Join Date: Jul 2003
Location: Wausau, WI
There's nothing wrong with you, and that's the problem. You're just like everyone else, which unfortunately is the problem. We're taught to expect the impossible or at least unrealistic, and then get frustrated when we don't acheive it because we assume everyone else is succeeding at the pace we envy (and the pace virtually no one is acheiving). We think we're failing when we're not - and because we think we're failing, we give up. Because when success becomes impossible, giving up is the logical choice. The problem is we don't recognize success when we see it, so we assume we're failing when we're not, and we give up thinking that there's something wrong with us (because we believe everyone else is succeeding, but we're wrong).
Yes, stress can have a huge negative impact on metabolism - so can sleep deprivation, illness, and aging. Also, in my experience diets, errode metabolism, so each diet requires more effort to see the same losses (and sometimes even then won't yield them).
After 40 years of dieting, I now maintain my weight on a calorie level at which I once lost 6-8 lbs per week (and I'm not talking aobut the first month here, but several months into the diet - My first week record was something like 11 or 12 lbs).
Most of the metabolic decline is probably due to loss of strength and stamina, and therefore activity level. I have pain and mobility issues, so sedentary has become an understatement (which is why online calculators overestimate my daily calorie needs by around 300 to 600 calories). The health issues themselves (autoimmune disease, mild low-thyroid, high blood pressure, and metabolic syndrome/insulin resistance) are known to cause or at least be associated with metabolic sluggishness.
There's hope though, because you don't need a lot of motivation to succeed. I had almost none when I started. It's a myth (and a dangerous one) that you need a fierce drive and intense commitment to lose weight. You don't, you just need to make consistent improvements in your diet. They don't even have to be big ones, but the smaller they are, the slower the loss (and that can be ok).
I started at a terribly low point in my life. I was virtually bedridden. I couldn't tie my own shoes (and often couldn't even get them on by myself). I couldn't dress myself without help, even though I chose clothes without buttons and with elastic waistbands, and I couldn't take a shower by myself. I needed a shower chair, and I couldn't wash my hair normally - I had to use a shampoo with a built-in conditioner, because I didn't have the strength to lather and rinse more than once. I had given up on weight loss entirely, because every time I tried to lose weight, I only ended up gaining. When I didn't diet, I didn't gain (didn't lose, but didn't gain). When I'd diet, I'ld lose 15 - 20 and then gain 25. Dieting was only making me fatter and fatter (and not because I was eating more and more, I returned to old eating habits, but I did not return to worse than old eating habits - so only metabolic and energy/activity declines could have been causing the rebound gains).
I had severe sleep apnea and was put on a cpap machine and was told that I'd probably lose some weight just from improved rest (I thought the doctors were nuts), but over the next 8 months I lost 20 lbs (I didn't own a scale, so I don't know how long it took).
I had never lost weight accidentally in my life, and it shocked me. I decided that maybe I couldn't succeed at intentionally losing weight (I still didn't think that was possible), but I was pretty sure that I could keep off the 20 lbs if I was careful - so I bought a scale and started to make changes. I decided that frustration was my biggest obstacle to sustained weight loss, so I decided that I NEEDED to abandon frustration. The only way I could think to do that was to not expect weight loss. My main goal wasn't weight loss, it was weight maintenance - and since weight maintenance requires almost the same skills and behavior as weight loss, I decided that I might as well try to lose "just one more pound."
I also decided that my goal was going to be to only make changes that I could see myself making forever. I wasn't going to ever do something I planned on doing temporarily, just until the weight loss was over. For the first time ever, I didn't choose a calorie level that I knew would probably be lower than my ideal weight maintenance calories. Since I read that a woman of average height needs 1800-2000 calories per day to maintain their weight, it seemed stupid for me to start my diet at 1200 calories. It made more sense to gradually change my habits to what I wanted them to be forever. At first I didn't even count calories, I just started making better choices - and writing everything down.
The first TWO YEARS on this plan, I didn't lose any weight at all. Not even an ounce - but I did maintain the 20 lbs I'd lost. I also started regaining health and stamina. You would maybe assume that no weight loss would have made me feel hopeless - but it didn't because my goal wasn't weight loss, it was regaining function and maintaining the 20 lb loss. I met those goals. The progress (because I was writing it down, and able to see it in black and white) was my reward, and it kept me going. At first it was little things, like being able to get dressed myself (even though I had to rest afterward), being able to take a still-seated shower without having to rest afterward).
If you count the 8 months to a year it took me to lose the 20 lbs, the two years I lost nothing, and the time until the present - it has taken me SEVEN years to lose 90+ lbs.
It's really very sad to me, that I could have reached goal weight 30 years ago if I had only been willing to value weight maintenance more than weight loss. Instead (as we're conditioned to view it) I considered a "no loss" on the scale to be every bit as much a failure as a gain - and if they were both equally bad, then if I wasn't losing, I might as well be gaining. If I couldn't lose, I might as well at least get to eat what I wanted to. Faulty logic, but it's the logic we're taught.
I am not saying that you have to take 7 years to lose 90 lbs, I'm just saying that you cannot expect to see the progress you want to see - we're all taught to want too much. We're taught to expect the impossible, and then get discouraged and give up when we don't see it.
My doctor put it into perspective for me when I was complaining that I "should be able to lose more than a pound a month like normal people," and my doctor told me something to the effect of "who told you that crap? Normal people don't lose 1 pound a month. Normal people try and give up and don't lose anythying because they regain it, or don't stick with it long enough to lose 1 pound per month. You're doing what most people don't, so if you're going to compare yourself to normal, you have to know what normal is, just by sticking with it, you're succeeding not failing."
We tend to compare ourselves to imaginary people, not real ones. You know the imaginary people that lose at least 2 pounds every week until they're at their goal weight. The people who never have a gain or a stall or a weak moment when they eat what they wish they hadn't. We think we're running a marathon and because we see 300 people ahead of us, we think we're in last place, not realizing that there are 25,000 people behind us envying our progress and thinking they're in last place.
I very much encourage you to consider a TOPS group (taking off pounds sensibly, it's an inexpensive weekly weight loss group. You can follow any diet plan you wish). What's nice about TOPS is that you learn what "normal" is because the weight recorder reports on how many gains, how many losses and if you divide it by the number of members you start to see that the average weight loss is FAR, FAR less than 1 pound per week. Our group has a monthly contest. At the end of the month, the members who did not experience a gain at any of the weekly weigh-ins that month, split $10. Out of 25 members, the $10 is usually split by only 2 to 3 people. That means 90% of the group had at least one gain per month (and this isn't a group of slackers, our group won recognition for best average weight losses).
We're taught to be very secretive about our weight and our weight loss strategies, and so we don't know what normal is, but we're pretty sure everyone else is doing a lot better than we are (and yet the weight loss statistics are pretty dismal - probably because of unrealistic expectations and frustration at imagining everyone else's success).
You can do this. You may not be able to do it quickly (and then again, maybe you can), but you can do this. You don't even have to work very hard (if you're willing to accept slow progress. I was willing to accept slow progress in exchange for less extreme, less difficult, and less stressful changes).
Slow progress, even stalls aren't the enemy - frustration is. So you need to battle frustration even more than your weight.