Over the past couple of months, I have done several tiny improvements to intake lesser calories and burn more calories. For example:

  • breakfast with cereals instead of two multigrain bread slices with Nutella
  • less rice meals in a week
  • less buns in lunch
  • no chocolate in snacks
  • only one can of soda per month
  • walking 15 minutes daily
  • and light exercise (burning 100-200 calories) each day

Yet I have noticed that I am constantly putting on weight, around 1 lb each month at the minimum. I know that I am not burning 1000 calories per day, but shouldn't I see loosing some weight over a period of 4-5 months?

When I strictly followed my food intake for a given day, it does not exceed 15001 calories (maximum).

What am I doing wrong?

After reading the Moses reply, I am adding the image showing my TTDE.

enter image description here

1: Estimated by calories' count on food labels.

  • You make no mention of any regular exercise or your lifestyle. This is important to know.
    – rrirower
    Dec 22, 2014 at 18:12
  • @rrirower I mentioned those in the bullet points.
    – Farhan
    Dec 22, 2014 at 18:13
  • I would guess that TDEE is grossly overstating your caloric expenditure. Remember that your level of activity is really not much better than being sedentary. A more accurate way to calculate it would be to find your Body Fat %, then use the Katch-McCardle calculation on this site since it is more accurate for people that are overweight (my assumption given your goals and activity).
    – Moses
    Dec 23, 2014 at 4:48

5 Answers 5


You need to understand that TDEE (total daily energy expenditure) is merely an estimate of how many calories your body burns with the level of activity you are performing. There's a couple things that don't make sense for the TDEE numbers you posted:

  • Your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) is only ~1900 calories, but your TDEE is over 2800?
  • Light exercise and 15 minutes walking daily is little better then "sedentary" when you are figuring out your activity multiplier.
  • My estimate is that your TDEE is closer to 2200 calories if your BMR was estimated correctly
  • Considering even that mistake, it's quite possible your estimated BMR is too high as well.

You'll see activity multipliers that look like this:

  • Sedentary = BMR X 1.2 (very light or no exercise, desk job)
  • Lightly active = BMR X 1.375 (light exercise/sports 1-3 days/wk)
  • Moderately active = BMR X 1.55 (moderate exercise/sports 3-5 days/wk)
  • Very active = BMR X 1.725 (hard exercise/sports 6-7 days/wk)
  • Extremely active = BMR X 1.9 (hard daily exercise/sports & physical job or 2X day training, i.e marathon, contest etc.)

However, almost everyone thinks they are working harder than they really are. For me, weight lifting 3x a week should be using "Lightly active". It's only when I'm doing conditioning and lifting that I should even consider "Moderately active". Most people don't have the heart to approach "extremely active" levels. If you train like Michael Phelps you might consider it. With the level of exercise you described in your question, I would use "Sedentary" for your TDEE calculations.

Estimates only get you close

Your body is a complex system, and when it is operating properly the old "calories in vs. calories out" model works amazingly well. However, if your body isn't working properly, then you need more drastic changes to the way you eat or get those issues fixed.

Common hormonal causes of weight gain include:

  • Thyroid gland isn't working properly. The hormones from the thyroid regulate the calories you burn. Make sure you have enough iodine in your diet to keep the gland happy.
  • Leptin response is diminished. Leptin is the hormone that signals that it's time to stop eating.
  • Insulin resistance. When you don't put enough demand on your body through exercise, and eat too much, your body can't store the energy in your muscles as glycogen any longer.
  • High levels of cortisone. Stress causes many bad things to happen in your body, among them increased levels of cortisone. This increases fat storage, and decreases the body's ability to build muscle.

There can be any number of other issues that throws your body out of efficient working, including several diseases, pregnancy, etc.

Most often the cause is bad estimates or bad counting

It's worth using a tool like "My Fitness Pal" or "My Plate" (livestrong) to tally up all the calories, fat, protein, and carbs you eat. Log every last thing that passes your lips. If you eat one mini Reece's peanut butter cup, log it. Make sure your portions are correct when you log it as well.

Most of the time you'll find that you are really eating more than you thought you were. Pay attention to labels. You'll find more often than not, a serving size is smaller than the item you purchase. I've purchased salads only to find out the serving size was not the single salad bowl I purchased, but only 1/4 of that bowl.

You aren't that far off. Gaining a pound a month would be perfect for strength training. Dropping a hundred calories off every day will be enough to even it out so you aren't gaining or losing.

  • Incredibly comprehensive answer. Glad you went into detail on possible hormonal causes, especially with regards to cortisone/stress. Also glad you noted the poster's exercise levels are sedentary, as I forgot to address that in my answer.
    – Moses
    Dec 23, 2014 at 4:39

Your list has a lot of "less" but that information is worthless. You could be eating less rice meals but replacing the rice with potatoes or another similar food. It doesn't matter what you are eating less of, it matters what you are actually eating.

Don't get me wrong, cutting out certain items like rice or sodas is a great first step to cutting calories, because they can facilitate overeating. But at the end of the day, it is still totally possible to overeat even without those items in your diet.

If you want to lose fat, the first step is to calculate your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE), which represents the total amount of calories your body burns in a 24 hour period. TDEE includes everything from sleeping, light exercising, working, and more.

Once you have a good understanding of what your body burns in a day, the next step is to eat less than that amount. By eating fewer calories than your body can burn, you force it to pull from your fat (and muscle) stores to convert them into energy needed.

Since I am unfamiliar with your body composition, age, and other relevant statistics, I won't go suggesting a particular calorie deficit for you to use. That being said, anywhere from 100-500 calories deficit per day is a good zone to aim for depending on your particular circumstances.

  • As an addendum to this, I will note that you should not be tracking your progress through weight alone. Weight can be fat or muscle, and perhaps you lost 3 pounds of fat but gained 4 pounds of muscle; by your measurement you would interpret that negatively! Use a bodyfat % calculator to get a better picture of your actual gains and losses with respect to fat (which is what you should really be trying to burn, not muscle)
    – Moses
    Dec 22, 2014 at 19:14
  • Thanks for the reply. I added my TTDE. Although I did not understand it completely.
    – Farhan
    Dec 22, 2014 at 19:24

I recommend you to use the app myfitnesspal (there are other equivalent apps) for a while to see what exactly you are eating. It will show you the calories, proteins, fats, and carbs you are eating daily it is very helpful in my opinion. On top of that if you would show those statistics on here it would be so much easier to help you out, and give you better tips.


If you don't know exactly how many calories you're eating, there's no point. Estimation isn't enough. You must count calories for every meal, every day. For all you know, your cereal breakfast might even contain more calories than your bread and nutella.

If you're gaining weight, it's because you're eating more calories than you burn. It's that simple. Set a daily calorie goal (base it on TDEE if you like). Meet that goal every day for a week or two. If you don't lose weight, drop the goal by 300-500 calories and try again. Keep reducing your calorie goal until it works.


One of the most common mistakes made by those looking to lose weight is underestimating calorie consumption. That typically takes the form of underestimating portion size. In its simplistic form, losing weight is a matter of consuming less calories than you expend. Yet, how can you ensure that's happening if you guess at what you are eating? You may think you've consumed no more than 1500 calories, but, have you really? One of the easiest ways of making sure your diet is true is to record what you eat and drink in a journal, or, a spreadsheet. Using an inexpensive calorie counting table will provide you with the information you need to get a better approximation for the calories you are consuming. Updating your journal on a regular basis over a few weeks should shed some light on what you're actually consuming. In addition, the journal will provide you with the data you need to make any adjustments to your diet. Having this knowledge will go a long way in assisting you in your weight loss goals.

  • I wasn't just thinking that total consumed food is less than 1500 calories but I got that information from the labels of food I eat.
    – Farhan
    Dec 22, 2014 at 21:47

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