good, and I wouldn’t change a thing.

      • Phil

        Hi Coach, I have a heart rate monitor that says I burnt 1500 calories in 2hrs 45mins. (I walk home from work) Is it not telling me the truth? :o(

  • Rayechael

    I have just started counting calories and I know it’s pretty common to burn at least 1900 calories from work and exersize a day. I am trying a 1300 calorie a day diet. So do I continue to eat only that if I’m burning way more 1300?

    • Coach Calorie

      Hi Rayechael, that depends on your goals. I wouldn’t create more than a 1000 calorie deficit a day. The would net you about 2lbs of weight loss/week. 500 cals would be 1lb.

      I don’t know your stats, but yes, it is very common to burn 1900 calories. I personally burn 3400 on workout days. Don’t be afraid to eat!

  • Robyn

    Hello. I know it takes up a lot of your time to offer personal help, so thanks in advance if you do find the time to answer.
    About 3 months ago I decided to drop the last few pounds of baby weight. I started what I consider fairly intense weight-training at home by DVD and also kickboxing-type cardio. I work out 6x week. Now I’m also adding some yoga here and there.
    According to one website, I was supposed to eat 1,300 cals / day to lose weight. So I did, and I lost 6 pounds over several months. This got me close to my goal weight. I am happy with that. But now I just have a few more pounds of fat to lose and it’s not budging. I’m wondering if I need to eat more. I really revamped my diet when I started this so that I wouldn’t starve on 1300 calories.
    I’m now 5’4″, 118 pounds, 38 years old, female. I’d like to continue gaining muscle but lose this bit of jiggle and squish left on my body. I do all these calculators online and get everything ranging from 1300 to 2200 calories per day. I’m so confused! And, yes, I do have excess fat at 118 pounds. I have a small build. My goals aren’t unhealthy, just a couple of more pounds of fat. Thank you!

    • Coach Calorie

      Hi Robyn, at 5’4″ and 118 pounds, I wouldn’t worry about losing any more weight. Instead, I’d set my calories at maintenance levels and focus on strength training, and let your body composition make a favorable change (lose body fat and gain muscle) at your current weight.

      • Robyn

        Thank you for your reply. That’s a good idea. I’m still exploring this site (new to it). Do you have a calorie calculator post on here so that I can find my approximate maintenance level? Like I said, I am getting numbers all over the place, so I’m not sure where to set a starting point.

        • Robyn

          An update: I raised my calorie intake this week to about 1,600ish a day and I dropped more than a pound! So it definitely seemed to have worked, and eating more is always great! Thanks for the advice.

  • Kerri

    HI Coach! I am a 38 year old woman looking to shed some weight. I weigh 234 pounds and looking to get down to 160. I am 5’6″. I have started fitnesspal and trying to make all efforts to get 30 minutes of exercise everyday. This sometimes doesn’t happen because of a hip injury.

    I have a few questions. When I exercise (which is usually tae-bo) I get an additional 300 calories. I’m starting with 1,510 calories a day and then adding an additional 300 from the exercise. It seems like a lot to me.

    Currently, I’m taking medication for migraines. I am told that one of these meds does cause weight gain. Was also told to cut 100 calories off my daily total to compensate for the med. But it seems to me that I should be trying to get as close as I can to 1510 calories. Or is 1510 too high to begin with?

    Any help you could give me would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

    • Coach Calorie

      Hi Kerri, at 234 pounds, 1510 calories is not too much. You want to start high and then leave yourself some room to cut calories as your make progress. You shouldn’t be eating the same amount of calories as someone who is 180 pounds that wants to be 160.

      I weigh less than you, yet eat 800 more calories than you when I want to lose 2lbs/week. Don’t fear the food. Food is your friend. It’s nutrition. You need it. Just stay away from the processed stuff, and you will find that it’s nearly impossible to overeat.

  • Dianna

    Hi, I am 36 and about 5’51/2. I had been 112 – 115 for awhile with watching what I eat and doing about 1/2 hour workout video at home. about a year 1/2 ago I started working out much more, boxing, kickboxing, bootcamp 4 times a week plus the video at home on the other days. I basically eat clean and watch my calorie intake. I don’t cheat very often, but do on occasion. I am eating the healthiest I ever have and work out the most I ever have and continue to gain wait. I go up and down between 120-124 but I can see the layer of fat and my clothes are fitting differently. I am trying to get back to 115 or at least have my clothes fit better again and not see that layer of fat. I eat 1200/day (which includes excersise on My Fitness Pal) so maybe 1500 with out the excersise?? I am very frustrated and am afraid I will continue to go up in weight. Any suggestions?

    • Coach Calorie

      Hi Dianna, if you’re working out more than you ever have, I suspect you are holding more intracellular water than before. That’s energy (good weight) within your muscles. I would suggest you set a different goal instead of weight, specifically body fat percentage. At your weight, your pounds lost from week to week will be low. I would say 1 pound AT THE MOST. Set your calories to your BMR or slightly above and then crease a 500 calorie deficit/day with exercise.

  • michelle

    Hi Coach calorie!
    I have lost a significant amount of weight in the past, roughly 4 years ago, i lost 80 pounds. I have regained roughly 10 pounds, and despite multiple days of exercising per week, I have been unable to lose any of this extra weight.

    I would estimate my calories are roughly between 1700 and 200 calories per day. I do an hour of weight training/ aerobics type class 2-3 days per week. I run 2 days per week, bike ride > 20 miles 2-3 days per week, and try to get a step aerobics class in on saturday. This past weekend was a long ride weekend for MS, and I rode 107 miles over 2 days.

    My question is that over the past 2 weeks I have been better about watching my intake, but my weight has gone up by 2 pounds. I am so frustrated at this point, but hate to change my workout schedule and risk losing my conditioning.

    I am 5’7″ 47 years old, with a medium to large bone frame. At this time I weigh 159 pounds, feel/look the best between 145 and 150.

    Any advise would be greatly appreciated.


    • Coach Calorie

      Hi Michelle, it’s time you start measuring results with body fat percentage instead of weight. With that much exercise (especially that long mike ride), you can have extreme fluctuations in water weight. Your calories don’t look extreme to me, and your exercise looks OK (I would be doing some form of strength training). Two weeks isn’t really enough time to notice a trend. Give it a month of healthy eating mixed with strength training and cardio, and measure your before and after progress with body fat calipers. Only then will you be able to tell if something is wrong.

  • Kim

    I am a gastric bypass patient and I have gained roughly 25lbs give or take a few. I have noticed my muscle has turned into fat. Over the last week I have gone back to a small workout routine and eating portions. I am using the FatSecret website to keep track of my food intake. The suggestion for me was to eat 1800 calories. I average about 1500 a day. I lost 3.4 lbs in the first 3 days and it has since stopped. I know I am getting the recommended daily protein for what my body needs. I am doing 2 protein shakes a day and cutting out most carbs. My scale is not moving at all.
    My other question to you would be the difference with Calories and Kcals. Not sure how to know which ones are the good ones for me. When I exercise I notice my calorie intake is almost double when I add it to my daily journal. Which one should I follow??

    • Coach Calorie

      First off, in regards to nutrition, kcal and calories are used interchangeably. They are the same.

      Second, muscle doesn’t turn to fat. Fat and muscle are 2 different independent tissues. Either tissues can increase or decrease in size.

      Third, the 3.4 pounds you lost in 3 days is 90% water. If you’re lucky, you will lose .25lbs/day. It takes time. You need to be patient. This is a lifestyle change, not a 10 week diet plan. Eat whole foods, exercise intensely, be patient, and be consistent – the weight will come off as a side effect of being healthy.

  • amreen

    i eat about 300 calories …burn 1500 calories everyday …how much Weight i’ll lose week ?

  • http://- Daisy

    Hi I have been on a low calorie diet (1200 cal/daily) for about 7 months now. About 5 months ago I was prescribed duromine to help me lose weight as diet and exercise alone wasn’t working. I stuck to the low cal diet often dropping quite a bit below 1200 (from 600 – 1000) and doing medium to high intensity cardio 5 times a week. I initially lost 10 kilos over 2 months and then stopped taking the duromine. I still wanted to lose another 5 so kept to the low cal diet and exercising 5 times a week but I couldn’t lose anything. My dr. has now put me back on duromine again and I still can’t lose anything! Do you think this is because I have slowed my metabolism down so much from eating so little over a long period of time?
    What should I do to break the plateau?
    I was thinking about upping my cals to 1800 a day for a week or so (?) in order to speed up my metabolism and then cut back down to 1200 again until I lose the 5kg. I really don’t want to gain back the weight I worked so hard to lose – please help!

    I eat really healthily, lots of good fats (nuts/avocado/fish), have a protein shake every morning, and minimal carbs.
    I’m a 22 year old female – 170cm – 64kg.


    • Coach Calorie

      Daisy, you need to at least be eating your BMR. Diet and exercise always works. I know that’s hard for people to believe that can’t lose weight, but if nothing is happening, one of those 2 things is to blame. Sure, there are outside variables, but nutrition and exercise are still the solution. There’s no getting around calories in = calories out.

      1200 calories seems low to me for 141 pounds. I diet on 12 times body weight. I rarely see anyone need to go below 10 times.

      You are going to have to be patient to get rid of those last pounds. Set a realistic goal of 1lb/week, or a 500 calories deficit/day. Stay consistent, and don’t concern yourself so much with weight. It will come off in time. Increasing your calories to 1800 for a week isn’t going to hurt you in the least, and yes, that could very well help you. I’ve written about breaking weight loss plateaus before. Maybe this article can help –

  • Caroline

    Hi there, i just chanced upon your site after doing some research of my own.
    I am a 19 year old girl and weigh about 57-58 kg and am about 169 cm tall. Prior to this year i have lost an insane amount of weight las year. Up to 15 kgs. However, i recently moved in with someone who has been eating alot of junk, gradually i started putting on weight. My lowest ever was 53 kg and now i have put on about 5 kg. Because of this… i started to work out again. I never eat simple carbs like bread, rice, noodles etc. But i will eat biscuits /cookies (ironic i know). After a month of running about 6 km every 4 days ive only lost 1.2 kilograms. This is alarming for me because ive started to eat really clean. The number on the scale just wont budge… I was thinking i might have been in starvation mode last year as i exercised with a rly low intake (500 calories a day). now i cant seem to drop that blasted 5 kilograms.

    • Caroline

      By really clean i mean-
      B’fast: 1-2 pieces of fruit
      Lunch: Soups/ Salads
      Dinner: Fruit/Salad

      Snacks: Fruits/Veggies

      • Coach Calorie

        Hi Caroline, your diet is severely lacking in calories, protein, and fat. Protein and fat are essential macronutrients. Your body fat is not going to go anywhere until you feed your body what it requires. Get some protein in at every meal. Aim for 1 gram/lb of lean body mass. Eat your essential fatty acids, and then fill your calories with healthy fats and carbohydrates. More carbs if you exercise intensely.

        Don’t starve yourself. It’s unnecessary. Not only that, it will hold you back from making progress. Eat. Being fit and healthy is a lifestyle, and it doesn’t require torture to live. Good luck!

  • Brian

    This page makes absolutely no sense. As someone said before, fat is there for energy. When you are using muscle, your body will not break down muscle for energy, because the muscle is being used for exercise. Starvation mode is indeed a myth, and only comes into effect when your body fat percentage reaches critically low levels.

    • Coach Calorie

      Hi Brian, muscle can and will be used for energy regardless if you’re at a low body fat or not. Your body needs glucose. Among other things, If you aren’t eating enough carbohydrates, it will break down protein (muscle being a possible source). Fat can also provide some glucose, but not enough to support high intensity activity.

      Whether “starvation mode” is a myth or not is beside the point. When you reduce calories, your body makes adaptations, and lowering its metabolism via several methods is the outcome. Eating too few calories makes this process even worse and can cause the body to start shedding tissue that is metabolically expensive to maintain (muscle).

      There’s a reason why bodybuilders don’t diet down on 500 calories/day. You can’t expect to eat nothing and maintain all your muscle just because you lift weights. Wouldn’t you agree?

      • cherik38

        So true! I’m a living testimony to that. I’ve been struggling for YEARS to lose weight. I perform high intensity work outs 5 times a week, lift weights, and eat CLEAN. I logged all my calories-and kept them to 1200 a day without adding in any extra for my grueling workouts. Finally, after no losses at ALL (for years), I went to have my metabolism tested. Turns out I haven’t been eating enough and that my body was holding on to everything I put into it. My experience tells me that for me, a drastic reduction can not work. I don’t call it “starvation mode” but more like “conservation mode”. Calories in=calories out does not apply to my situation when there is too much of a deficit.

  • Lucy

    I’m about 200lbs into my second week of insanity, I wonder if it will be safe for me to do around 1000cals or less just to kick start weight loss? So long as I’m getting high protein and nutrients (from supplements and veg)? So far I’m not seeing any weight loss results…

    • Coach Calorie

      I wouldn’t recommend it. Your “jump start” is going to have the opposite effect in time and will end up backfiring on you. Slow and steady wins the race. You have to be patient. I know it’s hard, but weight loss is not a day to day thing. It’s a rest of your life thing. See the bigger picture.

    • bea

      Sorry I know it’s a bit late, but honestly, with insanity, if you don’t fuel your body with enough cals/protein/carbs/fats then you won’t really get the results you’re looking for. Stick to the diet plan included, the insanity workouts are too intensive to even consider dropping your cals to that extreme. If you don’t consume enough then your body will use up muscle for energy, not a good thing because muscle burns more fat/cals to stay alive, if that makes sense. You should see some progress in month one, but month two is where you really see the big results. Hope this helps.

    • Cel

      Why not use the calorie calculator that is made for the Beachbody programs. I am doing Combat and I should be consuming 2200 calories to ensure weight loss. I was on a special diet approved by my DR. where I ate 1000 calories a day but this was very restrictive with NO exercise except for normal walking because I was not eating enough to fuel my body for it.

  • jvini

    Thanks for this great information. I want to ask you about a comment you left

    1200 calories seems low to me for 141 pounds. I diet on 12 times body weight. I rarely see anyone need to go below 10 times.

    So if I’m 200 lbs., workout hard 3 times a week (1 high intensity lifting session, 1 HIIT cardio, 1a faster lighter resistance workout) you think eating 2000 calories will be ok to lose the last inch on my stomach, or should I eat 12x my weight? I’m cycling calories, but just looking for a good baseline. Thanks as always!

    • Coach Calorie

      10-12 times body weight is a good starting point, but it’s impossible to take into account all the variables. If your body fat is over 25%, 10 times body weight might be a better number. If it’s under 20%, you might be able to get away with 12 times body weight. The only way to know for sure is to keep track of calories and monitor BOTH your weight AND body fat percentage.

  • Kaylynn Lee

    Hi. I’m 17 years old, 5’6 and weigh 248lbs as of this morning. Lately I’ve been completely stuck on my weight. I usually try to stay around 1200 calories but lately I’ve been eating probably between 700 and 900. My appetite has gone down the past few days. Over the winter break, I would wake up very late, eat a meal, maybe eat another later, and then stay up all night and maybe have a small snack. I am eating more now then I was then, but I was loosing weight then. Ever since I came back to school, I’ve started gaining. I don’t know whats going on. Yesterday I ate 2 teaspoons of peanut butter, a piece of bacon, an apple, a snack sized popcorn chicken from Sonic(Because I didn’t think I was getting enough calories) and a 6inch subway sandwich. I fell asleep after eating the sandwich, and today I am about a lb heavier than I had been for 3 days. I haven’t been exercising, because we haven’t had time to pay for my gym membership this month. I do squats, crunches, and step ups in the morning, just to get my heart weight up. What gives? Why am I gaining weight when I eat so little? I am also trying to loose cellulite(yes, at 17) I’ve been over weight since I can remember, but I gained during freshman year of high school. I’ve been trying to loose since the second semester of junior year, when I was dangerously close to 300. When I work out, I watch my calories burned until it reaches 200, and from there I just do what I like and just go to be healthy. I know 200 isn’t a lot, but I’m not very active. I used to just run on the treadmill, but now I do elliptical, bike, and weight machines. I also walk quite a lot, every weekend and some week days when weather is nice.

  • Coach Calorie

    Hi Kaylynn, weight loss isn’t all about calories, although that plays a majority role. Your diet is void in nutrients. Where are all the fruits and veggies? You need nutrients if you want you body to efficiently lose fat. It has no reason to let the extra energy go when it’s sending signals that it’s deficient.

    Give your body all it needs to be healthy. The weight loss will be a side effect of being healthy. Over the next 2 weeks, make a goal of adding in an extra 2 servings each of fruits and veggies. Once you’ve done that, add in another 2 servings of each the following two weeks. I think you’ll start seeing results.

    Also, make sure you are exercising. You don’t need a gym. Go outside and walk for an hour a day.

    • Kaylynn Lee

      I usually eat quite a bit of fruits and veggies. I load sandwiches up with them, and eat them as snacks. Today I had the other half of the sub and carrot sticks. I also drink V8 and Naked quite a lot. I enjoy fruits and vegetables. Today I tried to eat healthier and eat more, and will continue to do so

      I like the gym because I actually get in the mindset of exercising. Walking is normal for me, and its impossible to do it for an hour every day with my school and after school schedule, and how dark it gets early. So the gym is the best for me.

      • linsey

        @ Kaylynn Lee the fewer calories you eat, will actually slow your metabolism which is the opposite of what you want. If you eat food that is full of nutrients, and get exercise you are bound to see results. When eating try to eat out only once per week that includes subway!!! They are not as healthy as you think. Lunch meats contain lots of sodium, preservatives and artificial flavors-still think it sounds healthy. Also when shopping avoid foods with three or more ingredients on the label thats a good rule of thumb to start with. Do some research on what types of foods to avoid in the label such as high fructose corn syrup, artificial flavors and colors, and preservatives. Do some research look on credible websites for nutrition information like this one and webmd, find foods that will speed up your metabolism.

  • Claudia

    Hi Coach Calorie, I just came across this page and the eat more to lose weight idea. I’m a 5’7, 18-year-old college varsity runner doing about 25-40 miles per week and I’m fairly convinced I haven’t been eating enough. Around Thanksgiving I got serious about losing weight and got from ~130 pounds to 121 by mid-December- quite a bit of water weight, I’m sure- by eating 5 clean meals/day, exercising, but not counting calories. (Though I’d say I don’t think I ever went below 1200.)

    I’m a bit fixated on reaching 115 pounds, which I maintained for a few years until I was sidelined by injuries, but in reality I’m just concerned with losing fat. I’m not fat by any means but I’m not as “tight” as I’d like to be, esp abdominal area. Do you have any recommendations for me?

  • kathy hughes

    I googled not eating enough calories to lose weight and found this…… I weigh 179 lbs I walking for between 2 and 3 hours a day with my dog, I have started using to monitor my calorie intake and amount burnt by exercise and I cannot reach the amount it says I should drop to. I have not changed my eating habits apart from cutting out chocolate and sweets. Today I ate less than 1000 calories and walked for 2 hours. My weight dropped by 6 lbs the week I cut out the sweets but has not changed since.

  • Coach Calorie

    I’m not sure what your question is, but 1000 calories is too low. It shouldn’t be hard to reach that number. Make sure you’re getting plenty of healthy fats (nuts, seeds, eggs, avocado, etc)

  • Coach Calorie

    Try raising your calories 200 at a time and see what happens. Running 40 miles a week takes a lot of energy, and you’re already eating less than 10 times you body weight. Runners need calories.

  • Coach Calorie

    Hi Kaylynn, I think you need to do a little more research on what is healthy. You don’t just want to add a few vegetables to an otherwise processed meal. Subway, V8, Naked, and other products are processed foods disguised as health foods. Take a good look at this list of foods –

  • Jen


    Thank you for such an informative site. I have enjoyed reading through it. I am a 45 y.o. female mom of 5. I have fluctuated between a low of 117 to 140 lbs. I am presently at about 132. I workout 6 days a week, about an hour or a bit more, alternating with kettlebell/jogging workouts and weight workouts in the gym. I am quite strong (can do 50 pushups, a 45lb TGU with kettlebell and can run 3 miles easily) but also prefer my bodyweight to be around 120. I am very pear-shaped and carry most of my weight in hips and thighs. I eat healthy foods and try to get some good carbs, fat and protein in at every meal. I have been tracking my meals and they come in at about 1500-1600/day. When I got down to 117 last summer, I was probably eating about 1200, mostly lean proteins and veggies. I practiced IF in the Fall of for about 4 months. When I stopped and returned to regularly spaced meals of about 1500-1600 calories/day, I rapidly put on 10 pounds and I cannot lose it, in fact, I seem to be steadily gaining on this calorie input despite regular exercise. I got a Fitbit for Christmas and it gives me and average daily calorie burn of around 2200, and that is without recording exercise. I NEVER eat close to that amount but still seem to gain weight. Any advice?

  • Andrea

    Hi. I am 25, 124 pounds and burn between 400 and 500 calories a day working out according to my HRM (6-7 days a week). A few years ago I lost a lot of weight, down to 100 pounds. I am now struggling to STOP gaining weight. I eat about 1800 calories a day and am consistently gaining weight. I have started doing more strength training in the last year and have gained about 12 pounds this year. Can you please share your advice on wheter I am eating too little or too many calories? I don’t want to gain anymore! I’d like to lose a few pounds or just maintain. Thank you!

    • Coach Calorie

      If you’re gaining weight, you’re eating too much. Try dropping your calories down to 1500 and make sure your diet is 90% whole foods. Also, take body fat measurements so you know if you’re gaining fat or muscle or both.

      • Andrea

        1500 seems a bit low to maintain, considering I work out about 1.5 hours, 7 days a week, no? Most women with similar workout regimes I know eat about 2500-3000. Could there be any other explanation for my weight gain?

  • Coach Calorie

    If you’re gaining weight CONSISTENTLY, it’s hard to argue that you’re not eating too much. However, your calories don’t look high to me by any means. Why don’t you list out what you ate yesterday, and be honest so we can figure out the problem.

  • Coach Calorie

    It absolutely seems low to maintain, but if you’re measuring body fat, and you’re increasing FAT, and not just water, you are eating too many calories. Are you sure you’re calculating everything correctly. It is also absolutely necessary to take body composition readings to lay out a plan, otherwise you’re navigating in the dark.

  • Frankiebass

    ahhh very frustrated…53 yrs old, vegetarian for 15 years, roller blade everyday for 30 minutes. I recently started Shaklee shakes with almond milk and fruit twice a day and a small meal in the evening. I lost 10 lbs in a few weeks but have not lost anything for the past 5-6 weeks, in fact my scales say I have put a couple of ponds back on…what could be causing this lull in my weight loss???

  • QBeezy

    I need clarification. I’m 30 years old and I’m 200 pounds, 5’7. my BMR for my activity level is 3411. So is consuming 2400 calories sufficient for my needs? This is NET 2400 right? cause I work off average 1000 calories per work out, 6 days a week. So if i consumed 2400 calories, does that mean I have to eat 1000 more to net 2400? I’m currently netting between 800-1000 and cant seem to sleep more than 4 hrs straight, then i’m tired all day, forcing myself to workout. Is the calorie deficiency the cause of my sleep loss? I stay well hydrated, i juice 20oz a day, eat whole foods, and less than 5% meat consumption.

    My next question is, how do i consume 3400 calories in whole foods, with little or no meat?! Thats an ungodly amount of food i’d rather not eat. it seems my alternative is to work out less, but that thought sucks too because I want to train my strength and endurance to that of a ready athlete.

  • Coach Calorie

    I don’t like all the “net” and “eating calories back” sayings that these apps use. 10-12 times body weight is a good starting point and you can adjust from there. If you are really burning 1000 calories in a workout (which is a lot), you might need a couple hundred more. More likely than not, you need more rest doing that kind of activity 6 days a week.

  • Coach Calorie

    I don’t know. Are you measuring your body fat percentage? That’s really the only way to figure out what’s going on. My guess is you’re under eating.

  • tmkoppy

    Sure. You could have a thyroid problem. You could be consuming chemicals with your “food” that are endocrine disruptors. You could be taking in too much salt. You could be gaining muscle weight. You could be eating too many carbs vs. protein. Track what your eating for a week and take it to a nutritionist.

  • Erica Berman

    This article was such an eye opener for me. I’m 31 and have been doing personal training/working out at least 4x week since January. Since then I have only lost 10 lbs (started at 178 and am now 168 at 5’6”.) I have been stuck at 168 since mid April, the scale has not budged (expect hovering up and down by a couple pounds) yet I’ve noticed my body changing and my clothes getting looser. However I’m having a hard time losing body fat. I have been sticking to a 1200-1400 calorie diet and I usually burn 600-700 calories 3x week by doing strength training and about 450 during cardio 1-2x week. So on average I burn around 2600 calories per week. I don’t usually add in more calories after I work out, I still usually consume 1400 calories on the days I work out. I’m getting frustrated and after reading this article I’m wondering if I am not eating enough calories? I’ve been trying to eat as clean as possible, lots of whole foods and staying away from processed foods, however the scale has remained the same! UGH!

  • Tuukkadog

    I have been lowering and raising my calories and macros for the last five months or so and trying to lose weight, I have hovered with a 5lb loss or gain. I recently started carb cycling to try to get my weight loss moving, I count calories and I have started at 2100 and I am at about 1600 now. My macros are 55% carb, 30%pro and 15% fat. When I carb cycle I usually have pro 55% pro, 30% fat and 15% carb. I walk my dogs a couple hours a day 3-4 times a week and I do high intensity crossfit usually 4 times a week. I am just not sure what my next step should be? I believe I have gained muscle but what can I do to start losing weight? I am 176 lbs,female.5’6 so I know my calories seem low but when I raise them nothing happens either

  • Silver

    Hello Coach Calorie,

    I’m 24, 5’10”, and currently at 213 lbs. My BMR seems to be around 2200. I intend to lose around 3 lbs or slightly more lbs per week and although I know it’s not quite healthy, I do intend to slow down on my weight loss after 3 weeks (due to an event on the 3rd week). I have always been walking at 3.5 miles per hour for about 1 – 1.5 hours 5-6 times a week. Recently for the past week due to the nice weather, I have added on tennis for 30 – 50 minutes 5-6 days a week. I also planned on adding in swimming for about 40-60 minutes 5-6 days a week. With my current exercise (without swimming), I don’t feel that tired since I do split the exercise up throughout the day and was decently fit in the past. The exercise tennis in the afternoon and then walking at night. I also make sure that I’m never hungry so I do get hungry, I eat stuff like cottage cheese or fruits and vegetables. I have been trying to keep my calorie intake of about 1600. Do you think this is alright for what I’m doing or there will definitely be problems?

  • Coach Calorie

    Try raising them until you gain weight and then cut them just 200-300 calories. Keep a small deficit.

  • Coach Calorie

    For your size and activity levels (several hours a day), it seems to be too low in calories. You will likely end up burned out or worse, injured.