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I'm a 23 year old woman, 5'8", and 164 lbs. I'm having difficulty losing weight. Am I getting too much protein? Or am I not eating enough? I start my day with a Clif bar (260 cal, 9g protein), have a snack, trail mix (190 cal, 4g protein), protein bar for lunch (270 cal, 20g protein), then for dinner I usually have a salad, boneless/skinless chicken breast, or something small with few calories. I usually throw an apple or a banana somewhere in my day. What am I doing wrong?

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    How long have you been on this program? Do you currently have any exercise plan? How often do you cheat with meals (if at all) ? Equally important, how do you know you're not losing weight? – Kneel-Before-ZOD Jun 18 '15 at 2:56
  • How many steps do you do in an ordinary day? – Anatoly Jun 18 '15 at 7:15
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    Just as an FYI, Clif Bars are sugar bombs. I stopped eating them. You can easily find other type of bars (protein) that have far less sugar. – Randy Minder Jun 18 '15 at 13:17
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    You list a daily calorie intake of 920. A woman your size needs about 1500 calories a day. So your options are either a) you are starving and you lie around listlessly all day to conserve energy or b) you're lying to yourself about how many calories you eat. – Noumenon Jun 19 '15 at 1:39
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Why can't I lose weight?

Usually, I would advise people to eat less than they usually do (causing a caloric deficit) as I don't really advocate people tracking every single food they eat.

However, if you really want to make a huge impact on your weight loss journey, start by calculating your TDEE.

Protein intake 1g per pound of bodyweight, fat intake of 0.5g - 0.6g per pound of bodyweight and fill up the rest with your carbs, vitamins and mineral.

Eating less than your TDEE will result in a weight loss whereas eating more than your TDEE will result in a weight gain. With that said, you may want to try TDEE - 500 cal for weight loss.

Of course, you should play around with how much calories you should consume as the answer I provide is not surefire method of your weight loss progression but more of a rough guideline.

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First you must understand why you can't lose weight by eating a bit more or less. It is instructive to watch this documentary. If you eat more your metabolic rate increases while if you eat less your metabolic rate decreases, the whole point of that is to make sure your fat reserves don't get depleted over time. Your problem is that your body is regulating your metabolic rate to keep your present fat reserves constant, while you would probably rather have a lower weight.

The way to lose weight in your case (a person who isn't obese who just wants to lose a modest amount of weight) is to first shift the equilibrium between energy use and expenditure to much higher levels. So instead of, say, 1500 Kcal consumption and energy use, you should build up your fitness levels, exercise a lot harder and shift that to, say, 2800 kcal or more energy intake and energy use.

At that higher level, your body will all by itself transform itself to have lower body fat level simply because that's more optimal for that case (fat reserves are no longer useful, it's more ballast standing in the way of physical exercise, there is plenty of energy coming in anyway). In that case, you can eat a bit less to let the body reconfigure to a lower weight a bit faster. While it then looks like you lost weight by changing the energy balance, in reality you just facilitated the weight loss that your body wanted to implement anyway.

In contrast, if you don't exercise a lot your present weight is simply the set point for your body. Eating a bit less won't work because your body wants to be at your present weight. You would need to drastically reduce the calorie intake to force your body to lose weight. But then you'll gain back your old weight once you start to eat a normal diet again. The only way to change this calculus is to change what your own body wants to keep as its fat reserves, and that requires becoming an athlete for whom your present fat reserve constitutes ballast that your body then wants to get rid off.

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You don't mention your activity level, but assuming it's very low (add extra cals for any exercise), your daily requirement for keeping the same weight is 1857 kcal. If you aim for 1 pounds of weight loss per week, you should eat 1357 kcal/day.

If you actually eat according to what you wrote, you should be losing weight. Are you sure you're being honest with yourself? It's very very easy to fool yourself more or less intentionally (I do it all the time...)

If you're sure about your numbers, your next step should be to make sure you weigh yourself every morning before breakfast and after going to the restroom. Even if you do this, you will have days or even series of days where you don't seem to lose weight, that's why it's important to weigh yourself every day, it shows which weigh ins are relatively high in comparison to the trend.

There's also something called the whoosh effect, not sure if it's scientifically observed, but basically what happens is that your fat cells take in water while they leave fat, making the weight seems similar, then suddenly, often after a night of heavy eating, whoosh, the water is expelled and a sharp weigh loss occurs.

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    Well my FitBit says I'm burning about 2000-2500 calories a day. I'm not sure how accurate it is. But I'm honestly not cheating that much on my diet (I did today lol) but I'm pretty strict. I do a kickboxing workout and core strengthening workout which pairs both cardio and strengthening/toning. I have been very strict with my diet for two weeks. I just expected to see some sort of change. I only drink water. – Elizabeth Jun 18 '15 at 23:04
  • Is that number including exercise or is it your resting metabolism? There are a few formulas for calculating resting metabolism and for most people, the more pessimistic formulas are more accurate. 2500 is higher than my resting metabolism, and I'm almost 200 lb. – Mårten Jun 22 '15 at 7:03
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I would suggest you two things:

  1. Drink a slightly warm water with lemon, it will kill your fat.
  2. You can try YOGA - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oYWJGdZG-wg
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    Drink a slightly warm water with lemon, it will kill your fat. Do you have any proof of this? – rrirower Jun 20 '15 at 15:50
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    I don't have proof for this but i have tried it myself... I have lost almost 7-8 kgs – Deepak Nirala Jun 20 '15 at 15:56
  • You lost 7-8 kgs just by drinking warm water with lemon? That must be some killer lemon! :) – Kneel-Before-ZOD Aug 25 '15 at 1:25
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To lose weight, your main goal is to lessen the total number of calories your body is left with on a daily basis. This is not the same as "lessen the total number of calories you intake". What your body is left with on a daily basis is the total sum of what you intake minus what you use/burn/lose.

You need to maximize both of these in order to get fast results. In order to keep those results, you need to modify either your habits or your body physiology/metabolism in a more permanent fashion.

Things that help change your body physiology/metabolism:

  • Exercise, & exercise patterns in terms of both quantity and times of the day.
  • Changing your sleeping patterns and eating patterns in terms of both qty and times of the day.
  • Endocrine system, Hormones.
  • etc.

Working out and exercising will burn calories, and if you keep it up and constantly work out and exercise, you will always burn those calories and help lose weight.
But, muscle hypertrophy or gaining muscle mass will allow your body to keep burning those calories on a more constant basis. Your body will require an extra amount of calories to upkeep your energy level and will use more total energy just to do the same activities you normally do on a daily basis. You can help raise your metabolism and energy level through exercise patterns. Exercise and exercising different areas of the body also affect hormone production in various ways as well.

Sleeping and exercising right and regularly allows your body to develop a natural rhythm and affects your endocrine system and hormone production.

You can indirectly affect/control most things about your body, even if they seem a bit far-fetched.. Like hormones.. but that is out of scope.


Eating less will lower your supply of energy and if your body demands around the same amount of energy, you will lose stored energy in your body. However, if you consistently eat less, your body will eventually become adapted to you eating a less amount and your metabolism will tend to slow down to meet your limited supply of energy.
This will make it seem like you cant lose anymore weight. No matter how much you control your food intake, your body will already have adapted to the small amount of food you are supplying it.

Just eating less or eating healthy is not going to single-handed make you lose weight, especially long term. (Barring any extremes like: almost not eating anything at all for extended periods of time, etc.). Of course, I'm not saying that eating right and healthy doesn't help at all, it definitely helps and nutrition is very key to weight, but what I am really trying to say is, its a whole package. Without working on all of it in a healthy way, its much more of a struggle. There is a good balance to be had in a healthy body with healthy weight loss.

Just my take on the whole thing. Hope this helps!
Feel free to correct me wherever I may be wrong or reword for clarity.

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    -1 First sentence is blatantly false: "Just eating less or eating healthy is not going to single-handed make you lose weight" – Dave Liepmann Jun 19 '15 at 13:53
  • It might not be 100% accurate in all cases, but, generally speaking, if you change your caloric intake, alone, without changing activity level from a sedentary one, your body will just reset its metabolic rate. The point being made is mostly true. Activity AND diet are companions, for the most part, in this journey. – PoloHoleSet Sep 26 '16 at 19:24
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Check these tips:

  1. Drink at least 3 liters of water daily.
  2. Eat enough protein. At least 0.8 gr of your body weight.
  3. Eat enough vegetables to make sure you have enough vitamin and minerals also consider to use multivitamin tablets.
  4. Do HIT cardio. This is the best way to burn fat.
  5. Sleep enough. At least 7 hours.
  6. Consume good fat sources to boost your hormones. Like coconut oil, avocado, olive oil, nuts (almond is my favorite).
  7. Don't decrease your calories drastically. I suggest you to learn or calculate your BMR and be under 500 calorie of it. Never be under 1200 cal per day.
  8. Don't be afraid of good fats and do minimize your carb intake. No white bread, no pasta, no white rice. Just have carbs from veggies.
  9. And the most importantly keep away from stress and keep your mind clear (this is the most important tip)

If you take care to follow these 9 tips, there is no way to be unsuccessful.

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  • Mostly good tips, but I disagree with 1, 7 and 8. Excess water isn't helpful, drink til' you're satisfied if you don't live in a very warm area. Actually one man went for a fast for a year, he lost 125 of his 207 kgs, all he ate was micronutrient supplements, there is no such thing as starvation mode. Also carbs are not dangerous, and they don't promote fat storage any more than fat does, with the possible exception of diabetic/prediabetic people who can't handle carbs correctly, but that's not an issue here. – Mårten Jun 18 '15 at 7:09
  • I respect about your water consumption idea but u know water throws more water from your body and losing extra water from the body makes u seem dry and this enchorages you about your diet. – CanESER Jun 18 '15 at 7:25
  • Might want to reformat 2. It doesn't make much sense as it stands right now. – Alec Jun 18 '15 at 11:06
  • Going 500 under your BMI as a daily recommendation will put many women under 1200 a day. BMI is calories for doing nothing more than breathing in and out, and does not include activities, such as housework, work, working out, etc. @Mårten is correct in his assessment. – JohnP Jun 18 '15 at 19:03
  • My BMI is ~20, how can I eat 500 calories less than that ;p – user8119 Jun 19 '15 at 7:13
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Counting calories won't do much help. It was already stated the calorie system is broken as it applies differently to different people (ArsTechnica article - if anyone interested).

To improve your effectiveness in loosing weight i would suggest replacing any processed food (including bars / protein snacks and etc) with whole food. Add more greens to your diet, spinach, kale leaves, spring onions and whatever is in your local food store. Add oils, cold pressed olive oil and/or coconut oil. Simple carbs replaced by complex carbs as we still need those to optimally function.

It would be miss not to mention physical activities. Do something outdoor that is enjoyable and it'll help you burn calories and get fitter. If you do not have a pet, i would suggest getting one preferable young with loads of energy and enthusiasm for going out.

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  • The article cannot refute the basics of physics for the macro, to lose weight you must: eat less and move more. For people with no grasp on what approximate calorie content of food is i.e. How many calories in a cup of rice vs portion of white potatoes vs 8oz rump steak, etc. Counting calories can be a great way to ensure that they do not over-eat during the day. I have easily gained weight following your dietary suggestions to the letter, following lean-gains principles. – John Sep 27 '16 at 14:17
  • @JJosaur Impressive ability to determine outcome by just reading my suggestion. Are you also a female with same body type, weight and background as Elisabeth? Or you just trolling for fun of it? Personally I haven’t met anyone who was able to put on weight from eating unprocessed greens. Rather, people felt better, had more energy and fun doing physical activities. One note to mind is the GI of certain type of foods changes after it is processed. To use your example; portion of white potatoes will be digested differently if consumed after steaming, boiling or frying. – RobDBob Sep 27 '16 at 16:11
  • Well meet me, I can put on weight by eating more calories than I use. Because I follow the laws of thermodynamics. – John Sep 28 '16 at 6:58
  • Yes, if you know your body you know what is a higher risk food, however it is not that trivial. We are not robots with same digestive system working at the same efficiency. It varies between people (as per article you haven't read really) and so each of us extract calories at different rate from different food types. For someone who is still trying to figure out how their gut system work the first advice would be to revisit food they it before cutting anything down. – RobDBob Sep 28 '16 at 8:08
  • Let's agree to disagree. – John Sep 28 '16 at 8:09
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From the numbers you've given, you're eating 720 calories + the dinner you're having. And the rule which everybody seems to have agreed upon on is that you lose weight by expending more calories (through exercise, walking and just by simply living) than what you eat. Strictly speaking, protein, fat or carbs won't dictate whether you'll gain weight or not. It's calories in vs calories out. But having a proper and balanced diet will help you achieve that goal since, there are foods that fill you up or satiate you more but gives less calories for the same amount of satiety. Examples of these are unprocessed foods with fiber in them.

Given the height, weight and age you've given and using this Calorie Calculator, your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) is around 1500~1600 calories. This means that based on your height and weight and other factors, your body expends 1500 calories just by the virtue of you living. Let's say you're eating dinner with 500 calories, that still just puts you on 1220 calories and an apple or banana, would put you around 1400 calorie intake. This calorie intake is less than what your body is expending without taking exercise into account. You shouldn't be gaining weight though you should kind of just break even. And with exercise, you should be able to shed weight. It could be just simply walking or light exercise, jogging for 30 minutes burns around 200 calories.

Also when you're tracking your weight loss, you should remember that it's supposed to be a slow process. 1 lb/week of weight loss is recommended and not too much higher than that. There are things you should remember when weighing yourself:

  1. Try to weigh yourself early in the morning before you eat, drink or intake anything and after you pee and take a shit.
  2. Remove all clothes.
  3. Weigh yourself everyday and observe that your weight could be erratic when seen from day-to-day.

Weight is erratic and should be checked after doing numbers 1 and 2 to reduce its randomness. I can weigh 5~10 lbs heavier with my clothes, food eaten and water drank when my day is done. Also, you need to accept that weight loss happens slowly and is usually observed one month if you weigh yourself but will be seen 2-3 months by other people just by looking at you.

Also, since you're already counting calories, there could be other foods and drinks that are not being taken account. So, to really ascertain if weight loss is happening, you should stick to a diet and/or exercise plan for at least 2-3 months. Also, recording your weight and calories properly is a must. Remember, it's a slow process and it'd help if you can find fulfillment in following your routine instead of focusing on the results.

TLDR:

  1. Protein does not dictate whether you lose weight, it's calories in vs calories out.
  2. Track both your progress properly, in eating and weighing.
  3. Remember it's a slow process and you'll see results in a month from the records of your body weight.
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    Good answer, I would expand that for the most part the reason calories in vs calories out is accepted is due to the laws of thermodynamics as well as plenty of high quality experimental evidence to support it. – John Sep 28 '16 at 8:08

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