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DRAGONCHILDE SparkPoints: (61,458)
Fitness Minutes: (15,905)
Posts: 9,717
6/14/12 1:48 P

I have two threads for you to read, that should be very helpful and inspiring for you.

The first is where one of our coaches explains exactly what this "starvation mode" business is all about, in a way that makes more sense. "Starvation mode" isn't quite real, but the effects of undereating definitely are!

The second is a thread by people who started to eat more... and started losing weight again!

And finally, here's some great tips from Sparkpeople on how to break through a plateau:

Good luck, and congrats on your incredible journey so far! I think that my moving towards more healthy habits, you'll find the end result more pleasant. Another suggestion: Have you been strength training? If you haven't, start now! It will help mitigate the lean muscle mass loss that Anarie was talking about, and help you lose inches as well as pounds, building muscle that will burn more calories at rest. It's critical for a good, healthy exercise plan... even moreso than cardio!

KFWOHLFORD SparkPoints: (3,013)
Fitness Minutes: (2,581)
Posts: 729
6/13/12 1:27 P

Wow, congratulations on the weight you've lost so far!

It's not surprising that you'd hit a plateau.

If I were in your shoes, I would definitely think it's worth it to invest in an appointment with a registered dietician, to go over your goals and help you determine how many calories you should eat during the next phases of your weight loss process, to help develop meal plans, etc.
I wouldn't meet with a doctor regarding this - the average doctor has less than 4 hours of nutrition education during medical school.

KAUDREY318 SparkPoints: (0)
Fitness Minutes: (17,393)
Posts: 254
6/13/12 9:08 A

You say you'll "face the consequences" of upping your calories a bit, but you might be pleasantly surprised that the consequence may mean your weight loss starts up again. Up it just a little, to 1200-1500, and keep exercising, and see what happens. I lost all the weight I wanted doing that, and I am only 5'2", so my resting BMI is lower than yours.

Also, look at your exercise routine. Are you challenging yourself? For cardio, I found that doing intervals kick-started me when my weight loss was slowing. Make sure you are really working - i.e. if you are sitting on a bike comfortable reading a magazine, it probably isn't cutting it. Same for strength training. Don't worry about bulking up. As females, we don't have enough testosterone to do that without REALLY trying. Lift to exhaustion. This builds muscles and helps your body burn more calories post-workout. If you alternate cardio and strength days, it may allow to do both with more intensity/results.

ANARIE Posts: 13,205
6/12/12 9:14 P

Chris' calculations (and the computer's) work in theory, but the theory they work in is that each pound of a person's weight needs the same number of calories as a pound of any other person's weight. In other words, at some point in the past researcher took many healthy people and calculated how many calories they burned per pound on average. Then they assume that the average per pound works the same way whether you weigh 120 or 520. But we know that fat is less metabolically active than muscle and organs. Pounds 400 through 520 are going to use a lot less energy than pounds 1 through 120. Unfortunately, nobody knows how much less, and as far as I know, there is NO formula that even tries to take this issue into account. (Hey, Chris! Are you going to do a Master's? Need a thesis topic?!)

Raising your calories to 2800 is probably not going to work efficiently, and because it's more than a woman really ought to eat, it could get you back into bad dietary habits. Raising them to whatever your goal maintenance number would be, on the other hand, is pretty well guaranteed to be safe (if it will be healthy when you're healthy, it's healthy now) and should give you a big enough deficit to lose another 50 lbs or so. Maybe best of all, it will give you several months of practice in maintenance-level eating, so that when you do get to goal, you'll know what it takes to stay there.

OMALLEYC Posts: 608
6/12/12 8:45 P

Hi Susie!

I'm not a dietitian but I am studying to become one in school and in my last class we learned how to calculate how many calories your body needs (your BMR) just to exist. I had to guess at your age so I picked 35 just to kind of go along the middle line and based on your height & current weight (congratulations, by the way!) your body needs 2585 per day if you are sedentary, which you are not. If you do moderate exercise 3-5 days per week this increases to 3339 per day. If you do hard exercise 6-7 days per week this increases to 3716 per day! To lose you would have to create a calorie deficit compared to what your BMR requirement, but to safely do that you would subtract 500-1000 calories per day compared to your requirements. So based on the moderately active 3339 you should be eating 2339-2800 calories per day to support your activity level.

I may be slightly off on my calculations, but Sparkpeople should be able to tell you how many calories you should eat to maintain your activity level. Plateaus are so demotivating but you can do it!


SCIFILESLIE SparkPoints: (14,868)
Fitness Minutes: (24,271)
Posts: 408
6/12/12 8:19 P

Exactly what SCT said. 1000 calories is not nearly enough. If I were you, I would schedule a session with your doctor or a nutritionist. Some gyms even have nutritionists on staff to do a consult with. You have done an amazing job so far, but seems like it may be time to defer to someone qualified to guide you.

SCTK519 Posts: 2,086
6/12/12 8:02 P

For how much you currently work out and currently weigh, 1000 calories a day Is Not enough. I'd say that's contributing to your current plateau. Your body burns a certain number of calories on body function alone let alone if you're working out 90 minutes a day.

ADOS-ADOS Posts: 133
6/12/12 7:46 P

v Tadah! Warning sticker! v

ADOS-ADOS Posts: 133
6/12/12 7:35 P


There would be less confusion, but on the other hand, nobody would listen to me about anything I have to say. Maybe that would be a good thing though. emoticon

So, uh, yeah. Sorry for misattributing falsehoods to the good experts.

Edited by: ADOS-ADOS at: 6/12/2012 (19:37)
ANARIE Posts: 13,205
6/12/12 7:23 P

I think the previous poster didn't read carefully, but part of what she said actually holds your answer.

You've been wildly lucky so far. You've had a whole year of smooth weight loss. Most people don't; normally if you make a line graph of a person's weight, it looks like the Grand Tetons-- up and down in wild spikes and valleys. That's normal. It has just taken an unusually long time for you to hit your first normal valley and peak. (What's interesting is that plateaus often correspond with BMI categories. Look at a chart and see if you're right in the neighborhood of a borderline between super-obese and morbidly obese, or between morbidly obese and just obese. It doesn't always happen that way, but it's kind of amusing how often it does.)

You do probably need to eat more. It's not because of calories specifically; it's because of nutrition. If you were down to 800 calories, there's no way you were getting anywhere close to the amount of protein and calcium you need, so you will have lost significant amounts of muscle and bone along with the fat. That's not a total disaster, because carrying so much extra weight made you build more muscle and bone than average. But it has to stop now, because you've probably lost all the lean tissue you can afford to lose. It's time to think less about calories and more about nutrition, and also to keep up the weight training.

It's a little bit tricky to get the tracker here to give appropriate targets for anyone over 250-300 pounds, so you might have to lie to it and tell it you're smaller than you are, or tell it you want to lose the next 100 pounds by September or something ridiculous like that. Find a reliable calculator to tell you how many calories you'll need to maintain your weight when you're at goal, and play with the tracker until you get it to give you the range that includes your maintenance amount. Then use the nutrient targets for that amount. Even if you don't eat the number of calories they tell you to, be SURE to eat the protein grams, the fiber, the calcium, etc. That's what "starvation mode" is about. It's not too few calories; it's literal starvation. You're not giving your body enough material to keep the muscles and bones strong, and it has just woken up and started worrying about how much of its emergency reserves you've used up. It's likely to hang onto some weight for a little while until you convince it that there's no horrendous famine going on and that you can give it enough food.

It also might be time to put away the scale and trust yourself and your Nutrition tracker for a few months.Adding strength training often causes a little weight spike, and raising your calories might as well (although sometimes it doesn't; some people start dropping pounds again when they increase their calories.) Consider giving your scale to your BFF and asking her to hide it in her garage for 56 or 84 days. (Women's weigh-ins are most accurate at 28-day intervals.) Then if your weight does spike before it starts dropping again, you won't have to see it.

By the way, the only people who say that exercise increases cortisol levels are the makers of "Cortislim" and related "weight loss supplements" (and people who've read their claims and believed them.) Exercise is actually one of the best ways to lower cortisol. (Appropriate sleep is the other.) Unless you're under unusual stress, cortisol probably isn't an issue, and if it is, good nutrition and reasonable amounts of exercise will help, not hurt.

ADOS-ADOS Posts: 133
6/12/12 7:14 P

Oh, also, my doctor told me there's no real need to "break" a plateau. If you keep eating at a HEALTHY deficit and just wait it out, you'll eventually start losing again. You don't have to become a bodybuilder to maintain a healthy weight. Which is good. I don't like working out. My father WAS a bodybuilder. He was ENORMOUS, he could pick up a 700 pound swordfish by himself. But you don't NEED to be that way. :P

Congrats on the weight loss, also!

GOPINTOS Posts: 6,263
6/12/12 7:11 P

WTG on doing so well!!

Have you taken measurements? With all that working out, maybe your body composition is just changing, so losing inches that are not reflected on the scale. Sometimes I lose inches but not a single pound.

When I stall, I mix things up. Add a few calories, some days, especially workout days. Lighter on other days. Or I increase intensity but less workouts. Just mix it up, keep the body guessing :)

You have done fantastic!!

SUSIEQ78GBT Posts: 4
6/12/12 7:00 P

Thanks for taking the time to respond. I'm 5ft 8 inches so not short. Also, not transgender - fully fledged female :)

I think I'm just going to have to eat the additional calories, suffer the consequences and hope the weight loss carries on once my mebatolism is restored. Easier said than done however.

ADOS-ADOS Posts: 133
6/12/12 6:51 P

Hi, SUSIEQ78GBT. A few questions.

First, are you extremely short, to the point where the BMI scale doesn't apply to you? If not, 800 or even 1000 calories per day is way too low, especially with an hour and a half of working out every day. The "starvation mode" thing is absolutely true, and I've seen just about every SparkCoach on the message board saying so, so I'm inclined to believe them. Have you tried setting up your sex, height, current weight, how fast you want to lose weight, and how many calories you're burning each week? One of the great things about SparkPeople is that it has a great calculator that tells you how many calories you should eat each day, giving you a range of 350 calories which you can eat anywhere inside and still lose weight. That 350 calorie range bottoms out at 1200-1550 calories per day for women, and it won't let you lose more than about 2 pounds per week, for safety reasons. So like I said, 1000 calories a day plus extensive daily workouts is way too low.

When you eat too few calories, your body starts eating away at your muscles and turning them into fat, to prepare for famine. Eventually it goes after your internal organs as well, and then you're in real trouble. So I suggest you try the calculator, and also, see your doctor again and ask for advice. Take your doctor's advice over SparkPeople's, but if (s)he says Sparkpeople's settings are good for you, feel free to use them.

EDIT: Thought better of it.

Edited by: ADOS-ADOS at: 6/12/2012 (18:54)
SUSIEQ78GBT Posts: 4
6/12/12 6:51 P

Why here now? Because I need advice. Simple as that. I can honestly say in the 175lbs I've lost, it has been very consistent and I've never had to face a plateau or my fear that it will just stop someday. That day is here now. I am so focused on this journey (probably too focused) that I'm finding it hard to deal with the fact that despite my best efforts, the weight loss has stopped. I can't eat any less and I can't exercise any more so I'm looking for suggestions as to how to move this forward. Just to note I have no intention of giving up.I just want to move forward.

No depression, no changing circumstances. Life is ticking away happily except for the fact that this goal I'm trying to reach feels out of my control at the moment. Calories in, calories out is not working so I'm hoping someone might have gone through a similar experience and have some words of wisdom for me.

Edited by: SUSIEQ78GBT at: 6/12/2012 (18:52)
6/12/12 6:27 P

What's bothering me about your message is why here, now? You've lost 175 pounds. Surely, given how human bodies work, you had weeks were you didn't lose or gain, yet you didn't give up.

now all of a sudden you are scared and want to change things and give up? That just really - the peices don't fit. I suspect there is more you aren't telling us; between you and yourself that is making you worry today, and not on the rest of your 175 lb journey.

bodies gain and lose weight, as you well know. So you just have to go with it. It's worked for 175 lbs, that's got to be nearly 2 years of work. Why do you think it won't work tomorrow?

There is truth to starvation mode, but you are tellign us you've been starving for nearly 2 years, so I woudln't think it would be different this week vs. another. I would say, again and again, just wait it out.

Unless, again, there is something inside of you that has you worried differently from the other 175 lbs. And that happens (new drugs for various medical issues; change in relationship status; feelings of depression you didn't have before; etc.) and if something did happen, and you wanted to share, that might help.

But otherwise, hang in there. after 175 lbs you know what to do! :-) good luck, good job, !!!!

MSANITAL Posts: 8,060
6/12/12 5:28 P

Well first of all congrats on the weight loss, you worked really hard.. and should be proud,
I am a firm believer that your body does go through a shut down .. but it does not have to be long. my one concern is that you are not getting enough calories and if you working out.. you need them, change your goal with SP and let SP tell you the range you should be in.

also never heard about that hormone being produced when you work out.. but if it was don't you think everyone would not be able to lose weight ?

I truly believe that less calories in and calories burned will equal weight loss.
also if your strength training muscle weights more then fat but good thing it burns it. so keep doing strength training..

but in either case hang in there its this will not last long you will be losing again.
keep up the good work

SUSIEQ78GBT Posts: 4
6/12/12 5:07 P

Hi everyone. Longtime member but first time poster. Brief history about me. I've been overweight my whole life. I was weighed for the first time in 15 years in April 2011 and weighed 484 lbs. Between then and now (14 months) I have lost 175 lbs, 90% of which I attribute to diet. I also walked c. 5 miles a day 5 times a week. As the pounds came off, I cut more calories to a point where I eat 800 calories a day. Last month I hit the dreaded plateau and finally joined a gym. I've gone almost every day and do an hour of cardio and 30 minutes of weights. I increased my calories to 1000 a day slowly in the last two weeks to make up for the energy expended at the gym. The gym has not worked and my weight has stayed the same. Whats worse, in the last 2 days I've put on a pound a day.

I've done a lot of research on-line and two things keep cropping up. First is the issue of starvation mode with some people discounting the theory totally. The other is the combination of exercise and a very low calorie diet has likely resulted in raised levels of cortisol which stops weight loss.

It seems like I'm going to have to increase my calories but am terrified at the prospect because if I ever eat over my calorie limit ( I'm talking about a few hundred calories, which is rare) I put on weight at a very accelerated pace. The thoughts of putting on 15 or 20lbs is very difficult to contemplate at this point of my journey, when I still have soo much weight to lose.

So, any advice or experience would be very welcome. Am I going to have to bite the bullet and put on a significant number of pounds to get my metabolism back in action or is there some other way?

Thank you.

Edited by: SUSIEQ78GBT at: 6/12/2012 (17:42)
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