Tessa used to eat as few as 1,600 calories daily—until she decided to make a big change.
When my trainer told me to eat 2,000 to 2,200 calories per day to lose weight, I didn’t blink an eye.
I did however, make a mental note of the fact that I must have been under-fueling before. I rarely ate breakfast. And because I was generally really stressed at work, I’d forget about food all day. Then, when I’d get home at 6 or 7 p.m., I’d realize I was so hungry that I’d eat something fast and unhealthy, like pasta, pizza, or a burger, followed by something sweet. I think most days I ate about 1,600 calories or a little more.
Then on the weekends, I’d often skip lunch in the name of a decadent dinner of meat and potatoes, pasta with cream sauce, a homemade dessert, or a bar of chocolate. If I went out, I’d go the whole nine yards—appetizer, entree, and dessert.
Maybe that’s why, after 15 months of losing weight and building muscle with Kayla Itsines’ Bikini Body Guide, I was totally stuck. I wasn’t getting any leaner, and my muscles weren’t growing. I was 39 and my body was not changing in the ways I wanted. I had started to lose motivation and didn’t feel like working out at all.
My trainer told me that, by eating more, and eating more regularly, that would change. He laid out a plan by which I would eat 400 to 500 calories every three to four hours throughout the day for a total of five or six meals.
Every day, I worked out first thing in the morning, then ate breakfast at my desk. To make things easy, I decided to have the exact same lunch three times every three hours. I’d cook it all a day or two before and put into separate boxes, and I’d make sure to switch it up every day so I didn’t get bored. I also cooked dinner at home every night. I love to cook, so I didn’t have any issues there!
Of course, the quality of the food also mattered. Sure, I was eating more, but it was mostly fiber-filled veggies, lean protein, whole grains, and healthy fats.
Here’s what a typical day looked like in my stomach:
Breakfast (7 a.m.): Scrambled eggs with whole-wheat toast and vegetables
Lunch (10 a.m., 1 p.m., 4 p.m.): A serving of whole grains (whole-wheat pasta, quinoa, or sweet potatoes), protein (grilled chicken, turkey, beef, salmon, or white fish), and raw/steamed/grilled veggies drizzled with olive oil or sliced avocado
Dinner (8 p.m.): Chicken or rice cakes with tuna and a side salad
Yeah, it was a lot of food. And while I didn’t find it mentally challenging to eat more, I did feel a bit stuffed. I felt like I was eating all the time.
I wasn’t the only one. I ate all of my meals except dinner at work, so if I was at my desk, I was eating. People at work were like, “that’s so much food—how can you eat all of it?”
During the first two weeks of my new diet, I felt swollen. (Maybe it had to do with all of the fiber?) But the discomfort was gone by about week three.
It only took a few weeks for my body to start to change. My skin looked healthier. My bloating disappeared, and my stomach got flat. I also had so much more energy because I was eating regularly.
Every day, I got up at 5 a.m. to work out, and was able to push myself so much harder than before. I still performed my BBG workouts, but mixed in a few days per week of weightlifting. (I consider BBG cardio.)
I started to see huge progress in my strength gains. I was getting leaner every week and my clothes fit better, even though I was eating more calories. By eating regularly and lifting weights, I was giving myself the fuel to build more muscle, which in turn revved my metabolism.
After 11 weeks of eating this way, I had dropped about seven to nine pounds, two inches off of my waist, and one and a half inches off of my hips.
One of my colleagues told me, “the more you eat, the better you look!”
FOOD IS NOT THE ENEMY
Throughout my eat-more-to-lose-weight journey, my relationship with food also changed. Although I’ve always loved food in general, I never used to think of food as something that impacted my health and my body—at least not in a positive way.
Before, I ate mostly for the pleasure of eating, and felt like, if it had any impact on my weight, it was in increasing it. Now, while I still have my fair share of for-enjoyment food splurges (I like to follow the ‘ole 80-20 rule), I make the vast majority of my food decisions based on how that food will care for my body and make me feel.
A lot of people tell me they don’t believe me when I say I’m 40. I tell them to eat more.
Nessa is a finance professional living in Luxembourg, Germany, with 407k people following her @nessasphere Instagram fitness journey.