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how do i increase my calorie intake without gaining weight?

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ok... so, for the past 3 to 4 months i've been eating about 1,120 calories a day (yes, i know that's not enough!). my question is, how do i increase my calorie intake without gaining the weight i've already lost back? should i start by adding 50-100 calories a week? or something like that?

by the way i'm moderately active. i dance 3 times a week and take walks quite a bit. i'm 5'4" and 117 pounds on a small frame. 

i know what i've been doing hasn't been that healthy (i should be eating AT LEAST 1,200 calories a day), but i would like to start raising my calories, thus my question.

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You are at a healthy weight for your height but you should be able to maintain this weight through eating a normal amount of calories, which would be about 1700 minimum for some one moderately active and at your height.

The longer you drag this out the more you will damage your metabolism. It sounds like it has adjusted to a restrictive calorie intake so the quicker you can just do it and reach a normal amount of calories the quicker you can maintain on a normal amount.

You will probably gain some weight initially, but this is usually the extra food and water weight - food weighs something so extra food will weigh more in your body.

I would say that it is safe to increase by at least 300 calories in low bulk foods such as healthy fats, 300 calories is just an extra hand full of nuts a day. Easy to manage.

After a 1 - 2 weeks you can then increase another 200 calories to take your intake up to about 1700 calories.

Just remember, that any initial weight gain is worth it in the long run, as the sooner you start eating normally the sooner you can have a normal metabolism

Just follow the simple "calories in, calories out" mantra.  If you want to increase your caloric intake without gaining weight, then exercise more.  Lets say you want to bring it up by 300 calories, then just make sure you burn 300 more calories during the day.  That way your deficit stays the same (or to make sure that you come out even during the day), but you don't gain weight over time.


That being said, you are right to take it slowly.  Get used to eating more, and exercising a little more.  Over time you can find a balance that is good for you body and mind.


Best of luck!

I went from eating a very unhealthy 800 calories to now 1500 in about a month... At first I put on 5 pounds (for about 2 weeks) and lost them back gradually. Now at 1400-1500, I'm trying to keep a deficit of 500 calories a day and the weight leaves gradually... I'm 5'1 and 125. I upped my calories by a 100 each day in order to achieve 1500... The trick is: you'll gain weight in the beginning: DON'T FREAK OUT!!!!! even better: don't weigh yourself (I wish I had followed my own advice because for 2 weeks with 5 lbs heavier I was miserable). Good luck! 

I totally agree with rolucie92, i went for a while on 300-400 calories a day. It was the stupidest thing i couldve done once i researched the effects of not eating enough calories. Needless to say i was scared outta my mind to gain any weight, i was at 125lbs and i knew increasing calories would increase weight, but i decided to just go for it, the long term effects were not worth it so i didnt do it gradually.the next day i made myself eat 1500 cal (eat calorie dense foods!!!otherwise you'll feel so stuffed!) a couple of days later i weighed myself out of curiosity and yes i was up 2-3lbs. i kept it up, two weeks after changing my calorie intake i reweighed and i was back at my 125lbs eating 1500cal. trust me the change is sooooo worth it, i know it can be so scary to think of increasing, but you will be EXTREMELY glad you did! I know i am, plus the weight fluctuation wasnt even noticeable, all my clothes still fit like it should. dont even get me started on how bad it feels not to eat enough.

I would say to expect weight gain.

I was on a lower calorie diet and now for about 3 months I upped my calories and I have seen a 9lb gain as of today. The weight hasnt come off, I run every single day...still waiting i suppose.  Just a forewarning. Ultimately, it wasnt good for me to eat that little so maybe we have to accept the weight gain as a sconsequence of our previous actions--but i, and prob you--dont want to :(

good thread, but frustrated11 kind of puts a dent in the whole calorie increase-weight subsides theory...

i'm going to be honest, chances are you will gain a little bit of temporary weight. you've been pretty much been starving yourself.. so when you start consuming a normal amount of calories, your body will retain water while it adjusts to the new intake. you'll probably feel bloated and uncomfortable, but i promise you it will pass. don't freak out about it, it won't be fat weight and will go away once your intake stabalizes. don't weigh yourself too often during the process because it might discourage you. instead, focus on staying active and giving your body the energy it needs to keep you healthy.

i suggest you start adding calories slowly.. like 100-200 a week. cycle them while you do this, to make the transition easier. for example, maybe the first week you can try eating 1100, 1200, 1300, 1100, 1200, 1300, 1100, etc etc.. and then the next week you drop the 1100 and try something like 1200, 1300, 1400, 1200, 1300, 1400, 1200 and then drop 1200.. do this until you reach a healthy range and then stay there.

remember, it's going to take a while for your body to trust you again. be patient and appreciate all it's done for you even though you've been hurting it.

good luck! Smile

I have the same problem.  I recovered from an eating disorder, and gained back all the weight that I lost (about 30 pounds).  However, I am still not eating the amount of calories that I should.  I eat probably around 1,000 to 1,300 a day, but based on my excercise I should be consuming 2,300.  I don't understand how I could eat that much, though, because I am always full by the end of the day.  In fact, I feel like I am overeating because I am so stuffed.  It could be that my metabolism is still low, but I am scared to up my calorie intake in case it makes me gain even more weight.  Advice?

Original Post by juicyglosser:

I have the same problem.  I recovered from an eating disorder, and gained back all the weight that I lost (about 30 pounds).  However, I am still not eating the amount of calories that I should.  I eat probably around 1,000 to 1,300 a day, but based on my excercise I should be consuming 2,300.  I don't understand how I could eat that much, though, because I am always full by the end of the day.  In fact, I feel like I am overeating because I am so stuffed.  It could be that my metabolism is still low, but I am scared to up my calorie intake in case it makes me gain even more weight.  Advice?

 I have that same problem! I had an eating disorder too (lost about 30 pounds) and went to treatment and gained most of it back. While I was there, I have no idea how many calories I was eating (I just know it had to be a lot), but now I eat about 1,000-1,300 calories a day. My profile says I need about 1,900, but I am afraid to do that much because I don't want to gain any weight. I didn't know if the thing on my profile was just wrong or if my metabolism never got back to normal or what. I really liked the advice of cycling caloric intake throughout the week and gradually increasing the amount (1100, 1200, 1300, etc) Maybe by doing that and by exercising, our metabolism will get back to normal and will be eating the amount we are supposed to. As far as getting too full, increasing in small amounts will help with this, but try eating stuff that isn't so filling and dense but low in calories. I know I eat a lot of things that are really filling (fruits, veggies, oatmeal, whole grains, lean protein, etc) but lower in calories. Maybe adding a little olive oil or side of regular dressing to your veggies or adding a beverage (juice, milk, smoothie, cocoa, whatever you like) to your meal instead of water. This will keep you from feeling too full, but increase your calorie intake. And from personal experience, I know this may be A LOT easier said than done, but try doing it gradually and that might help with some of the anxieties as well.

I have been struggling with raising my calorie intake too. I have struggled with numerous issues in the past, )eating disorders, thyroid problems, weight gain) and have been at a pretty consistent weight that i am happy with for the past 6months. The only thing is i have only been eating about 600 calories a day and i'm worried my metabolism will slow down again (i also work out every day and burn at least 400 calories) The last few days i've been following yall's post and took the recommendation of adding calories slowly so i started having 900 a day for the past three days..anyways, all this is to say is that on 900 calories i'm really hungry and really exhausted, but when i ate 600 i wasn't really hungry that much at all. Does anyone know why this is? Also, if i drink a ton of water will it prevent my body from holding on to the extra food? And how can I tell when I have reached a good calorie amount for my body?

you're hungrier now because you're still technically starving yourself and your body is trying to tell you that 900 is still not enough, it doesn't want to "settle for 900" when it senses an increase and an opportunity to get the fuel that it needs. normally when we increase our calories after being really restrictive our appetite increases for a while until we are consuming the appropriate amount on a regular basis. no, water will not cause your body to not hold on to the extra food but it will flush out toxins and reduce bloating. you will be able to tell when you've reached a good intake when you are eating for maintenance, you are no longer lethargic, and you aren't hungry all the time. Don't be fooled into thinking that hunger is the absolute sign of an appropriate calorie intake, because our bodies are very complex and we can become accustomed to starvation to prevent death, and our appetite may be reduced but this doesn't mean that a starvation diet is appropriate for us. I hope this helps!! :)

yes thanks that was really helpful! I guess my biggest problem is that i don't trust my body yet and i'm PETRIFIED of gaining weight. I know i should expect a few pounds because of the increase in food, but when should i expect it to taper off and do you think it will come off again once i balance everything out? How long does all this usually take?

there is no real answer to this question because everyone body adjusts differently. your body will normalize and things will balance out but when and how long it will take will vary from person to person, it could take as a few as a couple weeks and as long as a couple months. it's worth it though if you're wanting to be healthy and at your goal weight for the long term. just get it over with and start eating the appropriate level. you know how to lose weight, so once you restore your metabolism, this won;t be a problem if you've gained a few pounds. it's more important that you are healthy and your metabolism is working properly, otherwise you are setting yourself up for failure. :)

So i just finished my week on 900 cals and i feel so much better already. I gained some weight at first but i think i've already started the descent back to where i was. I plan on going up to somewhere from 1000 to 1200 this week and i was wondering if anyone found that they had an easier time increasing after the initial "shock" to the system? haven't really "shocked your system" i am not at all undermining your progress, but at 900 calories this is hardly a shock to your system..increasing 300 calories for 1 week is great but to really restore your metabolism and minimize the gain you might want to consider larger jumps so that your body knows food is coming and doesn't gain so much on so few calories. I thought I would gain a TON of weight because for roughly 6 months i would eat no more than 1200 calories, with 1200 calories being an occassional high day. i am not eating over 2000 calories and barely gaining which i think has to do with me just getting it over with as opposed to having my body cling to every single calorie when consuming 1200, it realized that a consistent 1500, then 1800....etc. was coming and I was able to gain less on a lot more calories. does this make any sense? great job, and stay committed. I would suggest bumping it to 1200 for 2-3 days, then 1600 for 2-3 days, then 2000 for 2-3 days, then 2500 until you gain enough to be healthy. the entire increase process shouldn't take more than 2 weeks. If you want to make it simple...just do this, add 2 tbsp of peanut butter and 1 cup chocolate milk for the first increase, keep eating this and add 1/4 cup nuts for the second increase, for the third increase add 1 avocado, and the last increase add 1 tbsp olive oil, 1 cup full fat yogurt, and some granola. Very simple and not a lot of bulk whatsoever. I hope this helps!! :)

This thread really got to me!  I have been maintaining on about 1200 or 1300 calories for a little while.  I'm 5'4" and 110-112 lbs (depending on time of day and water retention) with a medium frame.  I am not young either (I'm  46 years old and a diabetic; sorry for intruding), but this thread was really enlightening to me.  I run for an hour every morning and according to the burn-meter am supposed to be eating around 1600-2000 a day depending on what else I do with my exercise routine.  I know I need to slowly increase my calorie intake, and honestly, I didn't even realize I was nervous about doing that!  I am neurotic about what I eat regarding fats and the like, and had no idea I could be causing myself harm.  I need to follow some of the good advice given here about increasing my calorie intake.  Thanks Pickle5! 

Since yall have been so supportive i thought i'd post another update. I've been on about 1200-1300 for about 5 days and i know this still isnt enough but i feel like my muscles are getting really bulky. I've reduced my workouts to compensate but it doesnt seem to make a difference. I'm at a healthy weight for my height so I really don't want to gain any more. Has anyone else had this problem with their muscles bulking? (it's mostly my thigh muscles) and ideally i want to keep increasing intake to get up to a more normal amount but I'm nervous now!

keep in mind that this early on it's probably due to some water retention (TTOM perhaps?).  your muscles will bulk a little over time if you are doing a lot of weight lifting, but in such a short amount of time with such a small increase in calories, it's probably water.  Drink some water with lemon (I know it sounds counterproductive), and that will help to flush out your system.  That might help in the short term.  In the long term, just be patient and don't stress out about the little stuff.  If it helps, take pictures of yourself, once a week.  Those will tell you (with an unbiased opinion), whether or not you've really gained any significant mass. 



your story has given me alot of hope.

I recently went to the extremes you did, aand I just want to mantain my weight now.

I am so so scared of gaining the weight back. I tried so hard to lose it.

I could totally handle an unnoticible 2 to 3 pounds, as apposed to the 10 pounds that take 4 months to go away I have read in past blogs..


I can only hope my road to recovery goes as well and fast as yours did!

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