Last week I told you about a common question I get all the time: “Why am I not losing any weight?” I always ask a couple of questions in return. The first question was “Are you getting all your workouts in?”
I went on to talk about how sometimes you just need to do more to get that weight coming off—even if you’re already pretty active. Not too long ago, I was in what most people would call pretty good shape, but I still was able to lose 35 lbs—mainly by adding what I like to call my “bonus” workouts.
I was pretty active to begin with, but by adding that “bonus” workout every evening, I was able to maintain regular weight loss. It can be as simple as just walking 20 minutes in the morning. In my case, I like to ride the bike every evening after supper.
It doesn’t really matter what you do. What matters is that you’re moving more than you were before. Over and over, I’ve seen people who do this lose more weight than people that don’t.
Usually, when people complain about their lack of weight loss, they haven’t been getting all their workouts in, but sometimes, they have. So what then?
Someone made a great comment on Facebook last week: “You can out-eat any exercise program.” This is true, although I think it applies more to men than women. But there’s another factor that often comes into play, especially for women.
Coincidentally, right after I finished last week’s article, I was folding towels at the center when another woman asked me basically the same thing. After we covered talked about exercise, I asked her a second question: “Are you hitting your minimum?”
After talking with hundreds of women about this over the years, I’ve learned that most women (perhaps 9 out of 10) aren’t hitting their minimum, even if many of them think they’re eating too much. While most guys tend to overeat, most women don’t eat enough.
It’s very easy to prove, one way or the other. There are lots of smart phone apps and web sites that make it easy to track your calories these days, like http://www.calorieking.com ; http://www.myfitnesspal.com ; http://www.mynetdairy.com .
We have a scale at the gym that measures body fat, belly fat, hydration levels, metabolic age, and BMR (basal metabolic rate). Don’t confuse this with BMI, which is an index that compares your weight to norms based on your height.
BMR is a measure of the number of calories your body needs every day, based on your frame (height, weight, and age), and it’s very accurate. I like to call it your “minimum” since most people can identify with that easily.
According to the American College of Sports Medicine, women should never fall below 1,200 calories a day, regardless of activity level. This is because your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) requires at least that many calories just to maintain normal body functions. For guys, it’s around 1,800 calories.
So she showed me her weight loss sheet that tracks all the parameters, and I looked at her BMR, which was right around 1,300 calories. When I asked her if she was eating at least that much, she told me “well, I’m having a hard time getting to 1,200.”
This is very typical, especially with women who have been cutting back, trying to lose weight. Here’s the bottom line. If you don’t hit your minimum, your body somehow makes it near impossible to lose weight.
Your metabolism will slow down, and you’ll have a hard time burning fat for fuel. I’ve seen it time and time again. But as soon as you start eating above that threshold, your body somehow adjusts again, and you’ll start to lose weight.
The secret is picking a moderate amount of calories above your minimum so you feel comfortable throughout the day. For women, a comfortable margin is usually between 1,500-1,650 calories. Guys tend to lose weight easily between 2,000-2,400 calories.
So now you know the first thing: you probably have to do more. The second thing is: you have to hit your minimum. Since overeating is pretty obvious, if you’re doing that, knock it off!
Next week, we’ll talk about what to eat while you’re hitting that minimum. Until then, feel free to contact me through Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/tomdolanfitness if you have any questions or comments.