How much weight should I be losing? Part 1

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.

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

Week 2 of carb depletion

Still doing well on the food front. Dropped 2 1/2 pounds this week (week 2), taking my total on Tesco Diets to 6 1/2 pounds.

Starting to find the meals that I really like so a few meals this week I’m repeating during the week, doubling up on ingredients and cutting down on prep time. Still exploring the options though.

I had the option of ending carb depletion this coming week and starting to add in carbs – 5g per day each week. But I decided to stick to 20g per day for another week. I’m finding it quite easy and still losing at a good rate. Will probably move into carb advancement next Thursday.

Exercise front not great again. I did manage an hour and a half of walking, but missed a couple of sessions later in the week because I wasn’t feeling well. Worse, I seem to have had a bit of a falling out with my walking friend, so will need to make sure I do some exercise on my own this week. TD tech support still hasn’t sorted out my planned fitness buddy group problems yet, so am on my own.

The good news is that I took circumference measurements at Xmas, and again four weeks into the year. Today I did my 8-week measurements. Bust, upper arms, waist, hips, widest point, thighs and knees. In the last four weeks I’ve dropped 13.5 cm in total. Added to the 5.5 cm from week 4 and that takes me to 19 cm this year. I’m noticing my face looks thinner, but am not really aware of it anywhere else. My tummy seems to be huge, but I’m wondering if that’s because my waist and hips are narrowing. Upping my exercise should preferentially shift to burning some of that abdominal fat though. Another reason to do it.

February 24, 2011 at 8:25 pm Leave a comment

Low carbs off to a good start

Yesterday I finished week 1 of the Tesco Diets low-carb diet. It went surprisingly well, with only occasional hunger pangs despite eating three meals and one snack a day and not picking between meals like I normally do. As I’ve mentioned before, any minor temptation that comes my way can easily be dismissed because I don’t have any extra carb allowance. For example, there is a little sweet shop on the platform of the train I take home from work. I’d usually pop in there and buy four or five little chews. Now, as I walk up the hill to the station and think, “Oh, I just fancy some raspberry chews” I remember – “Oh, I can’t”. End of story.

The diet takes a little preparation – I usually spend half an hour each evening preparing my food for the next day. The meal plan gives you different food at every meal. But there is nothing to stop you substituting one meal for another. This would let you multiply up and then use leftovers. I didn’t do that this week because I wanted to explore all the options the diet provides, but it is something I will do in future, both to cut down on prep time and also to use up items that have to be bought in sizes that are larger than one portion, before they go off.

Anyway, weigh-in this morning rewarded me with a four pound loss for the week. I know some of that is water weight, but it is nice to see on the scales all the same and very motivating.

I’ve also signed up to one of the Tesco online support groups. This one is for people with 6 stone or more to lose. I just scrape in there – funny moment while I had to calculate whether I was fat enough to join! But they’re a lovely bunch. I’m also trying to set up a local exercise buddy support group for South Manchester, where I live, but am having technical difficulties, so am waiting on tech support for that.

Otherwise not much to report. Joints are still giving me some problems but definitely seem better than before. Exercise has slid right off the radar this week though. Not good enough. Especially with a house full of weights, DVDs, cardio equipment and other stuff. Bad weather is no excuse.

February 17, 2011 at 3:42 pm Leave a comment

Struggling a bit

Haven’t posted in a while because there’s not been much to report. I missed hula and burlesque last week because of work commitments, and burlesque this week because I was exhausted. I’ve also been having some trouble with my joints. Not sure what it is, and doc none the wiser, but I’m really struggling to move and am in quite a lot of pain.

I just about managed to do an acceptable amount of exercise last week all the same. Barely. All of it walking. I have a walking buddy who lives near me and without him, I probably wouldn’t have done anything. Time does pass more quickly and more enjoyably when you’re chatting away. And usually, if one of us is not really in the mood, the other one can coax them to go. Occasionally we’re both wiped out at the same time, but them’s the breaks. At least this way we both do more than we otherwise would.

Recently, I’ve been back on all the trashy food around the place at work and on my commute, and have just been managing, somehow, to hold my weight about steady. But I’m sick of it and ready to give it another push.

Always keen to try something new (one because I like variety and get bored easily, and two because I’m interested in the science of weight loss and it’s like experimenting on myself), I signed up with Tesco Diets. You can choose from 15 different diet plans, but decided to have a go at the low carb version. I found it easier than I expected last time I dabbled in low-carb, and also the macro rules made it harder for me to cheat. You really can’t talk yourself into a slice of cake when you have a carb allowance of 20g a day!

And typically, one of our senior staff at work (Hi Edwina if you’re reading) turned 50 today. Canapes, champagne, even a gorgeous fruit platter. And I had to pick low carb, didn’t I. Oh well. I figured day 1 of a new plan is way too soon to fall off the wagon, so I resisted and back to my desk and ate my curried prawns and rocket salad. Felt very virtuous.

Goals for this week:

  • Nutrition: Stick to my new plan 100%. No cheating at all.
  • Exercise: Try and do at least 20 minutes every day. I’m terrified of becoming immobilised because of the pain in my joints, so want to work on flexibility too.
  • Lifestyle: Tidy my home office so that it is no longer a health hazard to traverse it and remind myself what colour carpet I have.

February 10, 2011 at 10:30 pm Leave a comment

Hula!

Following on from my surprise non-horrific experience at the burlesque class, decided I might try some of the less scarily aerobic classes at the university where I work.

New term started today and I went along to my first hula hoop fitness class. And I was rubbish! Actually, that’s not entirely true: I was pretty good at most of the little tricks and moves – the only thing I couldn’t do at all was hula the hoop around my waist! Two spins max then down. Most of the way through. But by the end of the class, I had managed rows of six or seven!!!! I WILL hula!

January 17, 2011 at 10:18 pm Leave a comment

Fitness goal for 2011: beat hubby at badminton

We have now played twice this year – last Sunday and today. Last week was dire. My cardiovascular fitness was appalling and my attempts to incorporate what I learned in my four lessons last year failed miserably. I lost 21-4, 21-5, 21-4!

Today was much better on both fronts. After warming up we played four games and I won….none. I actually lost 21-14, 21-10, 21-8, 21-11. But I played the full hour, needed less rest, wasn’t completely wiped out afterwards, and got in a few good rallies. In fact, it was a bit closer than the scores would suggest. I threw away a lot of points on leaving serves that I thought were going to be out but weren’t – don’t you just hate those! And half a dozen really dreadful serves – not sure where those came from, it’s not a problem I usually have. Anyway, reckon it’s only a matter of time. 🙂

January 16, 2011 at 4:40 pm Leave a comment

Burlesque

Week 2 of 2011 was a little better than week 1. A friend who lives near me and who is a keen walker also wants to get back in shape and get fitter. The two of us walked after work a few times this week. Having someone so close to walk with makes it much more likely to happen, and chatting while we go round the park makes the time fly. I didn’t do any jogging intervals this week because I’ve been getting twinges in my ‘bad’ knee. I will give it a couple of weeks off, and may consider holding off until I’ve shifted a bit more weight. Not having any cartilage in that joint means that over 15 and a half stone of blubber goes through the knee with every landing and without any cushioning. Can’t be doing it any good.

News for this week: I saw the film Burlesque over the xmas holiday and loved it. I found a Burlesque and Chair Dance class near me and signed up for a 6-week beginner course. I’m generally not great at dance classes, struggle to pick up choreography, have two left feet, and usually can’t keep up with the rest of the class because I’m not fit enough. On the rare occasion that I have overcome my trepidation and embarrassment and tried an aerobic-style class, I have been known to slink out after the warm up! So all that plus the concern of what a big woman prancing around trying to look sexy would look like, I was extremely nervous. But despite being one of the older and bigger women there, I think I did ok. I certainly had a brilliant time, and absolutely loved it despite being wiped out and dripping in sweat. The first half of the class was various moves on the chair designed to work all the different muscles in the body and aimed at getting you warmed up, teaching you some moves, and improving your overall fitness. The second thirty minutes, we started to learn a routine from the film, and we’ll build that up over the next few weeks. Can’t wait for the second class!

January 15, 2011 at 11:07 am Leave a comment

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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.

    Motivation

    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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