Is it possible to gain fat even if you’re not eating enough for your body? There is a very, very simple answer to this question and you will not like it - no, you can't get fat if you're giving less energy to your body than it needs. Here's why!
You can swear that you eat almost nothing, and not only you don’t lose weight, but unfortunately you even gain weight… slowly, but steadily. So, what is it happening? What is the reason for being so deprived and feeling hungry and miserable all the time without seeing results?
Eating a very, very small amount of food and putting on fat every time you decide to take just an extra bite, could be devastating and discouraging.
What options you have left?
To restrict yourself for the rest of your life, to feel unhappy and unpleased with your body and to accept that this is how your body works?
To learn the bitter truth about fat loss if you don't know it and to accept the consequences of your little, tiny everyday decisions?
“But I eat sooo little, I am gaining weight even when I’m drinking water or when I’m just breathing.”
I hear this all the time!
No, you cannot gain weight if you eat absolutely nothing and drink only water. Regardless of your age, weight, and health.
You’re probably thinking: “This girl doesn’t know what she’s talking about. I know MY body!”. Yes, sure you know yourself best, but I need to explain to you how fat loss works, because I want you to make an informed choice. What you will decide, it's only up to, because you're going to live with the outcome.
I know that you have searched the Internet and you have found many explanations to the problem.
Reasons for Not Losing The Weight According to People "Who Eat Too Little And Gain Fat"
Eating late in the evening
Eating too much carbohydrate rich foods
Lack of sleep
Eating too little – oh, that’s my favorite!
Starvation mode (read here about Starvation Mode!)
I DISAGREE with the above listed reasons. None of these things will make you gain fat if you’re eating less food than your body needs.
Therefore, the answer to the question “Can you eat too little and gain fat” is a definite No, if by the "too little" part is meant a "calorie deficit".
So, what is the problem causing you weight gain even though you’re eating too little? I have listed some possible scenarios:
1. You Believe in Starvation Mode
People still believe that there is a such thing as starvation mode making them gain fat, although they are eating too little. If you want to learn more why there is no such thing as starvation mode, read this article.
There is one law that applies to ALL of us no matter what:
Weight Loss = Calories In < Calories Out
You should eat less than you burn. All comes down to energy balance, which I also explain here.
Even if you have a hormonal imbalance, you’ll still be losing weight if you eat less calories than you burn.
Go on. Keep reading...
You might feel more tired, you might feel hungrier, your lean body mass and fat proportions might be influenced by your hormones, but you will be losing weight if you eat in a deficit.
Initially there might be even some water retention even due to stress and the scale might not move, but as you continue eating in a calorie deficit, your body will tap into your fat stores and soon you will start seeing changes.
2. You Eyeball Your Food
If you haven’t tracked your food at least for a while using a kitchen scale and measuring cups, eyeballing your food won’t be successful.
You might be really surprised how much calories you’re consuming once you begin to measure your food.
If you’re saying you’re still not losing or even gaining fat while you’re eating very little, this means you’re eating your calories for the day and still feeling hungry.
Do you know that a study has shown that majority of people tend to overestimate their physical activity and underestimate their food intake?
You might think you’re having a 100 g steak with 200 g potatoes and only a spoonful of olive oil, while the case might be 150 g steak, 300 g potatoes and even 3-4 tablespoons of oil. The difference between the total calories might cost you the deficit and if this is the case for every of your meals, you might end up in a calorie surplus.
Using a kitchen scale will give you a better overview of the quantities of food you actually consume, and you might be surprised of the result.
In addition to this, I would advise you to start keeping a food journal at least for a couple of weeks and make sure you write down every single bite, candy, lick of any spoon before washing it. When too few calories are concerned, then you have to be careful where you spend them.
Clean eating can also make you fat
And remember “clean” food also has calories and the only thing that can make you fat is eating too much calories for your body. So, choosing a whole avocado with raw cocoa and dates might not be a superior choice to only one small piece of chocolate.
3. You Choose Calorie Dense Foods
If you don’t track your food, food becomes relative. You had one bite, one cookie, one soup.
Different food has different qualities. Processed food is less nutrient dense than real food, fats contain a lot more calories than any other food and they’re super dense.
Think about peanut butter. 1 tablespoon contains about 100 calories, but how many people can go with just one? If you’re eating peanut butter straight from the jar, you might have 2-3 really big tablespoons that will immediately leave your calorie budget with around 300-400 calories less.
Do you know that you can have a really nice portion of cooked meat, with a big side dish and a dressing for the same calories? This meal would give you protein, fats and carbs and would live you full for much longer due to fiber intake and balancing all the macros.
What are your food choices
Do you have a caramel spice latte with whip cream and a whole wheat muffin for breakfast?
Or just one salad for lunch (with all kind of vegetables, baked honey halloumi cheese and some amazing dressing) followed by another latte for digestion?
Tell me, how often do you have some treats in your office – a birthday cake, some local bakery from someone’s holiday abroad or doughnuts for the whole team, because you have done a great job?
There is nothing wrong with eating all these foods. The thing is they don’t have enough nutrition value and leave you hungry for the rest of the day. And when you get home you’re starving and wolf down all the food you have at home or again have something small like a few spoons of Nutella.
Although the volume of these foods is relatively small, yet they contain a lot of calories and aren’t satiating enough. Same applies with liquid foods, smoothies and freshly squeezed juices. Liquid food needs less time for digestion and will probably make you feel hungry sooner.
Then, imagine that 3-4 oranges are needed for 1 big glass of orange juice. You would never eat 3-4 oranges in a row, then why would you drink them? It’s fresh, it’s healthy, it contains a lot of micronutrients, but less insoluble fiber and is far more concentrated. So, you literally ingest a huge number of calories that don’t stay in your stomach for long…
not all calories are the same
Calories don’t necessarily make you feel full. It’s the quality and combination of foods.
Foods rich in protein make you feel full for longer, combining them with a small amount of fats and a moderate amount of carbs will give you a balance meal, enough for you to feel okay until your next meal. If you have difficulty controlling your appetite during the day, then it might be better for you to choose to have a dessert in the evening and to have more balanced meals throughout the day.
If you’re worried about eating in the evening, you might want to have a look in this article.
4. You Really Eat That Little and Don't Lose Fat
This is also an option.
You measure every single bite, slice, drop of olive oil.
You make very wise choices, prefer volume foods, you even prefer to chew your fats by eating mostly avocado, olives, nuts and to have a protein rich diet. That’s great! You lost some weight.
Your workout regularly, try to walk more although you have a sedentary job. But your fat loss has just stalled for a while, and the scale isn’t moving the slightest.
Because your calories are unsustainably low. Let’s say 1200 (I used to do that! It’s crazy!) and you feel ravenous hungry, causing you trouble falling asleep and have no energy to workout or to stay active. It’s almost impossible to eat up to this number of calories.
PS: Do you know that 1200 calories is below BMR (the energy your body needs to keep you alive) numbers for majority of people?!
Obviously, you don’t have any room left for decreasing calories or for moving more throughout the day.
Then, you have to choose another approach.
And this approach freaks women out!
But it works.
And it’s called Reverse Dieting.
What is Reverse Dieting?
Reverse dieting is just the opposite of dieting. It’s a slow process of building up calories so you can teach your body to function properly with more food without causing you excessive fat gain.
This is no bulking, ladies!
If you have reached the point where you can’t create deficit in any way, then it’s time for you to build up your calories sloooowly and conservatively. And you will almost immediately gain fat!
I know eating more food sounds insane, but please read my article on reverse dieting and understand why this will help you fix your metabolism FOREVER.
Reverse dieting is an investment in your metabolism.
By doing it you could build up your daily calorie intake by up to 1000 calories or more without adding extra fat!
Don’t you want to eat 2200 calories instead of 1200?
Your workouts will be fueled enough to progress, and your hunger levels will regulate. Progressing in the gym, feeling totally satisfied with your nutrition, having room for treats and enough energy for social life will inevitably make your journey amazing and sustainable experience?
And you’re aware that results come to those who are consistent!
The Best Part
Once you decide it’s time for fat loss again you don’t need to create more than 500 calorie deficit. By eating 2200+ calories, that means you will be eating 1700+ calories and losing weight!
If you don't want to eat more food, okay, fine, stick to your 1000 calorie days. But if you're like me, a real foodie, go and check my article on Reverse Dieting!
Too many people think their metabolism is slow, different or not working properly due to X-Y-Z reason, but the truth is people most probably:
- Believe common misconceptions as starvation mode
- Don’t track their foods properly
- Don’t make the right food choices
- Have been dieting for too long and their body has adapted to extremely low calories, therefore they need to start building them up again
There is always a way to make your body work for you, once you ditch the old beliefs and start doing things smarter, not harder!