Weight Loss Support - Is it really about the calories?

View Full Version : Is it really about the calories?

10-13-2006, 06:40 PM
I'm sure many of you are saying to yourself- "Duh!" :dizzy:
But really. Is it really all about the calories when it comes to losing weight? It's not that hard to understand really... burn more calories than you eat and the weight will come off. But I know that I am not eating 2500+ calories (the calories I burn in a day without working out.) So if I'm burning at least 500+ calories a day, why isn't the weight moving?

I just got out of a Plateau. I lost 6 pounds in 1 week after over 4 months of losing nothing. I never really understood what made our bodies level off after awhile and refuse to lose weight. I mean, you're still burning calories right? Is it just because the body got use to a certain work out and now your burning far less calories than before. Thus making it take what seems like forever to lose a pound?

I always took everyone's word about what a plateau is, but I want to understand just what causes it. And why if one is still eating right, still working out, and still burning calories, does the weight not come off. it seems to go against physics.

I guess I'm wondering because I find my rate of weight loss extrealy slow. I lost just over 30 pounds in almost 4 years. I've been checked, there is nothing wrong with me to keep me from losing the weight.
So yeah, is it really just all about the calories? IN V. OUT? :?:

10-13-2006, 06:51 PM
No, it's definitely not JUST the calories, or it would work like math - taking in 3500 fewer calories would result in a pound of weight lost - no matter what. Anyone that has dieted can say that is DEFINITELY not true, there are obviously many many more factors at play. In my 70+ lb weight loss journey, I had many weeks where I did everything exactly right - ate the right number of calories, burned the right number of calories via exercise and didn't lose a lb. I also had a couple of weeks (like Christmas) where I ate pie and didn't exercise and still lost 2 lbs.

Personally, I'm a firm believer in the "starvation theory" (which a lot of people don't believe in, and I'm not like a scientist or have any proof or anything - it just fits my experiences). In my opinion, the human body is hard wired to store extra food as fat to be prepared for hard times (which in human history there was probably much more famine than feast!). I look at it like this - if I was on a plane that crashed in the mountains and I had to hike my way to safety for weeks - what would I want to happen? I would want my body to slow down my metabolism, I would want body to cannabalize muscle, I would want my body to hold on to fat reserves to keep me alive as long as possible. Since the body can't differentiate a diet from a famine, why should I be surprised when it reacts the way I would WANT it to react if my food supply did become drastically limited? So, I know a lot of people don't believe it, but it makes total sense to me. I was only successful at long term weight loss when I started eating a LOT of healthy whole foods every day.

The best thing for me, was to make my goal HEALTH related, not scale related. I ate healthy foods, counted calories, worked out with the goal of long term health. I also lost weight - it was a happy side effect of healthy eating. This had an additional benefit of not being faced with the "I'm at my goal weight, now I can quit!" mentality which I had fallen for in the past. This time, there was nothing to quit, I eat healthy, that is not related to my weight on the scale.

10-13-2006, 07:29 PM
The simple answer is that if you're not losing weight, you're eating and exercising at your maintenance level of calories. :)

The science of weight loss is pretty simple. Every pound of fat that you carry on your body is 3500 calories of stored energy. And the only way to get rid of the excess fat is to force your body to utilize the stored energy. So in the most basic sense, fat loss boils down to creating a calorie deficit by eating fewer calories than we burn off in a day through everyday living and exercise. Creating a calorie deficit is the only way to force your body to tap into the calories/energy stored as fat in your body.

Of course, this is a very basic and simple explanation and there are many variables that affect every individual's weight loss - water retention, health conditions, stress levels, hormones etc etc. And I believe that not all calories are created equal and we won't lose as well on a diet of Krispy Kremes as we will on one of chicken breast, brown rice, and broccoli. But at the end of the day, yep, it's all about calories in vs calories out.

I think we all run into a problem when we try to quantify how fast we thinkg we should be losing based on metabolic calculators and exercise calculators. First of all, none of us know how many calories we burn in a day unless we've been tested in a lab. Studies show that calculators based on age, height, weight etc are off by up to 700 calories per day - not insignificant!

We have a metabolic test called the BodyGem in the gym where I work that measures O2 output (O2 is the fuel of metabolism) over a period of 10 minutes to determine resting metabolic rate. I don't trust it 100% - but the important point is that I've gotten readings on women ranging from under 1000 calories per day RMR to over 2500! That's quite a range! :eek:

So my point is that you believe that you're burning over 2500 calories per day, but ... how do you know that? You could be burning more or less -- short of some fairly advanced testing, it's just a guess.

The same thing is true for the exercise calculators. They're averages based on lab testing done on normal weight college students, from what I've read. And the read-outs on exercise machines are notoriously inaccurate.

So - my opinion is - forget what the numbers say you SHOULD be losing. It's an exercse in frustration and futility. The ONLY important thing is how your unique body reacts to your calorie input and exercise.

If you're not losing or gaining weight, then you've discovered the maintenance level of calories and exercise for your body. In order to kick it back into fat loss mode, you'll need to create a calorie deficit by eating fewer calories or burning off more with exercise - preferably both. :)

My advice is to track your calorie input for a few weeks. Keep track of how much and how intense your exercise is over the same period of time. Then weigh yourself. If you're losing 1 - 2 pounds per week, great! Stay where you are. If you aren't, then you need to ramp up the exercise and/or cut back on the calories (not below 1200, please!). Eventually you'll discover what works for your unique body - and it may be different from anyone else! :D

Lat year I talked to a researcher who runs a weight loss lab at a university - the kind of place they lock you into for months on end and monitor everything you eat and all your exercise. He said that they have NEVER had anyone who hasn't been able to lose weight once they hit on the magic numbers for calories and exercise. We all have that 'sweet spot' of calories and exercise that works and it's up to us to figure it out.

So ... my suggestion is to forget what you think your weight loss should be doing and instead keep track of how your body reacts to what you're eating and how you're moving. And then adjust accordingly. ;)

BTW, for what's it worth - you and I started out at pretty much the same weight. At 257 pounds, I started out at 1600 calories per day, and by the time I got to where you are now, I dropped to about 1400 (went down to 1200 once I hit 199). And that was with about 90 minutes of exercise per day. That doesn't mean it's what you need to do, of course ... but it's what my body required to lose the weight. And through trial and error, you'll be able to figure out exactly what works for you too. :D

Get n healthy
10-13-2006, 07:33 PM
Brillian answer Glory87.

My short answer is basically that your body gets used to the fewer calories, so it learns to "survive" on less. That is why you have to constantly lower your cals or up your exercise and also change up your exercise.

I agree that is REALLY slow weight loss. I have lost 30 pounds in about 3 months, no stalls really by eating 1500 cals a day or less, working out 30 minutes 6 days a week. I have recently uped my exercise to 60 minutes 5 days a week. It sounds like you are eating a lot of calories for wanting to lose weight, what you are eating sounds more like maintenance. You didnt mention any exercise routine either. That has REALLY been key in my loss. I lost 100 pounds in the past and then i quit exercising and relaxed my eating and gained it all back over the course of 2 years. I think the exercise is almost more important than the eating...how else do you keep your metabolism up? If i just do diet alone, and believe me, i have tried, i dont lose any noticable weight and i get REALLY tired...that is my metabolism yelling...GET UP AND MOVE YOUR BUTT. When i am exercising...i can go go go all day basically and the weight comes off a steady average of 2-3 lbs per week. Give it a try and see what your scales and energy level say.

10-14-2006, 12:34 AM
My short answer that has really helped me:

Learn it. Live it.

Womens Nutrition Health Guide (http://nutrition.about.com/library/bl_nutrition_guide.htm)

Combined with:


Good luck!

10-14-2006, 01:39 PM
I agree 100% with Meg so I'll offer a suggestion rather than another explanation.

If you aren't already, keep a record of your week to week weight loss. It is frustrating when weight loss slows down - or stops altogether - for a while. But, the big picture is what is REALLY important. Our bodies are complicated machines and as long as we are fueling them properly and working them hard enough they will do what they are supposed to do - lose weight. But that doesn't mean we'll lose weight according to a formulated schedule. An AVERAGE loss of .5-1 pound a week certainly isn't as exciting as something as significant of the 6 pound loss you finally saw but the end result is the same. So, my personal policy is to keep plugging along, making adjustments as necessary and not sweating the week to week number on the scale as long as I know I'm doing the right things in the right way. If a plateau doesn't break within a reasonable amount of time then I know there is something I can be doing BETTER - usually eating less and exercising more.

10-17-2006, 01:45 PM
That is all great advice everyone.
i've been keeping track of my calories on fitday for a while now and I notice that my intake of calories differs greatly from day to day. Most of the time I keep it at about 1400 calories. but sometimes I go as high as 1900 (if I happen to be eating out or high calories foods) or as low at 1000. (If i eat alot of low calories foods that day) it's never really the same every day.
My work out's are also different from day to day. I get at least 30 minutes evry day. most days I get 1 hour. sometimes I ca get up to 3 hours if I happen to be having a really active day. (gym in the morning, swim in the afternoon and a brisk walk at night.) One thing I did find out is...
I don't weight train like I use to. it's almost stopped all together. I do my cardio first and by the time I'm done with it I'm too hot and tired to work on the weights. So, I think I'll start my work out's with the weights first, then on to the cardio.

I'll keep much closer track of my calories and work outs. I know all I need to do is find that "sweet spot" of perfect amount of calories and working out.