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Why am I gaining weight eating 1,000 calories?

Gaining weight while eating only 1,000 calories per day can be frustrating and confusing. There are a few potential reasons why this may be happening:

You’re underestimating your calorie intake

This is one of the most common reasons people struggle to lose weight while “eating so little.” It’s easy to underestimate how many calories you’re actually consuming, especially with high calorie foods and drinks. Things like oils, sauces, nuts, cheese, and alcohol can add a significant amount of calories without making you feel fuller. Tracking every bite and sip with an app or food journal can help identify any “hidden” calories.

You’re less active than you think

While exercise isn’t necessary for weight loss, it can create a bigger calorie deficit to help lose weight faster. Even daily activities like walking, standing, fidgeting and household chores burn calories that can make a difference. If you have a sedentary job or lifestyle, you may be eating at your maintenance level vs a deficit. Adding more movement each day can help.

You have a medical condition or medication affecting weight

In some cases, an underlying health condition or medication can make weight loss more difficult. Conditions like hypothyroidism, PCOS, Cushing’s disease and depression can influence weight gain and loss. Corticosteroids, antidepressants and seizure medications also list weight gain as a common side effect. Consulting with your doctor can help determine if any medications or conditions are hindering your efforts.

You’re gaining muscle

If you’ve recently started or increased strength training, you may be gaining some muscle especially in the beginning. Muscle weighs more than fat, so the number on the scale may not fully reflect fat loss. Taking monthly progress photos and measurements can help track fat loss since the scale number can be misleading.

You have nutritional deficiencies

Severely restricting calories or entire food groups can sometimes lead to vitamin or mineral deficiencies over time. Being deficient in key nutrients like iron, magnesium, zinc and B12 can stall weight loss efforts. Getting adequate protein each day and taking a micronutrient supplement can help provide greater nutrient density without excess calories.

Why Calories In vs Calories Out Isn’t Enough

While creating a calorie deficit is necessary for weight loss, it’s not the only factor at play. Hormones, nutrition balance and lifestyle behaviors also influence how easily the weight comes off.


Your body’s intricate hormonal system heavily influences metabolism, hunger, fat storage, and more. Imbalances with insulin, leptin, cortisol, ghrelin and estrogen can disrupt weight loss efforts. Things like inadequate sleep, high stress, endocrine disorders and blood sugar swings can wreak havoc on your hormones and make it harder to lose weight.

Nutrition Balance

Eating adequate protein, fiber and healthy fats can help manage hunger and balance blood sugar for increased fat burning. Refined carbs, sugar and processed foods can lead to spikes and crashes. Prioritizing lean proteins, high fiber vegetables, and healthy fats from nuts, avocado and olive oil can improve body composition compared to eating the same calories from low-nutrient foods.

Lifestyle Behaviors

Consistency with meal timing, sleep, stress management, and activity levels optimizes your hormones and metabolism over time. Intermittent fasting, carb cycling, exercise routines and adequate sleep contribute to long term fat loss success. Lack of consistency with eating habits, activity levels and lifestyle behaviors can stall weight loss.

Common Reasons for Gaining Weight at 1000 Calories

If you feel confident you’re truly only consuming 1000 calories daily, there are a few possible culprits that could be leading to weight gain:

Consuming Too Many Liquid Calories

Beverages like juices, soda, alcohol, coffee drinks, and smoothies can contain hundreds of hidden calories that don’t provide much satiety. Sticking to water, unsweetened tea and black coffee can help reduce excess liquid calorie intake.

Overeating on the Weekends

Monday through Friday deficit eating followed by weekend binge eating can cancel out any potential weight loss. Try to keep eating consistent even during social events and meals out.

High Stress Levels

Chronic stress stimulates cortisol secretion which can increase belly fat storage and appetite. Managing stress through meditation, yoga, massage and other relaxation techniques can help optimize cortisol levels.

Sedentary Lifestyle

A low activity lifestyle can slow metabolism by up to 15% making weight loss more challenging. Incorporating more movement through parking further away, taking the stairs, walking during breaks, strength training and getting 10k+ steps per day can all increase calorie burn.

Poor Sleep Habits

Inadequate sleep spikes ghrelin and lowers leptin, increasing hunger and appetite. Getting 7-9 hours per night supports weight loss by optimizing hunger hormones. Developing good sleep hygiene habits like limiting electronics, keeping your room cool and avoiding late night eating can improve sleep quality.

Calorie Cycling Issues

Eating too few calories daily can sometimes backfire. Cycling calories higher 1-2 days per week helps keep your metabolism guessing so it continues burning calories efficiently.

Medical Conditions or Medications

As mentioned earlier, some medications and chronic health conditions directly cause weight gain or make weight loss nearly impossible without treatment. Consulting your doctor can determine if any underlying issues need to be addressed.

Tips to Start Losing Weight at 1000 Calories

If you want to maximize fat loss at 1000 calories per day, here are some tips:

Increase Protein Intake

Protein requires the most energy to digest keeping metabolism higher. Get at least 0.6-1g of protein per pound of body weight daily from lean sources like chicken, fish, eggs, Greek yogurt and whey protein.

Choose More Fiber

Foods higher in fiber like vegetables, berries, legumes, oats and chia require more chewing time. This helps you eat slower, chew more thoroughly and fill up on fewer calories.

Healthy Fat Sources

While fat is calorie dense, moderate amounts of healthy unsaturated fats from olive oil, avocado, nuts and seeds can increase satiety between meals. Avoid saturated and trans fats which can cause inflammation.

Stay Hydrated

Drinking enough water prevents dehydration which can mimic hunger signals. Herbal tea and water with lemon or cucumber also help reduce cravings.

Increase NEAT

Engage in more non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) like taking the stairs, walking, stretching, fidgeting and household chores to burn extra calories all day long.

Strength Train

Lifting weights or doing bodyweight exercises like squats, lunges and planks builds metabolism boosting muscle mass. This increases daily calorie burn.

Prioritize Sleep

Sleep deprivation disrupts hunger hormone homeostasis. Stick to a set sleep schedule and get 7-9 hours nightly for increased weight loss.

Sample 1000 Calorie Weight Loss Meal Plan

Here is an example of what a 1000 calorie weight loss meal plan may look like:

Meal Foods Calories
Breakfast 2 eggs scrambled in 1 tsp olive oil with 1 cup spinach, 1/2 grapefruit 252
Lunch 4oz grilled chicken breast, 1.5 cups roasted broccoli, 1 tbsp hummus 362
Dinner 4oz baked cod, 1 cup brussels sprouts sauteed in 1 tsp olive oil, side salad with 2 tbsp balsamic vinaigrette 357
Snack 1 serving cottage cheese with 1⁄4 cup blueberries 110
Beverages Unsweetened tea, water, black coffee 0
Total 1081

This meal plan provides high protein foods, healthy fats and plenty of fiber from whole food sources. It limits processed items, sugar and empty calorie beverages that don’t enhance satiety. The calorie cycling gives flexibility for more calories 1-2 days per week as needed.

The Bottom Line

Gaining weight or hitting plateaus when eating 1000 calories daily comes down to three main factors:

1. Consuming more calories than you realize

2. Medical conditions or medication side effects disrupting weight regulation

3. Metabolic adaptation over time requiring adjustments to calorie intake and exercise

Accurately tracking intake, balancing nutrition, managing stress, exercising and consulting a doctor can help troubleshoot weight loss struggles. Being patient and consistent with a calorie deficit and healthy lifestyle will produce long term results.