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October 10, 2010 12:43 AM   Subscribe

What do you think I should be doing at the gym/working out at home? (spesh snowflakes inside!)

I am a young female, I weigh 280lbs and I am getting fitter by the moment since I started eating more sensibly (counting calories, correct potion sizes etc) last month.
I have been doing around half an hour work outs a day, this is either, 1. First week of C25K (walking/jogging) 2. Jillian Michaels 30 day shred (high intensity cardio, strength, aerobics) 3. Gym (where I will ususally do 20 min fast walking up hill, 12 minute eliptical, 5 mins rowing - I avoid the weights because I work out at a military gym and frankly its intimidating).
After I work out I will grab some protien.
I watch 'The Biggest Looser' and I think I have given myself a bit of a complex, I never feel as if I am doing enough and that I should be doing more and differently. Also, I got great losses towards the beginning (I have lost about 25lb so far) and now I am loosing about 1 to 2lbs a week (I realise its a healthy loss but I am a pretty big girl, I wasnt expecting to slow down this qucikly).
So knowledgable mefites, what do YOU think I should be doing? How much and how regularly?
NB. I have access to the gym obviously, I have 5kg free weights, wii fit, and a dvd player at home. I wouldnt really wanna buy any more equiptment unless its under £20 ($50 say).
posted by Neonshock to Health & Fitness (23 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Maybe add another 10-20 minutes onto your workouts? The slow-down might only be temporary. Just keep at it. I'm really proud of you :)
posted by Lukenlogs at 12:59 AM on October 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Aw thanks Lukenlogs!
posted by Neonshock at 1:00 AM on October 10, 2010

Changing your body is a slow process. The progress you've made is excellent.

Additionally, weight gain/loss isn't strictly linear. Some weeks will be faster than others. Just keep up the good work.
posted by just.good.enough at 1:01 AM on October 10, 2010

Big losses are common during the first two, maybe three weeks if you're lucky--even for use bigger girls :)

And, since I'm sure someone will bring it up, what you're eating matters a lot more than how much you exercise. There's lots of information out there in nutrition questions on AskMeFi.

Great job, though! I've lost 90 pounds, but I'm still struggling with establishing an exercise routine. You're doing fabulously! *high five*
posted by Aleen at 1:07 AM on October 10, 2010

The biggest thing to concentrate on when losing weight is the diet, as you have already figured out. Working out is important and should be done consistently, but the diet is key.

I've seen amazing things from cutting carbs, like eating no more than 30-40 carbs a day if possible, but this incites possible mood swings. Another thing to think about is changing your routine when you feel like you've hit a plateau. Your body is an amazingly efficient machine, and will adapt over time to do the least amount of work possible. Changing a diet, or exercise schedule helps a lot. If you worked out at night, switch to mornings, load up on carbs once a week to send your body into carb overload shock, if you run a lot, use a bike or swim laps instead.

At the end of the day, it'll come down to consistency and perseverance. Don't give up! You've made great progress!
posted by irishcoffee at 1:21 AM on October 10, 2010

Nthing nutrition being a massive factor and applauding your progress so far.

I spend a bit of time lurking on various crossfit sites. They swear by 'the zone' as a dietary lifestyle choice. I switched to it a while back and my bodyfat started dropping again after having been paused for the longest time. While I'm not obsessive about measuring blocks, I don't eat a lot of simple carbs so it works out pretty well. After a while you get good at eyeballing how much you should and shouldn't eat. Consider picking up a copy of 'mastering the zone'.

You might also like to check out He has some pretty interesting stuff to say about diet and nutrition.

Forget biggest loser. If it's motivated you to get off the couch, then great, but understand, they don't film those weigh-ins week to week. They may go several weeks without one. They say 'this week's weigh in' to make it sound like it's a chronological week from the last one, but it's not. Don't beat yourself up over it.

As for avoiding the weights, I can empathise with the intimidation factor, though if you can find a way around it squats, deadlifts, cleans and presses would be an awesome addition to your workout. Is there someone experienced you can get to show you the ropes? A few lessons to get your form right and you should fear no one :)

All the best with it.
posted by CardinalRichelieuHandPuppet at 1:35 AM on October 10, 2010

Frankly, for women, diet is what matters. Yeah, exercise will make you body feel tighter and will make you "fit" endurance and strength-wise, but as far as weight loss is concerned, for women in particular, exercise doesn't make much of a difference.

I felt quite validated when the above-linked studies came out, as they confirmed something that I felt had been true for me for as long as I remember: exercise quickly transformed my body into awesome strong and muscular, but I wouldn't lose any weight because I'd just feel ravenously hungry after exercise (and by "grabbing some protein" you're just grabbing some extra calories after all).

Your experience may vary, but taking into account just how much weight you need to lose, I'd focus on a restricted diet. Please do take the time to read the article I linked to. Take home:

"In general, exercise by itself is pretty useless for weight loss."
posted by halogen at 2:59 AM on October 10, 2010 [3 favorites]

You'll have better results if you add in heavy weightlifting. It will promote better bone health and help you build a solid base so you don't end up being skinny fat. It will allow you to burn more calories naturally through the day and help keep your metabolism up among other things that tons of cardio alone won't do.
I know you say you're intimidated but trust me it's awesome seeing women actually lift and not slave away on the eliptical. Half those guys are just going to be doing bicep curls for an hour anyway so fuck em' and go do your thing.

Also, it's great and nessisary to make sure your diet is on point but it shouldn't be the only thing contributing to your weight loss. Saying X is useless without proper diet is like saying your car is useless without gas, it's not some huge revelation people just always want reasons to "reward" themselves.

Exercise to GAIN muscle or LOSE fat are both severely stunted by poor diet. All the work you do at the gym is not useless though and I emplore you to take it as serious as your diet.
If you're comparing running for 3 miles or eating 4 cookies then yes skip the running and don't eat the 4 cookies. But, that's not your situation, you're aimming to be elite and have everything on point.

Anyway, You're doing a great job so far. I'd come back and ask this question when you hit a plateau.
posted by zephyr_words at 4:57 AM on October 10, 2010 [2 favorites]

Don't push for big weight drops.

I've lost almost 60lbs in the past year and what I have noticed is that if my Net Calories are too low one day the next day is horrible - I want to eat and eat and I feel like crap. If I stick to losing 1.5-2lbs a week the weight loss is pretty easy.

You're signing up to control your calories for the rest of your life so go slow and steady.

I'd also suggest caution with running until you get your weight down to a level that will be safer for your joints. Walking burns a lot of calories as well.
posted by srboisvert at 5:04 AM on October 10, 2010

Please don't use "The Biggest Loser" as a pointer to any kind of realistic exercise plan. The contestants work out 2 to 5 hours every day, don't stop when they're injured and deliberately dehydrate themselves. It's completely unsustainable and downright dangerous.

You are doing great! 1 to 2 pounds a week is a smaller loss, percentage-wise, for us big broads, but it's healthy and sustainable.
posted by shiny blue object at 5:39 AM on October 10, 2010 [4 favorites]

The Mayo Clinic says 1-2 pounds a week is the goal for sustainable weight loss. Even though your weight loss has slowed down (as expected), you're hitting that goal with what you're doing, so I think you should keep it up.

Come back if your weight loss drops below that (as a steady trend) or if you're actually bored with your exercise routine.
posted by anaelith at 6:55 AM on October 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm happiest when I see people at the gym who are obviously making a change, doing something new, or otherwise really just putting the effort in. I think you'll find that the buff military guys that intimidate will feel the same way.

Get some (light) compound lifts in, once you've had the proper instruction: deadlifts, bench press, squats. If you still want to avoid the weights, one hundred body weight squats (no bar/weights) is a hell of a workout on its own! :)
posted by kcm at 7:05 AM on October 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

halogen, I agree, and I've linked to that article in the past myself...but I think it's important to note that exercise can have a big effect on overall weight loss goals and emotional state, if nothing else. I don't think you're saying not to exercise but I just wanted to add that.

So, a few things:

1) Your body learns to be efficient, and will stop burning as much when you are doing the same thing all the time. This is one reason to switch up your workout routine regularly, like irishcoffee suggests. Sounds like you have some variation already, but...

2) ...I agree with zephyr_words and kcm about weight-training. Many women worry that they will put on too much muscle and look masculine, but don't worry: it's not that easy to bulk up (it can be tough for men!). Just adding a bit of weight training can help you build muscle mass which will mean you will burn more fat both when you are exercising as well as when you are just sitting there. Of course, you may notice you are not losing as much weight, but that's because you will be gaining muscle mass; this is good.

3) Obviously stick with your dieting, as others have said, diet is (always) key. Make sure you find something you can sustain over the long haul (this goes for exercise too, really).

4) You will go through peaks and plateaus with...anything really. Stick with it. Keep trying new things. It's a mind game as much as anything at this point. You may feel like you're not making progress but if you stick with it things will change. Be patient with yourself, and don't use any other source as a gauge for how you should be progressing; we are all different and change at different rates, and even that changes over time.

Congrats on what you have achieved so far. You can get where you want to be, don't give up!
posted by dubitable at 8:08 AM on October 10, 2010

I am loosing about 1 to 2lbs a week (I realise its a healthy loss but I am a pretty big girl, I wasnt expecting to slow down this qucikly).

I, personally, can't lose a full pound a week even with perfect diet and daily hugely strenuous workouts. And your earlier losses were probably mostly water. So I'd urge you to recalibrate your idea of "success".

Here's the thing....1-2 lbs/week only seems slow if you perceive yourself to be in some special "diet/fitness" mode. And the problem with special diet/fitness mode is that when special diet/fitness time is over (cuz you've lost the weight), you'll reenter "normal" mode and gain the weight most dieters do (one scientist says: "at least one-third to two-thirds of people on diets regain more weight than they lost within four or five years, and the true number may well be significantly higher.")

So there are two ways to go here. 1. you can try to make your special diet/fitness mode even MORE special by ramping up one or the other, which may give you a smidge more weekly loss, but make the process less sustainable, so there's more chance you'll quit and, even if you don't quit, more chance you'll unravel as soon as you return to normal mode, or: 2. just keep comfortably losing a pound or two per week, with a protocol you can comfortably sustain until you lose the weight....and forever thereafter. Slow, steady, and sustainable.

In other words, if you can't consider your regimen a new "normal" that's forever sustainable, you're in trouble. You likely won't even make it to your goal weight, much less keep it off later. If, however, you're losing slowly and it feels "normal" rather than "special", then you'll get good and stay good (not that you're not good now!).

So I wouldn't add on much. I'd apply that same willpower to developing patience. And feel more and more smug and glowy about the small pile of weight lost as it turns into a medium and then large pile.

Congrats, btw!
posted by Quisp Lover at 8:24 AM on October 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

first off, I have to agree emphatically with those above who mention the importance of diet for women...nothing will increase your metabolic rate like reduced portion sizes and increased mealtimes (my personal trainer swears by her 5 small meals a day) and it has been my experience (as a woman 43 years of age with bone density and hormonal imbalance issues) that weight training is also crucial.

not just those gym weights, though.

unlike you, I don't have access to a gym here in central Japan but I train at home using 5 pound weights and, well, my own body weight...which despite a slow and steady 38 pound loss over the last 14 months is still ample enough to be challenging. the body weight squats mentioned above are good as are push ups and standing leg lifts.

if there is one *cheap* item I would add to your home workout it would be a medium sized balance ball. if you have knee issues, the balance ball can really help protect them when you are doing the body weight squats: simply stand with a balance ball between the small of your back and a wall, and lean slightly against the ball (rolling it up and down the wall) as you do the squats. if you brace the same ball against the wall and position your hands slightly to the sides of the ball you can also add impact to push ups. there are several excellent floor exercises you can do (leg lifts and vertical leg crunches) with the ball braced between your ankles, too.

finally, don't laugh, but of all the wii fit programs I've tried, nothing has had the impact of the wii cheer (yes, in cheerleading). it's got a relatively high learning curve for a fluffy video game, but if you don't get frustrated it really can improve muscle extension, posture and stamina...which should help you increase your rowing and elliptical times at the gym. the walking time might be one you'll want to increase slowly, but I would reduce the incline and slow the rate a bit for anything over 20 minutes, or you risk straining joints that (trust me) you will really miss when you get to be my age.

please turn off that program, though.
there's very little reality to be found in those "reality" shows, and the vague manner in which they portray the passage of time can really undermine all the amazing work you are doing.
posted by squasha at 8:27 AM on October 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

1-2lbs per week is good deal, especially for a woman. I would try tightening up your diet if you want more results, but to really see a difference from exercise you'd probably have to add an extra 30-60 minutes of cardio a day without increasing calorie intake.

Keep in mind the quicker you lose the weight, the more likely you are to have a ton of loose skin at the end. Slow and steady (along with being young, having good genetics, not smoking, etc) is the best way to mitigate requiring lots of surgery at the end of your journey. Biggest Loser contestants have a ton of loose skin to deal with--you can tell because pretty much none of the contestants are ever seen with their shirts off at the end of the show, and the body shapes, while slimmer, have a sagginess that belie the skin issues underneath.

(This is not a good reason to not loose weight, by the way, just something to keep in mind when you get impatient with your rate of loss)

I would strongly, strongly encourage you to start lifting, though. Weight loss will also take away muscle mass, and leave you looking less tight and toned at the end than if you weight trained along with your program. You're also more at a risk for bone mass loss.
posted by Anonymous at 8:37 AM on October 10, 2010

Hello and congratulations on your progress - I've taken partial advantage of my unemployed status and go back to the gym myself (better to be 'the old guy' who doesn't get hired than the 'fat old guy').

Resistance training (doesn't have to be free weights) replaces fatty tissue with lean. Building lean body mass doesn't mean getting ripped and all that, it's changes to one's metabolism that pay off mostly. A lot of beer water weight had to be lost first, and still have a ways to go. FWIW, here's my routine, which was nearly daily a few months ago, and is now less than 2x/week (every other day is really best, note to self):

1. 30 mins elliptical using random or cardio programs at an 85% capacity target rate and a five minute cool-down. You'll know you're in really good shape when it takes a lot longer than five munites to raise your heart rate, and when your heart rate slows back down more quickly during the cool-down. Changing up with a recumbent bike or whatnot is just fine, but hitting and maintaining a cardio target rate is key.

2. A full circuit, going as many as four sets of 12 reps and then incrementing up once I reach that goal. Everything - arms, upper body, lower body, back, abdominals (maybe it's me but hip abduction/adduction machines look like a huge waste of time IMO)

That takes ninety minutes to two hours. No straining everything to the failure point. Steady, measurable progress, emphasis on progress, not power or the speed of progress. Sometimes I'll push to hit a goal (e.g., getting past 215 lbs on back extension, or past 70 lbs on my girly man biceps)
I'm lucky to have a Planet Fitness which is super cheap and actively discourages the atmosphere that sounds like it turns you off weight training.
Keep it up Neonshock, and you *will*, sooner than you believe, shock yourself with the nicest WTF moment in front of a mirror you've ever experienced.
Good luck and nthing Quisp Lover's advice for patience.
posted by nj_subgenius at 9:06 AM on October 10, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for everyones thoughts.
I know diet is key here and I my motto is "Make the right choices" this is something I havent had a problem with, I would say I eat the right quantities of things. I use myfitnesspal app on my iphone (although temporarily out of action on the move since I cracked the screen...)which is great for counting things, but I could definatly loose a few more carbs though I have cut down drastically (Carbs with every meal to carbs once a day). I'm a pescartian also if that makes any difference.

So the general consensus is Im doing ok, but do some weights. In the meantime since I asked this question I've been to the gym and SO nearly got some weights done but chickened. Knowing me, its just a matter of time, since I am very confident, but Im working my way there slowly.

I wanted to add a thank you to those who have been so lovely about my loss so far, I wasnt trying to get praise but I like how I did.

You guys are great, thanks for the support!
posted by Neonshock at 9:42 AM on October 10, 2010

" I could definatly loose a few more carbs though I have cut down drastically (Carbs with every meal to carbs once a day)"

Carb handling is a thicket and a miasma, but I'll jump in.

Me? I follow the lead of body builders, because those guys, with their "bulking"/"cutting" programs, have weight loss down to a science (and at this point, there are enough of them hacking and sharing that their consensus is valuable). While you'll certainly find body builders who'll say otherwise, the consensus now, corroborated by several smart nutritionists I know, is to eat carbs, protein, and fat in a smart proportion, at every meal (assuming you're aiming for reasonably clean versions of each, and not burgers for protein, french fries for carbs, and butter for fat!). This is how these guys mostly "cut" (i.e. lose body fat).

It's also the most natural way. Taking extreme, non-natural approaches is risky. As one observes nutritional trends, the more extreme, less natural approaches never seem to stick around.

Also, not eating carbs will make you cranky. And crankiness is not sustainable. Again, I'd strongly urge you not to take extreme measures in any aspect of this, and to find, instead, a natural, healthful, slow approach you can maintain forever and be happy....where the weight slowly falls off almost as an afterthought. That's the approach that works.
posted by Quisp Lover at 10:07 AM on October 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

I met a man once who was passionate about bicycling. Actually, I've met lots of those. This one, however, told me that bicycling saved his life.

He said that his doctor had given him 6 months to live unless he changed his eating and exercise habits. So he took up biking. I met him after he had been bicycling for 2 years, and have never seen someone so in love with biking. It made a strong impression on me about the health benefits of bicycling.

Perhaps you could take up biking to work, or the gym? If you need to fix your bike up, you can take it to one of your local bike collectives to work on it. If you don't have one, they can probably help you get one within your price range.

I wish you well, and hope you're having fun developing your new habits!
posted by aniola at 12:34 PM on October 10, 2010

Oh yeah, and Stumptuous is a great intro-to-lifting website that pays special attention to women.
posted by Anonymous at 9:37 PM on October 10, 2010

Just wanted to nth some of the comments already made above:

1. Weights are value-for-money in that you'll burn more calories (which is really what you're trying to do) in 20 minutes of resistance workout than 20 minutes on the elliptical machine etc. (plus the added benefits of working with weights already mentioned).

2. Diets (the zone, atkins etc) come and go and all have stuff going for them and will all work for a certain amount of time but the real trick is really to eat healthy, whole foods, in reasonably balanced proportions and to eat less calories than you burn. It really is that simple (which isn't actually that simple seeing as it's hard to measure, scientifically, how much you're actually burning, but you know how it goes).

3. It might be a bit early for this for you but if you can find a sport that you enjoy that would go a long way to keeping up your new super-healthy lifestyle.

4. Keep track of all your measurements, set some goals and work as hard on your motivation as everything else. You've done amazingly (seriously) but you're 1 month in and it's going to get pretty tough around month 3 or 4 when you're a little more bored and seeing even less results and wondering if this is how the rest of your life is going to be. Take those measurements, SET GOALS (for weight, waist, push-ups, everything) both long-term and, very importantly, for the short-term as well. It's fine to aim at a 30" waist but where would you, realistically, like to be by Christmas? I think that you if you could lose another 10 pounds and drop 1.5" from your waist by Christmas you should be thrilled with yourself.

5. I personally like to fast every now and then but not a lot of people agree with it, although I believe it's mostly because they're not familiar with the research. Mefi mail me if you want some more info on it.

Best of luck!
posted by HopStopDon'tShop at 7:11 AM on October 11, 2010

1. Congratulation on what you have accomplished so far!
2. It's going to be a tough slog, and its going to take a while, if it was easy a lot more people would do it.
3. If you aren't doing weight training then you probably don't need the extra protein afterward.
4. Just up the cardio a bit, and try and do a little bit of resistance training as you get comfortable with it. As other have said this is mainly diet, but you want your body to feel good in the mean time and this is a great way to do that.
5. Keep up the great work!
posted by BobbyDigital at 7:28 AM on October 11, 2010

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