Home Q&A Wednesday Q&A Wednesday: The Weight Is Moving Too Slowly!

Q&A Wednesday: The Weight Is Moving Too Slowly!

by Erika Nicole Kendall

Q: I am (obviously) a HUGE fan of your website and information. I am all the way there regarding eating clean and exercising. I have pretty much eliminated sweets, junk food, etc out of my diet. I don’t drink soda (always hated it) rarely drink juice and when I do I never finish the cup because it’s too sweet. I have started jogging and enjoying it even though I am still slow. Here’s my question-I know we are in this to not just lose weight but to be healthy too but I currently weigh 235 (down from 250 5 months ago) and it’s getting so hard to lose weight. I thought since I am so heavy now the weight would fall off just from changing my eating habits and moving more but it’s not! Have any of your other readers experienced this? I don’t consider it a plateau ( I read your post about that) because the scale moves…just veeeeeery slowly. Suggestions? Tips? I would be honored if this was a Wednesday post on your blog…if you haven’t covered this already. Thanks!

black-woman-on-treadmill

I know, I know… 2lbs per week, yadda yadda. I’m actually going to approach this from a different angle.

And of course, we’re in this to be healthy, but let’s be real. We want to lose weight. We just want to do it in a healthy and sustainable  fashion, and there’s no shame in admitting that that’s what you want.

When you’re in the upper 200lb ranges*, and you’re getting your eating together and your activity levels are in check, the weight can, in a sense, “fly” off. It just does. The weight will “fall off” at a rate faster than the standard answer of 2lbs per week.

That being said, this presents a problem for you as you shrink. Let me try to explain.

A larger body burns more calories than a smaller body. I know that I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating: this is why smaller people tend to have smaller portions and smaller plates. This is also why portion control becomes important. The larger you are, the more your body can be expected to burn throughout the day.

Look at it like this. Let’s say that you’re 265lbs, and because of your body composition and level of activity, you burn – on average – around 3600 calories a day. Let’s suppose, now, that you’ve been consistently eating 2200 calories a day and burning an average of an additional 3500 calories each week in the gym doing cardio (and no weights, shame on you), which results in you now losing weight and dropping down to 225.

Congratulations!

Except. At 225, now your body doesn’t burn 3600 calories a day… it burns 3000. And now, you’re used to doing the same thing in your workouts and instead of measuring and making sure you’re burning 700 calories 5 days a week, you’re just going through the motions… not noticing how the motions are getting easier. So now, it’s not “Oh, I’m burning 700 calories!” – it’s “I’m done now.” Well, “I’m done now” now means you’re not burning 700 calories anymore. It means you’re burning 500 calories 5 days a week.

Your weekly caloric deficit isn’t lending itself to 3-4lbs a week anymore – now, it’s lending itself more towards 2lbs a week.

Now, your weight loss has slowed down. Now… you feel like you’re not doing something right. It might not feel like a plateau, but that’s only because you haven’t gotten to the point where the the caloric expenditure scale hasn’t completely balanced out, yet. It’s getting closer, though.

For every ten pounds you lose, you should be taking stock of your caloric intake and your regular caloric expenditure. No, you don’t need to be obsessive about it and keep track of it round the clock, but knowing how much you can expect to burn throughout the day as well as knowing how much food you’re putting into your mouth is more than enough knowledge to empower you to stay on track.

Coming down from the high 200lb range can mess with your head, because its so easy at first to see the pounds come down. But, the smaller you become, the less your body can burn – both in exercise and throughout the day – and without troubleshooting those variables, you can experience a slow down.

Keep in mind that as long as the scale is moving while you’re properly nourishing your body and being active in a healthy and sensible fashion, you’re doing something right. Furthermore, you can also help mitigate this by maintaining a moderate weight training routine – even 10lbs of muscle can help by providing a several-hundred calorie boost to your metabolism, regardless of what kinds of issues might be inhibiting your ability to burn.

Truthfully, weight loss is tricky, and to counteract that, your plan should be modified and updated throughout the course of your journey. Creating a good program for yourself that is modified and updated in cycles – I think a series of 6-week cycles is often the most common – can help you keep a program that will consistently help you lose the same numbers you were losing at a higher rate… just be prepared to work your tail off. Just like I always say, your body will thank you for it!

*I make these kinds of statements with the assumption that you’ve visited your doctor and been told that all of your blood work is clear, all the relevant hormone levels are normal and you are generally healthy. A slow down could be caused by any number of things, and you’d be wisest to double check any and all of that with your physician.

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10 comments

Olivia January 2, 2013 - 4:09 PM

Yay! Thank you Erika for posting and answering my question! I had forgotten I even wrote it and when I started to read it I was like “Oh wow! This is exactly what I am experiencing” until I realized it was my question!
Anyway, reading this showed me the importance of food tracking. I admit that I slacked off on it because I was losing weight and I thought I had it all figured out but I will make this a SMART goal for this year.
Also, your asterisk brought something to my mind….I haven’t been to a doctor in a year since I had my baby so you’re right-it could be due to a health issue. However, I (like millions of Americans) don’t have health insurance so I have no idea when or how I can ever get tested. This is one of the reasons why eating right and exercising is so important to me because I cannot afford to get sick.

Monique February 6, 2013 - 12:19 PM

You can go to any free clinic in your area for free physical. If you’re a student, try student health. Not sure where you live but since Ca community colleges are relatively inexpensive, registering for a class and paying the student health fee (around $40) you have access to health care. Hope that helps you.

kami January 2, 2013 - 7:24 PM

My goal is to lose two pounds per week. At this time, I am losing only 1 pound per week. I have been working out 4 days a week. My goal 5x to six days and eating healthier. Another goal is checking on my vitamin levels. It is frustrating to watch the weight come off slowly but I am glad I am losing again.

Jessica January 3, 2013 - 11:03 AM

Love your blog. And this is the best weightloss explanation I have ever heard. Thanks!

marie January 3, 2013 - 2:07 PM

Same for me! The weight is decreasing slowly but i’m ok with that. I see little changes in my body, it’s becoming more “defined” I see some of my muscles now although I had no idea I had them before lol!
Losing weight slowly is also a guarantee of sustainability for me. I track my caloric intake and i’m becoming more aware every month and implement step by step some healthy habits into my lifestyle without feeling that it’s too hard for me. And I learn a lot about myself.
When I started a weight loss years ago it was about appearance and I wanted to loose fast, I wanted tangible results. Now i’m not in a hurry any longer, I already love myself although I do set goals but I choose goals which are attainable, which will not frustrate me and which are sustainable.
Few people might relate to this because we all have different journeys, goals and body but I think it’s important to give the body some time and get to know it better. <3

Jojo satoes January 16, 2013 - 9:16 PM

Makes perfect sense. Never thought of it this way tho.

KC February 5, 2013 - 4:40 PM

This happens to me all the time. It’s easier to get up in the number rather than looking to see what IS really different. When I get upset b/c the scale doesn’t reflect what I am doing, I remember this: It’s what you do consistently that matters. I may not be a size 6 when I started this journey 2 yrs ago, but I know I lost 50 lbs that have NOT come back. I’m more toned and I can do more. While the number game might mess with my head, it hasn’t messed with my clothes. Clothes are getting smaller though its a slow process.

All bodies are not created equal. My friend can gain and lose weight at the drop of a hat. Look at her eating habits – they are atrocious. At least I have learned that eating cleaner and healthier is not as hard as I imagined. The only thing preventing me was me.

True July 31, 2013 - 8:26 PM

This does make a lot of sense. I was scared when I lost way more weight than I thought I was supposed to in the first week of my weight journey. I have had to recently change some things around to continue on with my get fit/healthier regimen. Thanks for posting this because I need some more pointers.

Nubian July 31, 2013 - 10:28 PM

I’m currently about 275 and I’m trying to get back in the weight loss saddle. Last year I lost almost 15lbs (270 to 255) but health issues kicked me off my diet/exercise routine and as a result I was inactive, my diet doesn’t work without movement and I eventually gained it all back plus 10 extra pounds!! Grrr!! Now I’m tired of the rolls and dunlap and I’m ready to start shedding pounds and inches like I was doing last year but it is HARD!! I’ve cut back, I exercise 5xs a week and drink plenty of water plus take my vitamins BUT my weight loss has been excruciatingly S-L-O-W!!!! So slow that I want to quit and just deal with being overweight and my rolls and my dunlap even tho I have “progress” clothes from last year that I can’t fit anymore 🙁 In addition to my no pounds, no inches “weight loss” I’m also concerned about flabby skin as I lose. I know to incorporate weight training but I don’t have a Bowflex or heavy weights to help tighten my back, tummy and thighs; my heaviest dumbbell is 10lbs and I can’t even lift it right now! So two things; How do I get motivated again to lose the weight and how do I combat the flabby skin that is sure to come with the weight lose?

Erika Nicole Kendall August 1, 2013 - 10:12 AM

Ahhh, I’ve covered all that before. Hit the search bar up top for “motivation” and it should all come up.

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