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Obesity and Weight Management

Stuck in a Rut: Can I Lose More Weight?

07/23/2010

Question:

I have steadily gained weight my whole life. I finally realized I needed to lose weight when I hit 265, and considering I’m only 5’7, I am well overweight. I am 21, and I started attempting to lose weight about four months ago. I am not using any supplements, I do take a vitamin some mornings but sometimes forget, and I am not on any specific diet. I have changed my eating habits, only drink water, eat 4 to 5 times a day, 2 or 3 hours apart, and I try to walk on my treadmill daily, for about 45 minutes, progressively moving between 3mph and 3.5mph. I also do weight training 2 or 3 times a week for about 20 minutes. I have lost about 40 pounds, maybe a little more, which I am proud of, but now I seem to maintain my weight for a week, then lose a pound or two the next. What can I do to improve this?

Answer:

It sounds like you are doing fine. You shouldn't lose more than 1 or 2 pounds each week. Losing faster encourages your body to burn calories in muscle rather than calories in fat.  

 
Often, initial weight loss is faster - for two reasons. You often lose water weight initially (2 cups/1 pint water weighs 1 pound), and the closer you get to your final weight goal the less difference there is between your current weight and final weight. As you carry less weight you burn fewer calories. 
 
Just to make sure you are 'eating healthy' go to http://www.choosemyplate.gov/ and put in your age, gender, height, weight, and activity level and see what the calorie level recommendations are. Compare it to the calorie level you are now eating. It takes a 3500 calorie reduction to lose 1 pound. Reducing your intake by 500 calories per day will give you (on average) a 1 pound per week weight loss.

Don't reduce calories too low, though (not below 1200 or 1500) or you will cause your body to go into 'starvation mode'. When this happens your basal metabolic rate slows and you burn fewer calories. This also happens when you go too long between meals. Eating 4-5 times per day is a good idea. 
 
Keep it up, along with your exercise. Also remember, as you develop muscle through exercise you may change measurements/inches but weigh the same. A pound of muscle takes up much less space than a pound of fat.

Muscle also requires more calories to maintain it than stored fat does, so as your body composition changes your basal metabolic rate goes up (you burn more calories even at rest/not exercising). 
 
Good luck. You are doing a nice job now. Just think of it as a permanent change in lifestyle, not a diet.  

 

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Response by:

Sharron   Coplin, MS, RD, LD Sharron Coplin, MS, RD, LD
Former Lecturer
Food & Nutrition
College of Education and Human Ecology
The Ohio State University