How'd you lose those last 10 lbs?! Tell me!
March 26, 2014 8:48 PM   Subscribe

Were you ever not overweight or fat, but not fit either? Have you always had a belly, extra weight in your midsection? Did you have 10 lbs to lose? Did you lose it? If so, how?

Of course, I understand the "Eat less, move more" stuff and I do believe I eat relatively healthy - I'm vegetarian, love my veggies and fruits, drink plenty of water, only eat brown whole grains, don't drink soda or the 'real' junk food like pizza or fries. I work out about 2-3 times a week, where I run for about 20 minutes and then do some crunches, squats, lunges, whatnot. I don't overextend myself, and I certainly don't deprive myself. Love my beer. Love my pasta.

However, while I seem slender in clothes, I'm packing a LOT of belly fat and huge love handles, and as I get older (I'm 22 yr old female), it seems harder and harder to lose. I just look flabby everywhere and feel squishy. I have rolls.

I'm at 121 lbs at 5'2. I'm not overweight and I guess I'm at an average, health-wise. At a risk of people thinking this is all in my head, here are some photos of me (I recently lost 3 lbs after ramping up my workout and stopping drinking sugary starbucks drinks, so took before and after.)

121 lbs ... le sigh

Were you like me? Not fat, but not fit? How'd you lose the last 10 lbs, specifically? How can I include this in a simple way in my lifestyle? I'm making positive changes in my life, as I'm moving out and getting a new job...What exercises/diet changes helped you?
posted by rhythm_queen to Health & Fitness (48 answers total) 38 users marked this as a favorite
It's all in your head.

Your BMI is smack dab in the middle of normal. It sounds like you take good care of your body, including occasional indulgences. The way you carry your weight seems normal for a woman of childbearing age (and will be hard to lose specifically because your body wants to retain it's babymakin' abilities. That's what all that squish is for.) While I'm sure that other people will give you advice about, say, going paleo and doing cross-fit or whatnot, as someone who was around your weight at my lowest but even then struggled with poor body image and not letting me be happy with myself because I, you know, had a body, I want to suggest that you work on extending kindness to yourself.

I see pictures of myself at 22 and think, "Damn, I looked good and was super healthy and I have no idea why I was always clutching my (tiny) belly and complaining about it."
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:55 PM on March 26, 2014 [26 favorites]

I don't overextend myself, and I certainly don't deprive myself. Love my beer. Love my pasta.

For a final 10lbs. (which according to your pictures IMHO, you don't really need to lose), give up the beer and pasta and you'll see that go away fairly quickly.

But you don't look average so much as incredibly fit. I'm just saying that carbohydrates cut (especially empty calories/carbs, like beer) will maintain weight more easily than any other food.
posted by xingcat at 8:57 PM on March 26, 2014

@xingcat, you think that I look incredibly fit? I don't know if those are bad photos or something, because definitely my lovehandles and bellyfat cover any muscles I have. My arms are also very flabby.

Agh the pasta and beer! I don't know if I can do that, but I can certainly try to cut down.

Thank you for the answers so far.
posted by rhythm_queen at 9:03 PM on March 26, 2014

How do you feel about adding in some weight lifting (free weights, not the dopey machines)? I predict a few months in the gym, coupled with lowering your carb intake, will do the trick.
posted by nacho fries at 9:03 PM on March 26, 2014 [5 favorites]

There's a really noticeable difference in your before and after photos, especially in the back. So keep up what you're doing! Doing something with weights (whether regular lifting or a body sculpt class) might be the extra boost you want.

Also, I'm sure you know, but muscle weighs more than fat. So you might feel more encouraged if you rate your progress by how your clothes fit, how you look in the mirror/pictures, and how you feel rather than by what the scale says.
posted by oinopaponton at 9:05 PM on March 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

I have had friends lose their last ten pounds with the paleo diet, counting calories, exercising more, etc, but the best result I personally have had was with the South Beach diet phase 1 and high intensity interval training (HIIT).

I was similar to you in that I was petite (size 0) and looked slim but always had extra padding. I wasn't fat but my fat to muscle composition wasn't so great. When I did the South Beach diet, I lost seven pounds my first two weeks and most of that was in my abdomen. I didn't have a gut but I could definitely pinch a fat roll on my stomach.

Coupled with running every other day for about 20 minutes, I finally started getting the definition in my arms and legs where the fat kind of "burned off". I used to run regularly but when I heard about HIIT, that's when I started to see my body change.

Essentially I would run really hard as fast as I could until I just couldn't and then walk until I recovered enough to do it again. I would repeat this three to four times which meant my workout was less than half an hour.

Doing this resulted in the best shape of my life. And with the South Beach diet I didn't even need to count calories. Like I said, I know people who lost weight other ways so I guess what I'm sharing is what worked for me.
posted by loquat at 9:10 PM on March 26, 2014 [9 favorites]

Oh girl I am right there with you. Not a size 8, just a fat size 6. Old clothes don't fit, sizing up makes me look like I'm falling out of my clothes. Belly fat, love handles. I HATE IT. and it didn't start until I turned 24!

I have been trying what I just found out is the improvised version of South Beach phase 1, and it seems to be working so far! I feel and look slightly thinner (I don't have a scale so it's hard to say how I've changed). BUT, do I want to live without sugary drinks, beer and pasta? No, not really. So I'm torn and I'm hoping I can just find a new size/new clothes and be chill with my new weight. (Sizing up just isn't as simple as it would seem... plus my boobs feel huge and so even clothes that fit everywhere else look strained in the chest. :\ )
posted by stoneandstar at 9:22 PM on March 26, 2014

Check out r/xxfitness over on reddit.

Diet wise I'll recommend paleo, or something close to it (sorry, noticed you are a vegetarian after posting). I also recommend getting into weightlifting, which xxfitness will give you pointers on.
posted by MillMan at 9:23 PM on March 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

You are not packing a LOT of belly fat and huge love handles. Do your best to stop thinking that way, and saying those kinds of things out loud, because that voice in your head gets louder and louder the more you indulge it, and it will only cause you pain, now and down the line.

That said, it sounds like you only go to the gym to lose weight and look better. And that's fine, but the time when I've been in the best shape in my life, it's been because I've been really passionate about some kind of activity and I can't get enough of it, usually because it's social, and because it's fun. So playing soccer four times a week, or doing a yoga challenge every day with my best friend. Find something you love, that you can't get enough of, and find a friend to do it with you. The bonus is that once you start thinking of your body as something that accomplishes very specific things, instead of just looking nice, it'll start looking a lot nicer to you.
posted by pretentious illiterate at 9:27 PM on March 26, 2014 [11 favorites]

It's all in your head.

This. I was 130lbs in high school, and at 6'1" that's pretty damn skinny. At my height, my normal BMI should be 144-182. These days, I'm 160 (158 just now, in fact) and when my body weight creeped up to 170 -- which turned out to be from a year's worth of a diet that also gave me high cholesterol -- people had just started telling me how good I looked, and how good my body looked, compared to my lighter weights.

So I switched to all the healthy things, and in five months I dropped the 10lbs. Actually, I got down to 150, in part due to a brief illness. People started commenting that I needed to get that weight back up. Meanwhile, I still felt like I had a huge belly compared to what I "should" have.

That's because I'm comparing a belly of an adult with the belly I had as a kid, and that's patently unrealistic. Meanwhile, everyone else is just looking at me -- and at you -- and thinking "hey, this is how they look" without making that comparison, so what looks like big bellies for you and me is actually nothing at all for everyone else.

It's all in your head.

Having said that: if you really do want to be healthier, and maybe lose a little weight, here's the diet I've been following more or less for the last five months that lost the ten pounds and (more importantly for you) what I saw (erroneously) as a too-big belly:

Breakfast: oatmeal, green tea.

Lunch: sushi and salad, or sushi and vegetable soup. More often than not the sushi is fake (california roll) so that I'm not eating too much fish too often.

Dinner: I eat what I feed my kids, so some kind of cooked vegetable, some kind of cooked grain, some kind of cooked meat (pork cutlet or turkey cutlet, typically.)

What I don't eat or drink any more: muffins, candy, chai tea lattes, pasta, and all the other little things I was eating that I didn't think mattered that much but turned out to be awful for me. That was the stuff I'd added to my diet in the year that my health declined and my weight went up, despite doing a lot more exercise in that period. Also, no alcohol.

But remember: that diet I'm on, and all the exercise in the world -- I run up and down stairs every day, I ride my bike, and so on -- will never, NEVER get my belly back to what it looked like as a teen, and it would be foolish of me to try for it. For men and for women, curves here and there make you sexier, not less so. Be healthy, but don't sweat the curves.
posted by davejay at 9:31 PM on March 26, 2014 [9 favorites]

How can I include this in a simple way in my lifestyle?

I'm not sure if this will fall under the "simple" category, but it might be a a nice enhancement to your new, improved lifestyle: taking up a martial art, esp one that involves some training with gloves/bag. It's social, it'll whip you into tip-top shape, and you'll feel like you rule the world.

(I just ditched my final few pounds by punching and kicking the crap out of a bag just once a week, plus low carb-high fat. It's a killer combo.)
posted by nacho fries at 9:32 PM on March 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

It's pretty quick and painless to drop a few pounds by cutting down on bloat. Try switching from beer to vodka, and eating the super-fiber pasta instead of regular. Try to eat more fiber, in general. This probably isn't true for everyone, but I also tend to do better with little/no dairy.
posted by rue72 at 9:36 PM on March 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

I am about your height and weight and trying to lose my little "love handles" too.
Previously I got down to about 112 lbs and looked super sleek but I had to give up ALL eating out for a month, went completely macrobiotic, and exercised 45 min a day every day.
My current lifestyle can't support this indefinitely (a lot of my social life involves going out to eat) so I put the weight back on gradually and I'm trying to lose it again. I've been doing p90x3 and watching what I eat and starting to see results, and it's a more sustainable program for me. I don't expect to see the results I really want until I do the program twice or so, though, since I haven't seen following the eating plan to a t.
posted by raw sugar at 9:37 PM on March 26, 2014

If you're like me, you find it difficult to stick to the regimen of a diet. Somewhere I read that if we can just diet one day a week, we'll go a long way toward maintaining a good weight. I tried that. It wasn't particularly effective. I decided to diet every other day. Still, that didn't seem effective enough. Now I'm throwing in two days in a row of dieting at least once a week, while still doing one day on and one day off. Now THAT does the trick. I'm active at my job but too busy to work out. I can't say my muscle tone is great, but I'm certainly not packing the poundage either. I plan to do this for life. If I could follow this diet regime and add in exercise, I'd be in excellent shape. My diet? Cut out all carbs. Otherwise and in general minimize all bread, wheat-based product, except maybe one day a week or so. And good luck. There is excellent advice from all the posters.
posted by zagyzebra at 9:39 PM on March 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

As a person who is more than 100 lbs overweight and has lost 15 lbs through careful attention to diet and exercise in the past 5 weeks, I find your situation a bit difficult to empathize with.

If you (and your doctor; I would strongly recommend asking your doctor before starting any weight-loss regimen) are sure that it would be wise for you to lose ten pounds, then the simple fact of the matter is that you must, over a reasonable time span, eat 35,000 fewer kilocalories than you expend.

You can compute the number of kilocalories that you eat by only eating foods which have "Nutrition Facts" (or your local governmentally-approved equivalent) labels on their containers, and/or by only eating at restaurants which publish their foods' nutrition facts.

Likewise, you can compute the number of kilocalories that you expend by using a Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) calculator and then adding the additional number of kilocalories you expend due to exercise.

Once you have accurately calculated these numbers and consulted with your physician, the only thing you need to do in order to achieve your weight loss goal is to eat the requisite number of kilocalories fewer than you expend, over the course of several weeks, so that you end up with a net deficit of 35,000 kcal.

Once you reach that point, you will have lost 10 lbs of body fat.
posted by Juffo-Wup at 9:46 PM on March 26, 2014

Forget the scale. Focus on body composition. Lift weights. Heavy weights. You're problem is most likely not needing to "lose 10 lbs", but rather to "have less body fat percentage".
posted by jclovebrew at 9:46 PM on March 26, 2014 [20 favorites]

I need to lose weight, and have gone from 136kg to 108kg over the past 6 months. The goal is 90kg. As I understand it, to be really successful I am going to have to cut out breakfast. I've already cut out almost all carbs except for rice at lunch, and that is going to have to go.

FWIW, I'm 43 so I don't think I need all that many calories to keep going during the day.

I don't think this is a conversation about body image or aesthetics. This for me is about reducing weight so I no longer need to take medication for high blood pressure.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:50 PM on March 26, 2014

For what it's worth, my sister has lost over 100 lbs through a lot of eating smart and commitment, and she has the same trouble with the last 10 pounds-- as a lot of people do. It's a toughie.
posted by stoneandstar at 10:00 PM on March 26, 2014

You need to work out more. It'll change your shape and it'll help you lose the belly. Work up to running for an hour at a time and add focus to your workouts, especially core strength to start. Once you have reasonable core strength and a bit more cardio fitness you can do anything fun and get a good workout out of it: kick boxing, soccer etc
posted by fshgrl at 10:03 PM on March 26, 2014

What jclovebrew said times 1000. We are almost exactly the same height and weight. I was the same weight four months ago, but my waist was 2.5" bigger. I switched from running all the damn time to running serious intervals some of the time, and lifting heavy weights the rest of the time (I started with New Rules of Lifting for Women). It was actually sort of shocking how quickly my body changed, and this is after years of serious distance running and clean eating and never really looking super lean.
posted by peachfuzz at 10:06 PM on March 26, 2014 [9 favorites]

Oh, the other thing - at 5'2", you really don't have a lot of calories to work with. I maintain my weight at around 1200-1300 calories a day even with the exercise. To lose pounds, I have to cut below 1000 calories a day. That's really tough, and just eating healthy-ish isn't enough, you're into weighing and tracking grams of food to hit macros and get enough nutrients without going over. It sucks to be short and only a few pounds away from goal.

You can decide if that seems worth it to you for those last few pounds; working on changing your body composition instead is nice because you have a little tiny bit more room to eat like a human.
posted by peachfuzz at 10:51 PM on March 26, 2014 [3 favorites]

For what it's worth, while I don't think you 'need' to lose weight, I also don't think it's necessarily all in your head. I was 5'2 and 120lbs at the start of January this year; around two months on, I've dropped to 110lbs and my body looks pretty rockin'. (Plus, I feel great and my fitness levels are better than ever.) That said, I started out from a baseline of not exercising at all.

What I did (and continue to do):
- some form of high intensity exercise almost every day. I started with the Jillian Michaels 30 Day Shred, did that for a month straight, and moved on to some of her other workouts plus, lately, early-morning gym classes.
- more recently, I started walking at least 10k steps per day on top of my other exercise. This is more for my mental health, but it's definitely had an effect on my weight loss as well, and I find myself regularly walking 'just one more mile' to beat the previous day's step count.
- I eat almost the same things every day, and prep food for a week in advance. Usually my breakfast consists of oatmeal with blueberries and a hardboiled egg; lunch is black bean soup and Greek yogurt; dinner is some kind of fish (I'm pescetarian) with, lately, a slice of zucchini casserole. For snacks I have things like a microwaved sweet potato with cottage cheese, nuts and dried fruit, and mini hummus sandwiches. I love all of this food and do not feel deprived, which I think has been key to sticking with it.
- lastly, I quit weighing myself and counting calories. This is very much a YMMV decision; I decided to quit checking calorie counts because I was getting obsessive about it. If I have a slice of pecan pie, I don't judge myself over it. You sound like you're in a great headspace re: food, so hopefully you won't slip into obsessiveness.
posted by littlegreen at 11:02 PM on March 26, 2014 [16 favorites]

I've got about your build and am your height; I was your weight for most of my life and eventually a fair bit heavier, around 135. A few years ago I lost 30 lbs, but most of it unhealthily, and now seem to be set at like 112-115.

I won't lecture you for wanting to lose weight, because hey, that's the cultural mandate, right? And feeling comfortable in your body is actually a thing that you deserve to work toward. That said, perspective IS important. There's a tradeoff when you're not a kid anymore, and for me those tradeoffs go:
-I can weigh 105 lbs, as long as I'm eating one meal a day and working out constantly and smoking cigarettes and hating the world. Uh, pass.
-I can weigh 110 lbs, as long as I never eat tacos or ice cream. So like, why bother being alive? Pass.
-I can weigh 115 lbs, or even a little less, as long as I work out regularly and make sure only ONE of the things I eat that day is bad for me. (Holla at me, steak taco!) This is an acceptable compromise, and so that's where I'm at.

What I'm saying is, if you love your pasta and your beer, maybe you can learn to love 121 lbs too. LOTS OF THINGS taste as good as thin feels. ;)
posted by like_a_friend at 11:06 PM on March 26, 2014 [21 favorites]

Nthing weight/resistance training. You're not fat, but you have very little muscle on your frame. This is why you look soft even at a normal BMI.

Add resistance training and focus on getting stronger. Not only will you look better, but the additional muscle will burn calories all day long.

For cardio, high intensity work (sprints, tabata, HIIT), beats regular, steady-state, low-intensity cardio hands down.
posted by Broseph at 11:34 PM on March 26, 2014 [5 favorites]

1. Quit running start lifting
2. Count everything you eat every day for at least 4 months so you understand what you are doing - calories and macros, and make sure you eat more protein than carbs, shoot for 100 g of protein or more per day and as few carbs as possible
3. Quit pasta and beer - those foods are birthday-only level treats.
4. Eat meat. Lots of it.

Or just accept your body.

It's a lot of work to get to a low bodyfat percentage and it's hard to maintain. Decide if you want abs or if you want to keep pasta in your life.

No judgement either way it's just a choice to make.
posted by littlewater at 11:57 PM on March 26, 2014

I'm 30 years older than you but a similar height and a bit heavier but fit and reasonably content with my size (4-6). To lose the last 10 pounds I tracked everything I ate with MyFitnessPal, was pretty abstemious and was at a wilderness residency where I was hiking for hours every day. Not sustainable in normal life. I find to keep my weight where I want it to be I need to work out 3-6 times a week. 3 of those times are a mix of HIIT/Tabata and weight training, the others are just brisk walking or hiking for an hour. I'm not willing to lead a totally abstemious life and would rather work out an hour most days than quit all carbs. I like being fit and strong and to me that's far more important than the last 10 pounds.

That said - you are a woman and we're meant to carry some fat. It's evolutionarily programmed into us as protection for theoretical pregnancies and nursing so it's extremely hard to get rid of. And - your photos look good to me so I think you have to re-think how you're approaching your body image with more love and respect for what your body is. Good habits and moving most days will set you up well for the rest of your life in a sustainable way.
posted by leslies at 4:29 AM on March 27, 2014 [4 favorites]

Up the intensity & frequency of your work outs (but not necessarily the duration).

Eat only when you are hungry and stop the instant you feel that tingly full feeling.

Go easy on the bread, cheese & yoghurt. Switch to whole grains (lentils & brown rice).
posted by St. Peepsburg at 4:35 AM on March 27, 2014

Ive lost about 50lbs in the past 13 months (I'm about 5'3" and 10-15lbs more), and am also struggling with those last few pounds. I went a long stretch (10 months!) without weighing myself at all. Then I got on the scale last November. Once you go on, it becomes hard to stop checking the scale, and can become obsessive about it. While the scale can be a good reference, it also does not tell you a full picture.

After I gained 1.5 lbs in a single week but was fitting into my smaller size 6s, I decided to put the scale on hold. I started adding some upper body work, planks, and various floor exercises. Maybe I gained some muscle? Maybe I was retaining water? Who knows. But a small gain and fitting into a smaller size happens. The scale does and can lie.

I'm of the mindset that it's really stupid to give up stuff. It's just not practical. It's better to learn to live with "a little of this, a little of that" than to have a diet built around obsessive rules. Obsessive dietary rules just don't seem sustainable for the rest of your life. Believe it or not, I eat full-fat, creamy delicious gelato multiple times a week, and I'm getting visible abs.

Try new exercises. Mix it up to breakup the workout monotony. I badly sprained my ankle last month and switched out running for hill walking (jacking up the incline on the treadmill, even maxing it out), which is my new favorite cardio (and also works your legs really hard!). Focus on getting strong and finding ways to enjoy your new strength by challenging yourself. You look great and fit to me. You look healthy!
posted by raztaj at 4:41 AM on March 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

You're young, and your belly is pretty flat, which is good news. I'm not going to say "it's all in your head," because most of our perceived flaws are all in our head anyway, but, well, if you went outside in a sports bra and shorts, I think any looks you attracted would be looks of approval.

It looks like you have a body type that tends to store weight around the middle - I'm somewhat similarly built (though larger); my back looks the same and I get muffin-toppy in any pants that fit my hips. At some point you just have to make your peace with it. Maybe not now, but, say, when you're 40, or if you plan on ever becoming pregnant, or if you get sick or injured and can't work out for months on end. It's just where the weight goes first and sticks around the longest.

For now, though, you're healthy and already following some good habits, so it's the perfect time for you to start. I agree with the advice to start lifting, and to lift heavy. Keep running, but work in some sprints.

And make sure you're getting plenty of protein, which can be hard to do with a vegetarian diet. Pasta, unfortunately, is nutritionally useless. You can still have it occasionally; if you cut your serving size down to a handful and toss a ton of veggies and the protein source of your choice into the sauce, you'll still be satisfied.
posted by Metroid Baby at 4:50 AM on March 27, 2014

I'm generally not against more exercise intensity and that sort of thing, and that's probably what you're really looking at, here--if you're not building much muscle tone, that's why you're still feeling squishy. And at your age, there's probably still a lot you can do about that. But at the same time, I'd caution against thinking of this body as depicted in those pictures as "a lot of belly fat". Women are meant to carry more body fat than men, and the sort of women you tend to see in magazines and in movies are often carrying less than is healthy. (And in stills, edited to the point where they're slimmer than is actually humanly possible.) Which is not to say that a lot is healthy, but what you're at now is not a lot, it's just--well, having an amount of flesh that is perfectly reasonable but also not usually depicted in media. There are no "huge love handles" in those pictures.

By all means, step up the workouts because you won't get any younger than you are right now and it'll be easier to get fitter now than it will be in five years or ten, but even celebrities in non-filming form are constantly all over the tabloids in unflattering pictures where you can see that their stomachs are not concave and they bulge slightly in ways that are totally normal for even fit bodies to bulge. Everyone alive has rolls when they bend certain ways because flesh has mass and has to go somewhere. Be careful with the negative self-talk. Positive self-talk breeds positive feelings, negative self-talk turns into a vicious cycle of awful. But at your age, if you focus on trying to do things that'll allow your body to accomplish more, you'll be better set for the rest of your life, so that part's not a bad goal at all.
posted by Sequence at 4:54 AM on March 27, 2014 [3 favorites]

Once you have accurately calculated these numbers and consulted with your physician, the only thing you need to do in order to achieve your weight loss goal is to eat the requisite number of kilocalories fewer than you expend, over the course of several weeks, so that you end up with a net deficit of 35,000 kcal.

Once you reach that point, you will have lost 10 lbs of body fat.

Quoted for being completely false. There is no way to guarantee that the only weight you lose is fat. Weight loss will always be a combination of muscle and fat, and if it is done indiscriminately through nothing but caloric restriction, a significant portion of the weight loss will be muscle (especially on someone as small as OP already).

Think of it this way: bodybuilders diet in the final weeks before competition to reduce their body fat so their muscles are more visible. These are people who have a methodical, laser focus on having as much muscle as possible and as little fat as possible. And ask any bodybuilder before a contest, and they will say they are weaker than they were a month prior. Even when you do everything exactly correct to the letter (including appropriate exercise and weighing your food out to the gram), you will lose muscle while losing body weight.


To the OP, girl, I feel ya. Weight training (specifically Starting Strength), interval cardio (hill sprints are dynamite, you can also do 6 burpees every minute for X minutes, jump rope, etc), and a very strict paleo diet were the first time in my life that I went from "I feel kind of flabby, I guess I should do something" to "Wow my body is completely different than it was six weeks ago."

Fair warning, you only get the holy shit full results of going low carb once (seriously, research shows that your body becomes resistant to low carb diets if you've done it multiple times), so make it count. You'll drop a lot of water weight and bloat all at once in the first week, but it takes longer to see durable results.
posted by telegraph at 6:31 AM on March 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

Just wanted to add that I think you look absolutely great in those photos. If you want to do more strength-bearing exercise, or try cutting out carbs or whatever, then go for it - it can be satisfying to change your body. But I hope you will try to enjoy and take pleasure in what your body looks and feels like as it is, too.

It's so easy to internalize all these notions of perfection, and catalog every way we supposedly fall short, and to let that keep us from enjoying being young and healthy. Like, I hear in your question that you can't fully appreciate or take pleasure in your body UNTIL you lose those last 10lbs/get arms that you don't consider flabby/lose all belly fat/etc. Can you consider trying to go ahead and love what you look like right now? I'm not saying to abandon your goal of trying to get more fit (I personally don't think you need to change a thing, but I'm not the one who gets to set your goals.). I'm just saying try to enjoy the process, instead of denying yourself the enjoyment until you've achieved some arbitrary (and very stringent) standard.
posted by aka burlap at 7:02 AM on March 27, 2014

I think you look great as you are! But, as someone of a similar age and size, I'm also not going to roll my eyes at your desire to shed a few pounds. In other words: I don't think you need to lose any weight, but if you want to lose a little bit to be more comfortable in your own skin, I think that's fine too. Ignore anyone who complains that your question is hard to empathize with or anything like that - you're asking for advice, not empathy.

Whenever I start feeling a little on the flabby side, I eat more protein and take more Pilates classes. The result is usually pretty quick for me; within just a couple of weeks my clothes start to feel looser and I look better naked. Really. You don't have to give up your beer and pasta (I could never!), but definitely add in some beans, tofu (if you like it), eggs, and other lean vegetarian proteins. Take anywhere from 3-5 Pilates classes/week and you'll really start to tone up.

Good luck!
posted by schroedingersgirl at 7:26 AM on March 27, 2014 [7 favorites]

Here's a comment I made about a year ago about my experience with HIIT and carb reduction. I was primarily doing stationary bike tabata and body weight/dumbbell workouts. At that point, I had lost about 13 lbs (198 to 185) and was pretty happy with how things were going. Since then, I've dropped another 13 lbs to get to my ideal weight.

I started getting bored with the bike tabata, so I cut that back to once a week, and I focused on timed interval bodyweight/dumbbell/resistance band workouts along with some other strength training. I follow a couple of Youtube channels for ideas to keep things interesting, but the biggest key has been that every routine has some kind of squat or lunge in it, usually a one-legged variation (Bulgarian squats and one-legged burpees are my faves, some folks swear by pistol squats). I also started using whey protein after workouts, and that made a pretty big impact as far as getting from the plateau in the 180s down into the 170s. I think it helped to add that extra bit of lean muscle mass to get me to a tipping point where I just started burning more calories, even at rest.

I haven't counted calories at all, but the big dietary changes have been to eliminate simple carbs as much as possible, add more lean protein and healthy fats, and to reduce my beer consumption by about 50%. Easy changes for me were to stop eating a bagel and banana for breakfast every morning and to replace that with plain Greek yogurt "sweetened" with 1/2 scoop of chocolate or vanilla whey protein powder (that's 30g protein, 12g carbs), and to replace snacks like chips & crackers with walnuts & almonds. Less easy was to eliminate pasta, but I did. Pizza's the hardest, because I make kickass pizza and my kids demand it. I just eat less of it.
posted by gimli at 8:18 AM on March 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

research shows that your body becomes resistant to low carb diets if you've done it multiple times

Research also shows the exact opposite. And my personal experience backs it up. I've been doing keto on and off (but mostly on) for almost 4 years, and last month decided to drop a few "vanity" pounds. I hopped back into full keto, and off those pounds went licketysplit. I did a DEXA scan, and the body composition numbers are all looking good. Doc says all the vitals are excellent, and I'm not on any meds whatsoever (at age 50-something). There's a reason people are so rabid about low carb/high fat -- it works, and it's sustainable, at least for some folks.

OP, I think the takeaway here, as you see people advocating radically different approaches, is that you may want to take an experimental approach to find what is healthy and happy-making for you. I'd tried many of the other approaches over the years, and it took trial-and-error to figure out what works for me. It's a process.
posted by nacho fries at 8:41 AM on March 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

I would guess as a vegetarian you consume more carbs than is good for you.

When I severely restricted my carbs I lost a pound a week, with zero exercise (I started at 124lbs at 5'4"). The belly and the rolls, that's all fat, and your beer and pasta are what's feeding that fat. Careful with whole grains and fruit: those are still carbs.

For motivation, I weigh myself every day and use the iPhone app TrueWeight to log the info. It helps me disregard the daily fluctuations and focus on my trendline, calculated by averaging the week's numbers.
posted by Dragonness at 8:46 AM on March 27, 2014

You and I are tiny and that makes losing the last ten pounds so hard.

I went on an insane diet and lost that ten pounds (and more - I was down to 88 at one point) but wouldn't recommend that to anybody because for me it ended with an anorexia diagnosis. I still think I'm fat and I am only 103 lbs or so (I no longer own a scale, which has been really good for me).

So, I guess what I am saying is: some of this is in your head. Do you really want to lose the final ten or do you think that once you get to 111 lbs that you might just keep sliding down to 100? If so, see a doctor.

In fact, I'm going to just recommend you see a doctor since any weight loss and exercise regimen should be overseen by a medical professional.
posted by sockermom at 9:11 AM on March 27, 2014

I lost my 10lbs. using old-style Atkins carb balancing. Cut down on carbs until you start losing weight; when you reach the weight you want, increase your carbs incrementally until you start gaining weight. Then go back one.

Pick up a used copy of the original Dr. Atkins Diet Revolution for a penny. It has the steps for finding your carb balance and that's all you really need. They've added a bunch of gold-plating about 'healthy fats' and so on in later versions, but that's just marketing. The basic advice is: don't eat too many carbs, find some exercise you enjoy doing. The actual form is up to you. I like the world's easiest HIT, because I can listen to a couple of songs and find I'm finished.

Incidentally, this is mainly advice for later in your life, when your carb tolerance will go down. You're in great shape at the moment! But I can sympathise with your desire to look a bit different.
posted by danteGideon at 9:22 AM on March 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

I am a 5'3" woman, I weigh 125lbs, so I am fairly pint-sized like you. What did it for me was taking up heavy lifting. At our size 20 mins of running, while good for the heart and fun and a stressbuster and all that, and I do it, is only probably 200 calories burned so doesn't do much for my body composition. I am not a doctor, coach or trainer able to give you a bunch of sources but full body compound lifts like squats and front squats and deadlifts and overhead presses performed heavily and progressed regularly changed my body a few years ago entirely and for the better while my weight stayed in and around the same (and lifting had positive effects on my confidence and discipline and energy and so on too, but that's another story).

To really lose the last couple lb I have to go low-carb, drop the bread and the potatoes and limit fruit and so on. Which being Irish I detest so have only done it a couple of times.
posted by jamesonandwater at 9:54 AM on March 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

I have never been technically overweight but I went from the higher end of my healthy BMI range (nearing 25) to the lower end (20.5) on Weight Watchers. As long as you are at least 5 pounds heavier than the bottom of the range for your height, you can join. After you reach your goal weight, you can attend meetings for free for life as long as you don't exceed your goal weight by more than 2 pounds. To me, the simple act of showing up at a meeting every week to have someone else weigh me has made all the difference.

I am a pescetarian and tend to eat healthy foods also... but it's easy to overeat even healthy food if you aren't paying close attention to portion sizes and meal times. WW really, really helps with this. It's flexible enough that you can truly eat whatever you would normally eat, but gives you a metric for keeping track without having to chart it down to the calorie. And it encourages eating a lot of fruit and vegetables, which are both "free."
posted by payoto at 10:06 AM on March 27, 2014

Nthing weight/resistance training. You're not fat, but you have very little muscle on your frame. This is why you look soft even at a normal BMI.

posted by Kwine at 10:19 AM on March 27, 2014

You kinda look like you could change drastically based on where in your cycle you are (menstrual). I'd avoid pasta and beer, avoid bloaty foods when you're feeling bloaty, and try doing core, balance, and posture exercises just to reinforece the muscles a bit.
posted by WeekendJen at 10:26 AM on March 27, 2014

Okay, I'm adding to the chorus of it's all in your head and you look great.

Do you count calories? I find it basically impossible to lose a pound without tracking exactly what I'm eating--even on days when I eat too much.

Also, I would consider adding more strength training into your exercise routine. I even think it might help with your self-esteem. For me at least, I find I'm happier with my body when I'm able to feel like my body is capable of doing awesome things.

I'm a pescatarian, and I try to follow a modified version of Eat to Live. Basically, I like that it advocates eating lots and lots of fresh fruit and vegetables and nutrient-dense foods. For me, at least, the approach of trying to eat at least a pound of vegetables a day has helped keep me from sliding into obsessive dieting routines that I have had issues with in the past.
posted by inertia at 10:33 AM on March 27, 2014

+1 on the weightlifting. Here's an article about a female powerlifter, with before and after photographs.
posted by d. z. wang at 8:45 PM on March 27, 2014

I was almost exactly your size for ~4 years at 5'2", from about 23 to 27, then gained another 10 to 15 pounds from 27 to 29 due to more sedentary job and eating out/rich foods multiple times a week. I was comfortable but not thrilled at your weight, and uncomfortable and unhappy when i got over 130.

About 2 years ago i started paleo (as a non-red-meat eater) and it made a huge difference. Energy went up, started dropping weight, and now sit at about 105 - thinnest i've been since high school. Only change i made exercise wise was to try to walk more often (think parking the car further from work, offering to help friend walk dogs, etc). I've kept weight off, and it's just a lifestyle now although i'm not nearly as strict these days as i was at the beginning.

I indulge these days in some white wine and will do grains occasionally, but seriously laying off the carbs/dairy helped immensely, and I now crave fruit/veggies instead of pasta/butter.

I'm not a huge believer in the philosophy behind it, but it definitely worked for me as well as quite a few people i know (if they were able to make it a lifestyle change) so i'd highly recommend exploring it.
posted by Schlani at 9:03 PM on March 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

Because of all the high-protein advice here, I feel like I should link this about the dangers of eating high-animal-protein diets, which may or may not apply (you are vegetarian but maybe future readers will not be).
posted by stoneandstar at 1:54 PM on March 28, 2014

A few things I'd suggest:

- Cut down on the pasta. As a former vegetarian, I went through years relying on pasta, but it's just a lot of calories and I never ate "one serving," which is ridiculously small. Treat pasta as an indulgence instead of a weekly or daily meal. I dropped a few pounds just by not eating pasta every week. I used to be so reliant on it and now I go months without eating it and I don't miss it at all.

- Beer. It's calories. If you're having one, no big deal, but if you're drinking three and also eating pasta, that's a lot of calories that you're probably unaware of.

- Count calories for a bit. You don't have to do this forever, but get a sense of what you eat and how many calories it contains. Download Lose It onto your phone and record what you eat for a week or two. And then look at what the app recommends as your daily intake to maintain your weight and to lose 10lbs. You're probably eating to maintain your weight if not a bit more.

- Exercise more. 20 mins of cardio 2-3 days a week is good for maintenance, but it's not going to help burn calories or convert fat into muscle.

hope that helps!
posted by vivzan at 12:59 PM on March 31, 2014

You lose the last 10 the same as you lose any weight; reduce the calories and increase the exercise. Can you give up/ reduce beer and pasta every other week? Add 1 more workout day every week? There's some evidence that getting adequate sleep helps with weight loss, so make sure you have a reasonable schedule. And fiber helps your body regulate metabolism and insulin, so try to make it whole grain pasta, or substitute brown rice at least some of the time.

To specifically reduce unhealthy fat, some people say to reduce cortisol by managing stress. So maybe add 10+ minutes of meditation a day.

You look and sound quite healthy and gorgeous, and I hope you can really hear everyone's genuine compliments.
posted by theora55 at 11:28 AM on April 2, 2014

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