I would like to be less fat
February 15, 2021 3:16 PM   Subscribe

I'm 300 lbs, 50 years old, female, arthritic knees, short of breath from 30 years of smoking, kinda agoraphobic. I did quit smoking 7 months ago, and that's a start. How do I get from here to a better place, fitness-wise? Diet-wise? I don't mind throwing money at this, but would prefer not to buy a treadmill or similar (I live on the second floor). What can a complete beginner with my challenges do? Thanks for any suggestions or success stories!

I took a cardio stress test last summer and have permission from my doctor to exercise.
posted by pH Indicating Socks to Health & Fitness (48 answers total) 38 users marked this as a favorite
As alway, YMMV, but... I lost about 40 lbs over the last year through a combination of intermittent fasting (16:8 most days, occasional 36 hour fast), ditching most starches and upping vegetable-based dishes (I have gone full keto sometimes, but most of the time I'm not fussy about counting carbs, I just don't pick things that are first/foremost grains/starch-bombs), and modest exercise.

The intermittent fasting seems to be the first thing that's rolled back a lot of the weight I put on in my 30s and helped me keep it off. I don't know how much authority to give Jason Fung's The Obesity Code but that's the book that convinced me to give it a try.

As far as exercise go, I think anything that winds you a bit that you can enjoy doing for an hour (or more), or anything that's easy to squeeze into 15 minutes at home is a good start.
posted by wildblueyonder at 3:31 PM on February 15, 2021 [9 favorites]

You can go very far with changing your diet alone.

My go to is to start calorie monitoring (to get a feel for portion sizes) and eat 40/30/30 meals (40% calories from carbs, 30% calories from each fats and protein). Having this kind of balanced meal leaves me full longer and way less prone to snacking or highs/lows of blood sugars.

For ease of exercise, walking half an hour a day with good shoes is a great start (get a steps counter) and I also like swimming as I also have joint issues.

Best of luck!
posted by St. Peepsburg at 3:31 PM on February 15, 2021 [6 favorites]

Oh ya intermittent fasting (with the 40/30/30 I mentioned above) helped me a lot too!
posted by St. Peepsburg at 3:32 PM on February 15, 2021

Corinne Crabtree’s free resources have helped me a lot. She has podcasts and a free course. I haven’t paid to join her membership, but the mindset stuff is the biggest part for me. Today I read, “it’s not your body that got out of shape, it’s your mind.” That’s certainly true for me.
posted by Juniper Toast at 3:35 PM on February 15, 2021 [4 favorites]

First, congratulations on quitting smoking! That's a huge step towards improving your health.

Second, a word of caution. A person wanting to lose weight is a beacon for every scammer and shamer out there. Please remember that you are a worthwhile, valuable, and lovable human being no matter what size you are, and if you find some approach you're trying makes you feel differently, you have the Internet's permission to walk away. If you're not feeling comfortable with group-surveillance approaches like Weight Watchers, you are also allowed not to use them, either.

Third, would you consider talking to a nutritionist about setting up an eating plan? If that's too much, the first step is, I think, trying to be conscious of your caloric intake, something that doesn't come naturally to our brains. Use a calorie tracker for a couple of weeks and see how much you tend to eat, and when. Then try planning to cut back, moderately. Radical intake restrictions will often lead to fast weight loss but stress your body and are generally unsustainable. Ultimately you want to work your way down to about 2000 calories/day, but it's okay to do this in slow steps. (I found the old-school "points" Weight Watchers quite useful for this, though I would never ever go to a meeting, as it provides a shorthand system for tracking and also provided some averages for things that don't come with a nutritional label.)

Given your physical condition, you want to look for a physical activity which is labeled "low impact" to spare your knees. Semi-recumbent bikes can be great for this but you probably don't have one in your house. Fortunately, walking is very inexpensive and can be done under many conditions even in COVID conditions. I would recommend buying some kind of fitness tracker for purposes of telling how vigorously you're exercising, which can be quite difficult on your own. Your ultimate goal should be "moderate" exercise (measured by heart rate, you can look it up) about 30 mins. 5x/week or "vigorous" 30 mins. 3x/week. But that will probably be a bit much for you starting out. Set modest goals early on and if you find them easy to exceed, you can increase them; if too much, you can always cut back. If you find the whole idea super-daunting, starting out just commit to putting on your shoes and going out the door 3x/week. You can stop whenever you want. Having mental permission to quit makes it a lot easier for many people to get over the hump of starting. (Also note: people who claim you get crazy endorphins from exercising...well, I believe that's their personal experience. There's nothing wrong with you if you don't, though.)

Best of luck to you, and remember: it's great to meet fitness goals--it will make your life easier and help you feel better--but your worth is not measured by a number on a scale.

(On preview: intermittent fasting does seem to help some people, but I feel like that kind of radical rules commitment can be awfully challenging for someone just starting. So if it sounds appealing, no reason not to try it, but also...it may not be your first step.)
posted by praemunire at 3:40 PM on February 15, 2021 [34 favorites]

Great job on quitting! As you know well, that is not easy. That is a huge start.

For what it is worth, I have lost 40 lbs since Fall 2020. This leaves me obese and in fact, 20 lbs above what was once a high point of weight that I considered to be a totally unacceptable crisis. So I have a way to go to get to what I consider to be a healthy weight, much less what BMI says (I don't care about BMI in the slightest; I don't have to do any math to know that I got dangerously overweight).

Here is what I did. First , I cut out the low-hanging fruit. Like for example I was fond of eating croissants or muffins for breakfast; I cut that out. I found out that the Hawaiian-style rolls I liked had 5g of sugar each: out they go. That kind of thing. You have probably already done this if you've started trying to lose weight.

I can't emphasize enough that I think it is bad to make a big moral drama out of this. I am not a bad person for liking to eat tasty things, it is just the case that I was eating too much of some of them, and gaining weight. The pandemic did not help - most of what I have just lost, I put on after March 2020.

I then experimented with intermittent fasting. I tried the popular 16/8 version - you eat between noon and 8 pm. Then, you don't eat. This is probably also a doctor-consult thing. I haven't been able to stick to this entirely, to say the least, but I do think it got me going. The reason, I think, is that I was also gaining weight from overeating the reasonably healthy (albeit probably still too many carbs) diet that was left after I cut out the obviously excessive foods. What I needed to do, I thought, was to find a way to reset my sense of appetite and satiety to where I did not feel deprived when I ate less food. And, for a month or so, the IF regime was hard. I was very hungry in the mornings some days. If this was intolerable, I'd just eat an orange or something. Then noon would arrive and I could have a normal meal. Or two small meals, then a solid dinner in the evening. But it did eventually seem to do what I had hoped for. I got used to it, and I was eating less and feeling, usually, just fine. And I did start to lose weight. I've been continuing to lose weight despite not adhering at all strictly to the IF that I was doing last Fall; I think I have actually just gotten used to having less.

This may or may not work for you, of course. I just want to share what has been working for me, so far.
posted by thelonius at 3:40 PM on February 15, 2021 [7 favorites]

Congratulations on quitting smoking, that's huge!

If your knees will allow, walking is absolutely the best entry-level exercise you can get. As well as improving your cardio health and muscle strength, it gives all the soft tissues that support joints - ligaments, tendons, etc. the chance to get stronger gradually, which helps prevent injury to your joints. It doesn't require you to learn any technique or buy fancy equipment, it gets you outside, you can easily measure your progress, which is motivating. And if you're pretty inactive at the moment, you'll see it make a real change to how you feel, how much you can do without getting out of breath etc.

The key is to walk briskly - ie. rapidly enough that you feel a little out of breath, maybe warm enough to unbutton your coat - rather than just strolling.

From an agoraphobia point of view, you can stay close to home doing laps of the block if that helps make it feel safer to start with, and nobody will pay you any attention because you'll just be out for a walk, so it helps you not to feel too self-conscioius or conspicuous.

I work for an organisation that helps inactive people get active and we have a 'walk for fitness' programme online which builds you up steadily to 30 minutes of brisk walking over 10 weeks (in theory at that point you can start our gentle Couch to 5K if you want, but if you have troublesome knees you might prefer to just keep on walking). It alternates spells of brisk walking with gentler walking, building up the brisk gradually up to 30 minutes non-stop. Think it might be a little self-linky to post it here but MeMail me if you'd like to know more and I'll send it across - it's just a free pdf download from our website.

In terms of how much exercise helps weight loss - it's a common maxim amongst runners that 'you can't outrun a bad diet' ie. exercise alone won't help you lose weight - diet is most important. That's often true, but for people who have been largely inactive, I think exercise often does have an impact on weight loss. Perhaps more importantly, it has a positive impact on your mental health. It makes you feel good about yourself, capable of achieving something, and of changing. It genuinely makes your body feel nice inside, like it's a nice place to live, and like you want to learn more about taking care of it. Even if it turns out you're not burning vast numbers of calories, it's kind of part of a whole package that will support your weight loss.
posted by penguin pie at 3:47 PM on February 15, 2021 [21 favorites]

If you are finding breathlessness limiting, look at whether you meet criteria for a formal diagnosis of a smoking related airways disease. You may subsequently be eligible for a pulmonary rehabilitation program, which can get you started.
posted by chiquitita at 3:51 PM on February 15, 2021 [3 favorites]

I've lost eighty pounds and have no trouble keeping it off, but I did it very, very slowly. Like, it's taken about ten years, and I still want to lose about forty more pounds.
I think it's very important to know yourself and what kind of person you are. For instance, I decided that I absolutely hate counting anything - calories, points - and I absolutely will not do it. What I have done is given up a lot of different foods. That is easier for me than counting anything. I also am not really someone who can do moderation. Eating two cookies a night might work for some people, but it doesn't work for me. So I'll say what I've done, but it's possible that my experience is useless for you and someone else's ideas might work much better. This has nothing to do with anyone's value as a person.
I was very influenced by the movies "Forks Over Knives" and "Eating You Alive," which promote a whole foods, vegan diet (some people call this "plant-based," but I find that to be a really meaningless term in real life). Some people can change to this way of eating overnight. I didn't, but I set that way of eating as my ultimate goal. Then I looked for ways I could move in that direction. I would make a change, which would usually work for losing about five pounds, and I would stick with that change until it was just part of my life. Then I would look for something else I could change. So I switched my breakfast from bacon sandwiches on white bread to steal-cut oatmeal with almond milk and blueberries. That was my first change. Then I changed my lunch to rice and bean soup. Then I switched to eating vegan food at home, but eating what I wanted when I ate out. Then I switched to always eating vegan food. Then I focused on moving away from processed food. Then I decided I wouldn't eat after 7:00 at night (which some people call intermittent fasting and some people call time-restricted feeding). Then I switched my lunch to a giant salad with a nut-based dressing.
I also started exercising. I started with yoga, which does not work for weight loss, but does work for generally feeling better and has been a huge help with my chronic back pain. Then I started walking, gradually increasing the steps I take each day - I'm now up to 10,000 steps a day, but it took me a very long time to get there. (I was fencing all through this, and that's gotten much easier as I've lost weight. It's really good if you can have a physical activity you love.)
In order to stay motivated, I listen to a lot of podcasts that encourage this way of eating, most of which also focus on health in general. My favorite podcasts for this are the Corinne Nijjer podcast; Healthy Human Revolution; Feel Better, Live More (not specifically vegan, but health in general); Plantstrong; and Plant Yourself.
If this interests you, feel free to MeMail me for additional ideas and encouragement.
And yes, congratulations on quitting smoking. That is great.
posted by FencingGal at 4:11 PM on February 15, 2021 [19 favorites]

I can only speak to the fitness part of this but I think if you’re willing to throw some money at it, your best bet will be to hire the kind of personal trainer who works for a physical therapist. This person will help you safely build up your strength. Smart weight and stability training will give you very fast results and having a standing appointment will get you to actually do it. If you find the right person it will be really fun. And going to the PT is way less intimidating than going to the gym. Mine didn’t cost any more than the ones at the gym and she was so knowledgeable and it was amazing how efficiently she got me into great shape. Good luck!
posted by HotToddy at 4:11 PM on February 15, 2021 [9 favorites]

My housemate is probably about like you, but ten years older. She wasn't a smoker but has had really bad asthma all her life which limits her. She's also had a knee replacement. She got an inexpensive recumbent bike and over the last six weeks has worked up to being able to do it for 80 minutes. She eats a reasonably balanced diet, lots of vegetables and whole grains and lean meats, no bread, and lots and lots of salad, and she drinks lots of water. She's lost a good ten pounds in the last six weeks, I've noticed her stomach shrinking and her face thinning.

Good luck!
posted by mareli at 4:19 PM on February 15, 2021 [1 favorite]

Congratulations on quitting smoking!

Walking in place seems to have really gained in popularity during the pandemic and it sounds like something that might be a great fit for you! Walking in place is just as effective as walking outside or on a treadmill, and you don’t need any equipment to do it. It’s pretty self-explanatory but there are also lots of videos that will guide you through it; this channel seems popular although it’s not the one I’m thinking of.
posted by stellaluna at 4:19 PM on February 15, 2021 [3 favorites]

I just want to 2nd The Obesity Code book which I listened to on Audio Book. The early parts make you think you're taking a course in biochemistry, but the bottom line is the recommendations he makes. Try them and if they help you (like they did me) then include them in your program.

Thanks to the insights in that book I now know that it is better for me to eat a, b or c vs. x, y or z, even though a, b or c might raise some people's eyebrows. But if x, y or z cause me to gain weight, and a, b or c don't, then it just suggests that conventional food wisdom is shaky. I didn't mention examples cause it might be different for you.

You may be bored by the book but I think you'll agree his analysis is thorough and logical.
posted by forthright at 4:19 PM on February 15, 2021 [1 favorite]

Oh, I forgot to include this advice from MyFitnessPal that came in a recent email to me. It's 15 down to earth (realistic) points about losing weight.
posted by forthright at 4:31 PM on February 15, 2021

I was initially skeptical of Intermittent Fasting (IF) but then I saw my cousin lose 100 pounds in 7 months with the combination of IF, daily cardio, and replacing simple carbohydrates with whole grains. My brother also lost about 30 pounds with IF. People are different and I don't think one food plan will work for everyone but IF seems to have worked for some. I would probably start with something less drastic than IF, such as start with eating whole grains, avoiding added sugar, and performing light cardio.

I enjoy using an exercise bike as I can multitask by simultaneously listening to podcasts, watching videos, and reading. I personally use an upright bike but I setup a recumbent bike for my sister and Mom, and they've been using it consistently while performing other activities like listening to podcasts.
posted by mundo at 4:42 PM on February 15, 2021 [1 favorite]

My wife just signed us up for the MindValley 10x Fitness online program, and after two decades of me trying to drag her to exercise, she's dragging me to do it. Which is awesome.

I'm sure that that this is similar to what you get with a personal trainer, but, so far: They demonstrate exercises to work 6 different muscle groups, all of which can be done or tempered with weights and/or elastic bands. They suggest you weight them so that you can do 12 reps, and collapse on the 13th (in the case of lunges/squats for my wife, this means hanging some elastic straps that she can hang on to to reduce weight on her knees), and walk you through a couple of different sequences.

I don't think it's cheap, and after we signed up we went off and spent a few hundred bucks on weights and bands (not setting a foot in a gym 'til COVID is over), but she's dragging me out of bed to watch the videos and do the workouts.

And the focus is not on weight loss, it's on gaining physical fitness. I'm sure that weight loss will fall out of it, but there's no fat shaming, and good suggestions for scaling down the exercises to as little or as much as you need.
posted by straw at 4:45 PM on February 15, 2021

Was also going to mention a stationary bike (recumbent or otherwise), if it's treadmill-pounding on the second floor that's the main concern. It'd be kinder on the arthritis, too.

Another possibility for no-impact cardio work would be a rowing machine. The go-to for these is a Concept2 Model D. They'll set you back around $800-900 but will last forever (you can sometimes score a used one at a decent price if there's any rowing activity in your area). Most important thing on an erg is proper form - there's a ton of decent youtube tutorials out there. Ergs work the arms, legs, core, and heart (obv). The only sound from them is the whooshing of the chain and spinning fan.
posted by jquinby at 4:54 PM on February 15, 2021 [3 favorites]

I'm not a nutritional expert, but last year I moved to a low-carb diet and managed to lose 30 pounds. I'm hoping for a similar result this year. The main thing I guess is to stop thinking of it as a "diet" that you'll do for awhile then go back to eating "normally." Low-carb (or whatever plan you choose) needs to be your new normal. Accepting this is the key to long term success.
posted by SPrintF at 4:55 PM on February 15, 2021 [1 favorite]

There was great Front Page Post by Bella Donna that showed even short exercise sessions to be beneficial. So even if you don't see quick changes in the beginning, know that exercise can still help with sleep, anxiety, and cognition.
posted by mundo at 4:59 PM on February 15, 2021 [1 favorite]

Huge shout out on quitting smoking! That is an amazing achievement and is the absolute biggest impact thing you can do to improve your health! What commitment!

There is no exact right answer, but there are probably a lot of wrong answers (extreme diets being the biggest wrong answer). I suggest focusing on your physical and mental well being in a way that is gentle and realistic and incorporates exercises and foods you enjoy. I found this NPR podcast to be a science based and respectful perspective. You also may enjoy this likewise research-based episode on body positivity.
posted by latkes at 5:05 PM on February 15, 2021 [4 favorites]

One of the benefits of being at the very beginning is that small changes have big returns, and I would save the big guns (like full-fledged diet changes or eating behavior changes) for later.

I am a larger person who would prefer to stay under a certain level of fatness for quality of life reasons, and the first thing I actually had to do was some Know Thyself work. While I'm an emotional eater and comfort eater I also just love food, and there are things I know (or have learned over time) that I just shouldn't bring in the house, or only in a form so modified that I'm not going to have portion or frequency issues.

Identify the lowest-hanging fruit you are willing to try eliminating first from your typical eating process. For some people it's an ingredient or category, or it's takeout or similarly convenient food, or portioning/self-serving issues, just pick something that's not complicated to change (even if it sucks, but is still simple to remove from the equation). Just make one change, for two weeks. Wait until later to cut the more complicated stuff, both in terms of food and also behavior like boredom or comfort eating. Start small.

Similarly in activity, you don't need to go from nothing to half-marathons to get a benefit. Just find something you can see yourself giving a shot every day for two weeks. It can be indoor or outdoor walking, very very basic yoga or other stretching-type exercise (any movement is the goal, it doesn't have to be cardio to start) from free videos, vigorous cleaning, just try for a few minutes a day, for two weeks.

Real talk, I had to learn (and occasionally have to re-learn) portion sizing. Use a food scale, use reference photos, try eating one serving size before having any more - which you can if you need more, but just know so that you are being more mindful. Read the labels on all your foods (while I don't think every person needs to go seriously low carb, conventional recs are 235-325g/day and you absolutely can hit half or more of that in a single "generous" (ie 2-4 servings' worth) meal without even thinking about it) until you become more familiar with serving sizes and labels and packaged food with secret unnecessary filler and sugars. Maybe you've been on the diet merry-go-round enough to already have the label stuff in your head, but it's often surprising to me how far I will overshoot a serving size when plating my food.
posted by Lyn Never at 5:10 PM on February 15, 2021 [4 favorites]

As someone who has struggled with losing and regaining weight, and who is a librarian who does my research, I have to tell you that there is no one weight loss method that works. Most people will try an argue with this, but when you really look at the research, it is true. I would advise you to engage with medical supported weight loss. There are a number of medications now that help with weight loss, and that work. Yes, you need to still eat right, and exercise, but they help with the other parts that make weight loss hard. I have been using Saxenda, which was originally a diabetic medication which had the side affect of weight loss. I have been able to lose 30 lbs in 9 months, and I have very few side affects. My start weight was 265, and I am now in the low 230s (depends on the day.) I have the added benefit of no longer suffering from sleep apnea. It helps me to feel full as well as helps me to not obsess about food. Another effective method that I know a number of people have really had success with Contrave, which is a combination of a medication used successfully with alcohol and drug addiction, and with an antidepressant that is helpful in quitting smoking. I see a endocrinologist and a nutritionist as part of my weight loss program. My insurance covers this expensive medication because they have see real results from it.
posted by momochan at 5:12 PM on February 15, 2021 [3 favorites]

Find recipes that you like. Find categories of food that are low calorie (e.g. vegetables are obvious but there are many others) that you like. Find foods you can gorge on — which isn't to suggest that you do gorge — but only that you shouldn't feel deprived, and you should have something available in case you want, or need, to gorge.

Embrace a variety of healthy tastes and learn how to build on them: savory, tart, bitter, etc. Embrace a variety of cuisines, and learn to cook dishes that interest you most. Get a general idea of what's low calorie and what's not, and what your target calories are for a day: You probably know this already. But don't count every single calorie. You want a healthy diet you enjoy for life. Find foods that you enjoy, that won't make you feel deprived. The same goes for whatever exercise you choose. Choose something you like. Or choose a variety of things that you like. Long story short: Go where healthy pleasure leads, and let that guide you.
posted by Violet Blue at 5:19 PM on February 15, 2021 [3 favorites]

Congratulations on quitting smoking!

If you look at YouTube, there are Fitness videos aimed at people with low mobility because of knees and ankles. Pahla B is particularly good. When I was recovering from my broken leg, I did a lot of her chair based workouts and they kept me moving even when I wasn't moving.

I am losing weight post broken leg, and got some very simple advice from my doctor-- eat more protein and go for more colours on my plate to increase the veggie range. Combined with building fitness slowly, it isn't overnight but I've lost 8 kilos. At the beginning, I needed to weigh portions, but dropped that after a month. I find MyFitness Pal good as a reality check on what I'm eating.
posted by frumiousb at 5:46 PM on February 15, 2021 [5 favorites]

Like mentioned above, there are a fair number of workouts you can do at home with little-to-no equipment, if walking outside sounds hard with the agoraphobia. And there are lots of zoom options now for gym classes and personal trainers, too - friends and askme can give recommendations for sane, kind folks. There was a recent update to the NYT 7 minute workout that didn't require getting up and down off the floor, too, if that might work for you.

Think about what tends to work for your psychology. I know I will not work out (anymore) unless it's a class to keep me semi-honest (otherwise I get bored, just stretch on the mat). So for a relatively inexpensive sum I've joined my former Y trainer's classes, and get a little zoom social time if I want it, too (and not if I don't). I keep meaning to hire her as a trainer now that I already feel stronger for a few weeks of classes, too - individualized help can be great if you have specific needs (but also any good professional will also stick around after "class" for questions, or answer them by email ahead of time). You've already done one incredibly hard thing - moving a bit more and eating a little less will hopefully be a breeze in comparison.
posted by ldthomps at 5:56 PM on February 15, 2021

Hi. I'm almost 54 and in the best shape of my life, and at the lowest weight of my adult life, but when I was 50 I was completely sedentary and at about a size 3x, and already post-menopausal. (Meaning, every message I'd ever heard was "post-menopausal women can't lose weight or build muscle." Turns out that's completely wrong.)

How did I go from then until now? Here's how:
-- First I picked out an "exercise" that sounded fun. I put it in quotes because my criteria wasn't "Is it exercise?" but more like "Does it move my body and will I enjoy it?" So for me the answer was ice skating (as an absolute beginner). I would include in this category literally anything physical that you might already enjoy or be curious about trying. Archery? Bowling? Folk dancing? Getting a dog so you have to walk it? Literally anything.
-- It was very hard for me to start! It was noticeably harder for me than any other participant in the adult beginner lessons I started to take. A 30-minute group class completely wiped me out. But because I was having fun, I kept going back. Verrrry slowly things got easier. My body got incrementally stronger.
-- After about a year, I started taking a private lesson once a week. Also completely drained all my energy. I frequently had to stop and rest. (But I found a good coach who was completely ready to meet me where I was.)
-- By the time I hit 2 years I was noticeably stronger and maybe weighed a tiny bit less.
-- *Then* I joined a small gym near my house. Nearby=very easy to get motivated to go. Small=the staff got to know me. Additionally, this was the type of gym where they only do one type of exercise. (Not CrossFit but similar.) The staff said they were willing to work with an old fat lady and wow were they ever. I could only do this exercise because I'd spent 2 gentle years slowly building up my strength from Zero to Something. Now I was ready to start really building my muscles up.
-- And after all that, *then* I adapted my diet and lost 80+ pounds.

So my advice to you is to take the easiest baby step you can imagine. Maybe it's following a YouTube stretching routine. Maybe it's finding an old Richard Simmons workout and doing that. Maybe it's just talking a walk around your block once a week, and then twice a week... The baby steps truly do add up.
posted by BlahLaLa at 6:10 PM on February 15, 2021 [16 favorites]

So many good thoughts but I'd like to pitch just walk. It's the one exercise that can be added to every part of life, walk instead of driving an errand if that fits your environment but every day a little walk. And something just great happens a bit after 10-15 minutes so set a timer for just 10 minutes and turn around and you've done the daily 20 that's often recommended.

When I was given that clue during a physical I had some seriously wonky muscles and ligaments which slowed me down a lot. That was a good thing as I often start something too hard, over do, get some hurt, then stop. So go really slow but persistent, basically for forever. Notice the tiniest change and appreciate.
posted by sammyo at 7:49 PM on February 15, 2021 [3 favorites]

You’ve gotten a lot of suggestions for various specific methods of intentional weight loss. They will all probably result in some weight loss. However, dieting for weight loss (calorie restriction, macros, low carb, low fat, cabbage soup, WW, whatever the specific plan) is very frequently followed by regaining to a higher weight than before. You’d like to be less fat; statistically dieting is likely to lead to you being fatter. I’ve found a lot of peace and progress through Health at Every Size and intuitive eating principles. I focus my exercise efforts on improving my mobility, flexibility, balance, stamina, and strength—these activities could possibly result in changes in my weight, but that’s not the goal and honestly hasn’t been the result. My knees are happier. I’m happier. I don’t binge anymore (I didn’t have clinically diagnosed binge eating disorder, but any time I had a “bad” food in the house I’d eat it all in one sitting). The podcasts FoodPsych or Dietitians Unplugged (no longer releasing new episodes but a terrific back catalog), or Lindo Bacon’s book Health at Every Size would be good starting points if you’re interested.
posted by theotherdurassister at 8:24 PM on February 15, 2021 [7 favorites]

I don't mind throwing money at this, but would prefer not to buy a treadmill or similar (I live on the second floor).

For what it's worth, there are light weight treadmills designed for apartments--they're small, quiet, and run at low speeds so there is no temptation to really run-run on them (which is undeniably the loud part). Treadly does a good job but they have a bit of a backlog on orders.

I would previously have refused to keep a treadmill in an apartment as well but pandemic times are desperate times and I've found it immeasurably helpful in keeping myself moving with the one-two punch of pandemic and winter.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 10:16 PM on February 15, 2021 [2 favorites]

It's more about persistence and grit than about mindset or equipment.

I am 50 myself, and my weight had crept slowly upwards since my 30's. I'm currently somewhere between 270 and 280, but never really went above 280 (seriously). I know I waddle when I walk, and I would LIKE to lose 40 if not 80 pounds, but even when I was fully active (I had a delivery job for 18 months with up to 100 stops a day) I never really went below 265. So unless I change my lifestyle pretty drastically I doubt I can go much lower than that.
posted by kschang at 11:59 PM on February 15, 2021 [1 favorite]

As always, different things work for different people, but one thing I found helpful about 16:8 time-restricted eating is that I got used to being hungry. If you’ve spent years organising your life so that you’re basically never hungry, hunger seems like a bigger deal; but actually, being hungry for an hour or so isn’t going to do you any harm.

Not that you need to be hungry all the time to lose weight. But if you can make hunger seem less urgent, if being a bit hungry sometimes is a normal part of your life, it makes whatever diet changes you try easier to stick to.
posted by Bloxworth Snout at 2:05 AM on February 16, 2021 [4 favorites]

Just start with the simplest thing, which tends to be mobility. Just simple mobility. I would recommend Just Agustin's Absolute Beginners Course. You don't need anything at all and you can do it on a chair or your sofa.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:47 AM on February 16, 2021 [5 favorites]

My weight began to creep up when my metabolism changed in my 30s. In the before-times I started going to gym to do weight training, and also started tracking my caloric intake (reluctantly, because it seemed annoying), after being strongly encouraged to do it by my trainer. I stopped going to gym when the pandemic hit, but I continued monitoring my intake, and am therefore very sure that while lifting weights made me stronger (and I miss it) it's the intake, not the exercise, that really affects my weight.

FWIW I was very resistant both to counting calories and to cutting out particular foods, but ultimately decided that counting calories was more tolerable. And while it was initially quite annoying it has grown on me. There are lots of apps that you can use for this; my personal recommendation is Cronometer, because 1) it has both an Android app and a web interface (which is what I use 99% of the time), and 2) it has a carefully curated food database (the previous app I used was full of garbage entered by people who e.g. couldn't understand units, and it never seemed to be corrected).

Of course this is all personal anecdata, I am not a nutritionist, and YMMV.
posted by confluency at 4:30 AM on February 16, 2021 [2 favorites]

Everyone above has good advice. I have had scary good success losing weight by cutting/counting calories, controlling portion sizes, banning "white" starchy foods and sugar, and drinking more water.

I'm commenting to share that I also found that it can be very easy to go overboard and end up having a disordered relationship with food. I second the suggestions to work with a nutritionist or other professional as they will be mindful of this very common issue.
posted by RobinofFrocksley at 5:10 AM on February 16, 2021 [3 favorites]

My weight began to creep up when my metabolism changed in my 30s.

I think I just kept eating like I could when I was 25. I never gained weight! I thought that was just how I roll! Aging had a different take on it, though.
posted by thelonius at 5:27 AM on February 16, 2021 [2 favorites]

The things that have helped me, a fellow fat woman, to exercise regularly are:

1. Find a form of exercise that’s inherently rewarding and feels good. For me, this is yoga and dancing. There are videos and classes on line to be able to do these things at home, which is also helpful.
2. A buddy. It’s more fun for me and therefore more likely to happen if I have a friend doing it also. I have one friend who I zoom with and then we do stretching together. My sweetheart and I do yoga together, sometimes with one of our housemates. The company makes it more fun but also having a buddy help motivate into actually doing it is huge.
3. Let myself stop or make it easier so it ALWAYS FEELS GOOD. Later in my exercise journey, I’ll find the rhythm of pushing myself, but right now, I’m focusing on making every aspect of exercise — physical, emotional, social — feel good as a way of healing my alienation from physical activity thanks to PE classes that clearly informed me that exercise was not for me or people like me. Letting this be an opportunity to feel good and heal my relationship with my body is the only way I have found to make exercise feel like a sustainable practice rather than an ordeal that makes me fight with myself every day.
posted by spindrifter at 5:58 AM on February 16, 2021 [6 favorites]

Seconding Corinne Crabtree. Free podcast here.
posted by fozzie_bear at 8:27 AM on February 16, 2021

I'll second the poster above who mentioned medically supervised weight loss. Personally I went through bariatric surgery because I was 440 pounds, but I had to lose 40 pounds before the surgeon would operate. I worked with a dietician (not a nutritionist) to lose that weight. I won't say what I did because it's extreme. The point is, it was medically supervised.

I was at 170 and then pandemic. I put on 15 pounds. I've lost about 10 so far by going back to logging my food, being smarter about what I was eating and exercising a bit more. I just started strength training with my brother and I'm looking forward to seeing where that leads. I bought a knock off fitbit and I'm monitoring my step count. I have an app called World Walking where I log my steps to a route (I chose around the world) and see my progress. Kinda gamifies things.

There's an IRL thread where we're virtually walking from SF to Tokyo. All you do is log how long you move your body. Pretty much anything goes (eg baby dancing in my case).
posted by kathrynm at 9:01 AM on February 16, 2021 [3 favorites]

The challenging thing with weight loss is what works for one doesn't necessarily work for another. What works is what you'll actually do and maintain. This is where a pro may be helpful for you, especially if you need help identifying where your specific barriers are. Are you a person who can cut back and would benefit from smaller portion sizes, or allowing yourself a small treat here and there, or is it better to restrict all the way because self-control is an issue? For some, if you restrict heavily, you eat an entire chocolate cake. For others if you allow yourself a bite you finish it. It's important to understand what camp you are in and then construct your plan around that.

The other piece is simply just have a plan. Eat before you are ravenous. Planning to walk for 30 minutes but only feel up to 10? Do just the 10. Feel overwhelmed by the idea of setting up a whole plan today? Decide to do something small like not putting sugar in your coffee today, and then feel proud as HELL about that. Main point being - don't let extremism and perfectionism stop you from attaining and enjoying small victories. Every bit counts, and is worth celebrating.
posted by amycup at 9:11 AM on February 16, 2021 [1 favorite]

My recommendations:
1) Work with a professional. Professional = qualified personal trainer, physical therapist, dietician, etc. Virtual is easy and common now. The professional will provide external accountability and, more importantly, help you work through the unexpected but still predictable things that come up.

In my case, the unexpected but predictable was a pandemic moving my regular form of cardio from low-impact swimming to high-impact running. This meant that I had to learn how to stretch and strengthen (different exercises!) my IT band. My trainer knew exactly what to do and taught me that the hip pain in one leg and the knee pain in the other were in fact from the same issue. I promise you, I'd never have figured that out on my own.

2) Change your diet in tandem with exercise. The method, I think, is far less important than the mindset that you will need to eat this way for the rest of your life. Whatever method you pick, you need to be comfortable with that idea.

My friends and I have had some wonderful conversations about weight loss (most of us have lost a very significant amount of weight over the last five years) and we all agree that it can't be seen as a one-and-done thing. It has to be the rest of your life and that means it has to be something that isn't a fad or too extreme and unhealthy for everyday.

One of my friends ended up with some serious disordered eating after a bad trainer encounter and she really recommends Intuitive Eating if that's a concern you have.

3) Don't be afraid to drop your professional if the vibe is unhealthy. Just like a therapist, there can be good and bad fits. A bad professional can do real damage to you (mentally, physically, etc.).

I got really lucky - I love my trainer, she was able to work up a good diet (40/30/30 as mentioned above, with tweaks as needed) that wasn't IF because my migraines don't permit that, she and I already worked virtually so the pandemic didn't phase us, and she's also been a great life coach over this last really tough year. My friend above? Worked with my trainer's partner and ended up at a great weight - only to gain it all back and then some within two months, with tons of injury along the way. Turns out the partner was just not good at working with someone who had a history of injury and unhealthy eating. Fit matters.
posted by librarylis at 11:48 AM on February 16, 2021

Oh these are hard threads. First of all, weight loss is at least 80% diet. Exercise is excellent and so beneficial in so many ways, but you don't have to sweat every day to lose weight. In fact, it may be bad for your joints if you don't lose a little weight before starting anything strenuous. Walking is great!

I can only offer my experience. I am 52, and after losing 63 pounds since last July, I am at a normal BMI for the first time in a really long time, and I am here to stay. I don't count calories, measure things, or weigh things, because I don't want to do that the rest of my life. And the reason diets fail, is that people stop doing the diet and gain their weight back. (I guess the proof won't be pudding until two years have passed and I've managed to stick to it. But I'm not worried about it this time.)

One day, like you, I was ready for a change and I happened upon this video and also Forks Over Knives as mentioned by FencingGal. I switched to a whole food plant-based, no oil diet, specifically a starch-based diet. First I read The Starch Solution then starting following the Maximum Weight Loss plan guidelines. I am never hungry! I eat all the potatoes I want. (Yes, I did notice the first poster said they were quitting starch. I do not recommend it!) I walk my dogs twice a day, and though I plan to add some strength training, I haven't yet, and didn't need to in order to lose weight.

Change is hard. Really hard. Most diets work because they are designed for weight loss, but then people stop doing the thing and of course the weight comes back. Processed foods are killing us. Dairy and other animal products are really pretty bad for us. Fat is bad for us, and makes us fat. Happy to send more resources for a whole-food plant based diet if you (or anyone) wants. I've come to accept that most people don't want to hear it. It 100% works, here's a few boatloads of testimonials. But good luck, whatever you choose!!
posted by Glinn at 2:13 PM on February 16, 2021 [2 favorites]

I have been having a very good experience with a telemedicine weight loss program called Calibrate. They focus on habit changing, combined with medication (I am Ozempic). I am down almost 50 lbs. and feeling good about the program. It cost a fair bit of money (about $1500) but I needed something with enough supervision and support to keep me accountable, but flexible enough to fit into my life. Not an MLM which was also important to me.

May be worth looking into. Feel free to PM me with any questions.
posted by honeybee413 at 2:37 PM on February 16, 2021

I am someone who is almost done with losing 50 lbs slowly. My overall process was to do something that would improve my diet and health until I had exhausted what it would do for me, then I would move to something else. So first, I reduced carbs and joined an online program through work/insurance that had nutrition training and counseling and lost 12 lbs, then I did intermittent fasting, lost some more, then joined Jenny Craig to retrain my portion sizes and have some outside accountability, and as I'm plateauing on that, I'm tinkering with exercise and keeping my water up. I agree that weight loss for me is 80% diet and 20% exercise. I wasn't feeling physically great when I started, so I focused on what I could. Now I feel well enough to exercise so I'll start ramping that up. You've done so great so far -- good luck with your new challenges!
posted by *s at 3:12 PM on February 16, 2021

With bariatric surgery you could expect to lose 55 per cent of your excess weight. That's about as good as science gets at the moment. If you've got money to spend on this, spend it on surgery.

You could diet. You'll lose some weight in the short term - most of it water and probably some lean muscle mass - but you'll almost certainly end up regaining the weight, and then more.

There are a lot of anecdotes in this post. Remember that they're just that. I think I've said this before, but you're effectively asking people how to win the lottery, and then assuming:

- a lot of people must win the lottery, because look at all these replies
- if you do what they do you'll also win the lottery.

You almost certainly will not, and of the millions of people who buy tickets - or diets, or exercises - almost nobody does. The millions of people who bought a ticket and got nothing don't answer, and neither do the millions of people who diet and exercise and get no results. You'll just hear about the random person who did [insert latest thing] here and their usually short-term results.

If you're short of breath, get yourself checked for cardiomyopathy - don't assume it's your lungs because you smoked and everything is going to get better now.
posted by some little punk in a rocket at 6:10 PM on February 16, 2021 [2 favorites]

You know, OP made it clear what their desires were. I am very supportive of fat acceptance, but I don't see the use of suggesting that their desires are wrong.

I lost about 20% of my weight in 2005 (previously obese) using modest caloric restriction and exercise. I was only even willing to undertake it when it no longer felt like a referendum on my value as a human being. With the exception of *waves* right now and the one time I literally thought I was going to have to have my digestive system permanently damaged through surgery and might even die and so kind of didn't give a fuck for a while, my weight's stayed in a fairly narrow range for those fifteen years. Never have I gotten anywhere near gaining it all back, much less exceeding it. (I'm still theoretically overweight even in my little range, but I've accepted that to go lower would require measures that I don't have the patience for and which might even be hurtful to me.)

Anecdote? Yes. Do I believe that for many people, dieting is futile and even harmful? Yes, actually. Do I think modest caloric restriction of the kind I suggested is likely to do serious injury to the body? No. Do I believe one is likely to be better off even if they don't keep the weight off if they manage to establish a habit of exercise? The science supports that one, very much.

Basically, I have my own reservations about OP's goal, but it would be hypocritical of me not to suggest what worked for me if I don't think it's likely to be very harmful even if it fails. I also think a movement conditioned on bodily autonomy needs to respect a full range of choices about what people want to do with their bodies.
posted by praemunire at 7:00 PM on February 16, 2021 [5 favorites]

I want to tread carefully and not get into a back-and-forth with other commenters. I feel it's potentially useful to add this about my experience with dieting and finding Health at Every Size: I'm frankly angry that every diet I've been on as an adult has been followed by weight gain to a higher number than before. I've done Weight Watchers (twice), South Beach (twice), Paleo, Macros, Naturally Slim, and tracking calories with an app (too many times to count). And I'm good at following the rules--I didn't start the diet and fall off the wagon a week later. Most of my diets lasted at least 4-6 months, some longer before I hit a roadblock (work, school, stressful life stuff). Even when I wasn't on a specific plan, I tried to be "good." I was scared of bread for years. My weight kept going down a bit, then up higher, then down a bit, then up higher. This weight cycling experience is very common, and it's hard on your health. I think it's important, if you're considering any type of diet, to be aware that it will likely be followed by regaining to a higher weight. If you'd told me when I weighed 175lbs that I was about to spend over a decade dieting and the result would be an additional 75lbs, I'd have been pissed.

OP, you're the boss of your body, and if you want to pursue weight loss, that's entirely your choice. At the same time, you deserve to know that the effects of dieting are generally temporary (this has been known for decades but there is a billion dollar diet industry that depends on us ignoring the science to stay profitable) and you can improve your fitness, nutrition, and overall health without getting on that miserable merry-go-round.
posted by theotherdurassister at 10:48 AM on February 17, 2021 [7 favorites]

You might try some kind of structured weight loss program like Noom (which I can personally vouch for) or Weight Watchers. It costs money of course but it's worth it and the hand-holdy approach is so much easier than trying to figure everything out on your own IMO. I personally found Noom was pretty good for developing healthy habits that I can use longterm especially regarding portion size, mindful eating etc. It's not a crash diet deal.

As for exercise, I'd just start with getting your steps in then branching out to exercise/activities that interest you.
posted by Jess the Mess at 11:44 AM on February 17, 2021

Just one little coda to my walking suggestions above: If using a programme sounds too much faff, you can use lamp posts, if you live somewhere that has lamp posts alongside the sidewalk.

For example, in your first week, you go out for 20 minutes, on Mon, Wed, Fri. The first week, you walk briskly from one lamp post to the next, then walk gently for the next three lamp posts. Stay at the same level all week, 20 minutes with a 1:3 ratio of brisk:gentle.

The next week, maybe you change the ratio to 1:2, for 20 minutes.

Third week, you could drop back down to 1:3 but stay out for 30 minutes. Week four maybe 1:2 for 30 minutes.

And so on.

Nobody watching you will have a clue you're doing anything other than going for a walk, but you'll be doing a super-simple, structured, progressive exercise programme. It's useful to keep counting/measuring a little rather than just think "I'll walk briskly until I feel like slowing down" because it makes sure you keep improving, but you're in control of when/how much you ramp up and you don't need a stopwatch or anything.
posted by penguin pie at 4:40 AM on February 19, 2021 [3 favorites]

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