Thursday, February 17, 2011

Just Not Gaining Weight is a Bitch

Every so often I like to repeat themes. Two important ones being that you shouldn't get discouraged when you don't get "instant" weight loss for your efforts in exercising and eating less, and that slow and steady wins the race.

Here's my story. Several years ago, I resolved that I was going to lose 35 pounds I had put on over the previous 3 1/2 years. I determined to increase my exercise regime and eat less, and stick with it no matter how long it took.

To that end, I cut back on the calories, and spent a great deal of money on a treadmill along with a new TV to put in front of the treadmill. I had been power walking when the weather was nice and time allowed, but I resolved to walk every day no matter what the weather. The treadmill also opened up opportunities to walk since I could do it early in the morning before sunrise, and after school when the kids were home.

The treadmill was delivered and I dutifully walked every day for 45 minutes at a 2 incline at 2.5 miles an hour. I also cut back entirely on processed snacks (only fruit and veggie snacks) and cut back on my portion sizes at all meals.

And, for all that effort, after two months I lost a grand total of one pound.

That sounds awfully discouraging, but the good news is that I lost weight and didn't gain any additional weight. I had been steadily gaining weight for three years, so losing one pound after two months, as opposed to gaining a pound, was a major triumph.

Let me explain. If you want to lose one pound you have to burn an excess of 3,500 calories. Conversely, to gain a pound you have to ingest an extra 3,500 calories over the calories your body otherwise burns.

So if over the last two years you gained 12 pounds (half a pound a month), it means you have to either cut 1,750 calories from your diet a month, or add activities which burn 1,750 a month (or a combination of the two) just to maintain your current weight. In other words, you can be eating less and exercising more, and not lose a single pound, but the good news is that you do not gain any additional weight.

So my initial reduction in calories and increase in physical activity merely stopped the weight increase (with a small overall decrease in weight). To really lose weight I had to cut far more calories from my diet and really increase my physical activity.

And that's the same for everyone. Too many people get discouraged because their initial efforts result in little or no weight loss. But the reality is, that too many people already have excess calorie intake and not enough exercise, so it's a triumph that they haven't actually gained any more.

It's discouraging, but its a start, and despite what the diet gurus tell you, to really lose weight and to keep it off, you have to start slowly and steadily decrease your caloric intake and increase your exercise.

After my initial efforts, I slowly increased my exercise levels (increasing both the speed and elevation of the walks, doing more yoga and just trying to move more), and further refined my diet to cut my caloric intake.

Eventually I started to lose a pound or two a week.

So, by sticking with my initial efforts, and not abandoning them because they didn't produce quick enough results, I eventually reached my goal.


  1. I lost 50 pounds, have gained almost 1 pound a month for almost the last year. I'm trying to figure out where I have to cut back without causing too much disturbance to my life, but like you, I've decided not to be bummed about it. Tweaking a little here and there, nothing too painful.

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