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Calorie Count Blog

A Realistic Weight Loss Calendar


By +Carolyn Richardson on Jun 16, 2012 10:00 AM in Dieting & You

Quantifiably speaking, losing weight is easy. If you expend more calories than you consume, the number on the scale will go down. However, our bodies are not as simple to figure out over time. There are factors that keep us from losing weight at the same rate as we did when we first started. It isn’t just about muscle burn or a faster metabolism. It’s the fact that our bodies’ ability to adapt is a constant factor in reaching and maintaining our goal weight. Here are the challenges that time will not allow us to forget.

One Month

If you’re starting from scratch so-to-speak, your body is primed to lose weight. You have hundreds of calories to “lose” through eating better every day. Adding regular exercise will burn even more calories. Because a heavier you burns more calories at rest, that first month of weight loss could be a boon to your motivation. If you start moving and eat a little less, the scale will be your friend. But after a month, you may see a slowdown in your pounds lost. All else equal, when a 200-pound, 30 year-old woman loses ten pounds, her body requires 441 less calories a week to maintain that lower weight. Continuing to lose means putting in more effort than was first exerted at the outset. With a lower caloric intake and less weight, your body needs less calories to carry out it’s daily functions and also burns less calories doing the same exercise than it did at the higher weight. Unless more time and effort is put in, either by exercising harder or more often or consuming less calories a day, losing more pounds is bound to slow down.

One Year

Even if you periodically change your workouts to increase the effort and time you put in to continue to get results, as well as modify your caloric intake to the appropriate level for your ever-decreasing weight, your hunger hormones will not help you continue to lose. Unlike extreme weight loss programs that can help you lose 30 pounds in 3 months or less, hunger hormones don’t adjust quickly. Your body may keep you wanting more over a year after you reach your goal weight. A study in the New England Journal of Medicine showed participants who lost 10% of their weight during a 10-week weight loss program had increased levels of hunger hormones that stimulate hunger 12 months after their initial weight loss. An obesity expert, Dr. Rudolph Leibel, of Columbia University in New York said the study’s findings suggest a permanent response, saying it‘s not surprising that our body “fights back“ beyond a year after major weight loss. With a bigger appetite and a body that burns less calories, maintaining a lower weight is a challenge that is just beginning a year after you reach your goal weight.

Three Years

As if out-of-whack hunger wasn’t enough, there’s this thing called equilibrium that is reached that spells trouble for extreme calorie-restricted diets. After continually lowering calories you consume, your metabolism may have slowed to the point where losing weight may reach a stand still. Exercising more may help burn more calories, but if calories are too restricted, the ability to work harder on less calories may be too much for your body to take. This point is reportedly due to the three-year rule. Carson C. Chow, an investigator at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, says, “It actually takes about three years for a dieter to reach their new “steady state.” In addition to a calorie-restricted diet, one study puts weight-loss maintenance as requiring an even higher activity level than done during weight loss, at 90 to 120 minutes of vigorous exercise a day. That said, science shows that maintaining weight loss really is harder than losing weight. This is one reason nutritionists advise not to lose weight at a rate higher than 1 to 2 pounds a week. The key word is sustainability. You should never have to do something so drastic that you can’t maintain it over time. That goes for diet and exercise. In essence, the slow pace of losing weight is just the warm-up for the real task at hand. Maintaining your weight loss will require even more of your time and effort, for the rest of your life. However, there is good news just down the road. According to the National Weight Control Registry, after maintaining weight loss for more than 5 years, the chances of long-term success greatly increases.


Your thoughts…

For those who have maintained weight loss more than three years, what has been your key to success?



Comments


I first noticed that I needed to loose a few pounds after I graduated college with my MBA.  My wife and I went on a cruise and she took a picture of me just after we had boarded the ship.  After the cruise, when I was looking at the pictures, I noticed that I looked like a beached whale before all the buffets!  I decided to change my life.  I looked at when I could best exercise and set set a long term goal of where I wanted to be with my weight.  Every weekday morning at 4 am, I am in my home gym.  I spend about 8-10 minutes on weights, 8-10 minutes on sit-ups and calisthenics, about 30 minutes on a recumbent bike and walking.  In 2008, I started out at 267 pounds. Today, I am at 195 pounds and have gone from sizes 2 and 3X to a large and from a 42 waist to a 36 waist.  I have had setbacks and plateaus.  I have had a broken ankle, a split-tear in a tendon in my foot, gall bladder surgery, a knee replacement and shoulder surgery, but have not lost sight of my goal.

If I ever need encouragement, I just drag out that picture and look how far I have come.  Today,  I still need to lose a few pounds  to get to where I need to be, but my exercise is more maintenance at about 45 minutes each weekday morning than a constant push to loose.  Look at the long term!  You did not put those pounds on overnight and they will not come off overnight.  The important thing is to make a commitment to do the work and not get discouraged.  Find your motivation.  Know why you are doing this and then go do it. 



  I am really considering, "the key word is sustainability.....I should never have to do something so drastic that I can't maintain it over time."  I've working on the 10 pound problem for the past ten years.  But at 64, I'm not going to be able to do 90-120 minutes of vigorous exercise daily.  So I may have to accept having a BMI of 24.9.  Exercising 45 min daily is sustainable; 2 hours is not.  Lowering calories below 1200 is not sustainable either.  This is an excellent article.  It is making me think realistically. 



Trying to figure out "how to" loose my last 28lbs which is seemingly harder than loosing the 87lbs that I lost in a year and a half.



My Dr has been stressing to me that "weight" isn't really considered a key metric compared to other numbers such as waist size, blood pressure, and many other numbers found from your blood work, like cholesterol. Taking steps to subtract "bad" foods and adding exercise to your lifestyle will usually result is a lower number on the scale, but also should result in healthier metrics overall, lower stress levels, and hopefully and happier you. In my mind, weight is only one little piece of the puzzle, and I think this article can clearly illustrate why. As the gentleman from the cruise can attest, life will interrupt your efforts from time to time, but as long as you "get back on the wagon" you'll remain in a healthier state for the long term.


Excellent read, thank you.



Good reminder that maintenance is harder than actually losing excess weight, " In essence, the slow pace of losing weight is just the warm-up for the real task at hand".   Losing weight rapidly may set us up for failure later - as the body fights back but first increasing hunger and then lowering its basal metabolic rate (BMR).  Our body's are survival machines which were programmed over the eons by evolution to survive famines.   Fat deposits helped animals survive famines.  The primordial survival mechanism kicks in to increase hunger and lower BMR to prevent weight loss.



A lot of great information in this article, but it can also be overwhelming to some.  If you're just starting out, the 2nd line says, "If the calories you expend are below the calories you consume the number on the scale will go down."  and that's the most important rule to know!

Eating less, but small meals throughout your day PAINLESSLY helped me lose my weight.  Eating what I want and working out less than an hour per week--OH! and hydrating!!!  So important.  Anyway, don't get overwhelmed.  Just get in the habit of eating less, moving more and hydrating and you will drop the pounds without even feeling it.  Good luck!!!

Jim



Isn't it funny that we have a survival mechanism to allow us to survive famines?  I have never been hungry in my life except out of choice.  You would think our bodies would also have the shut off valve that would prevent us from getting morbidly obese as a balance to the famine  response.  I have spent the last 2 years slowly loosing 60 lbs.  I have another 40-60 left (depending on what % of body fat I decide to stop at).  I eat well, excercise and don't feel deprived because I eat whateer I want, just less of it if it is calorie laden.  Many friends have done those wacky loose weight quick plans and have lost the same 25 lbs over and over.  I wonder when they will learn the real secret?



at 54 yrs  199lbs- 39 bmi diabetic /bp/  this article is an eye opener to the long road ahead---so instead of the one year target that i had keot now its a 5 year target with life time changes --really a 5 star aricle



"If the calories you expend are below the calories you consume the number on the scale will go down." ... Huh???? I wish!!



heidsterr, I'm glad I'm not the only one who spotted that.  I wish, too! :)



In 1993 I lost 100 pounds.  It was glorious. I then kept it off for 3 years by running faithfully and watching my caloric intake. I thought I had this thing solved.

Then life happened -- major upheavals and not able to run for months on end.  I was absolutely, fiercely determined not to get fat again.  I gradually put the weight back on regardless. 

This is a great article,  truthful and wise and exactly what we all need to know.  It's not easy.  It's not fast. And it is never going to go away. 

But it IS worth it!



Original Post by: jimmyloram

A lot of great information in this article, but it can also be overwhelming to some.  If you're just starting out, the 2nd line says, "If the calories you expend are below the calories you consume the number on the scale will go down."  and that's the most important rule to know!

Eating less, but small meals throughout your day PAINLESSLY helped me lose my weight.  Eating what I want and working out less than an hour per week--OH! and hydrating!!!  So important.  Anyway, don't get overwhelmed.  Just get in the habit of eating less, moving more and hydrating and you will drop the pounds without even feeling it.  Good luck!!!

Jim


HA HA!!! Yes, that should say "If the calories you expend are ABOVE the calories you consume the number on the scale will go down."  That's a BIG oopsie!

Jim



Great article...depressing...but great info.



What a bummer... So even if you lose the weight, you have to keep it off for 5 years just to have a chance at long term success?? Way to be motivational.



Yes, me too! I am 63 and found that at first lowering my calories to the recommended amount and exercising regularly worked. Then I found that I was having to increase the intensity and duration of my exercise to get the same results as my body was quickly readjusting to each new level. I felt great then reality struck, there is a limit to how long and how strong I can physically go without crashing or harming myself in the effort to lose weight and get physically fit. So now I too have decided that my BMI will just have to be over the limit and continue to live a comfortable conscious healthy lifestyle ... Great article this has helped me to put my weight loss journey into a far more realistic perspective ...


I must be "quantifiably" opposite of what this article states because I have found that only when the number of calories I expend is ABOVE the number of calories I consume, the scale goes down.



I totally agree with you and I am in the same situation as you.  I lost 106 and am really struggling with the last 30 and find it much harder now than before.



"Unless more time and effort is put in, either by exercising harder or more often or consuming less calories a day,... "

I've learned through experience that this is absolutely true.  As you lose weight and gain fitness, you can no longer rely on CalorieCount's estimates for calories burned in Activities.  They overstate my calories burned by double.

Instead, I've switched to the FirstBeat method, which was developed by a Finnish Olympics coach.  His method is built into some Garmin devices.

It was hard to accept at first that my two hour workouts weren't burning the calories that I believed, but results on the scale don't lie.

Now my calories in vs. calories out makes a lot more sense, and matches what the scale says.



Well for me it doesn't matter if I hit 120 lbs, What matters is that I eat healthy all the time for the rest of my life, and exercise several times a week. I think that eating nutritiously and exercising regularly is more important then what a scale says. I wish to enjoy life minus thinking that I have to weight 120 lbs. and lossing weight for me is a life change and it doesn't matter how long it takes for me to get there. I just want to enjoy the journey one day at a time. Life is beautiful and I want to enjoy ever day of it. Hugs



I don't get why maintaining is supposedly "harder" than losing.  When I am losing I have to focus on having a deficit each day.  When I maintain, I just have to make sure I consume about as many calories as I burn.  If I exercise a lot that day, I can eat more.  Why would maintaining be more difficult when you can eat more calories for maintenance than you can when you are trying to lose?  



trunkhorse: wait till you get to maintenance and maintain for more than a year.  It's a LOT more work.  More so from a psychologically because you're doing many of the same things you did while you lost, but are no longer achieving the psychological high (reward) you did when you saw the scale go down and the measuring tape shrink.  Imagine hitting a plateau with your weight loss and never breaking through it.  Many people either get discouraged and go back to their old habits and gain weight back or others, like hamsters in a wheel- insane in the membrane (insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results), eventually break through.  During weight loss one can breakthrough a plateau, but with maintenance, there is no such luck.  Its just wash, rinse, repeat for life. ...That's where the art of goal setting becomes critical.  Setting fitness goals, and sharpening eating habits, etc.  A lot of ongoing discipline is needed to succeed.  Much like an endurance athlete maintainers need to endure and have the stamina to do so.



Okay, I see your point... it seems like it's more mentally difficult than physical.  Although this is very discouraging for me to hear.  I was thinking that the losing part was the more difficult and I would have at least a tiny bit of a reprise when I got to maintenance.  sigh.  

On the other hand, it doesn't seem like a "plateau" would be as frustrating if you knew you were in the maintenance stage than if you were trying to lose weight and eating at a deficit and still failing to lose.  I mean, isn't maintenance supposed to be a plateau?  

I don't know from experience, so I'll get back to you in about 1.5 years and let you know what I think then.  :)   



Wow!  So I'm not alone?  I too lost the weight and got down to my pre baby weight when the baby was 16!  I swore I would never gain again, but as stated above, life happened.  A Divorce, two jobs, a hysterectomy, then a new higher paying job with a lot more sitting and even less time to find for making healthy meals and exercise and a new man in my life that prefers women with curves.  So now, I'm 68 pounds heavier.  My Doc does not want me to get to 136 pounds again.  When I was at that weight at 40 she said it was too low and at 53, it is definetly too low, unatainable and unsustainable.  My new goal is 150.  Today I have 54 pounds to go.  6 months ago I have 61 pounds to go.  I have been frustrated by only losing 7 pounds in six months, but given that I am not always faithful to exercise and often get lazy about what I eat, especially when I am busy with work or stressed, I guess 7 pounds is a healthy start.



Great Article!  All I kept thinking was the folks on the Biggest Loser show.  What they do to lose weight is totally unrealistic for long term achievement, and probably few are able to keep up with their weight loss.  Having said that, this article brings up such good points to be mindful of when on your weight loss journey as well as maintenance.  



5 years huh, that is depressing! At the moment I am focussed on the next year, losing the weight and am taking it one step at a time. It's good to know though that my journey does not stop there, I will bookmark this article to read in a years tine again!


During the weight loss phase,  the dieter sees a declining series of monthy weights.  He gets such a charge out of seeing this progress that he usually cheats: that is, he engages in caloric reduction/exercise strategies that will not necessarily be part of his life forever.

For example, the dieter may exclude 100% of his favorite treats or hit the gym 5 times a week while he is losing weight .  Does this mean that the dieter intends to never have *any* of these treats again (even once!) for the rest of his life or go to the gym 5 times a week when he's 70? Probably not.

But then you have the case where what you did during weight loss is different from what you will do during maintenance, and when this happens the weight will just come back on--unless you take specific steps to prevent this.

When I started my weight loss journey I excluded "going on a diet" (something I had never done before)  because I had  read many time  that diets don't work.   I *had* tried losing weight in the past by increasing exercise and that had failed spectacularly, so increased exercise was out.  My wife and I worked out something we call dietary engineering, which mostly involves reducing the caloric density (calories / g) of the food we ate, so that we could gradually eat *more* food (as our excercise level increased-which would make us more hungry) while consumed *less* calories.  That is, we would trick our bodies into thinking we were eating enough by stuffing our faces with enough food to fill our tummies without eating too many calories.

As time went on my wife got better and better at this (she's the chief food engineer sinc eshe's retired and has more time)  which means I could reduce the density further.  I now eat a prodigous 2000 calorie diet that amounts to about 6.5 lbs a day of very tasty food, and we eat out 7-9 times a week while doing this.  I have vastly increased by exercies so that my burn rate is around 2600 calories so I have a 600 calorie deficit to play with duirng maintence.  If I simply give up some of the extras I will lose weight.  Similar if I have extras (like when we went on a vacation at a Carribean resort where I ate about 6000 calories daily) then my weight goes up.

So now its all about finding a way to get rid of extras.  When I find a way to do this sustainably (i.e. keep it up for a year) then I can decrease my burn rate.  In principle, if I gave it all up, I could get down to 2000 calories a day, which I could do with just a hour of walking each day (which is trivial compared to what i am doing now).  But at present this is the impossbile dream, so to the gym I go.

I must point out I get a whole different set of benefits from the exercies that did not *start* until *after* I had lost the weight.  I look better and people continued to comment on how much weight I was losing for more than 6 months during which I hadn't lost a pound, but did change sizes.  My blood chemistry went from pretty good (60 HDL/ 45 LDL w drugs) to fantastic (90 HDL / 70 LDL w/o drugs) from the end of my weight loss to the present.

But it's still hard.



What sucks about this is we never seem to get the benfit of the lean body - the more efficient body - I have been reading studies and frankly maintenance will require just as much diligence as weight loss.  Sigh.  Google the weight loss registry and read the studies - but the basics are:

One hour of exercise daily

Breakfast every day

and last but certainly not least - diligence in diet - in other words these people continue calorie counting - and they don't "splurge" on weekends. Those who do splurge or have "free days" are more likely to gain weight back.

I am trying to mentally prepare for maintenance - to plan for a way to do these things - but it is mentally discouraging.  Like others I have decided a higher goal weight is better - the goal is to be healthy - not be a supermodel :-)

 



I've been a participant in the National Weight Control Registry for years and I can tell you that the difference is those who continue to exercise -- really exercise till one sweats -- for an hour a day.  That's the secret to keeping it off.  A sedentary lifestyle, sitting at work, sitting on the way to work, sitting at home, will not cut it without drastic food reduction that invariably proves unsustainable over time. 



Unless I'm reading a different article, the second sentence does say that you have to eat fewer calories and expend more energy:  "If you expend more calories than you consume, the number on the scale will go down."



I believe a point that this article is trying to make is that your body will fight back with vengeance if you try to lose weight too quickly. It is recommended that you only lose on average 1-2 pounds per week, not 3-5 pounds. It is also recommended that an appropriate weight loss goal is 10% of your body weight in 6 months time followed by 6 months of weight maintenance. After maintaining your weight for 6 months, then you can start another round of 10% weight loss followed by 6 months of weight maintenance. This isn't a quick fix.

Personally, I have lost 14 pounds in about 15 weeks. At 16 pounds (10% of my body weight), I should begin weight maintenance, even though I'd really like to lose an additional 5-10 pounds to reach my final goal. Do I want to continue losing weight nonstop until I reach my final goal? Of course, I do, especially since I will be soooo close. However, when I lose 2 more pounds, I will increase my calories by 100 calories/day for the first week and see if I am maintaining by weight. If I am still losing, I will add another 100 calories/day each week until weight maintenance is achieved. Currently, I am averaging between 1400-1500 calories/day. Then I have 6 months to wait....and wait....and wait.... But during that time, I will be able to enjoy my new slimmer body and work on increasing by fitness levels through exercise. During weight maintenance, I may still see changes in my body due to increased muscle mass and decreased fat stores.



Great article. At  67 years of age and 225lbs ( 6 ft 1") I finally had to get serious about weight loss when at my last medical check up my doctor told me I had type 2 diabetes. Had lost about 15 lbs 4 years ago but put it back on when I figured I could increase my calorie intake as I had reached my target weight. Now I know I have to keep my weight off for the rest of my life or suffer the medical consequences.  



Wow - way to make a person hopeless about losing weight.  I have found this to be so true...I keep lowing the calories and adding more exercise time and NOTHING - no loss.  People then get to lecture me that I am not doing enough or exercising enough.  

So how much exercise is "enough"....four hours a day - or is it exercise HARDER - how hard - until you injure yourself.  Try to keep in mind that most of us trying to loose weight are not be exercisers...gosh my first Zumba class nearly killed me - after three I opted not to go back - why because there really is NOT a beginning Zumba.....and there is really no good plan for building up to it.

So if you don't have hours and hours a day to dedicate to exercise...just accept your fatness and be happy.



Original Post by: jimmyloram

A lot of great information in this article, but it can also be overwhelming to some.  If you're just starting out, the 2nd line says, "If the calories you expend are below the calories you consume the number on the scale will go down."  and that's the most important rule to know!

Eating less, but small meals throughout your day PAINLESSLY helped me lose my weight.  Eating what I want and working out less than an hour per week--OH! and hydrating!!!  So important.  Anyway, don't get overwhelmed.  Just get in the habit of eating less, moving more and hydrating and you will drop the pounds without even feeling it.  Good luck!!!

Jim


That is not at all what this article is saying...it is saying that even if you try really hard your body is going to sabotage you.  It is going to make you hungrier, it is going to slow down your metabolism to to try and stop the loss of weight and it is going to require more and more "exercise".  

And I think that is the truth.  Sadly, once you are overweight (and I am talking really overweight not the 5 and 10 pound overweight people) you are rather doomed - and this article reinforces what I have discovered......there can be weeks and weeks of not one pound lost and yet I have a great diet and am exercising and then someone comes along and says <i>"If the Calories you Expend are Below the Calories you Consume the number on the scale will go down".</i>  

NOT true...totally NOT true, unless you have a caveat that "Some Day They Will" but we don't know when. 



Original Post by: heidsterr

"If the calories you expend are below the calories you consume the number on the scale will go down." ... Huh???? I wish!!


Exactly!!!!

 

 



I am agree with your point that maintaining is much difficult than losing weight

i started 3 months back on Atkins and lost a whooping 14 lbs during two weeks of induction, but meanwhile i had to travel and being out with colleagues on dinners and drinks made me stop dieting and unfortunately i have gained it back yet im happy i haven't put on more weight!

i find Atkins the most helpful diet for me after being on various diets for many years! i have kept shedding and gaining weight but this time i am all set to achieve my target and keep maintaining it at whatever cost!

 



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