General Question

diavolobella's avatar

Why am I no longer able to lose weight?

Asked by diavolobella (7907 points ) January 7th, 2013

I have been a fitness enthusiast for nearly 20 years, even appearing in two fitness infomercials, but after going through a divorce in 2003 and subsequent stressful life changes, I quit working out and gradually gained quite a bit of weight.

In March 2011, I decided to rectify the situation. I reduced my caloric intake, endeavored to eat healthy foods, began exercising again and took up running (which I love). Within a short time I dropped 33 pounds and all was well. I was continuing to lose weight and was only 10 pounds from my goal weight when another upheaval occurred. In January, 2012, I took a new job which I thought was a dream job. Instead it was a nightmare of epic proportions and was stressful beyond anything I ever had experienced, including my divorce. I continued working out, but it became sporadic and my eating definitely suffered. In June, 2012, I escaped to my current job but by then I had regained 10–14 pounds (it fluctuates).

I have been at my new job for six months and become accustomed to it (it’s a good job and pretty stress-free). I went back on my healthy eating/regular exercise plan three months ago, but to my surprise I have been completely unable to lose any weight whatsoever. I have tried cutting calories further without success. I have tried increasing calories, since someone suggested I might not be eating enough. No dice. I’ve lowered my carbs, cut down on sugar, etc. Nothing. I am mystified and although I have not lost my motivation, I am frustrated. I would be happy just to re-lose the 10 pounds I have gained back whether or not I succeed in losing any more than that and ever reach my original goal weight. I’d just like my clothes to fit and some of them now don’t.

The facts: I am 49 years old, 5’9 inches tall and currently weigh 153 to 157, depending on the day. I exercise 6 days a week and take 1 rest day generally, but will take 1 extra rest day if my body tells me to. I run 3 miles at 5.0 mph at least 3 or 4 days a week and on the alternate days I do a variety of workouts combining things such as lifting moderate weights and/or using body weight resistance, stretching and barre/Pilates and kickboxing. For the record, my hormone levels indicate I am perimenopausal, but I have absolutely no symptoms or side effects and I have been in perimenopause for years. It didn’t affect my losing weight before, so I don’t think that’s a factor now either.

I am interested in constructive suggestions about what might be causing this plateau and how to break through it or information and encouragement from others who might have experienced the same thing and succeeded in getting through it.

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38 Answers

syz's avatar

Your age may have some impact. Perimenopausal and menopausal women have more difficulty losing weight. You may not have felt the effects earlier, but it’s not an “either/or” situation; there’s a prolonged, gradual change which you may finally be feeling.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

Get a notebook and list EVERY thing that goes in your mouth. Calories are the thing that drive weight up or down.
Add up the calories for each day.
Measure all food.
Drink lots of water, eight to ten glasses of it a day.

Good luck.

diavolobella's avatar

@Tropical_Willie I actually do track everything. I use the My Fitness Pal app on my iPhone to track everything I eat and drink and my workouts. So, I know exactly how many calories I’m taking in and how many I’m burning.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

@diavolobella Are you eating more or less than 1500 calories a day?

diavolobella's avatar

@Tropical_Willie I allow myself 1180 calories per day. I generally come in slightly under that, especially after exercise.

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

I’m not sure how monotonous your diet is, but if you constantly eat the same things, that will prevent weight loss. Like, if you eat salads, and low carbs, and raw fruits and veggies aaaaaaall the time, your body naturally plateaus, because it doesn’t feel like it has anything to do.

I was told to keep my diet widely, WIDELY varied, so that my metabolism will keep on chuggin’. I eat whatever I want, in moderation of course, and I change up what I’m eating all the time, so my body doesn’t get stuck in a rut. It has actually worked wonders for my weight loss goals.

Seek's avatar

^True. Every once in a while, eat a ginormous slice of chocolate cake, just to confuse the hell out of your system.

Alternate that with random fasting days, too.

diavolobella's avatar

@WillWorkForChocolate Nope, I eat all sorts of different things. My diet is extremely varied and I don’t forbid myself anything. I just watch the amount I eat and stay within my calorie allocation. That’s not to say I don’t ever go over, @Seek Kolinahr, because I do, but not often. I loves me some Talenti Belgian Milk Chocolate gelato. :)

diavolobella's avatar

By the way, it’s really nice to “see” all of you again. It’s been a long, long time. :)

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

Hmmmm, okay then, come on over to my house. I’ve missed your damn “face” so much that I can hug a few pounds off you, then chase you around and really burn some calories. :D

diavolobella's avatar

You know, I probably need to revisit whether I’m really as non-stressed out as I think I am. I think I may still be stressed, but it’s coming from a less obvious and more unusual source. Hmmm…food for thought.

My new job is what most people would consider a true dream job. It’s super, SUUUUUPER laid back and I get to work with a lot of famous people, but the laid back part is a problem. I’m not used to that and I’m not really a laid back person, so I tend to get stuck doing all the work and toeing the line while no one else is. The fact is, I could slack just as much as everyone else and no one would care, because (for better or worse) that’s the accepted behavior here. I can’t bring myself to do it though, because it’s not my nature. So, I show up on time and everyone else shows up an hour or more late, etc. I think I may be internalizing a lot of resentment about that. Hmmmm… I wonder if that can really affect my ability to lose weight??

Highbrow's avatar

The idea behind weight loss is simple—burn more calories than you eat, quite simply.

Coloma's avatar

@diavolobella 1,180 calories a day is not nearly enough to meet your bodies needs especially with all the exercising you claim you are doing. Anything less than 1,500 is very unhealthy and makes getting the proper nutrition diffecult. The more restricted your calorie intake, the more your body hoards the calories as you are sending it signals of famine and deprivation.

Yes, the peri and menopause phase makes it harder to keep your weight down, but I suspect that your extreme caloric restrictions are the culprit. Have you had your thyroid checked?
Weight loss also hits plateaus but, again, consuming less than 1,200 calories a day is very unhealthy, very.

diavolobella's avatar

@Highbrow It looks like you cut and pasted that from a Primal Diet website. That’s not really helpful. Besides which, I’ve already answered many of the questions in that article.

I see you removed that post. I understand the calorie deficit principle.

diavolobella's avatar

@Coloma I’ve considered that and for a time I increased my caloric intake. Still nothing. It doesn’t seem to matter whether or not I up it or cut it even more drastically. I’ve gone as high as 1500 calories a day with no change. That’s what is so strange about it. I’ve had my thyroid checked and it’s fine.

Also, I’m not “claiming” to do that much exercise. I am doing it. I don’t think you meant that to sound somewhat like an accusation, but it did. I’m not lying about my physical activity.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

Switch on a weekly basis, from high protein one week to all fruit or all vegetables to a rotation of diets. Are you drinking water with each meal and in between?

Coloma's avatar

@diavolobella I did not mean it in an accusatory manner, no.
Well…clearly, you need another physical evaluation and perhaps see a nutritionist.
I am 5’3.5 and when I stick to 1,500 calories a day and work a 5–6 day a week program the weight just falls off my body, if anything I have gotten too thin on that routine in the past which I no longer participate in.
Something is off, obviously, because it is simply not possible to exercise that much on such a restricted caloric intake and still not lose weight.

diavolobella's avatar

@Tropical_Willie I probably don’t drink as much water as I should. I hate the taste of it, but I try to stay well hydrated. It might be a good idea to switch things up in my diet. I like to think I’m keep things pretty varied in my diet, but I may be eating too many processed foods. Thanks.

diavolobella's avatar

@Coloma Thanks. I didn’t think you did, but it’s a sensitive subject since I’m working so hard and not getting the results I’m accustomed to. I’m a little tense about it.

I agree that something is going on, because I should absolutely be losing weight. I can’t account for it, other than stress. I’d like to think that mathematics should override stress and that if you burn more calories than you take in, it should work – stress aside. I think that might be wishful thinking though. I probably should talk to my doctor about the things at work that are bugging me.

wundayatta's avatar

There was a question here about this topic recently, and @augustlan posted a link to a very interesting study about weightloss. It said that your body treats your efforts to lose weight as starvation, and that at a certain point, it shuts everything down in order to protect your weight.

People will respond by cutting calories to a ridiculous level, such as you have, but it does no good. In fact, they said that if your calories are below a certain amount (I don’t remember—maybe 1200 a day), then essentially you are anorexic. You are eating what an anorexic eats and probably eating as unhealthily as an anorexic (although you say you are not, but it’s hard to be balanced properly once you get to a certain level).

So even though you don’t look anorexic, your eating habits and prodigious exercise could well mean you have an eating disorder. Obviously I’m not a doctor and I’m just talking about something I remember vaguely, but you might want to make an appointment with an eating specialist to get checked out. You may not be able to see yourself accurately.

Maybe @augustlan will come along and provide that link again. Maybe you can see an eating disorder specialist. If you do have a problem (and I’m not saying you do), you will need therapy to help you come to understand your body’s needs better and to get normalized. I think you know something isn’t working as expected and that’s why you asked this question. I hope I’m wrong. But that’s what your description reminded me of.

diavolobella's avatar

Thank you for that information, but I absolutely do not have an eating disorder. As I said, I’ve tried cutting my caloric intake further, but I’ve also tried increasing it to as high as 1500. I’ve experimented with both ends of the spectrum – higher AND lower caloric intakes, in order to figure out what has me on a plateau. The diet plan which I used to initially lose the original 33 pounds (Slim Fast) allots 1180 calories a day – a 190 calorie shake for breakfast, a 190 calorie shake for lunch, 3–100 calorie snacks during the day and a 500 calorie dinner. That is where that number came from and although I no longer use Slim Fast, I generally keep my calorie intake at about that number. I used Slim Fast with my doctor’s approval. That’s why I selected that number of calories when I restarted my efforts. It worked for me during my initial weight loss and my doctor gave his approval to using it before I began. That said, it’s not written in stone and I’ve been playing with going slightly below it and over it to see if I could jolt my system out of this plateau but neither approach has worked. That’s the thing – eating more and eating less have BOTH had no effect.

I don’t consider 30 to 45 minutes of varying types of exercise 5 or 6 days a week to be prodigious at all. That’s a perfectly healthy and normal amount of exercise, particularly for a person whose job is completely sedentary. My weight level is also not below normal. I’m 5’9 and weigh between 153 to 157 pounds with a goal of returning to the weight I had previously reached of 145. It’s a mere 10 pounds of weight we are talking about here and puts me solidly in a normal weight range for my height.

Coloma's avatar

@diavolobella If you’re only talking 10 lbs. I think you should just leave well enough alone.
In my experience getting and keeping off the last 10lbs. is the hardest and, if you are basing your ideal weight on that of when you were 19 and now you are 49, that is also unrealistic. Also, depending on your frame, either small, medium or large boned, even if you are a small boned 5’9 your weight is good as it is.
As I said I am barely 5’4 of a small to medium build and curvy.

I look freaking AWESOME at a weight of 128 lbs. and still really good all the way up to 140!
When I was pushing myself to stay at 115–117 I was hungry ALL the time, and it just isn’t worth it.
I think you should back off losing another 10lbs. and work on maintaining your current weight which is very reasonable for height. Part of eating disorders involve being obsessed with ones weight. I think you should leave well enough alone.

diavolobella's avatar

@Coloma Perhaps if just let it go, it will take care of itself. I’ve only been back to working on it for a couple of months, after all. It took longer than that to gain it back, so it might to lose it.

When I was 19 to 30 years old, (when I had my first child), I weighed 120 pounds with no effort whatsoever, so I’m not basing my ideal weight on an unrealistic number. I’m basing it on what I already had easily achieved and easily maintained for a long time. 145 is a reasonable number, it’s a weight I felt good at and also a weight at which I bought a whole new wardrobe. I can’t afford to buy another wardrobe and unfortunately 10 pounds is enough to cause a lot of my clothes to no longer fit. As I mentioned, my original goal weight when I got to 145 was to lose another ten and get to 135. However, I’d be satisfied now to get back to the 145 I’d achieved and leave it there. 135 was my ideal, if I had to say I had an ideal, but 145 was perfectly fantastic. I’ll take it for sure. LOL

I’m a little troubled by the fact that several people have suggested that I’m obsessed with my weight and thrown out (again) the idea that I have a eating disorder. That’s pretty offensive. I lost weight, regained some back because of a stressful period in my life when I neglected my health, and tried to lose it again using the technique that worked for me the first time, only to have it not work this time. Of course I’m questioning why it’s not working and frustrated by that. I would be just as frustrated and questioning if I’d made a cherry pie 100 times using the exact same recipe and one day it stopped tasting right. I’d be going back trying to figure out what changed or where I’d messed up the recipe. That doesn’t make me obsessed. I came to Fluther to ask this question because Fluther is the place we ask questions. It’s not on my mind 24/7 because I asked about it here.

Coloma's avatar

@diavolobella Don’t take anything personally, people are just tossing out a myriad of feedback. Mentioning an eating disorder is only extra trouble shooting and feedback. I have had the same experience myself the last decade, going from years of being in great shape to going soft again for various reasons.
Age, menopause, stress, and not giving a shit too! haha

As always things change and everything is a process.
Just pay attention and don’t be too hard on yourself.

diavolobella's avatar

Thanks @Coloma That’s all true. It’s hard for me because, having been involved in fitness for a long time, I’m a pretty well educated fitness consumer and feel like I know most of the answers and pitfalls. That’s why I feel like I should be able to figure this out. I think that bugs me more than the actual weight gain – not being able to solve the puzzle. I’m a natural born detective. LOL

I wonder if this pancake on my head adds extra weight. [rimshot!]

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

I’m pretty sure that if you shave off all that fur, you’d be a pound lighter… just a thought.

diavolobella's avatar

@WillWorkForChocolate I think that would be cold and my butt will show

Pachy's avatar

Perhaps you should consider focusing on other interests besides your weight… and please believe me, I’m not dismissing your concerns or criticizing you. I too have to watch my weight. But I find that as I’ve gotten older, I’ve become less fixated by how I look. Recently I revisited some photos from my younger years—specifically, a period in my life when I felt overweight. I was absolutely amazed by how good I looked and sorry I didn’t just kick back and enjoy those years more.

diavolobella's avatar

@Pachyderm_In_The_Room That’s absolutely true. I have also looked back on photos of myself when I was younger (and highly critical of my appearance, although not my weight) and thought “Good grief, what was I so hard on myself for?” Truly though, I don’t think about it all the time. I have a lot of other things going on in my life and lots of other interests. As I said to Coloma, I think it bugs me because this is an area where I usually have the solution and know exactly what to do to get the result I want, but right now it’s not working. One of those “physician heal thyself” situations. More than anything, I just want back in some of the cute clothes I bought. :p

Brian1946's avatar

@diavolobella

5’9 inches tall and currently weigh 153 to 157,

That actually seems somewhat thin to me, but then I prefer more curvaceous women.

What’s your fiber intake? If you eat rice, do you choose brown over white?

Could it be that you’ve gained muscle mass? It’s my understanding that muscle weighs 7 times as much as fat. IIRC, Hilary Swank said that she gained 19 pounds when she trained for her part in Million Dollar Baby.

It’s great to see you back and I hope your return is permanent! :-D

diavolobella's avatar

@Brian1946 153–157 is not fat by any means, but it’s not super thin either. It’s a pretty happy medium. I’m very hourglass shaped (wasp waist, large bust and curvy hips), which was to my advantage when I was heavier because although I weighed more, it was evenly distributed and not all in one place. I was very va va voom like an old time pin up girl. A friend of my boyfriend’s gave him one of his all time favorite compliments about me at that time when she said “Man, Joan is allllll woman. She’s like bam bam bam!” LOL

I think my fiber intake is pretty reasonable. I can’t stand brown rice and love white rice, but I don’t eat a lot of rice either way. I have one (ahem) issue that a lot of runners have. When I run, I go. And I mean GO. Like “everybody out of the pool”. It’s called “runner’s trots.” Kind of gross, I know, but if you are asking about fiber in regard to regularity, let’s just saying running keeps me cleared out.

I am fairly muscular, but the idea that muscle weighs more than fat is a common fallacy. A pound is a pound, whether it be muscle or fat – it weighs a pound. Muscle takes up less space than fat but weight-wise, it’s all the same. That’s why if you gain muscle you may wear a smaller clothing size because you lose inches, but your weight remains the same.

Coloma's avatar

@Brian1946 Excellent point!! Wow…why didn’t I and others ask this as well?
Yes, muscle weighs much more than fat, that is why I can look great at the higher end of the spectrum of my ideal weight.

diavolobella's avatar

@Coloma You might have missed my answer to Brian. Unfortunately, that’s untrue. Muscle doesn’t weigh more than fat. A pound is a pound and weighs a pound whether it’s muscle, fat, a bag of cats or a bunny with a pancake on its head. LOL

Muscle is more compact than fat, so if you are muscular you can lose inches and get into a smaller clothing size without seeing any change on the scale, but pound for pound – there is no difference in weight. By gaining muscle, you can reduce your size inch wise, but if you start losing actual weight it’s because when you increase muscle mass you increase your metabolism and burn more calories when you are at rest and lose pounds. Otherwise, muscle just makes you lose inches.

diavolobella's avatar

Here, Weight Watchers may answer this better than I can. More concisely anyhow.

http://www.weightwatchers.com/util/art/index_art.aspx?tabnum=1&art_id=8311&sc=128

Another interesting fact is, if you do only aerobic exercise and don’t do any resistance/weight training, you will actually lose muscle ALONG WITH fat, which is a disaster for your health. Your body will burn both muscle and fat unless you do some form of resistance training. That’s why in the 80’s at the height of the aerobics craze, a lot of people got skinny with aerobics, but also looked soft and scrawny and why many women who think they should be healthy in old age because they did all those aerobics, have osteoporosis and fractures. Women, especially as we get older, need resistance training to maintain our health and protect against bone density loss. The bonus is that it keeps you in a smaller clothing size, even if your weight doesn’t change.

flutherother's avatar

Why do middle aged men tend to put on weight and develop a pot belly? It could be because their metabolism has slowed down or it may be due to life style or perhaps it is a combination of both.

I can’t answer your question but I can say what has worked for me. I am probably the wrong side of middle age but my weight is little changed from when I was 20. I work from home and I get very little exercise on an average day and I hate health clubs but on occasion I like to get away for a day cycling or hillwalking, not because it is exercise but because I enjoy it. I will come back pretty knackered and with a ravenous appetite.

I find this keeps me in trim and keeps a bounce in my step and, this may be my imagination, but I think it keeps my metabolism ticking over at a higher rate even on the days I don’t exercise. I don’t pay much attention to what I eat but I try to avoid processed food. I have no idea how many calories I take in.

diavolobella's avatar

@flutherother

I think with men and women it’s usually a combination of both metabolism and lifestyle, plus menopause for women. Men tend to gain weight in their midsection and women in their hips and thighs, but that’s just apparently hormone related. The good news for men is that they lose weight faster and more easily than women. Not sure why that is, but they do. Lucky. LOL

It sounds like you’ve naturally found your perfect balance of keeping active and eating sensibly! :)

DigitalBlue's avatar

That 10lbs may be good for your health, especially at this point in life. Lots of recent studies have actually supported that a bit of extra weight (particularly that on your hips, and not your stomach) may protect you against certain ailments and may even help you to live longer.
I’d focus on health, rather than losing 10lbs. Focus on loving yourself, eating well, being active (which it sounds like you are doing), and let your body do what it needs to do.

zensky's avatar

@diavolobella You should know this having been serious about fitness; it’s better to be a bit heavier than thinner.

Women and image. I don’t envy you guys.

You are fit and aware of your health. If you feel healthy and accept your image – including parameters like weight – then you’re all set. You are a nice height and have a few extra pounds on you. This is terrific.

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