I was a 5-6 day a week runner up until last month when I ran a half-marathon and have not wanted to run since. I also put on an unwanted 20 pounds.

To make up for the missing running, I have been doing the elliptical (hills at level 6) and the treadmill (weight loss intervals at level 10 so 1 min 6.5mph at 2 incline/1 min 4.2 mph at 0 incline then 2 mins at 10 incline then repeat for an hour) for up to 3 hours a day 5 days a week which is comparable to how much I ran. I also work out with a personal trainer doing weights and interval training for 3 hours a week.

I am on My Fitness Pal and stay pretty consistently at or below 1200 calories (2 egg whites and a banana for breakfast, an apple and a cheese stick for lunch and salad, lean meat, vegetables and a sweet potato for dinner) and yet my weight has gone up 3 pounds! How is this physically possible? I don't think this is fat turning into muscle weight as I already had muscle. I am devastated. I am not sure how much harder I can work. Some guidance would be greatly appreciated. Also, I am 5'6" and apparently 137 lbs. I just want to cry.

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    Wow, that's a lot of working out! It sounds like you're working very hard--are you sleeping very hard too? Rest is important. Those three-hour workouts sound very draining, have you ever tried shorter, more intense workouts? You might be running yourself into the ground. Commented Jun 1, 2013 at 1:10
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    I sleep 9 hours a night. I don't feel overly tired or exhausted when I finish working out. I have read about HIIT and things like that, but I am a little nervous putting less time in. I also think I would find it very difficult although I am sure I could adapt and get used to it in time. I ran for long periods of time so I am basically trying to keep my level of fitness up. And the there is the weight loss issue, I am just trying to get back to where I was.
    – Anne
    Commented Jun 1, 2013 at 1:26
  • @DaveLiepmann could it be some BMR problem? Anne have you tried checking your Basal Metabolic rate. Your training, diet and BMR all go hand-in-hand. I would consult an ortho doctor.
    – Freakyuser
    Commented Jun 1, 2013 at 4:58
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    You put on 20 pounds in one month while eating 1200 kcal? Your scales must be broken. Do you look fatter in the mirror? Commented Jun 1, 2013 at 12:00
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    Did you adjust your diet when you stopped running? Although 20 lbs in a month is very extreme, it makes it sound as if you have something else going on. While I wouldn't consult an ortho doc, I would see your general practicioner and get a consult and a nutritional professional referral.
    – JohnP
    Commented Jun 2, 2013 at 1:21

3 Answers 3


My suggestions are to lift weights 3-4 times/week, incorporate 1-2 days of high-intensity interval training/week, eat MORE, and do less steady-state cardio.

I used to spend 60-90 minutes in the gym several days a week on cardio machines, and never had the physique I thought my hard work should warrant. Last summer, I started researching ways to increase lean muscle mass and came across www.simplyshredded.com/the-ultimate-female-training-guide.html. This article changed my entire approach to working out and I have never been leaner or stronger than I am now.

Weightlifting takes no more than 30 minutes 4 days/week, and you don't have to do nearly as much cardio, since increased muscle mass give you a faster metabolism all day long. Typically I do cardio 4 days a week for 15-30 minutes max, always after my weightlifting session to burn more calories. Cardio for me is jumping rope for 15 min, 30 sec sprint/15 sec rest intervals for 20 minutes, stairmaster for 20 min (again, intervals!) or just something fun like tennis or bike riding. It's awesome, I spend so much less time in the gym, and I feel pretty cool doing deadlifts and wide-grip pull-ups next to all the dudes.

Also, figure out your proper caloric intake either by googling a 'calorie needs calculator' and being honest about how active you are, or talking with a nutritionist. I used to try the old starvation techniques in my youth, and all it does is screw up your metabolism. I'm 5'6", 130-ish, with BMI of 18, and I take in about 1800 cals/day, and even splurge once a week. Sounds like you already have the discipline to not eat processed/junk food, so just up your caloric intake, and make sure you're getting enough protein, carbs, and fat--so important!

Another site that helped me was http://bodybuilding.com (great video library shows how to do every weightlifting exercise).

And when it comes to food info, Michael Pollan can't be beat. Read "In Defense of Food". Totally makes sense out of the tons of frustrating nutritional info thrown at us every day.

Good luck in your quest to lean out! And don't be afraid of meat heads in the gym! Just ask to work in!


How do you have the activity level in MFP set up? If you have it set to anything less than "active," are you logging your exercise? If so, are you eating the calorie allotment that MFP is giving you?

MFP calculates your calorie needs based on your height, weight, activity level, and your weight loss/maintain/gain setting (for those that don't use MFP, it's basically the Katch-Mcardie formula). The deficit is built in to the number it gives you, and so, when you log exercises, you'll see that number go up. That's because it's programmed to keep you at the calorie level that you need in order to change (or not change) your weight. If you spend calories by exercising, you have to "eat them back" to keep the difference from your usual calorie expenditure.

Additionally, your weight fluctuates throughout the day, and week, sometimes by more than 5lbs. Judging by your name, it's also possible your hormones are at work, too. Women often retain water the week of or prior to their period, which packs on the pounds. I wouldn't worry about a 3lb or even 5lb change if you haven't been doing the same routine for more than a week or two.

Finally, 5'6" and 137lb puts your BMI at 22.1, which is squarely in the "healthy" category. I wouldn't worry about your weight too much, and I recommend getting your body fat percentage checked and consider doing a "body recomposition" routine, which is designed to lose fat and gain muscle (usually in a cyclical lose fat/gain muscle manner). The MFP forums contain a number of valuable posts. I highly recommend checking out the Success Stories section and looking for the ones from women who have taken up lifting programs to get an idea of how body recomp programs affect the body.

  • I have the activity level set at the lowest setting b/c I thought it did not include exercise. I log all my exercise but do not eat back the calories b/c I am too afraid to. It is that time of the month but I don't know if that could be responsible for 7 pounds gained? I wish it could and that this would just all go away naturally, but I don't feel that lucky. I realize that my BMI is ok and am glad for that, I was just hoping to get my weight back to where it was before I put on the 20 pounds. Thank you for your input.
    – Anne
    Commented Jun 4, 2013 at 0:04
  • Yes, that time of the month can be responsible for 7lbs gained. I can pretty much guarantee that it's all water weight and will come off after your period is done. 117lbs = 18.9 BMI, which is on the very low end of "normal" and bordering on "underweight" (18.5). I highly recommend stopping the focus on the scale, start eating more, and look into body recomposition. You're basically starving your body with how little you're eating and how much you're working out.
    – Shauna
    Commented Jun 4, 2013 at 15:29

I may be wrong, but when I read your question, I couldn't help wondering how you can do so much workout and eat so less at the same time. Is it possible that your body has gone into starvation mode and just not burning any calories to conserve weight. In my opinion you are eating too less. Do you not feel hungry mostly? If you do not, then may be your metabolic rate has slowed down.. I would say it would help if you increase your diet a little and include some carbs in the better part of the day. The body needs fuel to burn fat too :-)

If you include more weight training and decrease the cardio, you may see better results. This is from my personal experience. I have reduced 6 pounds in 2 months just by increasing the weight training part, with just a little bit of carb control in my diet. Also, full body workout like squats, pushups and pull-ups do much more than dumbells alone.

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