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Is it possible to go from obese to lean?

by (35)
Updated about 5 hours ago
Created October 26, 2012 at 10:09 PM

Hey guys,

I lost about 80 lbs two years ago and ever since then its been a terrible struggle to lose the last 10-15lbs. I'm a young male (5'7" and 160lbs). I lift weights 3x/week and walk a decent amount. I used to do a lot of cardio and crossfit but found that it just made me binge and have uncontrollable hunger. I really just want to lose the extra fat around my midsection but its been a daunting process. I know how to eat, how much to eat, and what to do to trim the weight but it just doesnt seem to happen. I eat between 1700 and 2200 cals per day of mainly meat, veggies, and potatoes (i know, not paleo but they really satiate me as meat and veg alone do not). Are there hormones from my past obesity that could be stopping me from achieving my goal. I understand testosterone can be low in obese people and certain appetite hormones can be messed up causing me to eat more. Usually once or twice a week my calories get up to 2600 or 2800 because I'm just hungry on those days and don't like the idea of restricting so much when I'm truly hungry because it may trigger a binge down the line.

I have a decent amount of muscle, and would try to focus mainly on gaining lean muscle mass but whenever I've done this in the past I just gain muscle under the fat I have left and I just look bigger and not any more defined. I plan to try and gain more muscle once I've gotten enough fat off of my body.

Anyone have any experience or want to weight in? thanks!

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78407 · October 29, 2012 at 12:30 AM

I'm willing, didn't really know where or who to send it to.

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25467 · October 28, 2012 at 3:28 AM

plus one.......

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2357 · October 28, 2012 at 3:22 AM

Holy cow, LLIM! Congrats on the massive transformation! Have you thought about writing your story for MDA?

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2357 · October 28, 2012 at 3:21 AM

There are exactly zero methodologically sound, peer-reviewed clinical studies showing a correlation, much less a causal relationship, between exercise and weight loss.

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1127 · October 27, 2012 at 4:09 AM

It is totally about training and experimentation. Everybody's body is different. If you aren't getting results you are after change one thing for a week or a few days. This is the best answer, @KA@$.

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2328 · October 27, 2012 at 12:57 AM

+1 for "not always restricting" crucially important especially if you workout.

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110 · October 27, 2012 at 12:22 AM

+1 for positive attitude!

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14 Answers

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24271 · October 27, 2012 at 12:59 AM

It has not been possible for me and that is not due to a lack of discipline or effort no matter what anyone else may choose to believe. I have tried pretty much everything. Well, I have tried everything I am willing to try which generally means I've tried everything that is sustainable. It's been years. I just can't.

This is a question only you will be able to answer. If this is an important goal to you then continue to work on it. Change things up. Try different ideas that seem to have worked for others IN SIMILAR SITUATIONS. Do it or die trying. Or just get tired and decide that you're good enough just the way you are. You decide. Good luck!

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5775 · October 26, 2012 at 10:30 PM

Way back in the day I was 5'8, 240.

I've been around 160, BF% as low as 7% and have gotten really strong. It's possible. Health is most important, but given years of training and smart eating (not always restricting), you can do it.

You need to self-experiment. Find out what works for you. Not just diet. Training. Sleep schedule. Stress management. Relationships. Everything. Once you hit that point, you can master your own biochemistry. You can literally understand what it takes for YOU to get to whatever goals you want. To lose the weight you have and to maintain it is far more daunting than any short-term physical training or aesthetic goal. Those are easy when you know your behaviors and choices WILL facilitate results.

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1127 · October 27, 2012 at 4:09 AM

It is totally about training and experimentation. Everybody's body is different. If you aren't getting results you are after change one thing for a week or a few days. This is the best answer, @KA@$.

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2328 · October 27, 2012 at 12:57 AM

+1 for "not always restricting" crucially important especially if you workout.

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4400 · October 27, 2012 at 12:15 AM

You should follow Jimmy Moore's struggles. His max weight (410?) was eight years ago. He's had many struggles, and he's doing something now that seems to be working for him, but regardless of all that he's very inspirational, has a great attitude, and keeps trying.

I personally never was obese, but nevertheless I'm guessing I will never be 10% body fat. More importantly, though, I'm healthier than I was and would otherwise be, and that's what counts.

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110 · October 27, 2012 at 12:22 AM

+1 for positive attitude!

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2613 · October 26, 2012 at 10:22 PM

Have you tried going low-carb? Cut out the starch and try going high-fat. This means cooking stuff in a lot of butter and coconut oil, eating more nuts (not too much!), and so on. Fat tends to be more satiating than protein and carbohydrates, so that might get rid of the binging and hunger. It should also bring down your insulin response, which has a number of health benefits and can often cause your body to store less fat.

Personally, I just switched to low-carb (though I suck at it), and I've lost about 0.6% body fat in the span of a week or two after being stuck in a plateau for months.

I don't know if there could be hormone effects from your previous body mass that are affecting things, but I do know that you could still be insulin resistant. There are tests for that, but in my opinion, you might as well give low-carb a shot and see if that helps things.

In the Primal Blueprint, Mark Sisson insists that keeping carbs under 100g/day is the "sweet spot" for weight loss: http://www.marksdailyapple.com/a-metabolic-paradigm-shift-fat-carbs-human-body-metabolism/

In my experience, you should also try to keep your cortisol down. It's almost impossible to lose weight in a healthy manner if you're getting too much stress and too little sleep. Shoot for that 9 hours a night and find ways to manage stress.

I also HIGHLY recommend getting an EatSmart Precision GetFit scale to track your progress. I really wish I had it when I started, so I could have tracked my body fat.

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25467 · October 28, 2012 at 3:23 AM

Yes it is.......The whole world loves a maverick and wonders why? Why is that? That's easy. The world wants this person to achieve something more noble than a simple healthcare rebellion. Maverick is a symbol that appeals to me more than a rebel because a maverick is active in achieving change while a rebel is a misfit without a cause. Maverick has a negative connotation to some, but for me, it has a special meaning. "Maverick thinking" is necessary to survive especially in times of crisis, when the rules of engagement in industry change and when you set big goals to achieve big things that transform people and ideas.

This popped up on my FB wall today: Kat Plumb says, "a great success story stolen off Dr Jack Kruse page - should also tag Wheat Belly, Dr William Davis, and Blood Sugar 101, is good - thanks. Shannon Johnson said on FB":

"Eighteen months ago I embarked on the journey of a lifetime. I had recently lost 40 pounds only to find out that my type 2 diabetes had not improved with the weight loss, it had gotten worse.

I began my journey at 237.5 pounds, traveling with me were GERD, T2 Diabetes, Hypertension, and elevated cholesterol. I had prescriptions for each illness, some multiple prescriptions, but they merely treated the symptoms, not the diseases themselves.

I was heading on a one way path to an early grave, and I was stubborn. I was offended that my doctor thought I needed a "diet". I was not going to give up pasta, grains, or potatoes, no way, no how. I was a fool. Something happened though. I read with an open mind an old copy of "Dr. Atkins New Diet Revolution". I learned that I didn't really need my invisibility cloak (my fat kept me hidden). I learned that I didn't have to suffer, that I could take a leap of faith and just see where it led me.

I learned a lot in the first few months. I learned that if I didn't eat sugar, bread, or pasta, that my HBA1c came down, and my doc cut back my dosage. I also learned that my dizzy spells were not from "under consumption of healthy whole grains" as people tried to get me to believe, but from the loss of so much inflammation and so my doc took me off of lisinopril because I was no longer one of those people with obesity related high blood pressure. Yeah, I was still obese, but I was working on it.

Further down my new found path a friend suggested Jenny Ruhl's site, bloodsugar 101. I had been having great glucose readings in the day time, but would wake up higher than my bed time reading. It was around that time that I heard of Dr. Jack Kruse's Leptin Rx, and "Dr. Bernstein's Diabetes Solution". I soaked the information up like a sponge. I learned the difference in hunger and habit, and I pressed on.

I came to a point in my journey where it was ok to try new things, like low carb tortillas. It was crazy, they were ok, but I got digestive issues, cramping, and bloating. Dr. William Davis "Wheat Belly" helped me see the light.

Over my journey I've heard so many times "You can't live without carbohydrates", "You eat eggs? Your cholesterol is going to kill you", "Oh you're on that heart attack diet", "What about your liver, kidneys, pancreas?", my new doc went so far as to tell me "You are going to die a slow and painful death if you don't get back on the medications that other doctor took you off of".

Don't get me wrong, I appreciate that people worried about me, but there are so many myths perpetrated by big pharma, our own government, and the grain industry. I didn't know there were NO ESSENTIAL CARBOHYDRATES until I did my homework either. I was so weak from a lifetime of the SAD (Standard American Diet), heavy on the "heart healthy whole grains", low fat and low protein, that I was physically unable to exercise for a while. Guess what? My numbers still improved, and I was losing this fat I had amassed in my 41 years. I started with bike pedals and canned vegetable curls.

In eighteen months, I have lost approximately 74 pounds, T2 Diabetes, GERD, Hypertension, and elevated cholesterol. Some think I've taken a second mortgage on our home to pay for this "miracle", others think "She must be starving herself". The truth is, it was pert near close to free. I paid $1 for my first book at the Goodwill store, other books have been purchased gently used from Goodwill and yard sales. The cost of getting my health back is just the cost of buying REAL whole foods, meat, vegetables, even butter. I don't eat processed food unless it's something I've processed myself (like dehydrating zucchini slices for lasagna).

In eighteen months I've also reached my goal. I'm looking good and feeling great. I've had to give away all my clothing over and over, it seems that going from size 24 to a size 12 is difficult to do without buying new clothes. I guess that is really the most costly part lol."

Some have asked me "Now that you met your goal, are you gonna eat a sandwich now?" Absofreakinlutely NOT. Hind sight is 20/20, so I can only be thankful that I learned, I can't change the past, but I am the only one in control of my future and my health."

Shannon's post on my FB wall made my day. Most of you will critique how she did it......but I could care less how she did it.......as long as she succeeded in getting better. The outcome trumps the method.

Change is a hard barrier for humans to break. It require fluidity of thought and that requires both a physical and mental motion to be used to get on in the environment. The new relationship helps you learn new ways of thinking about your situation and your life. Ultimately, you look at the world in a way that would have been so foreign to you that it wouldn???t have made any sense before you changed. I practice thinking this way and it opens doors to my brain that were previously chained shut.

Embrace the panic and chaos of illness, because of its mere presence, you inspire your own creativity to find your pathway back to health and subsequently soothe your mind. How did I come to this conclusion? One of the lessons found in human history is that even the deepest crises can be moments of extreme opportunity. They bring us ideas from the fringe of our mind into the mainstream of our daily consciousness.

Chaos.....it is the primordial condition for our species and is critical to all learning good or bad that we experience.

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795 · October 27, 2012 at 2:46 PM

I'm 5'11 and, in one year, went from 375lbs to maintaining between 160-170lbs. It's totally doable...I'm a young guy, too; started this when I was 25. Cut down on the potatoes and up the fat, give it a week or so. I understand the binges, I understand wanting to be full! I love my food, and it's a strange relationship, but replace that with an avocado and don't worry about calories so much. I've also seen myself at different versions of 175lbs, a flabbier and then more of a toned. It's fascinating and frustrating, so I do agree with cutting carbs a bit to get to your goal and/or experimenting. Good question, keep asking, and keep researching!

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78407 · October 28, 2012 at 2:19 AM

My max was over 450lbs. I'm down around 270 with increased muscle mass. I have a ways to go even on a 6'5" frame.

Don't under estimate the power of taking a break. It is stressful counting calories, eating really clean, working hard. Consider doing something like taking two weeks, maintain Paleo but let up on the reigns a bit. Keep lifting but let yourself eat to satiety. Heck have a few days where you pound food and really dig in. Enjoy, relax, sleep and after a few weeks you probably won't have gained any weight but when you start cutting back your body will be in a better place to let go of the fat. Fearing rebound is a huge problem for dieters. My experience, for myself, is it is really very hard to gain weight on Paleo if you aren't trying to.

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78407 · October 29, 2012 at 12:30 AM

I'm willing, didn't really know where or who to send it to.

Ed71ab1c75c6a9bd217a599db0a3e117
25467 · October 28, 2012 at 3:28 AM

plus one.......

00cd3b6f51530a6832fcda1712edbec3
2357 · October 28, 2012 at 3:22 AM

Holy cow, LLIM! Congrats on the massive transformation! Have you thought about writing your story for MDA?

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5006 · October 27, 2012 at 2:15 PM

It is very possible to go from obese to lean. Once you get closer to reaching your genetic potential it does get more difficult and will require tweaking on your part. It all depends on your goals. I've been on both ends of the spectrum. I went from a 5'10 210 lb athlete in my late teens/early twenties to a 260 lb obese "suit" in my late twenties (thanks corporate america). At age 30, I managed to go from obese to a lean 193 with no shortage of muscle mass or strength. I'm actually stronger per pound than when I was younger and I continue to set PR's. My wife went through the transformation with me losing 50 lbs and getting back to where she used to be.

Set goals and relentlessly go after them!

Matt
PhysiqueRescue.com

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1127 · October 27, 2012 at 4:06 AM

Quit the potatoes and go pure paleo for 30 days and check in. I'm 5'8, 147 (today) and range b/w 142 and 150 depending on how many treats I've had but I'm an endurance athlete. I started at 171 in May and was only trying to lose 15 pounds but another 15 melted off. Do more cardio and eat strictly paleo to lean out, however, do you have a lean body type to begin with? You might be a body builder.

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3924 · October 27, 2012 at 1:30 AM

I do believe it's possible. But only you can decide whether it is desirable or worth the effort to take off that last 10 pounds or so. For me, I was never obese, but I was a good 35-40 pounds overweight. The "last ten" pounds have kind of molded themselves to my middle and don't want to come off. I've finally decided to just let them be for now. I'm concentrating on physical fitness, healthy eating and a healthy life style. These things are most important to me and trying to lose that last bit of weight and become lean again was starting to stress me out. If changing up my fitness routine (I've just started a new strength-building program) or my eating routine for health reasons helps me shed those last ten pounds, fabulous! If not, I can live with them for now. I think keeping positive and not stressing about it is the most important thing for me. When I'm ready, I might try again. Or I might not.

Good luck! Personally, I would go for the strength-training even if it makes you look bigger under the fat. I think it will make you feel better about your body and make "the fat you have" look better, too.

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26072 · October 26, 2012 at 11:12 PM

5'9 265 closing in for 40% BF... Now 167 10% BF. It takes time, and for some of us a bit more discipline and effort than others. It sucks, but you can do it!! Good luck!

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4266 · October 28, 2012 at 2:22 PM

Benjamin, I started paleo because I ended up in this place where if I exercised (running, hiking, biking) I would get ravenously hungry and couldn't contain myself. I also could not lose any weight because I couldn't exercise or else I'd overeat. I couldn't diet or else I'd get so hungry I'd overeat. I was at an impasse. I do think insulin resistance was the cause of this problem. I had other markers of it as well including high triglycerides, some other high blood marker I can't remember and even though my blood pressure was normal (110/80), it turns out it was actually pretty high for someone as active as me because now it is 104/65.

I went low carb. I did it for about a year. I believe it restored my insulin sensitivity and helped me become more metabolically flexible. It instantly gave me control over my hunger. I still have some excess fat, though.

Two things I've done lately that seem to have made a difference:

  • Easing back on exercise in general. Doing cardio things at an incredibly low level of effort, doing less but doing it smarter. I quit this one program where we did everything at high speed, high impact. I don't think all that failing around and jumping and burpees and mountain climbers are helpful at all. This has relieved stress for me.
  • I've started lifting. It's all barbells and it's not for vanity, it's all for strength. I do it 3x a week. I don't want to do more than that and add stress.

In even a short time I think my body is responding. I feel happier and more confident and my clothes feel looser. This is even though the weight lifting makes me very hungry. I eat a lot more meat and potatoes now. I still maintain my metabolic flexibility, though. I think paleo has healed the insulin resistance. I've also thrown out my scale. It wasn't helping.

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3347 · October 27, 2012 at 9:25 PM

I think it is possible if you are young, once you are in your 40's and 50's I think you have more trouble.

Might want to up the walking.

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2357 · October 28, 2012 at 3:21 AM

There are exactly zero methodologically sound, peer-reviewed clinical studies showing a correlation, much less a causal relationship, between exercise and weight loss.

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1548 · October 28, 2012 at 12:27 PM

If you have significant mid-section weight, then the issue is probably not just obesity but also metabolic syndrome. Once you have metabolic syndrome, you may have lost the ability to tolerate much in the way of carbs. If you can adapt to burning fat for energy, your cravings for carbs will reduce.

After going low carb and cutting out most PUFA (polyunsaturated fat) and eating much more meat and saturated fat (butter, lard and beef dripping*) I lost 50lb in about 18 months, with very little hunger. I have gone down from a (US) size 18 to a 6. The belly fat is the most stubborn but with patience and perseverance it has almost gone down to how it was in my 20s (when I was very slim).

I might at one point have described my approach as "paleo", but the term now (as I understand it) encompasses (for many people) quite large quantities of "safe" starches, such as potato. I'm sure this approach is good for young people and any others who don't have metabolic problems. But people with metabolic problems may need low carb as a palliative measure.

*Tallow, in the US

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