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TOPIC: How come everyone seems to be able to eat more than me?

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February 19, 2014 8:23 AM
I'm 23 years old, female, 5'3 and currently weigh around 116lbs. I'm struggling to figure out how much I should be eating, I'm trying to maintain my weight with the acceptance that I might gain some muscle weight due to weight lifting. Everyone who's into lifting on here is fully against 1200 calorie diets but I don't seem to be able to eat much more than that without gaining. I've tried 1600 for a few weeks and I ended up putting on a few pounds.

I'm really trying to increase my calories after being quite restrictive (800-1200 calories a day and not eating back my exercise calories) for a period of 4 months last year. I've always been around 116lbs but I put on a stone quite suddenly last year and quickly went on a diet and lost it within a few months and was back to 116lbs in July. The dieting damaged my relationship with food and I got a bit obsessive with calories. I ended up losing a bit more and maintaining it by heavily restricting and doing lots of cardio throughout the week to make up for binging over the weekend. Anyway after a few months of putting my body through that I finally decided that I wanted to go back to healthy lifestyle I had for years before all this started. I've been increasing my calories slowly since October and my body has pretty much gone back to normal but I don't seem to be able to eat any more than an average of 1500 calories a day without gaining weight and the clothes I've owned for years getting too tight. I exercise most days, either running or strength training (I've started lifting heavy to build up some muscle I probably destroyed during the restrictive period) I really want to eat more calories to help with the weight lifting but I just seem to be gaining fat instead. Everyone else seems to be able to eat more than 2000 calories when lifting and not gain any fat weight.

Can anyone shed any light on this? I don't want to restrict anymore but I also don't want to put on weight again!
Edited by bangles501 On February 19, 2014 8:25 AM
February 19, 2014 8:34 AM
when you come out of a calorie deficit you're going to gain scale weight even if you're eating at maintenance because while you're in a deficit your glycogen stores are chronically depleted...this is basically fluid...when you eat more, your glycogen stores are replenished and they can have a considerable amount of weight. When I'm fully depleted after a long ride or something I can weigh in around 178...lost a lot of glycogen and fluids on my ride. I usually have a big refeed after a ride like that and will jump to around 186 - 187 overnight...it's not fat...it's my fluids and glycogen being replenished. Eventually, it all evens out and I average around 182.

You're going to have a maintenance range, not one exact weight...don't obsess about the scale, it tells only a little tiny fraction of the bigger story. It is pretty typical to fluctuate weight day to day anywhere from 3-5 Lbs...you can't look at those as true gains of weight...you have to look at the overall trend.
February 19, 2014 8:41 AM
QUOTE:

You're going to have a maintenance range, not one exact weight...don't obsess about the scale, it tells only a little tiny fraction of the bigger story. It is pretty typical to fluctuate weight day to day anywhere from 3-5 Lbs...you can't look at those as true gains of weight...you have to look at the overall trend.


THIS!

The body can flux 2 to 6 pounds over the course of a single DAY. You will see increases, they won't necessarily be fat.
February 19, 2014 8:43 AM
QUOTE:

when you come out of a calorie deficit you're going to gain scale weight even if you're eating at maintenance because while you're in a deficit your glycogen stores are chronically depleted...this is basically fluid...when you eat more, your glycogen stores are replenished and they can have a considerable amount of weight. When I'm fully depleted after a long ride or something I can weigh in around 178...lost a lot of glycogen and fluids on my ride. I usually have a big refeed after a ride like that and will jump to around 186 - 187 overnight...it's not fat...it's my fluids and glycogen being replenished. Eventually, it all evens out and I average around 182.

You're going to have a maintenance range, not one exact weight...don't obsess about the scale, it tells only a little tiny fraction of the bigger story. It is pretty typical to fluctuate weight day to day anywhere from 3-5 Lbs...you can't look at those as true gains of weight...you have to look at the overall trend.


Excellent :) This.
February 19, 2014 9:09 AM
These are some selected quotes from your post that seem to conflict each other:

"Everyone who's into lifting on here is fully against 1200 calorie diets but I don't seem to be able to eat much more than that without gaining. I've tried 1600 for a few weeks and I ended up putting on a few pounds.

but I don't seem to be able to eat any more than an average of 1500 calories a day without gaining weight and the clothes I've owned for years getting too tight.

Everyone else seems to be able to eat more than 2000 calories when lifting and not gain any fat weight."

How many calories do you want to eat? You say you can't eat more than 1200, 1600 is too much, 1500 is your average...???? Do you WANT to be able to eat 2000 calories daily?
Have you run the numbers through the myfitnesspal program to get your daily total for your current weight for maintenance at your age, weight, and activity level?
Also do not overestimate activity level - working out does not automatically mean you are not sedentary if you spend most of your day sitting at a desk for example, and this program DEFINITELY overestimates workout calories. I eat back half my work out calories at most.
Also, I think there is a HUGE difference between men lifting weights and what they can eat and what women can. You eventually will burn more when you build muscle, but it takes time to build muscle, and building muscle ALSO means gaining weight. At your weight, you do not have fat to lose when you gain muscle, so you REALLY have to figure out what you REALLY want, and that may help you focus in on your maintenance plan. You will gain half a pound a month if you are lifting weights to build your body.Your body will FOR SURE change lifting weights. For the better, but your clothes will fit differently and you will gain weight if you gain muscle. If you are scared of this, you may begin to sabotage yourself.
Again, figuring out what you really want is important. Good luck.
  22268445
February 19, 2014 9:17 AM
Everyone is different so I'm always reluctant to just blindly accept that in maintenance I could eat 1600+ calories per day. Finally someone gave me advice I could work with. Each week add 200 calories to what you ate last week. If you lose at weigh in the next week, add another 200. If you gain, adjust accordingly. Do this until you find the point at which your weight starts to be consistent weekly.

Just an aside, I am not currently in maintenance, I'm merely making suggestions from my experience when I was in maintenance. I won't get into the reasons why my maintenance eventually failed.
  3629552
February 19, 2014 9:26 AM
As soon as I start doing ANY and I mean ANY weight training, I gain. My measurements get ever so slightly bigger too even if I maintain my caloric intake. It always seems to start coming down eventually and I wonder if the initial gain has a lot to do with water retention as my muscles repair themselves (which happens with any kind of repair or inflammation). I don't know, I find the whole lot really frustrating---eat more, eat less, figure out your TDEE, minus 20%---it's exhausting. I have decided to eat at my BMR (for me 1600) and if I'm famished I eat just a bit more (mostly fruit and veggies). I've only been at this for a couple of weeks (again, after a long setback) though and the weight is slowly, sloooowwwwly coming off. But there are still many fluctuations. Good luck!
  49912052
February 19, 2014 9:29 AM
bump bump bump
  18700402
February 19, 2014 9:36 AM
Bangles -
Judging from your post and your photos, your body lacks the amount of muscle you'd need to maintain your weight at 2k calories/day. It's frustrating to see others eat more and drop weight, but that's the science of the thing. A very muscular woman at your height can eat more than you, and STILL drop fat, because the muscle on her body burns more calories a day than the fat on yours does.
Please note - from your pictures, you are NOT FAT. I don't think you're even overweight. If I wanted to change the look of my body, were I you, I'd eat to GAIN. Eat in a caloric surplus, and put the scale away. Start a heavy weightlifting routine, and you'll see remarkable changes in your body if you stick with it for 12 weeks. YEAH. It takes time. Muscle isn't built in a day, or a week. Good luck to you on your journey!
February 19, 2014 9:40 AM
There are a couple of other factors to consider when trying to pinpoint what your calorie level should be. You may want to have your metabolic rate checked (most big gyms have the ability to help you with this). That will help you figure out what your body is currenlty doing on a normal and consistent basis. Your body type also plays a big role in this. For instance (endo-, ecto-, meso-morph). My wife and I are quite different in this regard. She is currenlty training for a fitness show and is currently consuming 3500 calories a day with a very high carb load to gain some mass. Anything less than that and she starts losing weight. I'm consuming about 2200 calories a day with a higher protein and fat ratio to maintain. I could never consume the amount of carbs she does even if I were training like her because my body just doesn't work like hers. I have to really watch my carb intake or I start gaining weight in unwanted amounts and places.
Bottom line is we are all different and there is no perfect calorie ratio that will work for everybody. Play around with your calorie amount and ratios (fat,carb, protein) until you figure out how your body reacts.
Hope this helps.
Edited by cliffshaw On February 19, 2014 9:40 AM
February 19, 2014 9:50 AM
It's water retention and glycogen replenishment, and that's totally normal. You can expect your weight to go up and down a bit when you start eating more and lifting heavier. You need to give it a little time and let your body settle down, although I know that's way easier said than done! After your body moves past the initial fluctuations, you'll probably find that you can maintain on more calories than you expect, especially if you're lifting. I would've never believed that I could stay within my 119-123 maintenence range at 2000+, but it turns out I can.

If you can be patient and ride out the fluctuations, stepping up your calories by 50-100 increments each week might work better than jumping up suddenly. Focusing on anything else other than the scale for the first few weeks will help -- measurements, how much you can lift, even having more energy because you're eating more. Either weigh in every day so you can see that you really are going up and down a lot, or don't weigh in at all and rely on measurements -- there's nothing worse than doing your once-weekly weigh in, not knowing that you're just at a high point in your normal fluctuations, and freaking out because you don't realize that tomorrow you'll probably be lower than that.
February 19, 2014 9:53 AM
QUOTE:

As soon as I start doing ANY and I mean ANY weight training, I gain. My measurements get ever so slightly bigger too even if I maintain my caloric intake. It always seems to start coming down eventually and I wonder if the initial gain has a lot to do with water retention as my muscles repair themselves (which happens with any kind of repair or inflammation). I don't know, I find the whole lot really frustrating---eat more, eat less, figure out your TDEE, minus 20%---it's exhausting. I have decided to eat at my BMR (for me 1600) and if I'm famished I eat just a bit more (mostly fruit and veggies). I've only been at this for a couple of weeks (again, after a long setback) though and the weight is slowly, sloooowwwwly coming off. But there are still many fluctuations. Good luck!


You answered your own question! That increase (in both "bloat" and scale) is water retention from your muscles trying to repair! You said it yourself; there are fluctuations. Don't let those fluctuations set you down a potentially damaging path.

Everything can be confusing, and I'm glad you're eating at least your BMR, but remember: BMR is the most basic of calories required to live. Even walking from one room to another has just added a few calories burned over that. Imagine how much more it becomes once you start doing day to day activities AND working out.

You, and OP, perhaps should try gradually upping calories and being both very consistent and very patient to see how your body truly reacts to further calories. 6+ weeks, instead of a few days or even a few weeks.
February 19, 2014 11:05 AM
I agree with other posters here and that you should really give it about 6 or so weeks to process before you get too frustrated with a plan not working. I'm also 5'3" and I'm in maintenance mode at the moment. My daily calorie goal is to net 1460 (which means I usually eat closer to 1700 or 1800 on days that I work out). You just really have to find out what works for you, but it takes the body a while to adjust to big changes.
Edited by MissLeelooDallas On February 19, 2014 11:06 AM
  50657040
February 19, 2014 11:25 AM
Thank you for all the helpful replies.

I'm not sure if it is the excess food weight, or my muscle stores because I saw that increase when I first started eating over 1200 calories a day in October, I also had water retention and gained a lot of fat around my belly (I think it was my body quickly storing what it could) which disappeared as I maintained over 1200 calories a day. I've been slowly increasing my calories to around 1500 a day since then and have gained weight and am now bigger than I was before this whole thing started. I'm not even looking at the scales, I'm going by the way my clothes fit. The scales actually say I've lost a pound but clothes I've had for years are getting really tight! I can also grab fat which wasn't there before...

I don't want to lose any weight, I know I don't need to, ok only a little weight so my clothes fit nicely again but surely that should be easy as I'm technically eating a calorie deficit! I just want to be the size I always have been. I want to be able to eat more than 1400 calories as I still feel like I'm restricting at this amount, stay the size I have been for years (apart from when I gained a stone last year), know that I'm giving my body enough fuel for the weight lifting I've started doing. I want to build more muscle rather than just be a skinny weakling that I was when I was restricting.

The calculators say that my BMR is 1400 and my TDEE with a sedentary lifestyle (i have a desk job) is 1600. I didn't include my exercise calories when using the calculators and I rarely eat any of my exercise calories back unless I can safely say I burned over 500 from an 8 mile run or something. So I should be able to eat 1600 easily and not gain weight because I exercise on top of that. My average calories for the last two weeks were 1500 a day and my clothes have slowly got tighter!
February 19, 2014 12:55 PM
bump bump
February 19, 2014 12:59 PM
Any or all of these:

1) People on here are in maintenance or surplus, not a calorie deficit.
2) They have more muscle than you.
3) They are more active than you.
4) They are taller than you.
February 19, 2014 1:07 PM
QUOTE:

I'm 23 years old, female, 5'3 and currently weigh around 116lbs. I'm struggling to figure out how much I should be eating, I'm trying to maintain my weight with the acceptance that I might gain some muscle weight due to weight lifting. Everyone who's into lifting on here is fully against 1200 calorie diets but I don't seem to be able to eat much more than that without gaining. I've tried 1600 for a few weeks and I ended up putting on a few pounds.

I'm really trying to increase my calories after being quite restrictive (800-1200 calories a day and not eating back my exercise calories) for a period of 4 months last year. I've always been around 116lbs but I put on a stone quite suddenly last year and quickly went on a diet and lost it within a few months and was back to 116lbs in July. The dieting damaged my relationship with food and I got a bit obsessive with calories. I ended up losing a bit more and maintaining it by heavily restricting and doing lots of cardio throughout the week to make up for binging over the weekend. Anyway after a few months of putting my body through that I finally decided that I wanted to go back to healthy lifestyle I had for years before all this started. I've been increasing my calories slowly since October and my body has pretty much gone back to normal but I don't seem to be able to eat any more than an average of 1500 calories a day without gaining weight and the clothes I've owned for years getting too tight. I exercise most days, either running or strength training (I've started lifting heavy to build up some muscle I probably destroyed during the restrictive period) I really want to eat more calories to help with the weight lifting but I just seem to be gaining fat instead. Everyone else seems to be able to eat more than 2000 calories when lifting and not gain any fat weight.

Can anyone shed any light on this? I don't want to restrict anymore but I also don't want to put on weight again!
Well your BMI is 20 so you could put on a bit of weight and still be very healthy. Along with some exercise your bosy will look good. Why are you obsessed with the 116 pound Mark? As your body will naturally vary from day to day it will change anyway. Also clothes wise have you thought that the clothes are not too tight because you are fatter but too tight because you got them when you were an unhealthy weight? I wish you luck with your goals but try and keep the whole picture in mind not just the small numbers
  36664637
February 19, 2014 1:20 PM
Bangles:
Your lament sounds a lot like mine. I am always whining about why can't I eat like a normal person w/o ballooning up? I'm trying to lose weight right now, but 9 years ago when I was your age I was maintaining about 115 lbs (at 5'3') on a measly 900 cals a day. And I don't mean net. I was not eating back my exercise cals which I was not bothering to calculate although I was doing cardio and pilates 3-4 days a week. (Frankly, I was exhausted all the time.) So you are not alone! Once I relaxed my very restrictive diet (after getting married; so cliché) and started eating like a normal person, I gained weight pretty fast and now I'm struggling to lose it again. I don't know if that extended period of deprivation damaged my metabolism because before that I wasn't keeping track of my calories. I suspect it may have had some part, but I think I was also just born with a total crap metabolism. I'm eating 1200 cals a day now and running and weight lifting and my weight loss is depressingly slow. I've had my thyroid hormone levels checked twice because there is a lot of thyroid disease in my family and I have several of the other symptoms of hypothyroidism, and although my levels are on the low end, they are not low enough for any doctor to be willing to treat it.
All that to say, it seems everyone's metabolism is different. It is definitely NOT FAIR. Being short (sorry, but I consider myself short) and female doesn't help matters. But if you have many of the other symptoms of hypothyroidism you might want to talk to your doctor about it.
Edited by atcross On February 19, 2014 1:22 PM
February 19, 2014 1:32 PM
My BFF believes that it isn't calories but what makes up those calories that determines weight loss or gain. She has show me a handful of articles that have led me to believe that it is possible that our understanding of calories and the relation to weight loss and gain may not be correct/complete.
  53110092
February 19, 2014 1:48 PM
QUOTE:

My BFF believes that it isn't calories but what makes up those calories that determines weight loss or gain. She has show me a handful of articles that have led me to believe that it is possible that our understanding of calories and the relation to weight loss and gain may not be correct/complete.


Nope. (Barring medical conditions of course)
  2303387
February 19, 2014 1:48 PM
Ok, I did a quick google and your BMR is around 1350 Calories ( the amount you need to stay alive) So your calorie day goal should be around 1500-1600, depending on your age.

http://www.bmi-calculator.net/bmr-calculator/

You can add your age and then you will get a better guess on how many calories you need. Looking at your photo, you might also be hitting the age where you body is going to change how it proportions fat. Usually for women in late teens/early 20's. Are you wearing womens or juniors? Becasue if you are in juniors it is unrealistic to expect that you will able to continue in those sizes..sorry. I would move to a womens 2 and see how those fit you. If you have any questions feel free to message me. I was a 3-5 for most of hs ..then suddenly in college had to wear a 2 b/c juniors no longer fit. 5'2 so I know the pain.
  13994692
February 19, 2014 2:11 PM
This group would be awesome for you....http://www.myfitnesspal.com/groups/home/3817-eat-more-to-weigh-less
  44098867
February 19, 2014 2:19 PM
QUOTE:

Bangles:
Your lament sounds a lot like mine. I am always whining about why can't I eat like a normal person w/o ballooning up? I'm trying to lose weight right now, but 9 years ago when I was your age I was maintaining about 115 lbs (at 5'3') on a measly 900 cals a day. And I don't mean net. I was not eating back my exercise cals which I was not bothering to calculate although I was doing cardio and pilates 3-4 days a week. (Frankly, I was exhausted all the time.) So you are not alone! Once I relaxed my very restrictive diet (after getting married; so cliché) and started eating like a normal person, I gained weight pretty fast and now I'm struggling to lose it again. I don't know if that extended period of deprivation damaged my metabolism because before that I wasn't keeping track of my calories. I suspect it may have had some part, but I think I was also just born with a total crap metabolism. I'm eating 1200 cals a day now and running and weight lifting and my weight loss is depressingly slow. I've had my thyroid hormone levels checked twice because there is a lot of thyroid disease in my family and I have several of the other symptoms of hypothyroidism, and although my levels are on the low end, they are not low enough for any doctor to be willing to treat it.
All that to say, it seems everyone's metabolism is different. It is definitely NOT FAIR. Being short (sorry, but I consider myself short) and female doesn't help matters. But if you have many of the other symptoms of hypothyroidism you might want to talk to your doctor about it.


I don't think people on here take into account that our bodies change as we get older. The only people I see with the SAME bodies they had as teenagers were those body builders. Can't we just - accept our bodies and allow them to change and redefine fit as something other than " I want to stay the same size I was when I was young"?? You're not young anymore. We all have to change, it's life.
February 19, 2014 3:14 PM
i am 5ft1 and 118lbs I average around 1530-1650 cals, and up to 1800-2000 on days i work out days to build muscle. After doing this for a month and a half, i have mostly maintained my weight, i am now at 118.6lbs, the scale varied so much during the past 2 months, this has to do with water weight, glycogen, and other factors relating to digestion. i highly doubt you gained weight, you need to consider those factors
Edited by rosanna421 On February 19, 2014 3:16 PM
February 19, 2014 3:18 PM
Any time you increase your calories from a number below maintenance, you will gain a few pounds in glycogen and water. You need to sit at a particular calorie level for a while before you can really tell if you gained FAT.

Edit; cwolfman beat me to it -- in my case I can easily put on 9lbs in a day when I come out of deficit.
Edited by ironanimal On February 19, 2014 3:19 PM

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