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I'm very frustrated by my inability to lose weight. I'm a 28 year old female and I'm stuck in the overweight range. Despite years of consistent and steady weight watchers and exercise, I cannot break it! I was 10-15 lbs heavier at times, but I've hit a plateau in my efforts for six months now. Worse, ANY indulgence has immediate consequences.

I usually prepare my own meals - low fat, low sodium, fresh vegetables, fish. I eat small quantities which I measure and tally in weight watchers. I exercise several times a week - spinning, running, Jillian's workout videos. I have goals which I feel I deserve to reach.

Of course, it's frustrating to see other people with apparently different body chemistry eating terribly, exercising never, all without consequence. The hard solution, I guess, is to continue to reduce my intake and increase my exercise, but I feel that I'm behaviorally a very healthy already. Further, any deviation from my aggressive plan puts the weight right back on, pound for pound.

Does my body need to be heavier than other bodies? Is that just what I'm stuck with? Are there certain nutritional components I need to avoid besides the standard fat, sugar, carbs that might be keeping me fat?

I guess I'd just like to hear from qualified nutritionists or individuals like me who have learned any tricks to resetting their body's preferred weight.

Thanks!

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You might find this question of interest: fitness.stackexchange.com/q/2244/22 There are some similar themes... –  Greg May 28 '11 at 19:24
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1 Answer 1

Most people on a Weight Watchers diet lose muscle, not fat. Their diets do not typically deliver a reasonable amount of protein and clean fat to maintain healthy organs and muscles. There are some exceptions, and while I'm not a nutrition professional I shadow a number of them in preparation for a career change in the next few years. In my experience, probably 9 out of every 10 people who walk in the door saying they're on Weight Watchers report a general feeling of bad health, food cravings, and frustration with their weight yo-yoing. In my PERSONAL experience, Weight Watchers and similar 'one size fits most' diets are not effective for the majority of the population. I am sure there are people out there who would argue the point, but in truth I have never seen them perform.

The real solution is to devise your own solution using known good nutrition fundamentals. Find foods and meals that work for you, don't work to fit your diet into meals someone else made. These are some basics you can get yourself started in; feel free to post up new questions asking for specifics about anything.

  • Balance in all things, and equal balance in all things: I am instantly wary of any diet that suggests going very low in or outright cutting one of the major macronutrients (fat, protein, carbs). Pure and simple, your body needs all of these things to function properly. You can choose to cut out some classes of these (such as no-starch for carbs or no-red meat for protein/fat), but cutting fat or carbs out of your diet is not going to make you healthier, nor is it going to be sustainable in the long term. Despite what Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, and their contemporaries will tell you, fat does not make you fat. The inability to digest fat properly will make you fat. That inability will often come from overloading on carbs, especially starches. This will backlog your digestion and make any fat you consume get stored as fat pretty quickly.
  • Fullness happens when you get the right nutrition: Directly coming from the first point, it's important to realize that hunger is a request for nutrients from your body. When you give your body the nutrients it requires, you will stop feeling hungry. People who eat meat, veggies, fruit, and carbs in a general balance will often have to eat fewer ounces of food to feel 'full'. I again have alarm bells go off whenever I read a diet that suggests using anything besides water as an 'appetite suppressant'. One Jenny Craig brochure I read suggested using wheat bread as a suppressant. This is completely bogus. If your diet is actually working, you will not need to suppress your appetite. The real solution is to have an inventory of small, balanced meals that you can fall back on if you need a pick-me-up.
  • Fat burning comes from calorie deficits: The point that most diets will gloss over is that you will get rid of fat for good, you need to be burning off more calories than you take in. The majority of work for permanent weight cutting goes on in the kitchen. To get rid of 1-2 pounds of fat per week, you need to be burning 500 more calories than you're taking in on a daily basis. Again, if your diet is balanced and your exercise is moderate, this is much easier than it might first sound. However, you're not going to get there with a 'low-fat' diet since you'll have to put carbs in to replace the fat or starve. Without the fat, you won't have any long-term energy or fullness, so you'll eat more and more carbs and never burn through all the calories you're eating.
  • If you can't pronounce it, you probably shouldn't be eating it: Get used to looking at ingredient lists and figuring out what is in what you're eating. All the 20-dollar names you see on things like TV dinners represent preservatives, chemical sweeteners, and other things that have only been in the human diet for the last 30-40 years - not coincidentally, around the same time the average person started to have lots of problems with obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, etc. You do not need any of these things in your diet and you will be much better off if you get rid of them. You will probably hear that, in moderation, these things can't hurt you. That's probably true. The trouble is, nobody can really agree on what 'in moderation' means, and nobody knows how these chemical additives interact. There are dozens of different artificial preservatives out there. 1 gram a day of Preservative A might be harmless, and 1 gram a day of Preservative B might be harmless, but 1 gram of each a day might disrupt digestion and make digesting things like fat and protein much harder. Nobody really knows. This is the lowest-hanging fruit out there for most peoples' diets. If you're having problems putting your weight right where you want it, get rid of the variables nobody can give you an answer on first.

I'd encourage you to ask followup questions, either in comments or in entirely new threads, on any details you might be confused about. This is very much a 100,000 foot view on things and there is a whole world of help out there for getting you fit, properly nourished, and happy.

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Great answer! What worked for me was making every meal count, so no diet-products or artificial crap and well balanced meals (plenty of vitamins and proteins) and learning to ignore the hunger feeling. I went to bed feeling hungry for almost a month, but after a while you get over it and stop feeling the urge to eat whenever there is something to eat. –  Ivo Flipse May 29 '11 at 9:26
    
Thank you for such a detailed response. More specifics about my situation, in case it helps you help me ... Generally, I'm not left feeling hungry - I'm not tormented by a snack from across the room. I eat a snack when I'm hungry of an apple or a small bowl of cherries. I never eat frozen meals. –  3298972 May 29 '11 at 13:16
    
Also, are your comments about Weight Watchers taking their recent redesign into account? –  3298972 May 29 '11 at 13:17
    
If by 'recent' you mean 'within the last 2 years or so' then no. The last time I looked at them very closely was 3 years ago and I haven't been aware of any major changes. I might have to check again. Also, regarding your hunger level, that implies to me that you're not eating macronutrients in the proper balance if you are having problems keeping a stable weight but aren't feeling hungry. Like I said, weight loss comes from calorie deficits, and if you're not eating a balance of macronutrients you will have to eat too much to create a sustainable deficit. –  YYY May 29 '11 at 16:35
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