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What am I doing wrong?

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Updated December 16, 2014 at 4:26 AM
Created November 02, 2012 at 12:19 PM

Hi all I really need some help regarding weight loss. I have been eating Paleo for three years, at times i would go off the reservation by eating chocolate but pretty much sticking to the paleo plan. I am 5.1(1.55cm) I started out at 176pounds(80kg) I lost 22pounds(10kg) over the last two years now I weigh 154pounds(70kg). My waist measurement is 102cm I am a 36 years old female. Ok so it seems I have plateaued majorly. I have recently cut out fruit & night shades. I workout 5/6 times per week 2 weight sessions, 2 cross fit sessions, sometimes long steady cardio sessions eg walk or ride.

A sample of my nutrition looks like this; breakfast - a good handful of protein & about 2 cups of green veg, avocado, a good lug of olive oil, sometimes almond butter, beetroot, whatever veg I have cooked the night before ;Snack - black coffee & 2tsp coconut oil ;Lunch - same as breakfast + sweet potato ;Snack - black coffee or raw coco powder & 2tsp coconut oil ;Workout ;Dinner - similar to breakfast & lunch ;Sometimes snack - 2tbls coconut cream & raw cacao with shredded coconut.

So in 4 weeks I have not lost weight on the scales or cm around my waist... I cannot possibly have reached my set point at 154pounds being only 5.1 I would like to get down to at least 120pounds, I don't think that's unreasonable to achieve - so what am I doing wrong, eating too much? too much fat? my body still adapting from eating fruit? I'm getting about 6/7 hrs sleep, maybe that's it, not enough sleep? I don't know just some thoughts, Any help/advice would be great. Thanks a bunch

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4218 · November 10, 2012 at 7:37 PM

My weight started moving again when I cut out the coconut oil, but I do just fine on butter and animal fats. Your mileage may vary.

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0 · November 10, 2012 at 3:11 PM

canis minor did you have coconut oil or did you cut that out as well?

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0 · November 10, 2012 at 3:08 PM

emily thanks so much, this post has been really, really helpful, if i may ask what did your meal look like?

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10994 · November 03, 2012 at 11:21 PM

Also, I agree with Nasty Brutish and Short above.

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10994 · November 03, 2012 at 11:21 PM

Try cold therapy (jack kruse/Tim Ferris [4 hour body]).

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4875 · November 03, 2012 at 9:58 PM

Did you just say that walking isn't optimal for health?

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707 · November 02, 2012 at 4:42 PM

You're eating a bunch of processed fats (olive oil, almond butter, coconut oil, coconut cream, etc.) and you can't figure out why you aren't losing weight? Despite what the misinformed folks here contend calories still matter.

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2978 · November 02, 2012 at 3:32 PM

So I do take back what I said about cutting back calories & fat. If anything, I'd eat more. What are you doing when you're not exercising -- do you spend lots of the day sitting?

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2978 · November 02, 2012 at 3:30 PM

Gosh, that's not many calories at all, esp. given how active you are. I eat a little over 1800, something closer to 28% carb, keep my protein below 20% and the rest fat. I do wonder if your body is objecting to strenuous exercise & not enough calories? My meals are breakfast: 1/2banana, 2 eggs & butter, about .5 oz each meat & cheese, lunch: usually leftover meat or yogurt, avocado, apple & cheese, small amount chocolate, dinner: meat, potato or sweet potato or rice, salad or veg, another piece fruit. I eat about 1/2 teaspoon of coconut fat a day & lots of butter, but both generally w/ meals.

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0 · November 02, 2012 at 2:05 PM

@Robin, thanks for your response, I will definitely explore your suggestion, sounds great, currently I'm eating round 1200/1300 calories per day, 56%f(80g)27%p(87g)17%c(54g)-I did think maybe I was having too much fat, if u don't mind can you please show me a example of what a day of eating would look for you?

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8 Answers

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171 · November 02, 2012 at 5:43 PM

You might experiment with short fasts between meals. If you have problems with insulin sensitivity, it could be that your insulin is not coming down far enough in between meals to allow for fat burning.

I had a stubborn extra 20 lbs I carried around for a year and it turned out this was my problem. My insulin never spiked super high, but it took a while to come down, and I was in the habit of "grazing" on small amounts of food all day long, so even though I was eating quite low-cal I was eating constantly and my insulin only fell into the fat-burning range when I was asleep. So my nutritionist gave me the following rules:

Finish every meal in 60 minutes or less. Wait 4-5 hours after finishing one meal before beginning the next one. During this mini-fast, drink only water. No food and no drinks, not even black coffee or tea. Finish eating by 9pm every night. Drink at least 2 liters of water every day.

Following these rules while eating primal, I lost 25 lbs in 2 months and have kept it off for 10 months since even though I no longer fast between meals. YMMV, but it's worth a shot! You seem like you're very stressed about trying to demystify your food needs, so maybe giving your brain a break from being down in those weeds and tweaking something different will also help destress, which is great for weight loss :)

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0 · November 10, 2012 at 3:08 PM

emily thanks so much, this post has been really, really helpful, if i may ask what did your meal look like?

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1688 · November 02, 2012 at 9:04 PM

Could this be a portion size issue, ie calorie underestimation? A tbsp of olive oil has 120 calories, a teaspoon of coconut oil 40 calories. A flat tablespoon of coconut butter has 100 calories, ditto almond butter. So even if you're careful about using flat not heaped spoonfuls of oils/butters, you could get close to 1000 calories just with the fat consumption you describe in your post. It's easy to underestimate these fats, and a couple of hundred calories extra a day can add up. Would it be worth weighing these fats for a couple of days to make sure your guesses are accurate?

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664 · November 03, 2012 at 9:54 PM

I know, for me, I really have to watch the nut intake. I have experimented with other foods to see if they have the same effect, but too many nuts and my weight loss will stop. I am happy with the 1-3 lbs I am loosing a week. I went from 249 to 212 since May of this year. I a gree with a lot of the others who have posted answers. It really sounds maybe like this is a 'what you are eating' kind of problem.

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4218 · November 02, 2012 at 11:07 PM

I didn't lose the weight I wanted until I cut out all nuts, coconuts, fruit and anything derived from nuts, coconuts and fruit. Unfortunately, it took me a very long time of self-experimentation and the slow certainty that no single diet (and no single version of Paleo) is right for everyone's needs and goals. As you'll probably be able to tell from the sheer variety of answers on this and other weight loss threads.

That said, good luck. Once you figure out what works for you it'll feel like Christmas.

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0 · November 10, 2012 at 3:11 PM

canis minor did you have coconut oil or did you cut that out as well?

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4218 · November 10, 2012 at 7:37 PM

My weight started moving again when I cut out the coconut oil, but I do just fine on butter and animal fats. Your mileage may vary.

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20918 · November 02, 2012 at 9:00 PM

  • More sleep: 8-9 hours in a DARK room.
  • Less cardio: that "long steady cardio sessions eg walk or ride" isn't doing you any good. I'd cut it out and DON'T replace it with anything else. 2 crossfit + 2 heavy weight sessions is a great amount of work for a week.
  • Most of the other advice about tracking and seeing where you are and playing with your food is good. It takes time to experiment and see your results, but unfortunately that's the only way to go. Everyone is different and runs better on different food. Most people on PH would say my carb intake is too high, but I run lean and strong in. So only you know what work for you.

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4875 · November 03, 2012 at 9:58 PM

Did you just say that walking isn't optimal for health?

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28 · November 02, 2012 at 8:59 PM

If you're not losing weight, that means that you are eating the same number of calories you're expending (on average). It sounds like you're already maxing out on exercise, so the only solution is to (somehow) eat fewer calories.

I'd say refined oils would be a much more reasonable thing to cut than fruit and nightshade vegetables. You're getting a huge portion of your calories from refined oils (olive and coconut). Even healthy fats can be fattening when you're eating lots of them. Indeed, based on your weight/height/age/gender, you're getting at least a third of your basal metabolic rate from those tablespoons of olive oil and coconut oil! At 4-6 tablespoons of refined oil daily, you're talking about 450-700 calories per day. That's not an unreasonable amount of your calories to get from fat, but it is sort of unreasonable for such a small amount to get from less than 1 cup of food!

If you want to eat healthy fats, try switching to something closer to the whole food. Eat a few kalamata olives instead of straight olive oil. Try some dried coconut** or walnuts instead of straight coconut oil. All of these are very fatty and satiating, but it's much harder to overdo it. Humans evolved to automatically portion-control foods based on whole foods, not based on refined nutrients extracted from whole foods like sugar or oil. Eating straight oil means missing out on a lot of signals your body needs to detect when you've had enough calories (ie "get full").

** It's a bit harder to find, but I like the chipped dried coconut instead of the usual shredded. It contains a lot more flavor and is less messy. Since the pieces are bigger, it also takes a bit longer to eat the same weight of coconut. At the Whole Foods nearest me, they have it in the bulk foods aisle.

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2401 · November 02, 2012 at 2:09 PM

First, figure out what your target body fat % should be, and derive your target body weight from that. The BF% statistic should determine your goal weight, not the other way around. Here's a web page that explains more about why you should set your BF% target first. You can start with this page; be sure to look at the age-adjusted chart for your gender.

Next, calculate your current percentage of body fat. The best tests (dunk tank and BodPod) are very accurate (within 1%) and very expensive. Calipers are next best (within 1-2%) but cost about $15 and require practice (and some personal guidance) to use skillfully. All other methods are accurate to within 3-5%. If you have a tape measure, you can use this online body fat % calculator.

Then, calculate your ideal body weight.

Then, I second the call for doing a detailed food log for a week in an app: fitday, cron-o-meter, myfitnesspal, or something else to get an accurate idea of your total caloric intake and macronutrient ratio. After those two items, you can see if you're eating too much.

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2978 · November 02, 2012 at 1:29 PM

More sleep would probably help, & certainly can't hurt.

But I would also suggest that you try to figure out your average caloric/macronutrient intake, and then try to adjust. Tracking for even a few days can be very illuminating, if you've never done it. When you're trying to lose weight, lowering carb can help, but hard to tell from your meal plan if you're already pretty low carb. And taking in fewer calories than you burn helps too -- if you're very active, cutting even 100-150 calories a day may get you back on track. It's hard to tell from your list how many calories you're eating, but that's an awful lot of coconut oil & cream -- I do eat coconut oil, but I'm sure I'd gain weight if I ate that much.

And if it were me, I'd cut out snacks instead of worrying about fruits & nightshades, unless they cause you other problems like carb/sugar cravings. (I lost all the weight I wanted while eating 3 pieces of fruit a day.) If you're hungry between meals, increase your fat & protein intake, especially for your breakfast. I find eggs particularly satiating so I eat them every day for breakfast, and I eat very little carb at breakfast -- that keeps me from snacking, but that obviously doesn't work for everybody -- you might have to experiment to find the best breakfast to avoid between meal hunger. But I do think finding a way to cut out snacking is a big help.

F4cd7b015dd20be79c0c04beca8785a8
0 · November 02, 2012 at 2:05 PM

@Robin, thanks for your response, I will definitely explore your suggestion, sounds great, currently I'm eating round 1200/1300 calories per day, 56%f(80g)27%p(87g)17%c(54g)-I did think maybe I was having too much fat, if u don't mind can you please show me a example of what a day of eating would look for you?

366c23d69eadce094a2b22299c58a424
2978 · November 02, 2012 at 3:32 PM

So I do take back what I said about cutting back calories & fat. If anything, I'd eat more. What are you doing when you're not exercising -- do you spend lots of the day sitting?

366c23d69eadce094a2b22299c58a424
2978 · November 02, 2012 at 3:30 PM

Gosh, that's not many calories at all, esp. given how active you are. I eat a little over 1800, something closer to 28% carb, keep my protein below 20% and the rest fat. I do wonder if your body is objecting to strenuous exercise & not enough calories? My meals are breakfast: 1/2banana, 2 eggs & butter, about .5 oz each meat & cheese, lunch: usually leftover meat or yogurt, avocado, apple & cheese, small amount chocolate, dinner: meat, potato or sweet potato or rice, salad or veg, another piece fruit. I eat about 1/2 teaspoon of coconut fat a day & lots of butter, but both generally w/ meals.

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