Before I begin this article/website is where I learned it all.
I’ve had a few people reach out to me asking how to eat 3500 calories a day when the mere idea seems impossible. I’ve also been asked why is this number the minimum. These are questions I once remember having and are echoed a lot throughout this community since coming from a place of restriction can make this number seem overwhelming.
First, why 3500 calories? 3500 is the number laid out in MinnieMaud recovery guidelines (now referred to as the homeodynamic recovery method). The logic on that website is sound but let me break down my interpretation of it.
An average human being needs anywhere from 1700-2700 calories a day just to maintain their weight while living their normal every day life. This is affected by how much you move around all day like if you have kids (or cats) or walk around a lot for work or school. It’s also affected by your natural metabolism which is different for everyone. Like, my boyfriend could pound this many calories and literally have 0 fluctuation in his weight whereas other people (like me) aren’t so lucky. When weight restoring obviously you want to put on weight by eating above your maintenance number and 3500 is that magic number.
But Rachel, you say, I am weight restored to a healthy weight already! I did it on 1800 or 2200 or X number of calories, so obviously this minimum doesn’t apply to me, right? WRONG. Here is the thing… you only were able to gain weight on those numbers because you’re metabolism was so suppressed – and I’m speaking from experience here. A big part of the minimums is that it also aids in repairing the suppressed metabolisms that people who restrict give themselves.
It is very easy to get stuck in quasi recovery instead of eating enough because the natural inclination is to assume that if you are weight restored back to a normal weight then you are recovered and need to start restricting calories again to avoid getting huge. That’s an ED fueled thought process my friends. When you eat at least the minimums every day you won’t get stuck in the quasi-recovered state that usually leads to relapse and instead you will find your optimal weight set point.
When recovering there is a backlog of caloric deficit that needs to be replenished. This was studied in one of the most fascination studies of starvation of the human body, the Minnesota Starvation Experiment. The minimums were designed to help replenish the months (or years, or decades) of caloric deficit that has accumulated and reverse all of the negative physical effects like losing your period, feeling cold, hair falling out, compromised organs, etc, etc.
Once you hit your body’s optimal weight set point (not just “weight restored” according to the bullshit BMI) then the metabolism is normalized and that means that the extra energy you were taking in for weight gain and repair now goes to the usual day-to-day functions that were not happening at all from the moment you first restricted calories.
Now that we’re clear hopefully on WHY 3500 – let’s focus on HOW.
Three words: Calorie. Dense. Foods.
Try to incorporate avocadoes, cheese, ice cream, nut butters, coconut milk, dates, olive oil, nuts, dried fruit, pasta
Now I know that a lot of these foods might be “fear foods” for a lot of you – they certainly were for me. It may not easy to face these foods head on – but this is recovery and if not now, then when? Try one a day, see how it makes you feel. Focus on the positives and load on up. It’s easier if you just rip the bandaid and do it.
Here’s a few more tips:
Nuts, seeds, and dried fruit make a great addition to salads, rices dishes,pasta dishes, etc…
Add olive oil and butter to as many foods as possible. I.E.: rice, sandwiches, salads..
Increase portion sizes – Create larger meals of calorie dense foods like rice, mashed potatoes, and pasta.
Drinks are an easy way to intake calories. Drink juice, soy milk, smoothies, shakes, and other healthy high calorie beverages.
Example meal plan (with rough estimates):
B: oatmeal with milk, nut butter, dried fruit, banana, nuts = 730
S: avocado toast = 450
L: double layer sandwich with hummus, protein, oil soaked veggies, cheese = 670
S: mixed nuts and chips = 300-500
D: pasta, veggies, protein, tomato sauce, olive oil – 600-700
S: after dinner shake with bananas, soy milk, nut butter, sweetener – 450 chocolate – 100