Eating 1300 Calories A Day And NOT Losing Weight (Why?)

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Eating 1300 calories a day SHOULD result in weight loss for the majority of people. 

However, that doesn’t mean it will cause weight loss for everyone.

If you’re eating 1300 calories and not losing weight (and your measurements aren’t changing), you’re not in a calorie deficit.

This could be because you aren’t tracking calories accurately, you’re not active enough, or your metabolism has dramatically slowed down.

Below, I’ll dive into these reasons further and provide the necessary steps to improve your dieting experience without sacrificing your long-term health and wellness. 

Key Takeaways

  • Weight loss on 1300 calories might be more difficult if your body is already at its preferred weight (a weight you have easily maintained for a long time).
  • If dieting on 1300 calories for a prolonged period without weight loss progress, you can consider a reverse diet (more on this below).
  • Generally, most women won’t tolerate a 1300-calorie diet since women require more body fat for hormone health. Unless in a contest prep (for a sport like bodybuilding), it is not ideal to diet on 1300 calories or less since it is unsustainable and hard to recover from.

5 Reasons You’re Not Losing Weight Eating 1300 Calories Per Day

5 reasons you’re not losing weight eating 1300 calories per day

The four reasons you’re not losing weight eating 1300 calories are: 

1. Your Body Composition Is Changing Instead

If you’re eating 1300 calories and the scale isn’t changing, then it could be that your body composition is changing and the fat you’re losing is reflected in changes in your measurements. 

Oftentimes those who are more active will notice that their weight on the scale doesn’t change, but their measurements have changed as a result of changes in their body composition.

Body composition changes occur when you build additional muscle mass as you lose fat, which doesn’t always appear on the scale if you’ve replaced muscle for fat pound for pound. 

For this reason, it is really important for you to take measurements along with weighing in while dieting; otherwise, you may assume that progress isn’t being made.

At a minimum, I would suggest you take measurements from your neck, waist, and hips. If you want to be more thorough, you could also take measurements from your chest and thighs.

If your inches are changing then you are definitely making fat loss progress. However, If your inches aren’t changing, then maybe you aren’t in a calorie deficit after all.

2. Your Tracking Accuracy Needs Work

If you’re eating 1300 calories and not losing weight then you may not be tracking your calories as accurately as you may think. 

1300 calories is a large enough deficit for most people that if you aren’t seeing progress then maybe it’s because you’re actually consuming more calories than you’re aware.

Some common tracking mistakes are:

  • Forgetting to count liquid calories
  • Overestimating serving sizes (for fat sources in particular)
  • Failing to check the accuracy of the tracking app’s pre-logged foods
  • Making up for your calories burned by eating more calories 

It’s important to be as accurate as possible when tracking, which requires us to pay more attention to everything we’re consuming and what proportions we’re consuming them in. 

Related Article: How To Track Calories Without Labels

In addition to user error, we also need to consider that the calorie-tracking apps we use may not be as accurate as we think.

For this reason, it’s important to verify that the calorie content for foods in the tracking app is accurate, if something seems off then it likely is!

Lastly, what you should be aware of with your tracking app is that oftentimes the app’s setting will be set so that the calories you’re burning through exercise are added back into your calorie targets for the day. 

This is a feature that you will need to disable because you shouldn’t be replacing the calories that you’re burning as you need to be in a calorie deficit to lose weight and this setting would prevent this. 

  • My favorite calorie-tracking app is MacroFactor (read my complete review).  The app makes it almost impossible to make mistakes while tracking.

3. You Aren’t Moving Enough Throughout The Day

If you’re very sedentary throughout the day and you’re not racking up many steps in general, then perhaps this is keeping you from losing weight while eating 1300 calories.

If you’re not moving enough then you may not be expending enough energy to put yourself in a calorie deficit to lose weight

I would assess your current exercise routine and steps per day to determine your current baseline of activity.

If you’re not exercising consistently then perhaps it’s time to start implementing some form of activity such as cardio and/or strength training.

If you’re already engaging in an exercise regime and doing as much as is realistic for you, then it may make more sense for you to focus on increasing your step count for the day.

If both exercise and steps are capped out based on what you’re realistically capable of without hating your life, then it’s likely time to reassess your diet and think about reverse dieting instead.

4. Your Metabolism Has Slowed Down Too Much To Continue To Lose

If your metabolism has slowed down too much, then 1300 calories will no longer be the number of calories that allows you to lose weight.

As you continue to diet, your ability to burn calories will gradually slow down because your body requires less energy to function than it did originally and it wants to preserve as much energy as possible for basic bodily functions. 

As a result, it becomes harder to continue to lose weight eating the same number of calories as time goes on.

In addition to this, eating a low-calorie diet for an extended period of time can have a negative impact on certain hormones that play a role in weight loss.

Low-calorie diets can cause a reduction in leptin, a hormone responsible for making you feel less hungry and regulating your weight. 

Low-calorie diets will also cause an increase in the “hunger hormone” ghrelin, a hormone that will cause you to feel more hungry.

An extended low-calorie diet can also cause stress on the body and result in the body producing excess cortisol (the “stress” hormone). Excess cortisol can increase your cravings for fatty, sugary foods, and promote overeating.

5. Your Body is Already at Its “preferred” Weight

If you are struggling to lose weight, or if you have lost weight in the past only to regain it and end up where you started, this could be due to what is known as Set Point Theory.

Set Point Theory, or Set Point Weight, is the idea that your body has a preferred weight, and it will work to maintain this weight to stay at optimal health. In this case, your body may be resistant to weight loss even if you are in a calorie deficit.

“The set point theory suggests that our bodies have a comfortable weight that is genetically predetermined that it will fight to defend. When we decrease our intake and lower our body weight through dieting, for example, we have compensatory mechanisms in place that reduce the energy output and energy input in an effort to maintain homeostasis.”

Abbey Sharp, RD

While the Set Point Theory is a concept that many health professionals and scientists acknowledge and support, weight loss can still occur past one’s “set point” with a consistent calorie deficit.

In fact, the best way to change your Set Point Weight is to lose weight slowly and maintain that weight loss for a long period of time. 

Weight loss that happens drastically is more difficult to maintain, which can often result in you gaining all of your weight back.

Steps To Take If You’re Not Losing Weight Eating 1300 Calories Per Day

Steps to take if you’re not losing weight eating 1300 calories per day

If you’re not losing weight when eating 1300 calories, you could decrease calories further (by 100-300 calories).  

However, the best thing is to start to reverse dieting rather than continuing to diet, especially because 1300 calories is already pretty low for most people.

Reverse dieting is a gradual increase in calories that allows you to eat more food while maintaining close to your current body weight and body fat percentage.

The steps to implement a reverse diet are as follows:

Step 1: Determine Your Current Intake & Average Weight

The first step to reverse diet is to determine how much food you’re currently consuming and what your average weight currently is.

If you’re already tracking your intake then you will have great data collected for how much you’re currently consuming and how this is affecting your body weight.

However, if you haven’t been tracking, then you should start tracking for at least 5 days to estimate your average daily intake.

To find your current average weight, you will need to weigh yourself at least 3 times in a week and find the average of these measurements.

For example, let’s say my weights this week were: 157, 158.5, 157.8

To find my average weight I need to find the sum of these measurements: 157 + 158.5 + 157.8 = 473.3

Then I need to divide this number by the number of measurements I took (3): 473.3 / 3 = 157.8

157.8 would be my average weight for the week.

Step 2: Determine Your Fat Gain Tolerance

Once you’ve determined your baseline weight and intake, you’ll need to determine how much fat you are comfortable gaining while reverse dieting.

If you want to stay as lean as possible then your fat gain tolerance will be low, and you will increase your calories in smaller increments (50 calories per week) and therefore your reverse diet will take a bit longer.

If you are less concerned about some fat gain but still want to stay somewhat lean, then you will fall under a moderate fat gain tolerance. This involves a higher caloric increase (100 calories per week) and will speed up the reverse dieting process.

If you want to reverse diet as fast as possible and are not concerned about gaining fat, then you will have a high fat gain tolerance. This means that you will make even larger caloric increases (150 calories per week) and drastically speed up the reverse dieting process.

Step 3: Increase Your Calories & Monitor Changes In Bodyweight

Using your baseline intake and your fat gain tolerance, you can take the next step to increase your calories and start your reverse diet.

If your current calories are 1300, and your fat gain tolerance is low, then you will increase your calories to 1350 for the next week and monitor your body weight to determine how the increase in calories is affecting your body weight.

Step 4: Evaluate Whether To Maintain, Increase, or Decrease Calories

After a week of adhering to your new calorie target, you will need to determine your average body weight for the week once again to analyze how your average weight has changed.

  • If your fat gain tolerance is low you can expect your average weight to fluctuate by <0.5lb per week

  • If your fat gain tolerance is moderate you can expect your average weight to fluctuate by 0.5-1lb per week

  • If your fat gain tolerance is higher you can expect your average weight to fluctuate by 1-1.5lbs per week

If you’re losing weight, you will likely need to increase your calories further. If you’re on target, then you can once again increase your calories based on your fat gain tolerance.

If you’re gaining more than the target amount, then you can maintain these calories for another week before increasing further and re-evaluating then.

Other Actions To Take To Overcome Your Weight Loss Plateau

If you are struggling with losing weight on 1300 calories a day, but you aren’t ready to try a reverse diet just yet, here are a few other tips you can try to break your weight loss plateau:

Choose High Protein Foods

Choosing foods that are higher in protein is going to help with your overall calorie deficit, since protein has the highest thermic effect compared to carbs and fat.

Essentially, this means that your body will burn more calories when it digests protein compared to when it digests foods that are high in carbohydrates or fat.

Protein is also important to help maintain muscle mass. This is important when following a low-calorie diet, since muscle loss can occur in a calorie deficit.

Reduce Your Daily Stress 

Whether your stress is coming from your low-calorie diet or from daily life situations, high amounts of stress often lead to hormonal shifts that promote weight gain and overeating.

“People may eat as a way to cope with stress and as a way to make themselves feel better. Prolonged, chronic stress can also lead to hormonal changes that may increase your appetite and cause cravings for higher-calorie comfort foods, such as ice cream, chips, and pizza.”

-Amy Gorin, MS, RDN

For this reason, it is best to keep other forms of stress minimal while on a 1300 calorie a day diet. 

Other forms of stress might be from work, relationships, financial, or additional projects you are choosing to take on.

If you cannot avoid the high stress that can come from certain life circumstances, then learning different ways to cope with this stress, such as seeing a stress management Counselor, would be recommended.

Optimize Sleep

When you are in a substantial calorie deficit, it will be crucial for you to make sure you are getting enough sleep, since low-calorie diets can lead to interruption in deep sleep.

Too little sleep can cause an increase of stress hormone (cortisol) in the body, and can also cause an increase in comfort food cravings and result in overeating.

While you are in a calorie deficit, I recommend developing a healthy sleep routine that you follow consistently. Most people will benefit from sleeping 7-9 hours a night.

Avoid Intense Forms of Exercise

While exercise and movement should be part of your routine while in a calorie deficit to achieve fat loss, the types of exercise you do might change if you have been in a large deficit for a long period of time.

This is due to the fact that when in a large calorie deficit, the body has a more difficult time recovering from exercise. Therefore, you are more likely to experience injury while dieting.

For this reason, it is best to stick to less intense forms of exercise if you are in a very low-calorie deficit. 

For example, choose an incline walk on the treadmill as your cardio and avoid intense and explosive HIIT cardio.

Realistic Results You Can Expect From Eating 1300 Calories Per Day

Most people can absolutely expect to lose weight by eating 1300 calories because it is quite a low caloric intake for the general population. 

For this reason, if you’re not losing weight while eating 1300 calories then your metabolism is likely in decline (it’s really slow).

Males can probably tolerate this intake longer than women can because men can function better with lower body fat percentages than women. Women require more body fat to maintain regular menstrual cycles and hormonal health.

That being said, for both men and women I would typically only recommend eating fewer calories than 1300 if it’s for a bodybuilding contest prep where the goal is to be as lean as possible for a very short amount of time. 

Other than bodybuilding preps, I don’t recommend that people diet on less than 1300 calories because it is unsustainable and hard to recover from.

The Impact of Age & Metabolism on Weight Loss

If you have previously lost weight by eating 1300 calories a day, but years later the scale isn’t budging on the exact same diet, this could be due to your metabolism naturally slowing down with age.

For every decade that we age after the age of 20, the rate at which our body breaks down food decreases by 10 percent. 

This is mostly due to the fact that as we age, we naturally lose muscle mass (the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn).

For this reason, you likely will not have the same result from a diet that you had success with years earlier. 

While there is nothing we can do about the natural aging process, the best way to combat this slow in metabolism is to engage in consistent weight training. 

This will help to slow down the rate at which you lose muscle with age and will help to support a healthy metabolism.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are there specific macro ratios recommended when following a 1300 calorie diet for weight loss?

While individual needs vary, a general macro ratio for weight loss might be 40% carbs, 30% protein, and 30% fat. Adjust based on personal preferences and goals. Prioritize protein for satiety and muscle preservation, especially on a low-calorie diet.

Will You Lose Weight Eating 1300 Calories A Day?

Most individuals who eat 1300 calories should lose weight because it is a relatively low caloric intake; however, if your metabolism has slowed down too much and your body isn’t burning calories as readily, then 1300 calories may not cause weight loss anymore.

Is 1300 Calories Enough For A Woman?

1300 calories is not enough for most women, it is likely only an appropriate intake for children because as an adult your body generally requires around 1200 calories just to perform bodily functions.

For women, this means that hormonal balance and reproductive function might suffer as a result of consuming too few calories.

How does water intake impact weight loss when consuming 1300 calories a day?

Drinking adequate water can support weight loss by promoting satiety, increasing metabolic rate, and aiding in digestion. Aim for 8-10 glasses daily. Staying hydrated also prevents mistaking thirst for hunger, which can help in sticking to the 1300 calorie limit.

How does sleep quality and duration affect weight loss on a 1300 calorie diet?

Adequate sleep (7-9 hours for most adults) is crucial for weight loss. Poor sleep can disrupt hunger hormones, leading to increased appetite and reduced calorie burn.

Ensure a consistent sleep schedule and create a bedtime routine for optimal weight loss results.

Other Weight Loss Articles


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About The Author

Amanda Parker

Amanda Parker is an author, nutrition coach, and Certified Naturopath.  She works with bodybuilders, Olympic weightlifters, and powerlifters to increase performance through nutrition and lifestyle coaching.

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