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Last year I decided to shed some pounds and after a lot of struggling, I managed to lose ~45 pounds.

Today, I'm very much maintaining my weight but I want to lose more. I currently weight 190 but I want to go down to 170. I want to feel and look better.

Recently, I've done everything from carbo loading and running regularly, to just focusing on a paleo diet. Nothing works. My calorie intake daily is ~2000. I don't eat from restaurants and always prepare my own food. I stray away from carbs and usually prepare meals that are just a protein and some veg. I also go to the gym every other day where I do half hour of cardio and half our of weights.

And yet, I'll drop a pound or two but it comes right back to me.

Any help is appreciated. Thanks!

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2  
Jay, i'm curious, how tall are you? What is you current body fat percentage? Sometimes you plateau, other time you just reach a healthy limit (top/bottom depending which way you look at it). –  zeFrenchy Jul 17 '13 at 6:53
    

5 Answers 5

You have the basics covered, and I will interject that while manipulating carbs is a proven way to lose weight they should be a part of your diet. Even with the paleo structure, fruit is paleo and has carbs. There are a number of things you'll have to take a look at and be honest with yourself:

  • How active are you?
  • What kind of activity are you doing?
  • How balanced are your meals?
  • How often do you deviate from your eating plan?
  • How much body fat do you have? Is 170 even a reasonable goal?
  • How much stress do you have in your life right now?

If you aren't losing weight right now it's clear that something has to change. The hard part is figuring out what's wrong. If you are mostly sedentary, you will probably have to increase your activity. However, if you work out six days a week for 2 hours each day you may be doing too much. I'll cover these in more detail below.

Activities

Both frequency and type of activity are important. Too much activity, or too much of the wrong activity can increase your body's level of stress to a point where you are just flooded with cortisol and your pituitary glands are constantly firing. That's a bad thing.

  • You should be doing some strength training. Barbell, dumbbell, body weight, kettle bell are all useful tools when trying to lose weight. Go for moderate weight, and more reps.
  • You should be doing some conditioning work. 20 minutes medium intensity steady state a day, or 15 minutes of HIIT 2x/week is enough.
  • You should limit your activity to no more than an hour at one sitting.

If you have any sports you like to play, it makes the exercise a lot more fun and useful if you do things that support that sport.

Nutrition

You are going to have to be brutally honest with yourself. How often do you grab a quick "little something" from the candy bowl at work? If you don't log what you eat, start doing it. It's most useful and important when you hit the plateaus.

  • Make sure all your essential nutrients are covered (amino acids, vitamins, minerals, omega-3s).
  • Make sure your macros have some balance. Carbs help you do the activities you need to do, so they do have a place.
  • Make sure you are eating enough, but not too much.

You will do much better when all your nutrients come from real food. Supplements are for filling gaps when you need to hit your macro goals, not for replacing meals. Your body does better when it is in proper hormonal balance. Some changes are outside of your control, but your body does react to what and when you eat. What you eat can set off either good chain reactions or bad ones.

If carbs are under-represented, you'll probably need to increase them while decreasing something else. Same with protein and fats. For example, testosterone is manufactured from cholesterol, and a proper amount of saturated fat in your diet helps your body manufacture the needed amounts. Another example would be prolonged lack of carbs can cause the body to convert any free testosterone to estrogen (which can increase weight).

If your meal plan is good, but you don't stick to it well enough you have to change your behavior. See how long you can stick to your plan before you cheat. When you cheat turn that day into a whole cheat day, and then try to beat your previous streak. Alternatively, schedule minor treats every time you lower your body weight another couple pounds. The important thing is to have a plan you can remain faithful to without feeling deprived.

Goals

Good measurable goals are important, but try to use goals that help you accomplish some end game. For example, if you want to look like a fitness model then you'll need to make sure you have a decent base of muscle while you lower fat. If you just want to look jacked, you'll need more muscle and lower fat. If you just want to be healthy, you want to target either a healthy (<20% for men) or athletic range (10-15% for men) of body fat.

If you are 190 with 15% body fat and wanted to get to 10% body fat then 170 would be too low. Take time to get your body composition measured. That will give you some real data to set your goals from.

Stress

The body's response to stress is to adapt to it. In some cases the stress is something we want. For example, the stress of lifting weights causes your body to build muscle. In other cases the stress is bad. Things like not enough food, looming deadlines when you are behind schedule, worry, etc. all cause a fight or flight response which increase the catabolic state of your body. When the body is catabolic it can pack on pounds and catabolize muscle in the process of dealing with the stress.

  • Identify any cause of bad sources of stress (include caffeine abuse, poor diet, major life events, commuting, etc.)
  • Find out what you can do to reduce unwanted stress (reduce caffeine use, simplify your life, plan alternate routes, etc.)
  • For things you can't change, try to find ways of dealing with it better.

Your body is designed to have periods of catabolism and anabolism. They help you stay healthy, and modern lifestyles tend to emphasize a catabolic state. Your goal here is to restore balance.

TL;DR

If you hit a plateau, then what you were doing is no longer working. You have to try something else. Do a little thinking to figure out what the most likely culprit is and make changes to address that.

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Plateaus are caused by many different things. Sometimes your body is just used to the training program and other times your body just needs a break. Here's a list to help you through your plateau:

  1. New training program
  2. Better sleep (if you're sleeping 6 hours, try sleeping 7-8)
  3. Shorter rest time between sets (if you were doing 90 seconds, try 30 seconds)
  4. Different tempos through your sets (2 seconds going up, 1 second hold, 3 seconds going down)
  5. New workout split (Ex: Legs on monday instead of chest, etc)
  6. Personal trainer (they will be able to narrow stuff down better than us)

For example, my personal trainer recommends me to take a week off of training each 6-8 weeks of HIT (High intensity training) because my body will just crumble under the intensity of training.


Switch up your diet if needed. Paleo diet is great, but have you tried anything else?

If you're looking to burn fat through your cardio, try to stay in a rythme where you'll be able to hold a conversation with someone without being out of breath. When you find that fine line, you'll get better results from the fat loss department.

As for the weights, if you've only been doing weights maybe it's time to try plyometric exercises. I suggest talking to a personal trainer.

Remember ... Even if you're not losing weight, perhaps your losing fat but building muscle at the same time which won't change your current weight.

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Congratulations on your accomplishments so far! I agree with @Alex that you probably need a professional (or pseudo-professional) to take the next step. It sounds like you have the basics covered. Going further will take tweaking routines or regimens you probably don't even know you have. If I would add one thing is that you might want to consult either your physician or a nutritionist. Losing weight is largely about diet. It sounds like your current diet is fairly lean. If you make any additional changes, you want to make sure you don't undershoot on important nutrients and compromise your health.

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I've hit a plateau a few months ago, and have 'broken' it now!

What I did was change my program. Mix things up. Add in new things / take things out etc. Mix and see the change.

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We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.

2  
Can you give a more thorough explanation and provide a more concrete answer on what to do, how, and why it works? –  Matt Chan Jul 17 '13 at 2:23

This is really not as complicated as to require an enormous answer. Bottomline: Calories in, calories out. Calories out (your deficit) needs to be greater and you will lose weight. Get your body fat measured and then have your TDEE calculated. This will tell you EXACTLY what you need to eat in terms of caloric value. Just eat less than that (-500 from TDEE is a gerneral rule) and you will be all set. Bodyfat, TDEE, -500 Calories, it really do not need to be more complicated than that. If you get that down you will be 80%-90% on your way.

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I'm sorry but I have to downvote for the use of the "calories in, calories out" oversimplification. It really is more complicated than that. –  Dave Liepmann Aug 17 '13 at 14:52
    
Actually it's not. In its most basic form, if the goal is to lose weight, there is nothing more. There are even studies where people lived on twinkies for 30 days and lost weight. Very unjust down vote IMHO. –  Petter Olsson Aug 17 '13 at 21:40
    
The fact that people can lose weight on Twinkies doesn't invalidate the central issue, which is that food is not digested as calories and calories counts are much too variable to trust (especially to tell you "EXACTLY what you need to eat"). It is of course trivially true that ceteris paribus the calorie count is relevant for weight loss or gain, but the number of confounding variables is too high to argue that it's so simple. –  Dave Liepmann Aug 17 '13 at 21:49

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