Eat More, Weigh Less - The Calorie Conundrum

Over the years I have dieted many times. Each time I stuck to 1200 calories per day, or thereabouts. My most recent diet, nearly a decade ago, I had 1350 and yes, I lost the weight. But. (There is always a big but in there somewhere). But, I gained all the weight I lost - with some more on top.

So when I joined the forum and began my diet, I read the NHS plan information and thought I had to stick to 1400 calories a day. I struggled for 5 weeks and just got more tired and hungry and I found it really difficult to stick to those calories. Here is where I posted just at the point I was about to give up: healthunlocked.com/nhsweigh...

Of course, I got some great encouraging replies and Moreless told me that I needed to eat more calories and for me to look at the BMI calculator. What isn't clear is that it tailors a specific calorie allowance for you based on your height, weight, age, sex and if you have a lot of excess weight you can consume many more calories per day than the basic 1400.

I was sceptical at first, but as I had been near to stopping the diet due to feeling so hungry, tired and a bit of a failure as I was supposedly "overeating" every day, I had nothing to lose (apart from the wobbly bits) and I decided to give eating 1800 calories a day a go.

From then on, my weight loss has been steady and I have now lost just under 7stones. I now have between 1500-1700 calories per day as the calorie allowance goes down as your weight does.

So, the question is - why? Why does eating more calories work better than cutting right back and getting the job done quicker?

There are many answers and as I am not a nutritionist I can only put forward what I have read.

Firstly, if you consistently under-eat you will lose weight at first, but then your body will go into "starvation mode" and cling onto your energy stores as it thinks it is in a famine. Your metabolism slows slightly too. Here is an article about what is happening that is much more scientific than I am: coachcalorie.com/not-eating...

Secondly, if you lose weight too fast by cutting calories too drastically, your are likely to lose muscle and that in turn will result in a lower metabolism. Here is an article about that: healthyeater.com/eat-to-los...

Thirdly, there is a huge factor that plays a part in being able to lose a lot of weight over a long period of time and that is our mental well-being. If it is too hard, we can do that for a few weeks, but most people fall by the wayside and end up putting all the weight back on (with some extra lbs to boot). Here is a video by a lovely young man who has lost 180lbs and totally transformed his life where he talks about the emotional side of crash dieting and the crash/binge cycle:

Two more websites I found on the subject, one that advocates eating regularly to keep the metabolism up, which is what I do: mindbodygreen.com/0-20163/w...

And another that has a great BMR calculator at the end (if you like that sort of thing, which I do): katherinetallmadge.com/2010...

I hope this information helps anyone who is confused about the amount to eat - personally, I want to eat as much as I can and keep my muscles and be able to succeed!

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  • LTL! This is fantastic! Thank you so much!

    How many times have I tried to explain to people that it's a myth to think fewer calories means more weight loss? That only works for about 500 calories and after that you're on a hiding to nowhere!

    This will help so many people! :)

    That young man is so lovely, I just wanted to give him a big hug! :)

  • Thanks Moreless, I thought it would be useful for anyone who is confused about all the conflicting advice out there.

    The young lad is adorable, I have been following his video casts for a while now, he is such a nice lad and deserves all the success he is getting.

  • Oh this will definitely help sort out any confusion :)

    I shall have to go and stalk him now. What an inspiration! :)

  • I love how at the end of every video, he strokes his chin and says "there is one other thing, I forgot to say", then he strikes a pose and says "look how buff I am!" (it took me several listens before I realised what he was saying as he says it so fast now)

    I also want a T-shirt that says Obese to Beast to wear to the gym.

  • He really is buff too! :)

    That would be a brilliant T shirt to have! :)

  • You gave me excellent advice on day 1 to eat as much as I could and still lose weight. Five and a half weeks and three and a half kg later all I can say is it was the best advice. Xxx😘

  • Wonderfully informative post, thanks! and many congratulations on your achievement! I often advise people on here to eat more if they are disappointed at not losing and appear to being having less than their allowance according to the BMI calculator. I've looked at my bmr on the link you provided and that gives even higher calories than the BMI calculator. The truth is, I don't take my own advice, I always try and stick to the lower end of my personal allowance, I'm a bit scared to raise it! However....I keep a diary and the results aren't conclusive but one week I did eat more but lost more! I think in my case I should probably increase my calorie intake a bit, but make sure it's by eating healthy stuff not rubbish! I just need to be brave enough to try it.

  • Thanks Caz, how interesting that you experimented and found that the one week you ate more, but lost more, our bodies are complicated things.

    I also think that some experimentation is also needed to find the optimal way to lose weight for each individual, especially if you are on a long-term diet plan as it needs to be sustainable over several months and everyone's body is different.

    It is a fascinating subject and of course, everyone has an opinion too!

  • Good luck Caz28 I hope this works for you 😊 Keep us posted!

  • Hi LTL,

    This post looks really interesting, and I am going to look forward to reading it in full later in the week when I have more time, as I can see there are various links to read - and I am looking forward to having a good perusal at leisure - most likely on the weekend now, but something to look forward to then, and I'm sure it will be really useful and informative. Thank you!

    Lowcal :-)

  • Thanks Lowcal, yes it is a bit wordy and the links are worth looking at. I hope you have a good week and get some time at the weekend!

  • Thank you - very helpful πŸ‘

  • You are more than welcome, Isou, I am hoping it helps many in the future.

  • This is very interesting, thank you LessToLose and very good timing for me.

    Having gained slightly on my holiday, I then gained even more during a week when I was extremely inactive due to a bad back πŸ˜• (Flat on my back in bed)

    This week I gained 100g, small I know but still going the wrong way. Reading this post, working out my BMR and doing some maths has helped me realise the difference inactivity can make, and also explain the weight gain. Obvious I suppose!! Lol 😊

    Whilst the circumstances are outwith my control, (I face quite a long period of reduced activity whilst I await hospital referrals) I now know I have to reduce my calorie consumption accordingly. Rather than be distressing or upsetting I actually feel empowered and in control 😊

    Onwards and downwards lovely people 😊

  • Feel better soon Anna61. I hope those appointments come in swiftly for you :-)

  • hope your back improves soon x

  • Thank you Caz28 and Sarah578 😊 Much less pain which is great 😊

  • Aww very gentle hugs

  • Speedy recovery from me too Anna, hope things start moving in the right direction weight-wise soon too! Hope you're well stocked with audiobooks or something :)

  • Thank you Ruth_canal_runner

    I have books, and radio 😊 Feeling much better so I'm sewing today, the distraction helps!

  • Yay glad you're feeling better! Our well wishes have already had an effect :)

  • I am so sorry about your back and I am amazed that you managed to only gain 100g whilst bedridden.

    Yes, there is a difference between calories when exercising and when not exercising, but the difficult part is gauging how much extra that gives you on your calorie allowance. It is a case of trial and error.

    Perhaps don't cut back too much as your body will need fuel to help repair and see what your weight does.

    I hope the hospital referral comes through soon!

  • I gained over a kilo the week I was in bed πŸ˜• I'm 3 kg up from mid May πŸ˜• But feeling more positive and in control today 😊 And you're right, I'm not going too low, about 300 a day less than my usual, just enough to hopefully reverse the trend! 😊

  • Thanks so much for posting this it answers a lot of questions for me and congratulations on your weight loss journey it is so nice to know that others have nearly given up through frustration but perseverance pays off and it certainly has for you. Enjoy the new youπŸ˜ŠπŸ‘πŸΎ

  • Thanks Itsbab, I am glad you enjoyed the post, it is a question that comes up quite often and it is quite difficult finding your way around all the information that there is out there.

    I hope your own perseverance is paying off and you are doing well - have a great week!

  • I've been trying to explain this to a guy who is currently on some fad diet and is eating about 600 calories a day. He knows it will drop off fast and then stop but then he says he will just do "hard" exercise. He's done this before (more than once) and put the weight back on plus some.

  • Oh no, it is hard to convince someone who just wants a quick "solution"! One day he will figure it out and I hope it isn't after he has become ill :(

  • This is fantastic LessToLose, thank you so much for sharing. And so many congratulations on your healthy weight loss, amazing!

    I so agree with you. I think the guidelines can be confusing and your post really shows why a personalised calorie allowance is so important.

    For me there are many reasons it works better, but the big one is psychological health. For example, I'd been sticking to 1300 calories for a six week plan in the gym (250 lower than the NHS BMI calculator) and did really well for those six weeks. Then I upped it to 1450, just under the NHS calculator to help me loose weight more gradually and sustain the weight loss. That worked ok for a bit. Psychologically though I started noticing that around every third or fourth week I'd have massive difficulties sticking to it for all sorts of reasons/excuses.

    Then my personal trainer said, you aren't loosing that quickly so you can physiologically stick with the low calorie diet for now, only if psychologically you can manage it. After discussion he recommended going for a 'break' of body weight x12 for a week, which is around 1900 calories for me. I couldn't believe it! That is way too much and made me feel ill even thinking about how ridiculous it was!

    But, as I've mentioned in other posts, last week was bad, I ate loads, in general it probably worked out around 1900 a day. But yesterday I maintained my weight and most importantly I feel psychologically much better. So, I'm cutting back again, but to the lowest of the NHS BMI personalised suggested range and we shall see. I'm actually really looking forward to loosing weight and not feeling like I'm penalising myself for being overweight in the first place.

    Thanks so much for this again, really helpful and makes a lot of sense.

  • Wow, this is totally fascinating and really does highlight how important the brain is in the process, we have to be able to feel that it is something we can stick with for long enough to get the results we want.

    If I were you, I would probably have something inbetween the 1450 and the 1900, say 1600 and see how that goes, but that is me, I am a bit clingy when it comes to my calories, LOL!

    I hope you do well with this renewed confidence that I feel you have gained, I too feel quite ashamed I got as large as I did and have many regrets about not dealing with it sooner, but my head just wasn't in the right place.

    Anyway, we are doing it now and that is better than not doing it at all!

  • Me too! Well, I'm trying around 1500 at the moment and I'll see how it goes. It feels awfully decadent! ;-)

    Totally re the head thing, you are ready when you are ready as far as I'm concerned. Go us for doing it now :-D Onwards, downwards and healthywards!

  • Very interesting LTL..and thank you so much for your post. I have worked out my BMR using the post you suggested. To loose weight I need to have another 300 calories and day. I am going to give this a go as for the past month I have maintained even though I have increased my exercise and am doing cardiovascular 5 times a week.

    I will keep you posted

    Thanks again 😘

  • It is worth a try, Greeny, with luck you will break through that plateau in a week or two!

  • BTW LTL...7st weight loss is fantastic. What an achievement!

  • Thanks so much, it feels so much better!

  • Thanks for this info - I was worrying because I don't think I actually eat anywhere near the amount that is now being suggested for me on the diet, which is counterintuitive! I don't do enough exercise I know and need to work that into the equation so that I am eating enough but also using it up as needed. I too have the fear that if I eat more I will put on more weight but if that means that I have more energy and muscle (rather than flabby bits and fatigue!) then I will be more active and so get to where I want to be which is healthier and fitter.... Sometimes you have to hear yourself saying these things for them to make sense - or in this case write and read them! Will be putting more thought into what I'm trying to do.

  • You are in good company, MaryLou, many of us have had that same reaction as the calorie allowance does seem rather high compared to other diets, but the aim is for a healthier steady weight loss that can be maintained over the period of time necessary to lose the weight.

    I like how you are now considering fitting the exercise in as well. That helps in so many ways, as you say, getting fitter for our own health is part of the equation too.

    When I began, I couldn't do much and walking was - and still is - my main form of exercise, it is amazing how many calories a brisk walk can burn!

    Anyhoo, I hope you find the balance you need and get the results you want - have a great week!

  • Thanks again - help and support much appreciated. Just need to put it into action now.... ;-)

  • Really interesting, and worth another read later on this evening so I can absorb it all! Thank you, LesstoLose! :)

  • Thanks Nelliecat, I really hope it helps, it is a subject that comes up quite often and I thought I would write down my feelings on the subject and link to other places that have more information (otherwise my post would have been even longer than it already is).

  • Thank you LTL, I love the range of links you give, always informative but real and relevant too. I similarly worried that higher calories would scupper my weight loss. I only had 2stone to lose so the 1400 amount was about right, the lower end according to the nhs bmi calculator for my weight was about 1500, and to be honest I was usually closer to 1500 than 1400. But now I'm at a healthy bmi I've found that aiming for 1800 helps me lose a lb or 2 when my weight's creeped up a bit again. How 1800 works now but 1400 worked when I was heavier is beyond my understanding! But if it works then I'm happy enough. I'm following a 1800 limit this week, and feeling all the more confident it will work after reading your post. So the trust is maybe in being prepared to do a bit of trial and error, as well as the idea of eating more to lose more... It's complicated science and we're all pretty different to each other! Here's hoping your post helps loads of people who may be feeling unsure about what calories they should be having :)

  • Thanks Ruth, it is very interesting to read how you have tackled the issue and how fascinating that 1400 calories worked when you were heavier and 1800 now, it sounds like your metabolism is now faster - must be all that canal running!

    Your point about us all being different is an important one that I probably should have addressed. There will be people who just don't like upping their calories or for some reason, it doesn't work for them, or they prefer a totally different way of losing weight, we have to find what works for us for the short term and for the long term.

    Have a great week and I look forward to reading your results on Monday!

  • This is a brilliant post full of hope for people who think they can't do it! I had put off "going on a diet" because I thought I had to stick to 1400 calories a day (or maybe less) and I felt destined to fail, so I never even bothered to start, for a long long time. To use the BMI calculator and to discover that my body, being so overweight AND tall (6'1) actually burned more calories at rest than someone shorter and lighter gave me hope that I might actually be able to stick to it long term. I suppose I found it impossible to stick to in the past because I genuinely wasn't eating enough for my height/weight and felt like rubbish as a result. I'm having the emotional eating blips atm, but it seems for me personally that's gonna be a lifelong thing, food is my "coping tool" so to speak, so I just keep on trying and eventually, if I have more good days than bad days, it will even up and I'll keep losing - that's the hope anyway!

  • Thanks so much WW for your kind comments and your point of view on the subject is really interesting to me.

    I agree, one reason we are put off starting a diet is how restrictive many of them are and how unwell we feel eating way below what our bodies need to sustain them.

    I knew I was in this for the long haul, so I had to find a way to make it less daunting (as well as healthier).

    Falling off the wagon in the past just made me feel like a failure and we don't need any more of those feelings in our lives, do we?

    Talking about emotional eating - have you seen my post about that subject and the brain? Ever since I heard about this I have stopped beating myself up for the odd slip that is inevitable and not let emotional eating take over, so far, anyway. healthunlocked.com/nhsweigh...

  • Congratulations on the huge weight loss! Fantastic result, and it shows you what can be achieved when you try and you don't give up!

    I think it is a very interesting question re why cutting calories doesn't always result in quicker weight loss. My best guess is that the lower the calorie intake the less likely anyone is to stick to it for long enough to see significant weight loss. Scientifically, reducing calories more should lead to more weight loss, although as you and others have said, you can find you lose muscle rather than fat, which is a bad thing.

    I've always taken the view that you should eat as much as you can while managing to lose 1-2lbs a week. If you are losing at that rate, then whatever you are eating is working for you.

    What puzzles me now, though, is that the argument that quick weight loss and low calorie intake is good seems to be making a comeback - eg Dr Michael Moseley argues very strongly in favour of cutting calories drastically to shift weight fast, and pooh-poohs the idea that this puts you in "starvation mode". As he is a doctor and reversed his type 2 diabetes by doing this, I can't dismiss it out of hand. But it does challenge a lot of the received wisdom over the past years about losing slowly and steadily.

    I struggle to stick to 1200 cals a day - not much prospect of me cutting back any further, however good it might be for me weight loss!

  • I know, there is a lot of interesting information about the whole "metabolic damage" issue and I have also read that some say it doesn't exist and some say there are hormonal changes that go on to save the body from total starvation during times of famine (up to a certain point, of course). What is uncertain is how long those hormonal changes last after the period of starvation has ceased.

    I agree, I think the Dr Moseley diet is a great way to kick start someone who needs urgent intervention to stabilise their blood sugar levels and encourage them to carry on losing weight, so I definitely don't poo-pooh it either.

    I would be hopeless on it too, I need my calories!

  • Yes, I tried his blood sugar diet and lasted about a day on it! The thought of a constant stream of meals consisting of eggs and lettuce was very off-putting. I suppose if I actually had Type 2 I'd be more motivated....

  • Fab, fab post, just goes to show faddy, low calorie plans don't work !!!

    πŸ˜‡

  • Thanks Flossie, I know, they are great for short term goals or as a kick start for a longer term, sustained weight loss programme and some people can only face a diet if they can see quick results, so it is all a complicated subject and we each have to find the way that works best for us long-term.

    I hope you are having a fabulous week!

  • A very valuable post, thank you!! :-)

  • Hello again, I have been looking into this a bit more and I guess the important thing is that these extra calories, (over the suggested 1400) must come, as much as possible, from low-fat, high fibre foods? Just having a cream cake every day to top up your calorie allowance won't do much good will it?

    It makes me re-assess what I have been doing as I have pared down my diet quite a bit as I thought I was aiming for 1400 cals. I must admit I was very confused when I followed the BMI calculator link on the 12 week food plan and found my recommended calorie allowance was between 1800 and 2080 per day!! I am in the early stages of all this, and still finding the best plan for me!

  • Hi Ruby, I am glad you found all this useful, it was a real eye-opener for me too and has kept me on the straight and narrow now for nearly a year.

    As for the extra calories, I would say they can be a mixture of healthy foods, but also allow yourself some treat if that helps your sanity. You want to be able to stick with it for as long as necessary and if that means you have a small choc bar a day, then that is OK. I still do that even now :)

  • hmm did the calculation and can eat 200 more calories a day....

  • LessToLose Wow! Excellent info, truly inspirational video and I'm gradually finding my way around the site too! All in all.....a well spent half hour and I've shifted up my calories from 1200 to 1500! I feel really motivated....thank you 😘

  • What an amazing young man.

  • Love that you used to be called Lottolose and now are LesstoLose and I enjoyed a lot of the replies too. Really helps motivate 😊

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