I am 19 years old and I have been yo-yo dieting a lot over the last several years. It usually happens accidentally due to the fact that I work a lot and go to school which causes issues sticking to my diet and workout routine. I’m 5’5″ and weigh 124 pounds and I have hit a plateau. My goal is to lose body fat and probably not so much about weight. I try to lift weights 3-4 times a week and do ab workouts multiple times a week. This fat thing has haunted me for years and I am tired of it! I also used to run a mile every single day. I basically just gave up and I need some help!
I sympathize with your situation as working and going to school at the same time can result in some pretty hectic days. But good for you that you are still trying to get it all done You deserve a pat on the back just for making the effort. When life keeps us frantically busy it is very easy to simply say, “I don’t have time to workout” but rarely is this the case. So this brings me to my first suggestion.
It is always going to be a losing battle if we are inconsistent either with our fitness program or our nutritional program. So if you are a person who has an inherently busy schedule, then you need to make it an absolute priority to plan ahead. Take some time to look over your schedule for the week and determine when the best times are to plan for your workouts. If at all possible, try to get that workout done in the morning before the day begins to steal your time with phone calls, emails, errands and other things.
Same goes for your nutrition. If you know that say, Tuesday through Friday are very busy days where you are running around a lot, plan to take some small meals and healthy snacks with you when you leave the house for the day. This type of planning does take a little effort but it will be invaluable to your success. Once you have a plan in place you can look at some strategies for reaching your goals. These strategies should be based on 3 basic principles:
- Fuel the Body with a nutritionally dense diet.
- Build the Muscle with weight training.
- Burn the Fat with cardio exercise.
I would not recommend losing more than 1 pound per week for healthy weight loss. Since you are 5’5″ and only 124 pounds, you are definitely within a healthy weight range. The reason for this has to do with the issues which quick and drastic weight loss can have on your body’s metabolism and muscle mass. When you lose a lot of weight quickly, you really need to strictly monitor where this weight is coming from. Is it water weight, body fat or lean muscle tissue? Unfortunately, sometimes it comes from lean muscle mass and this is exactly what will cause serious issues with your metabolism. Muscle is your body’s most potent and active tissue for burning calories and body fat. It’s basically your body’s furnace which you always want to keep burning as hot as possible. When someone loses a lot of weight, which usually comes from crash dieting or some other unhealthy way of dropping weight, the body’s lean muscle mass is cannibalized and you lose some of your key metabolic tissue for keeping a lean and muscular body.
The worst thing is when a person finally decides to get off their “diet” and start eating foods based on their original routine. Their calories go back up, but since their BMR (basal metabolic rate) is lowered and they have lost muscle mass, the end result is they pack on body fat very quickly! Hence the term “yo-yo” dieting. This is one of the reasons why a lot of people struggle with their weight loss plans. They are simply creating a vicious cycle of losing weight (along with lean muscle tissue) and then gaining the weight back (body fat) which wreaks havoc on the body.
My advice is to focus on creating a 500 calorie deficit per day which equates to an overall deficit of 3,500 calories per week. There are 3,500 in 1 pound of body fat. You should create this overall 500 calorie deficit through a 250 calorie decrease in your diet and another 250 calories which you burn with exercise. This is the healthiest way to lose body fat while keeping lean muscle tissue and having your body run at an optimal level. It will also provide you with a much better plan to permanently keep the weight off forever!
For your diet, focus on getting enough protein throughout the day by choosing lean foods like chicken breast, egg whites, turkey breast and fish. Also, make sure to eliminate all empty calories like soda, high sugar fruit juices, candy and fast food. Try and eat several small and nutritious meals throughout the day. By cleaning up your diet, you should see a vast improvement in your physique.
It is also extremely important to keep a diet journal of your nutritional intake. This way you will be able to track where all of your calories are coming from and be able to really monitor your food intake.
Another extremely important aspect of building a lean body and dropping fat is to include strength training. Studies have estimated that for each pound of muscle that you add to your body, you burn an additional 35 to 50 calories per day. So, an extra 10 pounds of muscle will burn approximately 350 to 500 calories a day, or an extra pound of fat every 7 to 10 days and this is without making any other changes. In another study, researchers found that regular weight training boosts basal metabolic rate by about 15%. This is because muscle is metabolically active and it burns calories all day long. You can access over 500 different muscle building exercise guides here on ShapeFit to help you!