How much weight should I be losing? Part 1

February 26, 2011 at 5:51 pm Leave a comment

One of the commonest questions we ask ourselves, if not others, is how much weight should we be losing. Is a pound a week about right? Two pounds? Is it true that if you lose more than 2 pounds a week, it won’t stay off? Does that mean if you lose less than 2 pounds a week it will?

Well let me answer the latter two questions first – except in unusual circumstances (for example, a lot to lose AND first week or two of diet, especially with carb depletion – when much of the ‘weight’ will actually be water loss as you give up your carb stores and the associated water molecules), if you lose more than a couple of pounds a week on a regular basis, chances are it won’t all be fat. Rather, some of your losses will be lean muscle mass.

Why does this matter? Isn’t all weight loss good? Well, no, basically. Your body is made up of a bunch of different tissues – muscle, fat, a bit of bone (not as much as we ‘large-boned’ individuals would like to think), and a lot of water. The fat is not very metabolically active – it just kind of sits there and makes you look like an overstuffed sausage. The muscle, on the other hand, actually uses a lot of fuel to just keep ticking over. What this means is that the more muscle (or lean body mass, if you prefer) that you have, the higher your basal metabolic rate. That is, the more calories you burn at rest. But what does it mean to have a higher (or lower) basal metabolic rate (BMR)?

Here is a simplified explanation. Let’s just say, for the sake of argument, that your BMR is 1200 calories. If you eat 2000 calories in a day, your body will actually burn off 1200 of those just to continue its existence – cell repair, moving stuff around, temperature control, that kind of thing. That means you’ll only have 800 excess calories to worry about. You can burn off some of that with exercise, but any that’s left over will be stored as fat. For every 3500 excess calories you store, you will gain a pound. Or thereabouts.

Let’s assume that your weight is stable on 2000 calories a day – you’re not losing and you’re not gaining. We can assume therefore that there are no excess calories and that your daily activities are accounting for the other 800 calories.

Now, let’s say you lose some of your lean body mass and reduce your BMR to 1000 calories per day. If you eat the same 2000 calories as before, now you’ll only burn off 1000 of it, and you’ll have 1000 excess calories you’ll need to deal with. But your daily activities only used up another 800. So now you have an excess of 200 calories. In other words, even though you are now eating the same as before, and exercising the same as before, you won’t be able to hold your weight steady at your starting level. You now only need 1000 for basal metabolism, and 800 for daily activity. So your stay-the-same calorie level isn’t 2000 anymore. It’s 1800 now.

That’s what happens when you diet – you drop your calorie intake – say 1500 instead of 2000. You lose lots of weight. Some of it is fat. Great. But some of it is muscle. Boo. All is well and good as long as you are taking in fewer calories than you need. But as soon as you get fed up of your diet and go back to eating 2000 calories, not only do you put the weight back on, but your weight will rise to higher than when you started!!!

This is why it’s critical to maintain your lean body mass. It explains why if you lose muscle, not only won’t you keep the weight off (if you go back to eating and moving the same as you did before), but you’ll end up heavier than when you started.

This is why we say a fast weight loss means you won’t keep it off. What it means is you are likely to be losing lean body mass as well as fat, mucking up your metabolism, and reducing your ability to burn off calories.

It does NOT mean that if you lose weight slowly that you will automatically keep it off. Even if all the weight you lose is fat, if you go back to eating and activity levels like before, you will go back to your starting weight. The only ways to change this are:

  • make sustainable changes to your diet – i.e. reduce your food intake in a way that you can keep up;
  • increase your level of physical activity in a sustainable way to account for the extra calories;
  • increase your lean body mass.

The only way to do this is to do resistance activities – weight training and the like. Things that build your muscle up. This will allow you to eat more and stay the same or lose weight. Increasing your metabolism (your BMR) is the only way to get off the dieting treadmill. Women, especially, are often scared of building muscle. But believe me, you will not look like Arnie. Even men, with their naturally higher levels of testosterone, have to work out for hours, on a daily basis, and pay fortunes for supplements and steroids to get that look.

Putting on muscle will actually make you look sleeker. As well as being stronger. It’s good for your body in lots of ways, especially for older women. True, it may slow down the rate of WEIGHT loss you observe on the scales. But if you can learn not to value yourself by the number on the scale what you should see is your body getting smaller, dropping a dress size, looking better. I want to recommend two books that you will find useful.

  1. Strong Women Stay Young
  2. The New Rules of Lifting for Women

These are the kinds of books that can change lives. If you are over 40, I’d start with the first book. If you like what you learn (my 70-year old mother hasn’t looked back since), and want to try something more intensive, you can progress to the second book. If you are young but don’t know how to begin with resistance training, go for the second book.

In my next post, I’m going to provide some tools to actually answer the question “How much weight should I be losing?” in real terms. One for the number crunchers.


Entry filed under: exercise, fat loss, heath and fitness, Precision Nutrition, weight loss, Weight training.

Week 2 of carb depletion How much weight should I be losing? Part 2. Or the gospel according to PN

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Blubberbegone Stats

  • Start: 16 stone, 45.7% body fat
  • Goal: 10 stone, 20% body fat
  • Today: 14 stone 13.6 lbs, 44.8% BF
  • Pounds lost: 14.4
  • Body fat lost: 0.9%
  • Exercise this week (Sat–Fri):
  • Total: 2 hr 5 mins
  • Jog/Walk: 20 mins
  • Walking: 20 mins
  • Burlesque: 1 hr
  • Pilates: 25 mins
  • African dance: mins
  • Tae Kwon Do: mins
  • Badminton: mins
  • Tai Chi: mins
  • Yoga: hr
  • Exercise last week: 4 hrs 40 mins
  • Joke of the Day

    I'm not fat - I'm a woman and a half.


    My Weight Loss Goals

  • 1. Crack 15 stone (210 lbs) for the fourth and final (I hope) time.
  • 2. Lose 10% of my body fat (14 stone 4).
  • 3. Fit into a size 18 (US 16).
  • 4. Get my body fat below 40%
  • 5. Lose another 10% of my body fat (12 stone 12/180 lbs).
  • 6. Get my BMI under 30 (12 stone 9/177 lbs) - no longer obese, just overweight now.
  • 7. Weigh less than my husband.
  • 8. Fit into a size 16 (US 14).
  • 9. Lose my third 10% (11 stone 8/162 lbs).
  • 10. Fit into a size 14 (US 12).
  • 11. Get my BMI under 25 (10 stone 8/148 lbs).
  • 12. Lose my fourth 10% (10 stone 6/ 146 lbs).
  • 13. Fit into a size 12 (US 10).
  • 14. Reach my goal weight (10 stone) and decide if I need to lose any more based on my muscularity and shape.
  • 15. Turn heads in a bikini!
  • My Fitness Goals for 2011

  • 1. Increase my cruising walking speed from around 5.0kph to 6.4kph.
  • 2. Increase continuous jogging time to 30 mins.
  • 3. Run a 5K for charity.
  • 4. Work on my crawl stroke and build up to 30 mins continuous swimming.
  • 5. Build up to 1 hour continuous and comfortable cycling.
  • 6. Squat 50kg.
  • 7. Do an unassisted chin up.
  • 8. Take a martial arts or self-defence class for at least 3 months.
  • 9. Beat my husband at badminton.
  • 10. Learn a new dance style.
  • My Blubber Reduction Journey

  • My highest measured weight ever:
  • Jan 1 2006 = 238 lbs (17 stone)
  • BBG blog starting weight:
  • Sep 16 2007 = 215.5 lbs (15 stone 5.5), 47.0% BF Lean body mass 114.2 lbs (8 stone 2.2)
  • Highest weight posted since then:
  • Xmas 2008 = 223.6 lbs (15 stone 13.6), 48.2% BF, lean body mass 116.0 lbs (8 stone 4)
  • Lowest weight posted since then:
  • Nov 16 2009 = 193.2 lbs (13 stone 11.2), 43.7% BF, lean body mass 108.8 lbs (7 stone 10.8)
  • Lowest body fat posted since then:
  • Sep 7 2009 = 194.2 lbs (13 stone 12.2), 42.6% BF, lean body mass 111.5 lbs (7 stone 13.5)
  • My blubber reduction journey 2011:
  • Xmas 2010 = 221.6 lbs, 46.7% BF, 118.1 lbs LBM
  • 5 Jan = 221.0 lbs, 47.1% BF
  • 12 Jan = 219.6 lbs, 45.8% BF
  • 19 Jan = 220.4 lbs, 45.8% BF (TTOM)
  • 26 Jan = 218.8 lbs, 45.2% BF
  • 2 Feb = 218.8 lbs, 44.7% BF
  • 9 Feb = 219.4 lbs, 44.9% BF
  • 16 Feb = 215.8 lbs, 44.6% BF
  • 23 Feb = 213.2 lbs, 45.2% BF
  • 2 Mar = 211.6 lbs, 45.9% BF
  • 9 Mar = 209.8 lbs, 45.1% BF
  • 16 Mar = 208.8 lbs, 45.3% BF
  • 23 Mar = 208.0 lbs, 45.1% BF
  • 13 Apr = 208.4 lbs, 44.4% BF
  • 20 Apr = 207.6 lbs, 43.3% BF
  • 27 Apr = 205.0 lbs, 45.8% BF
  • 4 May = 209.2 lbs, 45.2% BF (TTOM)
  • No. weeks: 18
  • Average weekly weight loss: 0.31%
  • 101 in 1001

    28 down, 5 goals revoked, 68 to go, and 94 days to do them. Check out the 101 page, above, for all the latest on my journey to be a better blubberbegone.


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