Home Exercise 101Fat Loss Q&A Wednesday: I’m Not Getting Enough Calories!

Q&A Wednesday: I’m Not Getting Enough Calories!

by Erika Nicole Kendall

Q: I struggle with going over the 1k marker even though I know for my activity level I should be at 2700 to maintain. Not only that…I don’t have very good eating habits. When I can, I’ll buy all the fruits and veggies in the world…And that’s all I’ll eat aside from an occasional meat. But these things aren’t exactly packin’ in calories. And when I’m totally broke, I’ll chow down on MREs. Yeah, these things are horrible to eat leisurely because they’re made for dire situations and all that…

Not to mention I’m trying to slim down…And, that’s not really happening >.> I mean, I feel my increase in strength but I don’t see the physical results.

I’m all sorts of f’ed up. So, what am I supposed to do?

Don’t worry – I understand.

In “What Happens When You Don’t Eat Enough,” I wrote the following:

Let me explain. Though the above passage relates specifically to emotional eating, it still explains how the body approaches the feeling of famine. The body slows down on its expenditure of energy. I didn’t – at first – acknowledge a tired feeling… but I absolutely felt a boost of energy when I added to my eating schedule.

And yes – I gave myself an eating schedule! I packed away an apple, a pear, an orange, grapefruit slices – something – so that I could have something to bite into whenever my alarm went off.

Yes. I set an alarm. Whenever it went off, it said “Dig in, baby!” and that’s exactly what I did. After that… that “hungry” feeling was completely foreign to me. My energy levels increased. My weight loss couldn’t stall. I had a regular energy supply coming in, so my body could feel more comfortable with burning off energy. From here, calorie counting could actually produce better results. (If I’m not burning energy, any calories I take in will be stored as fat, remember?)

There’s also the issue of nourishing my body throughout the day. I wouldn’t go 6 or 7 hours without feeding an infant, right? Why? Because they need nourishment for their bodies to grow and function properly.

How is the adult body any different? We need not only the constant energy source, but we need the nourishment! Our bodies cannot function as well as it should if its only working on limited resources. We absolutely must eat… and nothing’s wrong with eating a little more often!

No one’s talking about full meals – cucumber slices, carrot sticks, apples, pears, mangoes (I am notorious for slaughtering a whole mango), cashews, sunflower seeds… whatever. Just a little something to tide you over. If you’re not hungry, nothing should be compelling you to overeat. If you’re eating whole foods, nothing should be leaving you so starving that you overeat until the next meal. If you’re eating a little bit regularly (hungry or not), your body can function properly and it’ll start to believe that it can safely release the fat stored on your body…. since it believes that it will get a regular supply of energy (calories) again.

In short… this, again, goes back to what I believe is the primary principle of weight loss. Neglecting to nourish yourself is neglecting your health and well-being.
Excerpted from What Happens When You Don’t Eat Often Enough | A Black Girl’s Guide To Weight Loss

First things first. Clean up your eating habits. This isn’t that hard for the average person, but as military personnel (2700 calories? MREs? Just a guess.) it depends upon how much you rely on that military food to get by. Here’s hoping you don’t, because that stuff is terrible. It might even be why you’re eating so little. Add adequate fruits and veggies to your diet, and start phasing out the things that you know are problematic or simply wrong. Military rations are notoriously processed, so you’ve simply got to do your best.

That being said, I’m always amazed by people who eat very very little and are extremely active. I tried it. I can’t do it. I’m angry, I’m worn down, I’m tired, I’m easily frustrated and I don’t want to bother thinking because thinking takes too much damn energy.

I’m also convinced that people who manage to live on a diet with so few calories are pretty serious refined carb cutters. I mean, once you get down to the brass tacks of what you need, there’s virtually nothing in the way of vitamins and minerals that’s available in a refined carb that isn’t available elsewhere (read: fruit, veggie or meat.) They’re not that essential… that is, until you get to a point where you need to add a little heft to your diet and eating another four cups of broccoli isn’t cost-effective… or time-efficient. Let’s just say that I’m assuming you’re pretty good at passing on the bread. I’m okay with that.

If the aim of the game is adding calories to your diet, why not make them calories that can be enjoyed? My first suggestion is always to add more quality protein to your diet, especially as an active (and possibly weight-lifting) individual. Beans and various rices have been staples in the diets of countless cultures around the world, not because they’re uniquely nutritious but because on top of adding a lil’ extra protein, they’re also pretty damned filling.

I’d also explore playing with different fruits. Pineapple slices? Winning. Watermelon? Winning. Dried cranberries? Why not? Give yourself some leeway. Keep tabs on how many calories you’re adding, so you can have a general understanding of your regular intake and how you’re altering it.

It’s also an opportunity to get creative. I have a watermelon, black olive and feta cheese salad that I eat and loooooove. The majority of the calories come from the feta cheese, and that’s okay with me… because I like my feta.

Adding calories to your diet is an opportunity to explore and discover new quality sources for what you need. And while it’s easy to say “eat moar brokly!!” it’s also important to tell you to get into quality sources of protein, and – if you are a pretty active lifestyler, presumably so because of the mention of MREs – nutritious sources of energy.

What suggestions do you have for adding additional calories to your diet? Those of you in the military, or relying on government food (grade school cafeterias, shoot… even collegiate cafeterias ’cause that’s sometimes “struggle food,” too), how do you clean up your diets and get adequate calories?

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Fitempress August 24, 2011 - 1:55 PM

I’m having this challenge as well! When i’m finished logging my calories I don’t reach my targeted 1700 per day most days I barely make it to 1500 and this i with me increasing my number of meals! Then too i’m kinda discouraged about tracking my calories cause quite a bit of the things we eat here on island are not provided for on the site so some days i just don’t bother to count.

Anyways in an effort to up the calories i’ve added more and more fruits especially those that are i season here(mangoes guavas etc) and i’m gonna try doing some stewed beans as added proteins for my meals. I wanted to add the greek yogurt but I haven’t seen it here in the supermarket as yet.

Absolutely love ur site and a couple of ur recipes are on my to do list when i’m ready to mix it up for back to school!

BlackBerry Molasses August 24, 2011 - 4:18 PM

My lawd… I think this might be my issue. But its hard when…. never mind. No excuses.

And I’m one of those scary people. I can go a whole day without eating… or not eating enough and STILL go run 3-4 miles in the park.

I’m not understanding myself at all right now. Not one bit.

rae August 24, 2011 - 9:11 PM

OK…if the letter writer is military like me, my first question is if she has access to a DFAC? If so, the best bet is almost always going to be the salad bar and the grilled chicken breast from the short order line. A lot of times the salad bars will be stocked with all kinds of fresh sliced veggies (including mushrooms, peppers, broccoli, etc) and yogurts and cottage cheese. I can usually get a huge salad and a chicken breast for around $3. Bonus points if your DFAC has a baked potato line. Grab a potato and load it up with fresh veggies and salsa…in my experience, I’ve only ever been charged the price of the potato (toppings are free).

And for a convenient way to boost her calorie intake, I’d recommend nuts and raisins (make your own trail mix or have family/friends send a care package if deployed). A bag of almonds, peanuts, walnuts, etc fit easily into cargo pockets and are fairly easy to eat in almost any setting.

Since it’s summer, if you’re stateside, ask if any coworkers have a garden. Lots of times people have more ripe produce than they can eat and are willing to share just so the extra fruits/veggies don’t spoil.

Hope that helps 🙂

alicisa August 24, 2011 - 9:37 PM


Thank You!!! This is exactly the kind of information I need to hear. I seem to have a big problem with this. This will really help me in the future.

Shante August 25, 2011 - 3:59 PM

I say healthy fats like avocado, unrefined coconut oil and flax oil. Adding flax seeds and or wheat germ to cereal and yogurt. Green smoothies are a fun and extremely healthy way to get extra calories. Peanut butter with banana chips, apples or celery. Hummus and pita chips or fresh veggies. Homemade protein powders and shakes. These are all great ways to get more calories and they are simple and easy.

Cody May 29, 2012 - 4:20 PM

Alright, I think I am having the same problem. I am 5’4″ish, 170 lbs (about ~16 of those pounds are from my breasts, no kidding) and I am desperately trying to lose weight. I’ve dramatically changed my diet in the last month and I am loving it! I am working out 30 – 45 minutes a night, running on the elliptical. I range from 2ish+ miles to 5, depending on my energy level at the time. But, at the end of the day, I can’t get enough calories. I have no time in the morning and grab a Luna bar (180 cal), I eat My Fit Foods for lunch (~220 cals) and I carb up after my work out with a lean cusine (~300 cals). I snack on maybe one luna bar before my work out. That still, as you see, is not enough– but I promise I am getting completely full with my diet and am feeling good. I’m not sure if my stomach has shrunk or I’m just storing on to my body fat- but I fear a plateau. I want to lose around 10+ more pounds in the next 8 weeks, so I need a solution! Snacking in fruits and nuts more during the day is the answer?

Kalimah May 29, 2013 - 10:28 AM

What if you are in a deployed enviroment and everyday the items are readily accessible i.e. fruits and veggies?

Erika Nicole Kendall May 30, 2013 - 12:56 AM

You’ve got to talk to somebody and see if you can get a little extra. Either way, *salutes* stay strong the best way you can.

Kami July 10, 2013 - 8:23 AM

In the past few three days I did the calculation for my BMR. After I calculated the activity level Im allowed 2300 calories but I minus three hundred calories to lose weight. It is hard for me to eat up to 1900 calories because I feel guilty. Many dietitians want me to eat 1200 calories. now im doing five days a week.

Erika Nicole Kendall July 11, 2013 - 10:21 AM

That’s so absurd. I don’t know how much you weigh, but dieticians who think it’s MERELY calories in, calories out will have you eating squat, and once your body has adjusted its mass and all of its systems to being able to function on 1200 damn calories and you stop losing weight, your dietician is going to then tell you “You’re eating more calories than you’re reporting” and blame YOU for your inability to continue losing, as opposed to their ineptitude.

Gosh, that’s frustrating.

Kami July 22, 2013 - 9:00 AM

Yeah Erika I went down 15 pounds since these past five months. My first focus was working on clean eating. The past five months I been working on my fitness. Now I go to dietician who focused on clean eating and does not want me to starve myself which helps alot. I went from 168 to 152 at the height of 5.6 and I still want my body fat and weight to drop down. Now I have to recalculate my BMR. Thanks for the support.

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