Weight Loss Help: Normal BMI Edition
November 1, 2020 3:01 PM   Subscribe

Since I have hit my 40s, my weight has been slowly creeping up and the lockdown did nothing to help. I'm now about 15 pounds over where I would like to be and my BMI* is creeping up toward the upper end of the healthy range (23.4). I would like to lose those pesky pounds but so far my usual go-to methods have been failing me.

In the past, I have used Weight Watchers with great success especially after my pregnancies. But, this newest version was incredibly frustrating as based on my weight and height, I had only 23 points to use per day and I found myself getting pigeonholed into the same 15 foods that were either low points or zero points. In the end, I lost two pounds.

I tried Noom a few years ago and found it very .... cultish. I did not like people checking up on me and felt that they were hounding me to learn about my progress. I also feel like I understand nutrition pretty well so it would not be that helpful anyway based on what I have read about it.

What I am doing: drinking at least 36 oz of water (with plenty of electrolytes) a day, brisk walking 35 minutes 5 days a week, and not going hog wild with portions or items. I'm not gaining but I'm also not losing.

I feel like part of this is hormonal but I am on low-dose birth control pills for period management so I don't really know if I am perimenopausal.

*I understand that BMI is a fraught and somewhat difficult measurement of health and weight, but for me it's been pretty spot on.
posted by tafetta, darling! to Health & Fitness (21 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
As we age our muscle mass decreases which can make our metabolisms drop. Maybe pick up weight training? You will probably see a weight increase initially due to your body retaining water, but it will pay off dividends in the long run (and is great for preventing osteoporosis).

You might also try increasing the intensity of your cardio (like doing HIIT or similar) without increasing your calorie intake.
posted by Anonymous at 3:08 PM on November 1, 2020

Alternate day fasting (not really fasting; you still eat ~500 calories on those days) worked surprisingly well for me in terms of being tolerable and causing weight loss (starting from normal BMI), but I found I got kind of stupid on the fasting days and now I have a different job where I need to use my brain every day, so I don’t do that anymore.
posted by lakeroon at 3:37 PM on November 1, 2020 [3 favorites]

You shouldn't need electrolytes with a normal diet unless they're to address a specific issue? Many electrolytes have added sugars/sweeteners, and it doesn't take much over time to add up to pounds. The same goes for other foods - look for hidden sugars/sweeteners.

I'll second doing alternate-day Intermittent Fasting, 2-3x a week. Usually you stop eating after dinner and only have water/coffee/tea until dinner the next day. It's been very helpful for me, the key is to eat low-carb/high-fat/moderate protein meals when you're not fasting to avoid brain fog when fasting. I found the book The Obesity Code to be very educational.
posted by jpeacock at 4:19 PM on November 1, 2020

I have had good luck with the kind of fasting where you have an 8 hour eating window and a 16 hour window of only water, black coffee, black tea, or plain unflavored seltzer. What I like about it is that you can eat whatever you want during the 8 hours, so it doesn't require much planning or counting. And if you don't lose on the 8/16 version, you can switch it up to 6/18, 4/20, etc.
posted by xo at 4:28 PM on November 1, 2020 [2 favorites]

Are you comfortable with counting calories? That’s the only way I’ve been successful since WW 20 years ago, but it doesn’t work for everyone. If you are ok with it, tracking what you’re already eating with LoseIt or MyFatSecret (!) or another app is a solid start. But it doesn’t provide strategies for eating within your calories. (Mine tends to be Eat A Tiny Dinner, which doesn’t work for a lot of folks’ schedules and lives).
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 4:36 PM on November 1, 2020 [1 favorite]

Like chesty, I am back to regular old calorie counting, due to some medically-related dietary restrictions that don't square up with any current WW plan or fasting or just about anything anybody else is doing these days. I went to a registered dietitian who determined my daily calories and worked with me on a checklist of proteins, starches, fruits/veg, etc, to make sure I'm eating within my restrictions. I am losing weight verrrrry slowly, but it's coming off. I'm using My Fitness Pal for tacking.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 5:07 PM on November 1, 2020 [2 favorites]

Your 35 minute walks may not be enough; aim for a full hour and try walking even faster. Are there any hills around? Walk up them if there are. If you can find the time do a 30 minute exercise video, preferably something that builds flexibility. Swimming is also great if you have access to a safe pool.

I've never done any weight loss programs or counted calories but have managed to lose weight with added exercise and eating reasonably. I'm quite a bit older than you and it does get more difficult to lose weight as we age.
posted by mareli at 5:16 PM on November 1, 2020 [1 favorite]

If you're truly concerned about healthy BMI range, you might want to know that the BMI associated with the lowest risk of death is 27.
posted by Flock of Cynthiabirds at 5:26 PM on November 1, 2020 [9 favorites]

I started gaining weight after menopause and I eventually decided to try doing something about it. I read that if you want to lose a pound a week you need to cut 500 calories per day. So I made it my goal every day to eat 500 calories less than I normally would (or to get some extra exercise to burn more calories.) I didn't precisely count the calories in everything I ate; I just kept track of the calories I was cutting or using up. (I would normally have a mug of milk with this, so I'll drink water instead and that's 150 calories toward my 500. I normally turn around here on my walk, so I'll go another half mile before I turn around and that's 60 calories. I'll eat about 7 fewer corn chips than I think I normally would and that's 100 calories.) I wasn't sure if it would really work, since I had read so much about how cutting calories just makes your body change its metabolism and doesn't work. But it worked just fine. Eventually I got a sense of how much food was the right amount for my post-menopause metabolism and didn't need to pay so much attention to calories.
posted by Redstart at 5:31 PM on November 1, 2020 [11 favorites]

I have lost a shit-ton of weight (early 50s female) and one of the main keys was exercising **a lot** harder. For me that meant joining a small gym that did a type of exercise program that's sort of a cross between Crossfit and boot camp. It absolutely slayed me at first -- 2x a week was all I could handle, and I did classes at 7:30p specifically so I could come home, take a shower and get in bed, because that was literally all I could handle post-workout. I got a lot stronger, which meant I can now do it 5-7 days a week. So yeah, shit-ton of weight gone and body actually quite strong now. It's kind of lovely.
posted by BlahLaLa at 5:54 PM on November 1, 2020 [17 favorites]

Lower carb/higher protein + intense workouts definitely is the best way. 25 g fibre, as much protein as you can manage to keep muscle mass.

If you can’t do intense workouts, it means more rigorous portion control. My fitness options are now limited, so I’m doing the “skip breakfast” thing. (Technically, a very creamy and sweet strong coffee, sometimes two, is a kind of breakfast. But it’s not bacon and eggs, which I used to be able to eat when I did burpees.) Have lost a couple pounds. Miss bacon + burpees.
posted by cotton dress sock at 8:37 PM on November 1, 2020 [1 favorite]

Your body-shape/BMI/weight is a reflection of your lifestyle, adjusted by your genetics. Do you want a lean-with-big-shoulders-and-pecs surfer bod? You probably need to surf at least 4-5 times a week, with lots of paddling.

You need to find a compromise between what you want to look/feel like and the kind of lifestyle you can stick to. Walk a couple miles every morning and again each night? Swim a few times a week?

Your body adapts to how you use it. It adapts more slowly and stubbornly the older you get, but it still adapts. I suggest focusing more on what you do, rather than what you eat.
posted by Anoplura at 8:40 PM on November 1, 2020 [2 favorites]

Could you alternate running and walking? Are you doing any kind of resistance training, especially for your upper body, for bone density? Exercise could make a difference. Regardless of weight, stepping it up a bit would probably benefit your physical health.
posted by bluedaisy at 11:00 PM on November 1, 2020 [1 favorite]

Followed a suggestion on the green and tried keto. It changed my life. I lost 35lbs in 4 months, had 2 autoimmune diseases go into remission, and no longer have allergies or asthma. I maintained that weight loss for 4 years (without constantly counting calories/all the macros), until my mom died and I went back to eating anything and everything. I gained 10lbs. Much harder to lose the 10lbs while in perimenopause.

I grew tired of counting macros, so two and a half months ago, I decided to eat low carb (probably around 50-70 net per day, but I'm not counting) and do Intermittent Fasting. I also cut back on dairy and processed meats. I added in a lot of fiber.

When people talk about intermittent fasting (IF), it can be one day eating/one day not eating - but usually it means limiting the window of time in which you eat, each day (so you're eating every day.) I fast 16 hours and eat in an 8 hour window most days - but the best results come when I fast 18, 19, or 20+ hours. And I find in some ways it's actually easier to go longer rather than shorter.

It took me awhile to get IF to work for me. I try to schedule meetings for work in the mornings, so I'm too busy to eat. On the weekends, my husband and I usually drive away to get out of our city. We do any grocery shopping we need to in the early morning hours (when it's not crowded), in a county with low COVID numbers. And then we go for a hike or sit by a lake. By the time we get home to make breakfast, it's been 18+ hours since we've eaten.

If I stop eating by 4pm, I struggle a bit around 7:30pm with craving food. If I can resist the 7:30pm cravings, I don't wake up hungry. If I eat supper a bit later, like 5 or 6 o'clock - I wake up hungry in the morning.
posted by vitabellosi at 5:51 AM on November 2, 2020 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I've lost more than 80 pounds eating a high-carb, low-fat, vegan diet. (Carb is a problematic word, as it technically can mean both carrots and doughnuts - the carbs I eat are whole and unprocessed -grains, beans, fruits, and vegetables). I can't bear to count anything, so it's much easier for me to make changes to the types of food I eat rather than the amount. I changed my diet very gradually and lost this weight over a period of about ten years. Every time my weight got stuck, I would look for something else to change. For instance, at one point I was eating a fair amount of vegan junk food, and I realized that I would have to give it up to lose more weight. I's important that I've regarded every single change as permanent. There is no more going on and off diets for me.

This video on calorie density by Jeff Novick, a registered dietitian, is a good explanation of how the way I eat works. It is long, but worthwhile.

I also do time-restricted eating. In my case, I don't eat anything between 7:00 pm and 8:00 am. I did lose some weight doing this, but my purpose was actually for health reasons. The Circadian Code is a good book on that.
posted by FencingGal at 6:14 AM on November 2, 2020 [4 favorites]

I keep a list of weight-loss tips; if I am persistent, it's helpful.
posted by theora55 at 7:03 AM on November 2, 2020 [6 favorites]

55 year old cis woman here. I'm doing the KetoGains / LeanGains protocol (0.8 - 1.0 high quality protein grams per bodyweight, 20 net carbs, the rest in fat, lots of low carb vegetables and whole foods strongly preferred).

It's working very well for me. I've tried Faustian bargains with carb cheat days, etc. and they all end badly.

Strength / resistance training will help you gain muscle, but only dietary measures will help you lose fat. This is my anecdotal experience and it's borne out by a lot of research.
posted by Sheydem-tants at 7:05 AM on November 2, 2020 [1 favorite]

Ultimately any kind of fasting/keto etc. works because of taking in less calories than burned, i.e CICO. You don't need to do any of these "diets" [if these "diets" work for you and can become a sustainable lifestyle for you- that's perfect, but really it has to be a way you can eat forever, i.e a lifestyle]. You just need to figure out how to temporarily change the balance of this equation. You can keep eating generally the same things you're eating now, but less or more exercise. If you aren't currently losing weight with the amount of calories you're taking in, but aren't gaining, you've found your maintenance calories*. To loose weight, you need to to lower the intake of calories and/or increasing calories out from exercise. If it's not triggering for you, I'd really suggest calorie counting and using a food scale just to learn about how many calories are in the portions of foods you eats. This doesn't mean you need to track calories forever.

Also, strength training is highly highly recommended for so many reasons including increasing your basal metabolic rate (BMR), bone health, aesthetics, being a badass strong person etc (honestly there are few better feelings than realizing how strong you are and what you're body can do). If you want some resources on starting strength training, I recommend r/xxfitness which will also have resources on TDEE (how many calories you burn a day, a component of that being the aforementioned BMR) and its components.

*There are exceptions to this, for example if you have PCOS
posted by aquablue582 at 10:49 AM on November 2, 2020

Calorie counting never worked for me, especially while eating simple carbs. Lowering my calories just made me cold, hangry, and sluggish. I have had success with intermittent fasting (IF), keto, and lifting - ideally concurrently.

Pace aquablue582, I'm not at all convinced by CICO ("calories in, calories out"). I'm much more convinced by hormonal theories of obesity (e.g. here). I have tracked calories with low calorie diets and fasting and keto, and I have lost weight (especially around the waist) more from fasting and keto on isocaloric diets. Plus, there are studies that suggest that low-carb diets promote more loss of visceral fat than isocaloric higher-carb diets - visceral fat being the kind of fat around your middle that is most important to lose in terms of health benefits. In any case, I have found myself to be far less hungry both with IF and with keto, so even if CICO were right, it's much easier to lower calories with IF and keto. (This has scientific basis - ketones, which are present both during fasting and in a ketogenic diet, seem to suppress appetite.)

Unlike above posters, I wouldn't recommend eating 500 calories on your fasting days. I have read that that was just a concession to the fact that the diet's founder thought that people wouldn't find total fasting palatable. Dr Fung has shown that full fasting actually causes the metabolism to *increase* for the first three days or so; eating low numbers of calories can cause the metabolism to slow down (starvation mode). You want the former, not the latter. If you're not up for full fasting, at least avoid protein and carbs: carbs release insulin, and protein releases insulin to a lower extent and also halts autophagy. I have not personally found ingesting heavy cream or bulletproof coffee during a fast to affect weight loss.

I'd recommend trying 18-6 to start with: basically, you have an eating window for 6 hours a day and a fasting window for 18 hours a day. You can eat whatever you like during your eating window. You might have an eating window from 1-7pm everyday, say. Outside of those times, you might have only water if you were going to try it strictly, or coffee with cream (not milk) if you were going to be a bit more fast and loose. Fasting is much easier than people think, and has benefits apart from weight loss. Longer fasts less frequently are also possible. I've had success with two 36-hour fasts per week (so, not eating from dinner one night, straight through the next day, and breaking the fast with breakfast the following day). Or multi-day fasts are also possible. Humans historically likely didn't eat every few hours, and it's probably not great for us. Keto metabolically mimics fasting in many ways, so you could also try that if you wanted to be able to eat breakfast etc. I'd strongly recommend giving keto a shot if you're at all inclined. I've been doing keto for three years and it's gotten easier over time, and I have to do much less fasting to maintain my weight (curvy size 4).

Strength training had a much more dramatic effect on my body composition than I had anticipated (hours of cardio never did anything for me). I noticed an aesthetic difference in months - not necessarily thinner (I had already been doing IF and keto), but muscles more defined, etc. You don't need to devote much time to it - 20 minutes a day, even, or 45 minutes three times a week. The muscle acquisition also helps raise your metabolism. It's also extremely satisfying to feel strong and to see yourself getting stronger. Some people also get an endorphin rush which feels great.
posted by ClaireBear at 12:35 PM on November 2, 2020 [4 favorites]

Best answer: If you're willing to give WW a try again, I would recommend the Green plan. It's the same plan they had before the Freestyle plan (which is currently Blue). I hated Freestyle, I also felt like I was stuck eating chicken breast, eggs, and greek yogurt all the time. I'm on Green now and like it a lot, it's so much more flexible. I'm a little younger than you and can't exercise at all due to an injury but I've lost 20 lbs since May.
posted by radioamy at 4:47 PM on November 2, 2020

Best answer: How long ago were you successful with WW? iTrackBites has 6 plans which apparently map to all the older/newer versions of WW (you might have to search/ask /r/weightwatchers to figure out which one is the same as the WW plan you want). The pro version of iTrackBites has all of the functionality of the WW app but only costs $30/year.
posted by unknowncommand at 5:56 AM on November 4, 2020

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