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Why is it harder to lose weight for some people than others?


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While I do believe that it is calories in vs. calories out, I truly believe that for some people the number of calories burned is more dependent on the number of calories consumed than it is for other people.  I see plenty of posts from people who steadily lose 1-2 pounds per week because they keep their daily calorie deficit at 500-1000 per day, while I see other posts from people like me who lose weight very unsteadily, are lucky to eek out an average loss of a half pound a week, and plateau regularly despite keeping their daily calorie deficit between 500 and 1000.

I learned a long time ago that trying to lose weight eating 1200 calories doesn't work for me.  I'm 5'1", 146.5 lbs (as of this morning), I excercise every day for upwards of an hour, part of which is weight training, and I eat 1600 calories a day.  I've lost about 13 lbs since I started using CC 20 weeks ago, and I'm thrilled with the loss, and while I occasionally get frustrated wondering how long it's going to take to finally reach my goal or wondering when a plateau will finally break, I'm grateful that I've come this far, as that's more than I can say for any previous attempt I've made at losing weight.

So what is it that makes the difference?  I have 2 hypotheses:

  1. It's genetic.  Some people's metabolisms are just quicker to slow down in response to an energy deficit.
  2. By dieting since I was 13 years old, I've taught my metabolism to slow down and conserve energy when faced with an energy deficit.

I think it may be a combination of the 2 although I'm leaning heavily toward the 2nd reason.  Both my sisters were reasonably slim growing up.  My oldest sister started putting on weight in college, and it just kept adding up after she got married and had children.  8 years ago she joined WW and lost weight pretty quickly and with very little excercise (yoga once a week).  She reached her goal, but has since gained most of the weight back.  My other sister has never really been overweight.  She's excercised regularly since college, but at various times has been between a size 4 and a size 10.  Last year she had gotten up to a size 10 and wasn't happy about it.  She started eating smaller portions every 3-4 hours and the weight just fell off.  There was no calorie counting.  There was no excluding any foods, just portion control and excercise.  Now she's a size 2 - 4.

Unlike my sisters, I was a chubby kid.  My mother encouraged me to start dieting when I was 13 years old.  I wish she'd encouraged me to play a sport instead, but she didn't know any better.  I've tried Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers, and briefly, LA Weight Loss (a scam if I've ever seen one).  I've read so many diet/nutrition/fitness books that at this point I could probably write one.  I'm eye rollingly amused when people offer me diet advice, especially the misguided tips such as, "You have to eat a tub of dry organic lettuce every day."  Calorie counting and excercise is the only thing that seems to work for me, but it is slow going.

So, what do you think?  What are your stories?  Does the weight come off as it's supposed to or do you have to struggle to chip off every pound?

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I hate it when people who have NEVER had to lose weight try to offer me advice as well. No one wants to hear from a person with no battle wounds. That's why i love it on here. People are actually experienced. I have  friends who are TINY, like 100 lbs tiny and some have always hated it. But now that I am trying to lose weight, some of them give me annoying advice, even though they have spent years eating crap.

I kinda a gree with you. I think that while I agree with the whole 3500 calorie thing, everyone's body is very different. So many things can affect how quickly we lose weight it seems. But I don't know...all I know is what works for me, becuase I have spent the past few years learning. What some people do would not be as effective for me, so I am adjusting, altering and seeing what type of lifestyle I can actually maintain long term . I carry my weight low-not a lot in my stomach, and when i gain weight my boobs grow as well. I am  hourglass, but when I gain weight, my thighs get large, so it is important to avoid fats and focus on workouts that keep them toned. Also, a 1500 cal a day plan would be hard for me. I love to work out, so I aim for a large calorie burn every day, I can eat more than some people (healthy stuff though. I am trying to work on the whole 20-30-50% fat, protein carb ratio) and still have a 1000 calorie defecit. I think that for me, it would be harder to lose weight it I wasn't as active. But I know some people that don't work out much at all and have dropped weight.

I have had a week where I changed very little and lost 9 lbs. In order to do that, I would have had to have a huge defecit daily...but I didn't. I just ran 4 days that week, And I wasn't counting anything either. But then again, i have gained 10 in a week as well. I am trying to do things right, however, so I am not looking for a huge drop. I mean, I wouldn't complain about the loss...but I am trying to take good care of me this time. 2 lb a week is OK with me. Over time, it will amount to much. I try to put it in perspective. After a year, that can = 104 pounds. That us a lot of work and a huge achievement. The hardest thing for us to do sometimes is to congratulate ourselves on small steps. But we should more often.

I will say, that in struggling harder to lose weight, maybe you learn more. It take more effort, so in the end you may be better at maintaining it than someone who dropped it all quickly with little effort. i think we take things for granted less when it took more blood, sweat and tears.

Original Post by dolphinclick:

So what is it that makes the difference?  I have 2 hypotheses:

  1. It's genetic.  Some people's metabolisms are just quicker to slow down in response to an energy deficit.
  2. By dieting since I was 13 years old, I've taught my metabolism to slow down and conserve energy when faced with an energy deficit.

As far as #1 goes, everyone's metabolism slows down quickly in response to an energy deficit. I believe you're right on #2 though - I've dieted my whole life and what I've really done is taught my body to be incredibly efficient at burning fewer calories and resistant to losing weight. I lose very slowly ... I've actually tracked spreadsheets of my deficits using a HR monitor during exercise and logging every tsp of cream in my coffee probably overestimating what I ate with a target of 1800 calories a day ... my spreadsheets showed I should have lost over 10 lbs ... I actually lost 2. I don't believe that calories in vs calories out captures the whole story, I think it's also dependant on what you eat.

Original Post by dolphinclick:

I see plenty of posts from people who steadily lose 1-2 pounds per week because they keep their daily calorie deficit at 500-1000 per day, while I see other posts from people like me who lose weight very unsteadily, are lucky to eek out an average loss of a half pound a week, and plateau regularly despite keeping their daily calorie deficit between 500 and 1000.

see - no.  this is where you've lost the plot.  if you're losing half a pound a week, then you have a deficit of roughly 1750/week.  you might think you have a larger deficit, but you must be overestimating your burn or underestimating your intake, because if you truly did have that deficit, your weight would show it.

burn numbers are always estimates, okay?  always.  ALWAYS.  damn, i'm getting sick of saying that.

Original Post by pgeorgian:

see - no.  this is where you've lost the plot.  if you're losing half a pound a week, then you have a deficit of roughly 1750/week.  you might think you have a larger deficit, but you must be overestimating your burn or underestimating your intake, because if you truly did have that deficit, your weight would show it.

burn numbers are always estimates, okay?  always.  ALWAYS.  damn, i'm getting sick of saying that.

No, I do understand that.  That is my point.  I realize that I'm burning way less than what the CC site says I should be burning.  So, while it may tell me that I'm averaging a weekly deficit of 5000 calories, and I know how many calories I ate, I'm only averaging a weekly deficit of 1750 or so.  My point is that there are other people who are my height and my weight who have the same amount of muscle and fat and are just as active as I am who burn more calories than I do while eating the same amount.  And I don't think that I necessarily burn fewer calories than others while eating at a maintenance level, but I do think that my body does conserve energy more aggressively when I present it with an energy deficit.

the point is, how "active" someone is really can't be measured.  things like posture, core engagement, fidgeting, and even cognition vary between individuals and affect metabolism.  as i've said before, some people are never really sedentary while others can practically be comatose in front of the TV. 

Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome...I curse the day you were born.

Why?  Because you like to cling to the fat and those who have the pleasure of having you as a roommate, take twice as long and twice as hard to lose weight.

 

 

You didn't teach your metabolism - don't worry about that.  Your metabolism is a process of burning and building.  Calorie deficits don't slow metabolism nearly the way many describe it.  In fact, metabolic changes are affected by other factors far more than calorie deficit.  I believe that you have a harder time losing weight - and it is very likely that your dieting causes a change in your metabolic rate - but I sincerely think that the changes are a factor of something in your dieting other than the calorie deficit.

I urge you to read the following link to a definition of metabolism that is both balanced and easy to understand (for the most part).

WIKIPEDIA METABOLISM

Um, thanks for the biochemistry review, legaleli, but I have a degree in Biology.  I had to sit through a year of biochem, and there was a point in time when I had to memorize the structure of all 20 common amino acids and every step of the citric acid cycle.

I think there are a myriad of factors that influence our metabolic rate.  For example, my normal body temperature is not 98.6 degrees Farenheit.  It tends to hover somewhere between 97 and 98.  If it goes over 99 degrees, it's because I'm sick.  My body is saving energy by not maintaining its temperature a degree higher.

Several years ago I tried to lose weight by eating 1200 calories a day.  I counted diligently for 2 weeks, and I excercised every day.  I didn't lose an ounce.  What did I get for my trouble?  I found myself needing a nap in the middle of the day.  That was my body's way of trying to conserve energy, and apparently it worked.  Like I said, I don't know whether it's genetic or whether I've taught my body that it's going to have times when it needs to conserve energy, but the end result is that I can not lose weight any quicker than I am unless I truly starve myself.  I've been there -- not intentionally, but I was sick and had no appetite.  When the smell of food turns your stomach, there's only so much you can force down.  And let me tell you, the weight fell off fast, but I'd rather not go through that again.  I'm content to lose weight slowly as long as I keep losing. 

On the plus side, should a famine come up, I feel confident that I'll survive it ;)

 

in other words, you weren't really asking a question, because you've already answered it in your own mind.

damn, i wish people would just say so when it's a hypothetical.

For me the trick is to not compare myself to others, or put too much credence in averages, like estimating calorie burn.  I do my best to log my calories accurately (using a gram scale in the kitchen, estimating portion size when I have to).  So, within a reasonable margin of error, I know how much I am eating.  I weigh myself and graph my weight daily, so withing a reasonable margin of error, I know what I weigh.  I can then calculate how much I am burning, or how big my deficit is within a reasonable margin of error.  Now, I seem to be one of the lucky ones, my deficit actually works out to be higher than the CC tools calculate, so maybe it is easy to be philosophic.  But, I also don't spend anytime grousing about the fact that all my "normal" weight friends "seem" to eat more than I can (without gaining weight).  That's great for them, has no bearing on what I need to do. 

Each of us is ultimately responsible for figuring out a healthy goal, and a healthy path to achieving that goal, and a healthy plan to maintain once we are there.  One that works for us.  The best we can hope for from others is inspiration and maybe some "tricks" that we can incorporate into our own lifestyle.

Original Post by pgeorgian:

in other words, you weren't really asking a question, because you've already answered it in your own mind.

damn, i wish people would just say so when it's a hypothetical.

This wasn't a "help! Why am I losing weight so slowly?" post.  I don't expect advice that will "fix" me.  I was hoping for posts like cellotlhicks responded with.  I was hoping people would respond with what their experiences have been on their weight loss journeys.

I honestly don't think there's one all encompassing answer to this question.  Everyone is different.  What works for one person does not necessarily work for the next.

Original Post by dolphinclick:

This wasn't a "help! Why am I losing weight so slowly?" post. 

no, it was a "What can I blame this on?" post. 

dkenworthy's post is a good one. 

Dolphinclick, my "normal" temp is also 97.4. Coincidentally, my dh is also and so are all 4 of our kids. I read somewhere that roughly 5% of the population is this way.

I agree that all these numbers are very "fudgy". I see them as basic guidelines and nothing more. I'm just trying to manipulate this all to my own benefit and I find I have to dodge and weave a bit to get the right mix. Then change it all up again next week when it no longer works...GRRRR

Knowing the steps of the Citric Acid Cycle or all 20 AA doesn't really tell a whole lot about how your metabolism is working as a whole. I don't want to come off as attacking because that's not how I mean to be, but your hypoth #2 isn't correct. Your body conserves energy when it doesn't need to be used, the way to offset this is by exercising. Obviously genetics is a huge part of it, some are born with more and larger fat cells than others and theres reasons why some people lose/maintain easier than others.

But as far as your concerned, and as other people have said, you need to burn more calories. Like someone said they are estimates, but there's no subsitute for exercising. Diet is only part of the battle, you need to increase your energy expenditure. Someone said that they think there's more to the calories in/calories out thing, but when it comes to strictly losing lbs there isn't. The type of calories you take in and when though can affect on how many calories you are burning. Those energy expenditure estimates are not super accurate (HR is not a perfect measure of Energy Expenditure) and don't accurately measure how your metabolism is raised after exercise (which is where more calories are burned). Also try not to think strictly about weight but about improving your overall health.

dont worry, dolphinchick.  im in the same boat as you.   my weight loss is so unbelievably sporadic and slow.  im insulin resistant, i have pcos, and i used to be hypothyroid a few years ago, so i have somemetabolism issues, but you definately arent the only one that doesnt have the results they should.  i swear i eat less than everyone in my famiily and the weight just doesnt come off.  my sisters tell me all the time how easy it is to lose weight and they're much smaller than me.  i should be losing more weight than them and quicker than they did.  it doesnt work like that though.

i believe in calories in vs. calories out, but i dont believe that we are necessarily to blame for not being able to get the equation correct.   i personally dont think all the recommendations work for me.  my body is too whacked out to have my calorie burn calculated by a website.  at this point i dont know what to do other than to keep trying and listening to my body.  

Original Post by jessicasbc:

dont worry, dolphinchick.  im in the same boat as you.   my weight loss is so unbelievably sporadic and slow.  im insulin resistant, i have pcos, and i used to be hypothyroid a few years ago, so i have somemetabolism issues, but you definately arent the only one that doesnt have the results they should.  i swear i eat less than everyone in my famiily and the weight just doesnt come off.  my sisters tell me all the time how easy it is to lose weight and they're much smaller than me.  i should be losing more weight than them and quicker than they did.  it doesnt work like that though.

i believe in calories in vs. calories out, but i dont believe that we are necessarily to blame for not being able to get the equation correct.   i personally dont think all the recommendations work for me.  my body is too whacked out to have my calorie burn calculated by a website.  at this point i dont know what to do other than to keep trying and listening to my body.  

 I wish I was insulin resistant...at least I would know that was also a cause for my issues.  None of my tests indicate that I am.  So some days I don't even know if it is PCOS.

But anywho...good luck and I hope you find a way that works!

 

Wink

 

Original Post by kylefsu:

But as far as your concerned, and as other people have said, you need to burn more calories. Like someone said they are estimates, but there's no subsitute for exercising. Diet is only part of the battle, you need to increase your energy expenditure. Someone said that they think there's more to the calories in/calories out thing, but when it comes to strictly losing lbs there isn't. The type of calories you take in and when though can affect on how many calories you are burning. Those energy expenditure estimates are not super accurate (HR is not a perfect measure of Energy Expenditure) and don't accurately measure how your metabolism is raised after exercise (which is where more calories are burned). Also try not to think strictly about weight but about improving your overall health.

I agree.  There is no substitute for excercise.  I have never been able to lose weight without it (with the exception of when I was sick).  5 days a week I do excercise videos which are essentially circuit training using free weights and resisitance bands - 3 days for 60 minutes, 2 days for 78 minutes.  I'm basically dripping with sweat through most of it, and I push my muscles hard.  On the 6th day I do an hour of stretching/yoga and walk for at least 45 minutes.  On the 7th day, I swim a mile and walk 9 or 10 miles, 2 of those on the beach.  Otherwise, I try to stay generally active.  I live in a 3rd floor walk-up.  I teach, so I stay on my feet while I work.  It is not just about weight.  I get that.  This is about my health.

jessicasbc, that's a lot to overcome.  I'm impressed!  And yeah, the websites do their best, but the best they can do is to come up with what the "average" person at that weight would burn, and many of us just don't fall into "average."

well being insulin resistant makes me pre-diabetic (at only 20 years old) and the pcos has been causing me hair loss, acne, and probably a lesser chance of me ever having kids.   you should be very grateful that you dont have these problems, and knowing that i have them doesnt make it any easier to not be losing weight.  if anything it makes me feel more hopeless.   i wish my weight loss was entirely in my own  hands to deal with.

Original Post by kylefsu:

But as far as your concerned, and as other people have said, you need to burn more calories. Like someone said they are estimates, but there's no subsitute for exercising. Diet is only part of the battle, you need to increase your energy expenditure. Someone said that they think there's more to the calories in/calories out thing, but when it comes to strictly losing lbs there isn't. 

This is bull ... sorry for the language, but it simply isn't always the case. I've been training for a half ironman for the past 4 months. On average I run/cycle/swim with a heart rate between 130 - 175 depending on the activity (average 130 for swimming, 150 for cycling, 170 for running) for about 9 - 12 hours per week - sometimes more.  I eat on average 1800 calories per day, 2000 if I have a 2+ hr run or cycle that day. I don't have cheat days. I don't drink. I measure and weigh everything that goes into my mouth. I don't eat out ever. According to the math I should be losing weight like crazy. I'm not. I never do. It just isn't that simple for everyone. Even if the 'estimates' for burn and metabolism are off significantly I should be losing substantial weight every week with my level of activity - I don't.

Original Post by jessicasbc:

well being insulin resistant makes me pre-diabetic (at only 20 years old) and the pcos has been causing me hair loss, acne, and probably a lesser chance of me ever having kids.   you should be very grateful that you dont have these problems, and knowing that i have them doesnt make it any easier to not be losing weight.  if anything it makes me feel more hopeless.   i wish my weight loss was entirely in my own  hands to deal with.

 Okay let me clarify my statements.  I was referring to that if I knew I was insulin resistant, then I would at least know what was wrong with my body.  I have suffered since I was 15 and have over 5 different specialist who basically chocked it up to...oh she is irregular she will regulate.  I am now 29 and the last doctor *thinks* I have PCOS even though I do not suffer from a lot of the symptoms PCOS suffers have.  My only symptom is the inability to have a period with out hormone therapy.  No hair growth, adult acne etc.  Thyroids are functioning (went to separate doctor for that) and my insulin levels are fine.   So with out telling me why periods are jacked and why my body is holding on the fat, they say I have PCOS.  I have a date with a nother doctor sometime soon.  Trust me I wish, I knew what was wrong and how I can fix it...they don't even know what meds to give me other than a hormone.

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