How to lose weight when you're already healthy?
May 28, 2012 2:35 PM   Subscribe

How can I lose weight (10-15 lbs) when I'm already doing a lot of the "right" things?

Returning back to the US after living abroad in China is making me gain weight like nobody's business. I've been back about 9 months now, and I'm about 15 pounds heavier than when I was in China, and the heaviest I've ever been.

For six months, I was staying with family in Los Angeles before moving to the Bay Area. It was a very difficult adjustment going from a place with real public transportation to...not. Even though I walked for over an hour and/or exercised every day, and continued to eat what I usually ate in China, there were some differences. I spent a lot more time sitting, whether it was on the bus or in a car. Portions are massive here. Despite living in California, the vegetables and fruit are not as fresh as what I could get from the local markets in Beijing--unless I go to to the farmer's markets, of course, but those are usually open only once a week.

At any rate, I'm now in the Bay Area and over the last month, I started biking about 11 miles a day to and from work. I don't have a car here so I get around by walking and biking. I already eat a lot of veg and fruit, make most of my meals (they are mostly Chinese meals with a lot of veg as I am Chinese-American myself, so it's just what I'm used to), and eat very little processed foods except for sauces, dried noodles and brown rice.

While I have toned down because of biking, I have not lost any weight whatsoever and still can't fit in any of my old clothes. At least I have stopped gaining, I think.

Again, this is pretty much how I lived and ate in Beijing, so I'm not sure what else it is that is making me gain so much weight. Though I have this theory that fresh vegetables and fruit here in the US are not as good as they are elsewhere.

Not sure what else to do at this point. I'd love to hear tips. Maybe I'm eating too much carbs in rice/noodles/fruit?

(I'm 5'1 and 125 pounds, and would like to go back to being 110-115 again. I'm very concerned because if I keep gaining weight like this, I'll definitely be overweight.)
posted by so much modern time to Health & Fitness (15 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Are you tracking your caloric intake? That's the easiest way to find out what might be going on. I know that I've found it is very, very easy to overeat without realizing it, particularly in this culture we have where everyone around me is usually eating even more than I am. I'm a vegetarian and I put in effort to make good choices, but I still eat too much if I don't pay attention to it.
posted by something something at 2:39 PM on May 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Are you eating dairy now? More fried food? I actually gained tonnes of weight when I worked in S.Korea from eating fast food (I know!) and way more meat and drinking WAYYYY more beer than I usually do. Dairy? Birth Control? Medications? Did you just turn 30? I'm trying to think of any possible reasons that weight may not shift...
posted by bquarters at 2:39 PM on May 28, 2012

Best answer: When I lived in China and ate like an absolute pig (Shanghai food is the finest food in the world! Although those xinjiang restaurants in Beijing are not so bad either.) I lost weight without even trying. (And I really did eat like a pig - none of this "oh portions in Asia are so dainty and healthy" stuff, this was giant plates of pan fried noodles, slabs of fatty duck, etc.) In retrospect, I think it was the fact that there was so much more walking/climbing/lifting in daily life - I was always walking, you know, 1/2 a mile to dinner or hopping on my bike to do the 3/4 mile to my building on top of what I thought of as "exercise". Plus I was more engaged and interested in my life there so I was always on the hop, plus I was teaching so I spent a lot of time standing, plus there was not nearly as much air conditioning/heating as in the US, so my body had to work harder. I've found it pretty much impossible to replicate that life here. It helps to live without air conditioning, to keep busy and to sleep as deeply as possible.

My deepest belief is that I was constantly under good stress when I lived there and that was the real cause.

I think I would suggest doing more hobbies - active and non-active - and spending more time outdoors. Obviously, track your food - but I am perfectly willing to believe that you're eating the same amount, since I know I was stuffing down the dumplings and the cakes and the local fruit like the famine was starting next week but I still came home about ten pounds lighter than I left each time.
posted by Frowner at 2:48 PM on May 28, 2012

Best answer: How old are you? Could be normal mid-twenties metabolism slow down. Also, you might have traded in some fat for muscle, which would explain why you're a higher weight but more toned.

If your weight gain has plateaued, I think it might be better to go a little easier on yourself even if you do something like count calories or cut back on portion sizes. At 125, you're still a healthy weight for your height.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 2:48 PM on May 28, 2012

Not sure what else to do at this point.

You have to eat less. Track your caloric intake for a couple days, then cut 10%. After a month or two check if you are losing weight.
posted by Justinian at 2:56 PM on May 28, 2012

Also, it could definitely just be as Frowner said, the non-exercise exercise. If you were walking everywhere, taking stairs, moving around way more, apart from the official biking from A to B then that could definitely make a difference. Wasn't there a study that said fidgeting people are generally thinner? (yes, I know correlation vs causation, but still, movement!).
posted by bquarters at 2:58 PM on May 28, 2012

Count calories.
posted by synecdoche at 3:04 PM on May 28, 2012

Are you sleep deprived?
posted by leigh1 at 3:25 PM on May 28, 2012

Sounds like you are already eating pretty healthy, so I would suggest not changing the mix of what you're eating at all, just to overall eat a little less at each meal.
posted by dave99 at 3:31 PM on May 28, 2012

At any rate, I'm now in the Bay Area and over the last month, I started biking about 11 miles a day to and from work. ... While I have toned down because of biking, I have not lost any weight whatsoever...

Are you just building muscle, looking at the scale and going, "I'm gaining weight."? Muscle weighs more than fat.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:07 PM on May 28, 2012

How long have you been on this new routine with more exercise? When I started running 3x per week, later even training for a half marathon I only even lost about 2 pounds a month (which adds up!) but still, it's slow going.
posted by raccoon409 at 6:14 PM on May 28, 2012

Best answer: Eat less.

No, seriously, eat less.

Every time you take a portion of food, or are served a portion of food, immediately take 1/3 of it and move it aside. Throw it out or save it for another meal but *don't* eat it with the meal you're having.

Also, never take seconds and don't snack between meals.

If you can stick to this, it will work.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 6:35 PM on May 28, 2012

Well... this is merely anecdata here from a fellow Chinese lady, but unless you're also really lifting heavy weights I doubt you're putting on enough muscle to make a difference on the scale. It took me several months to gain significant muscle mass lifting heavy 3x/wk - YMMV, bodies are weird. Not saying it's not a possibility, just that it may not be very likely. Again, YMMV. If you're really interested in what the breakdown is, you could go for a body fat measurement at your local gym.

You could try cutting out some carbs - I love me some noodles too, but they pack in a surprising amount of calories into a serving. Again, bodies are weird - the amount of food you ate at the activity level you had in Beijing just may not cut it back home: your only choices are to alter one or both.
posted by zennish at 7:29 PM on May 28, 2012

If the portions are that much bigger you are probably eating more without realizing it. Every study examining portion control demonstrates people eat more calories and a higher volume of food than they actually think they do, especially if served larger volumes of food. Track calories and portions.
posted by Anonymous at 7:53 PM on May 28, 2012

Check the ingrediants for your noodles/other foods for sugar/syrups/high fructose syrup - In the states they add sweetners and balance with salt to make food extra tasty. That extra sugar can really pack the pounds on.

On the portion control, pick a bowl to eat from and use the same size. Just using a smaller plate will usually do the trick.
posted by zia at 10:12 PM on May 28, 2012

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