Why do I keep gaining weight?
May 26, 2010 1:21 PM   Subscribe

Why do I keep gaining weight?

I'm 32 and for the past year, I have been slowly gaining weight - a little over a pound a month. I used to be 110 and now I'm 125. I'm about 5'3" and feel most comfortable at 110, which is the weight I had been at since adulthood.

In the past year, I have not changed my diet. A typical week worth of eating consists of:

-Don't eat breakfast
-Around 10am, - I eat either a bunch of grapes or a plain roll
-Around 1pm - I drink Vitamin (approximately 150 calories) and a cookie (135 calories, 7 grams of fat)
-Around 4:30 - Drink half a glass of orange juice or eat a banana
-Around 5:30 - Eat dinner (Usually spaghetti with marinara sauce freshly made at whole foods or a can of Whole Foods Spaghetti O's (90 calories no fat). I add about two tablespoon of Parmaggiano Raggiono cheese). I also drink a glass of pure juice (usually about 100 calories)
-Around 6:30 - Eat a handful of dark chocolate chips
-Around 7:30 - Eat a large bowl of fruit - usually strawberries and blueberries

I also eat dinner out about 3 nights a week, usually one meal of each of these:
-Pasta with tomato sauce
-Grilled cheese with fries
(I always order water with my food instead of drinking something with calories)

I do aerobic exercises about 3-4 times a week for a half an hour each time.

I also take the following medications. I have been on each for several years with the exception of Yaz, which I started 6 months ago:

-Wellbutrin - For depression
-Lexapro - For anxiety
-Doxepin - Migraine Prevention
-Yaz (started 6 months ago, was on Yasmin for 4 years before) - Migraine Prevention

Does it sound like I'm eating too much food? I don't pay attention to how much other people eat, so I don't know if I'm eating too much. I have an appointment with my gynecologist so I can try to switch to different birth control pill (due to anecdotal "evidence" of friends losing weight after changing pills). If that doesn't work, I plan to see my GP. I also recently had a clean abdominal CT scan due to a hospital visit where I had excruciating stomach pain.

Any ideas on how I might go about losing weight? Does anything in my description jump out at you as something that I should change?
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (48 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
It sounds like you're not eating terribly well. Why not some cereal for breakfast, a salad with some protein for lunch, and a better dinner?
posted by k8t at 1:26 PM on May 26, 2010 [2 favorites]

The first thing that jumps out to me is that you're eating a lot of sugar and carbs, and almost no protein. I don't think you're eating too much. I actually think you're eating way too little, but that you need to rejigger your choices so you cut way back on the sugar and carbs, and ramp way up on the protein. (I don't know anything about those medicines, so can't comment on that part.)
posted by BlahLaLa at 1:27 PM on May 26, 2010 [9 favorites]

one thing which jumps out immediately is that you are not really having proper meals - no breakfast, doesn't look like there's too much lunch either and most of your calories seem to come from sugar - maybe you could try shifting the balance a bit and introduce a bit more protein?
posted by coffee_monster at 1:27 PM on May 26, 2010

You're getting tons of carbs and hardly any protein. I don't want to turn this into another low-carb fight thread, but I do believe that's the culprit.
posted by jbickers at 1:28 PM on May 26, 2010

Frankly, it sounds like you don't eat enough food and your body is stockpiling. It could completely be hormonal due to attenuating to being on Yaz. I am not your nutritionist, but this seems like a really light diet.
posted by mikeh at 1:28 PM on May 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

Your diet is very carb, sugar and fat heavy - with no vegetables. And you're now 32. I'd guess that your metabolism is slowing down and your poor diet is just catching up to you.
posted by meerkatty at 1:29 PM on May 26, 2010 [9 favorites]

Birth control will do it. And I agree that it doesn't sound like you're eating too much (or very much at all) but maybe you should try some veggies. You need some fiber.
posted by JoanArkham at 1:32 PM on May 26, 2010

It does seem like you eat a lot of carbs, of the "bad" white flour variety. But if you didn't change your diet recently, I'd look at the birth control. I gained ~40 lbs on Yaz, over less than a year. My Gyn. swore up and down that it couldn't possibly be the Yaz causing it, but I went off it and started (veeeeery sloooowly) losing the weight, with no change in my diet or activity level.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 1:35 PM on May 26, 2010

Agreed - you're skipping breakfast and lunch and using small snacks to tide you over til dinner, which looks to be uniformly pasta/bread/carbs. Where is the protein and dairy? Where are the vegetables? I think that might be your issue, more than quantity (because you are definitely eating less than the average person).

Also, many people just naturally gain weight as they age, and as their metabolism slows down. You can't always look exactly the way you want to look - eventually time will change you. I think it's important to be comfortable in your body, whatever it looks like. Have you heard of the Health at Every Size movement?
posted by shaun uh at 1:35 PM on May 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

Do yourself a favour and enter everything you eat for a week into a food diary like The Daily Plate or FitDay. It's free and really eye-opening.

I think you'll see that your nutritional balance is really out of whack (where is the salad and where is the protein?), and that you're not getting enough calories. Also, as has been pointed out, you're eating a very carb-heavy diet. Tracking your food will show you this stuff so you can make corrections.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:35 PM on May 26, 2010 [2 favorites]

In addition to all the above comments, a known side effect of Lexapro is moderate weight gain.

But, really, your diet isn't good. I'd consult with a nutritionist and design a better diet.
posted by dfriedman at 1:38 PM on May 26, 2010 [2 favorites]

You should eat green vegetables.
posted by mr_roboto at 1:38 PM on May 26, 2010 [2 favorites]

Your diet is very high in simple carbs and very low in protein. Ditch the vitamin water altogether, eat fruit instead of drinking fruit juice, add veggies and meat/tofu/beans/eggs to your dinner, and also to whatever meal you're eating before 5:30 - you don't have to sit down to a huge breakfast or lunch, but a cookie and two servings of fruit isn't very substantial. Whenever you can, eat meals and snacks that are primarily veggies, fruits, or protein rather than bread or pasta. Your bread/pasta portion shouldn't be bigger than your protein or veggie portion. If you do eat bread or pasta, eat whole grain. (Allowing cookies or occasional pizza is okay, just don't overdo it.)

You don't mention exactly what your workout is or how hard you're doing it, but consider adding weight training (building muscle will help your metabolism). If you've been doing the same thing for months, switch it around or up the intensity a bit so you're challenged.

You'll probably lose weight if you do all this. You'll definitely feel better and healthier.
posted by Metroid Baby at 1:45 PM on May 26, 2010 [4 favorites]

Adding my voice to the chorus: You're gaining weight because you are either not eating at all, or eating a crapload of carbs and sugar.

All of the advice from previous respondents is good, but what leaps out at me is that you seem to have set up a system of meal-bargaining for yourself; for example, that you can eat pizza but you have to have water with it. This doesn't work. Water won't negate the pile of bread and cheese and sauce and whatever else that goes into a couple slices of pizza. If you're gonna have pizza, have it, but don't have it (or its equivalent) three nights a week and don't stress about calories or grams of fat when you do have it.

Also, don't skip meals. Can't stress this enough. Right now you're not eating breakfast or lunch, instead grazing a little through the day, and then carbo-loading in the evening.

And there's another upside to it, as well: Honestly with a diet like this your blood sugar would be completely, and constantly, out of whack, and that can affect a person's mood really heavily. I'm not going to say that a balanced diet would remove the need for Wellbutrin but it sure wouldn't hurt.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 1:46 PM on May 26, 2010 [2 favorites]

Agreed - you're skipping breakfast and lunch and using small snacks to tide you over til dinner,

Seriously, you're going to look long and hard before you find a single nutritionist who thinks it's a good idea to NOT eat three meals a day. And the worst meal to skip is breakfast because it gets your metabolism going.
posted by philip-random at 1:47 PM on May 26, 2010 [2 favorites]

You're not eating well, and you might not be eating enough. More lean protein and vegetables and fewer carbohydrates would probably help.

You might want to mix up your exercise routine to include weight lifting and different kinds of aerobic exercise. Sometimes your body can become very efficient at one form of exercise and stop burning as many calories as you expect it to. Mixing up your routine and adding a little tone can help avoid this.

I'm your height and was at 125 lbs for a while; eating less actually caused me to gain weight because I was eating candy/pasta instead of real food. Eating better (lots of meat, salads, whole grains; three real meals a day instead of snacks) and exercising differently helped me lose about 7 of those pounds. Also: some of this weight gain might be a natural consequence of aging; I know it feels odd to be a different size than you've been all your adult life, but you might have to learn to like it.

15 pounds in a year still seems like a bit much to blame on changing metabolism/diet, but I've heard you can gain about 10 on hormones. The other 5 could be due to diet/exercise changes and slowing metabolism.
posted by millions of peaches at 1:48 PM on May 26, 2010

Pretty much echoing what everyone else is saying. You eat a lot of refined carbs, and at 32, your metabolism is slowing down. Time to do some strength training and start watching what you eat.

As Bette Davis said, "Old age is no place for sissies."
posted by MexicanYenta at 1:52 PM on May 26, 2010

Skip the juice and fruit. You're getting plenty of sugar as it is. If you just want vitamins, take vitamins. Don't use juice as an excuse, it's just as bad as soda for your diet.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 1:55 PM on May 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

Aging and birth control pills. Your metabolism is slowing down as you age and like others have said your eating habits aren't actually terribly good.

Proteins, complex carbs and a little healthy fat (salmon, avocado, olive oil, etc) should do wonders for you.

You're grazing until dinner but the grazing isn't good grazing. Start eating something for breakfast to kick start your metabolism and incorporate some veggies and/or fruit if you want something sweet (don't get me wrong, I love sweets - and cookies in particular, but I can't have them regularly or that's all I'd eat). Use cookies as a once a week treat or something like that. Not a daily indulgence.

Not to sound like a jerk, but maybe just do a little research on general nutrition and how simple carbs and sugars impact your body and metabolism.
posted by FlamingBore at 2:05 PM on May 26, 2010

Vitamin water is basically a more expensive word for water with some sugar in it, it pretty much the definition of empty calories.

As other have said, eat more green vegetables, try to lower the ratio of carbs, and whenever possible try to eat whole grains instead (no need to go overboard on any of those). Also I am of the opinion that cardio on its own is useless and boring, throw in a little strength training (I promise you wont get huge, that takes a lot of effort).

Finally, as we get older our metabolisms tend to slow down a bit, this is probably a combination of that and the Yaz, it is nothing some small tweaks in your diet/lifestyle cannot easily fix.
posted by BobbyDigital at 2:05 PM on May 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

Doxepin can cause increased appetite, weight gain and severe constipation. Talk to the doc providing your psychoactive meds (your neuro, your shrink, whatever) and note that you're gaining weight, too, just to make sure it's not that.

Also, as far as refined carbs go, pasta is the devil; switch to whole-wheat pasta and start weaning off eating it every day.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 2:08 PM on May 26, 2010

Three things immediately came to mind:

As someone who went through something similar in my twenties, after being thin/underweight my entire life: get tested for insulin resistance.

Your diet looks protein-deficient and carb-centric, especially in terms of junk carbs: pasta, pizza, grilled cheese sandwiches, cookies, and juice are all calorie-dense and nutrient-poor.

Lexapro, even at a .5mg dose, caused me to gain weight (as do all SSRIs) and also contributed to my insulin resistance. Google for info on weight gain and SSRIs, or insulin resistance and SSRIs, and you'll see a ton of anecdotal evidence (as well as a few medical studies) supporting this.

But mainly - your diet. Where's the protein??
posted by chez shoes at 2:14 PM on May 26, 2010

I would get tested for hypothyroid if I were you.
posted by NHlove at 2:25 PM on May 26, 2010

Eat a bigger breakfast w/ more protein and a smaller dinner, and increase how much time you exercise for and lift weights.

I am not a nutritionist or dietitian.
posted by anniecat at 2:29 PM on May 26, 2010

Advice that is slightly off-topic: speaking as someone who is also on Yaz in part for migraine issues - try eating more protein. Eating way too many carbs and a very little protein for breakfast and lunch seem to contribute to my migraines.

I've also been losing weight successfully, despite being on Yaz. What I have to do (nothing else works for me) is enter EVERYTHING I eat into an online calorie-counting program, without guesstimating portion size but measuring it, and write down how much exercise I do, and how many calories it burns (I use a heart rate monitor to calculate that, since most online calculators are off), and aim for a net calorie intake of 1700 calories/day, which cause me to lose between 1/2 pound and 1 pound a week. Note that's *net* calories, so I actually consume 1800-2000/day without taking the exercise into account. I'll need to revise that target down as I lose more weight.

Of course, the combo of meds you're taking may also be making it harder for you, but you'll probably be able to work out a good med regimen and eating/exercise plan that will at least cause you to stay at a stable weight. Good luck!
posted by telophase at 2:31 PM on May 26, 2010

I read your question title and was expecting to come in and read this really clean diet and have to actually think.

Eating healthy fats doesn't make you fat.
Stop eating candy.
Eat breakfast.
Try eating vegetables instead of bowls of fruit. Fruits are just a bunch of sugar. They are better than candy but you don't really need to eat a ton (or any, really) to be healthy.
Only drink water.

Also, it doesn't appear that you're taking in that many calories in general. So they junk that you are taking in is staying with you. Your metabolism could be at a crawl right now.

30mins of Aerobic exercise a few times a week isn't really much of anything especially if you lead an otherwise sedentary lifestyle.

I made a modified version of your current diet. Do something like it for a month and I bet you drop weight and feel healthier. You'll be more educated on what your body responds to and can adjust accordingly after that.

2\3 eggs, Oats (not quaker oatmeal, OATS)

Protein shake

Chicken breast with 8oz of Broccoli or other green veggie

Salad with balsamic or oil based dressing \ fruit

Small amount of pasta with mainly chicken or lean beef in it. With 8oz of Broccoli or other green veggie

Last meal:
1 serving of all natural PB and cottage cheese or Greek yogurt.
posted by zephyr_words at 2:40 PM on May 26, 2010 [9 favorites]

What everbody else said. You need to consume protein. Metabolic rate, i.e. calories burned at rest, is determined by lean body mass, or the amount of muscle that you maintain. Metabolism slows as we age when we lose muscle mass due to hormonal changes and a decline in activity. Your body requires protein to maintain muscle. In the absence of dietary protein, your body will break down your existing muscle for protein synthesis after your aerobic exercise. To maintain or build muscle mass you need to maintain an adequate level of protein and overall caloric intake, and lift heavy weights. Start tracking your nutrition precisely for awhile and aim for around 75-100g of protein per day. Taking a protein supplement, e.g. whey protein powder, can make this easier.

You also need to stop being afraid to eat fat. There are no essential carbohydrates, but fat is a necessary part of your diet -- your body requires essential fatty acids (EFAs) to function properly.
posted by ludwig_van at 2:45 PM on May 26, 2010 [2 favorites]

A pound a month means you're consuming, on average, a little over 100 calories more than your maintenance level. (3500 extra calories = one pound gained). So, to reverse course and lose that same amount of weight over the next 12 months (losing slowly is better than a crash diet), you need to do one of several things: cut 200 calories a day, OR add 200 calories worth of exercise, OR a combination of the two. One more good workout a week, on average, would do the trick.

BUT, listen to all the advice above about a better diet, veggies, yadda yadda. One thing that works particularly well for me is to aim for many different vegetables and fruits every day, with an emphasis on veggies, not fruits (like, a 3-to-1 ratio). With some creativity, you can get up to 12-15, all in smallish quantities throughout the day, all meals. Focusing on that helps you cut the craving for fats, sweets and other carbs.
posted by beagle at 2:54 PM on May 26, 2010

Nthing what everyone else said. You're not eating enough, and what you are eating is mostly junk. I gather from the tone of your question that you think you're eating healthy, but you're not.

I'll add something else: Eat a big salad for BREAKFAST. Yes, breakfast. It will kick start your day better than any type of cereal. Make sure it has lots of different colors/stuff in it like carrots, broccoli, celery, raisins, nuts, avocado, red bell pepper, etc. And when I say big salad, I mean big. Like, two or three normal bowls full. Not some measly "I'm only 120 lbs so I shouldn't eat this much" salad. BIG.
posted by buckaroo_benzai at 2:56 PM on May 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

My husband's been on lexapro for a year, and has put on about forty pounds though he eats better and exercises more than he used to.

(Yaz and Yasmin, which I hate for other reasons, are less likely to make you gain weight than other birth controls because they contain a diuretic, so it's probably not that. But really, I'd look at the lexapro.)
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 3:07 PM on May 26, 2010

Nthing all the nutritional advice above about eating balanced meals, etc. But reading your question, what jumped out at me most is how regimented your diet seems. It's a good idea to track what you eat, but the fact that you're eating the same few items all the time, and the same items at the same times every day, is worrying.

The reason it jumped out at me is that I used to be exactly like that. I would graze until dinner on as little food as possible -- and like you, I would eat the same foods at the same times. Every single day. Except for Sunday nights, when I would allow myself to "cheat". Note that even "cheating" was carefully scheduled -- and I see a parallel in the way you approach your dinners out.

I may be way off base, but my gut feeling is that you probably won't take a lot of the excellent advice above because you're so attached to the control that this diet gives you. The way you approach food doesn't strike me as healthy, and I think you need to examine your relationship with it if you want to lose this extra weight in a healthy way.

If any of this rings true to you, feel free to mefi-mail me about it.
posted by spinto at 4:44 PM on May 26, 2010 [5 favorites]

Seconding Doxepin as a possible culprit. It's a strong H1 antagonist—strong enough that it's also used as a topical antihistamine. Does it make you feel tired? If so, it's also making you hungry. H1 receptors in the hypothalamus regulate sleep and hunger. You may be eating more without even realizing it.
posted by dephlogisticated at 4:46 PM on May 26, 2010

zephyr_words has a pretty good meal plan up there, but those are fairly big portions for six meals for someone our size.

Honestly, things that jumped out at me that I know have always helped me lose weight:
1) Eat a real breakfast. You have the whole day to burn this off.
2) Way less juice and Vitamin Water.
3) Eat protein. Somewhere. Anywhere. You have none.
4) Vary your dinner, and eat some veggies here, if nowhere else. Even if it's just a little bit of green leafy spinach or something, get in the habit of it.
5) Switch up your exercise routine and pay attention to the heartrate monitor, if you're at a gym. Seconding strength training, too.
6) Make sure you're eating at least 1000-1200 calories a day.

It sounds like you have a combination of carb overload, drug side effects, and starvation mode going on, frankly. You'll probably gain weight for a few weeks when you start eating enough calories, but if it's not all the Lexapro, enough good food coupled with enough appropriate exercise will lower your measurements if not your weight within six weeks.
posted by wending my way at 4:49 PM on May 26, 2010

Eat three meals a day.
Stop drinking juice or "vitamin" water: Drink water or unsugared tea or coffee and eat your fruit un-juiced.
Eat some leafy greens for the love of all that's holy.
Stop eating _anything_ with cheese except on weekends.
Start eating high-fibre or whole grain.
Accept that 30 minutes cardio is good, but in terms of weight/gain or loss it's absolutely nothing.
Good luck, with some small changes the weight should pour off you.
posted by smoke at 4:54 PM on May 26, 2010

The fact that you're 32 alone could do it. I'm also that age, and my normally high metabolism and been declining every year since I was 25 or so. 10 years ago I could've eaten what you eat now, no problem. Now I know I would pack on the pounds eating like that. (In fact, I did. I just finished losing it all again.) You may have just lucked out and not noticed the change until now.

Start a food log - fitday.com has a good one. This calculator says you need to eat about 1500 calories a day, assuming a sedentary lifestyle (ie desk job or what have you).

Quickly looking at your food list, it's not the most well balanced diet, but isn't too bad. Breakfast, 100-200 calories, depending on that roll. 1 pm, ~300 calories. At 4:30, 50 to 100 calories. Dinner's harder, because it depends on your portion sizes, but could easily be 500 calories for a small portion (A measly cup of whole grain pasta is about 300 calories, the cheese alone could add another 250 calories.). Dark chocolate chips - another easy 100 calories, maybe more. The fruit could be another 100 as well. Over all -- that's not too bad, it's under the 1500. (These are rough caloric estimates without actually looking anything up, so don't quote me on anything. And that assumes thats ALL you eat, no other licks, bites, tastes, cream in coffee, etc. Round up if ever in doubt. )

But what will really get you is that restaurant eating. Assume at LEAST 800-1000 calories for each of those meals. An extra 500 calories 3 times a week is 1500 calories, or 1.7 lbs a week. The aerobics will give you 500 burned calories a week, so lets say it's only 1000 extra calories a week, 4000 a month, or just over a pound a month. And voila, there's your pound.
posted by cgg at 5:06 PM on May 26, 2010

It sounds like you eat a lot of foods that don't do much to give you sustained energy. Your diet has very little variety-- sugary drinks, bready things (including pasta), tomato sauce, cheese, fruit/sugary food, cheese. Juice, vitamin water, multiple pieces of fruit, and chocolate, plus the sugars in the carbs and the tomato sauce (check how much sugar is in your whole foods spaghetti Os, I bet it's a lot). Take out about 3 of those fruit servings and make them into vegetable servings. Add some veggies to your pasta, and have a salad on the side.
The most glaring thing is the lack of protein. If you eat eggs have an egg in the morning, if you're not vegetarian, add some chicken into your pasta. If you don't do meat/eggs, eat some peanut butter on whole grain bread in the morning. Protein in the morning is supposed to be really good for energy during the day.

You really don't eat very much food. It must either be the quality of the nutrition, or maybe something to do with your meds, but most people I know think I don't eat very much (I'm a very small person) and I still eat a lot more than what you listed each day.
posted by ishotjr at 5:38 PM on May 26, 2010

Yeah, I'll turn 30 this year, and I've noticed it's harder to keep my weight down than when I was younger. Part of it is diet, but as a woman, your metabolism slows as you get older. I've started working out at the gym doing some weight training to build some muscle. There seems to be a general consensus that as women enter their 30s weight training is important to fight off osteoporosis and to keep weight gain at bay. You just have to start eating a lot healthier as you get older. To me looking at your food list, it seems that you need to up your veggies. A good blog about healthy eating is Summer Tomato. The author talks a lot about the physiological reasons that eating more vegetables and whole grains over processed carbs (including pasta) and sugar is important. She frequently cites academic references to back up her recommendations.

It could be the birth control pills as well. Although Yaz is supposed to be one of the ones that does not cause weight gain (at least according to studies I've read).
posted by bluefly at 7:08 PM on May 26, 2010

Lots of anti-depressants / anti-anxiety meds can cause weight gain, or, if not cause it, retain it. I'm 5'2" and was 118 for most of my life--even though I ate like crap. After 30, the pounds started creeping on because a) my lifetime eating habits were (are) so bad; b) I'm on anti-depressants / anti-anxiety meds; and c) for most people, the metabolism slows down after 30. I've gained 60 pounds in 11 years.

I *highly* recommend nipping this in the bud. You're still young enough along the metabolism slide that changing your diet and getting some good exercise can save you from what happened to me. It's less work keeping your weight down than trying to lose it after you've ballooned up.
posted by tzikeh at 7:11 PM on May 26, 2010

Adding to the chorus above about diet, but some additional details to think about:

- you're probably under-remembering food. Most people, when they first start to try to figure out what they're eating, forget things. This is especially a risk with the high-refined-carb diet you're on, because those foods tend to make your blood sugar crash and make you hungry again shortly after eating.

- Double-check calorie counts as well. It seems highly unlikely that a whole can of Whole Foods Spaghetti-Os is only 90 calories -- are you sure you're not reading serving size, in a can w/ multiple servings? These are calorie-dense foods you're dealing with.
posted by paultopia at 7:27 PM on May 26, 2010

FWIW, I have been having good luck with this approach to controlling weight. It is not a diet per se, but rather a way of connecting your weight to your behaviors (i.e., keeping track of what works for you or doesn't, not what works for other people...and then doing more of the stuff that works for you). It's a free PDF here, so I don't benefit from this, just trying to help you. If you have any questions feel free to mefi-mail me.
posted by forthright at 9:11 PM on May 26, 2010

The one thing that really stood out to me is, are you actually cooking your own food? Everything you listed looks like it came from a box or a bag. Try making your own spaghetti, instead of the Whole foods one. Buy some real lettuce instead of pre-packaged salads.

There's a whole industry out there with the intent to sell you food that looks healthy and is not. Whole foods is egregious about this.

It's not that you're eating too much food, it's that you don't have a balanced diet. Echoing what others said, you're eating way too many carbs. Fruit is nice, but three or four times a day?

Also, skipping breakfast is a bad idea. Unless you're sleep eating, you haven't eaten for 10 or so hours. And while you might not feel hungry, your body needs some food to work on.

And as we get older our jobs tend become more sedentary. In my twenties, my jobs were physical, I loaded trucks, I put up drywall, one summer I worked construction. Since I put 30 in my rearview mirror, I've had desk job after desk job, and my waistline reflected this, until I changed my diet appropriately.

Good luck, the older we get the tougher it is to lose weight.
posted by Sphinx at 9:20 PM on May 26, 2010

Nthing that it's the juice and the sugar. Fruit is good for you, juice isn't much better than soda in terms of calories and sugar. Eating an orange instead of the orange juice would be great--but adding some actual vegetables would be the best option. And protein that's not cheese.

If you're looking for some baby steps: eat that big bowl of fruit in the morning, but with a cup of non-fat plain (or vanilla if you must) yogurt.

Eat a hard-boiled or scrambled egg for breakfast or snack.

Get some nonfat mozzarella cheese sticks to keep around as a snack during the day.

Instead of a cookie, have a spoon of peanut butter. Or keep some peanuts and almonds with you as a snack.

If you're going to eat a bunch of pasta, look for whole grain pasta. Try to find protein sources other than cheese. Figure out a way to get some spinach and broccoli into your diet.
posted by bluedaisy at 9:47 PM on May 26, 2010

Just chiming in to nth all the advice that you need a much more varied diet -- you seriously need more protein, more whole grains, and more veggies, while cutting back on carbs and sugars. You're not eating enough, calorie-wise, but what you are eating is not healthy fuel (yes, even if it's from Whole Foods), esp. as your metabolism is almost certainly going through a shift.

As others have said, too, it doesn't quite sound as if you're really cooking for yourself. This is often the big hurdle to overcome if you want to eat well and economically. When I was learning to pay attention to nutrition more seriously about 10 years ago (coincidentally, I was also in my early 30s), I realized I needed to learn to cook, as opposed to simply making food (which is what I'd previously done up to that point). I initially taught myself a fair bit of basics just from getting a subscription to Everyday Food. Lots of simple, straightforward recipes, with an emphasis on in-season produce, and you don't need a lot of time or special techniques or unusual ingredients; also, if you're single, they have "cooking for one" recipes in each issue (the larger recipes are usually for 4, so they can easily be halved or quartered).

Secondarily, you might want to look into getting your thyroid checked. It's possible that it's a little low, but my guess is that if you improve your diet, you'll see most of the answer right there.
posted by scody at 12:26 AM on May 27, 2010

What jumps out at me, aside from the processed carbohydrates mentioned above, is that you're getting most of your calories in very late in the day. I'm put in mind of an article that I read about sumo wrestlers about a decade ago. For maximum weight gain, they wake up on an empty stomach, train all morning without food, and eat a huge lunch around 11 a.m. (as many bowls of chankonabe as they can stomach), after which they take a nap. Then it's no food again till before bedtime. Try treating lunch as the main meal of the day (as it is in many cultures--"dinner" originally referred to a midday meal) and eat lightly at supper instead. Best of luck.
posted by cirocco at 12:36 AM on May 27, 2010

Nthing that you're eating a ton of carbohydrates and not much else. You'll want to read this book: Good Calories, Bad Calories. He looked into all the major dietary studies of the past 100+ years to figure out why there was so much contradictory diet advice, and then he did the research to figure out why certain things (i.e. "fat and calories cause you to gain weight") kept being pushed when they were obviously not true based on the research. It's not a diet book so it's heavy on science and history of the politics and academic politics (and heavy on cites!) that lead to our current dietary recommendations.

A few interesting studies of note discussed in the book:
- People put on a low carb diet of 10,000 calories couldn't gain any weight, and some would still lose weight. People put up on a high carbohydrate diet of 8,000 calories a day gained weight like crazy. By the way, this is not a confusion of calorie v. kilocalorie or whatever, these are calories like we normally understand them -- so 5 and 4 times the RDV of 2000 calories respectively.

- People on 8,000 calorie a day high carbohydrate diet would still get hungry frequently. People on a low carb diet of 600 calories a day wouldn't. These observations held fast for several other calorie gradients.

This matches my personal experience; I lose three pounds a week eating as much as 5,000 calories some days as long as they're low carb, and I am relatively inactive. I might lose weight eating more than that, I've just never been able to. I am unable to lose any weight eating 900 calories a day on a high carb diet even with regular exercise, nor can I lose any weight at 1200 calories, 1500 calories, 2000 calories a day on a high carb diet. As an experiment, I tried eating those amounts in calories on a low carb diet and I just lose more weight; I think most days I hover around 1500 to 2000 calories on low carb. I'm a bit of an extreme example because there is some insulin resistance in my family, but I'm not insulin resistant or diabetic myself and everyone's hormones regulate whether they gain weight. Those hormones are released when you eat carbohydrates. (It's a bit more complicated than that, so read the book.) It just means most people can tolerate more carbohydrates than I can before they gain weight.

My blood work is good regardless of either diet, but it's fantastic when I'm on low carb. I also get sick less frequently on low carb and I am not chronically exhausted.

There's much more in that book about the effect of a carbohydrate-heavy diet on other areas of health, namely things like heart disease and cancer. I can't make you read the book, but I hope you take me seriously when I say you'd be doing yourself a huge disservice not to. It would give you a much more thorough answer to all your questions than anything us MeFites could tell you here.
posted by Nattie at 9:55 AM on May 27, 2010 [3 favorites]

Watch 10 things you need to know about losing weight, which you can find on youtube under its spanish title "10 Coisas que VocĂȘ Precisa Saber Sobre Perder Peso" (with Spanish subtitles).

The girl in part 6 sounds like you. She kept a food diary and insisted she was eating healthy, but in reality was consuming WAY more calories than she thought she was. She'd say "Oh well I have a bowl of fruit in the morning" but she'd have a MASSIVE bowl of fruit. They studied her metabolism and compared it to her food diary and there was a major discrepancy between the calories she was consuming, and the calories she thought she was consuming.

Also as everyone else said, cut the carbs. Get more protein & fat into your diet. Carbs are additive. I lost ~12 lbs in 2 months by making smarter choices about my meals and following The GI Diet. (I later gained it back, but with discipline, I'll lose it again.) The GI diet is very easy to follow, especially once you "get" the principles. There are foods you know are OK to eat, foods you know are bad to eat, and some foods you have to look up occasionally.
posted by MesoFilter at 10:14 AM on May 27, 2010

I also eat dinner out about 3 nights a week, usually one meal of each of these:
-Pasta with tomato sauce
-Grilled cheese with fries
(I always order water with my food instead of drinking something with calories)

This really struck me because restaurant food is typically high in salt and fat, and portions are larger than normal too. If you're eating out three times a week it's really going to be making an impact. For example,

Olive Garden's Linguini Marinara is 430 calories and the Spaghetti with Meat Sauce is 770. (Don't forget the bread sticks and salad if you eat those!)
One (1) slice of Papa John's regular crust cheese pizza is anywhere from 180-210 calories depending on the size of the pizza. Pepperoni pizza runs between 210-230 calories per slice.
And a grilled cheese sandwich with fries is probably between 600 and 1,000 calories depending on the amount of fries and the size of the sandwich.

That's a lot of calories and not a veggie in sight except for the tomatoes. The rest of your diet isn't really healthy enough for you to get away with eating this kind of stuff out. If you like to eat out I suggest you go to the restaurant's website and find out what kind of calories you're eating. Maybe there's something else on the menu that has lower calories that you could try.
posted by Mouse Army at 10:16 AM on May 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm no expert in losing weight and I don't have much to add to what's been said, but here's a thought. I love cookies -- they taste great! So I used to buy them regularly. When I would do this, I would eat them regularly, often many every day. At some point, I stopped ever, ever buying cookies at the supermarket. Why? Well, I just decided! Not buying something that you usually buy can be a bit hard -- but it's far from the hardest thing you'll ever do. You can do it if you decide to. These days, I'll have cookies occasionally if I'm staying a while at a cafe, or if someone brought them to share at work. But I've eliminated 90+% of my cookie consumption but not having them in my apartment. Since I never buy them at the supermarket, they're not a fixture in my home, and I'm generally not going to eat them if they're not in my home.

You can apply the same technique to Vitamin Water (one bottle of which has as much sugar as a Snickers bar) and chocolate chips.
posted by Jaltcoh at 11:31 AM on May 27, 2010

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