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Paleo Eating-Feeling Great but Gaining Weight

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Old 03-02-2012, 01:42 PM   #16
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Your experience doesn't sound wacky at all. It may be unusual for you, but it's not at all unusual. It wasn't typical for me, until suddenly it was. My body no longer loses weight the way it did for many decades. A few of the changes were gradual, occurring over years and years, but many suddenly appeared virtually overnight.

But these problems aren't at all unique to paleo, and can occur with any diet. In that respect, paleo is not "nuanced" any more than any other plan.

In fact, if you've never experienced this with any other plan, you've been extraordinarily lucky. Or maybe you have experienced this (or something similar, even if not as dramatic) with other plans, and you decided that those plans weren't for you, either.

You can't judge any plan by only one or two week's worth of data, even (perhaps especially) if they are the first two weeks. It's an absolutel myth that people ALWAYS lost the most the first two weeks. If that were true, it would make sense to dump any diet that didn't yield good results the first week, but it's not true. After my doctor recommended low-carb (after I had been struggling just to maintain my weight for almost two years), it took months for me to start "getting it right." I not only didn't lose anything at all those first few months, I struggled to maintain my weight and even gained, but as I continued to learn from my mistakes and tweaked my plan as I went, I gained insight into how my body works and started losing weight (for me, this finally successful project has been the polar opposite of all previous weight loss attempts. Rather than lose the most at the beginning, my weight loss has slowly and gradually gotten faster and faster).

If I had gotten discouraged by the fact that my weight loss was different (and seemingly less successful) than it had been in all the previous attempts, I would have given up and would have gotten the same results as all those previous, unsuccessful attempts. I may have gotten off to a rocky start, but ultimately it put me on a path that allowed me to lose 105 lbs (which is tremendously better than I ever did on plans in the past. Plans that may have yielded better early results, but didn't result in permanent loss).

As to what's going on in your situation, you have to remember that the bottom-line for all weight loss plans is creating a calorie deficit (and that's not nuance, that's bottom line). Your gain doesn't seem mysterious to me at all. There are really only two explanations (and ALL food plans are subject to these issues):

Either you are not creating a calorie deficit, or you are creating a deficit and your weight loss is being hidden/camouflaged by other variables (most commonly water retention).

Every diet is subject to these effects.



Calorie intake This is the simplest, and least nuanced aspect of every weight loss plan. If you're eating more calories than you were before trying paleo, and not burning them off, you're going to gain weight. This is the simplest aspect of all weight loss plans. I've even gained on Atkins induction by overeating (and that's pretty rare, as I understand it). No matter what the diet creators and followers say, you can gain weight on any diet if you're eating more than you're burning, and eating more than you need is very easy in this modern world. We don't have to move much to survive in the modern world, and food is so abundent that we don't have to move much to get far more than we need. The simplest way to discover if you're eating more on paleo (or at least what you're eating on paleo) is to "count" calories in some way (by way of direct calorie counting, or thorugh a point or exchange system).

However, because you've lost inches in your waist, that sure sounds like you've lost weight, but something is camouglaging that weight loss (most likely water retention). Some of the things that can be "hiding" fat loss:

Hormonal (TOM, PMS, or ovulation) water retention. I gain 8 to 10 lbs every month about the week before my period. If I ate nothing, I suspect I would still gain some as long as I was drinking enough water to retain it. Some women gain weight during ovulation, others the week after their period.

Carb-intake related water retention Are you eating more carbs than you were before trying paleo. Carbohydrates require more water to process than protein and fat, so if you were on a low-carb, or plan lower in carbs, your body needs more water to process. In my experience, this weight gain levels off within about a week to ten days, and you'll start losing again. You'll always see a water retention gain when your carb intake is higher than whatever is your normal.

Sodium and other electrolytes You no doubt know this, but you may think that you're sodium intake is lower on paleo so this can't be the problem. But salt (sodium chloride) isn't the only source of sodium, and sodium isn't the only electrolyte that can cause water retention.

Illness, injury, and tissue recovery and repair The body uses water in the healing process. Even an ankle sprain or a sunburn can cause water retention as the body needs water for healing and immune system functions. Because you talk of symptom improvement, that's a big CLUE that your body is repairing itself in some way (this like most repair work in the body, may need extra water). If you're more active or are exercising more (even microscopic muscle tears that don't hurt can trigger the water-using healing response), if you've had a recent injury, if you're fighting a bacterial or viral infection (even if you don't feel sick)... all of these can cause temporary water gain. This summer I gained about 10 lbs (with no calorie change) after a sunburn. I gained most of it the first week, and it took two weeks to disappear completely.


The weight of undigested food in your digestive tract If you're eating more food, the weight of the food will remain in your body until it's been fully digested. The human digestive tract can contain up to 20 lbs of undigested food (even more in freakish cases), which means if you're eating food that weighs more than usual - you are going to weigh more until (sorry to be graphic) you poo it out. Not everyone poos on a daily schedule, nor do they poo out everything they ate the day before. Full digestion can take up to three days (occasionally more). This food/food waste weight can camouflage weight loss. Whole foods weigh more (and may stay in the digestive tract longer, at least at first) than junk food.

Scale malfunction This is a long shot, but it's possible. A few years ago, I was "doing everything right" and for a period of about 10 days wasn't losing, and sometimes even gaining. It was driving me bonkers. My weight was all over the place, and it didn't make sense until one day the scale didn't even register numbers, it registered nonsense symbols. I replaced the battery. Got on the scale, and my first weight on the new scale showed that I had lost three pounds.


Self-sabotage This is the hardest (and most unpleasant) to assess or even contemplate, but do you really want this to succeed? Are you sabotaging your efforts by trying to prove to yourself that this isn't the food plan for you.

I mention this, because I'm sure that was part of my problem with low-carb when my doctor first suggested it. The low-carb books I was reading made it seem like I could eat from sun-up to sun-down and if my carb-intake was low enough I would lose weight. I "tested" the limits of the diet, as if I were a naughty two-year old seeing what Mommy would let me get away with.

I did nearly convince myself that carb-control wasn't for me, either because I missed carbs too badly (even though my symptom logs proved to me they were making me sick) or because I wasn't losing (of course not, when I was eating three large meals and sometimes three or more meal-sized snacks). I also felt that I deserved and was entitled to overeat on low-carb because of the huge sacrifice I was making by giving up the foods I loved.

I finally (and unfortunately, slowly) realized that my body doesn't care what I think I deserve.


No matter which food plan you follow, whether Paleo, Atkins, Weight Watchers, South Beach, or any other - these issues are going to apply. You may find differences in the mix or severity of these issues, but they're all still going to apply.
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Old 03-02-2012, 07:50 PM   #17
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<<I'm hungrier on 4,000 calories of high-carb than on 1,000 calories of very low-carb.>>

Interesting how we're all different. Though I've come across a lot of research stating that proteins are more satiating than carbs, I find that my hunger depends entirely on how many calories I've eaten, rather than the nutrient composition. I'm no hungrier in the afternoon after a 500-calorie popcorn lunch than after a 500-calorie tuna melt.

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Old 03-02-2012, 08:51 PM   #18
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<<I'm hungrier on 4,000 calories of high-carb than on 1,000 calories of very low-carb.>>

Interesting how we're all different. Though I've come across a lot of research stating that proteins are more satiating than carbs, I find that my hunger depends entirely on how many calories I've eaten, rather than the nutrient composition. I'm no hungrier in the afternoon after a 500-calorie popcorn lunch than after a 500-calorie tuna melt.

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My first thought was an envious, "Wow, that would be awesome!" but on second thought, I think not so much. Sure I would be able to tell by my hunger levels if I was eating more than I needed to ino order to lose weight - (or maintain my weight if I was at goal), but if I was still hungry after eating "just enough" to meet my weight goals, there would be no way to satisfy that hunger. Eating low-calorie or zero-calorie, high fiber foods wouldn't help at all, because my body wouldn't be "fooled" into being less hungry.

I never saw my hunger issues with carbs as an advantage before, but I guess it really is. All I have to do to manage my hunger is choose my foods carefully. I can't determine my calorie level by my hunger, so I have to count everything but If I'm still hungry, I have a lot of options. I can learn from the hunger and change my carb levels the following day, or I can eat low-calorie, high volume food with lots of fiber. I can even trick myself into feeling like I've eaten by drinking hot low calorie liquids (my body isn't fooled for long, but buying a little time comes in handy sometimes).

All the individual differences of experience make me wonder why weight loss research still is often aimed at finding the best diet (assuming there is a one-size-fits-all plan). You would think by now, there would be a lot more studies looking to find which diets work best for which people, rather than trying to determine a generic "which diet is better," (when the logical question is better for whom. How do we determine which diets work best for which populations).

Some of the newer research is addressing the "for whom" question. My doctor recommended low-carb for me, because of research that found that folks with blood sugar issues such as Insulin Resistance lost better on low-carb than other. Still, it's surprising to me that the question wasn't asked 30 or 40 years ago.
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Old 03-02-2012, 08:55 PM   #19
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What I love about you, kaplods, is that you always explain my own experience before I have to, and so much better than I ever could. We are pretty similar genetically, I think.
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Old 03-02-2012, 10:09 PM   #20
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What I love about you, kaplods, is that you always explain my own experience before I have to, and so much better than I ever could. We are pretty similar genetically, I think.
I'm always astonished at how many people are just like me, and how many people are very different.


I do suspect that genetic factors play a much larger and more important role than is generally assumed, and I think (if the right research is done) that the medical community will eventually be able to help a person identify the best diet for them, perhaps simply by a blood test.

Even if the salient factors are psychological rather than genetic, a diagnostic tool such as a questionaire might be able to predict which type of diets or what other weight loss tools are likely to work best for a given person.

Maybe there will come a day when we don't each have to be both scientist and lab rat.

It's taken me nearly 35 years of experimenting to find my own recipe for success (partially because of just dumb luck. I didn't think low-carb was healthy, so I never gave it much of a chance).

I also learned that group support is a key component for me. When I attempt weight loss "on my own," I fail. I need the group support element, and not just the support element, but the accountability of an in-person weigh-in.

I don't just like, I need my TOPS group because in TOPS there are also opportunities to win/earn prizes, praise, and recognition for weight loss. The rewards are small, but very motivating.

The support at 3FC is just as necessary, but in different ways. What I love best is that support is always available, It's like a 24 hour crisis line. Even if I need support at 2 am, I can usually find someone here to talk to - or at least can vent in threads that someone will see within a couple hours.

I think the only reason weight loss statistics are so dismal is because the science isn't asking the right questions, and we're not taught to experiment nearly as much as many of us need to. We tell everyone "weight loss is simple, just eat less and move more," and while there's some truth to the statement it's a bit like telling a person in abject poverty that the solution to their situation is to "earn more and spend less." Or that the cure for insomnia is to sleep more and be awake less.
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Old 03-03-2012, 01:33 AM   #21
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Kaplods, thanks for the information. I never really thought about the fact that I may lose weight differently this time, and I also just assumed that what worked for everyone else would be the case for me. I've only lost a large amount of weight once, I lost 100lbs in 11 months and kept it off for a few years until I was in an accident and re-gained the weight. I lost weight by eating whole foods, not eating out, running and weight training.

But I was in my mid-20's when I lost weight the first time and now I'm in my early 30's. Also, my schedule is a lot more dense, I struggle with chronic fatigue, and I'm under a lot more day to day work-related stress so I'm sure that affects as well.

I'm not really committed to any particular way of eating, but the Paleo way seems to make the most sense. So I'll keep it going and see where I end up.
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Old 03-03-2012, 06:07 AM   #22
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Kaplods, thanks for the information. I never really thought about the fact that I may lose weight differently this time, and I also just assumed that what worked for everyone else would be the case for me.

You're making some false assumptions here. First of all that it's not going to work for you, or that it isn't working for you, or that your experience with the early gains isn't completely normal (there are a lot of people just like you who gained their first week or even month, and then went on to succeed very well. You may not have heard their stories, but I have - but I've also looked for them, because I knew there had to be a lot of people out there just like me).

Your experience isn't unusual, and it's not a sign that paleo isn't working for you, or that it isn't entirely normal to gain weight during a first week or month of a new food plan.

Over the 40 years I've been dieting, I've heard and seen a lot of people quit diets because they gained during their first two or three weeks of the food plan. They too said "I just assumed what worked for everyone else would work for me." They quit before they determined whether or not they could succeed.

I've also seen a lot of people stick with a plan (even though they gained the first month) and I saw them go on to be successful.

I've even learned to do it myself. I've discovered that your first month does not predict how you will do beyond that.

Not many people talk about it (because they think they did something wrong), but it is not at all unusual to gain weight at first (either because it's hard to get into the groove of a new way of eating, or because the body takes time to adjust to the new changes, or just because a fluke of timing, and constipation or TOM water weight gain happens to coincide with the first week).

Just because you hear some people talk about losing huge amounts their first week, doesn't mean that everyone does (and it doesn't even mean that most people do).


Just an example, a few months ago, in a thread someone complained that they were losing "far slower than anyone else." This person was losing more than ten times as fast as me, and I told her so. A bunch of other people piped in that they were also losing very slow. Then a thread popped up on the topic of slow weight loss, and we all learned that there are tons of us out there, no one wanted to admit it, because they were afraid of being told (and many had been) that they just weren't trying hard enough.

The zigzaggers and the early gainers, and the slow-starters are all normal, they're just afraid to speak up because they're afraid to.


I've used this analogy before (after my doctor told me that my one pound per month loss was not only not normal, it was far better than normal because most people don't accomplish even that, because they give up and regain, or they never try to lose in the first place):

Weight loss is like running a huge marathon. You may conclude you're in last place because you seen 5,000 people running ahead of you, and you don't see the 20,000 people running behind you.

Our culture has brainwashed us and fed us false information about what "normal weight loss" actually looks like. The vast majority of us think we're in last place or close to it, when we're actually in the top 10%. The "average" is much, much slower than we've been led to believe. And not losing and even gaining the first week or even first month, isn't nearly as unusual as we think. There are a lot of us out there, really. We just don't advertise it, because we're afraid of people telling us that we're not normal, or that we're not trying hard enough, or that we're lazy, crazy, or stupid (because many of us have had that happen).

I first started seeing what "normal" really looked like in my TOPS group. We have a large group and a dedicated one (there's no one in the group that doesn't try very hard to lose weight), and yet our average weight loss each week if about a quarter pound per person or less. Every week there's a prize for the week's "best loser" and rarely is that person someone who has lost more than 3 lbs (and usually it's closer to 2 lbs, and it is rarely the same person twice in a row, or even twice in the same month). At the end of each month, there's a $10 prize split between everyone who didn't gain or miss a meeting that month.

Last week, for the first time in 2 years, I was one of the winners. That's right, it's the first month in two years of trying that I didn't have at least one gain every month (usually TOM). The only reason I succeeded was because of February being a short month. We also had a record number of people sharing the prize. Usually only two, three or at most four people share the prize. For February there were 5 people (still I got my $2 and I was darned proud of having a no-gain month). But what's really important to take away from this, is that out of almost 30 people, only 5 didn't have a gain in February, and during most months only 2 or 3 out of nearly 30 managed to get through a month without a gain. Would you believe that 90% of dieters have at least one gain week per month? And my guess is the actual number is even higher, because out group has even won weight loss award recognition. TOPS groups do much better than the national average, and out club has performed at or above average many years. Normal weight loss is less than a quarter pound per week, and losing even 11 lbs in a year is a big deal (even when you weigh around 300 lbs).

TOPS chapters give out awards every year for weight loss. I won an award (coming in 3rd in total weight lost), and I "only" lost 11 lbs. And the girl who came in second lost 11.5 lbs and the man who won first had lost 30-some lbs. Sure we all have heard about the folks who lose more rapidly, but they ARE NOT the NORMAL ones, but they are the people we hear most about (because those are the stories we want to hear).

To really succeed at this, you've got to know what normal REALLY looks like, so that you know that you're succeeding not failing (even if you get off to a rocky start).
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Old 03-03-2012, 06:21 AM   #23
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I know I sort of ranted, but here's proof that you're (by far) not the only one to
experience a gain during the first week.

(In #16 Some people get instant results from dropping carbs, grains, sugar, and vegetable oils, while others have to take a month to get acclimated and only then does the weight begin to slide off."





Read more: http://www.marksdailyapple.com/17-re...#ixzz1o3GGHRvi


http://www.marksdailyapple.com/17-re...#axzz1o3FUAYS7


Also if you read the forums you will also find people who share your experience and go on to succeed.


Weight loss isn't a race, but even if it were, how you start doesn't predict how you'll finish. You can start with a gain, and end up doing very well. Or you can start with huge losses, and end up with nothing to show for it because you gave up, or got discouraged when the weight loss slowed.
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Old 03-06-2012, 11:12 PM   #24
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I am another person who finds the Paleo concept very appealing, but gains on it.

In reality, when I try Paleo, I eat too much-- particularly when it comes to fruits and nuts. Really, I cannot be trusted with anything other than a carefully counted-out portion of 22 almonds

I aim to make Paleo choices as much as possible, but I definitely count calories and weigh food. The good news is, after doing this for a while, I don't need to think about it too much-- I know what a proper portion for me looks like (although I do weigh routinely to avoid portion size creep), and roughly what will fit into a 1400 calorie day.
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Old 03-30-2012, 09:47 AM   #25
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I initially lost weight eating Paleo because it was the first time in my life without sugar, grains (Oh, bread!), etc. I definitely stalled quickly, though.

Once I stalled, I cut out fruits and nuts (as recommended on a lot of Paleo forums). This helped a bit, but another stall came fast.

The only thing that worked for me was to start IFing. This helped me control calories without actually having to count, which was nice because I hate counting calories. I tend to think a Paleo diet is an ideal match with IFing because it is so satiating... the protein/fat thing really does help satiate better than a higher carb diet (in my humble opinion).

I have added more carbs back in (some rice, so I'm more Primal) because a low carb Paleo diet gives me headaches and bad migraines. But by pairing it with IF, I am continuing to lose. Which is nice. Because I typically lose at a glacial rate.
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Old 07-20-2012, 04:03 AM   #26
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I was up another pound this morning! But I measured my waist and lost inches there.
Seems like the solution here is to stop weighing yourself! (Or at least so frequently.) If you're losing inches things are going good! I mean think about it. If the scale said you lost 40 lbs but you were exactly the same size would you get any satisfaction from that? What we really want is to be smaller, not to weigh less pounds.
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Old 09-03-2012, 07:25 PM   #27
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Hi there, I just started Paleo myself. I am doing it with my son, and yes he is a 20-something. I expect he will see pretty good results (if he stays away from the beer). I think I will need to be a little more careful with the caloric intake. My plan is not to exceed 1500 calories a day and to get at least 45 minutes of exercise.

I am also going pretty low carb with it. I do need to eat one piece of fruit a day to keep things moving, but other than that, I am trying to keep my carb intake below 75 carbs a day. One piece of fruit and a salad generally eats that up. If the carb intake can't be managed (I really like vegetables) I may cut out the fruit and go for a fiber supplement.

If I don't have a variety of vegetable, I know I am going to get bored. The other thing the Paleo diet says is okay is two 4oz glasses of red wine per day. I really can't see how you can drink that much and lose weight, but I'd love for it to work because I love red wine. I have a feeling some adjustments will have to be made for this thing to work.
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Old 09-10-2012, 09:10 PM   #28
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Hi! I have been eating paleo for 2 years. So have my husband and kids who have never been over weight. The kids are actually pretty slim!

Paleo is really great for overall health, and while I dropped about 10 lbs in my first few months paleo, I found that I had to count calories to make it work for me. I was WAY overdoing it with NUTS! My body is pretty stubborn about weight loss anyway though.
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Old 10-03-2012, 12:32 PM   #29
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I am really happy to find this thread; UnrepentantThinner, you are just about exactly where I am; haven't figured out the scale thing yet to post, but I will eventually. I don't have a scale yet; going on inches only at first--I refuse to buy more clothes in a bigger size...luckily my job is "casual" dress.

I've tried low-carb before and I think it might have worked, but I got busy at life issues and didn't really notice, until I started putting weight on very fast around the time I turned 60. I had let the carbs creep up on me, and now it's incredibly hard as I am not as healthy as I was before, either. Stomach inflammation issues...could that be the cause of the water retention?

I so appreciate the fact that people on this thread are not afraid to admit they are gaining on the diet but sticking it out for the long run. It has given me hope.

I eat only meat and vegetables, have cut out even stevia--no sugar of any kind. I've also been trying IF and it hasn't really been that hard, what I really need to do now is exercise... I'm pretty sedentary.

Looking forward to hearing about everyone's progress.
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Old 10-12-2012, 09:33 AM   #30
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It sounds like you probably need to count calories (at least get a rough estimate). Calories are calories are calories. I lost weight living off of McDonalds when I was homeless because I could only afford 3 sandwiches a day lol.
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