100 lb. Club - More math -- do those who weigh alot eat alot too?

07-21-2009, 09:28 PM
Hi all!

I thought I'd look at something that I had heard on a weight loss show recently. Quite often, on these shows, those needing to lose weight insist that they aren't eating as much as people think. And the MD interviewed said that it doesn't take alot of calories to maintain a high body weight as compared to a healthy body weight, so that these individuals were indeed accurate. And that got me to thinking (NNOOoooooooo! :lol:)

If we consider Basal Metabolic Rate as the minimum calories needed to sustain life, what calorie intake is required to maintain a high body weight?

So what I did was take my gender, height, and age and consider myself as sedentary, and used this calculator


to calculate my BMR only for different weights.

Now, I KNOW that different calculators give different results, so please DON'T look at the absolute numbers. And I know that there are other factors than simply BMR, but BMR represents the MINIMUM calories needed to sustain life, so I thought it was a good place to start so I limited myself to this.

Please also note that this is NOT a recommendation about calories required to lose weight and so on. I am not a calorie counter, and make no claims to know a whole lot about this. I just thought this was interesting and decided to make it simple by looking at BMR...

Just look at the relative difference between calories needed to sustain BMR for the different weights:

150 lbs -- BMR 1368 calories BMI = normal
175 lbs -- BMR 1482 calories BMI = overweight
192 lbs -- BMR 1559 calories BMI 30 = obese
200 lbs -- BMR 1596 calories
225 lbs -- BMR 1709 calories
250 lbs -- BMR 1823 calories
275 lbs -- BMR 1937 calories
300 lbs -- BMR 2050 calories
325 lbs -- BMR 2164 calories

There isn't a whole lot of difference between the calories required to maintain 150 lbs and 325 lbs -- only 800 calories! That isn't a whole bunch!!!

And to maintain an obese weight, I only need around 200 extra calories a day more than I would need to sustain a healthy weight.

And for every 25lb in weight, I need only around 100 calories to maintain the extra fat.

Not a whole lot!!!

I was kind of surprised, because I always assumed that if you weighed alot, it took ALOT of calories to maintain that weight. But it seems that it doesn't. And it seems to me that if you weigh alot but don't cut your calories below your BMR, you just won't lose the weight easily...



07-21-2009, 09:47 PM
Makes sense to me. It is the gaining that takes alot of eating.

07-21-2009, 09:56 PM
Interesting...of course, this doesn't take into account that BMR isn't all there is...you also burn calories based on movement, and that effect is MULTIPLIED by your BMR. So let's say you're an average person, not getting a lot of activity...to estimate your calories you multiply BMR by 1.2. So already, that 800 calorie difference gets a little bigger, even if you're always sedentary. If you throw in some light activity, the multiplier gets even higher and has more of an impact.

Still, it's not a 2000 calorie a day difference.

07-21-2009, 09:59 PM
These numbers are fascinating. But they don't take into account other relevant data, like height, age and gender. My 5'1", 34 year old female self weighs 146 and only needs 1417 calories, but if I were 5'10" (+ 34 and female) then I would get another 38 calories a day. And if I were a 5'1" 34 year old male I would get 1512 calories -- almost 100 more. So these other things each impact the calculation.

I could never understand how my 6'1" dad could eat so much food and drop weight while I have to watch every bite I consume. Nor could I figure out why I didn't seem to lose weight on Jenny Craig or Weight Watchers. It was because they were basing my food/calorie consumption amounts on my current weight, but not necessarily on my age, height or gender.

07-21-2009, 10:02 PM
For me (until I delevoped B.E.D.) I never ate more volume than my normal size friends, I actually ate less than many of them, but I ate higher calorie foods.

07-21-2009, 10:06 PM
Nor could I figure out why I didn't seem to lose weight on Jenny Craig or Weight Watchers. It was because they were basing my food/calorie consumption amounts on my current weight, but not necessarily on my age, height or gender.

FYI- weight watchers has changed how they calculate points, you now take a "quiz" to find your points based on weight, gender, age, height, occupation (in reference to activity level), and nursing or not.

07-21-2009, 10:31 PM
It is interesting, Kira. But I must admit, I really WAS eating a lot especially as a binge eater. But then again, I wasn't maintaining, I was gaining rapidly. I've never been one to claim that I didn't eat a lot and was fat anyway. I ate an obscene amount of food for every reason under the sun except hunger, because I rarely stopped eating long enough to actually get to the point of hunger. Makes me sad now to think about it...

07-21-2009, 10:39 PM
I think to gain alot you do eat alot. I know I did!
But to maintain that higher weight for an individual RELATIVE TO THEMSELVES doesn't take a whole bunch of extra calories.

I was able to maintain 244 lbs on not a whole lot more calories that it will take for me to maintain my current weight of 169 lbs if my activity level remains the same. To me, that is scary.

My dear SIL - God love her - doesn't eat a whole lot more than me, and we are the same height and used to be the same activity levels. She didn't HAVE to eat alot more than me to stay big. And what drives me crazy is that she says she is weight loss resistant because she isn't losing even though she restricts herself to just under 2000 calories a day. But if you look at her BMR, it IS possible for her to maintain her 230-ish lbs on her current intake. So it might not be an issue of being weight loss resistant. She just might not be cutting as many calories as she needs to AND she may be underestimating her caloric intake...

Just made me wonder, that's all...


07-21-2009, 10:50 PM
I think that people often eat more calories than they realize. There was times that I was binging and knew that I was eating a huge number of calories but there were also times that I thought I was eating healthily but still consumed way too many calories.

If creating a calorie deficient on a steady daily basis results in weight loss, it makes sense that creating a calorie overage results in weight gain. Small numbers of both still make an impact on our weight.

07-21-2009, 10:52 PM
mandalinn82 is right--BMR alone does not take into account any activity. Essentially it's lying in a bed breathing.

You're right too, Kira, it's not a huge difference, because bodies all have the same basic metabolic functions at rest. But once you get someone 300 pounds walking, you'll find they burn a lot more than someone 150 pounds walking at the same rate--assuming they are the same gender, height, and age.

(That's why when I was heavy I used to joke that I would go jogging with anyone, only they had to wear a backpack carrying enough weight to make us even.)

It's not unheard of for superobese people to be eating thousands of calories over BMR--and of course gaining as they do it.


07-21-2009, 10:58 PM
I didn't go through all the posts so I'm not sure this was brought up....
Last year I was watching Discovery Health (yeah, I'm a nerd and there was nothing on the History Channel) and they had 2 women from England involved in an "experiment."
The two women were friends. One was overweight and one was underweight. They both said that the woman who was overweight seemed to eat less then the one underweight, who swore she ate like a horse. They had the two women drink a metobolic isotop thingy which measured the actual calories consumed and calories burned and they were processed through the diagestive system. In the end the results were the tell all. The overweight woman was consuming a large amount of calories and the underweight one, not enough. The problem, which was ironic, was that they both grazed. The overweight one grazed throughout the day in addition to meals. The underweight only really over grazed without having any sustainable meals.
I guess my answer to the guests on shows they say the eat "practically nothing," probably aren't keeping a food diary, least not an accurate one.

07-21-2009, 11:08 PM
Definitely. If you weigh more, you need to eat more to sustain that weight. Conversely, if you have a high metabolism, like I do, then it sometimes doesn't matter what you eat, seriously! I can maintain my weight of 180 whether I eat inconsistently and ineffectively or if I eat rather healthy! I'm open for suggestions as to why this is. I am very active as well.


07-22-2009, 12:03 AM
I think there's a much wider range of metabolic rates, than we normally assume. Some overweight people (and some thin ones also) eat huge amounts of food to maintain their respective weights. Some overweight and some thin people can maintain their weight on much less.

Most of my life, I would have told you that I was fat for one simple reason, I ate HUGE quantities of food. I never pretended to "eat like a bird." I knew I ate way more than "normal" people, I just didn't know why I was so darned hungry all of the time, and why I never felt satisfied, even when I was uncomfortably full.

A change in birth control helped curb the crazy hunger significantly, and low carb eating completely removes hunger (I just can't seem to convince myself that a plan "that low" carb is healthy, so I try to find a balance of enough carbs to lose weight but not so many as to drive me crazy hungry. I'm finding difficulty finding that balance.

But what is weird is that I eat so much less than I once did, that I expected the weight to come off much more rapidly. I can eat 1800 - 2200 calories and lose nothing or lose less than a pound (if it's high carb eating). When I was in my 20's, I was on a 2500 calorie diet plan and was losing 10 lbs a week for the first six weeks.

Of course, I'm not nearly as active, but the math still doesn't seem to add up, especially since eating low carb, the weight comes off a little better (but still not what I could lose ten years ago at this weight).

I was just watching a show the other night about a little boy (the world's strongest toddler) who has a metabolic condition in which muscle growth occurs at a phenomenal rate (normally a body has mechanisms to control and limit muscle growth, this little boy's body doesn't work right in that regard). He builds muscle, but can't put on any body fat, no matter how much he eats.. Because of his high metabolism, he is always hungry and has to eat large amounts of food, but his body uses the calories to build muscle, not fat. Doctors are concerned about his inability to gain body fat, because children (and adults too) need a certain amount of fat reserves.

He could stand at 3 months old, and at age 3 is stronger than 80% of 6 year olds.

His condition is very rare, but I think it shows how vastly different individual metabolisms can be.

I had a roommate in college who ate outrageous amounts of food and never gained weight. There were four of us in the room, and we thought she must be bulimic. We would actually sneak to the bathroom door and listen for signs of her purging, but it just turned out she had a hummingbird's metabolism. She also figited like no one I ever knew. She couldn't stand or sit still for even a second, she was always rocking or tapping her toes. She was in constant movement (and oddly "hated to exercise," we used to joke that she was the only person who could wear herself out being a couch potato).

I think it's important to realize that there is a very large spectrum of metabolisms. It's very common for people to underestimate their calorie intake, but it's also common for people to have different metabolic rates, even though they appear to have similar activity levels. Also, a person's metabolism can change.

About a year ago I read a story of a girl who had been underweight, and in her mid 20's started gaining weight. She tried all sorts of diets, and only got fatter (many of us can relate). She started to believe she would always be fat, and then suddenly the weight came off as easily, and unexplainable as she had gained. Her doctors were stumped too. She'd been keeping food logs, and while she gained they accused her of not writing everything down. When she started losing, but the food logs weren't changing, the doctors started to realize that maybe she hadn't been lying.

Unexplained weight loss isn't nearly as common as unexplained wieght gain, and I think a lot of weight gain isn't unexplained. Sometimes the reasons are obvious, but sometimes less so.

Until about six years ago, even though I was severely morbidly obese, I thought all fat people ate WAY more than "normal" people. I didn't believe the folks who said, "but I don't eat that much." I didn't believe it, until I started experiencing it, and I never would have ever thought that I could maintain my weight on what I'm eating now. Heck most days - what I eat in a day is what I used to eat in a meal.

07-22-2009, 10:19 AM
Being over 300 I a LOT of CALORIES.... not necessarily huge volumes of food. I mean, 1 meal at McDonalds was 1000 cals pretty close. Eat 3 crap meals a day and a few snacks and boom that's 5000 easy. I always knew the stuff was high calorie, I just didn't realise how few calories people actually NEED. Ha, and my favourite excuse of all - that i'm big boned and clearly i would need more calories than the average jane to survive hehehe riiiiiiiight... the laws of physics are different for me :D

Lori Bell
07-22-2009, 11:05 AM
It is interesting, Kira. But I must admit, I really WAS eating a lot especially as a binge eater. But then again, I wasn't maintaining, I was gaining rapidly. I've never been one to claim that I didn't eat a lot and was fat anyway. I ate an obscene amount of food for every reason under the sun except hunger, because I rarely stopped eating long enough to actually get to the point of hunger. Makes me sad now to think about it...

This was me. I ate and ate and drank and drank. Oh I could say I didn't eat that much, because a cup of sour cream was the same volume as a cup of non-fat yogurt (with 10X's more calories)...lol :D A tablespoon of butter didn't add volume to my 1 little slice of toast. A cup of coffee is still a cup of coffee with 3 teaspoons of sugar and a couple tablespoons of heavy cream right? I didn't eat super-sized, I ate calorie laden.

I have a friend that weighs about the same as I did when I first started my "diet". I always thought she ate less than I did. Well, now watching her eat I am mortified. She eats an enormous amount of (high calorie)food. (She has maintained around 300 pounds, for the last couple of years and still wears the same clothes) I never realized how much she ate until I quit. Same with drinking. I never realized how quickly a person can down a 6 pack of Budweiser because I was too busy out drinking them. ( approx. 900 additional calories on top of food).

ETA: I also wanted to say that NOW, I eat probably twice the volume of food I used to. The only difference that my 2 cups of green beans are not drenched in bacon grease and/or butter like my 1 cup of green beans used to be.

07-22-2009, 12:33 PM
I think the power of binging is seriously underestimated.

If I eat 500 calories less each day than I need, in one week I drop a pound. That is the difference between 2000 and 1500 or 1500 and 1000 calories and I can definitely tell the difference. In a month, I will lose 4 pounds.

But let's say I suddenly go nuts for 5 days and binge ---- maybe eating 4000 calories a day and let's say that 2000 calories more than I need. In 5 days, I have consumed 10,000 calories more than I needed and gained 3 pounds. In 5 days like that, you can blow a WHOLE MONTH'S worth of OP eating!


07-22-2009, 10:30 PM
This is an interesting thread.

After reading what Lori wrote, I recognize myself there too. Yeah, I was only having 2 slices of toast, but I put at least a tablespoon of butter on each slice.

Yeah, I was eating just a bowl of popcorn, but it was drenched in butter.

07-23-2009, 02:36 AM
When someone says "That person eats A LOT", my first instinct is that they mean a huge VOLUME of food, or high FREQUENCY of food. They don't typically mean A LOT of CALORIES, although sometimes that naturally goes hand in hand.

But you don't have to be a binger to get fat. Some people get fat very quickly, in months or a year. But what about people that get fat slowly, like someone who gradually went from normal weight to 100 lbs overweight during the course of 10 years, then ceteris paribus, that only required an extra 95-100 calories a day. That's like, ranch salad dressing too much. Or 1/3 of a bagel too much. Or a sugar-free iced latte too much. It's not a lot. And gradually more and more little things that aren't noticeable at all on the volume scale.

07-23-2009, 10:32 AM
Another insidious path to weight gain, is that (whether you're putting it on quickly or slowly) as you gain weight, physical activity becomes more difficulty. It begins with little things that can go unnoticed, like taking one less trip up a flight of stairs. Gradually you lose more and more ability, and lose more and more interest, and get less pleasure out of physical activities.

It's just another way that the "calories out," can be affected by obesity. You need fewer calories per pound to maintain a large body weight because of the decline in physical activity.

07-23-2009, 11:25 AM
I love this conversation. I find this really interesting. I currently work from home, but I used to go into the office everyday. I would eat out for breakfast and lunch. I ate more(calories) in those two meals than I do in a whole day now. But, I didn't gain any weight. I thought that when I started working from home and eating at home, that the weight would just drop. It didn't at all. If I eat when I'm hungry and stop when I'm full, I don't gain. Even if I splurge often, I don't gain. I have only gained weight in my adult life during my 3 pregnancies. I eat the same as I did before pregnancy, but the weight still hangs on. It's weird.

When I start counting calories, I get really hungry after about a week. I'm now experimenting with calorie cycling to see if having days that are higher will keep me from feeling ravenous. I'm also watching my carbs, eating less at night, and exercising. It still comes off really slow for me.