According to RunKeeper, I have run (at least) 526 miles this year. I have completed two half marathons. I have burned (at least) 68,797 calories. And I did not lose an ounce of weight. I worked out at least 4 times each week, sometimes for two hours straight and I didn’t drop a pound. I worked hard, yet I actually gained weight. (A hearty appetite will do that!) Don’t get me wrong, I felt great. I’m definitely stronger. My cardiovascular system is thankful for it. But I didn’t shed a pound. This isn’t a complaint. I’m just pointing something out here, something a lot of people don’t want to admit.
(Or maybe just me?)
I have often complained about not being able to lose weight in spite of working out a lot. And usually it’s Toby Joe who will point out that running isn’t the best way for a person to lose weight, especially a woman. Weight lifting and cutting calories is the way to go.
Back up… I used to see this woman at the gym. She had a great body. She was there every time I was there, which means she was there all the time. With a body like that, she had to be. She was roughly my age, size and stature, without the extra weight, of course. One day I finally got up the nerve to ask her how she does it. What does she do? What’s her workout routine? Because she looks great and I wanted to try and emulate whatever it was that she was doing so well.
She told me she works out for at least an hour every other day. She does the bike, jogs, lifts weights. But after all that she said, “Honestly though? I never lost a pound until I started watching what I ate.”
I didn’t want to believe her. Certainly all that work would pay off, no? If I could just work out every other day, run a lot more, certainly I’d lose weight, right?
On July 10th, while we were in Disney, I just got really fed up with the extra weight. I’m not obese; I’m far from it. I’m considered a healthy weight, average even. That’s fine. But I could stand to shed 10 pounds, 20 if you ask me. And it’s been that way for years. And I am sick of it. I am not happy about my extra 15-20 pounds. I used to be very thin, dangerously so. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not looking for that again. But I’d like to be able to shop my closet.
I’m just sick of it.
So: I quit Weight Watchers. The new points system wasn’t doing it for me. And it was costly, $18.00 a month, if I recall correctly. Instead, I decided to count calories, keep a diary of what I consume and figure out what I should cut out, or eat more of. I downloaded MyNetDiary for the iPhone. I think it ran me 7 or 8 bucks, a one-time fee. I started keeping track. At first, loosely so. Then a bit more militantly. I got an idea of what an ounce of cheese looks like. I paid attention to portion size. I just kept track.
I’m quite pleased to say that I have lost 6 pounds since I started. I have 7 more to reach my goal. If I could get rid of five after that, I’d buy myself something really awesome.
I feel much better getting on the scale and my pants fit again, even the ones I’d hid way, way in the back of the closet. I feel better. Running is easier as well.
This has been an eyeopener for me. I had no idea how much shit I consume, how many empty calories I was eating day-in, day-out. It’s been enlightening, to say the least.
I’m writing this today to say that I hope in one month from right now, I can say I’m down another 5 pounds. And I hope that I’ll feel even better. I’d like to be done with this weight once and for all, and then just simply maintain it.
I’ve had the same experience. I thought that I didn’t need to worry about calories because I’m a vegetarian (pescatarian, technically) so I’m only eating healthy food. But then my weight creeped up after I started working in an area with a lot of food options available. I tried losing weight by exercising to no avail. But I bought a FitBit and tracked calories and exercise and I’m down 20 pounds since March!
Well done, Elizabeth! You’re a hero! That’s amazing—20 pounds! I’d be SUPER happy with that. It’d put me at my college weight. (in the 120s)
Lose It! is a great app for keeping track of calories consumed and burned. You can scan barcodes, use the database of foods or create your own foods.
Really? I haven’t tried that yet. MyNetDiary allows for it, but I had a great deal of trouble getting it to work. Most likely a user error. How much is LoseIt? Maybe I’ll compare!
I’ve used LoseIt twice to lose 20lbs each time. Once before my pregnancy and once after. Calorie counting is the only thing that has ever worked for me. And militant counting at that, with weighing food and documenting everything. I have 20 more to lose to be at a weight where I hopefully look and feel good but I’m pregnant again so that won’t happen for a while. I think LoseIt is free. My husband and I were both using it and I liked that you could create your own recipies and then share them with others. For me to be successful in losing weight I have to give up sugar entirely because it triggers a desire to eat in me that is compulsive. A couple weeks sugar free and I don’t want to eat all the time. Good luck! It feels so great to have weight loss success!
I have run over 100 miles every month this year AND I do boot camp 4-5 times a week. Not lost a pound.
I know it’s the food b/c I’ve counted the calories. For me it’s my relationship with food. I still turn to it when I’m stressed/sad. I have yet to find a way to stop that. I’ll eat fine until the anxiety hits and then BAM.
But – yeah. You’re not alone with the running-hasnt-helped thing. And I’m the same, I’d like to lose 10lbs, 20 would make me buy something nice.
I learned the hard way. It takes about 10 minutes of running to burn 100 calories. It takes about 10 seconds of chewing to consume 100 calories. You eat to lose weight, exercise to be healthy.
LoseIt! is free.
I’ve been using my fitness pal… Also free, great database and support community.
I worked for a year at a weight loss center as a counselor – and rest assured your story is common! I would venture to say that, especially for women, losing weight is 80% diet.
Running is a really lousy weight loss program, unfortunately. It’s one of those things that doesn’t work really well if you are running on a calorie deficit. It is however, very useful for many other things (including sanity!).
I am not sure if you’ve tried myfitnesspal but it’s an excellent tracking app as well. :)
And if you can, hit the weights a few times a week. As women age, we lose muscle mass, which means our basal metabolic rate (BMR, or the minimum number of calories we need each day to function) drops. Gaining muscle mass will increase BMR, which could also help you drop pounds faster! It’s also important to keep a healthy amount of muscle mass to protect our bones as we age (I know I am predisposed to osteoporosis by my family history).
You are doing great! :)
Thank you for writing about this! My baby is 15 months old and I think I weigh more than I did when she was a week old. I eat well, plenty of fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean meat, not very much junk food. But I’ve gained weight since having her and I don’t like it. Thank you for sharing what you’ve learned!
Nicely done! Keep it up, girl.
I would like to lose 15-20 pounds and I’ve been working out and watching the calories. To stay at 1200 calories a day, though, I am ALWAYS hungry and it’s really frustrating. I am hungry as soon as I finish a meal. The only time I’ve been satiated in the last month has been when I said screw it all one day at my mother-in-law’s house and ate more than I was allotted at dinner. Grr. I hate being hungry.
Oh, I have My Fitness Pal and it was free. It allows you to scan foods and then it summarizes what you’re eating for you in proteins/carbs/fats, if you’re interested in that!
Ok the first paragraph of this post could have been taken straight from the book “the science of slim”, it’s a great book – being a baker though you’ll probably cry to hear what he has to say – but I’ve got 10lbs to go and since following the principles it’s coming off pretty regular – the woman you approached is right – it’s 90/80% food – you can workout all day and still not loose until you start eating in a way that your body quits hanging on to and adding more fat! And in the days of counting calories and points I think I was hanging on to some fat because I wasn’t eating enough and I wasn’t necessarily eating the right foods.
I hang on to weight in my middle, I’ve added more protein veges and flax meal into my diet and man it’s working!!!
I’m not so sure about weight-lifting — the folks who do crossfit and lift tend to get very ‘beefy’ bodies.
I’ve always had good results with Counting and Cardio ( running , sprinting sports, exercises, etc )
In terms of counting – I’ve found that you need to remember a few things. If you decrease caloric intake too much, then your base metabolism will slow down to counteract. IIRC, I think the rule of thumb is to ease into weight loss attempts, and always consume at least 1000 daily calories.
I also recall needing to watch exactly what kinds of foods you eat — some things are metabolized quickly and your body will want to convert to fat, other items are metabolized more slowly and will tell your body to consume more fat. Basically, you don’t want to just exercise but also manipulate/hack your metabolic rates to burn fat.
Honestly, I don’t remember the specifics — and I should, because I could really lost another 20 lbs or so — but I just wanted to point you in the right direction of where to research.
It’s also worth remembering that when you exercise, you don’t just burn calories, but build muscle too. The places you build muscle aren’t necessarily where you burned calories, and the places we burn calories from are rarely the places we want to see the immediate results on ( ie: it could come off our face chest , instead of our arms and belly ).
I’m at the heaviest/fattest I’ve ever been , but I’m also the healthiest. My cholesterol and blood levels are amazing, and I run 5-8miles almost daily. As much as I’d love to lose my belly and a few inches off my waist, two years ago I never thought I’d be able to even run a mile. So I totally get and share your frustration with the weight , I want to remind you that you’ve run 526 fucking miles so far, and will probably top off at around 800. That is just completely amazing and something to be really proud of every time you look in the mirror.
I have so learned this lesson. I agree with the people above who mentioned cutting way back on sugar as helping. It does seem to trigger a stronger desire to eat more. But here’s my dilemma: counting calories obsessively actually makes it harder for me to eat less because then I spend so much time thinking about food that I want it ALL THE TIME. Does this happen to anyone else?? It seems to work better for me if I just try not to eat much sugar, and to eat whole foods, lean protein, and lots of veggies, and it seems to work okay, though I still have 10 lbs I’d love to shed.
Everyone: thanks for the pointers. I am pretty happy with MyNetDiary, but I may try another if it’s free and compare.
Jon: Thanks, man. You just made me blush. Just a huge thanks to you.
Amber: Yes, I do know what you mean, but I find that I often have some leftover and so I treat myself regularly. I tend to stick to vegetarian stuff and it’s basically nothing as far as calories go. (Portobello mushrooms, salads, light firm tofu, and veggie crumble/sloppy joe.) So, at the end of the day, with several hundred calories left to spare, I’ll totally have me that bowl of ice cream or whatever.
I do know what you mean, though. And some days are better than others. As a woman, who deals with a lot of hormonal changes every month, it’s very hard to NOT succumb to cravings every now and again. I notice I am better at dieting the first 14 days of my cycle. (TMI? Sorry!)
Right now, the app has me eating 1700 calories a day. I decided to do something realistic this time, losing .8 pounds a week. So, it’s VERY doable for me, really. And once I reach my goal, I’ll be able to consume even more as I will just be maintaining. that’s my hope anyway. It may be hard now, but later, I’ll be able to treat myself more often.
Does that make sense?
I come from a completely different camp – of those who doesn’t (and cannot, for obsessive reasons) count calories. I have, however, learned portion size over the years, and I do agree that reducing portion (or making true portion sizes) combined with cardio and weights should yield weight loss.
When I decided to get back in shape this year – not really to lose weight per say, but to get stronger and more fit – I gave more attention to the types of foods I ate and created a routine alternating weights (not like giant barbells, just machines and small weights), biking and running. I dropped 2 pant sizes but I am not sure that I actually lost that much weight. Things just redistributed themselves, I think, and I replaced a lot of fat with muscle.
Since I can’t let myself track things, I have to go by how my body feels, which is often deceptive. I do know, though, that I feel stronger than I ever have in my life, and that must count for something :)
just had to interject on the “beefy bodies” Jonathan mentioned – you can add strength training into your routine and not do crossfit or programs like it, you can also completely fail to loose fat because you don’t have your diet in check and therefore you are getting stocky – but with a clean eating plan along with moderate strength training you won’t get beefy, bulky or stocky – if you doubt it head over to GirlsGoneStrong.com and see these women
Yeah, CrossFit is the far extreme of lifting weights. I mean, there’s a huge middle ground there, you know? It’s like running a mile vs running 26.2. Or something.
Exactly, I just found an awesome app from bodybuilding.com, it’s free and has excercices of all types for each muscle group, includes demonstrations etc so far I’m really liking it
I’ve struggled with this for a long, long time. I’m finally working with a well-known doctor to hopefully lose a significant amount of weight. I think it’s all about food, portion control and, I firmly believe for women, carbs are our number one enemy. While on my diet, I can have no carbs, no sugar, no dairy, no oils, etc. I’ve done diets like this before and I really do feel good and don’t feel hungry. But the first week of carb/sugar withdrawl is intense.
There was a good discussion on the low carb vs. low fat issues on NPR recently: http://www.npr.org/2012/07/03/156207145/by-any-other-name-is-a-calorie-just-a-calorie