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Why Can't I Lose Weight? Why Starvation Doesn't Work

Updated on August 13, 2015

This is probably the most common question asked of me as a Fitness and Nutrition Coach. Most of the time it's due to a misunderstand, or oversimplification, about dieting. Yes, eating less and moving more is the basis of weight loss- but there's more to it.

Cutting your calories below your starvation threshold (the higher of 1200 or 1000 below your BMR), starts a domino effect of hormonal imbalance. Your thyroid slows down the production of hormones that control your metabolism. If calories were money, it's like the thyroid is putting all the organs of your body on a budget and squirreling away what it can into savings. That savings- is body fat. In starvation mode, you can actually gain weight because of eating less than you need. Your body is trying to fill in the gap. And because your body isn't allowing you to spend this energy, you'll feel tired all the time. In the long run, if you continue to starve yourself, the body will actually start breaking itself down to produce energy from the organs of you body.

How much do you want to lose?

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If the math is tripping you up, do a quick Google Search for "BMR Calculator"

IMPORTANT: Calorie intake should never drop below 1200 for women, and 1800 for men. This is the minimum the organs of your body need to function properly.


Calorie Intake

Knowledge is power. How many calories do you need to lose weight? Use this equation to find out, then cut 500-1000 calories out of each day to lose 1-2 lbs weekly. Be sure you don't dip below 1200 for women or 1800 for men.

Men: BMR = 66 + (6.23 x weight in pounds) + (12.7 x height in inches) - (6.8 x age in years)
Women: BMR = 655 + (4.35 x weight in pounds) + (4.7 x height in inches) - (4.7 x age in years)

Then multiply your BMR by 1.2 if you don't exercise regularly, 1.375 if you exercise 1-3 times weekly, and 1.55 if you exercise most days.

Example: I am male, so I'll use the formula for Men. I weigh 179, I am 71 inches tall (5'11), and 29 years old. I also workout 1-3 times weekly.

BMR = 66 + (6.23 x 179) + (12.7 x 71) - (6.8 x 29)
BMR = 66 + 1115.17 + 901.7 - 197.2
BMR = 2280.07
2280.07 x 1.375 = 3135.1

So to lose weight, I need approximately 2200-2600 calories.

Calorie Output

So now you know how many calories you need to consume in order to lose weight. Give your body two weeks to adjust to any change in diet before you start weighing. You might gain a little while your body becomes healthier but you will lose it again if you stick to your new lifestyle.

Now you can start finding ways to be more active too. I recommend picking up two habits before you even start looking at structured exercise- reject convenience and play like a little kid.

Start by walking more. I recommend walking everywhere you need to go within 1 mile (when it is safe to do so), and ride your bike everywhere within 5 miles. Don't use your car unless you have to transport kids or groceries, or if you're going further than 5 miles.

Now forget the idea of convenience. Modern society is centered around the pursuit of doing less work. Reject this concept! Every little thing that you can put more physical labor into, in your daily life, do it. Learn how to cook from scratch- especially bread baking can be a workout. Mow your own lawn and shovel your own snow. Better yet, offer to do it for your neighbors as well. Move all your furniture every time you vacuum. Scrub your floors more than once a week. Wash all your dishes by hand. You get the idea...

There's a lot more benefit to being playful than the fitness- you will have so much fun, relieve stress, and form bonds with friends and family, to begin with. Play any active game you can find. Not necessarily sports, although that would be great too, but even things like hide and go seek, or tag. Jumping rope is great too. Just think like a kid... we used to love just running around and wearing ourselves out- get back into that mindset. Be silly, have fun, laugh and play.

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Get into the groove... even Madonna jump ropes!
Get into the groove... even Madonna jump ropes! | Source

If you still find yourself befuddled...

First, read Preparing Yourself for Successful Weight Loss to see if you are making any other common mistakes, then talk to me. If you're in the Cincinnati area, I can work with you in person, but if not- I do one-on-one email coaching as well. Just check out the links below. My rates are extremely low and my success rate is 100%.


About me...

I'm not your typical fitness guru that was always (or ever) involved in sports and has never been obese. I personally lost over 100 lbs from 2010-2011. That's when I realized that this was what I was meant to do with my life- to share what I lived and what I learned and help people change their own lives. I am currently studying to become a Personal Trainer and Lifestyle and Weight Management Coach and plan to return to college for a degree in Counseling.

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    • FitnessMarkLorie profile image

      FitnessMarkLorie 5 years ago from Longs, SC

      Starvation never works because your body adapts to it and chooses to preserve everything so that it can survive longer.

    • jacobspage profile image

      jacobspage 6 years ago from Texas

      This is great info, Great Hub.

    • Matthew Ryczko profile image

      Matthew Ryczko 6 years ago from Ohio

      Congrats on your weight loss as well! It does feel great to accomplish so much, doesn't it? Thanks for the comment. Glad you enjoy my hubs :)

    • Blawger profile image

      Bahin Ameri 6 years ago from California

      This is a great hub. I also lost over a 100 pounds back in 1997-1998 while in high school and it was (and still is) my greatest personal accomplishment. All the tips you listed are totally doable and a great place to start if you are trying to get healthy. Congrats on the weight-loss!