Losing weight in your 30s
March 8, 2020 9:24 PM   Subscribe

Did you manage to lose weight in your thirties and kept it off? If yes, how did you do it? I'm only interested in personal experiences, thank you.
posted by simmering octagon to Health & Fitness (34 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
Portion control and weight training.
posted by mr_roboto at 9:38 PM on March 8, 2020 [2 favorites]

Intermittent fasting and caloric restriction. Lost 20 lbs (over about 1-2 years) which made me too thin, have gained 5 lbs back and am now at ideal/healthy weight although I want more muscle. Note I did very little exercise during this time. Once I start going to the gym, I gain, regardless of what I'm doing there.

35/cis female if that helps
posted by CancerSucks at 9:44 PM on March 8, 2020 [2 favorites]

Caveat: I'm only in my early 30s, and recently gaining weight due to pregnancy. I recognise I still have a lot of my 30s to go!

I started exercising and found I gained weight- that was muscle weight, as I had lost weight through better diet, but was an unfit person. However, regular exercise (weights once a week, gym cardio session once a week, ride bike 10 minutes each way to work) has helped me be fitter, feel better, and maintain a healthy weight.

Before pregnancy etc, I found fasting an interesting thing to poke at- either by fasting from something (I don't drink alcohol, so for me febfast was sugary carbonated drinks) for a set amount of time, or trying 5:2 or the time shift ones (don't eat from x until y time).
posted by freethefeet at 9:48 PM on March 8, 2020

Walked 40-60 minutes every day and cut my meat intake down to twice a week (I allowed myself an extra meat portion on high exercise days). I lost 50 pounds over the course of a year and kept it off until menopause. I still do the above things.
posted by frumiousb at 11:05 PM on March 8, 2020 [6 favorites]

Drugs to straighten out my metabolism. Metformin for my insulin resistance, vitamin D supplements and synthroid for wonky thyroid gave me energy enough to keep up an exercise regime (30 minutes of fast cardio 2-3 times a week) as well as motivation to stick to low-GI food at set intervals (3 meals + bedtime snack). The first two + same diet and exercise even worked on my mid-sixties mother, who lost 15% of her body weight in 8 months without much strain.
posted by I claim sanctuary at 11:30 PM on March 8, 2020 [2 favorites]

My ex did the Tim Ferris 4 hour body slow-carb diet. Basically he religiously ate only beans, veggies, and meat 6 days a week, with one weekly high-carb cheat day, and some walking but no real workouts. It’s similar to keto but has more beans.

He started at 350 lbs, lost about 120 pounds in a year, bringing him to an “ideal” weight for his height, and has only gained back about 30 lbs in the next 5 years. His 65 year old mom lost about 40 lbs on the same diet that year; not sure if she’s kept it off.
posted by nouvelle-personne at 12:15 AM on March 9, 2020

I (6' 2" cis male) went from 230 to under 180 by:

a) removing junk food from what was a pretty reasonable diet otherwise (not vegetarian or low carb, but no excess and lots of veggies); and
b) riding my bike a lot.

In general, riding a bike isn't any better at burning calories than anything else, but if you're young and have a small amount of natural athletic ability as I did, you can burn 1000cal/hr on a bike by riding very fast. Now that I'm in my 40s, riding helps, but it doesn't strip away the pounds like it used to.
posted by klanawa at 12:43 AM on March 9, 2020

Calorie restriction and weight training. Cutting out sugar (though not religiously so) made the calorie restriction easier.
posted by Anonymous at 3:44 AM on March 9, 2020

MyFitnessPal. I'm a rule-follower to the extreme, so having specific numbers I had to hit kept my (eating - exercise) calories balanced when I wanted to maintain, negative when I wanted to lose. The app made it easy for me to implement, since I just had to quickly log things throughout the day and could even scan barcodes on the (rare) occasions I consumed packaged foods.

This worked for me specifically because I'm so rigid in my thinking and behavior. I'd only recommend it to folks who will be at least as anal about logging what they eat/do and adjust based on the numbers. Otherwise it (a) won't work and (b) will feel like work. Also: note that for some, this kind of tracking can trigger/exacerbate disordered eating, so think about your needs/tendencies carefully to make sure you stay safe and healthy while working toward your goals.
posted by cranberry_nut at 3:50 AM on March 9, 2020 [2 favorites]

I am in my mid 30s, and lost 50 pounds in 2019 by changing my diet from "lots of takeout from Postmates" to "lots of Healthy Choice / Lean Cuisine freezer meals." So, portion control and diet change. I also started walking more often, and joined coworkers in training for a 5k (which I did finish, albeit with the slowest time in the company). I could still eat better, but I'm proud of myself for making lifestyle changes I actually stuck with.
posted by Alterscape at 5:23 AM on March 9, 2020 [2 favorites]

Yes, and now in my late 40s it gets harder to do but the process is the same. Echoing a lot of the advice above.
  • Caloric restriction is where it all starts, using an app to track calories was mandatory (at least for me) and although MyFitnessPal worked fine, there are other apps that take a more holistic approach. Instead of asking for precise calorie counts, instead they ask you to rate your meals by size (Small, Medium, Large) and perceived healthiness (Not very, Somewhat, Mostly). Your preference has a lot to do with your personality I think.
  • An occasional intermittent fast was very useful for me, but the reason is more psychological than physical. What happens during the light fast (meaning that I didn't abstain from eating but I kept it under 400 calories eating certain foods: typically avocados and sweet potatoes) is that it reset my mind to accept a degree of hunger. I find that this tolerance for being slightly hungry carried over once I broke the fast and I become much more aware of my choices.
  • Speaking of choices, I made a simple switch that I felt had long lasting implications: eating solely whole grains. The issue with white bread and refined carbs is that the more I expose my body to them, the more I crave them. So now it's brown rice instead of white rice. Whole wheat breads instead of processed. Oatmeal in the morning instead of cereal. I'm amazed by how the period between meals no longer feels like a waiting game to me.
  • My last piece of advice is about exercise. In my 20s I could kick up my activity level for a few weeks and lose a few pounds almost by will. Nowadays, that... doesn't work. My suggestion when it comes to combining exercise and dietary changes is to *not* make major changes all at once. Strength training and aerobic exercise are awesome, but they increase your metabolism and can make you hungrier. Again, these choices are all personal, but what worked for me is setting a reasonable goal for steps (in my case 7500, which still feels like a lot) and then being ruthless about meeting that goal. Aiming for consistency is more important than anything else. Going to the gym requires discipline, it's so freaking easy to make excuses. When it comes to walking though? Well, short of sickness and extreme weather, there's no excuse for not getting your steps in, plus it's helped me appreciate my neighborhood and town more.
  • Here's what happened for me: When I focused primarily on my calorie intake and hitting my step goal for 30 days, at a certain point my body started wanting to do more exercise. I was now in tune with my body and I started listening and upped the game by doing strength training and aerobic.
In general, making lifestyle changes require a lot more patience than you may be used to. Using the scale to measure your progress is very controversial, I personally found it useful, but I had to work very hard to temper my expectations, your weight tends to fluctuate naturally, so there are days when you feel like you did everything "right" and there's no change or maybe it even went up. However, over time (and we're talking a period of two months) seeing that little chart with it's downward trend was very motivational to me. I lost roughly 20 pounds to get back down to the "standard" weight I had in my 20s and have been able to maintain that for years. YMMV.
posted by jeremias at 5:27 AM on March 9, 2020 [9 favorites]

I (F, 36) have a bit of a hurdle in that PCOS was making it difficult to keep weight off without dramatic changes. So I took up running 5 days a week, cutting out the majority of carbs (except rice noodles) and processed foods (so I basically eat meats and vegetables with very little frills) and reduced my sugar intake to less than 15 grams a day. I’ve managed to stay around 130 pounds and a size I threw in intermittent fasting a few months ago which also helps but I’ll be honest what works for me currently is such a delicate balance that one little setback, like a cold, ruins it hard.
posted by Young Kullervo at 5:30 AM on March 9, 2020 [1 favorite]

Drugs to straighten out my metabolism

This is me as well. After a long time of caloric restriction doing nothing, I started investigating how the glycemic index of foods was impacting my weight. I don't meet any of the clinical points for being diabetic or pre-diabetic, but I've learned through trial and error that eating a very low glycemic index diet is the thing that finally made me lose weight. Basically I work to keep my blood glucose levels under 140 at all times, through a combination of low-glycemic index eating and cardio. I also take a vitamin d supplement plus a cinnamon supplement.
posted by anastasiav at 5:34 AM on March 9, 2020

I'm in my 40s and only lost 10-15 pounds very slowly, so this may not be as intense as what you're looking for. But permanently reducing portion sizes (*sigh*) and emphasizing protein in my vegetarian diet helps. Also, not eating sugar at all except for two days when I'm in the worst throes of PMS; I do better with very specific all-or-nothing rules than vague ones. In my case, cutting out the sugar cuts out a lot of additional fat/ carb calories I'd be consuming along with the sugar.

(I also quickly lost 20 pounds during a two-month period of profound depression which made me lose interest in food, while my typical state of depression encourages comfort eating. I do not recommend this at all.)
posted by metasarah at 6:13 AM on March 9, 2020 [1 favorite]

A shift to more healthy eating, combined with a physically active hobby that I enjoy (running). From age 22-36 excluding the year 2005 which was abnormalaly low (diet/food choices that didn't stick), I weighed anywhere from 205-245. Currently age 43 and 175, but I spent most of ages 38-42 180-190 lbs. (6.1" male)

My active hobby has me thinking of food more as fuel so the majority of my food choices are good. Running has the additional benefit that I have a significantly higher average total caloric need so I can keep some tasty but horribly unhealthy foods/portion sizes semi-regularly in my diet.
posted by nobeagle at 6:22 AM on March 9, 2020

I joined Weight Watchers shortly after my 30th birthday and lost ~ 60 lbs. That didn't take me to goal, but took me to a place where I was happy to stay as I worked on strategies to lose the last twenty. Once I truly understood portion control and sizes, I switched to MyFitnessPal to track calories as FOR ME it's Calories In/Calories out rather than macro. You'll hear endless wars on which app, which diet is best, but it's really about your body & personal preferences. There's no universal right way.

I've maintained 55 of that initial 60 consistently after the last decade - turned 40 in November - through calorie tracking.

Exercise for me is complementary but not the primary weight loss vehicle. Early in my 30s it was rowing and elliptical, a few years ago I found an interest in running. Now that I'm done marathon training I've set a goal to take off that last 20 -- well 22 as I gained a couple over the holidays. So far so good continued watching what I ate.
posted by TravellingCari at 7:26 AM on March 9, 2020

If you're AFAB: I (in my early 30s) am down about 15lb from my pre-pregnancy weight. I suspect going from oral birth control to an IUD did it in combination with whatever the heck happened hormonally with pregnancy and breast feeding, but obviously, YMMV.

Pre-pregnancy in my late 20s, my fat/muscle composition (if not overall weight) was entirely dependent on if I was running 3x a week/in training for a race or not. However, during that time, weight/build never got down to what it was pre-oral birth control.

(Thyroid stuff is also a potential factor here, but for Reasons, I've been kept at the same mildly hyperthyroid level since my early 20s.)
posted by damayanti at 8:13 AM on March 9, 2020

Nthing the sentiment that for weight loss you'll get way further much faster through diet vs exercise, and it's much easier to control your diet eating homemade food than restaurant food.
What worked for me in my early 30s was identifying a couple of food items that were not good calorie value (eg, ditch the daily morning muffin, keep the occasional donut). I was only looking for a ~10 lb weight loss and that was enough. I also started some fitness practice (aquafit and rollerblading), but that was more about keeping my body feeling good, not about losing weight.
Now that I'm in my early forties and I need to make another change to keep that ~10 lbs off, I've drastically reduced drinking alcohol. So long, daily 1-2 beers! I'm far from a teetotaller but now try to not-drink more days each week than I do-drink. To keep my body feeling good I'm trying to hit an average of at least 7,000 steps each week and have signed up for swimming classes.
posted by dotparker at 8:16 AM on March 9, 2020 [2 favorites]

I lifted weights heavily focusing on the compound exercises used by the StrongLifts program 4-5 days a week. I've never eaten much naturally anyway, but I found it impossible to eat enough calories with a lot of chicken thighs so that probably helped.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 8:24 AM on March 9, 2020

Lost 30 pounds in my early 40s doing dumb calorie counting with an app (and I guess sort of minimal low-carb in response to calorie counting? That is, I was making my calorie numbers by eating pretty much my pre-diet food, but skipping bread and rice and so on, cutting alcohol way back, and converting sweets from ice cream/baked goods to small amounts of good chocolate.) I'm in my late 40s now, and it's mostly stayed off -- I bounce around in the ten pounds above my lowest point.
posted by LizardBreath at 9:40 AM on March 9, 2020

I was also half-ass as anything about precise counting -- I tried to be honest/conservative about portion size, but I was eyeballing and guessing a lot. I did commit to, and successfully managed, logging everything -- if I ate something I logged something, even if it was an approximation.
posted by LizardBreath at 9:44 AM on March 9, 2020 [1 favorite]

Calorie counting, high-volume cardio, and acute rejection shame.
posted by libraryhead at 10:24 AM on March 9, 2020 [1 favorite]

I've been doing intermittent fasting for maybe 9 months now and I've lost probably 20 pounds. It works well for me because I don't like having to give up or restrict certain foods, and I need to have very clearly defined rules. I've also decided that a) this is not a diet, it's the new normal and b) I'm going to be hungry sometimes, and that's ok. When I eat I can eat until I'm full. I'm 43, ymmv.
posted by Lazlo Hollyfeld at 11:13 AM on March 9, 2020

I've had good luck with basically finding something that works with my digestion/hunger and then sticking to it for about 2 out of every three meals in the day. The last meal is something reasonable and occasionally unreasonable. The 2 meals are almost always vegetarian.
posted by Dmenet at 12:28 PM on March 9, 2020

Calorie counting for me as well, with the aid of a food scale used fairly meticulously (weights > volume, raw > cooked) and a calorie logging app, verifying my entries against the package or usda database.

Change in diet to refocus on high protein for satiety but largely ate whatever I wanted, as long as I was within my calorie limit (so, limited portions of sugary stuff, usually). Started meal prepping to have better variety of foods that met my needs and kept me happy.

I'm 5'4", was 308 in 2012 -> 138 (lowest) in 2016. Have largely bounced around between 150 and 175 since then and have taken up weight lifting and running but that all happened after I'd lost around 100 pounds already and somewhat muddled the weight loss process, honestly.
posted by miratime at 1:21 PM on March 9, 2020 [1 favorite]

33AFAB. I lost about 15 lbs in 12 weeks of Noom. 5'4, starting weight 150, stopped using the program at 135lb because life got stressful. I like that the app did all the work for me. I am busy and didn't have to think very hard about anything, do any math, or do much work looking things up, which had been barriers to doing a similar sort of program with MyFitnessPal or similar. Some find this program too cutesy, though.
posted by unstrungharp at 3:11 PM on March 9, 2020

Qsymia, moderate exercise, and moderate dieting for an initial ~25% of body weight loss. A short course of Qsymia two years later and again two years after that. MyFitnessPal and moderate exercise have sufficed since then. I’ve maintained 20-25% weight loss over about 6 years.

Qsymia was almost startlingly effective for me, but the word-finding side effects became bothersome, some of which was permanent. I would do it again, but it wasn’t completely free of consequences.

Eternal vigilance is definitely the price of long term weight loss. Building routines has been essential for me.
posted by jedicus at 6:57 PM on March 9, 2020

I'm 42 and cis male, etc. etc. The problem I've found is that calories are delicious. They just are. I'm also looking at ways to consolidate and efficiently deal with a slowing metabolism but a drive to exercise and be attractive to myself, not to mention my spouse.

I think the biggest thing is that you can control calories IN much more than calories OUT; that is the difference between one's diet and one's metabolism. And I hate it. I love alcohol and I love cheese and bread, but I also love running and cycling and lifting weights. I don't have time for all of the latter, and they are becoming less efficient anyway. So I'm facing the control what you eat thing.

I haven't looked at some of the other ideas above like glycemics and carbs, but I'm sure they play a part and I need to learn more. Just another way to not eat deliciousness every day I guess.

I know you said you are only interested in experiences, but I think commiseration can count.
posted by Snowishberlin at 7:28 PM on March 9, 2020

I dropped about 50 pounds over a couple of years when I was 39-41, and it was a combination of eating better food and less of it plus running.

In particular, I tried to be very mindful of not eating empty carbs. I was not a hardcore runner by any means; I did couch to 5K and maintained a pretty good habit of running about 5K 2-3 times a week. I was not burning a ton of calories, but I think it really helped my metabolism overall and it also made it a lot easier to resist eating junk, like, "I just spent all that time and effort burning a few hundred calories, is that brownie really worth it?"

I've put more of that weight back on than I'd like but that's due to a combination of geopolitical stress-eating, and getting lax in my habits. When I re-started C25K last summer and re-established a running habit last summer some of it came back off surprisingly quickly. For me it's really mostly about discipline.
posted by Funeral march of an old jawbone at 9:41 AM on March 10, 2020

I lost around thirty pounds when I was in my early fifties. I walked at a brisk pace for an hour every morning and did 30 minutes of yoga with a dvd when i got home from walking. I also cut out junk food, sweets, creamy anything, fried anything. It took a few months but the weight has stayed off since then- fifteen+ years- with a combination of good eating and regular exercise.
posted by mareli at 9:41 AM on March 10, 2020

Counting calories and exercise. I logged everything in an app, and did some combination of cardio and weight training. I hate exercise, so I do 15 minute workouts that kick my ass, in my basement. For me, being able to exercise in whatever I feel like wearing is better than going to a gym, and I figure I can do anything for 15 minutes.

At first the diet seems to make the most difference, but I definitely noticed that as I added more muscle through strength training everything got easier because my metabolism increased.

Also, do it now, because it's even harder in your 40s.
posted by thejanna at 9:58 AM on March 10, 2020

I lost about 125 pounds in the last 14 months. For the first half, I just started walking. I walked my dog for 30-45 minutes a day, every day.

The second half required counting calories too. I try to stay under 1600 calories, but to keep losing weight, I probably need to cut down to 1400.

Getting an Apple Watch helped me a ton.

I’m 37, and went from about 300 to 175. That’s about five pounds over normal BMI for me.
posted by guster4lovers at 10:37 AM on March 10, 2020

I dropped about thirty pounds in my early thirties and have kept it off.

The bottom line for me was more exercise and fewer carbs. I bike commute 60 hours a week and do a quick (10-15 mins.) daily exercise regimen along with a twice-a-week more in-depth muscle maintenance. I upped my protein intake and cut down simple carbs massively - no more desserts, no bread in the house other than real pumpernickel, whole grains instead of refined. No desserts. Ever. I do still drink but watch my beer intake. Snacks are nuts and pickles and occasionally dried fruit if I'm desperate for calories.

I'm forty-one now, and hereditary high cholesterol is forcing me off eggs and cheese, so I'm increasingly reliant on legumes and the occasional red meat binge. So far it hasn't affected my waistline.
posted by aspersioncast at 10:54 AM on March 10, 2020

39 now. At 36, I went from 200 to 165 by: calorie counting (and aiming to lose 1 pound per week) and doing cardio every other day (Couch to 5K).

Ultimately ended up doing a little bit of weight/resistance training, too, so now I'm up to 185. But dropping 35 pounds of fat and adding on 20 pounds of (mostly) muscle was really something.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 9:03 AM on March 11, 2020

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