Weight Loss
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I eat 1200 calories per day, work out 3-4 days per week, and am stagnating. Help!


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Okay so some information about me:

I'm 22 years old and female. I currently weigh 237 pounds at 5'2". I weighed 325 as of May 2011 and have lost 85+ pounds to date. That's all good and well, but I still have about 100 pounds to lose, and I keep plateauing. It's getting frustrating and I'm having problems understanding why it's happening. As much as I weigh with as short as I am, there is simply no way I should be having to work This hard to lose weight.

At the beginning of November 2011, I weighed 250. I stayed the same weight for the entire holiday season. I wasn't eating a lot, but I had to give up going to the gym because my hair was falling out and I was exhausted. I have this tendency to push too hard once I get started with something :X. So I gave it a rest, enjoyed the holidays, and decided to do a Biggest Loser competition my town does every year once the new year rolled around.

It's been 3 weeks and I'm down 13 pounds, which I'm very happy about. I decided to diversify my diet and try to get rid of some bad things (like the frozen food I'd been eating to lose weight up til now) and add some good things (like whole grains and protein food for after I work out). I go to the gym every other day. I'll do a cardio day, skip, a cardio day, skip, a strength day, skip, and then the cycle repeats. I don't push myself too hard on strength days because I don't want to be building so much muscle that I'm not losing weight. I'm in a weight loss competition, after all! I've seen really good results on cardio days with my heart rate going down as I become more used to doing my elliptical/stationary bike work. I decided to up the resistance so that I kept my target heart rate of around 160.

As for my eating, I do it at intervals, letting no less than 2 hours and no more than 3 hours pass between each snack/meal. I have no more than 1200 calories per day (and I'm strict with counting, so it's not that I'm getting more than I think I am) and try to eat less at night. Adding in the proteins and whole grains has been great. I feel energized and not exhausted like I used to.

But for the past 4 days, my scale has remained the same. It's bothering me. I can't figure out what I'm possibly doing wrong. Am I not eating enough? I don't see how that could be; I have great energy and I'm never hungry. Is increasing the intensity of my cardio workouts actually working against me? Any help would be VERY highly appreciated!

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First, congratulations on losing 85lbs!!!

 You are not eating enough.  Your body adjusts to how much you eat, so your body got used to 1200 calories a day, but it did so by slowing your metabolism.  Your body can't slow its metabolism to completely prevent weight loss, but it can try to fight it. Your body needs food to repair your body after you workout, so you need to adequately eat.

Also, weight train more and lift heavy.  Weight training burns fat better than cardio.  Women don't build muscle very easily, so you don't have to worry about building so much muscle that you don't lose weight.  It won't happen.  Also, building a little muscle is good because you will be able to burn more fat. 

You are starving. Your BMR is 1880, and you really shouldn't be eating less than that. Unfortunately, since you lost weight in an unhealthy manner, your metabolism is messed up. The thing you need to do is take a break and eat at maintenance for a while. That means eating 2250 + whatever extra you burn exercising, so maybe 2500.

You will gain weight, but it will repair your metabolism, and it will allow you to be healthy and make progress in the future. After you stop gaining weight, then introduce a reasonable deficit. You ought to eat at least 1800, even after you start trying to lose again.

 

 

Original Post by solid555:

You are starving. Your BMR is 1880, and you really shouldn't be eating less than that. Unfortunately, since you lost weight in an unhealthy manner, your metabolism is messed up. The thing you need to do is take a break and eat at maintenance for a while. That means eating 2250 + whatever extra you burn exercising, so maybe 2500.

You will gain weight, but it will repair your metabolism, and it will allow you to be healthy and make progress in the future. After you stop gaining weight, then introduce a reasonable deficit. You ought to eat at least 1800, even after you start trying to lose again.

 

 

As solid said, you have been undereating for far too long and your metabolism as dropped to compensate.  The only way to "fix" it is to eat a lot more until your body realizes you are not trying to starve it anymore and starts letting go of fat stores again.  How long is your competition?  It really does your long term weight loss and maintenence no favors to keep pushing with these low cals.  :(

Agreed...you have to eat more!  No human should ever be eating 1200 calories, though almost almost woman does when they try to lose weight.  It's not healthy, as to why your hair was falling out!  Up the calories and continue on your journey.  Add in more weight sessions.  You won't bulk up.  Too many women have negative thoughts about weight.  Burn the fat, which more muscle mass will do.  Good luck!

I agree with all of the above. You need to start eating more and not be afraid of weight training. I do weights 3 times a wk plus my cardio. More muscle = more burn. You will not bulk up or gain weight from weight training. You really need to focus on your food. You have done great so far, but you need to up the calories big time. If you can go to 2300 or more for at least a few wks till you stop gaining then you can start to work on losing again. You have no where to go from here you absolutely cannot reduce calories anymore. The fact you have hair falling out is not from working out it is from lack of nutrition, this is what happens to anorexics etc....

solid555, where are you getting your numbers? She is a 5'2" female (so am I). My maintenance calories with a sedentary lifestyle is 1440 calories. I must eat 1200 calories and add a 2-3 mile walk just to lose .5-1 pound a week according to the calculators.

Original Post by danaabshire:

solid555, where are you getting your numbers? She is a 5'2" female (so am I). My maintenance calories with a sedentary lifestyle is 1440 calories. I must eat 1200 calories and add a 2-3 mile walk just to lose .5-1 pound a week according to the calculators.

They are all over the web. Here is one. Click on the "BMR and RMR calculator" link in the middle of the page, enter her stats: Female, 22, 5'2", 237 pounds; and you get a BMR of 1,871 and a sedentary burn of 2,245.

#8  
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Hello.

The above replies all mentioned that you are eating too little and that being the problem. I agree that your metabolism might have slowed down due to eating less calories than is healthy. I also have another suggestion though:

I dislike the traditional gym exercises because they're boring to do (such as treadmills,  cycling, and the other cardio machines) for any length of time. I do my cardio using video exercise programs such as TurboFire and Insanity (from beach body). One of the things all the trainers talk about is that HIIT (high intensity interval training) is much better than traditional cardio, and that your body gets used to your exercises if you do the same thing every time, so it becomes less effective. Doing the same exercises over time is one of the big causes of the plateau, and the trainers from these videos all say that in order to get over the plateau you need to change up the type of exercises you're doing. 

I noticed that you said that you have gotten used to your exercise routine, and that might be the problem. I think you might want to find another type of exercise for cardio and keep changing it up instead of doing the same thing every time. For example, if you do spin/cycling for cardio normally, try running on the elliptical or doing a rowing machine instead for a while, then switch back later on. You can also run on the elliptical backwards which is harder than running forward. Other cardio can also include skipping rope or climbing stairs (steps machine). 

HIIT can be running as fast as you can for 15 seconds an then walking for 1 minute and repeat many times. 

First of all let me say thanks for all of the replies. I definitely need some insight here.

Secondly, BMR calculators have drawbacks. One of them is that if a lot of your body weight is muscle, a BMR calculator will underestimate the amount of calories you need, and if a lot of your body weight is fat, it will overestimate it. I'm not sure what percentage of my body is fat at this point, but I guarantee you it's enough to throw a BMR calculator way off. I could believe that I might need a few hundred more calories per day, but not 1800+. All I'd be doing by eating 1800+ calories per day is getting fat. I should also add in that I have known thyroid problems which contribute to a slower metabolism. I don't have the kind of cash I'd need to spend in order to go get tested again and put on medicine for it, but I know it really messes with my numbers.

Thanks a ton for the information on weight training for females. I will definitely keep that in mind. I love my cardio workouts, but I know how essential it is to have strength workouts as well. I don't want to lose my weight so quickly that I end up with saggy, loose skin by the time I'm at my goal, and I've been told that overall fitness and muscle toning is the best thing to help that, along with losing the weight at a healthy rate. I'll be adding more strength training and seeing how it goes. I'll also add in a few hundred more calories per day and give my body a few weeks to see if I stop gaining weight and start losing it again.

Also, I should add that I'm not skeptical at all about why my hair was falling out. I know that by eating so few calories and going to the gym 6 days a week (and staying an hour or more each time on top of that), I was basically an acting anorexic. I don't intend to let that happen again.

#10  
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We have similar stats, I ate the 1200-1400 and was convinced that was all I could have, I plateaued for 6 months. Nothing was more discouraging. I now eat at least 1800 calories and I am consistently losing my 1-2 pounds a week. Don't limit yourself now or getting lower than 190 is going to be as hard as it was for me.
4 days isn't a plateau. You've lost 13 lbs in 3 weeks. That's the opposite of a plateau. I'm not going to chastise you for eating too little, etc.m but you should calm down. You ARE losing weight.

If you've had known thyroid problems, you should find a way to see a doctor. Are there any free clinics in your town? (I'm assuming you are uninsured.) get tested, get a prescription for medication (if you need it - plenty of people age out of needing thyroid meds.) But the correct hormone balance is necessary for MORE than just weight loss/maintenance, and thyroid medications are on the Walmart/CVS/Walgreens/target $5 prescription plans, so you should be able to afford the, if you do need them.
#12  
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If I were you, I would be eating 1600 calories a day, considering your BMR. Keep in mind that losing up to 5lbs a week is a lot more common when you're very heavy than when you start getting closer to your target weight. You're now at the point that to lose weight in a healthy and manageable manner, you should only be losing 2, MAYBE 3, lbs a week. I know, its frustrating. But your body tends to freak out and think its being starved if you try to lose weight faster than that. You should aim for having a calorie deficit each week of 7000 calories. That is how much it takes to lose 2 lbs. So eating 1600 a day and working out enough to burn 3164 calories a week will get you to lose 2 lbs a week. Running 5mph for an hour will burn over 800 calories, so that should give you an idea of how much you need to work out. Keep in mind that an hour of weight lifting only burns about 300 calories. Perhaps you should walk on the treadmill for 30 mins on your weight lifting days to boost your calories burnt?

I wanted to mention the thyroid thing like a few other people did. What caught my attention was you saying your hair was falling out and you were exhausted. Hair falling out could definitely be a sign of a thyroid problem. My sister is hypo, and every so often her hair starts falling out because of this. It's also possible that you could have a problem where your thyroid is fluctuating between hypo and hyper and maybe that's why you're having problems with weight loss (you would likely see little to no weight loss if you were hypo). You should definitely get this checked out, as regulating your thyroid could definitely help you see more progress, if that's what's causing the problem.

You should get a great ebook called "The Fat Loss troubleshoot' by Leigh Peele. It is really helpful and no-nonsense advice for losing fat. She explains (better than I) that sometimes when you eat a large defect of calories for a long period of time and train really hard you can actually mess up your hormones and you don't end up losing weight. To fix this you need to eat at maintenance (i.e. basically the same number of calories that goes out goes in) for a period of time for metabolic repair. I did not explain it well but it's all in her book and her website. She has a great pod cast too. Sometimes you can work against yourself, but the good news is that you can get better results from eating more and training less. Also, I would not worry about what your scale does over 4 days. Your weight can go up and down so much in a day (water retention, muscle growth and strain, etc)! Try weighing yourself only at the same time each week (i.e. Wednesday morning when you first wake up). Look for an overall trend over a longer period of time, not just a few days. This is all explained in Leigh's book, too!

Hope this helps.

 

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