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Paleo vs belly fat

by (15)
Updated September 16, 2014 at 7:34 PM
Created November 26, 2011 at 10:59 PM

I've been eating a paleo diet for the last 5 months. For the last month I have been 100% paleo. I do crossfit about 4-5 times a week. I'm 5'3 112 lbs. Although I don't need to lose weight, I have a stubborn belly fat that just won't seem to budge. It seems to more isolated around the belly button area. Help!!

----EDIT----

  1. I usually have a small meal before xfit. Maybe an apple and some almonds. Oh and black coffee. Is it better not to eat? I will look into leangains and IF.

  2. My weight has been the same since I had kids. I have lost inches and gained muscle yet my weight has stayed the same. So if this seems to be a cortisol issue, how do I fix it? I have not heard of IF, but interested in hearing about it.

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550 · June 21, 2012 at 1:54 PM

do less crossfit, sleep more. ease back into the crossfit when you're where you want to be

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4373 · November 28, 2011 at 11:08 PM

if you have any hypothyroid symptoms, you may want to limit or avoid Goitrogens http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goitrogen Broccoli is on the list.

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4373 · November 28, 2011 at 11:04 PM

..agreed on BPA

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15 · November 28, 2011 at 1:20 PM

oops childish!!

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1074 · November 28, 2011 at 9:12 AM

didn't know Paleo side effects included being anal

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1074 · November 28, 2011 at 9:08 AM

You should also look into IF, it really works to get ppl ripped (shed the last few lbs). it has nothing to do with starving (you should be able to go for 16hrs including sleep without being too hungry) unless you're metabolism/leptin isn't working optimally. If done correctly, its a form of hormesis that actually increases your overall insulin sensitivity and lowers cortisol. The best bang for your buck at this stage of your game would be implementing IF, low reward foods, and avoiding VLC (shuts down thyroid) all while within a Paleo dietary frame.

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1074 · November 28, 2011 at 8:58 AM

it's not a book, its just a 7 part article on Guyenet's blog Whole Health Source. but it has some pretty profound implications, as given by 2 of PH's bloggers having done what Guyenet advises and lost a good portion of their last few lbs that their normal Paleo routine didn't reduce. worth a look at

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15 · November 28, 2011 at 3:56 AM

Thanks guys! I did this on my phone and did not think to check for errors. Usually it only adds ' to the word us. I almost deleted this account after those two posts. I felt that if this is the kind of childless posts people are going to write instead of answering questions them I want no part of it. I appreciate your support and instruction on how to post correctly. I have received some great info and will do my best to research it all.

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15 · November 28, 2011 at 3:26 AM

Thanks guys! I have a lot of info to look into. I will check my diet for holes and do my research. I know I'm the 5 months I have been doing paleo I have seen a great amount of change in my health and body. I guess I have more work to do.

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41297 · November 28, 2011 at 3:24 AM

I don't really care about the down votes myself. I know that "conventional" calories-in/calories-out isn't popular. It does explain weight loss/gain quite well when you don't over-simplify things.

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15 · November 28, 2011 at 3:22 AM

I'm sure that over eating is not it. I will look into the book. Thanks for the advice and grenadine for the support.

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3631 · November 28, 2011 at 3:00 AM

well, she works out 4-5/wk! shrug. oh, i downvoted. i commented my dissent as well, as a downvote-fess-up, but i don't usually do that. i've found non-anonymous downvoting isn't terribly constructive, and causes more probs than it's worth. i just downvote only when i don't agree, but i respect your POV here, and i'm sure that like me, you aren't sweating those points. :)

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41297 · November 28, 2011 at 2:43 AM

Love the anonymous down votes, keep 'em coming! ;)

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41297 · November 28, 2011 at 2:37 AM

That speaks nothing to her body composition. You can certainly be normal weight and have too high of a body fat. Heck, I'm below 50 %tile on body weight, but above 50 %tile on body fat composition. "Skinny fat" to some degree.

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3631 · November 28, 2011 at 2:32 AM

i stand by my comment that this woman is not overweight, by which i mean to say that i do not believe that her tiny amount of bellyfat is caused by an excess of "reward".

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3631 · November 28, 2011 at 2:28 AM

yep, this is paleohacks. thanks for the retaliation downvote, champ.

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1074 · November 28, 2011 at 2:18 AM

stubborn belly fat IS fat, idk what you're talking about. leave the PC at home, this is paleohacks. the last "hard pounds" are the ones that a general Paleo diet/primal exercise plan don't often get rid of.

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3631 · November 28, 2011 at 2:13 AM

This isn't a fat lady!

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3631 · November 28, 2011 at 2:11 AM

At 5'3" 112lbs, this woman is *not* overweight.

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3631 · November 28, 2011 at 2:06 AM

p.s. I hear IF increases cortisol.. but i'm surely no expert. I'd rather sleep than starve tho, ha.

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12417 · November 27, 2011 at 7:22 PM

Thanks for brightening up my answer:-)) everything's better with emoticons

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20519 · November 27, 2011 at 7:12 PM

trapper keeper pee chee!

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568 · November 27, 2011 at 7:06 PM

I should note that MTor is believed to be anti-longevity. Putting on muscle will unequivocally help body composition--and upping MTor will help that--but we're not sure of the long term effects. I personally believe the improvement in body comp balances out the "aging pathway" effect of MTor, if that theory is even correct.

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20519 · November 27, 2011 at 6:53 PM

Welcome Maria! I edited your question to include what you had posted below so they don't get lost in the shuffle. @Daz has it right. Cheers!

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20519 · November 27, 2011 at 6:52 PM

Yo, edit if you have the ability and answer the question or just answer the question. PH isn't a pseudonym for "Grammar 101." Many people use mobile devices, and said devices take much fun out of mucking up posts or replies, or english is their 2nd language. Things happen so be kind and rewind. K? K.

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41297 · November 27, 2011 at 3:14 PM

As much as folks want to deny energy balance, it has to be the reason why folks lose/gain weight. Energy balance itself is very simplistic, but the reason it doesn't fail is because of the complexity of energy expenditure (variable based on: activity, food timing, food composition, food quality, etc...) This is why folks can claim 'I ate more calories and lost weight!' I'm sure some folks can increase their caloric intake and lose weight, but only because they are altering their basal metabolism by the diet.

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17005 · November 27, 2011 at 2:48 PM

DIM (or lots of broccoli) can help with that too. Also avoiding anything canned unless you know there's no BPA in the can is very helpful.

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2417 · November 27, 2011 at 7:13 AM

Definitely not just calories in calories out. I eat the same calories paleo as I did pre-paleo, have the same exercise schedule - and 20 lbs of fat just fell off. It surprised the hell out of me, particularly because it's NOT water weight. Women's bodies also WANT to have some fat on them. It's just biologically appropriate. I'm not comfortable with some of the lean-out-more advice given to women on here. Someone like me, with 80 lbs to lose? Sure. But someone who is 99% there?

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2417 · November 27, 2011 at 7:07 AM

Huh? Get skinny to be skinny and take my authoritative tone as gospel?

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4373 · November 27, 2011 at 5:42 AM

Maria, welcome to PaleoHacks. I notice you have created two Answers below, which are actually comments. What you should be doing in the future, is selecting the 'add comment' text, which exists beneath each Answer (& also beneath your own question). This way you can add a comment or reply beneath the Answer that your comment/reply relates to. good luck.

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610 · November 27, 2011 at 4:53 AM

Also make sure the calories are enough for your activity level and to also create a deficit.

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610 · November 27, 2011 at 4:51 AM

Its definitely not always calories but bodybuilders do know what they are doing. I would up the protein and carbs (since you do a lot of crossfit weekly) and cut the fat.

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41297 · November 27, 2011 at 3:44 AM

There's a big difference between how much water you're retaining and body fat levels.

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16131 · November 27, 2011 at 12:34 AM

If spelling bothers you you can edit. After a while you will earn a badge if you correct enough posts. Just FYI.

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1112 · November 27, 2011 at 12:29 AM

It would be smart to eat before crossfit if you want to avoid your cortisol levels skyrocketing.

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565 · November 27, 2011 at 12:21 AM

There is also no apostrophe is vs.

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2889 · November 27, 2011 at 12:16 AM

"Lose" is spelled with one "o." You cannot "spot reduce" without resorting to liposuction or similar procedures. All you can do is lower your bodyfat %.

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37177 · November 26, 2011 at 11:38 PM

Many ancestral eating sites discuss IF, but Mark Sisson has a nice article at: (http://www.marksdailyapple.com/fasting/)

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613 · November 26, 2011 at 11:34 PM

I eat the same amount of calories every day currently. Whether I lose or gain weight depends on what time I get to sleep, how long I sleep, how I relax in my free time. It depends on my hormones and how I treat my adrenals.

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613 · November 26, 2011 at 11:30 PM

It definitely does not always come down to "calories in, calories out". Many people drive themselves crazy trying to eat less, burn more. I've lost hair nearly starving myself and still not been able to lose stubborn belly fat. Sometimes the answer is actually to eat more, do less. Overall hormonal balance plays a big part.

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16 Answers

66e6b190e62fb3bcf42d4c60801c7bf6
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12417 · November 26, 2011 at 11:07 PM

if you're doing xfit 4-5x a week, it may be a cortisol issue.:)) that will be the stock answer with the info you've given.

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550 · June 21, 2012 at 1:54 PM

do less crossfit, sleep more. ease back into the crossfit when you're where you want to be

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12417 · November 27, 2011 at 7:22 PM

Thanks for brightening up my answer:-)) everything's better with emoticons

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20519 · November 27, 2011 at 7:12 PM

trapper keeper pee chee!

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11683 · November 26, 2011 at 11:45 PM

I am an apple shape, so I tend to store fat around my belly too. In order for me to get rid of it, in the past I starved the rest of my body to an unhealthy, emaciated level. Great abs but my boobs looked like deflated ballons. My goal now is just to build the abs underneath, so the fat has a nice shape to cling to, and try to accept myself.

I do sense a tendency on this forum for people to address fat as a problem that needs hacking. Women have more fat on them than men do, that's something we need to accept. We are not all gonna have washboard abs. I mean, maybe I could, if I became a full-on athlete, but I guess I don't see that happening any time soon.

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568 · November 27, 2011 at 6:41 PM

As others have said, lower ab fat is the "last to go"- so you'll need to keep losing fat on a systemic basis.

Everyone's bodies are different, so you'll need to experiment. Here are some methods I've found anecdotally effective and logically compelling. IMO, choose between 1 and 2, and incorporate 3-5 as much as you can. 6 is just an FYI.

These strategies are obviously within the context of a high quality paleo diet- I feel that processed foods promote body fat storage independent of their caloric value via their inflammatory (see Jaminet) and food reward (see Guyenet) effects.

Personally, I've found 2-4 to be most effective if already <15% BF, 1 and 3-4 is best if you're >15%*.

*Lifting: Also note, the points about cortisol and overtraining are valid. I've found 2-3 lifting sessions to be optimal for fat loss. 4+ precludes sufficient recovery.

1. Quilt's "Big Ass Breakfast" - 50+ protein for breakfast kills the appetite and amino acids rarely become fat. Tim Ferriss has also shown anecdotal support for this. Don't get too caught up in Quilt's theories on circadian rhythm, but feel free to geek out on it if you want.

2.Martin Berkhan's lean gains protocol. I've found fasting to be effective for fat loss only in the context of fasted lifting and its effects on MTor signalling. Fasting without lifting only seems to slow down my metabolism (less cal in, lass cal out, zero delta).

3.Maximizing NEAT (non exercise activity thermogenesis) Stand and walk as much as possible during the day. Travis Culp has some good answers on this, and Quilt mentioned it in his most recent post. Seems to work even better fasted (search Culp's answers for why).

4. Carb/Fat cycling. Advocated by Jay Robb of protein powder fame (he's not paleo but the concept still holds). Berkhan also. I go mostly eggs, coconut and salmon on my fat days (dairy and nuts seem to be fat loss headwinds as discussed here often). Carb days I go sweet potato, eggs, steak/chicken, sometimes rice/plantains/white potato.

5.Coffee/Tea. Not a huge fan myself, but obviously a popular adjunct.

6.Water retention. People confuse fat with water quite often. Recognize that as carbs/sodium go up, water will be retained in concert. This isn't bad, but can dishearten if not recognized as such.

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568 · November 27, 2011 at 7:06 PM

I should note that MTor is believed to be anti-longevity. Putting on muscle will unequivocally help body composition--and upping MTor will help that--but we're not sure of the long term effects. I personally believe the improvement in body comp balances out the "aging pathway" effect of MTor, if that theory is even correct.

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37177 · November 26, 2011 at 11:09 PM

The area around the navel is definitely the area that holds onto fat tenaciously. For females, of course, a little fat around the navel indicates fertility.

I'm assuming this is subcutaneous fat, rather than visceral, so it's more of a visual annoyance than a health concern. You're seeking the ideal which is much harder to achieve than just a "normal" weight.

As luckbastard said, this could be cortisol; it could also be that your system needs more time to adjust to this weight and give up more of your abdominal fat.

What helped me lose a bunch of waist-inches is IF--have you tried that yet?

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20908 · November 27, 2011 at 1:36 AM

Crossfit 4-5 times a week is crazy high volume. Especially if it's main site like WODs. That much volume will not only cause cortisol issues but also will cause hepatic glycogen release and subsequent rises in insulin.

Try lowering the volume to 2 or maybe 3 times a week (3 if they're short; less than 10 min) and add some low volume, low intensity, heavy weight days. I bet in 4-6 weeks you'll notice a huge difference.

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8858 · November 27, 2011 at 8:43 PM

5 months in is nothing. I'm not one to tell you to reduce your workout intensity. Experimenting with IF'ing is a great idea, in my opinion. If you're still doing Crossfit (even at a reduced frequency) and eating paleo two years from now, I suspect you will have made great strides.

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4373 · November 27, 2011 at 5:34 AM

I agree with the cortisol comments & belly fat.
I have also read that high/excess estrogen can result in belly fat? or may be a high estrogen/progesterone ratio?

anyway you could experiment by limiting or avoiding estrogenic foods, common ones are (double check for yourself);
Soy-based foods, foods that are fried in or made with soybean oil, Beer (or hops in anything else), Licorice, Avoid foods highly laden with pesticides, Milk (i think?),

Tho, i'm guessing you're probably avoiding some/all of these already. Anyway google estrogenic foods for more info.

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4373 · November 28, 2011 at 11:08 PM

if you have any hypothyroid symptoms, you may want to limit or avoid Goitrogens http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goitrogen Broccoli is on the list.

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4373 · November 28, 2011 at 11:04 PM

..agreed on BPA

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17005 · November 27, 2011 at 2:48 PM

DIM (or lots of broccoli) can help with that too. Also avoiding anything canned unless you know there's no BPA in the can is very helpful.

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3631 · November 28, 2011 at 2:04 AM

I'm going with cortisol too. I lost nearly 3 inches around my waist, over about 4 months - without working-out or losing weight - by focusing on sleep quality. Only my waist (<<--@Daniel Kirsner).

I could be wrong about the reason it happened, but i reckon trying to reduce cortisol can only be beneficial, right? I've never been a big work-out person, but you might heed others' advice re cutting back there. I reduced caffeine, and forced myself to sleep at least 8hrs in complete darkness w/ white noise (fan). I don't have kids though...
Also, do you drink much? I tend to think drinking causes belly-fat, even w/o a calorie excess, b/c it messes with sleep.

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3631 · November 28, 2011 at 2:06 AM

p.s. I hear IF increases cortisol.. but i'm surely no expert. I'd rather sleep than starve tho, ha.

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0 · June 21, 2012 at 8:15 AM

Cinnamon and Magnolia both reduce cortisol, so does milk. I have used a supplement called Corticept (Magnolia and Banaba leaf) post-workout which seems to chill everything right out nicely. Coffee does NOT help cortisol levels and sleep loss is disastrous for it.

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1371 · November 28, 2011 at 4:28 PM

dont concentrate on your belly, or losing 'belly fat'...it is impossible. you lose belly fat and bring out a six pack by enhancing other areas. work on building up your shoulders/chest and quads/ass...overtime it comes into place. and...youre a chick, slow down on the crossfit. i say dont do it at all but to each their own.

also agree with logically illogical. get your fat from salmon/avocados/eggs on rest days and consider cycling carbs.

and sleep.....a lot, make your rest days REAL rest days

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15 · November 27, 2011 at 12:02 AM

I usually have a small meal before xfit. Maybe an apple and some almonds. Oh and black coffee. Is it better not to eat? I will look into leangains and IF. Thanks guys!

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1112 · November 27, 2011 at 12:29 AM

It would be smart to eat before crossfit if you want to avoid your cortisol levels skyrocketing.

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1112 · November 26, 2011 at 11:44 PM

1) Check out leangains.com for some different perspective that what is most commonly spread around here. Perspective is always good.

2) Do you do crossfit before the first meal of the day? It might skyrocket cortisol levels, like someone mentioned earlier, causing a weight gain /reduced weight loss.

3) Kcal does matter like Matt says, but does not show the whole picture like White Dolemite comments on. Leangains is very strict on the kcal, and the clients he has worked with are crazy lean. It can be worth a thought.

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15 · November 26, 2011 at 11:27 PM

My weight has been the same since I had kids. I have lost inches and gained muscle yet my weight has stayed the same. So if this seems to be a cortisol issue, how do I fix it? I have not heard of IF, but interested in hearing about it.

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37177 · November 26, 2011 at 11:38 PM

Many ancestral eating sites discuss IF, but Mark Sisson has a nice article at: (http://www.marksdailyapple.com/fasting/)

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1074 · November 28, 2011 at 12:14 AM

Reward Theory. By Stephan Guyenet. Read it and Do It. I think it'll work big time if you're motivated, no counting calories. keep up the hard work and exercise, focus on food as fuel not gourmet entertainment.

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1074 · November 28, 2011 at 9:08 AM

You should also look into IF, it really works to get ppl ripped (shed the last few lbs). it has nothing to do with starving (you should be able to go for 16hrs including sleep without being too hungry) unless you're metabolism/leptin isn't working optimally. If done correctly, its a form of hormesis that actually increases your overall insulin sensitivity and lowers cortisol. The best bang for your buck at this stage of your game would be implementing IF, low reward foods, and avoiding VLC (shuts down thyroid) all while within a Paleo dietary frame.

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1074 · November 28, 2011 at 8:58 AM

it's not a book, its just a 7 part article on Guyenet's blog Whole Health Source. but it has some pretty profound implications, as given by 2 of PH's bloggers having done what Guyenet advises and lost a good portion of their last few lbs that their normal Paleo routine didn't reduce. worth a look at

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15 · November 28, 2011 at 3:22 AM

I'm sure that over eating is not it. I will look into the book. Thanks for the advice and grenadine for the support.

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3631 · November 28, 2011 at 2:32 AM

i stand by my comment that this woman is not overweight, by which i mean to say that i do not believe that her tiny amount of bellyfat is caused by an excess of "reward".

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3631 · November 28, 2011 at 2:28 AM

yep, this is paleohacks. thanks for the retaliation downvote, champ.

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1074 · November 28, 2011 at 2:18 AM

stubborn belly fat IS fat, idk what you're talking about. leave the PC at home, this is paleohacks. the last "hard pounds" are the ones that a general Paleo diet/primal exercise plan don't often get rid of.

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3631 · November 28, 2011 at 2:13 AM

This isn't a fat lady!

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41297 · November 26, 2011 at 11:23 PM

Too high bodyfat? Then you're eating too much and not expending enough calories daily. If you really want to lean out, look to what bodybuilders do. Cut calories, increase protein intake, get more activity in.

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15 · November 28, 2011 at 3:26 AM

Thanks guys! I have a lot of info to look into. I will check my diet for holes and do my research. I know I'm the 5 months I have been doing paleo I have seen a great amount of change in my health and body. I guess I have more work to do.

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41297 · November 28, 2011 at 3:24 AM

I don't really care about the down votes myself. I know that "conventional" calories-in/calories-out isn't popular. It does explain weight loss/gain quite well when you don't over-simplify things.

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3631 · November 28, 2011 at 3:00 AM

well, she works out 4-5/wk! shrug. oh, i downvoted. i commented my dissent as well, as a downvote-fess-up, but i don't usually do that. i've found non-anonymous downvoting isn't terribly constructive, and causes more probs than it's worth. i just downvote only when i don't agree, but i respect your POV here, and i'm sure that like me, you aren't sweating those points. :)

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41297 · November 28, 2011 at 2:43 AM

Love the anonymous down votes, keep 'em coming! ;)

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41297 · November 28, 2011 at 2:37 AM

That speaks nothing to her body composition. You can certainly be normal weight and have too high of a body fat. Heck, I'm below 50 %tile on body weight, but above 50 %tile on body fat composition. "Skinny fat" to some degree.

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3631 · November 28, 2011 at 2:11 AM

At 5'3" 112lbs, this woman is *not* overweight.

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41297 · November 27, 2011 at 3:14 PM

As much as folks want to deny energy balance, it has to be the reason why folks lose/gain weight. Energy balance itself is very simplistic, but the reason it doesn't fail is because of the complexity of energy expenditure (variable based on: activity, food timing, food composition, food quality, etc...) This is why folks can claim 'I ate more calories and lost weight!' I'm sure some folks can increase their caloric intake and lose weight, but only because they are altering their basal metabolism by the diet.

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2417 · November 27, 2011 at 7:13 AM

Definitely not just calories in calories out. I eat the same calories paleo as I did pre-paleo, have the same exercise schedule - and 20 lbs of fat just fell off. It surprised the hell out of me, particularly because it's NOT water weight. Women's bodies also WANT to have some fat on them. It's just biologically appropriate. I'm not comfortable with some of the lean-out-more advice given to women on here. Someone like me, with 80 lbs to lose? Sure. But someone who is 99% there?

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610 · November 27, 2011 at 4:53 AM

Also make sure the calories are enough for your activity level and to also create a deficit.

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610 · November 27, 2011 at 4:51 AM

Its definitely not always calories but bodybuilders do know what they are doing. I would up the protein and carbs (since you do a lot of crossfit weekly) and cut the fat.

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41297 · November 27, 2011 at 3:44 AM

There's a big difference between how much water you're retaining and body fat levels.

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613 · November 26, 2011 at 11:34 PM

I eat the same amount of calories every day currently. Whether I lose or gain weight depends on what time I get to sleep, how long I sleep, how I relax in my free time. It depends on my hormones and how I treat my adrenals.

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613 · November 26, 2011 at 11:30 PM

It definitely does not always come down to "calories in, calories out". Many people drive themselves crazy trying to eat less, burn more. I've lost hair nearly starving myself and still not been able to lose stubborn belly fat. Sometimes the answer is actually to eat more, do less. Overall hormonal balance plays a big part.

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8 · November 27, 2011 at 12:25 AM

Before you lose belly fat you must reduce your overall body percentage to get you a flat stomach then perform ab workouts to tone up your abdominals. You diet should include 30 percent of carbs, 30 percent of protein and 40 percent of fats. Try this and see how it helps you.

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2417 · November 27, 2011 at 7:07 AM

Huh? Get skinny to be skinny and take my authoritative tone as gospel?

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