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Old 08-19-2012, 12:06 PM   #1
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Default How can a metabolism be so slow/low?

I'm 42 years old. According to the scale and other tables, my BMR is around 1500 calories a day. That's if I sit all day, doing nothing.

It seems, however, based on my eating and activity level before leaving on vacation (Mid-April to Mid-July) that eating at 1500-ish with moderate activity - gardening, cleaning, taking leisurely walks means I maintain my weight or even slightly gain.

If I eat around 1450-1550 and workout every day (or 5-6 times a week for an hour) at either strength training or step aerobics or the like, I can lose about .75 to 1 pound a week. If I'm religious about my eating and exercise.

Twice now, I've gone off plan for holidays and vacation for a month. Both times I ate what I wanted. Over the holidays, I ate a LOT and I mean a lot and I know it and I wasn't very active - lots of parties, etc. But now on vacation we were swimming, hiking and such almost every day. We were not inactive. I ate more (especially more carbs), but not grossly over-eating. I gained 9 pounds over that month's time. I was probably eating 2000-2300 a day AND I was active (as mentioned).

How is it that I gain so easily? I remember being shocked at a 3FCer exercising for an hour every day and eating about 1500 a day just to maintain. We are about the same height and age too. I was like "that's barely eating!" And here I am, and that's about what it will be for me to maintain at my ideal weight, I figure. Yet, I see others who can eat 2000 or more a day and maintain at much shorter heights even.

How is it so different for people? I eat now - a protein bar in the morning, coffee with whole milk, a piece of fruit. For lunch I eat an apple with peanut butter. For a snack I either have an egg or cheese or a beef jerky serving. For dinner I eat tons of veggies or salad with olive oil and a good size serving of meat - fish/pork/beef. No eating after dinner. That's it - 1500 calories and none of it from grains/sugars - no juice or soda or alcohol.

I'm getting perplexed. Seems I'll have to be pretty rigid with everything to lose everything I want to lose and to KEEP it off I'll have to keep that super rigid diet/exercise habit too.
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Old 08-19-2012, 01:22 PM   #2
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I don't know. I'm the same way and also 42. I maintain at 1500 and start to gain at 2000.

I'm sure age has something to do with it, but it seems as if I was always under the metabolism stick throughout my life. I suppose there's always going to be those people that have to be strict for the rest of their lives.

Some people might say to increase calories. I don't know about that - increasing calories put me where I was. I don't know if more aerobic exercise helps increase metabolism or not but it's probably something worth researching.

I wish I had fun happy thoughts about it, but unfortunately I don't. The bottom line is, which is more important - staying at a reasonable weight or being able to pick and choose food freely?

I look at it in a somewhat fatalistic way sometimes - I spent half my life with no control over food, so the least I can do is spend the other half with control.

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Old 08-19-2012, 01:22 PM   #3
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Your vacation is pretty easy to explain in general terms. I think it is very easy to underestimate calories ingested when not tracking everything and certainly it is easy to over estimate how many calories we're burning with activity.

That said - your pre-vacation numbers are very interesting. Don't be offended when I question them. I recall you mentioning that exercise blunts your appetite.

Could it be that when you don't exercise and your appetite is not blunted that you're simply consuming more than you think?

Regardless - when you look at the studies which were done to create the BMR calculators most people fall right along the curve but even within the curve there is deviation and then there are true outliers.

Than there is the consideration that people who have lost weight burn fewer calories primarily because our bodies tend to be more efficient at resting.

Anyways - the answer to your question is yes. Totally possible. The only way to truly know is long term diligent tracking or to find a lab that will hook you up and test out your actual BMR.
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Old 08-19-2012, 01:32 PM   #4
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Than there is the consideration that people who have lost weight burn fewer calories primarily because our bodies tend to be more efficient at resting.
I've never heard this. How depressing!

Berryblondeboys, do you lift *heavy* weights? I know we lose muscle mass as we grow older and that is a part of having a healthy metabolism. And the latest research is telling us that light weights and "toning" aren't all that useful. It's something I need to start doing personally, since 40 is sneaking up on me. How tall are you, btw?
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Old 08-19-2012, 02:06 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by sagebrush View Post
I've never heard this. How depressing!

Berryblondeboys, do you lift *heavy* weights? I know we lose muscle mass as we grow older and that is a part of having a healthy metabolism. And the latest research is telling us that light weights and "toning" aren't all that useful. It's something I need to start doing personally, since 40 is sneaking up on me. How tall are you, btw?
Yes, it's depressing Sagebrush but since you're lighter your body does not have to exert itself as much so you're not burning as many calories. I'm with you on focusing more on muscle building which may help give you a little more wiggle room for maintaining your weight (not a lot but maybe you can have an extra 50-100 calories per day due to increased muscle mass). Berryblondboys, have you considered using BodyBugg? I find it's been helpful for seeing what I burned compared to the calories I've eaten. Once you see a pattern that shows you're consistently maintaining, you will have a good idea of how much exercise and calories required for you (versus using the general calculators online).
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Old 08-19-2012, 02:08 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by sagebrush View Post
I've never heard this. How depressing!

Berryblondeboys, do you lift *heavy* weights? I know we lose muscle mass as we grow older and that is a part of having a healthy metabolism. And the latest research is telling us that light weights and "toning" aren't all that useful. It's something I need to start doing personally, since 40 is sneaking up on me. How tall are you, btw?
I do strength training, but for now I've done BodyPump. Not super heavy, but not light either. It helps A LOT and I think a lot of my issue is that I stopped going mid-April due to an injury. I started back up this week. My upper body and core didn't lose much strength as I was doing heavy duty landscaping at home June and July (installed a stone pathway, removed sod from two areas in my yard manually, planted 4 flower beds - 200 square feet each, etc). However, I lost a LOT of strength in my legs, oddly. I dropped my weight on the bar by half for squats at bodypump from where I left off and I could barely walk two days later. I did the class again and my legs seem better now (with still the lower weights). I didn't need to decrease the weight on the bar for anything else by much if at all due to heavy lifting elsewhere in daily stuff.

I just can't get into machines and doing things solo. I'm TOTALLY a 'class' kind of girl - being part of a group - with music.
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Old 08-19-2012, 02:12 PM   #7
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BBB, I have always thought I had a slower metabolism than others, and recently, studies in women with PCOS and IR have noted that this is the case, in fact.

I know you don't have PCOS, but I think I remember you saying that you are trying to deal with prediabetes, I think, and if it applies to women with PCOS, maybe it applies to women with pre-diabetes too.

I posted the links over at the PCOS board.

The study basically indicated that there is a slower metabolism at play, which affects weight loss and weight maintenance.

I have been tracking my BMR with exercise calories (Estimated) and consumption of calories, and according to that data, I should have lost about 1.5 - 2 lbs more than I have in the last 6 weeks. It's not a big amount when you break down into those six weeks, but it is slower than someone who is "normal" so to speak. (In my case, I'm just glad that I'm losing weight, period the end, even if it's not as fast as others!)

You may have to play around with the macros (if I eat 150 grams of carbs or less, I lose weight, anything higher and I maintain, regardless of calories). You may have to just let your body get used to being back on plan, rather than on vacation. And you may be able to maintain at slightly higher calories (1700, for example), rather than 1500 for the rest of your life.

But it may just come to the point that you have to accept that you have to eat less. You came to accept you're not going to be taller, this may be one of those things you have to accept too.

However, before you give up, I also think you should try heavy weightlifting. You won't look like Arnold Schwarzenegger, if you do have prediabetes it will help with that, and if you are lifting really heavy, then your muscles will help you burn more calories.

I have been doing a more intense version of Pilates for this reason and I'm thinking of adding real weights like dumbbells into my routine too.
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Old 08-19-2012, 02:13 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Prim2012 View Post
Berryblondboys, have you considered using BodyBugg? I find it's been helpful for seeing what I burned compared to the calories I've eaten. Once you see a pattern that shows you're consistently maintaining, you will have a good idea of how much exercise and calories required for you (versus using the general calculators online).
I have a similar devise, the BodyMedia Fit Core. I haven't worn it since early July (and not on vacation). I'll take it out again and charge it up, but they don't 'really' know what your BMR is either - it's a guess based on 'averages'.
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Old 08-19-2012, 02:20 PM   #9
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Your vacation is pretty easy to explain in general terms. I think it is very easy to underestimate calories ingested when not tracking everything and certainly it is easy to over estimate how many calories we're burning with activity.

That said - your pre-vacation numbers are very interesting. Don't be offended when I question them. I recall you mentioning that exercise blunts your appetite.

Could it be that when you don't exercise and your appetite is not blunted that you're simply consuming more than you think?

Regardless - when you look at the studies which were done to create the BMR calculators most people fall right along the curve but even within the curve there is deviation and then there are true outliers.

Than there is the consideration that people who have lost weight burn fewer calories primarily because our bodies tend to be more efficient at resting.

Anyways - the answer to your question is yes. Totally possible. The only way to truly know is long term diligent tracking or to find a lab that will hook you up and test out your actual BMR.
It is true that I cannot know for sure what calories I was eating during vacation. Especially since I was eating foods without labels. I totally could have under-estimated, tis true.

But I'm very careful with counting at home. I 'wing it' with measuring when I'm sure, but every so often, I'll remeasure to be sure I'm guessing right and 99% of the time I am - often under-estimating and those are for things like veggies/salad that don't add many calories anyway. I always measure the peanut butter, butter, yogurt, etc. Then for things that have single servings, it's easy enough - like a cheese stick, etc.

Exercise makes it easier for me to stay within my calorie limit without feeling starving. I'll stay within them anway, but it's more difficult without the exercise.

But maybe my body is 'older' than the average 42 year old too. I'm pretty sure I'm going through menopause, as well as dealing a low thyroid (which should be under control by now with meds).
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Restart 5/18/15 began at 263.9. All time high was 275 in 7/03. Low in Summer 2012 of 169.
A for every 5 pounds lost on the weight loss reboot:

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Old 08-19-2012, 02:24 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Rana View Post
BBB, I have always thought I had a slower metabolism than others, and recently, studies in women with PCOS and IR have noted that this is the case, in fact.

I know you don't have PCOS, but I think I remember you saying that you are trying to deal with prediabetes, I think, and if it applies to women with PCOS, maybe it applies to women with pre-diabetes too.

I posted the links over at the PCOS board.

The study basically indicated that there is a slower metabolism at play, which affects weight loss and weight maintenance.

I have been tracking my BMR with exercise calories (Estimated) and consumption of calories, and according to that data, I should have lost about 1.5 - 2 lbs more than I have in the last 6 weeks. It's not a big amount when you break down into those six weeks, but it is slower than someone who is "normal" so to speak. (In my case, I'm just glad that I'm losing weight, period the end, even if it's not as fast as others!)

You may have to play around with the macros (if I eat 150 grams of carbs or less, I lose weight, anything higher and I maintain, regardless of calories). You may have to just let your body get used to being back on plan, rather than on vacation. And you may be able to maintain at slightly higher calories (1700, for example), rather than 1500 for the rest of your life.

But it may just come to the point that you have to accept that you have to eat less. You came to accept you're not going to be taller, this may be one of those things you have to accept too.

However, before you give up, I also think you should try heavy weightlifting. You won't look like Arnold Schwarzenegger, if you do have prediabetes it will help with that, and if you are lifting really heavy, then your muscles will help you burn more calories.

I have been doing a more intense version of Pilates for this reason and I'm thinking of adding real weights like dumbbells into my routine too.
It is true that these past few months, the amount of carbs have creeped back up in my diet (as I no longer have sugar issues). I've dropped them back down, so we'll see how much that helps. I "feel" better with them lower, that's for sure.

I'm OK with eating less day to day for most of the time. It just makes vacationing VERY difficult. I can control what I eat to 1500 calories and have it be filling 1500 calories. VERY difficult when I can't control my foods where there are hidden calories everywhere. I guess I'll just have to deal with weight loss every time when I get back from vacation.

I've already decided I'm not going off plan this holiday season. That did a doozy on my head getting back on track. That will be hard as I'm a baker who takes orders over the holidays - and those NINE holiday parties/events, but I will have to do better than I did last year. It took me 2-3 months to relose the weight from those 3 weeks of over-indulgences.
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Old 08-19-2012, 02:41 PM   #11
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You know, this could be a long shot, but I just read the Diet Cure by Julia Ross. I'm not on board with everything she says, but I do like her explanation of amino acids and how our brain chemicals are linked to everything else in our body, including weight loss. Being on the weight loss bandwagon can contribute even more because restricted calories means fewer essential amino acids. Anyway, I just started supplementing as she recommends (with several amino acids throughout the day) and I am astounded at how much better I feel--I'm not exhausted all the time, my appetite is decreased, my mind is quieter, I'm not obsessing about food and yet, I'm losing weight (I had a baby 2 yrs ago and I've been a mess since--she said hormonal events like puberty, childbirth, menopause can trigger these problems). With issues like PCOS, pre-diabetes, and pre-menopause, it might have some useful ideas for you.
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Old 08-19-2012, 04:35 PM   #12
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Have you had your thyroid levels checked recently? Maybe you could consult with an endocrinologist to see if there is anything lurking with the hypothyroid issue, and perhaps a better plan for you if you are insulin resistant or are having other hormonal issues.
Also, maybe you could try zig zagging your calories? This seems to work for me, as it gives me a "high" calorie day mixed in with the low calorie days. I also have to go with the heavy weight lifting recommendation, because the more muscle you add, the higher your metabolism will be (although it is hard to build muscle at a deficit.)
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Old 08-19-2012, 04:44 PM   #13
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It's amazing to me how much my metabolism has changed over the years. The calorie level it now takes to maintain my weight is a calorie level I would consistently lose 5 to 8 lbs a week on in my 20's (at the same weight). I am currently less active, but I also have health issues that are known to be causes or effects of slow metabolism.

It's sometimed difficult to wrap my head around the difference between my old metabolism and my current metabolism. It's almost like they belong to two different people (and sometimes I think of it that way.... not only can I not compare my metabolism to that of other people, I also can't compare it to my old metabolsim. The old me doesn't exist anymore, and probably never will).

I have found that I can lose a bit more consistently (while getting to eat a few more calories) on low-carb.

For me the difference is about 300 calories (I lose about the same amount of weight on an 1800 calorie low-carb exchange plan as I do on a 1500 calorie standard exchange plan (and I'm far less hungry, and not only because of the 300 extra calories. I'm hungrier on 1500 calories of high-carb than I am on 1000 calories of low-carb, because the fewer starchy/sugary carbs I eat the less hunger I experience, and the more starchy/sugary carbs I eat, the hungrier I get).

I used to think that this was an unusual discrepancy (at least many people told me that they believed it to be, as well), but a recent study comparing diets of three different carb-level found this same discrepancy. The lowest-carb diet studied was found to have a 300 calorie advantage over the highest carb plan (that is the advantage averaged 300 calories). That is subjects were able to eat an average of 300 more calories on low-carb to acheive comparable results of subjects eating a high-carb diet.

Looks like I'm more typical/average than I thought (well, in one way at least).

Now that doesn't mean that even if you do experience this calorie advantage that the lowest-carb diet possible is the best diet. It just means that a calorie is a calorie, isn't all that accurate when it comes to metabolism. If you restrict carbs, there's a good chance that you can eat a slightly higher calorie diet than if you don't.

I only read the abstract of this study, so I do not know what the range of calorie differences was. I would be very interested to know more about it. Did some people experience no advantage whatsover, and others experience a 600 calorie advantage? Were there any participants who experienced a calorie advantage to the high-carb plan (group statistics wouldn't necessarily capture this. The average advantage was 300 calories, but that doesn't really tell us whether the effect was universal to all participans or whether it was proportional to all participants. Some people may have experienced smaller differences, larger differences, no differences, or even the opposite effect).
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Old 08-19-2012, 04:48 PM   #14
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I'm beginning to think 1500-1600 is going to end up being my maintenance average too. I've only lost a couple of lbs over the summer, with mostly 1200 calorie days, dotted with significantly higher days once or twice per week on average. It's kind of frustrating to think that this is what I'm going to be stuck with, but I am becoming used to it and I think I can live with it if the alternative is a slow, steady regain and return to the pains in my hips I was having last winter. I'm 39.
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Old 08-19-2012, 05:06 PM   #15
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I'm old and short, so I'm basically screwed.

But, like Vex said, I spent most of my life eating whatever I wanted. Now it's time to grow up and take some responsibility for my health.

I've found that I can maintain my current weight without too much trouble (exercising at least an hour a day, eating up to 1800 calories) but I really should lose another 15 pounds. If I ever get there, maintaining that will be much harder, I'm sure.
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