This week's mailbag includes questions about losing weight with a slow metabolism, the Weight Watchers Diet, gaining weight and cutting fat out of the diet. If you have any questions you want answered, submit it at the bottom of this page.
Metabolism. According to the information on this site, I should be able to consume 2270 calories and not gain or lose weight. I always knew I had a slow metabolism and I've been keeping track of my calorie intake and my weight on a daily basis. Over the past 1-1/2 months my figures tell me that I can consume 900-1100 calories per day to maintain my current weight of 222lbs, but I have to drop to 800 calories to lose weight. What am I to do? I'm 5 feet, 6 inches and walk about 3-4 miles per week.
There's some information that is missing but I'll make some assumptions in order to answer the question. According to the calorie calculator, a female that is 5 feet, 6 inches, 45 years old, 222 pounds and has a light exercise routine (1-3x per week), burns around 2,300 calories. A male with the same characteristics would burn 2,700 calories. This estimation is based off of the Harris Benedict Equation which takes into account the above variables to estimate daily calorie needs. The problem is that this equation only takes into account body weight, it doesn't discern between different types of body weight: fat vs. muscle.
The type of body weight you carry is important because it will have an effect on your energy needs. Someone that weighs 222 pounds and has a body fat of 5% will burn a lot more calories than someone that weighs 222 pounds but has a body fat of 30%. This equation doesn't take body fat into account.
At your weight and height, you are considered obese by the BMI. A healthy weight range for your height is between 115-154 pounds. Since you said you have a slow metabolism, I'm going to assume that you have a high body fat percentage meaning that the calculator probably overestimated your needs. Some other likely reasons you're not losing weight: not eating enough, not exercising enough and not building enough muscle.
Eating too little can actually slow down or stop your weight loss. Your body's metabolism is very fluid. It adjusts in response to the environment you create. The two major contributing factors that you can change are how many calories you eat and how much you exercise.
When you cut your calorie intake very drastically (which you did by eating 1,000+ calories less than you burn each day), your metabolism will slow down to conserve energy. You should try and cut your calorie intake less drastically, by about 500 less than you burn per day. If you burn 2,300 calories per day, eat no less than 1,800 calories per day (eat 2,200 calories per day if you're a male and burn 2,700).
Next, exercise more. Exercising will help speed up your metabolism which will help you burn more calories and lose more weight. If you have no health issues holding you back, you need to pick a form of exercise more rigorous than walking 3-4 miles per week. Try exercising for at least 45-60 minutes per day, 3-5x per week. Don't ignore strength training. Strength training will help you build muscle which (as noted above) helps you burn more calories throughout the day. Muscle burns calories even at rest. Building more muscle increases your daily energy expenditure which helps you lose weight faster.
Read more: losing weight and metabolism
Weight Watchers. Does Weight Watchers work?
All successful weight loss plans work on the same system: if you burn more calories than you eat, you will lose weight. Knowing your calorie intake is a big part of a successful diet but for many, counting calories isn't practical.
Weight Watchers tries to simplify calorie counting with a points system. As a paying member, you get access to the Weight Watchers Point system which gives a value to every food. Your calorie needs and weight loss goal will determine how many points you can eat in a day. This plan offers two main plans: in person or online only. If you choose the in person path, you get access to support groups in your local area that can help you with your weight loss goals. The online only version does not have that feature. If you are consistent, don't cheat and exercise, Weight Watchers, just like any other diet, will work.
Read more: diets
Gain Weight. I want to gain 1-2 pounds per week, I am 20 years old male, weigh 110 pounds and am 5 feet, 8 inches. How can I do this?
Gaining weight is a two step process. Step 1: Eat more - calorie surplus. Step 2: Strength training. A calorie surplus is a state in which you eat more calories than you burn. This surplus of energy, when combined with strength training, builds muscle. According to the calorie calculator, with moderate exercise, you would burn about 2,300 calories per day. If you ate 2,300 calories per day, your weight would remain the same.
To gain weight, you need to create a calorie surplus by eating more than 2,300 calories per day, about 500 more. At 2,800 calories per day, you should gain about 1 pound per week. If you want to gain muscle, you need to combine a calorie surplus with strength training. Simply eating more without exercising will cause you to get fat instead of muscular.
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Fat Intake. What are some ways I can decrease my fat intake?
Cutting fat can help decrease your calorie intake and improve your overall health. When decreasing your fat intake, keep in mind that there are good and bad fats. Good (unsaturated fats) are found in non-meat products such as nuts, vegetables and oils. These fats can help decrease your risk for cardiovascular disease. Bad (saturated/trans) fats can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease and are found in animal products and some baked goods containing hydrogenated vegetable oil. Sources include meat, eggs, dairy products, some peanut butters and vegetable shortening. If you want to cut down your fat intake, focus on getting rid of the bad sources of fats in your diet.
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