Do you eat back your calories to maintain your weight?

AshFace22
AshFace22 Posts: 25 Member
My problem is that I keep losing weight and I'm borderline close to being UNDERweight and I don't want that. A question that has always bugged me is do you eat back your calories to maintain? Let's say that you're satisfied with where you're at (as far as weight goes), but you still go to the gym to maintain a fit lifestyle. You work out on the elliptical for 30 minutes and end up burning around 320 or so calories. Do you eat those back to make sure you still don't keep losing? I need about 2000 a day to maintain, when I add it to mfp, I need about 2300 to maintain. I've always been scared to eat them back because I fear I may gain weight, when all I want to do is maintain. Any advice? Personal stories? I'd love to hear them.

Replies

  • janejellyroll
    janejellyroll Posts: 25,878 Member
    edited May 2017
    The worst case scenario of eating calories back is that you will gain a little weight. That's it. You can then cut back because you know you're eating too much.

    But if you're losing weight right now, you know you aren't eating enough. So why wouldn't you want to eat more? I get the emotions around it, but there is a clear solution to your problem.

    Everyone who maintains their weight finds a way to eat enough to maintain their weight. Some people do it unconsciously, many others (including myself) do it through deliberately eating back their activity calories. But the end result is the same. You'll have to find a way to do the same if you don't want to be underweight.
  • AshFace22
    AshFace22 Posts: 25 Member
    You've been asking similar questions for a while.

    I know. Can't ya tell there's a lot of psychological problems behind all the weight loss? I just want to know FOR SURE and maybe looking to find that one answer where I go "Oh! Okay! So it's NOT the end of the world! This person knows what he/she is talking about" Looking for an answer from someone with a similar situation who found a solution that just clicked for them.
  • janejellyroll
    janejellyroll Posts: 25,878 Member
    AshFace22 wrote: »
    You've been asking similar questions for a while.

    I know. Can't ya tell there's a lot of psychological problems behind all the weight loss? I just want to know FOR SURE and maybe looking to find that one answer where I go "Oh! Okay! So it's NOT the end of the world! This person knows what he/she is talking about" Looking for an answer from someone with a similar situation who found a solution that just clicked for them.

    I don't think anyone is going to be able to tell you with absolute certainty that you will never gain a pound if you begin eating back activity calories. We don't know, for instance, how you are calculating your burn. But what we do know with certainty is that eating at your actual maintenance calories is a requirement to maintain your weight. It may take you a little bit of trial and error to get there (it sometimes does), but it is worth it for your health, energy, and meeting your fitness goals.
  • AshFace22
    AshFace22 Posts: 25 Member
    AshFace22 wrote: »

    I don't think anyone is going to be able to tell you with absolute certainty that you will never gain a pound if you begin eating back activity calories. We don't know, for instance, how you are calculating your burn. But what we do know with certainty is that eating at your actual maintenance calories is a requirement to maintain your weight. It may take you a little bit of trial and error to get there (it sometimes does), but it is worth it for your health, energy, and meeting your fitness goals.

    I know...I just can't help but be a little nervous, ya know?
  • cmriverside
    cmriverside Posts: 32,280 Member
    AshFace22 wrote: »
    You've been asking similar questions for a while.

    I know. Can't ya tell there's a lot of psychological problems behind all the weight loss? I just want to know FOR SURE and maybe looking to find that one answer where I go "Oh! Okay! So it's NOT the end of the world! This person knows what he/she is talking about" Looking for an answer from someone with a similar situation who found a solution that just clicked for them.

    I don't think anyone is going to be able to tell you with absolute certainty that you will never gain a pound if you begin eating back activity calories. We don't know, for instance, how you are calculating your burn. But what we do know with certainty is that eating at your actual maintenance calories is a requirement to maintain your weight. It may take you a little bit of trial and error to get there (it sometimes does), but it is worth it for your health, energy, and meeting your fitness goals.

    Yeah, this. You're still losing on what you're eating. Eat more. It might take you another six months to find your sweet spot - so just start the experiment.

    I'm ten years past my weight loss of 70 pounds and in the last 7 months I've eaten on average 3000 calories per week over my previously established maintenance calories, and I just go up a pound and down a pound over and over. I log everything, use my digital food scale. I have no explanation for this other than I'm just really healthy now and eating mostly whole foods. None of the calculators tell me I should be eating this much.
  • oocdc2
    oocdc2 Posts: 1,361 Member
    The real answer, OP, is that it will be trial and error. I've been maintaining since June, and there is no magic formula. Sometimes I need to eat back 80% of my calories, sometimes I eat them all. Sometimes I don't eat any calories back, especially when it's weight training, which doesn't add up to much.

    There are times when I'm over my desired weight, but then the swelling/water weight/whatever goes away and I'm fine in a couple of days.

    I was nervous, too, when I first started maintaining, but it's just comes down to peripherally paying attention to your weight and, perhaps more importantly, how your clothes are fitting over a period of time--not daily, not encompassing, but maybe weekly?

    When you have confidence in yourself that, if it starts creeping up, you can course-correct yourself, the easier it will get.
  • kgirlhart
    kgirlhart Posts: 4,429 Member
    edited May 2017
    If you used mfp to get your maintenance goal then you are supposed to be eating back the exercise calories. If you used a TDEE calculator then that already takes the exercise into account, but if you are still losing then you are probably underestimating your activity and you need to eat more. I know how you feel. I am in the same situation. I have lost more than my goal weight and I have had to keep gradually increasing my calories so I don't keep losing weight. It can be hard to eat more when you have been concentrating on eating less because you are afraid that you will gain the weight back. But as @cmriverside said you are not going to gain it all back overnight. Make sure you have set a goal range of about 5 pounds and eat back the exercise calories. As long as you stay in that range (5 pounds is usually good), then you are maintaining.

    ETA Most of the calculators tell me I should be eating around 1700 to maintain, but I generally eat around 2300 and I am really just starting to see my trend level out.
  • AshFace22
    AshFace22 Posts: 25 Member
    edited May 2017
    Interesting! So it all boils down to trial and error basically. Alright, alright. I guess all there is for me to do really is to stop being so scared and actually give it a shot.
  • cmriverside
    cmriverside Posts: 32,280 Member
    edited May 2017
    @kgirlhart - yep, that has been my experience too. I am eating 500+ more per day than the calculators suggest...and I have really consistent logging over many years' time, and really consistent exercise of just walking a few times a week.

    I also use the 5 pounds range, I weigh myself twice a week.
  • kwtilbury
    kwtilbury Posts: 1,234 Member
    OP - You're overthinking it. If you continue to lose weight or consistently come in under your target weight, you aren't consuming enough calories, regardless of how you track them. East 200-300 more calories per day and see if that gets you where you want to be.
  • sgt1372
    sgt1372 Posts: 3,969 Member
    Sometimes I do and sometimes I don't. It all depends if I feel hungry or not and, if eating back the cals, will put me over my daily cal limit or not.