T Nation

Going from a VLCD to 'Sensible' Diet


So for the past several months I've been on a very low calorie diet of less than 800 calories a day, with light cardio (mostly walking) and I lost a TON of weight over the last year+.

I went from over 425lb. down to currently around 207lb.... with the weight loss obviously went a lot of lean mass, too. So now, here I am at a relatively flabby 207-210ish, and wanting to get down to a firm, lean 180lb. I'm 34, and am 5'9"

For the last four days I've been reading a LOT on this forum and other places. I've blasted through a lot of Thibaudeau's articles, and Chad Waterbury's stuff, too (I even got Body of F.I.R.E., thinking that would be a great circuit to kick start what I want to do, only I'm really centered on Thibaudeau's low-carb approach to fat loss).

Annnyway... long story short, the reason I'm posting here is because I'm wondering if anyone can give me any tips, pointers, hints or help set my expectations for what's to come as I reintroduce basically more than double my daily caloric intake for the last several months while I embark on this training program... Am I looking at instant weight gain, or will the exercises and workouts I'll be doing take care of that?

I'm already up about a pound and a half, but that's probably water weight as I've been drinking a lot more water the last couple days, too.

Thanks up front to anyone who takes the time to answer this. I'd just like to have some idea of what to expect. Over the last 15 months I've been totally obsessed with "scale weight" and I get that that's not really what I should be concerned with... but at the same time, old habits are tough to quit.


Lets be honest, at 800 kcals a day you have probably hurt your basal metabolism a lot. Meaning you body is in starvation mode and is trying to CONSERVE energy and spend as little as possible. For a normal 200lbs person, 1600kcals would STILL be considered a good number for fat loss, but in your case it's impossible to say, since you metabolism is probably much slower than it should be. You have to gradually increase your calories, focusing on protein and good fats, but you probably already know that.

Fat loss is gonna be A LOT slower now that you have already loss 200+lbs. Just keep that in mind, you just need to stick to it.

Toss the scale Away for a couple months and bring the mirror and photos. Is what you see getting better? Then it's all that matters, not the number on the scale. You could still keep track of your waist size with a tape.

Hope that helps.


STFU!? You ate 800 calories a day for months? Have fun with your SLOW metabolism.

Good lord 800 calories...


yeah. i know...


What I've done for myself is plan my diet in 5 pound increments, and I eat for which direction I want to go in, and base my macro ratios around that. Usually dividing the total by 5-8 meals, not including peri workout nutrition, b/c I'm gaining LBM and not trying to lose fat at the moment(just minimize it at best) at the moment.
Every meal generally includes:
1 serving of lean protein
1 serving of healthy fats
1 serving of vegetables
1 serving of fruit


Yeah, that's one of the things I was wondering about... whether I should just "dive in" and consume the recommended calories for the program I'm on, or whether I should gradually kick up the count... the last couple of days I've kicked it up gradually to above 1000.

How fast might one expect to get their metabolism back in proper working order after increasing meal frequency and upping physical activity with weight training?

I've also been walking about 10 miles a day in about three walks a day during the course of all this (several months), so I'm wondering if the fact that I haven't been sedentary and starving might help somewhat. But I dunno. There don't seem to be a lot of resources for people who've fucked up in the "don't eat too little or you'll slow down your metabolism" area.

Thank you, Nyral. I appreciate your advice. I've definitely been focusing more on proteins, and have shifted away from fruits for more green veggies (i was balanced before, but now I'm increasing veggies and decreasing fruits)


Excellent effort with the 210 pound weight loss. 800 calories a day might seem drastic, but 210 pounds of weight loss is a drastic effort and I think at that weight you should be more focused on just dropping the weight rather than worrying about lean mass and what not. Well done.

It might take a while, but as Nyral said, forget what the scales say for a month or two. 1600cals a day with a focus on lean proteins and healthy fats won't allow you to blow your weight back up again (I'm assuming you are male). Stick to that and it wont take too long for your metabolism to catch up.


First, congraulations on your progress to date. I read somewhere that the Nazis fed labourers 800kcals a day - enought to get a few months labour out of them before they died! The fact that you have continued to function well on so little energy is quite amazing.

As a former fatty myself (only a mere 224lbs in comparison), if I have one regret is that my initial nutrition and weights programme wasn't as lean mass-sparing as it could have been. I ate a fairly modest low calorie diet of around 1500-1900 kcals, which was high in carbs and modest in protein and fat. And while the weight did drop off, it was mentally tough - constantly hungry, energy swings, etc. The worst part was the leaner I got the more emaciated I looked in the face and upper body but not in the abdominal/lower back area.

Now at my lightest I weighed 162lbs - and I still didn't have abs to speak of! I wondered how much more I would have to lose in order to achieve this. Salvation came when I abandoned all reason and decided to give low carb dieting a go. A read Mauro DiPasquale's Anabolic Diet, gave it a trial, felt so much better, and even progressed a bit in the gym too. That was almost 3 years ago and I've always done some sort of carb cycle diet since.

Curently I am 174lbs with abs. I'm actually 3 weeks into another of one the more crazy carb/keto cycles - Lyle McDonald's Ultimate Diet 2.0 - in order to lose a few lbs in the right areas this summer. That's not what I would recommend for yourelf at the moment. But the moral is consider a good carb cycle diet if you want to preserve what lean mass you have. I honestly think CT's Refined Physique Transformation programme is one of the best free articles on the net. Some of the supplementation recommendations could be ignored, also saving you some cash, but otherwise it is a fantastic programme.

Training wise, again CT's article is a great starting point. I know he has since revised some of his opinions on lactate training for body comp but that doesn't mean they are redundant. I love this style of training for fat loss, and when you enjoy training life is so much better!

Get a programe formulated, give it 6-8 weeks, revise here and there if necessary but try and stick to it. You have demonstrated great patience and will power so shouldn't be a problem for you. And chart your progress - training diary, food diary, regular weigh-ins, measurements and pix.

Sorry for the sermon, but I feel a missed a trick when I lost that 62lbs. So avoid the same pitfalls!


Damn dude! That's huge weight loss. IMO, it probably that probably wasn't the absolute best way to do it, but you stuck to something hard for quite a long time, and for that, I'm sure as hell impressed. You have to be feeling great too!

That said, 800kcals if awfully low. I almost think you may want to directly consult with someone in the business that really knows their stuff. Shelby Starnes does consultations here:


He writes for T-Nation a lot and is a really damn smart guy that's also an accomplished bodybuilder. If your budget allows, he may be able to provide some valuable insight given your situation.