Why am I not losing weight?
February 2, 2014 9:46 AM   Subscribe

YANMD but should I see one? Seemingly unable to lose weight with diet and exercise. Details within.

I am 39yo male and weigh 310lb.

History: in 2008 I weighed 400lb and joined Weight Watchers (tm). Over the course of a year I lost 100 lbs, primarily following the Weight Watchers program, with a little exercise (what i could do, some walks). Weight loss slowed, as it does, and by 2010 I weighed about 270.

But then it stopped. I was following the program as much as ever, but the plateau wouldn't break. So I got a personal trainer and increased workouts, doing strenuous muscle and cardio 4x per week and the weight slowly crept up.

I was frustrated, but then Weight Watchers (tm) unveiled their new, improved, Points PLUS system (TM, R) and I was excited hoping a new routine would shake up my body and restart my 6 month plateau. It didn't. I posted previously about this but I started to gain weight at a rate of about 1lb per week on average despite following the plan and exercising.

Now I will admit that in 2011 my frustration led to me not following the program as much, and I stopped tracking food after doing so faithfully for 3plus years. I started to miss meetings, etc. And, of course, I gained wight, creeping back up to about 300lbs.

In 2012 I recommitted myself. I started going to every meeting again, tracking every bite again, and did so for about 2 months. My weight continued to creep upwards slowly. I then used MyFitnesPal in conjunction with Weight Watchers and found that Weight Watchers had me eating about 2200 calories per day, and MyFitnessPal suggested 1700.

I started trying more MyFitnessPal than Weight Watchers, but again I admit that not seeing results after about a month frustrated me.

My wife knew fitness is a goal I really want to achieve, so for Christmas she got me one of the new FitBits. Starting in January I again recommitted myself to weight loss. Given that the PointsPlus(TM, R) wasn't working I have used MyFitnessPal. It took about a week to get in the routine, but as of today I have tracked every bite I have eaten, and every exercise routine I have done.

MyFitnessPal has me consuming about 1700 calories per day for a sedentary lifestyle (I'm a computer programmer, sit at a desk all day every day). My FitBit tells me I'm burning 2300 calories per day, 2600 average on days I work out (2-3 times per week)

But after 3 weeks of careful tracking, working out, I have not lost a god damed pound. I have gained and lost the same 1lb repeatedly. I keep bouncing between 310 and 311 for 3 weeks.

I do not want to have unrealistic expectations, but after 3 weeks to have not lost a single lb is frustrating, and more, frightening.

I'm wondering what the hell I do now... Do I see a doctor? (I have been on weight loss drugs previously to very ill effect...they turn me into a rageacholic). Is my FitBit and MyFitnessPal lying about my calories in saying I'm living with a 500-800 calorie per day defecit?

The worst part is yes, I have stopped and started, but even when wholly committed I seem to have not been able to lose a pound in about 3 years.

I know if I don't track and work out I gain weight but nothing I do seems to make me lose. So I turn to you MeFites for advice.
posted by arniec to Health & Fitness (40 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Are you tracking body fat percentage as well as weight? If your workouts include strength training, maybe you are just bulking up?

1700 @ 310lbs seems like a pretty low calorie intake. Is it possible that you're not getting enough nutrition so your body is going into fat preserving mode?

Asking your doctor to check your thyroid seems like a pretty harmless step. Checking your diet with a nutritionist/dietitian* sounds like more a a pain in the butt, but probably also worthwhile.

*one of those professions is properly regulated/licensed, the other is generally snake oil salesmen. I can't remember which. Make sure you choose the right one.
posted by sparklemotion at 9:55 AM on February 2, 2014 [3 favorites]

Are you taking your measurements? I take the following measurements and add them up: thighs x2 + arms x2 + waist + hips

You can also add chest and neck.

Watch the overall number. Sometimes a diet and exercise routine can be working, but the pounds come off in an unpredictable manner. By keeping track of your inches you can tell whether you are just losing water weight, gaining muscle which will make it look like you aren't losing fat on the scale or if your program really isn't working.

I had a friend who just dieted and exercise hard for a month but walked away with almost no movement on the scale. However, she lost 2 inches off her hips so clearly she was getting results, just not on the scale.
posted by whoaali at 9:55 AM on February 2, 2014 [5 favorites]

Congratulations on the hundred-pound loss, first of all!

I think it's worth talking to a doctor, to exclude unexpected causes. But know that not all doctors are skilled in weight loss and management. Dieticians might be better placed to help.

People talk about 3500 cals per pound as though it were a simple exchange of energy, but weight loss is rarely a linear process.

Accurate tracking of nutrition is one thing successful losers do, often for a lifetime. Otherwise, it's just too hard to fight our own mechanisms for maximizing consumption in the face of a world of food scientists and marketers using every trick in the book to get us to eat more. Lifelong calorie counting sounds grim, but with a profound lifestyle change, it can be less of a pain.

We're really good at making mistakes around portions, that's one thing, and that's an area worth double-checking -- are you consistently using a food scale or measuring cups etc.? Estimating can sometimes get us into trouble.

It might be worth talking to a dietician, to devise an eating plan that makes sense for you.

Best of luck!
posted by cotton dress sock at 9:57 AM on February 2, 2014 [3 favorites]

A lot of dieting in your history can do really screwy things to your metabolism that can make it very difficult to lose weight. I had an eating disorder when I was younger and used to get absolutely teary when people would assume afterwards that I was sedentary and eating nothing but junk food when I was biking 4+ miles a day and eating quite well, just because I was still well over two hundred pounds.

So, right now: You aren't losing weight, but you're also not gaining it. I cannot stress this enough: This is a victory. Women get told constantly not to worry about looks over health, I don't think there's nearly enough emphasis on the same for men. If you are doing healthy things and you have turned an upward trend flat, you have made real progress. If you are exercising more and eating better, you have made real progress. The scale is not your only progress. The scale's way of tracking progress is stupid.

At that point, you're dealing with vagaries of metabolism, of water retention, whatever. Eat well, and exercise. If you can do the Hacker's Diet thing of doing long-term spreadsheet tracking of weight, it's a better indicator, but that depends on how comfortable you really are with the constant weigh-ins. If they are making you worry, don't do them. Weight loss trends by the day are useless, but a couple weeks is nearly as much so. You might have a tougher time losing weight than some people, or you might not, but constant obsessing about that one number is likely to do your progress more harm than good.
posted by Sequence at 10:01 AM on February 2, 2014 [15 favorites]

YMMV, but this is what I personally experienced.

My doctor put me on the Mediterranean Diet about 3 years ago. I gained weight like it was my job. For me, it was an issue of waaaaaaay too many carbohydrates. Insulin was storing the excess carbs as fat, and I was not active enough to allow my body time to burn through that stored fat, before I stuffed more carbs down my gob and compounded the problem.

So I got more active, got a Fitbit, etc. -- still: no damn difference.

Once I reduced my carb intake to 50g or less per day, the extra weight came off. Between September 1, 2012 and May 2013, I lost 35 lbs. (I'm a woman, 41, FWIW)

Look at what you're eating. If you're eating a lot of carb-heavy foods, try decreasing carbs (easiest: sugar, pasta, grains/bread) and increasing meat and veggies. I also recommend reading Gary Taubes, Why We Get Fat and What to Do About it, and (if you've got a bunch of time) Good Calories, Bad Calories.
posted by gsh at 10:02 AM on February 2, 2014 [20 favorites]

If weight watchers isn't working for you and you're interested in trying something completely different, check out the FAQ and posts at r/keto.
posted by lizifer at 10:11 AM on February 2, 2014 [6 favorites]

I've lived your experience, and this is what I learned from it - it works for me, and it works for a lot of people, but I'm not saying it's the right thing for everybody.

FOR SOME PEOPLE (not all, but some) years of hacking your diet with different amounts of food and exercise can derange your metabolism and the chemical processes in your body beyond its ability to cope with sugar properly.

When that happens, if you're one of those people, the only thing that will work is reducing the amount of sugar you put into your body until you find your personal, uh, sweet spot. That means, the amount your body can cope with and still lose weight.

Sugar = sugar, but also, sugar = starch. Which means you need to lower your carbs slowly, week by week, until you start losing weight, and then stay at that level of carb consumption until your weight is where you want it to be.

You can replace the lost carbs with protein and/or fat to get to a sustainable and healthy number of calories per day. That should help keep you from getting hungry.

Again, this is just something that works for a lot of people who've fought their weight long-term. It's not a prescription for everybody. It worked for me to the tune of 100 lbs, but YMMV.

It's also worth noting that even low-carb methods of losing weight can stall. Sometimes, it's valuable to raise your level of carbs a little for a little while, then lower them again, to break through.
posted by kythuen at 10:13 AM on February 2, 2014 [7 favorites]

I just want to let you know you're not alone with that new Weight Watchers program not working - I have been a big fan of WW for years but abandoned it after they changed it this last time. It did not work for me at all.

I think you're on the right track with My Fitness Pal and counting calories. Don't quit! I know all too well how frustrating it is, but when I get frustrated and quit trying it goes from frustrating maintenance to gaining weight immediately. By all means go to the doctor and make sure you don't have something else going on, but keep doing what you're doing in the mean time.
posted by something something at 10:13 AM on February 2, 2014

It is very, very easy to be misled regarding the number of calories per day that you're taking in, or the amount of calories you're burning with exercise. You've gone down the right path by using quantitative tools to measure your intake and output, but how accurate are those tools?

Put simply, unless you're using a scale to measure each and every raw ingredient by weight that you yourself are cooking into a single portion that you are eating completely, MyFitnessPal is not reporting the correct number of calories.

If you're eating out, portion sizes vary based on the staff in the kitchen, and are quite often larger than the calorie count provided by the restaurant, which is based on a "model" portion and not the actual portion you're given. In addition, variability in how ingredients are used will result in extra calories per portion - a little extra oil, butter or mayo in a recipe can increase the calorie content of a portion by hundreds of calories.

If you're eating in and someone else is preparing the food, the same caveats apply. Very few people are good at preparing food to a precise number of calories.

If you're eating in and preparing food yourself, you need to weigh each and every raw ingredient. Measuring cups mislead easily, as it's possible to compact food into them (resulting in additional calories) or use "heaping" portions. Size shortcuts can't be used, either. How many calories are in a banana? The answer can vary by almost a hundred calories. You'll only know after you skin the banana, put the banana that you'll eat on a food scale, and calculate from there.

Statistics on calories burned are also misleading from tools like the Fitbit. How many calories does a person burn doing a certain amount of activity? It varies depending on their weight, muscle mass, minor variations in the time they're taking to perform the task, the amount they are pushing themselves in regard to form and follow-through, how fast their heart is beating, and other factors that we may not even be aware of. Fitbit doesn't know - and can't know - all of that.

Occam's razor would say that you're probably eating 300-400 calories more than you're logging in MyFitnessPal and burning 300-400 calories less in exercise than the Fitbit or other applications are telling you. You might balk at the suggestion, but it's certainly not out of the question.

As an overweight 39 year old man, you don't have to lose weight like a delicate flower. The "1 or 2 pounds a week" suggestion is for the average body in any scenario - and that means they have to keep into account a women's body and muscle mass, which likely isn't much like your body. Instead of trying to cut calories to a very slow weight loss, a better strategy for you might be to work with a doctor or nutritionist to determine the minimum levels of nutrients you need to safely live, and then either use strict measurements or pre-made meals to ensure that you consume no more than those every single day. If you stick with (and ramp up, as you feel your body allows) your exercise while on a regimen of minimum but safe nutrition, you will certainly lose weight - and if you can't stick with it, you'll both have a clear understanding why, and can work on modifying the regimen to figure out what you can stick with.
posted by I EAT TAPAS at 10:13 AM on February 2, 2014 [13 favorites]

I know this frustration well as I have been trying (sometimes succeeding, sometimes failing) to lose weight for 27 years of my 42 year long life. Frankly, the difference in behavior between gaining, maintaining, and losing is minuscule when measured in food. It can be as little as 100 calories a day difference between losing and maintaining.

You mention tracking every bite - how do you measure your food? Using measuring cups and spoons while better than visually estimating can yield up to a quarter more food than using a food scale. For example, if I use a level 1/2 measuring cup to parse out my dry oatmeal, the amount it yields is 49 grams. According to the nutritional panel, a 1/2 cup should be equal to 40 grams. 40 grams doesn't come close to reaching the brim of the measuring cup. All this to say it's possible you could unwittingly be eating more than you think even with the best intentions.
posted by cecic at 10:23 AM on February 2, 2014 [3 favorites]

Came here to nth /r/keto and looking into reducing your carb intake. There's a great documentary called Fat Head that discusses, among many other things, how the calorie-in-calorie-out theory doesn't really jive with reality nearly as much as we've been told.
posted by area.man at 10:24 AM on February 2, 2014 [5 favorites]

You are not getting enough exercise if your workouts only burn 300 calories, twice a week. A brisk walk at your size will burn more than 500 calories per hour. Unless you can't walk, you should be walking for an hour per day.

At your size you could be retaining up to 20 lbs of water weight. Myfitnesspal does a good job of letting you know how much sodium is in various foods. Aim for less than 1500mg per day.
posted by BabeTheBlueOX at 10:33 AM on February 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

Can you work more exercise into your day? I find it is much easier for me to work out more rather than eat less. Start small, park further away, climb one of the flights of stairs, go for a stroll after work. Use your fitbit and work on upping your daily steps by an extra 500 steps a day and go from there. Moving more will improve your metabolism and burn calories more. Focus on getting fitter and feeling better rather than numbers on a scale.
posted by Requiax at 10:34 AM on February 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

It always becomes more difficult to lose fat the closer you get to being a healthy weight. A couple years ago I lost fifty plus pounds I had gained after quitting smoking, and it took about a year and a half. I found – despite doing the math, reducing calories further or amping up my exercise (weights and cardio plus walking and cycling for transportation) – that there are definite stalls in the process of weight loss that happen that seem to exist wholly outside of logic.

I rode these out, sometimes making adjustments (to no avail), sometimes changing nothing, other times scaling back the effort a bit or even pausing it completely (which in my case always seemed to 'work' - though I have no idea the actual reason I dropped weight at those junctures).

Metabolism is weirdly fragile. I think the best advice is to keep moving forward with your healthy plans despite what numbers you see on the scale. In time your metabolism will catch up. One thing I noticed was that sometimes after I'd hit a lengthy plateau, I would then suddenly drop a few pounds seemingly out of nowhere.

I'd be careful with any suggestion to lose more than 1-2 pounds a week. The point is to protect your muscle mass, hydration, internal organs etc. The process of weight loss itself takes a toll on the body, even if it's healthy in the long run to reduce your fat percentage when overweight. Slow and steady with a few stubborn plateaus seems to be the story for most people – particularly those who have kept the weight off.
posted by marimeko at 10:44 AM on February 2, 2014

I had to maintain about twice the calorie deficit that MFP and my fitbit calculated I should need to in order to lose weight -- and yes, that was with weighing everything on a highly accurate gram scale. (Except when I was pregnant. When I was pregnant I could sit on the couch and eat all the cheese I could shove into my face and lose a pound a week.) Everyone's metabolism is different, some of us get the short end of the stick. Without being pregnant, it took me eating about 1300-1400 calories a day + working out for an hour or two a day to lose weight consistently, and I weigh about 250 myself. I was only able to maintain myself on that calorie intake by eating a very low-starch low-sugar diet, basically a pound of meat a day + piles of vegetables.
posted by KathrynT at 10:48 AM on February 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

The margin for error between a 1700 calorie target and 2300 calorie daily burn rate is so small. The Fitbit is a cool device but it's not doing anything particularly magical -- just tracking your steps and using average stats for someone your age/height/weight/sex. It's completely possible that your actual burn rate is 2000. Let's then say a few of your portions are fractionally larger than you realize and certain labels aren't 100% accurate and you easily fill in those extra 300 calories and you're back to 0.

You have to become scientific about it. Can you commit to pre-made meals or insanely meticulous portion measurements for a few weeks? Once you're more confident that your calorie counts are bulletproof, you'll be able to find out what your true, personal, daily burn rate is. If it's 2000, then you know how to adjust.
posted by the jam at 11:02 AM on February 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

I noticed in your question that although you've tried three different diet approaches (original Weight Watchers, new WW, and MyFitnessPal), the only one where you successfully lost weight was original Weight Watchers, and it seems that that's the only one you haven't tried returning to. Even though WW introduced "Points Plus," you can still use the old system. I would say before you give up hope or make a BIG change (and keto is a big change if you've been doing Weight Watchers for a long time), try recommitting yourself to the old Weight Watchers and see what happens -- you're ~40 lb heavier now than when you hit a plateau last time, I wouldn't be surprised to see it work for you again.
posted by telegraph at 11:05 AM on February 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

You don't provide any information about your exercise habits. I'd say that seems like a good area to target. Can you switch things up, maybe work on maintaining your weight but setting some fitness goals?
posted by bq at 11:12 AM on February 2, 2014

Also: some people are more frustrated by excluding whole categories of food than they are by calorie counting. These people can have just two bites of a brownie and carry on with a grilled chicken salad for dinner, no problem.

Other people find it easier to give themselves the best chance of sticking to a plan by adhering to ‘food category’ rules, or by using a very simple plan with repeated meals, tweaked to their tastes.

Following a ‘low carb’ plan is an easy way to do the latter. Most such plans, focusing as they do on fats, proteins and fibrous carbs, hit the satiety point more reliably than do ‘eat what you want and just watch your portions’ plans, which take a lot of trial and error to get you to the point of feeling full on just so many calories. (Which is why a dietician would be great to help, if you wanted to go that way.) A rough-and-ready rule of thumb for satiety – not precise, there are other ways of getting to it – is to shoot for a 30:30:40 ratio of fats, proteins and carbs (ie carbs that have a lot of fiber in them, i.e. veggies, which in enough quantity should get you to 20-25 grams of fiber a day). This can help you feel fuller on fewer calories.

When I first lost weight, I used a low-carb approach (rules), plus calorie counting. No temptations in the house, at all; all home-prepared food. This made it easier to stick to calorie goals. Willpower didn't matter as much. I did that for about a year and a half. Once I hit my goal weight, I was able to transition to a broader repertoire of foods and more of a ‘watch your portions’ approach; I’d reconfigured my tastes through the low-carb approach, which meant my choices served my goals better, and left me less prone to overdoing it on cheese pastries (which I love). Still have to track, though, because there's always room for slippage.

Rules also helped me with fitness (and I started with the fitness part, fwiw, that felt easier to me). I shot for 30 minutes of any kind of activity every single day. That could be walking, if I just wasn’t in the frame of mind to do something more intense – even if I felt crappy, I could tick it off and feel good about it. But intensity helps more. I aimed for most of my workouts to be intense, and had walking as a back-up. I did not use a fitbit or anything like that – I just pushed as hard as I could most days. And I wasn't perfect, usually I hit 5/7 days. But the bar was set to daily exercise.

I should say that my calorie deficit was much more conservative than any of the default settings on calorie counting websites, and I think this helped me feel less deprived. I aimed to subtract 200 calories from my non-diet diet, plus whatever came out from exercise, which I only roughly tracked (but approached with intensity).

Hope this helps.
posted by cotton dress sock at 11:29 AM on February 2, 2014

You're underestimating your food &/or overestimating your burn. Log everything you eat & drink accurately & honestly. Weigh your food. Find reliable MyFitnessPal data. (The database is full of incorrect entries.) Join your MFP & Fitbit accounts. Log any non-step based exercise in Fitbit or in MFP, and eat back half your exercise calories.
posted by editorgrrl at 11:34 AM on February 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

For the past four-plus years, I've been following an unusual diet called the Shangri La Diet. This blog post (from about two years ago) is about my experience.

I'm still following the diet, although my weight is slowly creeping up. But this diet worked much better for me than anything else I tried.

posted by alex1965 at 11:37 AM on February 2, 2014

Response by poster: To add to those who have asked -- I meticulously weigh and measure every bite in my mouth except on those rare occasions (avg 1 per week) that I have to eat out due to work, etc. I have a digital scale that every food goes on in grams. I do use cup measurers and per the above those could be inaccurate? But anything that has even 1 calorie is weighed or measured. I had to do that with Weight Watchers to lose the first 100lb and I'm doing it now.

I do try to anticipate that maybe even still my calorie intake is mare than MyFitnessPal tells me (and I do link MFP to my FitBit), which is why even on workout days I do not eat over the 1700 calorie limit--if I burn extra calories I just hope it will speed weight loss, not allow me to eat more food.

The carb reduction is something I can try--right now I use carbs as my way of feeling satisfied after a meal. I find with only lean meats and veggies I eat my calories and am still hungry, but if I add a carb it keeps me fuller. And the carbs I eat are baked potatoes or fat free buns. In addition to measuring the calories I am trying to eat "healthy", Im' not eating 1700 calories of Doritos and Mt. Dew.

Thanks for the suggestions, any others?
posted by arniec at 12:04 PM on February 2, 2014

Carbs are no big deal and at your size you should be losing weight with that calorie intake no matter what your macros are. If you're really eating only 1700 calories per day and not losing any weight you might actually have a thyroid problem. However, from your original post, your activity levels are way too low for weight loss or even general health. I would keep eating what you are eating but add in an hour of walking every day. If you still don't lose any weight after six weeks it's time to see the doctor.
posted by BabeTheBlueOX at 12:10 PM on February 2, 2014 [4 favorites]

I've found that I do a lot better with weight loss when I'm also lifting weights consistently. My body seems to do well when I build up a lot of muscle, which also passively burns more calories when at rest. You may want to work with a trainer to help design an exercise plan. A good one will be happy to work with you to ramp up your activity levels without pain. They're expensive but a good one is well worth it.

Also, anecdotally, when I'm losing weight, I usually go through a month or two of my body bouncing back and forth between one or two pounds, and then I start losing consistently. During that time it does change shape - I lose inches around my middle, and on my limbs, most noticably - but I don't actually lose weight. So measurements might help in that area as well.

Also I pay a lot of attention to how I feel. When I'm working out, I feel a lot better, have more energy, and my vital signs (blood pressure, pulse, etc) are a lot better. When I'm not working out, I feel it, and my vital signs show it as well.

And finally, if you're in the U.S. and have insurance, often insurance will cover a visit or multiple visits to a dietician if you have a referral from a doctor or nurse practicioner. So that's another option as well.

Popular media would lead you to believe that it's just calories in, calories out, but bodies are unique and not that simple. I would encourage you to keep trying things and keep working out, and find out what works for you and your body.
posted by RogueTech at 12:10 PM on February 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

Oh, also: If you're very sedentary (I'm just coming off a sedentary period myself, due to a long illness), you may not be able to do an hour of walking a day right away, and that's ok. What's worked for me is starting with 20 minutes a day, and then increasing the time by 5 minutes every week. So the first week was 20 minutes a day, the next week was 25 minutes a day, the next was 30, etc. Better to start slow and work your way up than do too much too quick and cause a setback due to pain.

Also, you can break it up: 15 minutes in the morning and 15 at night for a total of 30 minutes a day, if that works well for you.

Doing cardio for an hour a day (which you will be able to do - if not now, soon!) - can feel like a slog unless you can find a way to make it better. I read books on my Kindle, a dear friend listens to podcasts, another catches up on TV on his tablet.

Good luck. Doing something is always better than doing nothing for your health, but I completely empathize with the frustration.
posted by RogueTech at 12:16 PM on February 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

MyFitnessPal has me consuming about 1700 calories per day for a sedentary lifestyle (I'm a computer programmer, sit at a desk all day every day). My FitBit tells me I'm burning 2300 calories per day, 2600 average on days I work out (2-3 times per week)

But after 3 weeks of careful tracking, working out, I have not lost a god damed pound. I have gained and lost the same 1lb repeatedly. I keep bouncing between 310 and 311 for 3 weeks.

You need to recalibrate your instrumentation.

Calories in: So you eat 1700 calories per day...times 21 days would be 35,700 calories for the 3 week period.

Calories out: Lets say you exercise 2 times per week. That would be 2300 calories burned per day for 5 days, and 2600 calories burned per day for 2 days. A total calorie count of 16,700 per week. For a 3 week period it would be 50,100 calories.

So over a 3 week period you should have a calorie deficit of (50,100-35,700=) 14,440. This equates roughly to 4.11 lbs (about 3500 calories per pound of weight to lose).

THIS IS JUST THEORETICAL. If all your instrumentation and counting, and everything was perfect, you would have lost: 4 lbs per 3 weeks

So yeah, consume a little extra water or salt or something, then boom...you can't see the results.

Play around with intake a little. I think you should decrease it...but not anymore than 150-200 calories per day. Seriously, don't go nuts with this. Drop to 1500-1600 per day. But more importantly, increase your exercise frequency.

You should be gold.

Good luck. Memail me if you want some tips.
posted by hal_c_on at 12:28 PM on February 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

2-3 times a week is not much working out. Increase effort. You've lost a certain amount through calorie regulation, but at this point, it's really looking like you need to increase your calorie burn. Add active moments through the day (10 minute walks 3 times during the workday instead of sedentary breaks), increase your workouts to more like 5 a week, and add the weights. You'll burn a few more calories during those workouts, but also, your improved metabolic rate will burn more even while you're resting or sitting.
posted by Miko at 12:31 PM on February 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

I highly recommend the low-carb approach, but even if you don't want to go that route I'm wondering if you need more fats in your diet to make you full, so you don't feel the need to have "extra carbs" at the end of a meal to satiate you. Low fat buns give you no real nutrition, they are just empty calorie fillers. If you were to add extra health fats and use some fatty meats (not just lean) then you may feel more full so you don't feel the need for the extra snacks after a meal.

Also highly recommending the strength training - weights and muscle/strength training burn calories long after you've done the exercise - it's the exercise that keeps on giving :-) More so than aerobic exercise. Not saying you should stop the aerobic exercise as any is good for you, but adding muscle will give you more bang for your buck, from a long-term calorie expenditure standpoint.
posted by canda at 12:46 PM on February 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

I don't think you need to lower your calorie budget on MFP, but you do need to increase by at least 50% the portion estimate for any restaurant meals, where they always give you more food and dose it with more sugar, butter or oil than you can possibly imagine if you haven't worked in a restaurant kitchen.

Also --

Work out more often -- healthy people at their ideal weight work usually work out 4-6 days a week, people who need to create a calorie deficit need to do so even moreso.

If you drink, limit yourself to 1 or 2 drinks a week; shift the calorie budget to ice cream if you need a substitute vice.

Implement a 3:2:1 calorie budget ratio for breakfast:lunch:dinner.
posted by MattD at 1:07 PM on February 2, 2014

When I started using MyFitnessPal in January 2013, I set MFP for 1.5 lb./week loss and was told to eat 1570 calories (before exercise). I stuck to those 1570 calories. But I lost only 1.1 lb/week.

I'm not a freak of nature,* so the conclusion I drew is that I was missing around 400 calories a day despite, I thought, carefully measuring everything I ate and drank. I'm guessing that I overestimated how much I was burning in exercise and underestimated how much I ate. I'm not alone; most people underestimate how much they eat.

Rather than worry about exactly where I was missing calories, I left things as they were; I was content to lose 1.1 lb./week. But had I wanted to lose 1.5, I would have simply set a new target of about 1250 calories -- knowing that in reality, I would really be eating more like 1570.

*There is a phenomenon, "adaptive thermogenesis," in people who have lost a substantial amount of weight: their bodies require less energy than someone the same weight who was never overweight. Since I lost 50 lb. in grad school, then gradually put it back on (and then some!) over the following decade, it's possible that my BMR is lower than it used to be for a given weight. Since you lost over 100 lb., your BMR is probably lower than average for your current weight, and MFP might be giving you too high a number for that reason.
posted by brianogilvie at 1:18 PM on February 2, 2014 [3 favorites]

P.S. there's a MeFite group on MyFitnessPal.com, though it's only sporadically active.
posted by brianogilvie at 1:19 PM on February 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

Nthing that you need metrics other than pounds lost. If you're burning fat and building muscle, the number you see on the scale won't accurately reflect your changing body composition because muscle weighs more per volume than fat.

It's difficult to get accurate body fat measurements at home so you might try just measuring your waist with a tape measure and tracking that along with your weight. If your waist inches decline while your pounds stay the same or creep up, it's likely that you are indeed just building muscle while losing fat and that's a good thing.

It's also quite possible that you're carrying around several pounds and a couple inches of waste in your digestive tract. Personally, I've found the Master Cleanse to be very helpful in flushing that (literal) crap out. Don't do the cleanse for more than the recommended two weeks or you'll make yourself sick. Following it with a high-fiber diet will help prevent that sort of build up again.
posted by Jacqueline at 1:28 PM on February 2, 2014

I was you. I strongly recommend looking into a lower carbohydrate diet -- Atkins, Paleo, Primal, etc. If you are regularly consuming 100+ grams of carbs/day and live a fairly sedentary lifestyle, I can see why you might be stalled, especially eating 1700 calories per day.

IMHO, there is no reason to starve yourself, my experience has been that excluding refined and processed carbs, grains and sugars while adding in protein, vegetables, good fats has been transformation for me. I think it's more about WHAT you eat, not how much.

I also strength trained which enabled me to build muscle and burn body fat faster.
posted by SoulOnIce at 1:30 PM on February 2, 2014 [7 favorites]

Just from a psychological perspective, let this month be "it's not about the scale" month. Set different goals, for example:

You are already doing a great job measuring your food. Set a goal to measure and log every day this month, and set a calorie goal that works for you. Or take some of the above advice and set a goal about the content of your meals - increased protein/fat, reduced carbs.

Try to ramp up your exercise. Set a goal to either work out on more days, or make your existing workouts longer than they are now, or add weight training or HIIT (high intensity interval training) at least once a week.

Something in your life, such as "everyday this month I will attempt to reach those items in the lower cabinet that I can barely bend down to see".

Whatever it is, make it not about the scale and then give yourself high fives for achieving the goals.
posted by CathyG at 1:35 PM on February 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

Do I see a doctor?

Sure. Why not? What do you have to lose?

It's actually recommended that you see a doctor before beginning any new diet or exercise regimen. Most people don't do this (I certainly don't), but it can't hurt. And, yes, going three years without weight loss despite dieting is uncommon, it quite possibly does stem from some kind of thyroid issue, and even if your doctor can't diagnose any issues immediately, it's at least important to see what you can rule out.

Many of the tips in this thread are helpful, and you might find yourself benefiting from them significantly. But for now, just make an appointment with your doctor.
posted by littlegreen at 1:44 PM on February 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

Congrats on losing 100#! That is a huge accomplishment!

You might be one of those folks who, like me, are 'insulin resistant'. If so, your blood glucose is generally fine but your cells ...um, they don't recognize the insulin in your blood so they don't get the energy they need and think you're starving them. End result: your body grabs and holds onto every calorie as if you weren't feeding yourself.

Seeing a doctor will help either confirm or eliminate this as a possibility. Normal blood sugar and high insulin is a sign (but, take note that I'm just an attorney, not a doctor, so I could have a complete misunderstanding about insulin resistance, even though I've been told that's what my weight issue is).

For me, what gets me on the weight loss train again is taking 500-1,000mg of Metformin each day and focusing on getting 40grams of lean protein at each meal. I've been off my feet thanks to foot surgery, but I've dropped about 4# in 2weeks anyway. (40grams of protein is tough to do but I found Premier Protein shakes: 30g and just 160 calories!)

Good luck!
posted by LOLAttorney2009 at 6:36 PM on February 2, 2014

Just wanted to chime in with the "weigh everything" crowd. It's so easy to miss stuff or misjudge a serving size. Oh, and ditch the measuring cups/spoons, they're useless.

And definitely start measuring your body with a measuring tape. Get some help for tricky ones and/or use a mirror to make sure the tape is straight. Most importantly, hips (low hip too if you carry weight there), chest, arms, but also calves, thighs and (for me) underbust. Previously I have lost up to 2 inches off most of my measurements and yet my weight has virtually not shifted (YMMV, of course).

Congratulations on how far you've come already. Don't give up now.
posted by eloeth-starr at 9:23 PM on February 2, 2014

Have your thyroid tested.

I would also get a DEXA scan or BodPod to measure your body composition.

Make sure you weigh yourself the same time every day, first thing in the morning after using the bathroom. I drink a lot of water during the day so in the afternoon I'm about four-six pounds heavier. Six pounds is a good month of weight loss so if you're not weighing first thing that could be it right there.
posted by hamsterdam at 10:20 PM on February 2, 2014

I was very overweight and could not lose on many diets. I tried all of them. I couldn't even lose on Atkins anymore, where I had great success before! I am seeing results now on Slow Carb.

Instead of the simple carbs you are relying on to stay full/satisfied, Slow Carb has you eat legumes along with meat and vegetables at every meal. I am almost never hungry (except head hunger, especially after the weekly "cheat day"). I've been on it for a year tomorrow.

Either way, I think you should consider mixing it up a little bit. Someone close to me who lost 90+ lbs on WW switched from the Core plan to the Points plan every few months to switch it up and prevent boredom/offset stalls. She has kept almost all the weight off for 5 years.

Congrats on your loss so far!
posted by getawaysticks at 7:28 AM on February 3, 2014

I'd see a dietician. The amount of food you're eating is inconsistent with commonly-accepted theories of BMR. E.g. this one suggests your BMR is 2650 kcal/day; using 1.2x for sedentary lifestyle gives 3180 kcal/day, and you're adding a few hundred to that with exercise. So even if you were eating 2600 kcal/day, you should be seeing some weight come off.

You've done a fantastic job to get where you are, and you obviously have the mindset required to change your diet. Now it's time to get a professional involved.
posted by disconnect at 11:36 AM on February 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

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