General Question

eadinad's avatar

How come I'm not losing weight?

Asked by eadinad (1278points) March 30th, 2009

To be clear, it’s not that I need to lose weight, it just seems as if I logically should be. And I wouldn’t mind losing five pounds : )

Here’s the deal: I’m a small female. I was fooling around on some health and fitness website today and they said that to maintain my weight, I need to eat 1900 calories a day. But the thing is, I usually only eat 900–1200 calories a day. That’s just how much I naturally consume. And they say that 3500 calories equal a pound.. so at that rate I should be losing like at least a pound a week, but I’m obviously not. I’ve been at a very stable weight for two or three years.

I get some exercise, not a lot but I walk or bike 2–3 miles every day. And like I said I don’t have a large amount of caloric intake, and it’s all very healthy food. So what’s the deal?

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35 Answers

FGS's avatar

Change your routine. Your body has probably gotten into a routine. Shake it up a bit.

lillycoyote's avatar

Perhaps your body knows that it is the weight that it should be. Maybe it doesn’t want to lose weight.

cak's avatar

It sounds like your body is very used to a certain intake and sustains itself on that intake. Sometimes, if you want to lose, you have to bump up your intake or lower – or increase the activity level. (when I say bump up…I’m not talking about junk food! I’m talking a smart increase in healthy foods.)

YARNLADY's avatar

Looking on websites (more than one)can be a great place to get tips and ideas, but only your doctor can tell you which ones will be the most useful and safe for you. Always take your questions to your doctor first, and discuss what you have read with her.

Facade's avatar

it’s probably the TYPE of foods you eat. I also eat very few calories a day and am not losing weight. It’s because I mostly eat “bad” foods go figure. So, try exercising more and eating more (healthy foods).

eadinad's avatar

@ Facade. Actually I eat really healthily. No junk food, no fried food, very little sugar (just brown in my oatmeal), no caffeine, no alcohol, vegan, etc. Hehe. But I prolly could exercise more.

cak's avatar

—@yarnlady’s advice is very wise.—

If you are trying to lose (I got the understanding that you are not trying to lose weight), it is always best to start with your doctor – make sure they are on board with your plan and see no reason to proceed. Understand there are lots of things (hormonal, thyroid – just to name a few) that could stand in your way of losing or gaining weight.

Facade's avatar

@eadinad oh ok. then yea, exercise. work the muscles!

AlfredaPrufrock's avatar

Type of food, and timing. Also, it could be that you’re not eating enough. Or at least that’s what my trainer told me. He said six meals a day, never skip breakfast, eat within an hour of waking up. Also weights for strength increases your metabolism more than cardio. Also sleeping well is important.

Also, no diet soft drinks or anything with aspartame.

fireinthepriory's avatar

Different people can eat the same EXACT food and will garner more or less energy from it.

So here’s an explanation of one cause of this: a change in gene methylation during development. If, as a developing fetus, you sense that you’re in a low-protein environment, you will be put into what they call a “thrifty” predictive adaptive response. (In other words, your genes go into “get more out of your food” mode, predicting you’ll be in the same environment as an adult and wanting to adapt to it.) Gene methylation is changed, which changes gene expression (what genes in your genome are on or off). The result is that the adult will be more resistant to insulin, and enzyme levels are set to convent any unused food into fat. (This is actually the cause of diabetes and obesity in many developing nations – not enough food as fetuses and then “thrifty” genomes with more than enough food as adults!)

Now I’m not saying you have a “thrifty” PAR, in fact you probably don’t. You shouldn’t be surprised if it’s different than what an online calculator says you “should” need, since they can’t know exactly how your metabolism is working. Don’t stress about how much you “should” be eating to maintain your weight, you know how much to eat to maintain your weight since that’s what you’re doing!

Amoebic's avatar

I agree with FGS – I think your body has adjusted to your seemingly very regular routine. Have you looked into calorie cycling? And for that matter, having somewhat of an irregular workout schedule? I’ve found keeping the body guessing and “on its toes” will help with weight loss.

Also, you mentioned that you don’t exercise much – maybe you’ve reached the point where you need to up your exercise. Just keep in mind that if you start exercising more, you may need to eat different things than you already do to have more efficient fuel the burning of that energy.

You probably already know this, but just because the foods you’re eating are healthy, it doesn’t mean you’re necessarily eating the right healthy foods based on your goals, activity, routine, vitamin intake, etc, etc, etc.

Good luck and be healthy!

discover's avatar

I think 1200 calories is too less. (Make sure that you count all the calories from candies, snacks, soft drinks etc. while counting calories).Your body would have less energy to exercise if you have only 1200 calories. Eat healthy food such as fruits and vegetables which can add calories up to 2000.

Secondly, when it comes to exercising, it depends upon the intensity of exercise. 2 to 3 miles of slow walking may not help you much. Make sure you get about 30 minutes of active physical activity every day

RedPowerLady's avatar

I really think you are eating too little. 900 calories a day seems on the very small side in my opinion. (i realize you said 900–1200) And your body builds fat when you are in what is called “starvation mode”. This could be especially true if you don’t eat fatty foods. So i’m thinking you need to up it a bit, with your same healthy foods. It sounds scary to increase calorie intake but it can work. Also if the thought really bothers you, you can add a 10 minute weight lifting routine to your day. Buy some weights, the heaviest you can lift Comfortably (without strain because they get heavier after you use them) and use the weights in different positions for a few minutes each day. That’ll up your metabolism. The combined of the weight, your walking, and the slight calorie intake should help out. Just my two cents.

Edit to add. I just saw online that 900 calories a day is the intake level of a 1 year old.

fireinthepriory's avatar

@RedPowerLady – Don’t freak eadinad out! I think you’re overreacting. Kids need WAY more food than adults if you’re thinking in terms of size (they’re growing!) and people need different amounts of food. If she’s got stable weight, is eating healthy food and is able to walk or bike several miles a day I think she’s definitely not in starvation mode. :)

I think that we can get a little too obsessed with what’s a “normal” intake of food. Different people are different. You can’t use anyone else’s standards. Eadinad, if your body “wants” to be the weight that it is at, let it be! I don’t see being somewhat over or underweight as a problem if that’s how your body functions and if you’re healthy. You shouldn’t have to think about how much you’re eating, just eat when you’re hungry, and stop when you’re not. Obviously things like being VERY underweight or hungry all the time or being VERY overweight are not healthy things, those are things you have to make changes in your lifestyle to combat (aka, make sure to eat when you feel hungry, or exercise more so that your natural intake level results in an unchanging weight…) Your biology will TELL YOU what is best for your body if you listen to it.

RedPowerLady's avatar

@fireinthepriory Starvation mode isn’t as drastic as it sounds. It’s a regular bodily phenomenon. It doesn’t mean you are actually starving. And 900 calories a day is quite a small amount.

AlfredaPrufrock's avatar

@fireinthepriory, the fitness trainer at the gym told me the exact same thing RedPowerLady said. I need to lose quite a bit of weight and he told me that I was not eating enough or often enough. At less than 1000 calories your body is unsure if more calories are coming so it burns calories more slowly. Building muscle also cranks up your metabolism, which is why weights are an important part of an exercise routine where you’re trying to lose weight. In addition to toning.

Lupin's avatar

First be honest with yourself. When you say you are only eating 900–1220 calories per day are you considering the calories you drink? Glass of wine 170, etc.
Are you totally inactive or do you move around a lot?
To burn a little extra I wore 1/2 pound wrist weights all day under my long sleeve shirts. When I first started I would be wiped out at the end of the day. Eventually I got up to 1.5 pounds per arm. Give it a try for a two days.

fireinthepriory's avatar

@RedPowerLady and @AlfredaPrufrock, her goal isn’t to loose weight. Her question was why wasn’t she losing weight. I’m not saying you guys are wrong about eating more, eating more often and adding lifting to your exercise routine more being the way to loose weight. I believe you! I was just saying that I think it’s possible that she’s healthy and fine despite needing only 900–1200 calories a day. I mean, if she’s been doing it and maintaining a stable, healthy weight for three years she’s probably ok. (Obviously I can’t see her, so if she’s actually not quite small then that likely isn’t enough, but I can only go by what I’m told!)

mattbrowne's avatar

Yes, muscle exercises seem like a good idea. But putting on more muscles means you will need more calories in the future.

eadinad's avatar

@ fireinthepriory – Yes, you’re right. I’m not concerned about how to lose weight, I’m just curious as to why I’m not. I’m 5’2” and 100 pounds. I doubt most doctors would tell me how to lose weight even if I asked, heh.

It could be that my body is in starvation mode (worrisome!) or just that my metabolism is slower, or my body has just adjusted to this weight/caloric intake/exercise level and likes it just fine. I might try eating a little more and see what happens. But probably not, cause as I said, I don’t care about losing weight.

@ Lupin. Yeah I’m pretty sure about my calculations. I don’t drink anything besides water and herbal tea, and upload everything I ate into the menu planner at each day. That’s where I get my figures. I suppose it’s possible that they underestimate calories but seems unlikely.

Lupin's avatar

I’ve used Mypyramid and Mike’s calorie counter and found them to be quite good. Not perfect but close enough. Unless you have a good scale, portion size can be an unknown, too. If you read the label on a container you might be surprised to see how many servings are in it.
Another little tidbit, since we are basically heat machines, you will burn an extra 80 calories per day if you wear the clothes that you are comfortable at 72 when the temperature is actually 66. That adds up to 2400 calories per month and a healthy reduction on your heating bill if you live where I do. Turn the t-stat down.

RedPowerLady's avatar

@fireinthepriory Even if she isn’t wanting to lose weight it absolutely is not healthy if you are in starvation mode. (not horribly concerning but not altogether healthy). It’s not about losing weight. It’s about being healthy. Maintaining an unhealthy calorie intake could lead to health problems down the line. I am no expert on losing weight, I was noting an observation about the low calorie intake.

fireinthepriory's avatar

@RedPowerLady Actually, maintaining an extremely low calorie intake is actually the only proven method to increase longevity… See the abstract of this paper. However, I would not advise actually attempting that, it would likely be very unpleasant.

Basically I just don’t think this is an “unhealthy low calorie intake.” The typical 2000 calorie diet you hear about was calculated for an average sized male, being 5’7 and 175lbs. I don’t think that a 5’2, 100lb female needs 1900 calories a day. That’s like one granola bar less than the diet necessary to maintain an average guy, no way that’s correct. Yes, 900–1200 seems low, but, again, metabolisms vary person-to-person. I think it’s also worth mentioning that I’m 5’4 and 145lbs (and my weight does not fluctuate, nor am I trying to loose weight) so this is NOT coming from someone who’s obsessed with thinness and thinks everyone should eat 900 calories a day. I definitely eat more than that!

Of course being extremely underweight is not healthy. But if you’d read the posts you’d know that Eadinad not underweight and she’s not loosing weight. She IS healthy (again, if she were not, she wouldn’t be able to exercise as much as she does) and I just think it’s ridiculous for you to tell her that what she’s doing is unhealthy.

(Um, @eadinad, sorry for basically fighting about… your health. It’s very rude of us! I just think that there are a lot of scare tactics being placed on us about being the “correct” weight and eating the “correct” number of calories, and that so much of it is unnecessary and based on research that we don’t know the context of. Sometimes I get tetchy. :) Heh.)

RedPowerLady's avatar

@eadinad I agree, apologies for “arguing” about your health. I would ask my doctor or a nutritionist what they thought about my calorie intake but that is what I would do. Probably the safest thing to do versus listening to people on the internet debate about your health, lol.

RedPowerLady's avatar

@fireinthepriority I disagree but I appreciate your research and opinion. But I will say I understand that everyone needs different caloric intake. However low and high caloric intakes could always benefit from being reviewed by a doctor or nutritionist.

I’m also a bit offended that you for some reason believe I am using scare tactics or pressuring anyone to do anything. What about my post(s) where so offensive to you? Like I said several time “Starvation Mode” is relatively normal bodily process. Another user even commented that there nutritionist said the same thing. And I only ever said IF one was in starvation mode it would not be healthy. And I only suggested starvation mode as ONE possibility. I really think you are overreacting and being quite defensive about something you think I said.

fireinthepriory's avatar

@RedPowerLady No, I don’t think you are using scare tactics, I think you’ve been fed them. I mean, I think we’ve ALL been fed them. I know that “starvation mode” is a real phenomenon, but the term was based on a study where they arbitrarily gave mice 50% of their neccessary intake. Does that mean we’re in “starvation mode” when we reach 50% of our intake? Maybe according to a doctor, but it’s just a sliding scale where your metabolism will change to deal with new circumstances. This makes it hard to find the “optimum” – because in my opinion, there isn’t one. The problem is that doctors and nutritionists only know what the researchers know, and docs often know less about the background of the study and just read the take-home message, which can be misleading without the proper context. That makes it hard to tell people what to do to be healthy and in my opinion it leads to insane rules about how much one “should” eat or “should” weigh in order to be healthy.

My frustration is with our society’s views of health, it’s not with you, and I’m sorry that I get so up in arms about it. I’m really not offended by your statements, in fact I think they’re correct – I just think that they needn’t be applied to this situation. :)

Lupin's avatar

I worked for 7 years on an ambulance.
Before reading further, here are all the disclaimers:... I am not a doctor. Your mileage may vary. Past performance is no guarantee of future performance.
If someone was “starving”, their breath usually smelled like acetone. It was unmistakable. That’s what we called “starvation”. (You may reread the disclaimers if you disagree. I promise I won’t argue.)

FGS's avatar

@Lupin I heard that before. Why is that?

Lupin's avatar

It’s tissue being broken down. You can do a quick google search and come to your own conclusion. Check out “ketonic”. Sniff some acetone in the paint department to get an idea of what it’s like. If your breath smells like that – look out.
See above disclaimers, again

eadinad's avatar

@ Lupin. That’s really interesting. But how “starved” do you have to be before your breath starts smelling? Like, if you’re just underweight, or haven’t been eating enough for a couple weeks cause of stress or something, would that affect your breath? Or would you have to be really starved, anorexic, about to die first?

Lupin's avatar

@eadinad It is rare. If you’ve been truly fasting for a couple of days. Now THAT’S a starvation diet. You don’t see many starving people in the US unless it is self inflicted. You’ll see/smell it if you go to India or are walking around in Bangkok – any place you have beggars and great income disparity.
In general, the poor people in the US are overweight.
If you’re active and your weight is stable, you are fine.

Judi's avatar

You are probably mis calculating your calorie intake. I finally lost weight on the HMR diet because the calorie intake was so controlled. I have maintained it for over 3 years

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

Fact from fiction, truth from diction. I would say when it is all said and done, if you are eating smart, you are not starving when you are done, don’t sweat it. The body is quite smart taking care of its self. What the chart says is generalized, you are an individual and your body reacts the way it does apart from anyone else’s. When I decided I was going to lose weight, I did not know how to diet, and surely knew I could never stay on one. No way was I going to give up pizza, burgers, and mashed potatoes. I started with eating smarter and little less then stuffing my face, then walking and weights. I got back down to 180lb and stopped, I was lighter before. Though I did not get back to my starting weight my waist was smaller and my muscle more dense. I did not look much fatter than I was when I started but between my exercise and diet (foods I was eating) I leveled out at 180lb. Your body, I am thinking, is right were IT wants to be in spite of where you think it ought to.

dynamic3's avatar

Your body has a plethora of hormones designed to keep your body at a stable weight, which is probably why if you have been eating 900–1200 calories a day for a while along with your size you are not losing any weight. It is also the reason that people will often plateau when losing weight.

Ghrelin is a hormone produced by the cell lining of the stomach that induces hunger it is high before eating and low afterwards. It works hand in hand with a hormone called Leptin (leptin comes from the greek word leptos which means thin).

Leptin is produced by the adipose (fat) tissues in your body and is directly proportional to the amount of fat you have. I.e. the fatter you are the more leptin you produce and vice versa. Leptin controls your overall appetite, so if you have a high body fat content you will feel less hungry, less often and consume less calories. Whereas if you have a low body fat content you will feel more hungry more often and eat more when you do eat. Obesity is often caused not by the body not producing enough leptin, but by the brain receptors becoming resistant to the above average levels and not illiciting the correct biological response of eating less.

Naturally your body is designed to maintain a weight and not fluctuate by more than 1–2lbs over the course of a year when food is plentiful so thats probably the reason although it would seem logical you aren’t losing weight.

ItsAHabit's avatar

Eadinad – You said that you don’t drink alcohol, implying that to do so increases weight. Alcohol contains calories, but drinking alcohol doesn’t lead to weight gain, according to extensive medical research, and many studies report a small reduction in weight for women who drink.
The reason that alcohol doesn’t increase weight is unclear, but research suggests that alcohol energy is not efficiently used. Alcohol also appears to increase metabolic rate significantly, thus causing more calories to be burned rather than stored in the body as fat. Other research has found consumption of sugar to decrease as consumption of alcohol increases.
Whatever the reasons, the consumption of alcohol is not associated with weight gain and is often associated with weight loss in women. The medical evidence of this is based on a large number of studies of thousands of people around the world. Some of these studies are very large; one involved nearly 80,000 and another included 140,000 subjects.

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