What if there were less of me.
June 21, 2012 2:41 PM   Subscribe

I'd like to lose some weight, but nothing I've tried has worked. I am starting to feel helpless and sad. What should I do?

I want to lose about ten pounds so that my expensive suits, bought not too long ago, fit again, and so that I feel good about my body. In the past, eating less led to weighing less, so I tried that for a few months (I've been logging all of my food for years). No results. I kept cutting back more and more without anything to show for it. At some point, I realized that I was eating so little that I became worried that my eating was disordered and unhealthy. I was skipping dinner or replacing it with a fruit, that kind of thing. But still no weight loss. I would rather feel not-slim than feel that my eating is disordered, so I took a few weeks off of trying to control my eating... and gained about five more pounds. I tried counting calories to make sure I wasn't overeating or under-eating. No result. I started running (couch to 5k). Nothing.

I don't know what to do. Restricting what I eat is stressful and unpleasant, and it's becoming harder and harder to motivate myself to do it because it doesn't seem to work.

One additional issue is that I am a fairly picky eater, and in particular I eat very few vegetables. When I was a child, I was often shamed loudly and publicly when I did not eat or did not like a food that adults wanted me to eat, so forcing myself to eat foods I don't like (such as many vegetables) doesn't just gross me out but causes me to overreact and get very upset. So I am reluctant to replace foods I do like (many fruits, every meat, and sadly many carbs) with vegetables of despair. I guess I would also rather be not-slim than be crying into my broccoli at lunch.

Can you suggest anything? I need a plan, and hope, and to fit into my nicest navy suit.
posted by prefpara to Health & Fitness (39 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
posted by sexyrobot at 2:48 PM on June 21, 2012

Have you tried a lower carbohydrate approach, whether ketogenic/Atkins or paleo? I had a lot of trouble losing weight (Jenny Craig, calorie restriction/hacker's diet, Medifast, etc.) until I found that keeping my carbs very low helped me lose weight really fast. I know you say you like carbs, but I did too... and I prefer a lower weight to my favorite raspberries and chocolate! Besides, you can add them back in later, anyways.
posted by speedgraphic at 2:48 PM on June 21, 2012 [2 favorites]

Also, while exercise will definitely make you healthier and stronger, the link between exercise and weight loss is unclear: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/18/magazine/18exercise-t.html?pagewanted=all
posted by speedgraphic at 2:50 PM on June 21, 2012

There are many variations but try a low glycemic plan. Figure out low glycemic foods that work for you, eat enough calories of the right foods, lots of water and moderate exercise. Remember that restriction will sometimes make you retain weight. I have seen this work for MANY, many people. You can do this!
posted by pearlybob at 2:50 PM on June 21, 2012

C25K, while great for endurance, doesn't produce quick weight-loss in a lot of people. You may want to mix in 10-20 minutes a day of interval training - I lost something like 20 pounds in a month when I was doing an hour a day, after losing damn near nothing with C25K, although as mentioned different bodies react very differently to diet/exercise shifts.

With respect to diet, try shifting the balance of foods you eat as a regular thing - not to the extreme of replacing an entire dinner with an orange, but make meals that have less simple carbohydrates and more fruit, lean meat and tolerable veggies. Cutting out sugar is big – if you replace soda and fruit juice with water, even when you make up the calories in other foods, you're replacing quickly digested empty calories with fiber and complex sugars that your body can't process in a split-second and turn into extra weight. If you have cereal for breakfast, switch to something low-sugar and mix a small serving with a ton of fruit and/or nuts, so you're not relying on the flakes to satiate you.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 2:51 PM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

It's strange that you weren't losing weight even when basically skipping meals. Perhaps you should see a doctor, just to check that your thyroid is okay?
posted by barnoley at 2:56 PM on June 21, 2012 [12 favorites]

Do you need to lose weight, or lose volume? It sounds like volume is more important to you (fitting into the suits, feeling better about yourself). If that is the case, it might be worth looking into weightlifting or anything that would build muscle -- basically anything that will get you fit, regardless of the weight changes involved.

And on preview, I agree with barnoley that it might be time to check in with a doctor on this.
posted by pie ninja at 2:58 PM on June 21, 2012 [2 favorites]

Keep track of every calorie going in.
Keep track of every calorie burned.

There are dozens of apps and sites like FitDay that do just this. Sure, you may have skipped meals, but if you are still eating just as many calories as you burn you won't loose weight.
posted by munchingzombie at 3:04 PM on June 21, 2012 [3 favorites]

I have heard that inability to lose weight can be influenced by the kinds of microbes in your gut. I have a genetic disorder and worked on that and other gut issues for my health. Then, last year, I began eating hot peppers regularly as both a biohack to do an end run around a defective cell channel and a non drug anti-microbial treatment. I combined this with very long walks (about seven miles) one or more times a week which seemed to help the effect the hot peppers were having. After years of being very overweight and also having zero goal to slim down, I began losing weight so rapidly that total strangers would stop me on the street, tell me I looked great, and ask how I did it.

Again, I was not trying to lose weight. I had already lived without a car for three years, so I normally did a lot of walking. That had caused me to slim down alittle butreally not all that much. My goal was manipulatindg defective body chemistry and killing microbes. The weight loss was a side effect. I never counted calories. That has absolutely never worked for me, probably because of the genetic disorder that was not diagnosed until my mid thirties.
posted by Michele in California at 3:10 PM on June 21, 2012 [7 favorites]

Check your fasting blood sugar and check your blood sugar before and 1/2, 1, and 2 hours after drinking a large glass of orange juice.

If your fasting levels are over 110 mg/dl or your post-meal spikes go past 160 at any time, you almost certainly have some form of metabolic syndrome and you will need to use a low-carb approach.

I did this by eating to the meter to keep my post-meal spikes below 140. Going almost completely without carbs was hard for about 3 weeks, then as if a switch had been flipped I suddenly had no cravings at all.

Eating to the meter is very easy because you get instant gratification. If you wonder whether a food is OK, eat it and check the meter at the point your level usually spikes (people vary in this). There's nothing like seeing 250 on that display to emphasize that you shouldn't do that again.

Over the course of the next few months I lost 40 pounds and several nasty health problem. What keeps me straight isn't my weight as much as the attacks of gout and hemorrhoids.

If you have metabolic syndrome simply reducing calories will not work, because your body will jealously store as much as it can until you are unhealthily starving yourself.

I advise checking yourself and treating with diet if possible, because most of the drugs which target diabetes will not keep your numbers in the range you need and have other worse side effects.
posted by localroger at 3:12 PM on June 21, 2012 [5 favorites]

From a general health perpsective, it's a cliche around here, but if the notion of eating most vegetables is really enough to make you cry, you should really consider ongoing therapy. I say this as someone who used to have random freakouts about a few totally ordinary everyday activities based on stuff that happened to me when I was a kid, and it has much improved.

If you're the sort of person who has a lot of emotional ties to food, being really rigid about diet in terms of weight loss is a much sketchier thing as far as keeping from going over into an ED. Therapy will also help to make sure you're not going to cross that line as you go on. Also, if it helps to lower your stress levels generally, that's also far more conducive to the process.

Finally, not necessarily the case for you, but I had to get rid of some of my "thin" clothes at one point because I realized that my eating *had* been disordered at the time I was wearing them, and that this was not, however much I liked those things, a reasonable goal for me to achieve again. Just make sure you're looking at it rationally, and keeping your health ranked over arbitrary goals like fitting into particular clothes. Even if they were expensive. It's a sunk cost. If you can eat a balanced diet, run, and do strength training, and your weight is pretty stable, and the suit still doesn't fit, buy yourself new suits.
posted by gracedissolved at 3:14 PM on June 21, 2012 [9 favorites]

See your doctor to check for underlying problems. Exercise plus cutting carbs plus avoiding sugar worked for me, but I was more overweight than you and pretty much eat anything. Since it is only 10 lbs. you may be at the right weight for you or even underweight, maybe it is time to get rid of those suits and don't base your self image on that. Weight training will help with reshaping and fitting into clothes if it it a near thing, give it a try, after seeing a doctor. Get your thyroid and blood sugar checked, a full blood workup is a good idea if you have not had one in a while.
posted by mermayd at 3:16 PM on June 21, 2012

Nthing see a doctor (and I'm not someone who's keen on doctors, so I don't say that casually). What you are describing is not normal. I am wondering whether you are actually losing fat and/or muscle, but can't tell because you are retaining water, which can be a symptom of many health issues.
posted by parrot_person at 3:20 PM on June 21, 2012

I recently lost about 5kg by doing the following: cutting down on refined sugar (no more sodas) and wheat based foods, but eating more protein (chicken, fish, beans...) and - I'm afraid - more green vegetables. I found that exercise does relatively little for weight loss for me unless I am doing a lot (running a minimum of 30km a week). Good luck!
posted by piyushnz at 3:25 PM on June 21, 2012

Cutting the carbs is the only thing that works for me (and it sucks and I'm terrible at sticking to it, but it's better than restricted calories, which suck and don't work.)
posted by restless_nomad at 3:27 PM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Have you thought about juicing? Not necessarily doing a juice fast, but maybe substituting it in as a meal once a day? I did it for a little while as my breakfast and it was a great way to start the day. Lots of energy! And it is supposed to help your body clear out a lot of toxins, and get you going to lose weight. Plus it'd be a good way to trick yourself into getting all of those super foods in you that you wouldn't eat otherwise (kale etc). I found that I could juice up a bunch of veggies and pop a couple of apples in there with a little bit of ginger and have a pretty tasty drink that didn't really taste like vegetables at all. I don't know if that is something that you would still have anxiety with or not, just a thought.
posted by Quincy at 3:32 PM on June 21, 2012

Also nthing the low carb thing.
posted by Quincy at 3:33 PM on June 21, 2012

Before trying anything else, go get a blood test. You should be checked for glucose and haemoglobin levels, thyroid function, liver and kidney function, the works. Do NOT try to treat yourself through diet unless your doctor says it's OK. Good luck.
posted by Perodicticus potto at 3:34 PM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

I dropped a significant amount of weight gained after quitting smoking when I started resistance training. I had been counting calories for a while but actually increased them when I began working out with weights (as opposed to just cycling/walking and some cardio at the gym which are all good for me but made very little difference in my weight).
posted by marimeko at 3:35 PM on June 21, 2012

Weightwatchers. The program is easy to follow and it will work as long as you go to the meetings. I cannot stress how much going to the meetings is important. Good luck.
posted by falameufilho at 3:38 PM on June 21, 2012 [2 favorites]

Just a comment about the veggies...I used to dislike the veggies I grew up eating because they were not prepared well. Now that I have grown up and became interested in cooking, I find that there are very few vegetables I cannot find a way to like. For example, so many veggies are delicious when roasted. Maybe if you find a way to prepare the veggies that you like you can feel empowered because you are taking control over how the foods make you feel.
posted by fromageball at 3:39 PM on June 21, 2012 [8 favorites]

Before trying anything else, go get a blood test.

If you have a diabetic friend you can do your own homemade tolerance test for $4. You need a tolerance test (where you measure before and after a glucose bolus) because the fasting glucose test will not reliably detect all forms of metabolic syndrome and MODY.

Do NOT try to treat yourself through diet unless your doctor says it's OK.

The medical profession had four chances to diagnose me, including two symptoms that should have (with what I know now) been klaxons, and after ten years of wondering why I was getting progressively less healthy and getting no answers (and being called a liar once by a doctor who simply didn't believe what I told him) I had to figure it out myself.
posted by localroger at 3:55 PM on June 21, 2012

Try Paleo/Keto. I've just lost my 20th pound in 6 weeks without even trying, basically. Its not a magic bullet but its all rather simple. I would visit reddit.com/r/keto to learn more. Also - if you suspect an underlying issue, please see your PCP.
posted by BrodieShadeTree at 4:05 PM on June 21, 2012

You know, as a matter of principle, I don't believe in dieting, and I don't believe in self-denial. I am also about a stone overweight. But then I am 56, and if you can't put on weight in your 50's, then when can you? But a couple of my kids are quite interested in nutrition and metabolism. So this is what I have gleaned from their advice.

1. You have to eat regularly to keep your metabolism going at a good rate. So you should always eat breakfast, and never starve yourself. If you do, your body goes into survival mode and tries hard to hang on to its fat stores. So if you are trying to lose weight, try to eat 5 or 6 small meals a day. Depending on your frame and your activity levels your calorie intake per day should be maybe 200 calories under 2000 calories a day for a woman and under 2500 for a man in order to lose weight. But if for psychological reasons (ie you feel too deprived) this is not sustainable, then respect your own feelings and go a bit slower: don't drop so many daily calories and don't be mean to your own self. If you are happy and busy you would probably lose weight without even thinking about it.

2. Sensible sustainable weight loss is a slow process taking months rather than weeks.

3. Vegetables are yummy if you take them seriously. Cook them as if they are the main ingredient, as you would cook a nice steak or a joint of lamb - in other words, season them well and roast or braise or stew with care and lots of herbs and spices - you will not then feel as if you have deprived yourself or as if you are just eating because veggies are good for you. You will be eating because the food you made is delicious.

4. You can lose weight through exercise but it's a bit painful. I found this out the hard way by starting week 7 of Couch to 5k without having had breakfast - it was very very difficult and my legs ached for the very first time! I couldn't finish that run. Previous to that I'd run in the evening after a couple of meals in the day. My daughter explained to me something about ketones and glucose. So apparently you can lose weight running before eating in that way, but maybe you would have to work up to it slowly by re-starting some of the earlier weeks of Couch to 5k in order to get accustomed to running on an empty stomach, so as to burn fat. This is something I might do myself, especially as I think I might invest in a pair of those barefoot running shoes and you have to acclimatise to those quite slowly as well. So I'm thinking I might go back to week 4 wearing a pair of vibrams and not having had breakfast and seeing if I lose any weight.

Good luck with this. I really relate to the not wanting good clothes to go to waste thing! I'm just hoping that I personally can get there without having to work too hard or feel too bad, so I hope some of what I've said may be useful to you. Best of luck.
posted by glasseyes at 4:29 PM on June 21, 2012

Since it's summertime and the produce in my area is starting to get really awesome, I'm eating mostly fruits and vegetables now, with some lean protein and a smidge of full fat dairy thrown in for good measure. No grains, which means no bread or rice or pasta. It's been two weeks, and I've dropped a pants size. If you don't have any underlying health issues, maybe try upping your fruit and veggie intake and lowering your carbs?
posted by palomar at 4:33 PM on June 21, 2012

Anecdata, but I only lose weight when I eliminate nearly all grain & starch carbs (like only 1/2 of a whole wheat pita a day max) and limit fruit to high-fiber and/or low sugar 1-2 servings a day. As with all diet-related issues, YMWV.
posted by smirkette at 4:46 PM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Two things: You're probably going to need eat different foods and exercise more.

A 5K is only a little longer than 30 minutes of exercise even while jogging. That's the minimum amount of exercise you should be doing 3-4 times per week if you want to lose weight. If you like running, go for a 10K and then a half marathon.

Eat more fish. Try vegetables prepared differently than those you're used to eating. Thai and Indian cuisines do wonders with veggies, such that you can taste and enjoy them, or you can focus on the other flavors in the dishes.
posted by cnc at 4:48 PM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

I agree with the posts on seeing your doctor. It would also help to know how much you do weigh. A woman weighing 130 trying to get down to 120 needs a different plan that a woman weighing 230 trying to get down to 220. Age and medication also play into it. When I take Singulair (for asthma) I put on between 5 and 10 pounds and nothing brings it down while I'm on the medication. After a certain age, women's bodies change and we have to work out certain areas to change them back.

The quickest way for most people to lose weight is to commit to eating whatever you want, but only when you are hungry, and only eat until you are full. Eat slowly, off of small plates. Really enjoy your meal. Use real butter, real sugar. If it can't be grown outside of a lab then it isn't anything your body needs. The only liquid you should consume is water, and you want plenty of it. Eat an orange instead of drinking orange juice. Avoid soft drinks completely.
posted by myselfasme at 5:27 PM on June 21, 2012 [3 favorites]

I want to lose about ten pounds so that my expensive suits, bought not too long ago, fit again, and so that I feel good about my body.

Are you overweight? Do you want to lose weight to fit into your suits, or do you want to lose weight because you are overweight?

If you are trying to lose arbitrary weight that you don't need to lose, that may be your problem. There is a range of what weight can be healthy at each height depending on a person's frame, body type, muscle mass, etc. If you are trying to force your body to be something it's not, that probably won't work out too well.
posted by bearette at 6:55 PM on June 21, 2012 [2 favorites]

I've lost roughly a quarter of my total body weight and (as a woman) gone from roughly 28% body fat to 18% body fat through keto, a high-fat form of ultra-low-carb (which I like to call being a hypercarnivore).

Do use a tape measure or a set of calipers to check/track your body fat percentage - it gives a useful check factor to answer the (more-important) question of "What kind of weight am I losing?" You don't necessarily want to lose weight, you want to lose fat while retaining your muscle.
posted by bookdragoness at 7:08 PM on June 21, 2012

I have to question how dedicated you were to running. While results may vary from person to person, I find running to be the best remedy for fitness. I can only speak for myself, but I was able to lose 25 pounds in 3 months by running 3 miles 4-5 days a week. "5k" is kind of vague so I can't say for sure if you put in similar effort. I think it is highly likely you would be able to lose 10 pounds over the next three months by putting in consistent effort. While dieting is important in the big scheme of things, I have never found it to be the thing that puts me over the top. So long as you eat a balance of healthy foods you will be fine. Avoid sugars, junk food, and fast food. Learn to love vegetables and fruits.
posted by Jurbano at 9:16 PM on June 21, 2012

posted by gorcha at 11:57 PM on June 21, 2012

> I've been logging all of my food for years

Show us your food log for the past month.
posted by devnull at 12:07 AM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

But then I am 56, and if you can't put on weight in your 50's, then when can you?

Middle-aged does not equal lowered standards. I'm your age and I fit in to clothes I purchased 30 years ago. I wear a bikini at the beach. Especially as I age, I have no interest in eroding my self-image. I want to keep feeling good!

OP, here are some absolutely time-tested, anecdotal-but-they-work weight management (it's not a diet, it's' the new way you eat) tips:
Eat less. Really, that's the big secret. Halve everything starting right now. It will take no time at all before you get acclimated to smaller portions.
Be realistic about what you want to weigh. Don't undermine your own effort with an unreachable goal.
Stop burdening yourself with the idea that you have to muster up heretofore unknown reserves of "willpower". Just physically remove temptation. Clean out your cupboards. Don't buy packaged/processed foods. Don't eat out at restaurants that offer you opportunities to overeat before you even eat (Mexican, for example, or the chain places like Olive Garden that ply you with big calorie-laden breads and appetizers). Movies no longer equals popcorn so bring almonds (yes, popcorn is fattening.) Etc etc.
Contrary to what they tell you, get on the scale every single morning. Not because you are tied to some fantasy weight, but because you can kind of manage your daily meals by knowing if you are up or down.
Exercise! But be clear: that will not help you "lose" weight. Don't play the calorie-in/calorie-burned game. I'm telling you, it doesn't work and fools you into eating more ("I'll burn it off in the morning!")
No white food. Yes, stupid, yes, unscientific, yes, it works.
No diet soda. I don't know why (ok, I know a little -- it's an insulin trigger, look it up), but it's true -- diet soda makes you fat. Wean yourself off it completely. Go for the flavored seltzers if you must have the fizz.
No red meat.
No booze. Seriously. The fastest way to drop 5 pounds is to stop drinking.
posted by thinkpiece at 4:35 AM on June 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: OK. I will try a more legit low carb diet instead of the two strategies that did not work for me before (first portion control, then counting calories). I will also try running six times a week instead of four. I don't think my goal (to go back to a size six) is unhealthy or unattainable, so if in a few months I am still not seeing any progress, I will consider seeing a doctor.

I appreciate your time and advice.

devnull, I don't feel comfortable posting everything I eat in a public forum, but to give you a sense of my general diet, I have either oatmeal (summer) or eggs for breakfast with tea, and usually a cafeteria meat + side situation, or sandwich, for lunch. I tend to gorge on fruit (apples peaches bananas nomnomnom). Dinner varies wildly, but most often is something like meatloaf and pickles or salmon sushi or pasta with meat sauce. Common foods for me include lox, prosciutto, carrots, and the occasional brownie. I do not drink fruit juices or sodas. I have one drink every Friday night and generally no other alcohol.
posted by prefpara at 8:09 AM on June 22, 2012

I tend to gorge on fruit (apples peaches bananas nomnomnom).
What kind of amount are we talking about? One piece a day, two, five, ten?

And when you counted calories, what amount were you aiming at, and/or how much did you end up consuming on an average day?
posted by Ms. Next at 12:00 PM on June 22, 2012

@prefpara - Run longer, don't run more. Running six days per week is very likely to end up in an injury. Double your distance, (which you can do slowly) and increase your pace and keep running 3-4 days per week.
posted by cnc at 3:28 PM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

> devnull, I don't feel comfortable posting everything I eat in a public forum,

Why not? It's just food.

You'd like to know why you're not losing weight, we need enough information to help you.
posted by devnull at 5:06 AM on June 23, 2012

The latest issue of The Atlantic recommends Lose It which incorporates positive reinforcement. Or, if you want to pay about 3500 USD for six months you can get a much more one to one service.
posted by devnull at 12:13 PM on June 24, 2012

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