I am a 56 year old woman, 5'3" and, as of today, 213.7 pounds. I started off in April at 220 and lost almost a pound a day doing very low carb (under 10). Then I started losing and gaining back the same two pounds for about ten days. I added more fat and began restricting calories to under 1200 per day (on average). I have not fallen off the carb wagon at all since beginning.
I began swimming two or three times a week (walking is a problem for me at the moment) and, generally, tried to be more active with gardening or riding my bike, etc.
It's now June 1st and I'm still stuck. It seems a bit early to be at a plateau and I just don't know what to do. I woke up this morning imagining I'd have broken 212, only to find I'd gained back a pound and a half. Sounds like splitting hairs, but it's the measure of my frustration that, essentially, with all this restriction, I'm merely holding my ground. I tend to go into starvation mode very quickly, so I'm certain that fasting is not the way for me to go. Other than that, I'm open to suggestions. I have at least 50 pounds to drop before I'm comfortable. Ultimately, I'd like to get down to 130-135. Oh, what I'm eating now: Typically, I either start with leftover meat or I'll mix some cream cheese with fresh peanut butter and have that with a couple of stalks of celery. For lunch, I'll have whichever I didn't have for breakfast. Dinner is about 6 oz of meat and lettuce, sometimes a bit of bell pepper or cucumber. I do have an Atkins bar for a snack a few times a week. I've been trying to eat at least four times a day. Help? Thanks.
Cheese (especially a soft cheese like cream cheese), peanut butter and Atkins bars are classic problem foods for many. The peanut butter and the bars are not paleo. I would lose all of those immediately and figure out some better options for breakfast and snacks.
I think it's fine to do VLC but think you may need a bit more food and/or fat. You need to not feel restricted. That is the kiss of death my friend.
Have you tried just free-feeding with no calorie counting (eat when hungry and eat enough) but keeping carbs near zero? If not I think that's a place to go right now. See what happens.
1st step: caloric needs
I don't think 1200 calories a day is enough food for you. based on the information you've given me, you need 2220 calories on average a day (before restriction). You can find the figures yourself by going here to calculate your BMR and then multiplying it by an activity modifier, which you can find the guidelines for here. Then you can look at proper calorie restriction here, but I wouldn't restrict more than 750 calories. 1200 calories per day is the bottom line for women. Going into a caloric deficit lower than 500 to 700 calories can throw you into starvation mode, and you don't want that (which is where I think you're probably at right now).
Personally, I figured out a range of calories between a 500 and 1000 calorie deficit (came out to be 1245.175 to 1745.175) and a target caloric intake in the middle @ 1495.175 (this is a 750 deficit for me). I always err in going higher in my caloric range, rather than going lower than my target, because you don't want starvation mode!
2nd step: macro nutrient ratios
figure out how many carbs you want per day. I wouldn't go VLC right off the bat. I'd start off with between 50 and 100 daily and try to shoot for somewhere around 65g a day. This range is 200 to 400 calories per day... but that's just me.
protein: you want .7 - 1g of protein per pound of body weight (the healthier you are the less you actually need to maintain - unless you're weight training (i.e. building muscle)). Right now, you probably want to do 1g per pound. I actually figure mine based on lean body mass, but many figure on total weight. When I figured my range of protein intake, I figured it using .7 - 1.3g of protein per pound of LBM.
fat: the rest of your calories will be filled in from fat. these are the calories that will keep you the most satisfied mentally. they are also very important for normal body function. Typically females (from what i've read) do better on higher fat diets than men do... what i'm getting at is don't skimp on the fat! my fat intake range is 81 - 111g per day.
3rd step: relatively pain-free tracking
use fitday.com or some other tracking website for a while so that you can make sure you're within your guidelines. You can customize your daily macro-nutrient and caloric intake goals with fitday and make sure that you're staying in your target ranges.
4th step: Food types and feeding times
drop the cream cheese and atkins bars IMO. opt for REAL UN-PROCESSED FOODS. this is the basic tenant for Paleo IMO. food quality is >>>>>>>>> important than anything. This probably should have been the first step! lol
Also, the Peanut Butter is not good. Peanuts are legumes and have the same anti-nutrient issues, so substitute Almond or some other nut butter. opt for a minimally processed product (contains ingredients that don't sound like chemicals - i.e. almonds, water) or make it yourself with a food processor (recipes abound online)!
also, don't constantly worry about feeding yourself. I eat 2 - 3 meals a day and I'm a lot happier not having to feed myself every couple of hours. You can, of course, eat four times a day if you prefer, but your long term nutrition is more important than your daily nutrition (at least IMO).
Last bit of advice - pump some iron. do some serious weight training (with the aid of a personal trainer if possible, if not possible buy Starting Strength by Mark Rippetoe). This is more important than cardio training as far as i'm concerned. Chronic-Cardio will not make you loose fat. It is your diet and body comp. that is the most important for fat loss. Weight training will give you more active tissues via new muscle that will increase your metabolic rate. Eating clean will help your body release it's stored fat. STARVING yourself will only cause your body to become more efficient in it's use of energy. your body will cannibalize your existing muscle and store the excess as fat when it doesn't get enough food. losing muscle this way will decrease your metabolic rate by decreasing your muscle mass. when i say muscle is an active tissue, i mean it uses calories when you're just sitting around doing nothing (this is sort of linked into the basis for the Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) formula for caloric needs). So, the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn at all times.
I realize that you are in your 50's, but you can still lift weights (i really recommend a personal trainer - and consulting your doctor so long as he realizes you're not on death's door just because you're in your 50s). My mom is 61 and has started weight training, she's about your hieght... but weighs much more. weight lifting will help build your bones. Be sure you get enough magnesium (Natural Calm is a great product), vitamin D, potassium and phosphorus. Calcium isn't as important as it's billed, things like magnesium increase absorption rates, and when these levels are adequate you don't need as much calcium as you might think. You can do a web search for more research on this.
I think that's all I have to say, and I hope it helps you. Good luck!
This almost exactly describes my experience (41 y.o. male 6' 221#). Initially I dropped about 6-8 pounds quickly, and since then, have probably doubled my exercise and have had maybe one day in 7 where I've barely eaten at all, yet inexplicably my weight hasn't moved. It is 221# plus or minus less than a pound almost every day.
However, I have tons more energy, sleep better, feel better, am less moody, and have dropped 2 pants sizes, so the benefits are definitely there, despite the lack of weight loss. I am not really hung up on the weight so much, but thought that 200-210# would be a better weight for me.
This diet is a natural appetite suppressant for me, and like you, it is easy to slip into a mode where I just skip meals for most of a day for several days.
I eat some dairy (roughly once a day) and wine almost every night and the occasional beer or cocktail, and these "cheats" might be enough to keep me at this weight. For me, I'd rather have the cheats and the extra 10-20 pounds and feel great, than give them up and lose weight.
I do wonder how my weight can possibly be remaining the same since I'm clearly way more active than a few months ago and eating way less calories. One explanation is that I'm gaining muscle and losing fat, I don't see a lot of muscle definition and wonder how much muscle one can gain in a month or two anyway. Another is that I'm inadvertently eating more calories along with the extra fat. I haven't posted a "hack my plateau" question yet, maybe I should...
It sounds like you lost 7 lbs. of water weight and haven't dropped much fat, if any. Sounds very frustrating.
How much sleep do you get?
How much time do you spend sitting down, per day?
How many meals do you eat out at restaurants per week?
Echoing Shari, I would ditch the Atkins bar, and probably ditch the cream cheese and peanut butter. Eat foods with only one ingredient and no label, for starters. Later, you can add some things back in.
Most of all, it sounds like you need to be patient and try some new things. "Add some starch back in" seems to be a popular recommendation these days. Not everybody loses 5 lbs. per month effortlessly, although some do.
Lastly: do whatever works for you, even if Paleo "theory" says it shouldn't work. If you need to count calories, restrict fat, do cardio, or whatever, and it works for you, do it.
Anecdotally speaking, stalling out is pretty common. I would have weeks of merely maintaining weight, but then drop three or four pounds in a single week. I learned that my salt/sodium and water intake greatly influenced this (both from a water-retention and a regularity perspective).
Short background: I've lost around 50lbs (195->145) since October 2010. The first 30 pounds came off thanks to manic calorie counting and eating S.A.D.
Once I found paleo, I stopped counting and ate when I was hungry. I would guess that I doubled my caloric intake. Technically my weight loss slowed down, but my body composition drastically changed during the last four or five months.
throwing in a "cheat meal" about every 5 days seems to jump start things too. by cheat meal, I mean have a big pile of carbs, potaotoes or rice or something. you will jump right up in weight the next morning, but you will drop down lower yet in the next couple.
I can only echo what others have said: ditch everything processed, eat more. My weight loss really kicked in when I stuck to meat, eggs and low starch vegetables (and lots of all). Eat natural, eat till sated. It will work.