My culture told me to jump and I asked, how often should I jump to lose the most weight?
February 26, 2009 3:52 PM   Subscribe

I would like to lose weight. Please help me find the most efficient way to do this. I apologize for the length of this question.

I'm a 5”6’ woman. I weigh approximately 137 pounds. I'd like to weigh closer to 127. I tried dieting, and have been keeping track of everything I eat for nearly a year. This is not working for me. In the first few months, I experienced some weight loss, and I managed to stay around 132 pounds for a while. Then... Christmas. I'm back to 137, and dieting isn't working.

My inexpert theory is that my metabolism has slowed. Since eating less than I currently do would almost certainly be unhealthy, it looks like I have to start working out. This is a problem for me. It’s not just that I’m very busy right now, it’s that the things I am busy with require an enormous amount of willpower, and by the end of the day I really feel like I am totally out of energy to force myself to do something unpleasant. So running, which I understand to be a very good workout for weight loss, is out, because to me it’s just horrible torture and I can’t imagine spending all day forcing myself to complete various draining and difficult tasks and then getting on a treadmill. I would cry.

So, if my goal is to lose weight, what (apart from running) can I do to make that happen as efficiently as possible? I would like to minimize the amount of time I spend doing this, and how disruptive it is to my life. If I can avoid having to do the gym thing (change… go there… work out… go home… shower… change… too many steps! Yes, I know how I sound) that would be amazing.

The only idea I have had so far is to take long walks. This idea appeals to me (I wouldn’t mind exploring my city) but I am not sure it’s a good return on the time spent as compared to other exercises. Is that right? If I spend three hours a week walking around, how does that compare to three hours a week on a bike (or whatever)? Would it be a waste of my time as exercise or would it help slightly? Would I be better off doing pushups or something like that?

Thank you in advance for your advice. I am happy to provide more information, and can be reached at
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (26 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
What's your body fat percentage? Why do you want to get to 127 specifically? That seems fairly low - I'm 5'6" as well, and my ideal weight would be maybe as low as 140 - that would put me at around 20% body fat, which would look smokin' without making me look like a bodybuilder. YMMV, of course - I'm pretty muscular. If you just want to change your shape, you'd probably be better off adding some muscle - and probably eating a bit more - than trying to lose any more. It's hard to say without a little more detail, though.
posted by restless_nomad at 4:01 PM on February 26, 2009

new yorkers walk walk walk every day because we don't have cars, and we're certainly thinner and live longer than the rest of america. we don't even necessarily take long walks, just walk so much more than everyone else—so maybe instead of setting a set number of hours you should be walking, just walk as much as you possibly can. make it a habit, a real option for getting around instead of something you think of as exercise. but there's no reason you can't and shouldn't bike around too, being more active in any serious way will help you lose weight and help you feel better.

also: if you've ever seriously thought about getting a dog, going out for walks with a pup is fun!
posted by lia at 4:02 PM on February 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

I have found that working out in the morning is key for me. By the end of the day, I feel exactly like you do. But if I go in the morning, it energizes me for my day. It also simplifies the gym routine somewhat (pack work clothes at night, dress in gym clothes, go to gym, work out, shower there, go directly to work).

I also have a friend whose primary form of exercise is long walks, and it does wonders to keep her in shape. If it's something that you would enjoy doing, you'll stick with it, which is what really matters for weight loss/maintenance. And perhaps after a few weeks/months of walking, you'll move into jogging/running as well?
posted by amelioration at 4:02 PM on February 26, 2009

Your current Body Mass Index is 22.7. While it's a very imperfect measure, you fall squarely in the "normal" weight range. My suspicion is that your body likes being at your current weight and is resisting efforts to maintain a lower weight. If that's the case, the only way to maintain your weight lower than it currently is would be to go on a permanent drastic diet or exercise intensively for long periods every day.

You should definitely find exercise you enjoy and add it to your routine. It'll help your stress levels, improve your cardiovascular health, and may help you to add muscle and increase bone density. But it will be very hard, without drastic measures, to maintain your body weight at a level lower than what is normal for your body.
posted by decathecting at 4:04 PM on February 26, 2009 [2 favorites]

the only way to lose weight is to burn more calories than you consume. The most efficient way to do this is running/cardio, I know you say you hate it, but its the same as anything in life. Work = results. You need to do something that'll make you sweat, and probably 3 times a week is a good amount to start.
posted by mattsweaters at 4:05 PM on February 26, 2009

This is a handy calorie burn by activity per hour chart that might help you decide (though the weights given are all higher than your so you may have to do a little math).

In general though it's probably better to find something you enjoy even if it's not as efficient than something you have to muddle through.
posted by Nomiconic at 4:05 PM on February 26, 2009

What's your approximate age? Your metabolism may very well be slowing and coupled with the other things you mentioned may be making weight harder to loose. You can overcome almost any problems, but you need a truthful and full accounting of them.
posted by Science! at 4:06 PM on February 26, 2009

Shovelglove. 14 minutes every weekday, in your living room, so you have no excuse to avoid it.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:06 PM on February 26, 2009 [6 favorites]

Long walks are pretty bad in terms of burning calories vs. time spent compared to other activities. If you're as busy as you say, walking probably isn't the solution. Especially if you want to lose the weight as efficiently as possible.

Some more information would be helpful.

You say
Since eating less than I currently do would almost certainly be unhealthy

but then you don't provide any numbers. How many calories are you consuming per day and what are these calories made up of?

Also, I'm not clear on this:
I tried dieting, and have been keeping track of everything I eat for nearly a year. This is not working for me.

How exactly is it not working for you? Are you unable to stick to a diet or are you sticking to the diet but it's not helping you to lose weight?

Have you considered going to the gym on your way to work; some people find it can energize them for the day ahead? Also, this does sound like too many steps: change… go there… work out… go home… shower… change…. Is there a reason you can't change and shower at the gym?
posted by ODiV at 4:08 PM on February 26, 2009

Losing ten pounds should not be an insurmountable task. You don't need to eat less, but it may help you to eat less in a single sitting, more often. Six small meals a day starting when you wake, and evenly spaced thereafter until 10pm, with no food after that. Eating properly and regularly increases your metabolism, while skipping food slows it down.
posted by fire&wings at 4:10 PM on February 26, 2009

I lost weight by starting a walking program. I had much more than you do to lose, but I think the plain fact of going from being fairly sedentary to walking about 45 minutes a day did help in the calories in-calories out equation. However, you are going to get a better return on your time if you do something more vigorous.

What about sports? Is there anything you like to do that you could do on a team? I have friends in master's swim leagues, and on racquetball teams that help them stay active.

If you're a better dieter than you are exerciser, what about intermittent fasting? Fast one or two days a week, then eat normally the other days. Some studies have shown it to be successful--and healthy. (LA Times article so you know I'm not making it up.) I know two people who have had good results using Brad Pylon's fasting program called Eat Stop Eat.
posted by Bella Sebastian at 4:12 PM on February 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

first off: you are not out of shape, which is great and terrible. it's great because you don't have to work for years until you get where you want to but it's also terrible because losing those last few pounds is much more difficult. but don't despair, you're gonna get there.

you are right in your assumption that cutting down food intake to an even lower eating at some point would become unhealthy and if it would make you uncomfortable to eat less, don't do it. instead what you need to do, as you correctly identified, is increase the calories you burn on a given day. don't be too hard on yourself with this or the decrease in calories or your body will go into crisis mode and conserve as much energy as possible - you would only be tired and not lose much weight. also know that you may just be a person who gains faster than you lose, so assume you can undo in a day what you spent a week working up to. be deliberate in your actions is what I am suggesting.

the loathed running is often heralded as a great weight-loss exercise because it burns more calories in less time than biking, swimming or walking. it's something that will be hard for a bit and then you get sucked into that joyous feeling of having accomplished something. people are known to get obsessed with is because of how it makes them feel. I am only mentioning this so you don't rule it out forever. this being a tough time is of course something I understand.

I would suggest you join a gym and get a personal trainer to explain incline walks on a treadmill to you. what you are essentially doing is walking on a treadmill slowly for five minutes, then increase speed and incline to a challenging level, do this for about half an hour and cool off for another five. you should be able to burn a good 300cal in the beginning and get it up to 500 or 600cal within a few months. the trick is to keep yourself huffing and puffing and challenged at all times and to not hold on to the treadmill - that is something many people do but it will decrease the amount of calories you burn by a third or even more. I really recommend you get a certified personal trainer to help you choose the right shoes (because you can hurt yourself doing this with the wrong kinds of trainers) and evaluate just what kind of level you should be walking at. if you allow an hour (including changing, setting up, half hour exercise, etc) every day you will meet your goals.

give yourself time to achieve your goal. it may take two months, it may take a lot longer. that's just the way we work. quick weight-loss is often just water anyway. walking like this with tone your body and give your heart and lungs a nice workout as well, helping with blood pressure and sugar levels as well. I highly recommend you keep up this level of exercise even after you have reached your immediate goal.

you wrote about walking around the city. I'd advocate postponing the outdoor part until you have gotten a feeling for how fast you need to be (via readouts from the treadmill) to get where you want to be calorie-burning wise. get a rhythm going, understand what's going on, then graduate to going outside. people waste time because they have no idea what they are doing and thus never realize what they could be doing better. I have a feeling you're going to be sucked into running quicker than you think.
posted by krautland at 4:17 PM on February 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

It’s not just that I’m very busy right now, it’s that the things I am busy with require an enormous amount of willpower, and by the end of the day I really feel like I am totally out of energy to force myself to do something unpleasant.

Walking is probably one of the best things you can do for your general health right now. You sound incredibly stressed, and agonizing about the exact weight you should be or how best to fit in exercise you might hate is probably stressing you out more.

Spring is almost here, so get out there and start walking. Go out in the morning, or go out even for 10-15 minutes at lunch, or walk home part of the way from work. Use good shoes (excellent support, no worn down soles, fresh orthotics if you wear them), and good walking paths (avoid very rutted or slanted sidewalks). Start out for 30-45 minutes a day for the first week or so, then build up to longer or more frequent walks. Try different neighbourhoods, take something to listen to, or just think your way through some of the things that are bothering you. Walk faster when you're ready for it, and when it feels natural, but don't feel compelled to start speedwalking or anything else structured that will make the sheer animal pleasure of moving into a chore.

By the time you can see the buds on the trees, or by the time the garbage smells in your urban neighbourhood get a little sharper, you will be fitter -- expect some really nice calf definition to be showing up, too -- and if you've been eating reasonably, without starving yourself, you may have also lost some weight.

Summer's coming. Get a bike. Learn how to think better than a car driver. Go FAST. Go far. Enter some challenges. You might lose a few more pounds, you might not, but maybe you don't need to lose exactly 10 pounds. Maybe you just need to give mind and body something fun to do.

Fall's not too far away. That might be a good time to challenge yourself with a little weight training ... hey! Krista's updated Stumptuous!!

Go read Krista's site! GO!!
posted by maudlin at 5:04 PM on February 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

I did a fat burning yoga video the other night. It was about 15 minutes long (well, the section I did anyway). It kicked my ass, and I've been doing yoga regularly for a year now (and semi-regulary for a few years before that). I also find that yoga is much better at helping me deal with stress than running or riding a stationary bike at the gym. So it could help you on that front, too. I actually like it, and finding something you like is going to help a lot. You'll actually be willing to do it and stick with it.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 5:16 PM on February 26, 2009

If you've been keeping track of your food, you should be able to tell us how many calories you are consuming in a day. You don't. Please email a mod and have them add this information. You gave us a lot of information, but very little of it is useful in answering the question without wild speculation.
posted by Loto at 5:36 PM on February 26, 2009

Since eating less than I currently do would almost certainly be unhealthy, it looks like I have to start working out.

As a bit of an aside, while the above seems like conventional wisdom, there's plenty of evidence to suggest that for most people (and by that I mean even those on a conservative Western diet of say 2000 cal/day) it simply isn't the case. Some studies suggest that even intense caloric restriction while maintaining reasonable vitamin/mineral intake actually might help improve longevity. This has been demonstrated quite dramatically in animal trials.

While it's certainly up for debate, I might suggest that unless your diet is already wildly restricted, cutting back a bit more on your caloric intake is not "almost certainly" unhealthy.
posted by drpynchon at 5:42 PM on February 26, 2009

I've never really enjoyed running either, but I've ridden bikes on and off for exercise and fun for years. About a year ago I really caught the bug, sold my car and began commuting to and from work and wherever else almost entirely by bicycle. I've since lost more than 20 (mid-30s beer gut) pounds, without changing my admittedly lousy diet at all, and I didn't have to try to stick to some workout schedule.

Plus, it's relaxing, helps me de-stress from my job and gives me an excuse to actively listen to my music and be heinously self-righteous.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 6:20 PM on February 26, 2009

It's a shame you posted anonymously because there are a dozen follow-up questions that you need to answer. Number one most important being what's your daily caloric intake? Do you eat a big breakfast? Lunch, dinner? You said you don't exercise...can you walk to your job from your house? Can you join a gym near your job?

Forget the copout of a "slow metabolism". Your metabolism isn't etched in stone the day you're born, it can change just as your body as a whole can change if you eat right and exercise. Notice I didn't say "diet". Dieting implies you eat this for a while and then you lose weight, but if you think about it, to keep this up you have to diet forever. So think of it as a sea change in your eating habits. There's a bazillion healthy meal plans on the internet and elsewhere, surely you can find one that works for you.

Exercise is something you must make time for. I completely understand the thought of going for a jog after a hard day's work is almost soul-crushing. But who says you have to go jogging? Join a gym instead. Go swimming. Maybe a stationary bike? A treadmill while you watch TV?
posted by zardoz at 6:32 PM on February 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

I am about your height and weight and wanted to lose 10 pounds. The winning combination for me was the really amazing 30 Day Shred with Jillian Michaels and logging my calorie intake on the daily plate. I dropped 10 pounds in less than a month and have kept it off for over 6 months.

Good luck!
posted by Hop123 at 6:35 PM on February 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

First, could you take a deep breath? Okay, that's better.

One big issue, as I see it, is that you are approaching this as a giant, insurmountable task. Like the writer who looks at a finished novel and thinks, "Oh, I could never do that."

You need to look at working out as one step at a time. Break it down into smaller increments, like one per day. It's one bit at a time.

Exercise is meant to reduce stress, not add to it. It should be a cleansing, cathartic experience, or at least something in which you can empty your mind of everyday thoughts. Or alternately, working out can give you some needed alone to to think through problems.

In terms of time efficiency, running is better than bike riding than walking. But there are plenty of focused, high intensity workouts that would pay off in a short period of time. I personally love going to the gym at lunchtime. It gets me out of the office and helps clear my head. There are plenty of other women who spend an inordinate amount of time post-workout showering, changing, blow drying their hair, applying makeup. I just change and run back to work. If I stink, oh well.

In terms of the food, it's not clear what exactly it is you are eating, but I would also advise a more "live to eat" strategy, instead of a series of "I cannot eat this without feeling horrible about myself" decisions. You want cake? Have a small cupcake, then go for a long walk after dinner. Just don't agonize over it.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 6:51 PM on February 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

Try sleeping more.
posted by fshgrl at 7:44 PM on February 26, 2009

Response by poster: How much are you currently eating? What is your macronutrient balance--what percentage of your diet is carbs, fat, protein? If you've been keeping track of your meals you should know.

Since you're at a healthy weight, it's going to be harder to lose. Do not expect two pounds per week of weight loss. Expect more like a pound or two every two weeks. Aim for 40% fat, 40% protein, 20% carbs, eat at least 1600-1700 calories a day. In two weeks, see if you've lost any weight. If you haven't, drop by 100-200 calories.
posted by Anonymous at 9:00 PM on February 26, 2009

It’s not just that I’m very busy right now, it’s that the things I am busy with require an enormous amount of willpower, and by the end of the day I really feel like I am totally out of energy to force myself to do something unpleasant.

You're thinking about this wrong. Exercising, especially aerobic exercising will give you MORE energy, not less. A good workout is the perfect cure for feeling exhausting after a long day of tedium and mental effort.

Also, try an elliptical rather then running. I prefer that, it burns calories but there's a lot less 'wear and tear' and impact.
posted by delmoi at 11:25 PM on February 26, 2009

Nthing that you're within normal and healthy parameters at 137. If you keep up your current activity levels, you shouldn't gain much more weight. But, losing 10 pounds and keeping it off is going to be pretty challenging. Maybe, in this case, your body is telling you something.
posted by Citrus at 8:53 AM on February 27, 2009

Coming in late but here's the trick for you.

Try the DVDs (there are tons of very cheap VHS tape versions for sale on Amazon) by Leslie Sansone.

She's a "walking" guru. Though I probably wouldn't want to live on a desert island with her, I find her amazingly non-irritating (though appropriately perky) and her routines are carefully graded.

The reason she might be right for you is that her approach is strangely seductive - even when you're tired and stressed. She aims for weight loss (as well as toning) and there's absolutely no horrible running!

Personally I think her 1990s routines are better than the later ones, ymmv.

(And good luck, by the way!)
posted by Jody Tresidder at 9:46 AM on February 27, 2009

I think you're overthinking it. People have touched on the fact that you're at a perfectly healthy weight, and I agree. But if you're dead set on losing a bit of weight, maybe thinking about doing it "efficiently" (ie not wanting to walk because it doesn't burn enough calories compared to time invested) isn't the most effective way because you're just adding to your stress. Control is great but so is letting things move more organically.

If you're sedentary now, anything that gets you moving is going to help. Since you mention being stressed out and short on time, maybe start with 10-15 minutes of yoga each morning. You'll burn a few calories and may find that it helps you relax. There's even a good chance that you'll feel more energetic later and actually feel like doing that walk or run in the evening anyway.
posted by kattyann at 8:14 PM on February 27, 2009

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