Calories in and calories burned: is there a trick?
January 10, 2011 11:54 AM   Subscribe

If it's as easy as move more and eat less, why aren't I losing weight?

So the internet finally got to me. Seeing so many posts about how overweight people are that way by choice finally sent me spiralling. In the past I've tried to stick to various exercise regimes. Did freeweights, bought an expensive trampoline, subscribed to a weekly (organic) vegetable box and vowed to make every meal with the healthiest and purest ingredients possible. I cut sugar out of my diet. I cut alcohol. I cut anything sweet. Chose only low-fat milk and then no dairy at all. Cut out red meat. Started cutting out meat entirely. I thought I was doing everything right.

After three months and only losing 12 pounds, I got discouraged. I decided to read up on the internet again and get some advice. But all I found were more posts calling people who looked like me and weighed as much as I do lazy, ugly, worthless. Especially women. I was convinced that I had to be sabotaging myself somehow.

That's when I decided to stop eating. Not entirely. In the beginning I was eating only dinner. Then I started cutting the portion I gave myself at that meal in half. After two weeks and no progress, I decided to eat one portion of fruit and one of vegetable instead of any meals. Usually it's some broccoli and an apple. I partner this with a 45 minute walk every day.

I've been doing this for two months. I haven't gained that 12 pounds back, but the scale hasn't gone ANY lower. I feel depressed and broken. I'm always tired. I feel like I'm destined to be overweight and worthless forever. What am I doing wrong? I know I should consult my doctor, but I feel worse about my weight when I visit him than any other time. I weigh 288 (5'8'') and I get lectured about my BMI and interrogated about my lifestyle constantly.

I'm not looking for medical advice, but maybe some information on what I'm doing wrong. If it's as easy as calories in and calories burned, I should have lost something by now.
Are there any other ways to approach this?

(This is anonymous as it's pretty soul-baring and personal. Plus my username would be forever attached to my obesity.)
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (53 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
You need to consult your doctors and get a variety of tests done. There may very well be a medical problem going on. IANAD - but I know people have a ton of issues (thyroid, etc) that cause them to have difficulty losing weight. If your doctor isn't making you comfortable, swap doctors, if that is an option. You should not be lectured to, if you show you are willing and trying to make changes, IMO.
posted by quodlibet at 11:56 AM on January 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

Starving yourself is not the answer. Your body needs nutrition. Say it out loud to yourself--your body needs healthy, substantial nutrition. Don't go to your current doctor if he doesn't provide you with constructive help. Instead, find yourself a nutritionist, and a trainer at the gym. And give yourself time. Healthy weight loss is supposed to take time.
posted by litnerd at 11:59 AM on January 10, 2011 [2 favorites]

Take a look at Gary Taubes - he really puts paid to the notion of calories in/calories out being all there is to fluctuating weight.
posted by MighstAllCruckingFighty at 12:00 PM on January 10, 2011 [8 favorites]

Response by poster: You're not cheating at all? There are no times when you say "Well, I've been eating so little this won't count?" You've really been eating nothing but broccoli and apples for months? Really? And you're not dead?

Chronic underfeeding can send your body spiraling into a stress cycle where it overproduces cortisol and holds onto fat (though not in gigantic amounts). If you really haven't been eating anything but broccoli and apples, you need to see a doctor and a therapist, because you have an eating disorder. If you are slightly exaggerating and have been eating things other than that, get a scale, weigh and measure your food, input it into a calorie counter and see how many calories you're eating. You'll probably be surprised.
posted by Anonymous at 12:01 PM on January 10, 2011

A 12-pound loss over 3 months is actually very healthy! That's an average of a pound a week. Go back to whatever you were doing then, instead of starving yourself. Everything I've read and experienced about weight loss indicates that the more you lose per week, the more likely you are to gain it back. Don't be discouraged just because you hear of other people losing a lot more in a shorter amount of time-- there is no evidence that they're doing it right and you're doing it wrong.
posted by joan_holloway at 12:02 PM on January 10, 2011 [30 favorites]

First...good on you for wanting to make yourself healthier--I'm right there with you! And nthing the advice to consult your doctor.

Now, I'm no expert but losing 12 lbs in 3 months sounds just about right--"they" say that healthy weight loss is about 1lb a week.

Per your question, on your current situation--it could be that your body thinks it is starving and holding onto every last ounce of fat to get you through it. Clearly calories in needs to be less that calories out, but only to a certain degree! Eat more!

I recently got myself this, and I found it was a huge wake-up call as to how much I was actually moving during the day. Maybe something similar would help?

Best of luck!

On preview--agreeing with joan_holloway & schroedinger
posted by Zoyashka at 12:04 PM on January 10, 2011

It isn't that easy. Seriously.

Find a new doctor. Read about body acceptance. Healthy behaviors are great; weight is not a behavior, and healthy behaviors will not have the same impact on everyone's weight.

Remember that only 5% of people who lose weight keep it off for more than 5 years. Change your behaviors to focus on health, not scale weight.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:04 PM on January 10, 2011 [6 favorites]

After three months and only losing 12 pounds, I got discouraged.

Don't be. Three months = 12 weeks = 1 pound of weight loss per week.

This is perfect. This is 52 pounds in a year. Exactly what you want to be doing.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:04 PM on January 10, 2011 [17 favorites]

Losing 12 pounds in 3 months is GOOD. Killing your metabolism and sending your body into starvation mode is BAD.

Go back to what you were doing when you lost the 12 pounds, and do that for however long it takes.

Good luck. :)
posted by iguanapolitico at 12:05 PM on January 10, 2011 [4 favorites]

You've really been eating nothing but broccoli and apples for months? Really? And you're not dead?

I ate less than 200 calories a day for months, and I'm not dead. Nor are most of the people I was treated for eating disorders with. The human body is pretty resilient to starvation.

Also, my mother ate 500 calories a day for years. And gained weight. Of course, she also died, probably at least partly due to her long-untreated Cushing's Disease, but that's another issue--and instead of sending her to an endocrinologist, her doctor accused her of cheating on her diet, because we all know it's as simple as calories in, calories out, right?

OP, you really need a new doctor. And a nutritionist who will work with you to create a food plan that supports your health and energy, not just starves you in order to meet some arbitrary scale-weight goal.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:07 PM on January 10, 2011 [25 favorites]

I should add that the people who lose 25 pounds a week on TV shows like The Biggest Loser are spending every hour of every day dieting and exercising. They're on TV, they aren't living in the real world. Don't think your results should be anything like theirs.

It is true that some very overweight people can lose weight very fast with some combinations of diet and exercise, but that doesn't mean that everyone can. Just stay the course. Staying a healthy weight means a lifetime of good diet and exercise ... this isn't just a temporary thing you're doing. Slow and steady will get you there!
posted by iguanapolitico at 12:07 PM on January 10, 2011

A few thoughts:
could your body be in "starvation mode"? Sometimes, if the body thinks it's experiencing famine, it will hold onto weight even more ferociously.

Are you female? Have you been checked for PCOS?

Have you had your thyroid checked?

Could you be diabetic or have some form or insulin resistance or Metabolic Syndrome?

If your doctor is not supportive to you while trying to figure this out, by all means, find a new doctor. Please don't beat yourself up over this; there really are MANY other variables besides calories in/calories out
posted by SamanthaK at 12:09 PM on January 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

subscribed to a weekly (organic) vegetable box and vowed to make every meal with the healthiest and purest ingredients possible. I cut sugar out of my diet. I cut alcohol. I cut anything sweet. Chose only low-fat milk and then no dairy at all. Cut out red meat. Started cutting out meat entirely. I thought I was doing everything right.

Is it possible that you're not getting enough calories? There is a threshold of calorie restriction where your body goes into famine mode and clings to everything it's got for dear life. A lot of people have trouble losing weight because of this. You might look into seeing a nutritionist to come up with a diet that will actually work with you, rather than starving yourself.

For what it's worth, too, while cutting out all sweets, alcohol, dairy, and animal products (and possibly carbs, you don't make that clear) is noble (or something), it's not a terribly sustainable diet. This is a recipe for falling off the wagon and gaining a lot of weight back. Your goal should be an approach to food that you can actually hold to realistically.

Anecdata: my dad lost about 100 pounds over the course of a year or two. And kept most of it off. There is no overnight shortcut diet that is going to make you thin next weekend.
posted by Sara C. at 12:12 PM on January 10, 2011

Yeah, you're psyching yourself out. Go see a qualified (RN or RD) dietician/nutritionist and get a food plan. The doctor's not helping.

By radically cutting your intake, you're majorly screwing with your metabolism. Don't do that. Get a sane and healthy food plan and follow it. You're going to be fine. There is absolutely no reason to punish or dislike yourself - you're learning how to take care of yourself, just like everybody else. Like others have said, aim for good health, not just for a numeric target.
posted by facetious at 12:14 PM on January 10, 2011

Here's some reading on the myth of "starvation mode."
posted by Anatoly Pisarenko at 12:17 PM on January 10, 2011 [5 favorites]

A diet of just apples and broccoli is probably more unhealthy than a diet of hamburgers and twinkies. You're missing out on key nutrients like protein and who knows what other trace nutrients your body really needs (iron? B12? creatine?). Vegetarianism is a great way to impact your diet in a positive way, but you need to be smart about it.

Start with a nutritional counseler and build small, high-quality meals, preferably more than three a day, that will meet your nutritional needs while not having too many calories. If you've stuck with this (frankly, insane) diet for three or five months, that's extremely commendable, and you absolutely have the ability to do something more reasonable and really feel healthy and lose some excess weight.
posted by 0xFCAF at 12:17 PM on January 10, 2011

12 lbs in 3 months is awesome! However, you need to eat so your body doesn't go into starvation-survival mode. Figure out how many calories you need to break even (there are online calculators, like the one from Livestrong/Daily Plate), then go 500-1000 lower to lose 1-2 lbs/week. Don't go lower! And exercise more, because lean body mass burns calories more quickly than fat, and you'll feel better. When you exercise, it also means you can eat that many more calories on that day.

But more than anything, you need to eat enough and keep at it. You've had a great start, really and truly.
posted by The Michael The at 12:17 PM on January 10, 2011

It bears repeating that 12lbs in 3 months is great. Keep doing whatever you were doing then, because it was working.

Your body does weird things when you starve it. Don't starve your body. Eat a little less than you need (losing 1lb per week requires a 500 calorie per day deficit, i.e. 20-25% of your total intake). Exercise as much as you can; get addicted to exercise if you can.
posted by ssg at 12:18 PM on January 10, 2011

Man, I just hate my answers and I was going to send you mefi mail but you're Anonymous so I can't.

I stand by my answers, but I just sound so insensitive. I'm not obese, but I struggle with weight every day and I know how hard it is to stay in control of these things when you aren't getting much in return.

I've done the 500 calorie a day thing, and it actually did help me lose weight. But I felt like crap all the time: dizzy, weak, and when I went to aerobics class once I got a terrible chest pain and I had to stop and leave the class. It wasn't healthy, and limiting my diet like that just makes me crave food more.

You're just much better off if you can adapt to a diet/exercise regimen that you can do forever. And if it takes a couple years to take off ALL the weight, so be it. It's better than putting it off for a couple years and then starting again.

And it IS possible that you have a medical issue. Thyroid problems, or just messed-up metabolism at this point. But starving is not the answer. Someone your weight should be able to lose weight without a problem (though perhaps slowly!) on 1500 calories a day. Like they say on TV, anybody starting a weight loss regimen should consult their doctor, but I still think you should go back to what you were doing when you were losing a pound a week. :)
posted by iguanapolitico at 12:20 PM on January 10, 2011

I agree with everyone who said to go back to what you were doing when you lost 12 pounds. I've lost approximately a pound a week for the past year and four months. It's slow but steady, and most of all it's sustainable and healthy.

You're starving yourself now, so your body is desperate to hold on to all your pounds. I've found that my weight loss slows down and sometimes stops if I eat too little, and I've never eaten as little as you do. It's not as simple as calories in vs. calories out, so try to ignore the simplistic, hectoring, jackass fat-shamers (I know, easier said than done).

If your doctor accuses you of lying about what you eat, shames you, or doesn't offer practical advice, dump him.
posted by Mavri at 12:23 PM on January 10, 2011

Go to a doctor. You could have hormone problems or a virus of some kind.

Honestly, don't let idiots on the internet make you feel bad about what you're looking like. Who cares about them? They don't do anything but comment on the internet all day long and I'm sure they don't look as good as George Clooney. You're more than what you weigh, and people who are genuinely nice and kind are worth 100 people who appoint themselves judge and jury of who is worth whatever. People who are obsessed with other people's bodies are not the kind of people anyone wants to deal with in real life. They have deep insecurities that make them weird and not people you want to really talk to.

You're on a journey and you should take care of your body, be kind to your body, and practice not thinking mean thoughts about yourself or what you see. Perhaps your goal should be to get stronger (so important!) and not just thinner.

I'm a thin but sedentary person and my muscles and bones ache. My joints ache sometimes. Who cares if I'm thin? My muscles and bones need working out, and I feel weak. Kudos to you for getting strong and fit. Weight is not the whole picture. It's what you do strengthening your body.

Take it slow and easy and protect/strengthen your bones, muscles, etc. And have fun doing it because I'll bet you can make a lot of friends doing fun physical activities.
posted by anniecat at 12:24 PM on January 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

After three months and only losing 12 pounds, I got discouraged.

OK, reality check -- let's do some math:

3 months times 4 = 1 year.

12 pounds times 4 = 48 pounds.

All other things being equal, if you go back to do doing what you were doing to produce those results, starting today and going for a year, you'll lose almost 50 pounds. In 1 year, you would weigh 240 pounds instead of 288.

Or, you could lose almost 100 pounds in just 2 years, so you'd weigh less than 200 pounds. (Again, all other things being equal.)

Would those be "disappointing" results?

That's when I decided to stop eating. ... I've been doing this for two months. I haven't gained that 12 pounds back, but the scale hasn't gone ANY lower.

As others have explained, that isn't healthy. But you've already come up with a method for losing "only" 48 pounds a year.

I don't understand your choice of the words "only" and "disappointing."
posted by John Cohen at 12:26 PM on January 10, 2011

What the link ignores is that eating at "starvation level" is going to make you irritable, lethargic, and hungry. Which makes it a lot easier to stop exercising and go back to eating junk. Holding the idea that only (certain) vegetables are good to eat, and all other food is THE ENEMY is not going to help you, there, either.

It's not that it's impossible to lose weight if you eat some magic low number of calories. It's that it's impossible to stick with that kind of weight loss plan.
posted by Sara C. at 12:28 PM on January 10, 2011

I second the Gary Taubes reference. My husband and I both have PhDs in biochemistry and were incredibly impressed by his well-researched book Good Calories, Bad Calories. The short summary of it is that for some people, the body's response to eating carbohydrates is so strong that eating carbs every day, all the time results in lots of excess fuel being packed off to storage (i.e., fat) and never being used.

Anecdotally, since reading that book in October, my husband started the Atkins diet and has lost nearly 50 lbs. I started in November and have lost 15 (you and I are in the same size range). FWIW I lost 35 lbs in 6 months a few years back using a more typical low fat/high carb diet and was freaking miserable the entire time, swore I'd never diet again because it wasn't worth hating my life, job, kids, husband, etc, because I was hungry all the time. That is totally different than the experience I'm having now which is remarkably mild--when I'm hungry I'm just hungry, not miserable and anxious too.

You know you aren't lazy, weak-willed, whatever. Don't let the turkeys get you down and by all means don't hurt yourself by starving yourself! Focus on aiming to be fit, get exercise you enjoy, that makes you feel good and strong and capable (and fun!). Eat what makes you healthy--and that might just be the low-carb approach, but please, starving ain't it....

Hang in there, and PM me if you need a sympathetic ear.
posted by Sublimity at 12:33 PM on January 10, 2011 [7 favorites]

You are probably also gaining muscle while you lose weight. Just keep it all in perspective: your body may bephysically healthier -- and even look smaller -- even when the number on the scale is the same.

When you get back on the healthy weight loss wagon, you should measure yourself (your arms, your waist) every month or so. You may be deliriously thrilled to note your waist is an inch smaller, even though you've lost just a pound or two -- or perhaps no weight at all.
posted by lesli212 at 12:33 PM on January 10, 2011

My initial thought is that your aren't eating enough. (Crazy how our bodies work, right?)

1 lbs per week-you were doing a great job!

Perhaps you can register with a system that helps you count what you are eating-(Like fitday).

I went to a dietician (I am not obese-but I also have a hard time losing weight) and it was VERY helpful that I had my daily logs with me. She was able to see that I did eat healthy (and I wasn't just saying it) and that I had an overall grip on good nutrition.

She then helped me figure out that I was too heavy on the carbs and then showed me how to eat them properly throughout the day. For me-it was a simple as her looking through my log and telling me how to re-arrange my food items. It has helped me past my weight loss stall/slump (and it also taught me that a serving of grapes is 15 grapes! I was eating much more and counting it as a serving)

Hang in there-this time next year you can be 52 lbs lighter!
posted by duddes02 at 12:36 PM on January 10, 2011

You don't need to eat less, you can eat as much as you did, or more. You need to eat the right things. You need a proper diet.

Those super lean body builders? They eat 6 or more meals a day, some of them get up at 3am to stuff themselves for metabolic reasons. But they know what to eat and when to eat it.

Read about your metabolism and starvation mode, and seek some professional medical advice on losing weight.
posted by fire&wings at 12:38 PM on January 10, 2011

Thirding the Taubes suggestion. I just finished his second book and I greatly think you would benefit from reading it.

In the meantime, have a look at his blog.
posted by Siena at 12:42 PM on January 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

As everyone else has suggested, go back to your original plan (the one that was working, albeit slowly and more healthily) and see a doctor to rule out other issues.

But, and this sounds stupid, I would also check to make sure your scale's not broken. That's happened to me before.
posted by wending my way at 12:55 PM on January 10, 2011

Everyone above has already addressed that you should be eating more/eating better- and 12lbs in 3 months is good, although I know it seems small. I also think that you would get some benefit by doing more/different exercise than just walking. Working with weights/on the trampoline you got/with a personal trainer won't necessarily change the number on the scale (everyone has heard that weight loss is 90% diet, 10% exercise) but the more I exercise, the better I feel about myself, and the more motivation I have to eat healthier and keep pushing myself.
posted by kro at 1:03 PM on January 10, 2011

Perpetuating folk wisdom about dieting and exercise is not helping anyone get healthy.

You are probably also gaining muscle while you lose weight.

This is very unlikely. Muscle gain isn't just something that randomly happens to people, especially women. It generally takes dedication to a serious lifting regimen combined with a caloric surplus, not a starvation diet.

Those super lean body builders? They eat 6 or more meals a day, some of them get up at 3am to stuff themselves for metabolic reasons.

It's absolutely true that individuals with large amounts of lean mass, like bodybuilders, can eat a lot more food than a sedentary person and still be lean. Building lean mass is a great goal. However, it takes years of dedicated lifting for most people to achieve those levels of muscularity, and it must be remembered that modern bodybuilders and fitness models only look the way they do onstage and in a photoshoot for a short period of time -- they can't maintain those conditions year-round.

Here is another page with some good info on common dietary myths. e.g., you can eat 6 meals a day if you want, but it doesn't seem to make any difference metabolically.
posted by Anatoly Pisarenko at 1:06 PM on January 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

You're not cheating at all? There are no times when you say "Well, I've been eating so little this won't count?" You've really been eating nothing but broccoli and apples for months? Really? And you're not dead?

This was my thought as well. I had a roommate (now a close friend) who was obese and would say the exact same thing as the OP (eats "nothing" and CAN'T LOSE WEIGHT!) But I went to Starbucks every day with her, where she'd get a "venti caramel macchiato, double caramel." Not to cast aspersions upon the OP, but no food = weightloss, no matter what kind of glandular problems might also exist.

Also agreeing with Cool Papa Bell: 12 pounds in 3 months is damn near perfect! Why would you mess with such great results?
posted by coolguymichael at 1:14 PM on January 10, 2011

I feel depressed and broken. I'm always tired.

Restricting your food to a couple hundred calories a day - especially with no protein or healthy fat whatsoever - will mess with your head and make you feel like shit. And weight loss and starvation can both be weirdly addictive.

Find a new doctor and a therapist who specializes in eating disorders. Possibly a nutritionist, down the line. But I really recommend therapy before attempting another diet: with an untreated eating disorder, you may go back to a normal-seeming diet for a couple weeks, then start throwing in different rules and eliminating more and more things until you're starving again.

I'd understand if you don't want to talk about it, but if you do, memail me anytime. It really is possible to lose weight without starving or hating yourself.
posted by Metroid Baby at 1:22 PM on January 10, 2011

I agree with everybody who says that you were doing it right to start out with, but there's no need to cut out meat and dairy. You need that protein!

Also, losing weight is hard and being overweight does not make you worthless. Do not read Internet comments. Imagine you knew someone in real life who spent their time and energy making negative comments on the Internet--would you think that their opinion was of any value, or would you find them pathetic? Those who exist solely to tear people down are projecting their own issues onto others. Please surround yourself with people who make you feel good and make you want to better yourself. I think that you should find a place in your community that makes you feel valued and limit your Internet usage to sites that bring your mind to a higher place. How could you be ugly when you are devoting so much time to making your body healthy? Focus on yourself. Dress yourself well. Take care of your skin, nails, hair, and teeth. Brush the haters off, like Gabourey Sidibe (who coincidentally, is one of the most beautiful women I've ever seen).

“People always ask me, ‘You have so much confidence. Where did that come from?’ It came from me. One day I decided that I was beautiful, and so I carried out my life as if I was a beautiful girl….It doesn’t have anything to do with how the world perceives you. What matters is what you see. Your body is your temple, it’s your home, and you must decorate it.”
posted by 200burritos at 1:45 PM on January 10, 2011

A friend of mine is doing the Dukan diet and swears by it. He eats lots of proteins and no carbs and says he's never hungry and full of energy. Perhaps that's a bit better than apples and broccoli alone. I would give it a shot.
posted by uauage at 2:07 PM on January 10, 2011

Don't be discouraged! As many people have said, 12 pounds in 3 months is good. Losing weight takes a really long time, and changing your habits is really difficult.

So the internet finally got to me. Seeing so many posts about how overweight people are that way by choice finally sent me spiralling.

I left this comment about this yesterday which basically said something about people being overweight by choice, but it was really a response to what seemed like an attitude of fatality and denial about obesity in America. As I say in my comment, losing weight is incredibly difficult. You're on the right track. Please continue to do what you're doing. I plateaued in my weight loss about three times, and each time I thought, "Well, I guess this is as much weight as I'm going to lose."

Also a lot of people really recommend exercise, but exercise can backfire if you overdo it. In my experience, when I do a more elevated cardio exercise like jogging or bicycling, I immediately want to stuff my face with carbs when I'm done. The most effective thing for me ended up being hour-long walks when I could go for them, because they were getting my metabolism going but not overgoing. And again, as others have said, keep protein in your diet. Even just a handful of almonds or a piece of string cheese as a snack between meals will make you feel better. You have found methods that have worked for you. Don't be discouraged. And please don't starve yourself. Don't tie your self-worth into your weight. I did, and it got me an eating disorder after I'd lost 55 pounds.
posted by girih knot at 2:28 PM on January 10, 2011

Some thoughts, in no particular order

1) "Eat less and move more" is a gross simplification. "A balanced diet, understanding what your body needs, with an increase in activity levels over a long timeframe" doesn't roll off the tongue quite the same. My personal weight-loss regimen was measured of years, not months, and I spent that time figuring out how to maximize my diet so that I was getting enough food. If I'm reading your question right, you're not getting nearly enough food. I finally settled on 6 300 calorie meals (1800 calories per day) or 8 250 calorie meals (2000 calories) over the course of the day, with the individual meals incorporating enough protein, starch and fat to keep my body running. It takes some homework, but it's not impossible.

2) 12 pounds over three months is good, especially if you keep the healthy weight-loss up over the course of years. Better still if you make it a lifestyle change. The goal here should (my opinion; the opinion of others may differ) be to change your relationship with food to a more sustainable one, but that doesn't happen overnight, or in three months. It took me a year and even then it was easy to slip back into bad habits. I started out upwards of 250, got down to 180 after almost three years, and I'm now back up to 210 or so. Am I ashamed of gaining weight back? Hell no! I worked my ass off! Anyone who can't appreciate that can try it themselves and see how they like it. You're the one putting in the work to change; anyone who says you're ugly, lazy or worthless can stuff it.

3) you say you feel depressed and broken. I felt the same way when I wasn't getting enough protein. If you're seriously only eating an apple and some broccoli, you may want to look into balancing your diet out. I used FitDay to get a sense of what my diet looked like and adjusted it accordingly.

4) you say you're not looking for medical advice, but I'd suggest seeing a doctor and a nutritionist if you can. Everything you read online is marketing. There may be truth in it, but the author is trying to sell you something. Get a professional opinion.

5) feel free to MeMail me. I can promise you a sympathetic ear and as much free advice as you'd like.
posted by lekvar at 2:40 PM on January 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

(re: gaining muscle) It generally takes dedication to a serious lifting regimen combined with a caloric surplus, not a starvation diet.

That might be true for serious bulking up, but I notice weight gain (while gaining a better shape) when I run and swim regularly. It's pretty clearly not fat.
posted by small_ruminant at 2:40 PM on January 10, 2011

Let me provide a different perspective. Don't blame the diet, blame the scale.

Many scales are inaccurate close to their top reading. My guess is that you have a scale that maxes out, like most do, at 300 pounds, and the range from 280 - 300 is, well, not accurate.

You'll want to get a scale with four things:
1) A 350 pound maximum
2) A digital display
3) A body fat monitoring feature
4) Decent reviews on Amazon

Then, you'll want to weigh yourself once a week. First thing in the morning, after relieving yourself. Without any clothes. Don't weigh yourself more than once a week, as small fluctuations in weight based on water retention will make it seem like you're regaining fat when your body's just storing a bit more of the water you drank the day before.

Keep a log of your weight and body fat percentage. Calculate from those two numbers -- in a spreadsheet, or on paper -- what the amount of body fat you have is.

As everyone else says, see your doctor to get the appropriate blood tests and to make sure your diet isn't going to make you keel over.

I really think your current scale is just giving you bad numbers, and you might not have lost enough weight to drop a clothes size yet.
posted by I EAT TAPAS at 2:59 PM on January 10, 2011

I find it really odd that you were doing great losing weight and then haven't lost any weight at all since starting to starve yourself. You should have lost more weight.
You need to start eating correctly again and keep doing walks for an hour a day.

You should see your Doctor and try to rule out hypothyroidism or anything like that.

Don't lose sight of the fact that you took your whole life (or a good portion of it) to get up to 300lbs. You shouldn't be expecting to lose it all in 6 months. It's just not practical.
Be happy with the 12lbs so far and stay motivated to drop the rest. The best part about losing 1lb a week for you will be the minimizing of loose skin and stretch marks.
posted by zephyr_words at 3:59 PM on January 10, 2011

12 pounds over three months is good, especially if you keep the healthy weight-loss up over the course of years.

I think that losing weight and keeping track of the pounds is kind of like playing blackjack. When you are sitting at the table and you have all the chips in front of you, after awhile, you lose a sense of their real value. 12 pounds is significant, not just a low number compared to your overall goal. What you might want to do is find something that weighs 12 pounds, and imagine having to carry it around with you the entire day. It will feel tiring. That's what you can take off every few months. 50+ pounds by the end of the year is fantastic.

All this to say, I think you have a plan that works for you. There's a weird paradox where the less you eat, if too little, the the less you will often lose, partly because your body, if it thinks it is starving, will do everything it can to keep the weight on. The trick is to not have your body think it's starving, while not eating too much, either. This sweet spot is where weight loss happens. But when done correctly, it can't be hurried past certain boundaries.

You have a lot of people giving you advice, and I just wanted to encourage you to keep going. Healthy living is more than simply losing weight, for sure. But I've always thought of this battle of the bulge as a game of inches to the touchdown, not a Hail Mary pass. You'll get there if you focus on the healthy eating on don't rush it to the point that you get discouraged. Sometimes in our sadness we think of it as an all or nothing that needs to happen right away. Long term goals can often be more personally satisfying when we get there, and it allows us to appropriately focus our efforts without giving up to soon.
posted by SpacemanStix at 4:02 PM on January 10, 2011

You were doing it right--eating a healthy range of foods and exercising in ways that worked for your body and ability status--and you were getting the right kind of results, i.e., feeling well and strong and all that.

Then you started to starve yourself, and now you feel like crap.

This is not rocket science, is it? You know what to do. Stop starving yourself, throw out your scale, and go back to the healthy habits. "Healthy habits" include ignoring what randoms say about your weight.
posted by Sidhedevil at 4:35 PM on January 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

First off, 12 pounds in 3 months is excellent, healthy and sustainable in the long term. Not eating is not healthy and not sustainable for any length of time. I think you know this, but I also think you (and most of us in general) have been bombarded with so many mixed messages about what is healthy eating that you've given up trying to sort through them to find the truth. On top of that, shows like "The Biggest Loser" while on the one hand are inspiring, on the other hand encourage us to set unreasonable expectations for weight loss so we become even more angry and disappointed in ourselves when we fall short, sometimes leading us to more drastic but ultimately ineffective measures.

As some others here have said, calories in/calories out is an oversimplification of a very complex process. I cannot recommend enough that you pick up the work of Gary Taubes, especially his newest book Why We Get Fat and What To Do About It. He breaks down why so many people so wrongly believe in the very damaging myth of calories in/calories out, and what the science actually supports with regards to diet, exercise and obesity. He addresses so much of what you wrote in your post, including the pervasive belief that fat people are "lazy, ugly, worthless." He explores why women are more prone to obesity than men. He describes the reasons why cutting your calories to almost nothing has left you feeling "depressed" and "broken and "always tired" and yet still not losing weight.

Specifically, what Taubes discovered by extensively reviewing the nutritional science over the last 100+ years, is that your hormones, specifically the insulin hormone, are what regulates how much fat you store and how much fat you burn. By limiting the kinds of food that drive insulin production, primarily carbohydrates, you can encourage your body to burn fat as fuel and stop storing it away for later. There is a direct, undisputed link from high carbohydrate intake to high insulin production and from high insulin production to insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is a prime factor in not only obesity, but also metabolic syndrome, diabetes and heart disease. I won't continue on here, there is so much more in the book, (though I could go for hours on the subject!) but please believe that there is nothing wrong with you. There are very good, scientifically sound reasons why what you are doing is not working for you. There are also very good, scientifically sound ways that you can encourage your body to start burning the fat that it's stored up. Let me repeat again - there is nothing wrong with you. Your body is doing exactly what you've been telling it to do, now you just need to start telling it to do something different.
posted by platinum at 5:16 PM on January 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

Please feel free to memail me - I am a former obese woman, who lost over 100 pounds and I've kept it off for over 7 years. Low carb, high protein is what worked for me. Would it work for you? I don't know, you would have to try it first. But I do know that starving yourself is the exact wrong thing to do, and will not succeed.

You are NOT lazy, this is probably some of the hardest work you have ever done and will ever do. Don't give up, you can do this. 12 pounds is a good start, healthy start and something to be proud of.
posted by lootie777 at 6:10 PM on January 10, 2011

You need a new doctor. You need a doctor who doesn't make you feel bad about yourself or blame you for health problems. There are millions of overweight an obese people. Some of them have associated health problems and some do not. Some eat unhealthy food in huge amounts, and some eat healthy, balanced diets in amounts appropriate for their bodies. Some have underlying health conditions that cause their weight to be higher than other people's, and some do not. You need a doctor who will, without blame or shame or bad feelings, help you to understand how your body works and what steps you can take to make your body perform at its best.

Right now, you're engaging in behaviors that are unhealthy for your body. I don't care how much you weigh: obsessing over food and starving yourself are unhealthy for your body. Beating yourself up is unhealthy for your body. Frankly, listening to internet trolls who tell you that people who look like you are bad and ugly is bad for your body and your soul.

If your current doctor can't productively help you to figure out how to live the life that is best for your body, you need a new doctor. If any doctor you see tries to blame you for your health problems or makes you feel bad about yourself, you need a new doctor.

You may or may not be a person who can live a healthy, happy, stable life at a weight that is deemed socially appropriate by the trolls on the internet. You need to figure out what to do to make yourself happy and healthy, regardless of what weight your body ends up at. And frankly, people who try to tell you otherwise need to go fuck themselves.

There's a ton of literature about how to be healthy physically (a lot of which is contradictory, hence my recommendation to find a good doctor you can trust). But I think your bigger problem is finding ways to be healthy mentally. It's clear that you have a lot of self-loathing and shame about your weight. You need to figure out how to like yourself and enjoy your body and take care of it even if it's not the social ideal. There's a whole movement centered around body acceptance and "health at every size," which doesn't necessarily mean giving up on weight loss goals, but it does mean giving up on behaviors that hurt you in hopes of making your body smaller. I really urge you to look into those resources and think first about making yourself happy and healthy. The size you are when you're doing right by your body is the right size for you.
posted by decathecting at 6:20 PM on January 10, 2011 [3 favorites]

Specifically, what Taubes discovered by extensively reviewing the nutritional science over the last 100+ years, is that your hormones, specifically the insulin hormone, are what regulates how much fat you store and how much fat you burn.

Taubes is great and all but I don't think people actually realize he wasn't exhaustive overall, just on the specific things he covered. There is a not-so-little gland called the Thyroid that people may want to pay more attention to and is probably the the reason the OP stopped losing weight when on the starvation diet.

Nthing what almost everyone else said, go back to what was working. A pound a week is fine, especially if you've taken up a weight training program. You don't have to be a bodybuilder and, yes, you can gain muscle while losing weight.
posted by P.o.B. at 6:24 PM on January 10, 2011

The short of it:

See a doctor and consult peer-reviewed nutrition articles (not fad books) for health advice, NOT the internet.

The long of it:
The MAJORITY of people who are obese are that way due to their own life choices but majority does not equal entirety. If you're truly cutting your calories and exercising but not losing any weight then it could be you are in the exception group and what you do won't affect your body weight. A doctor could help to examine what underlying conditions there may be.

I will echo what others have said - 12lbs in three months is not bad, and a plateau is not uncommon. If you're working out with weights muscle build up can increase your body weight - some scales can calculate body fat percent, personally I look at that more than how many lbs I weigh.
posted by Lt. Bunny Wigglesworth at 6:39 PM on January 10, 2011

I wish I could give you a hug right now because I know you feel dejected and hungry and tired and overwhelmed, when you should be proud of those twelve pounds you lost. Really, really, you should be proud.

I know, you see these people on TV who say things like (I just saw a woman like this today, as a matter of fact), "I lost ninety pounds in ninety days!" And you just despair. You think, "Why can't I be like that?"

I've been diagnosed with depression and hypothyroidism. Apparently the two war with each other to slow my metabolism way down. Great. You know how long it took me to lose a measly 15 pounds? A year. So, if you want to compare yourself to someone, you can feel good and compare yourself to me, if you like. ; )

Me, I've decided I just have to forget the people who lose weight fast and concentrate on what works for me. Those people, they may be sprinters. Okay, fine, good for them. I'm not. If they are the Hussein Bolts, I am more like the barefoot Kenyan that eventually ends up winning the marathon. I've just decided that one day I'll get there.

And, honestly, how long can you keep going when you sprint all the time? No one can keep up that pace. The people who go crazy and try to sprint usually end up burning themselves out and gaining the weight back. Slow and steady wins the race, like the tortoise and the hare.

I think, with your broccoli and apple diet? You're sprinting. Slow down. Don't give up!
posted by misha at 9:21 PM on January 10, 2011

I envy your 12lbs! I started out at your weight and it took me a 18 months to to drop to my current 254. - seriously! And buy the book too - The Spark. I hate hate hate to admit it but damn it - a HEALTHY food plan and 10 minutes of strength training and 10 minutes of aerobic activity does work.

My feet no longer ache. My back no longer twinges and spasms. My stamina and energy has increased 100%. My attitude on life in general has flip-flopped to the better.

I'm Izoralee on Sparkpeople. Feel free to friend me. Or email me,

You can do this, you just need good information.
posted by tar0tgr1 at 10:01 PM on January 10, 2011

Are you counting?

You MUST count.

You must educate yourself about the calorific content of everything you eat. Everything. Count every bite of apple, every one of those chips you don't think are worth counting... everything.

Make a table of calorific values of all major foods, by weight or volume. Use Excel to plan and monitor your daily intake. Aim to keep that intake below the appropriate level for moderate weight loss, and stick to it like it was your religion.

If you do this, you will lose weight. You will lose weight because it is a law of physics and biology that you cannot grow flesh out of nothing, and you are not the exception to the laws of physics.

Do not use fad diets that cut out major food groups. Your body will make you pay in the end, if you do. Balance your food groups according to your lifestyle. If you are active, or exercise regularly (and you should) you will need more carbs than if you don't. And so on. But you need some carbs, some protein, some (not much) fat etc.

But the calories are what make the difference and to control that you need to accurately measure it.

I recommend this site. It has much common sense and useful advice and information. With knowledge, planning and care i can promise you that it is eminently possible to eat 2-3 genuinely tasty and satisfying meals at 1500 - 2000 calories a day. Depending on your age, size and sex it ought to be possible to steadily lose weight somewhere within that range, especially if you build in some daily exercise to your routine.

Good luck, and stick with it.
posted by Decani at 5:43 AM on January 11, 2011

Another vote for counting calories, which means measuring and weighing your food. And in instances where this is impossible, overestimating your calories. If you're like me, it will help you really see where some of those extra calories are coming from and will probably be able to find some painless ways to cut calories. I found that measuring religiously the amount of high fat foods I consumed, like cooking oil, salad dressing, cheese, nuts and meat, was a very easy way to moderate my intake, while I barely noticed the decrease.

I think the old line that you just need to eat healthy and exercise, is a joke. I think at best "eating healthy" will just make you maintain and that's if you're lucky. You really need to eat healthy plus count your calories plus pay very close attention to portion sizes and even then progress can be painfully slow. Also, I've found that eating a protein heavy breakfast helps a lot with my appetite and cravings. I cant overstate the need to limit carbs and up protein. You don't need to go full Atkins, but I don't thing a low fat, high carb diet is sustainable. And don't forget to drink tons of water, this helps with your appetite and supposedly helps your body burn fast more easily.

Don't feel bad about yourself. This is a long hard journey. There is something wrong with people who say cruel and hurtful things about overweight people. They try to Justify their hate by saying it's unhealthy, but so is eating too much salt, riding motorcycles, and being chronically stressed. Even smokers don't get the type vitriol reserved for the overweight. It's bigotry plain and simple. Stop exposing yourself to these bigots. There are lots of healthy forums you can go to that don't require self hatred as part of a diet plan. Tell your old doctor to screw himself and find one that can actualy be a positive force in your weight loss. My mom had to deal with multiple doctors like you describe. Why they think shame will help a person break a negative relationship with food and exercise I will never know. Good luck!
posted by whoaali at 1:34 PM on January 11, 2011

Ugh, don't count calories. It's so draining. Eating healthy alone is enough for almost anyone, the trouble in America is that the government's subsidies and nutrition recommendations are very wrong as far as health. Taubes is good, but he places too much importance on carbs for the general population. There are plenty of cultures that eat lots of carbs but have no obesity - see the Kitavans. There are also plenty that eat mostly fat and are fine - see the Tokelauans. Don't fear eating fat, natural fats (not vegetable oils) are a critical part of a healthy diet.

My personal recommendation is something like the PaleoNu approach, one that comes from our evolutionary history rather than bad science from the 50s. Whole Health Source is also staggeringly fascinating.

But I really do recommend a weight training program. It's the best way to ensure that you aren't losing muscle. I think Anatoly's statement was in regards to gaining muscle while losing weight - which is nearly impossible unless you are a beginner and on a weight training program.
posted by Earl the Polliwog at 10:26 PM on January 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

If there's any confusion here OP, you surely can take up a weight training program, but that doesn't mean you have to increase your caloric intake. I'm not sure where others are getting their info but you can easily lose weight and increase muscle, especially if your percent of body fat is somewhere above 20% or so and you're pushing close to three hundred pounds on the scale. It also doesn't matter if you're a "beginner" in this regards.
posted by P.o.B. at 6:15 PM on January 12, 2011

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