Sunday, March 9, 2014

Exercise Is Great, Weight Loss Is Frustrating!



I've been getting really frustrated lately with my weight loss journey. In order to not rehash what I've already gone over a few times on this site, I'll point you in the direction of recent pieces I've written on the topic, here and here

The essence of my aggravation right now is the fact that, despite continuing to track my eating with Lose It and exercising six days a week (three days of running, three days of weight lifting), the number on the scale has not budged at all. I remain stuck at the same weight I've been stuck at for the last few months. This weight itself is about 35 lbs heavier than the lowest weight I reached back in late 2011, which I'd dearly like to get back to. I know the fact that I am now healthy, feeling great, and still nearly one hundred pounds lighter than I was should be enough, and I am satisfied that I am where I am right now.  However, the most frustrating thing that I'm dealing with is the fact that, even eating properly and working out six days a week, I am not able to shed any more pounds. The crazy thing is, if I skip a day or two of exercise for whatever reason, whether I'm too busy, traveling for work, or just need to rest for a day, then my weight almost instantly goes up a bit (~2-5 lbs). The same thing happens if I have one day where I maybe don't eat as well as I usually do, or if I have an extra portion when I normally wouldn't. These may be times when I am at a party, out at a restaurant where there are no healthy options, or even just a time at home when I want to indulge one time.

I have a hard time believing that my body's equilibrium and my metabolism are in such a fragile state that missing one or two days of exercise over several weeks, or treating myself to a bit of unhealthy food once in a while over the course of months and months of healthy eating is enough to throw my body completely out of whack and cause it to gain back weight. It's especially irritating when I see my friends who never exercise and eat whatever they want, no matter how unhealthy, stay at the same weight without giving it second thought. What is it about my body that is fighting against me when I'm trying so diligently to go about it all the proper way?

I had assumed that adding weight lifting and strength training to my workout regimen several months ago would help my body burn more fat since I'm at the point with my running right now where my body is now so efficient that I am able to run longer distances without having to burn as many calories and as much fat. I can completely understand how running might not burn as much at this point but it's still great exercise and I enjoy it far too much to ever stop doing it. For me, running is more than just the physical release of energy; it's getting completely in tune with my entire body and mind as well as a great way to clear my head and get in some deep and serious thinking. Once I get started, it's like being on autopilot and I can be simultaneously hyper-aware of my surroundings, my breathing, my heart rate, and my thoughts.

As for weight lifting, as with running, it's also a great way to blow off some steam and release all of the physical energy I have but in a different way.  Running is a continuous process of motion whereas lifting is done in short bursts, but each of those intervals requires a maximum of focused effort and in a concentrated span of time when compared to running. I find that when I measure my heart rate after I lift, it's higher than when I measure it after running eight or nine miles! There's also something very primal about lifting heavy weights and pushing yourself (safely, of course) to see how strong you are. I've been pleased with my progress weight lifting over the past few months, as I've been able to increase the amount I am lifting for the various muscle groups I'm working on and I'm starting to get visibly noticeable results in my arms and shoulders. However, circling back to the overarching theme of this post, I'm not seeing any results in my chest, torso, or abdomen even though I've been able to increase the weight and reps that I'm lifting for those muscle groups. This is because I still cannot seem to lose the nagging fat that is stubbornly refusing to go away in those areas. Obviously this ties into my overall frustration with not only not continuing to lose weight, but slowly putting some of it back on over the past year.

I'm at a loss as to where to go next. I'm definitely not going to stop exercising because I enjoy it too much and because it's a part of my life now; I also know that it is nothing but beneficial to me and there's no reason to stop. Likewise with using Lose It to monitor my eating because again, it's a part of my life now and I know it's doing nothing but helping me. What I mean by the statement "I'm at a loss as to where to go next" is that I don't know what else to change/do/stop doing in order to restart my weight loss and get to my goal weight. Maybe I'm being too harsh on myself because I know that my physical health is better than it's ever been, but I am not satisfied with where I am at and I know I can get back down to the weight I was at in October 2011 and push on to lose that last twenty pounds and reach my goal weight.

Until then, I'm never going to give up and I'm going to continue to eat what I want responsibly and push myself as hard as I can with my workouts. I'll get there eventually, I just hope it's sooner rather than later!

(as always, any feedback/comments/questions are welcome in the comments section below! Let's discuss!)

10 comments:

  1. A few thoughts... Remember that by lifting weights you are building muscle which is twice as dense as fat so fat burning may not be registered on the scale. Ultimately, that number matters little when compared against your health and comfort.

    Also, keep in mind that weight loss is 80%-85% diet. Exercise improves your health but has a much smaller impact on weight loss than people think. As far as diet goes, count your carbs. Aim for the 20-50 grams per day area.

    Finally, remember that your body has a memory and gets bored of doing the same old stuff. Mix it up. Run different routes. Start running intervals - either regular or high intensity but preferably high intensity (the difference being that regular have a short or balanced strenuous phase with a longer relaxed phase whereas HIIT might have you sprinting for 3-5 minutes followed by a 30 second regular run). Also, maybe try swimming or cycling or join an adult soccer or basketball league, etc.

    You'll get to where you want to be. Stressing about the numbers on the scale will do more harm than good. Focus on the positives and keep kicking ass!

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    1. Thanks for the advice and words of encouragement! I've been trying to reduce carbs, but not cut them out completely. Seems like maybe I have to try a bit harder in that area although I always try to load up on fruits and vegetables and protein/meat/eggs.

      As for the exercise, I'm sure the fact that I've been stuck inside running on a treadmill all winter has something to do with it...I don't get the terrain/hills that I usually do outside, and I am so bored that I can usually only stand to do 3-4 miles whereas outside I'm usually good for 4-8.

      Lastly, I go back and forth about whether to weight myself every day or just once a week. I've gone through routines of doing both...which do you think is better?

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  2. I've heard people vehemently argue against weighing every day. I don't have a problem with it if you understand your own psychology. If you know you will get depressed over a 1.5 lb gain over night (which is probably nothing but water), don't weigh every day. If you can appreciate that you are just looking for a trend, by all means, go for it. Maybe keep an eye on the moving 5 day average. Otherwise, just worry about how you feel and how your clothes fit.

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    1. I see what you mean. I've gone back and forth on the everyday weighing thing because I track it in an app that gives you an average weight over the course of weeks and months based on those daily weigh-ins. When I think big picture like that, I feel alright but when I see a 1-3 lb gain in a day or two (which, as you said, is almost certainly water weight) I get really agitated and stressed out which I'm sure isn't helping me reach my goal.

      I think I might stick with that another week, tops, and if it's still not working for me, go back to weighing only once a week like I had done initially when I lost that 105+ lbs originally.

      How do you approach your weigh-ins?

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  3. I weigh myself twice a day, sometimes three times a day and it's a mixed blessing. On the one hand, you get overly concerned about water weight, as you mentioned, but on the other, it's helped me assess some issues in my diet. For example sodium. Nearly every time I over do it on sodium (by a big amount) I see a corresponding increase in 'weight' (likely water) that eventually flushes itself out when I increase my hydration. By having the daily weigh-in I'm reminded to do better on the water and the salt, which hopefully will lead to long term improvements.

    I also noticed that for me I seemed to lose weight on a "staircase". I'd go 5-7 days with no noticeably change, and then there would be a weigh-in that saw me lose a pound or so and that would start another 'step' on the staircase. The more datapoint I had on my chart, the easier it was to see this trend.

    I use a Withings scale which has been awesome. No manual recording of weights--it is all automatic and produces nice graphs from which I can see 'trends' not just the day to day up/downs that can be disconcerting.

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  4. Thanks for that insight...I've been thinking of getting a Withings Scale, they seem pretty cool.
    I know about what you mean about the sodium and water...I always drink a ton of water every day (and I track my consumption) but when I have meals heavy with salt (like Chinese food), I'm always heavier the next day due to sodium and water retention (not to mention I feel gross!).

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  5. The Withings is what started my weight loss program, and was, to put it accurately, an unyielding 'bitch' who kept me on course. There was no lying to it. No "I think I weighed this last time" or anything like that. It was a constant steady reminder of where I was and how far I needed to go.

    Loseit and things like the Fitbit were huge motivators and essential to getting things under control, but the Withings was an uncompromising judge & jury overseeing my progress. Really can't recommend it (or well, any connected scale) enough.

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    1. I'm sold! I know they cost a fair amount but it sounds like it's totally worth it and that I should start saving up! I think I do a pretty good job keeping myself accountable but to have an infallible pain in the arse who keeps records of everything sounds like the little bit extra that I need. Thanks for the info!

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  6. I’m glad that despite of the frustrations you have mentioned in your post, you still pursued your exercise habit. If you want to attain the body you desire, you must stick to an exercise regimen and a proper diet. And for sure, it will not only make you lose weight, but also make you healthier, strong, and physically fit. Stay positive!

    Dwight Osborne @ NYHealth And Wellness

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    1. Hi Dwight! Thanks for stopping by and for the words of encouragement. I'm still plugging along with my running and my calorie tracking. I slip up every now and then but I get back on track. I'm still stuck on the scale buy my health is great and I still feel good so I'm almost at the point now where I'm learning to just be content with where I'm at and to keep doing it just to maintain it (although I would desperately still love to drop those last 30-40 lbs!).

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