When I started this weight loss journey I was 231 pounds and I looked like a chipmunk - no really...look at those cheeks. GAH!
I had reached a place in my life where I was simply unable to get the weight to move. Admittedly, I hadn’t attempted anything drastic to remove the weight, but I had made plenty of half steps to try and lose the pounds. I was convinced my body just liked my weight. Once I got serious about dropping the pounds I determined I was going to do what was needed (remember the reference to eating cardboard on my calorie counting for slow metabolism page?).
Initially I just started out with a full bore keto approach where I increased my macros to include a large amount of fat, cut carbs and not worry about calories. That approach seemed to be working for lots of folks so I figured I would give it a shot. After a month and a half on that program I was down to about 215 pounds eating right around 1700 calories a day. Not too bad, and then I stalled. It didn’t make a difference how strictly I held to that eating plan, I just couldn’t get the scale to budge. I wasn’t taking measurements at that time (oh how I wish I had) so I had no way of knowing whether or not I was losing inches.
I decided I needed to change my routine up to get things moving again, and this is when I gave the Take Shape for Life (TSFL) program a shot. The meals weren’t too bad (a little expensive, but worth it to me) and they worked. The weight loss train was rolling again. The TSFL way of eating restricts you to about 1200 calories a day and is balanced with carbs, protein and fats. After two months on that program I was down another 16 pounds which put me into One-der Land (199 pounds). Man that was a great feeling! For the first time in more than two decades I weighed less that 200 pounds! Towards the end of the two months I hit another stall and decided to give that program a break as well.
After TSFL I went back to keto, but this time restricting myself to only 1200 calories a day and that got things moving again. I dropped another 16 pounds which brought me down to 183 pounds...and then I plateaued - insert sad face here. I have been at or around 183 since August 1st (2017). I have about 18 pounds to go to my goal weight and no matter what I have done to this point I can’t get the scale or the tape to move. So I did what any learning obsessed nerd does, I began to scour the interwebs for hidden, secret knowledge that would set me free.
There Is Science Behind Getting Hella Skinny and Staying There
Say hello to my little friend - Leptin. Leptin is a hormone that tells your body if you are starving or full. In a nutshell it helps preserve your life when food is scarce and it helps make your life miserable when you are trying to lose weight. My understanding of the weight loss process is as follows - warning...I am not a nutritionist/physician so this is probably stated very simply.
So you decide you want to go on a diet to lose a few pounds. Everybody agrees, including your body. It has been sending you signals that you may have put on a couple (or 40) extra pounds. You decide to curb your calories to get things moving. Great! Your body has a basic energy requirement for calories that it needs everyday because of something called your total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) and you should be consuming right around that number (for me that is supposedly about 2000 calories a day). When you cut your calories down under that number your body has to pull the extra calories from your stored fat (adipose cells). Everything is going great, you are eating a little less, burning fat and losing some weight - until leptin kicks in. See, at this point your adipose tissue begins to realize that you are stealing its fat and it gets alarmed - after all how will you survive if a famine comes your way (this is seriously what your body is trying to protect you against). So as your fat stores DECREASE leptin gets sent to the hypothalamus to tell your body to slow its roll - literally your body begins to change the way it burns energy, thus slowing your metabolism. As a result now the reduced calories have become your new “normal” burn rate - that sucks. So in my case I was consuming somewhere around 1800 calories a day and that is where my body’s TDEE was at. To start my weight loss I kicked my calories down to 1200 calories a day and I lost 45 pounds as a result. However, our friend leptin helped convince my body that my new TDEE was only 1200 calories a day 🙁 This means that using the calorie reduction method I have only one choice to ramp my weight loss back up - cut more calories. Can I REALLY enjoy life on 700 calories a day - heck no!
The other kicker here is that I will only be able to eat that 700 calories a day going forward because any energy I consume over that amount gets stored as fat because of my reduced TDEE requirement - DUMB. So while cutting calories can be an effective way to get your weight loss moving, it will not provide you with a sustainable plan to continue to lose weight or even maintain it over the long term. This is one of the reasons that folks can lose a bunch of weight, and then gain it right back - which really sucks. So, we have to find a way to get our fat to burn and then actually increase our TDEE so that we increase the daily calorie requirement for our bodies. What you really need is a long term diet change coupled with a long term exercise change to get your metabolism humming. This will allow you to eat more of what you enjoy while helping your body burn off the unwanted calories and then some.