THE CLINIC: At an Impasse with Weight Loss

Thu, 13 Sept. 2012 - 9:14 p.m. MT
Credit: ARA Staff - American Running Association


I run every day, and as a vegetarian I am also pretty careful about what I eat (mostly fish, vegetables, pasta, yogurt, and fruit); I also bike and kayak. Yet I find it impossible to ump a couple of extra pounds from my body weight unless I starve myself, which seems counterproductive. The extra pounds mean that my race results are not where they were and I'm very upset about it. I'm 55, female, and can't really exercise any more than I already do. Nor do I think I can eat less. What to do?


Valerie Edenilk

Lansing, MI



I agree that it's counterproductive to starve yourself. You may be able to make some changes that will enable you to eat fewer calories without feeling as if you are starving. One concept that is important to keep in mind is the idea of energy balance. As you probably are aware, your body expends energy every day whether you sit at a desk, walk, run, bike, or swim. Every time you eat, you take in energy. If weight loss is your

goal, you either need to increase your activity so that you expend more energy, take in fewer calories, or do both.


If you have a few extra pounds to lose, it may be helpful to write down everything that you eat (food or beverage and amount) for at least three days. Then, evaluate your eating habits. Were there "empty calorie" foods that made little contribution to your diet other than providing calories? Eliminating these or cutting down on them can help with

weight loss. Pay special attention to portion sizes. If you eat out often, it's very easy

to eat more than you realize.


As you embark on a weight loss plan, it's important to clearly establish your weight

goals. See for a BMI calculator to determine what an appropriate goal weight would be for you. A safe weight loss rate is one to three pounds of weight per week. By looking at your weight goals and a reasonable weight loss rate, you can see about how long it will take to lose the amount of weight that you want to lose. 

Here are a few other food-related suggestions:


Be sure to eat generous amounts of higher fiber foods like fresh fruits and salads. Eaten before a meal, these foods can make you feel full so that you're less tempted to overeat.


Try not to skip meals. Sometimes when people skip meals, they end up eating more at their one large meal than they would have eaten at three smaller meals.


Practice mindful eating. Ask yourself if you're hungry or if you're eating for another reason like fatigue or boredom.


Activity is the other side of the energy balance equation. You mentioned that you didn't think that you could exercise any more than you already do. It's great that you are running, biking, and kayaking! While it may not be possible to exercise any more than you do, you may be able to find ways to increase your activity in general. As you go about your daily routine, think about times where you could walk instead of drive, take the stairs instead of the elevator, and/or get up and move around for five minutes every hour if you have a sedentary job. These small increases in activity, along with a moderate

reduction in energy intake, should lead to the weight loss you'd like to see.


Reed Mangels, PhD, RD

Amherst, MA



DISCLAIMER: The medical information on this site is provided as an information resource only and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes. This information is not intended to be patient education, does not create any patient-physician relationship, and should not be used as a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment. Please consult your health care provider before making any healthcare decisions or for guidance about a specific medical condition.

The American Running Association (ARA) and its Clinic Advisory Board disclaims responsibility and shall have no liability for any consequences suffered as a result of your reliance on the information contained in this site. ARA does not endorse specifically any test, treatment, or procedure mentioned on this site.

(RUNNING & FITNEWS® March / April 2009 • Volume 27, Number 2)

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