Seeing very little movement on the scales

Like many people, I experienced a fair amount of weight loss in the first week or so of reducing my calorie intake (using huel as my main source of them).

However, I’m now seeing little to no movement at all.

I’m wondering if it’s because I’m actually having too few calories, but googling the issue leads to some very conflicting views.

Some argue that there’s a minimum amount of calories you should be having per day if you want to lose weight. Others say it’s nonsense.

What do people here think?

1 Like

Losing body fat usually means lowering your insulin levels. Obesity in adults > 35 years of age, especially characterized by larger waist circumference, is almost certainly the result of Hyperinsulinemia and/or insulin resistance (which leads to hyperinsulinemia). (Insulin resistance is also the cause of Type 2 diabetes.) I am 42 and I was big for quite some time. I was also Type 2 diabetic once.

For me, the best and most effective weight loss occurred when I did three things:

  • Exercise program
  • Intermittent Fasting (this REALLY REALLY worked well for me, like holy cow!)
  • Changed my food to lower glycemic index options for majority of the food

Any one of those by themselves can improve insulin sensitivity and/or lower the total amount of insulin that the pancreas releases daily. Combining them has amazing effects. However, it takes a bit of practice to be able to fast for 16+ hours, if you’re not used to it. But, during the fasting state, your insulin levels are the lowest they will possibly be, glycogen starts to deplete from the liver, and the adipose tissue begins to release fat from storage.

To oversimplify: if insulin is above a certain threshold, the body’s cells will burn carbohydrates for fuel and fat will not come out of adipose tissue. Even if other hormones are trying to free the fat, insulin is so potent it will block fat from being released and used for energy.

So to lose excess mid-level body fat (visceral body fat), you must lower insulin levels. This is the science we’ve known about for decades. It’s not controversial. And there are many different techniques to lowering insulin. Exercise, fasting, eating less carbs, eating ketogenic diet, eating food with lower GI, taking Metformin, are just some examples.

Once we understand that body fat is regulated like all other tissue in the body, hormones, and which specific hormone is the most influential, then we have a better framework to deal with excess body fat. Whether you want to count calories or not… whether you want to do 6 small meals a day or 1 giant meal a day… it’s all about insulin. However you can lower your insulin, that’s what will work best for you.

Lastly, the scale picks up changes in lean body tissue, water, contents in the gut, and body fat. Keep that in mind when looking at the scale. It won’t tell you which of these contents went up or down. It only tells you how much mass x gravitational constant you exert on Earth at that given time, not necessarily how much body fat you have or how healthy you are.

3 Likes

In regards to this specific statement, it is not necessary to have a “minimum amount of calories per day” to lose body fat. There are many examples of patients who experienced massive weight loss (including significant body fat loss) while practicing a prolonged fast (7 days or more, up to a month) under the direction of a doctor. They ate zero calories for an extended period of time, drinking only no-calorie beverages during their fast. Granted, the first 48 hours was hellish for them. The brain will protest, like a toddler throwing a fit, as the body is forced to change fuel sources (to go from burning mostly carbs to burning mostly fat). But they were perfectly fine, and once the insulin levels got really low, the excess body fat was freely released and provided all the energy they needed for their fast.

I am not advocating that you participate in a prolonged fast or that you even should do Intermittent Fasting. (Nor am I saying to NOT do this.) I am simply pointing out evidence that there is no minimum amount of calories needed to lose weight.

The human body can store thousands and thousands of energy calories in fat all around the body, even in people who are normal weight. (Conversely, the liver and muscles can only store hundreds of calories of energy in the form of glycogen, the polymer of glucose.) Obese patients can have, like, 50 thousand or more calories worth of energy stored away. They are not using this fat for energy simply because their insulin levels are too high, which is why they (and former me) remain obese. But, it’s there, waiting to be unlocked once insulin is low enough. Furthermore, when an obese patient with insulin resistance eats food, since he has an exaggerated insulin release from the pancreas, a bigger portion of the meal will eventually be broken down and stored as fat than would otherwise be (if he were still insulin sensitive), thus leaving less of the meal available to burn for fuel. He must therefore eat sooner or eat more than he otherwise would, to compensate. Hyperinsulinemia tells the body to burn carbs and store fat.

Weight loss (read: body fat loss) is therefore a process of having the body use its own body fat for part or all energy requirements. Whether you fast, eat less carbs, eat slower digesting carbs, improve insulin resistance via exercise, take metformin to improve insulin resistance, “go keto”, etc: all these work by the same eventual mechanism: they all lower the total amount of insulin your pancreas needs to release. Therefore, fat will come out of the adipose tissue more readily than it was before, until a new equilibrium is reached.

When we say insulin resistance, we mean the liver and muscle cells become resistant. The fat cell, especially in the mid section of the body, tend to remain sensitive to insulin. The exagerated insulin release from the pancreas to compensate for the liver’s resistance means that the fat cells experience an exaggerated response since they remain sensitive. And what does insulin do to fat cells: it tells them to store fat.

3 Likes

Thanks for the responses so far.

I feel like perhaps I should add some additional details as my first post may have been unintentionally misleading.

I am not obese, or even overweight, according to BMI. I am 6’2 and weigh 12 stone and 13 pounds.

However, over the last few years I’ve started to develop something of a gut as I’ve gotten older (I’m currently 31 and up until the age of about 25 I stayed skinny regardless of what I ate). I’m attempting to slim down and lose some of the bad weight I’m carrying before attempting to put some weight back on as muscle mass rather than fat.

When I started on Huel I was 14 stone. In my first week, the weight just flew off. I went down to 13 stone. Now, I knew that the weight couldn’t continue to disappear at that rate, but during the second week I’ve alternated between 13 stone and one pound less. If I’d lost that one pound in a more consistent manner, I’d be okay with that because it’s all progress, but I don’t feel like I’m making any.

I’m also exercising 5 times a week.

Oh, that’s a BMI of 23. That’s good. BMI of 20 to 25 is really good. OK, then disregard my entire post. The info in them is accurate, but it doesn’t apply to you. I highly doubt you are insulin resistant, at least not in a pathological sense. (All adults have at least a small amount of insulin resitance, unless they’ve eaten “ketogenic” diets from childhood.) The body will maintain homeostasis so if you’re attempting to lose more fat, it may resist this. And there are other hormones involved in fat regulation (it’s just that insulin is the most potent.) Question: if your BMI is 23 and you exercise most days of the week, why are you trying to lose weight?

I’m 42 yo and my BMI is 26.5, and I exercise 4 to 5 times per week. (Years ago my BMI was 38. Hence, all my research into the subject of obesity and insulin resistance.) I have a little ways to go now, but am very close. My goal is to fit into size 36 waist pants comfortably, whatever weight that ends up being.

Most people have an increase in their body fat percentage as they age, even if they don’t change eating habits. There is always a small amount of insulin resistance that occurs as we age, even if we eat well. Years and years of exposure to carbohydrates does that. Insulin resistance isn’t all “all or nothing” thing. There are varying degrees. But, what you are experiencing is normal. In 10 years, you will pine over the days when you weighed only 12 stone 13 pounds. And in 20 years, you will wish you weighed what you did when you were 40 years.

I suppose the simplest way to explain why I am trying to lose weight is simply that I’ve got a bit of a gut.

1 Like

Well, you are 6’ 2" and 181 pounds. A bit of a gut hey?? At age 31, I was a BMI of 38 and wore size 48 inch waist pants. I know what a gut is.

Oh, and big guts aren’t just for people with bad eating habits. Here is Phil Health, 2005 overall winner at the NPC body building competition. Notice anything? The dude stacks insulin injections on top of his other hormone injections. He intentionally injects insulin to get an anabolic effect. Notice the very little sub-q body fat and the big muscles. Yet, he has a build up of visceral body fat, behind the abdominal wall. Visible 6 packs, with a big round gut. Insulin. Does it every time. Visceral adipose tissue is very sensitive to insulin. I like to think of him as the Ninja Turtle Body Builder.

1 Like

If you were in worse shape at my age, I don’t see how that has any bearing on my situation. There’s also people my age and older in much better shape than me. While I could just make peace with the way I am and blame it on getting older, I feel like that would be dishonest. I know I can do better, so I’m striving to do so.

I see a whole lot of text for a very simple solution.

Weight is calories vs calories out. Get a food scale and start weighing your food to the gram. Use something like myfitness pal to track calories. If you’re not losing after a few weeks, drop calories a little bit more.

Weight loss is VERY “simple”.

Please reference the linked flowchart.

Edit:

In the case that your weight has been the same for only a couple of weeks, reference lyle mcdonalds “squishy fat” article for a high level description of plateaus. Weight loss is not linear, it is common to not see pure number changes for sometimes weeks. You have to have patience.

1 Like

I do weigh all my food and use myfitnesspal.

Yes. I should have made is simpler.

  1. “Calories in verses calories out” model is oversimplified and based on bad science, because energy consumption and energy expenditure are inter-dependent. Changes in one impact the other.

  2. Body fat is controlled like all other tissue in the body, by hormones. The most potent of these influencing fat storage is insulin. What people perceive as “cutting calories” leading to weight loss is usually cutting carbohydrates, which lowers insulin which leads to weight loss. Other hormones like hydrocortisone, estrogen, testosterone, glucagon-like peptide, and (to some extent) thyroid hormone play minor roles.

Type 2 Diabetics who start insulin injections but keep their calories the same can grow fatter, especially in the gut area. Body builders who inject insulin, vigorously exercise, and cut calories to get to stage weight will have very well defined muscles AND a round fat belly. Rat studies whose hormones were manipulated to store more fat but had calorie restricted diets STILL got fat but laid around and slept most of the time. People on ketogenic diets frequently report weight loss with ease and without counting calories. Menopausal women frequently report an increase in gut fat despite not eating more (estrogen suppresses mid-body fat deposition.)

People who vigorously exercise at the gym frequently report feeling fatigued afterwards and spontaneously move less the rest of the day, and will be hungrier than would otherwise be (and eating a meal helps alleviate this fatigue). “Working up an appetite” has somehow been forgotten. Calories in verses calories out implies that each are independent, when in fact they are inter-dependent. There is a very complex interplay between what we eat and how much energy we burn. Also, we cannot directly control our resting metabolic rate. Sure you can exercise. But if you exercise and also restrict calories, won’t your body simply slow down the amount of calories burned at rest and make you feel tired and hungry?

It turns out that most of the insulin released each day is influenced by the quantity and quality of carbs we eat, so it can appear that “calories in vs. calories out” is the cause. But it is not. Saying that weight gain is caused by excess calories is (indirectly) true, but meaningless. It tells you nothing about the actual cause, which is hormones.

1 Like

After all my moaning, I’ve seen another period of fairly rapid loss.

I was 14 stone just over 3 weeks ago. Now 12 and a half.

1 Like

Congrats!

If you didn’t check it out before, I still recommend reading Lyle’s article on Whooshes and squishy fat, it explains what you’re going through.

I’ve lost a LOT of weight (150lbs down from my max!) and I can say with certainty weight loss is not linear. When I’m cutting it is common for my weight to stay the same for 2-3 weeks then suddenly drop 5 pounds, then stay the same weight for 2-3 weeks again.

I’ve read some people who stay the same weight for ever longer, and some people who lose more regularly, it’s very individual to a person’s body.

Here’s that article:

Of Whooshes and Squishy Fat

1 Like

I did check that out before, but thanks.

I suppose it’s a valuable lesson for me in how weight loss works. I’ve never really had to do it before, so it’s all new to me.

I’m 43 years old. I am 6’3". I weigh 232 with a BMI of 29. When I first started Huel, about 2 weeks now, I had just started CrossFit a couple of months prior. When I started Huel my weight was around 240 ish. I also had a gut but the rest of my body is disproportionate to my gut. A couple of years back I found that my testosterone levels were really low. After about two months of being on TRT (testosterone replacement therapy) my gut was almost gone. I would suggest getting your T levels checked.