100 lb. Club - Not enough calories = Gain??

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02-23-2008, 07:05 PM
I have a question. I have heard that if you do not eat enough calories, you can actually GAIN weight. I noticed it on the Biggest Loser, too, that when the one team cut their calories way back, they either gained weight or had smaller losses. Is this true? It doesn't seem to make sense to me. If you eat less calories then technically shouldn't you lose weight?

02-23-2008, 07:10 PM
i've heard of this too. i think the theory is that if you don't eat enough calories, your body thinks it's starving. then your metabolism slows down and your body stores(as fat) most of the calories you take in so that it won't "starve." eating too few calories might work for a short time until your metabolism slows down. but it doesn't work for long-term goals, and it's not healthy anyway.

02-23-2008, 07:23 PM
This is just my opinion (not a doctor, registered dietician, nutritionist, etc) but I think that yes, in the short term, eating too few calories might stall weight loss. I think in the long term, if you didn't eat enough to sustain you, you would die of starvation (as many people have and still do around the world).

I believe, that your body reacts to perceived famine the way we want it to act - it slows down the metabolism, cannabalizes muscle (since muscle is metabolically active and takes more calories just to exist) and holds on to fat stores. If your plane really crashed in the Andes and you had to hike your way to safety with nothing but half a Nestles Crunch bar and some peanuts - you would be thanking your body for its ability to keep you alive in the face of starvation.

I'm sure our bodies just don't GET the idea of not eating for the purpose of losing weight. Our bodies are like LOOK LOOK at this beautiful fat I have stored, if the crops fail, you are SET BABY. Why are we trying to undo all its hard work by burning off the stored fat? What if we NEED it??

So for me, I tried to create a small calorie deficit, I didn't want my body freaking out and trying to save me. I wanted it to think there was lots and lots of very nutrient-dense food coming in and no expected shortages in the future!

02-23-2008, 07:57 PM
I was not eating enough and quit losing - here is an article I posted on the 300 thread.


02-23-2008, 08:06 PM
Here is an interesting article on gaining weight while taking in minimal calories


02-23-2008, 08:17 PM
GLORY ~ I think that is a wonderful analogy about what our brain perceives dieting to be: Starvation. My doctor says that becuz of all the books and diets, and advice I have received from doctors, dieticians, nutritionists, and personal trainers over the years: that in his opinion at least: I am an expert on weight-loss by now. What I'm not is: an Expert on How to Keep It Off!!! LOL!

What all this means to us is: that our bodies are actually very efficient at saving our lives and we should be thankful for that. So, I agree with your theory about trying to fool our body into thinking it is getting all it needs, while just skimming a bit off the top at the same time.

That may be quite a balancing act for us to achieve; so keeping everything in line in our lives is important. We have to watch out for all the things that sabotage our best intentions as we go along, ie emotions that tempt us to eat just a tad more than we need.

LYN ~ so I guess I have to say that I do agree with that theory. My doctor says that my metabolism is very slow becuz of years of yo-yo dieting. So my body was very efficient; it 'saved me' many times. Daily Plate says that I should be able to eat over 3000 calories a day and still lose a pound a week. If I ate that much, I would indeed gain weight, becuz my output wouldn't sustain any loss already achieved so far.

I am trying to find an amount that allows me to lose weight, but doesn't make my body/brain panic again; and, that will let me be healthy for the rest of my life. I think I'll be workin' on this for awhile ~ LOL ...

PS ~ thanx for the links Carol and Lori!!!


02-23-2008, 11:53 PM
Justwant2Bhealthy - I'm in the same boat! Years of starvation and semi-starvation diets have made my body set a very low "famine point". There's a fine line for me between calories that make me lose weight and calories that make me gain. I feel like I have to work twice as hard to get healthy because of the abuse I heaped on my body in the past!

02-24-2008, 02:09 AM
Glory... you're so right about the starvation mindset of the body. Believe it or not... (this sounds silly to me now)... but sometimes when I would start trying to lose weight I would actually rationalize that exact same thing to myself! I would think, "what if I lose all this weight and then there is some kind of famine or food shortage? Then I will die! If I stay fat I will survive." Yes I actually did worry about that. It's still in the back of my mind somewhere.

I know starving yourself messes up your metabolism, but what about only a day or two of eating less? Do you think that can cause a gain somehow? I do not cut calories drastically (I like food too much) but I have been losing steadily this week on 1500 calories. Two days ago the scale said about 240.5, and the next day I ate just 1200 calories. The next morning I weighed 241.5. Maybe its a fluke. Maybe it is TOM coming up. I just wondered... is it because I dropped my calories? Would a body rebel that fast? Today I had 1650 so I made up for the deficit (dinner out).

02-24-2008, 02:13 PM
Thanks Carol and Lori for those links - they are terrific! My weight loss experience is very consistent with the information in those links, and it's so nice to find others who believe in the same approach.

I track calorie intake & expenditure using fitday, and aim for a calorie deficit of around 1,000 per day. My basic/resting metabolic rate at my current weight is around 2,000 calories per day. My general activity level adds approximately another 1,000 calories, and walking 4 miles per day adds another few hundred. So, my daily burn is around 3,300 and I eat between 2,000 and 2,500 (I'm a believer in "cycling" calories, with some higher and some lower days). For me, this results in a weight loss of around 2 pounds per week. It is a lot of food, especially since I try to avoid processed food and high GI carbs . . . but that's a good thing, since it makes my plan very flexible.

In 2006, I went from 282 (2/06) to 229 (8/06) with this approach. As my weight (and BMR) dropped, I added more exercise (higher-intensity cardio, pilates-style floor exercise and weight training) instead of reducing my calorie intake, and my rate of loss continued.

As my stats show, I got badly off track between 9/06 and 2/08 - I completely stopped working out and journaling my food intake, and hit a new all-time high weight. I feel pretty stupid about it - all I can say is that I'm happy to be back on the road to better health, and I hope my "yo-yo" didn't do my metabolism too much damage. So far so good this time around!