Weight loss-When eating more isn't enough

Despite my efforts over the past couple of months to put on weight, I’m actually slip-sliding down the scale instead of going up. Not too dramatically, but when you’re already underweight, every pound counts. Up till recently I was hovering at around 117-118 lbs–where I have been pretty much all year. Not too critical, but still not healthy for a 5’7" frame (IMHO). Now my scale is telling me–despite all the fried green tomatoes and biscuits and pieces of cake I’ve been eating over the past three weeks–that I’m 114. I checked the scale with some handweights. Unless the weights themselves are off, it’s overestimating by a couple of pounds.

I do walk a lot, but not anymore than I did before the rapid dip in weight loss. My appetite has dropped since last year, but over the past few weeks I have been diligent about eating at least 1500 calories or more a day. I eat about 300 calories for breakfast (cereal), 400 for lunch (pita with toasted cheese and a piece of fruit, with maybe a cookie), 500 for dinner (rice and baked/fried chicken, or a third of a Stouffer’s family-size lasgna thing or a quarter of a pan-style frozen pizza), and 300-400 for dessert (cake/brown/pie with ice cream). I know that doesn’t seem like a huge amount of food, but it’s really hard to eat more than this without feeling sick and this was about how much I ate before I started losing so much weight. At least, that’s what my memory is telling me.

At 118 lbs, I wasn’t too concerned, though the “you need to eat more!” remarks from people annoy after awhile. But 114 lbs is simply unsustainable to me. I’m so cold at work that I wear a sweater, gloves, and an afghan and it still isn’t enough. I hate to sound like a baby, but I can’t have my mother see me looking this way or she’ll absolutely freak.

I’m curious. Does your metabolism initially speed up when you eat more? If so, how long should I expect to wait for my metabolism to go back down?

(I know this may be an annoying thread to people fighting weight gain. All I can say is I’m sorry.)

I will resist the urge to say I wish I had your problem. :slight_smile: Have you considered seeing a doctor? This may be a symptom of a thyroid issue or something more serious.

Otherwise, I’d recommend hitting up the high-protein smoothies.

1500 calories a day really isn’t very many. I know you say it’s hard for you to eat more, but could you fit another meal into your schedule anywhere, and maybe take it up to 2000?

You might feel sick eating more because all you’re eating are empty calories. I see one piece of fruit in that menu, that’s it! If you ate 2000 calories of more wholesome food, would you still feel sick?

I have also been trying to put on weight, and it’s not as easy as people seem to think, especially if you want to put it on as muscle, and not just fat. I’ve had some success by eating high-calorie healthy snacks several times a day - low sat-fat trail mix and non-fat snack bars. If you are not worried about saturated fat like I am, then fatty foods are the best source of calories. An bowl of ice cream every day will put on pounds quickly! As was mentioned upthread, 1,500 calories is considered “weight loss” for women - try eating 2,000 calories a day.

Ahh, the good old days of trying to gain weight. Trust me, this situation will change.

When I was in my twenties and thirties I couldn’t gain weight no matter how hard I tried. We’re talking 5’ 8" and 120 pounds soaking wet. I ate everything in sight. I drank Nutrament for the extra calories. I was a two-cases-of-beer-a-week man. Nothing worked. Lord, was I scrawny.

Suddenly when I hit forty my body discovered where it could store all of that beer and I shot up to about 150 pounds. So I quit drinking beer.

Then when I hit fifty my body discovered where it could store all of that food and I picked up another fifteen pounds. My doctor started hinting that I could stand to lose a little weight.

Now I’m sixty-three and despite watching my food intake (alright mostly watching my food as I intake it) and spending an hour at the gym five days a week the scales are hovering at the 180 mark. My doctor has started hinting a little louder. And I haven’t gotten any taller over the years.

So cheer up, my friend. This too shall pass.

Well just as an offhand observation the total calories you are eating are comprised of a large proportion of borderline junk food. If you are on the edge of malnutrition you might want to improve the nutritional quality of what you are eating. Plus what you are eating is a recipe for constipation in some people.

If the other issue is simply that you are not that into food, or eating anything except a meager amount causes you gastric upset, you might look at some bodybuilders soy protein shakes. They are relatively inexpensive, come in a variety of flavors and if used with soy milk or regular milk (or water but that tastes nasty) can provide a relatively healthy, easily tolerated 300-500 calorie per day supplement.

The key point is that you really do not need that many more calories per day to gain weight. As a rough approximation it sounds like your metabolism ticks a but faster than normal. You did not mention any regular exercise program so let’s assume a moderately sedentary lifestyle for young woman. As rough guideline divide the number of calories you are in taking by 13 to get the weight level it will sustain. At 1500 cals per day you’re floating around 118 which is kind of light for a normal build 5’7" female. Adding a 400 calorie shake to your diet will kick you up to 1900 cals or 146 lbs over time.

If you have a wasting disease or metabolic issue you did not mention getting that attended to might also be a priority.

My personal experience is that eating things like desserts, biscuits, cakes and cookies is a really bad way of trying to put on weight. Less healthy, sure, and maybe chubbier, but not heavier. They’re filling but they’re very empty, it’s basically pure sugar: no protein, no complex carbs, no fats.

If you take those out of that diet you’ve listed there it becomes pretty clear why you’re losing weight: you’re hardly eating. Just over 1000 calories of non-dessert food a day for someone who’s 5’7 would not be a lot in itself, and actually I suspect you’re overestimating how many calories you’re eating: a quarter of a pizza is not 500 calories for instance. I’m not sure pitta bread and fruit is going to be 400 calories either.

I’d suggest cutting out all the desserts/cakes/cookies/biscuits and replace them with the things that have more sustenance to them, protein in particular - more along the lines of the pizzas and lasagnes. Then just increase the amounts a bit over the course of the day. Try and increase the portions you have, and/or increase the number of small meals. Have two thirds of a pizza for dinner for instance; eat a toasted baguette sandwich instead of a pitta bread one; add a snack in between lunch and dinner; that sort of thing.

If you strip out the junk food and get the diet up to a (genuine) 1500 calories you should find it starts working.

Exactly! You need more protein and (healthy) fats. Can you add a scrambled egg along with that cereal at breakfast? Or maybe a hardboiled egg with that pita and cheese lunch? Or a sliced avocado? Those little 3-oz cans of tuna are a great source of protein, and would be good with pita bread, if that’s what you like to eat for lunch.

You should also add in some between-meal snacks. If you’re not allergic to nuts, they’re a great source of protein, fiber and good fats. Can you snack at your desk/workstation? Perhaps you could keep some almonds or peanuts, and some dried fruit or raisins at your desk, and remind yourself to eat them! Turkey jerky (I love the Trader Joe’s brand) is another good high-protein and calorie-dense snack.

I understand you have some medical issues, but if your condition doesn’t contraindicate it, beer is good for weight gain. I’ve heard it called “liquid bread”!

Bodybuilder’s protein shakes are a good suggestion as well. (However, they often have artificial sweeteners in them, which to me always tastes like medicine - blech - chocolate flavored medicine - shudder). Ensure drinks are pretty tasty and easily availalbe at most supermarkets, and Trader Joe’s makes a whey protein powder that’s pretty good, in chocolate or vanilla flavor.

When I returned from Asia down about 10 lbs, I assumed a Western diet would put me back up to the ragged fringes of normal weight, where I normally resided. I was wrong, though it worked for the husband well enough.

After a month, I undertook a friends advice and drank a beer every day. It was a small glass of lite beer, in a pub. Within 6 wks I was up ten pounds!

Of course the fellow that recommended it has a large beer belly, but that’s beside the point.

Much tastier than those protein and meal replacement things. It worked for me, give it a try!

I thought 1500 calories a day was considered a reducing diet, 2000 calories to maintain your weight. No wonder you’re losing weight.

1500 calories seems like nothing to me (I eat twice that) but it is within normal ranges for many women. For a 5’7" woman though… just too little. I am not surprised your weight is slowly falling.

If you’re losing weight, look poorly and are feeling cold all the time, something is very much not right. Also eating more than 1500 cals should not make you feel sick from fullness, that’s just not normal.

One thing worth noting is that your diet is mostly wheat flour, and does not have many vitamins or minerals. It’s also lacking in protein and natural fats.

Anectodal, but I react poorly to wheat flour products and when I ate a lot of them, I found it difficult to eat enough total food because they make me so bloated, so fast. I also had a problem for a very long time with being chronically cold, when I ate lots of wheat and junk food and not much protein. Now, I am exactly your size (gained about 10 lbs from changing my diet and doing weight training) and more apt to feel overheated than cold in normal temps. Again, I eat twice as many calories as you do, and relatively few of them come from carbohydrates.

Naturally thin people are, IMO, apt to lose weight rather than gain it, eating a sugary junk-food diet (the opposite is true for people that gain weight/fat easily). We need to build muscle, and the best way to do that is eat protein and do exercise that builds and maintains muscle.

First off, I trust you have reviewed your current medications to be sure that none are associated with weight loss. Of course if your thyroid levels have not been checked recently such should be done. And weight loss can be a sign of other diseases so a good general eval is not a bad idea.

Assuming there is no medical cause …

As above, 1500 aint enough. That is not quite maintenance for your size, let alone to support exercise and weight gain. Also people who fidget a lot or otherwise have a lot of motion at baseline for whatever reason (Non exercise activity thermogenesis - NEAT) burn many more calories a day than those who do not. You need to get more in but also timing matters. Force a healthy high calorie snack in at bedtime. Chug an EnsurePlus if that’s what it takes, or a meal replacement bar, whatever. A smoothie with some whole milk yogurt and some coconut oil mixed in. Make sure there is some protein in there. The snack then will help put it on more effectively and not effect your a.m. appetite all that much.
Try to do some weight training with higher weights and low reps. The big muscle ones like squats. Whatever weight it is that you can’t do more than 10 and then do a few sets. Using a backpack or jugs of water, any heavy object will do. After that immediately have a protein heavy snack.

An article about NEAT and its possible relation to your circumstance.

IOW once you do overeat your baseline activity may automatically increase to prevent weight gain, something those more prone to obesity do not do.

Another tip I would mention, if you find it hard to increase the portions of food you’re eating, is to drink milk. A pint of semi-skimmed - or even better, full fat - milk has a lot of protein, a lot of fat, a significant amount of calories and a bunch of vitamins and minerals, but because it’s a drink you might find it an easier way to boost your intake than forcing down extra food. If you drank a pint of semi-skimmed milk with each of your three major meals that’d be roughly an extra 600 calories, 40g of protein and 20g of fat a day.

This really jumps out. Being a few pounds under your target won’t cause this. Feeling cold plus weight loss are classic symptoms of hypothyroidism. I am not a doctor but I have a mild case of this, which is easily diagnosed and treated. You should mention this to your doctor.

Actually the feeling cold goes with hypothyroidism, but weight loss goes with hyperthyroidism.

114 pounds on a 5 foot 7 inch frame is not just a few pounds underweight. It’s a BMI of 17.9 which is seriously underweight. (18.5 is the underweight cut-off.) Underweight enough that it is a significant health risk, one more serious than being overweight and only outdone by being morbidly obese. Fixing it is as difficult as losing weight is and she may want to get a nutritionist involved.

Count me as another vote for drinks. Since it sounds like you have trouble eating a lot of solids, liquids are probably the way to go. Full-fat milk, bodybuilder protein shakes, meal replacement drinks drunk in addition to normal meals, and home-made milkshakes and smoothies would probably pack in more calories and nutrition then what you’re eating at the moment. In fact, there’s actually drinks especially for people who can’t eat enough solids which are probably worth looking into.

I consume about 6,000 calories a day at a minimum and was slowly losing weight to the point I became concerned that other factors were in play. I discovered that low fat chocolate milk was a trigger food for me and I instantly started putting on weight. I gained 7# to 146# in about three weeks. Now it’s holding at that.

PS. My exercise program runs about six hours per day, 365.

Thanks for the responses.

I didn’t expect so much “you’re eating a bunch of junk!” responses. I would never say I eat particularly healthy, but pure junk? I only eat whole grains (at least 20% RDA fiber per serving) cereals, like shreaded wheat or oatmeal (nothing too sweet because I usually don’t want sugary stuff upon waking). Again, I eat whole grain pita or slices of bread with lunch (I’m all about the fiber). Brown rice, always. I know I could stand to eat more vegetables, although I have been, for the past five months or so, drinking Billy’s greens, if anyone has heard of that. I figure four teaspoons of that every day in the morning, plus a multi-vitamin at night, helps with the veggie deficit. My energy levels are always up and I sleep well and all that jazz, so I don’t think I’ve got a vitamin deficiency.

Seems to me if I said that I eat nothing but biscuits and cake and I can’t stop weight, ya’ll would be ready to indict the biscuits and cake. Oh well. I guess you can’t predict what you’ll get on the StraightDope!

I’ve had my thyroid checked, along with everything else, it seems. My bloodwork doesn’t indicate any problems. However, I do think the constant fidgeting and general desire to keep moving is subverting my efforts. And I don’t know what to do about that. Neither do the doctors. (Hence my disillusionment).

The lack of appetite is really the problem. Even though I have heaped on more calories, the lack of appetite makes this much more of a chore than it should be. For instance, last week I had a hankering for a beignet. So in addition to my usual breakfast, I stopped by on my way to work and got one. It wasn’t as good as I thought it was going to be, but okay. At least that was more fat and calories than usual for breakfast. But that beignet robbed me of my appetite for the rest of the day. I ate a banana for lunch and just a little of lasgna for dinner. No dessert. So no more beignets for me for awhile.

I had a fried egg, a biscuit (oh noes!), and a banana for breakfast early this morning. After yoga this afternoon (1:30), it took me almost an hour to figure out what to have for lunch. Without an appetite, the only thing motivating you to eat is your intellect. I finally and reluctantly decided on a slice of cheese pizza. It tasted like cardboard. I have absolutely no idea what I will have for dinner. I will probably go to the store and buy some Strawberry Ensures. I’m like an old lady at the nursing home already. :frowning:

astro, I don’t think I’m moderately sedentary, but I don’t know what I am. I walk 7 miles a day and do yoga twice a week. But I do have a sedentary job. What would you classify this as?

DSeid, should I be worried about this? I’ve been more concerned about the cosmetics involved (my yoga clothes should be clinging more to my body, for instance). Is 114 lbs really dangerous? I’m going through one of my apathetic phases apparently, but I can summon up more urgency if you think I need to.