Fighting the belly, losing weight and staying zen: advice needed!
August 14, 2016 6:07 PM   Subscribe

In the past year I've gained 50 pounds in my mid-section. I have learned this is a lot from stress aka cortisol. Am I doing the right things to lose it? Tips and help please.

Female, 31 years old. I am currently on a lo-carb diet where I eat of meat and veggies, basically a modified paleo diet with limited dairy and sugar. I am currently 253 lbs from a high of 260, looking to get down to 175 pounds.

I go to the gym every day. I work out on the modified AMT elliptical for 30 minutes and then do the stairmaster for 15 minutes. Every other day I add the weight machines to my workout and try to "lift heavy" in order to combat loose skin. I'm taking magnesium supplements and collagen supplement as well (Great Lakes). I take a multivitamin. I also do yoga 3x a week. I have lost 7 pounds since I started my regimen in earnest on August 1. I have stalled for the past week and I think it's really just about calorie counting from this point on. I have also learned how to manage stress better in this past year.

I am curious to know however what specific things I can do to combat this belly I have. My legs and arms are getting toned but I still feel that the cortisol/belly thing is the secret to unlocking my weight loss success. Any advice is welcomed, as I would love to tweak my regimen and get as fit and healthy as I can. Thanks hive.
posted by rabu to Health & Fitness (12 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Female here, a bit older than you, but I know about the belly-ness.

It may sound cliche, but when I was your age, I did 20-50 sit-ups a day. Back then, we didn't call them crunches, and it was nothing fancy, but my older sister did them, and so did I. Also, leg lifts, laying on my side. It was just something we did every night before bed.

When I belonged to a gym, I did the bike, and some weight machines, but I always went to the mats afterward and did crunches (aka, sit-ups), and the normal stretches that people do after a workout.

That's all I've got, I still have a belly, but I was so embarrassed when I picked up my daughter at daycare once, and a little girl asked me when I was going to have my baby, and it was because I'd stopped doing sit-ups.

I'm sure more experts will weigh in here (pun not intended, I've been over 200 lbs. before, so no judgey-ness on my part, whatsoever), but that's what worked for me back in the 1990's. Hope this helps! But seriously, I've grown to love my belly, and my husband loves it too, but I understand *completely* where you are coming from. It's always been my bane. Good luck!!!
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 6:29 PM on August 14, 2016 [3 favorites]

You can't spot reduce; fat is going to come off overall, from wherever it's going to. It is just going to take patience and consistency - your midsection will reduce in size sooner or later.

But what's this stall you're talking about, you're losing at a fast clip; -2 lbs/week is considered an appropriate (max, top-end) rate of loss for someone at a high BMI, like it's the fastest you'd want to be losing. You've lost 7 lbs in two weeks. Much of which I'm assuming is water, if you've just started a low carb plan, that's expected the first two weeks. But in general, you don't want to lose too quickly, that's a good way to lose more muscle than you want to. You should be hoping to see around a 1-2 lb loss next week, and most weeks after that.

(The needle on the scale won't necessarily move in a regular, linear way, it might show a loss of 1 lb one week, none the next, and three the one after that. And some of it will be water, some will be fat, some will be muscle. You just have to be consistent and patient, and watch the trend. And hang on to as much muscle as possible on the way down.)

How tall are you / what's your estimated TDEE, and how many calories are you consuming now?

If you're concerned about interference from cortisol, all you can really do is continue to work on stress management, and get enough sleep. (Maybe get a blood panel, if you think there might be additional hormonal factors.)

Your commitment is admirable! But I'm thinking your enthusiasm might not be helping you meet your goal of reducing stress. Changing your diet (at all) can be stressful on its own. Calorie reduction definitely is, so are all these new physical challenges you're introducing to your body (including connective tissue - 150 minutes of cardio a week is a recommended minimum for everyone, daily activity is ideal, and I'm super glad your exercise choices are low impact, but have you ramped up to this frequency, or did you go from 0 to 60?)

If you're worried about cortisol, I would say, maybe give a bit more time to stress reduction.
posted by cotton dress sock at 6:56 PM on August 14, 2016 [7 favorites]

I recommend bodyweight workouts and high intensity interval training to anyone who's able. You can do a lot with minimal time and equipment! Just add a few reps each day and work your way up. No need to go wild.

Classics: plank, pushup, pullup, dip, superman, wall sit, squat, lunge, leg raise, burpee, bridge, bicycle or myotatic crunch, jumps.

To keep your metabolism up, try a cheat day and a fasting day once every 1-2 weeks. Get lots of sleep!
posted by fritillary at 7:02 PM on August 14, 2016 [7 favorites]

Yeah, you're losing weight at a reasonable rate. I'm doing a hodge podge diet plan of "eat a lot of vegetables and walk 10,000 steps a day" and I lose about 1-2 lbs a week. Last week I thought I didn't lose any, then I weighed myself this week and I'd lost 3 lbs, so probably I just had to like... go to the bathroom, or something. Weight loss/management is a marathon, not a sprint.
posted by stoneandstar at 7:10 PM on August 14, 2016 [4 favorites]

Losing more than 2 pounds a week is unhealthy. You are really just earning your initial loss. Hang in there. This is a long slow journey. It's ok to workout less and eat some carbs. Try to hit a lifestyle you are happy living with for the rest of your life. The goal is to realize you feel better when you excercise and eat well and want to maintain those habits.
posted by Kalmya at 7:47 PM on August 14, 2016 [8 favorites]

Congrats on your success. I too have a belly (from baby) and one thing that has worked well for me (on recommendation of health professional) was doing more ab work. Reasoning from health professional was that if you tone the tummy muscles, things look a little less flabby around the belly as you continue to lose the weight. I definitely find that to be true.
posted by Toddles at 12:19 AM on August 15, 2016

50 lbs up or down in a year is significant.
Since you are asking about stress my response would be to include mental with your physical health. Are you now dealing ok with stressors that led to or triggered this gain? Are you getting enough sleep? Have you gotten time off in a while? Weightloss can be very much a mental game. Re having a belly, well, bellies are much more natural to humanity/mammals than a six pack. Especiallyvas you get older. You can be thinner but a flat stomach might require a lot of extreme working out. Sounds like you have a good physical plan. I would say just give yourself time and treat yourself with compassion and care.
posted by emjaybee at 5:56 AM on August 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

My husband is doing low carb/paleo style with no sugar no dairy now since 12 weeks. The programme he follows includes one so called load day where he can eat carbs even sugar every seventh day. Initially he skipped it thinking he will lose faster if he does. However in week 4 loss stalled and whenhe researched why it turned leaving out carbs entirely skipping the load day this caused the stop in weight loss. Apparently the body needs carbs ever so often to kick start the calory burning. As all the info he has found is in german i wont link but it was all stuff about the production of a hormone (?) Needed to burn fat. Anyway since he eats carb once a week plus excersise he looses about 1 pound per week and belly has visibly shrunk.
posted by 15L06 at 6:43 AM on August 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

Just double checked, what he looked into and found abundant info on was leptin production, eg making sure your body produces leptin by strategically eating carbs.
posted by 15L06 at 6:53 AM on August 15, 2016

Head over to the reddit site:

That's where women doing low carb hang out, and it's a nice community.

As others have said, you can't really choose where to lose weight from, but strength training and a low carb/high fat/moderate protein diet can do wonders, and quite quickly!

I lost 35lbs in 4 months without any exercise. I liked where I landed after 4 months, and have maintained for 8 months. I still eat low carb, but at a calorie level designed for maintenance, rather than weight loss.

Here's an easy calculator to determine your macros (how many net carbs, protein, and fat to aim for each day.) The fat is important, because when you're low carb, you'll need fat for energy. The protein is important, to protect from losing muscle mass. It sounds like you're already doing a great job. One note about the calculator -- put it at sedentary or lightly active, even though you're working out, and try a 20% calorie deficit to start.

You can also check out ketogains -- which is where people who eat low carb and are really into exercising hang out.

The magnesium supplement is dead-on, but you should also be supplementing salt and potassium. Losing water weight flushes electrolytes out of your system.

Take your body measurements to track success, because exercising and strength training will build your muscles, and bring water retention with it -- the scale will hide your fat loss, but measurements won't lie to you.

Your "stall" could easily be a reflection of water retention due to working out, but it is also extremely likely that it's related to your menstrual cycle. Have you had your period since starting low carb? Many many MANY women -- most in fact - retain water during PMS and "shark week", so the scale will read higher and you'll feel bigger in your clothes. Most see a sudden loss of weight as soon as your period is over. TOTALLY normal.

Seriously -- head over to xxketo, because there's a wealth of knowledge about what it means to be a woman eating low carb over there. For example, you might have a super heavy period the first month or two after starting low carb.

I disagree with the one day carb loading suggestion - especially as a woman with hormones, but the ketogains folks will likely have a wealth of experience and suggestions on that.
posted by vitabellosi at 8:49 AM on August 15, 2016 [7 favorites]

Let me take a different tack for you to think of: aside from weight loss, is there anything else you'd like to accomplish with all this exercise? For example, do you want a run a 10k? Do you want to do the local charity 50 mile bike ride? Do you want to hike down the Grand Canyon or a chunk of a interstate trail like the Appalachian Trail? If not, that's fine. If you've had something like this in mind before that you've been wanting to do, though, this would be a good time to train for it. Having a goal like that gives you something to look forward to, it gives you a reason to train, and it can push you on those days where you just don't wanna go to the gym. (And you'll have plenty of those days.) The goal of a Canyon hike pushed me to lose 50 pounds.
posted by azpenguin at 11:02 PM on August 15, 2016 [2 favorites]

What you are doing is working. I wouldn't make any drastic changes. Google post induction stall.
posted by callmejay at 11:08 AM on August 16, 2016

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