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Eating 1200 calories a day, and am GAINING weight.....HELP!


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I am a 38 year old female - 5'10" and not sure about my weight - I just know how my clothes fit/feel.   I'm guessing I weight around 135lbs......(I don't own a scale - on purpose!)

I work in an office during the day, but I go to the gym on average about 4-5 times a week - usually during my lunch hour, and sometimes after work as well.  I do mostly cardio - and usually moderate to high intensity cardio (intervals, etc.) for 30-45 minutes a session.   I do some work on weights, but not enough - I know....I am active outside of my work, since I race/ride MX and race off-road on a regular basis. 

I have to work to consume 1200 GOOD calories a day.....I don't eat much, and haven't for probably a couple of years.  I log my calories on here, and I really do have to work to get them up around 1200 per day.  I have gotten used to eating foods that are high in content, but low in calories - such as salads with salsa, a lot of vegetables, steel-cut oats, low calorie yogurt, egg white omelettes, etc.....I don't use condiments much, no butter when I cook, I grille any meats I cook, etc.  I am sure I could eat well over 1200 calories easily if I let myself eat bagles and pizza and wings, etc.....but I know that would be bad.

The problem is.....my jeans are starting to get tight, and I am HIGHLY aware that I am gaining a little weight - despite the gym, and despite my calorie intake.  I HATE how I feel right now, and it makes me want to cut my eating in half and double my workouts......but I know that's not healthy. 

I had a trainer tell me that I needed to eat around 1800 calories a day to lose weight.....well.....I tried that, and it was HARD to find 1800 GOOD calories a day, but I did it....for a couple of weeks.  I gained, and freaked out.....and went back down to my 1200 per day again. 

So here I am....I think I am stuck in the "starvation mode" cycle, and I am too scared to eat more to get myself out of it....because I know I will gain if I do.  The irrational part of me says to stop eating and live at the gym.....how do you guys get past the "gaining weight" part, to get to the "losing weight" part, without hating the weight gain?? 

Also, I am a night snacker (sometimes baby carrots, or some dry cereal without milk, or a grapfruit or something)......I know that's a horrible habit, and I am cutting that out starting yesterday....but sometimes that's how I get the rest of my 1200 calories before I go to bed. 

So....let's hear it.  At this point I am willing to try just about anything to get back to how I want my body to be.....I want my jeans to feel loose again, and to be happy with myself. 

 

17 Replies (last)

Assuming your calorie total of 1200 is correct and you aren't eating more without knowing it (by severely underestimating portions, for example) - you gotta eat more.  It's that simple. 

It's possible to get adequate nutrition on 1200 calories, but it's darned hard.  1200 isn't anywhere near enough for somebody active, let alone somebody active AND with weight to lose.  Your body may be reacting to the big calorie deficit you've got going by burning muscle, which is NOT good.   Your metabolism is probably highly screwed up and will need to be repaired, and eating more is the only way to do that. 

That's going to mean some weight gain.  There's no way around it.  You can dive in and start eating what you ought to be eating for somebody with your stats and activity level, or you can try adding 100 calories every week until you're up to where you need to be, but eating more is the only solution. 

Probably I'm not telling you anything you don't already know.  And I realize it's scary.  But you will not balloon up and up and up.  Your metabolism will recover, and then after you've given yourself a nice break from deficits your body should be willing to let go of what you gained as well as the rest of what you want to lose.

Buy bigger jeans.  I'm being serious.

Your body is clearly trying to tell you that it needs to eat more, and that it should be at a higher weight, since you have to maintain a starvation diet to keep it where it is.  You say you have to snack at night to even get to 1200...that, again, is your body telling you that it needs more food because it didn't get enough during the day.

135 is already at the low end of healthy for your height, and based on the way you talk about how little you eat, how much you excercise, and your body image in general, I'm going to guess that you are actually lighter than you estimate. 

Stop basing your body image on a pair of jeans.  Get on a scale, find out what you actually weigh, plug the numbers into the calculators to find out how much you should be eating to stay healthy, and then eat that much.  I know I'm being blunt about it, but that's what you need to do.

^^ Agreed

By your post, i would question if you are border line eating disorder... but, i agree that is with very little information.

 

What everyone has already said.

Plus, I seriously can't believe that you can't find 1800 healthy calories in a day. Instead of topping your salad with salsa, use guacamole or olive oil and vinegar. Eat reduced fat Greek yogurt instead of low calorie yogurt. Add two egg yolks, which are incredibly rich in nutrients, to your egg white omelet. Put 2% milk in your cereal. Dip your carrots in hummus. Have a handful of almonds or walnuts with your grapefruit, or swap out the grapefruit for a banana (or do both).

You don't have to be afraid of eating some fats - they are necessary for good health!

Agreed with everyone else.

It always amuses me when people claim they can't eat 1200/more than 1200 because "well, I'm not going to eat Big Macs and fries just to get more calories!" There are plenty of foods that are higher in calories but great for you. Theholla has some great suggestions.

And honestly, at 5'10 and 135lbs, you shouldn't be trying to lose weight anyway. If you want to lower your body fat percentage, go on over to the Fitness forum and ask for advice on weight-lifting regimes. Just a warning, though, to build muscle you'll have to eat over your maintenance amount. Your BMI is 19.4. You could probably stand with gaining a few pounds of muscle.

I appreciate the feedback very much - and I will use some of those ideas for adding some calories to what I normally eat....and for the poster who said I sound borderline eating disorder, you are right.....I have toed that line since High School, when I had exercise bulimia.  Problem was, this was back in the late 80's, and no one new that a disorder like that even existed.....I had always been a skinny kid - my mom was great at cooking us good, healthy meals.....but I grew up very restricted with my diet.  When I went to a boarding school for my Junior and Senior years in High School, I went a little nuts with my "eating freedom" and found myself in a predicament I had never had to face - I gained 20 pounds in a about 3 months!  I tried everything at that point to lose the weight....I tried to starve myself - didn't work...I like food too much.  I tried to purge, but I apparently have no gag reflex....and a strong stomach.  So I did the only thing I could do....I ran and worked out - to the point of rediculousness.

I was consumed with exercise until I had my daughter at 23....then, once I had her, I lost all of my pregnancy weight AND another 30 lbs within about 6 weeks (without even working out - I ate normal, and it was like every morning I would wake up and be lbs lighter - weirdest thing!!), and have been OK ever since then.  I still work out, but I have other things going on in my life that are more important than the gym now.....

However, I do still suffer from body image issues....whoever said that has me pegged too - you guys are good! :)

So....how is this plan of action, then?  I increase my caloric intake about 100 calories a week, focus on good calories and some good fats/carbs, and work on strength training a little more, cardio a little less, and see if I can't get my body back into some sort of balance? 

Original Post by 450grl:

So....how is this plan of action, then? I increase my caloric intake about 100 calories a week, focus on good calories and some good fats/carbs, and work on strength training a little more, cardio a little less, and see if I can't get my body back into some sort of balance?

Exactly! Technically, you could probably bump your calories up even faster, but if you are more comfortable doing it 100 calories/week then that would be fine too.
 Also, don't forget to work on your self image! Keep in mind that even if you were to gain a few pounds, you would still be quite slim.

When I first started to work-out, I was 134 pounds. After the first 2 weeks my weight went up to 140! I was so upset, thinking how could that be, I was busting my butt only to gain weight? Well, after talking to many people at CC, I realized that I was in a "starvation mode." I was consuming 1200 calories on days that I was working-out, and probably less on days that I didn't work out. Well, I took that chance and increased my calories, increased my water intake and found that for over 3 weeks I couldn't move the scale. I was so ready to give up.

But, a very wise person told me to "relax" give your body chance to start to regulate it. Take a step away from the scale, continue to eat between 1300-1500 calories, and you will see your weight change.

Well, for the last 2 weeks, my weight is going down. It was hard at first, I really didn't want to believe that I would lose weight by increasing my calories. But, they were right. My body needed to know that there would be food coming in all of the time. That it no longer needed to store the Fat in fear of not getting food.

Just hang in there, and make sure that you are giving your body enough calories to survive.

Hi,

I'm not expert, but from everything I've read (I read alot of weight articles), when you are working out as much as you are, you need to boost your calories.  Just being sedentary and eating 1200 calories is suppose to be the lowest women should go - calorie/wise.  I am using the Fat Burning Furnace guidelines and so far so good.  The food lists are so balanced that its killing my cravings for junk.  I like it so far...I'm eating healthier than ever.  I also got with it workout information and routines.  I was an avid Weight Watchers client, but I got bored and hungry.  I needed a change.  Even WW says no lower than a certain amount in calories/points.    Really conside BOOSTING up to that 1800 calories.  Good Luck.

PS - you need more fat in your diet.  Cook with olive oil or butter.  Have some flax seed oil in your oatmeal.  Your body needs fats too.

what do you mean "good calories" ...so eating NO FAT, NO CONDIMENTS, NO OIL, NO EGG YOLKS, ETC. that's good? sorry to break it to you but your 1200 calories is not "good food" per se, it's simply low in calories. low calorie yogurt is probably the crap filled with preservatives and chemicals unless it's just plain nonfat yogurt, but even still a little fat is not going to wreck your diet, it will enhance it. you sound like you need to seek professional help to be honest. 135 pounds at your height is rather slender, why would you ever even count your calories at that weight? you shouldn't be trying to lose and even gaining a few pounds would do you some good. do you get your period? 

I'm in the same place as you, 450, eating more calories and waiting to see how long it takes for starvation mode to go away.  I'm 5'7" and have been trying to eat 1300 calories a day, but often don't make it...I'm just not hungry.

I put myself on a 700 calorie a day diet for many months, then joined a program where I was raised to 1000, I've been on CC and 1300 calories for just over a week.  It's hard because you have to wonder...is this starvation mode real, and does a person really eat more and eventually lose weight?  And I don't know if 1300 calories is enough to break out of the box.  And yeah, the weight gain while you're waiting to lose.

I also went to girl's school and remember everyone lined up purging after eating like hogs.  And my gag reflex never worked either.

Keep in touch...

yeah 1300, not going to get you out of starvation mode sorry. 

Have faith in increasing your calories, it will work.  And don't get disheartened if you do gain weight, from the sounds of it you could stand to gain a few pounds.  Your trainer was right, for the amount you're working out you should be eating at least 1800 calories a day.  Add some of the things theholla has suggested.  Also have a look at the analysis part of CC it'll tell you at a glance what you're lacking and give you suggested foods which are high in that nutriant.

Good luck! x

yeah to really bust out of that you should try eating at maintenance for a couple of weeks.  I know that if I eat under 1500 calories for more than a couple of days in a row my weight loss will completely stall out, and that is only after a couple of day!!  You can imagine the damage done by doing that for months?  Feed your body ALL the stuff it needs right now and worry about cutting calories later.  Take care of your body and it will take care of you.

Original Post by chrissy1988:

what do you mean "good calories" ...so eating NO FAT, NO CONDIMENTS, NO OIL, NO EGG YOLKS, ETC. that's good? sorry to break it to you but your 1200 calories is not "good food" per se, it's simply low in calories. low calorie yogurt is probably the crap filled with preservatives and chemicals unless it's just plain nonfat yogurt, but even still a little fat is not going to wreck your diet, it will enhance it. you sound like you need to seek professional help to be honest. 135 pounds at your height is rather slender, why would you ever even count your calories at that weight? you shouldn't be trying to lose and even gaining a few pounds would do you some good. do you get your period? 

 

Of course I get my period.....I have never skipped one in my life (except when I was pregnant, of course!).  I'm not anorexic, and I'm not too slender - I have a good family who keeps tabs on how I look, and my mom hasn't worried about me in a while, so.....that's a good thing! :)

As for the rest of the comments, I am already starting to incorporate much of your advice, and am looking for a good personal trainer as well.....I have never had a dedicated trainer (just the free-bee ones you get sometimes).  I think they can help me with the nutrition portion considerably.

Thanks again you guys - this is a great forum!!

#17  
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1,200 seems really low, especially if you're working out hardcore. 

 

Supposedly doing cardio on an empty stomach first thing in the morning is good for fat loss because your body pulls energy from your fat reserves and not from your muscles. Otherwise do 40-45 minutes of cardio *after your weight workout if you can't get to the gym first thing in the morning. 

 

Also, limit your carbohydrate intake in the evening and just before going to bed. You should consume a small protein or a protein shake just before going to bed to prevent your body from breaking down muscle while you sleep. 

 

You might also *think you're pushing yourself enough while you work out, but you might very well not be. You might not be doing enough cardio, or lifting heavy enough weights, or doing enough sets or reps as much as you think you are.

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