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Healthy Weight Center

Calorie Consumption and Weight Loss

03/11/2009

Question:

I am on a physicians diet, with phentrime. I started off at 220lbs in August and am down to 195, however it seems like I have hit a plateau. I have been at that weight for about 2 weeks now. what is the cause for this? they have me on a 1300 calorie a day diet, and I just am never hungry it seems like now, so curious, should I eat when I am hungry, or make myself eat 6-5 times a day. I also work out doing ab workouts and cardio for about an hour a day, am thinking about walking for an additional 30-60 minutes. will this help me lose the weight I want? I have a 5 month old daughter so I don`t have time to go to the gym (her father is in Iraq). So Ihave to work out from home. Are there any exercises that you can recommend as well to help me get to 150 or less by may? thanks!!

Why is it that they say to eat those 5-6 meals a day, otherwise you will go into starvation mode, but anorexic girls who eat nothing are always so skinny?

Answer:

When one changes eating habits to fewer calories than you were eating, no matter what the composition of the diet is, you will lose weight, as you have experienced. Since the diet is set at 1300 calories it suggests to me that the doctor is attempting to lower calories enough so that  you lose weight fairly quickly but don't force your body into starvation mode. Your basal metabolic rate (BMR - the rate your body functions to just maintain itself) will slow down if you go into starvation mode. However, you are right on the edge, and your BMR may have slowed a little. Keep up the exercise. It's what will counteract  your body's desire to lower the BMR.

The weight you lost initially was probably a combination of actual weight loss and water loss. When weight is lost fast the calories your body burns come from your muscles first and not your fat stores. It burns the muscle calories and releases the water that the muscle holds. You lose muscle and water weight (eg 3 pounds lost may equal 1 pound of muscle lost and 2 pounds of water); not fat weight. Now you have reached the point that your body will start reducing your weight by burning fat. You may find that you start losing inches without any change in weight if you keep up the exercise. A pound of muscle is much more compact than a pound of fat, and requires more calories to maintain it than a pound of fat. The fact that it requires more calories means that your body's BMR will pick up a little as your body composition changes to a higher lean body mass and less fat. Then you'll start losing weight again. You may be on the plateau for several weeks before you notice any more weight change. If you want to feel  you are still making progress you could keep track of a few of your body measurements (waist, hips, thighs, upper arm circumference).

Eating several times a day instead of just when you are hungry is necessary if you don't want your body to think it is starving. If  you go longer than about 5 hours without eating (except while sleeping) your body will think it is starving and lower BMR. So, always eat within 2 hours of waking up and don't skip meals. Perhaps instead of 5-6 times during the day you would find it easier to just eat 4 or 5 - 7:30 breakfast, early (11:30) lunch, mid afternoon (3:30) snack, dinner at 7:00. Maybe a snack at 10:00 if you haven't used up your calories.

Successful weight losers listed through the National Weight Control registry (they have maintained their weight loss for 5 years ore more) eat breakfast, don't skip meals, monitor their weight regularly, and are physically active every day. Your exercise routine seems okay from what you describe. Just keep it up. If you want to walk you might consider putting your daughter in a backpack or in a stroller for her nap and do your walking while she is napping.

PS. Anorexic girls may only be eating 500 or 600 calories per day, or may be eating more and then going to the bathroom and vomiting. They are generally in starvation mode.

Good luck to you.

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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