Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Why Have I Stopped Losing Weight?

I have been dieting and exercising for about 4 months and I've lost 15 lbs. I am 30 yrs old, 5'8" and 162 lbs. In the last 3 weeks I have been exercising 6 days a week for about 30 minutes a day, either with boot camp-type interval training or an elliptical machine. I'm eating about 1200-1350 calories a day. The past 3 weeks my weight loss has slowed and I even gained a pound the first day of my period. What would cause me to gain weight?
I've had a weight problem since I was 13 or so and my dream is to be 140-145. I have never really had success on diets until recently. I've been tracking my calories and I usually eat 3 meals about 350-400 calories and a 100-200 calorie snack each day. Lately I've been really hungry in between meals. My mom thinks I'm not eating enough. I don't want to eat too many calories though. I am so frustrated that I feel like giving up but I know I can't do that. --Carrie E.

Dear Carrie,
YAY for you for not considering giving up as an option :) I have some very clear answers for you to consider and I think you'll be happy to have some direction.

First of all for your height/weight/age and recent activity level you are burning over 2000 calories a day. Your calorie intake is so low that your body is now compensating to "save yourself" (as if you were a starving caveman!) You started out losing weight very quickly on this low calorie diet, but your body doesn't want you to waste away so it's slowing its metabolism. It sounds counter-intuitive, but by bringing your calorie level up to 1600-1800 level (Mom is right, again) your body will feel safe enough to raise the metabolism again and you will be able to lose weight slowly and in a healthy way, and not feel hungry so often.

Second, your weight reflects simply your weight, and not your body composition. Working out heavily with weights can increase the water weight in your muscle, just as premenstrually we often retain more water and the scale says "You weigh more". The scale would say "You weigh more" if you were holding a 16 oz bottle of water in your wouldn't say "hey, put down that pound of water--that doesn't count!" It doesn't know why you weigh this much. I wouldn't be surprised if you've gained a pound or two of muscle after weeks of boot camp either. So you really can't be putting all your measurements of success on the number the scale tells you.

My advice is to keep up the exercises you enjoy doing and think about how good you feel when this is a regular part of your life. If you are exercising only to lose weight it is likely you will eventually resent "having to do the exercise" and you'll stop. If you are exercising because you like it and feel good, you'll keep going for years! I would suggest continuing your healthy meal plan but increasing the calories to 400-500 per meal and add another snack as well (either between meals or evening) for a total of 1400 mimimum calories to 1900 maximum.

Taking the healthy eating and exercise routines and making these your priority in the long run--instead of how many pounds a week you lose--will serve you best. Keep a chart of your weight a few times a week and look back on it over several months: See that you are 10 pounds lighter than you used to be--not that you haven't lost a pound this week. In the overall time you learn to eat healthier, even if you lose 2 pounds a month you'll have reached your goal in a year! I know you probably want it faster than that, but it'll be easier to live your life if you are making new habits instead of going on a diet to lose weight. The results will be long term instead of "I lost 2 pounds and then got too hungry and stopped the diet" or "I lost 2 pounds and then got sick of exercising". The weight will be off once and for all and you'll never have to go on a diet again!

Finally, think about how your thoughts influence your weight and if your beliefs are interfering with your process. If foremost in your mind you keep hearing "I've always had a weight problem" and "I've never been successful with diets" then you keep believing this. Start sending yourself a new message and repeat it often (and I mean 50 times a day) during the day. Something that resonates with you like "I am developing life-long healthy habits so I can live in my dream body for life". Telling yourself this new message will eventually turn into a new belief and this will in turn become the way you view yourself and the way you live.

Enjoy your new lifestyle with healthy eating habits and invigorating exercise and give your mind and body time to form into the best you that you can be in the years to come!
Please let me know if you have any more questions and keep me posted on how it's going!

1 comment:

  1. Great advice Laurie! I know so many people in the same boat and have never considered that maybe they're not getting enough calories and that their bodies have compensated for it by storing the food making harder to lose weight. Brilliant that eating more can actually help someone to lose weight! I will pass this along.