Why am I not Losing Weight?

walkingQuestion: Dave, I have a question about weight loss. I am a 35 year old male. I am 5’10” about 198 lbs.

I do a good cardio workout. I walk and work out about 4 times a week for a 1/2 hour.

My problem is that I can not seem to loose weight.

I want to weigh 169. I eat fairly well, not a lot of junk. I am a little confused as to why I am not losing weight.

I only eat about 1500 to 2000 calories per day. Oatmeal for breakfast and salads for lunch, and a small dinner, but the weight is stagnant.

I tend to eat at higher volumes of food on the weekends at restaurants, but I don’t think its out of the ordinary.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated. I thank you for your time.

Answer: First, I want to thank you. This is an excellent question. It is very thorough and gives me something to work with!

Also: Kudos for you on having a plan for weight loss – that is a lot further than the average person gets.

Let’s see if we can tweak things a little bit.

I see some things I thinks would be helpful in your weight loss program.

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The most likely suspect is your cardio. It is hard to know from you question, but are you saying that you work out and do cardio in the same 30 minute stretch and only 4 times a week. Do you have 4 cardio workouts AND 4 weight bearing workouts for a total of 8 sessions or are you only completing 4 combined cardio and workout sessions?

Let’s take a closer look.

I like your choice for cardio, walking – good solid, healthy and easy choice. The key to good cardio is continuous motion. It doesn’t have to get you out of breath or sweating so bad that you need a 30 minute shower afterwards. (for those that like exercising that way, keep it up – I’m not against that either.) Continuous motion is what is important, stopping and starting can be counterproductive.

walking The problem with your cardio (or walking) is that it is only 30 minutes and if it is being combined with something else, it is even less.

What I think would help a lot in this situation is to extend your walking to 1 hour and at least 5 Times a week (preferably 6 and 7 whenever possible 🙂 ) . Now that may seem like a lot of time to invest, it might be ok to cut it down to 45 minutes, but I personally like an hour better.

Let me explain the WHY of this. Because if you understand the principles behind what this cardio is for, you can modify it to suit your own needs without wondering why and blindly following someone’s advice (or whatever).

Anyway, if you were to change to what I wrote above, I can almost say your goals will come within reach. The food you are eating, when and how is the other really important component – oh and the weight bearing exercise too – all very important.

The reason for doing the cardio is as follows. I like to keep things simple so I will use one of my favorite analogies:

=> The bucket of sand analogy. Our livers are a lot like a bucket of sand when it comes to weight regulation.

When you put too much sand in a bucket it overflows. It’s the same with your liver. If you put too many carbs into your body, the liver will be overflowing with an abundantly full short term energy supply.

When that supply is full, there is little choice but to make fat out of the excess and anything else that comes along .

The purpose of cardio in weight loss is to create the opposite effect. We want to deplete the liver’s short term energy supply to the point that there is little choice but to start burning fat.

Cardio is about fat burning. The problem with walking for only 30 minutes is that you may not be reaching that point. If it were me personally, I’d go for the hour at least 5 or 6 times per week.

side note: Do you have a girlfriend? If so, take her with you. It is a great way to spend more time together and if she is interested in her weight, so much the better for her.

If not, get an IPOD and listen to some audio books or you favorite tunes or motivational stuff about losing weight. That hour will go fast and possibly be useful for more than just burning fat.

The second issue you might be encountering here is when you eat. Try to avoid eating (especially carbs) before walking.

Why? Because if you are trying to empty the bucket of sand, why would you put more sand into the bucket just before you were going to empty it? It would take more work to get it to an empty state. Even an hour might not be enough to burn all that off (though it probably would be).

On the flip side of this, the best time to eat a carb meal is right after your cardio workout. Why? Because if you are starting with an empty sand bucket it would be harder to overfill it. (you avoid making additional fat)

To reemphasize, the point is not to overflow the sand bucket when not doing cardio and to empty the bucket while doing cardio. Make sense? (you can always ask a follow up question if not)

foodNext on the list. Eating. I’m not into counting calories. If you were a body builder that might be important. If you are an average Joe trying to lose weight, then just use common sense. (just my opinion)

The real problem with eating is about when and in what combinations you eat your food.

You are only eating 1500 to 2000 calories a day? You might be taking in more than that and not realizing it. Anyway, let’s get away from the calorie counting thing – too many loopholes.

Side note: Humans are not logical, no matter how hard we try, we just cannot operate purely from logic or reason al of the time. Mr. Spok (from Star Trek) was not a human and even he had a hard time with this.

We already talked about avoiding food before your cardio workout.

Now, let’s talk a little more in depth about food in general.

[fat molecule image]

What makes up the basic storage unit of fat?

The body makes these ‘fat molecules’ for lack of a better phrase.

These ‘fat molecules’ are made up of a fatty acid (fat) head and a long carbohydrate tail.

This is important because it tells us something. We should do our best not to eat fats and carbs together. If you give the body the perfect ingredients to store fat, what do you think it is likely to do?

You said that you eat oatmeal (a carb meal). Do you put butter in it? (fat)

If so, you have just mixed fat and carbs. What will the body do?

This may seem counterintuitive but it is important. Why is there so much obesity out there? Our food combinations are an important part of our culture. But are they good for keeping fat reserves low?

no-cookiesHamburgers and hotdogs are made up of a bun (carbs) and not-so-lean meat (meaning they have fat in them) .

Have you ever eaten meat and potatoes? (very traditional)

How about cake and / or ice cream? (super fat-carb combos).

Get the picture? It is like asking to add fat storage to your body.

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But that is so much a part of virtually every culture around the world that it is hard to avoid. However, if it were me, I would find ways to avoid these combinations, unless I didn’t care about my weight.

You said you eat salad. Do you use salad dressing? If you do, then you cancelled out the whole point of eating a salad. Dressings are usually, prime examples of sugar (carbs) and fat (oils) combinations.

Try Drew’s. Those dressings tend to have very few carbs in them and they taste good too.

I like to use olive oil as my dressing. (not much sugar resides in the olive oil).

Proteins and oils go well together. So using olive oil (alone) as a dressing is good.

Do your salads have pasta in them? Pasta is a carb and if you pour oil on top of it then it is another carb-fat combination.

The value in salad is the green leafy vegetables. They don’t count as carbs because they are made up of cellulose (a plant fiber). So you can have greens with either carbs or proteins. I would try not to mix them because, proteins usually come with fats and if you put them with the carbs, you can guess what could happen.

Cheese is a deadly combo of fat and carbs. Whole milk is another example. Try skim instead.

Weight Bearing ExerciseWeight bearing exercise. It sounds like you are doing some based on your question. This is important for two main reasons.

1. When losing weight you must do something to maintain (or gain) muscle mass. Failing to do so means that you will lose muscle along with the fat and you don’t want that. Being skinny doesn’t look good without some tone muscle to go along with it.

2. Resting muscle burns more calories. If you have some muscle tone, you can burn more calories just by sitting around than a person who has less.

There are so many additional nuances to the whole losing weight game. I could write a book (and probably should).

There are other important things such as water intake, essential fat intake, etc.

What I tried to do was share with you the principles of of weight loss. If you understand the reasons why, you can make up what you need on the spot.

If you go out with friends, you can modify what you order to limit the carb/fat combos. You also won’t be stuck with some recipe book where you don’t understand why these recipes work as opposed to any other recipes. You can make up your own recipes that work.

In short, seek to understand and utilize the principles of weight loss instead of being stuck with someone else’s ideas of what you should do to lose weight.

Helpful resources:

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Burn the Fat – This is the definitive work on losing weight. I think everything you could possibly need to understand about losing weight is in this book.

Weights and exercise

* Be sure to visit your doctor before you change your fitness activity, take up a diet or alter any of your daily routine.

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