Home HealthTopics Health Centers Reference Library Research
Join us on Facebook Join us on Facebook Share on Facebook

Obesity and Weight Management

What Can I Do to Start Losing Weight?



I am a Hispanic female, 5`2", 25 years old, and weigh 180 pounds. I`m having a very hard time losing weight. What can I do to start losing some weight and keep it off???


P.S. I have to be very careful with my diet because I have IBS and lactose intolerance.


If you go to ChooseMyPlate.gov  you will find that the calorie level for a moderately active 25 year-old female of normal weight is 2200 calories. Moderately active is 30-60 minutes of moderate physical activity BEYOND regular daily activity. Moderate physical activity is defined as activity that burns 3.5-7 kcal/minute (walking briskly, mowing the lawn -walking, dancing, swimming, or biking on level terrain). You don't say how active you are.

Since you weigh more than you want, you need to create a calorie deficit of 3500 calories to lose one pound. Most people are most successful by creating this deficit with a combination of lower calorie intake and increased physical activity. If you reduce your calorie intake to 1500 calories per day from 2200 you will have shaved off almost 5000 calories in a week. If you increase your physical activity to burn another 500 calories per day you will lose another 3500 calories.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggest that this will mean being moderately to vigorously active for 60-90 minutes per day BEYOND normal daily routines. This would give you a weight loss of 2-3 pounds per week on average. Often at the beginning of a diet you will lose extra water with also has weight. (2 cups water weighs 1 pound)

If by chance you have tried to lose weight by cutting calories WAY down (to 800-1000) you may have put your body into famine mode. When this happens your body is extra efficient at using the calories it gets by slowing you basal metabolism, which means you burn fewer calories while at rest than someone whose metabolism is higher. To kick up your basal metabolic rate you will need to eat more than the 1000 calories (go to 1500) AND increase you physical activity.

The increased physical activity, especially if it involves some muscle strengthening, tends to change your body composition to a lower fat level and higher lean body mass. This increases your basal metabolic rate. (Lean burns more calories than fat.)

Finally, data from the National Weight Control Registry of individuals who have successfully lost weight and have kept it off (for up to 10 years - the length of time the registry has existed) suggest that the most successful weight management regimen includes breakfast every day. I find that a serving of a high protein, high fiber cereal (like Nature's Path or Kashi brands) with skim milk and fruit (sometimes dried and sometimes fresh) is a good beginning to the day.

You haven't said how lactose intolerant you are or if milk bothers your IBS. If you can tolerate yogurt try having the cereal with fat free/sugar free vanilla yogurt - parfait style. Or try some alternate milks - rice milk or almond milk. This cereal will 'hold me' for 5-6 hours, so that even if I eat breakfast at 6 or 6:30 I can last until noon.

If you say to yourself, "I'm not hungry when I get up" then change your evening eating habits so you are ready to eat. This probably means no eating after dinner. If soy bothers your IBS, you may need to hunt a little harder for a cereal that is high protein and high fiber. These two brands of cereals have varying amounts of soy in them.

If you divide your calories fairly evenly through the day, you will have about 450-500 calories at breakfast. Granola or oatmeal may be some good alternate breakfast choices for you. Add some dried fruits too. You should be eating 2 cups of fruit and 2.5 cups of vegetables each day. Pick ones that don't bother your IBS.

Go to ChooseMyPlate.gov for some lists of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean meats. Use SiperTracker to keep track of your food intake and physical activity each day.

To keep your weight off once you lose it, you will need to keep counting your calories and not go over the number of calories you have been eating. You will have to not think of this as a diet but a permanent lifestyle change. Again, people registered in the National Weight Control Registry successfully keep their weight off by closely monitoring themselves for weight gain, and they keep their physical activity up. How about trying a little salsa dancing as a part of your daily routine?

Good luck to you.

For more information:

Go to the Obesity and Weight Management health topic, where you can:

Response by:

Sharron   Coplin, MS, RD, LD Sharron Coplin, MS, RD, LD
Former Lecturer
Food & Nutrition
College of Education and Human Ecology
The Ohio State University