Sunday, April 15, 2012

And this is why it's bad to lose weight through diet alone

This is traditionally the point at which I'd become frustrated in diets past. And once again, I'm frustrated. I'm at 217. Still. After about a month of being at or near 217. This is what is technically known as a Weight Loss Plateau.

See...I theorized early on in my diet that I should have a diet plan that closely matches my current lifestyle so that I could maintain it for the rest of my life. I made some modest changes to my physical activity. But most of my changes were dietary. I ate fewer calories, ate more vegetables.

Here's the problem with that, though. When you lose weight through reduced calories, you lose muscle --> and when you lose muscle your metabolism slows --> and when your metabolism slows, you need fewer calories to get by.

And when you need fewer calories to get by....suddenly you find that a reduced calorie diet isn't causing weight loss anymore. Oops.

Here's what the Mayo Clinic has to say:

A plateau occurs because your metabolism — the process of burning calories for energy — slows as you lose muscle. You burn fewer calories than you did at your heavier weight even doing the same activities. Your weight-loss efforts result in a new equilibrium with your now slower metabolism.

At this new equilibrium, calories eaten equals calories expended. This means that to lose more weight, you need to increase activity or decrease the calories you eat. Using the same approach that worked initially may maintain your weight loss, but it won't lead to more weight loss.

So I've been getting up in the morning and taking long walks. Lifting weights in the basement while watching Scrubs on my Laptop via Netflix. Also...a nasty flu has given me a healthy headwind. Though we're back to the muscle loss thing.

The moral of the story: An effective weightloss regimen needs some form of muscle building or muscle maintaining exercise.

Dieatary change alone is going to lead to a hard core plateau as your body constantly slows its metabolism.

Here's some suggestions from the Mayo Clinic:

  • Reassess your habits. Look back at your food and activity records. Make sure you haven't loosened the rules, letting yourself get by with larger portions or less exercise.

  • Cut more calories. Reduce your daily calorie intake by 200 calories — provided this doesn't put you below 1,200 calories. Fewer than 1,200 calories a day may not be enough to keep you from feeling hungry all of the time, which increases your risk of overeating. In addition, this reduced calorie intake should be sustainable. If not, you'll regain the weight you've lost and more.

  • Rev up your workout. Increase the amount of time you exercise by an additional 15 to 30 minutes. You might also try increasing the intensity of your exercise, if you feel that's possible. Additional exercise will cause you to burn more calories. Consider adding resistance or muscle-building exercises. Increasing your muscle mass will help you burn more calories.

  • Pack more activity into your day. Think outside the gym. Increase your general physical activity throughout the day by walking more and using your car less, or try doing more yardwork or vigorous spring cleaning.

The next challenge is, what type of exercise would I incorporate that I'd be willing to do for the rest of my life?


  1. Great post! I follow you on twitter btw- found you via Erin :)

    1. What's your twitter name so's I can follow you back?