Why Weight Loss Gets Harder As You Get Smaller

There is a scene in the movie Dogma where a character likens faith to a glass of water, saying that as a child, you have a small glass and it doesn't take that much water (ie: faith) to fill it up. As we grow up, the glass gets bigger and the same amount of faith we had as kids isn't enough anymore.


Fitness and diet work the same way.

When you weigh more and/or are just starting out and come from a sedentary lifestyle, it doesn't take much to burn calories or earn Weight Watchers Activity Points. Because any kind of activity is so new to your body, or because you have a bigger body to move, you just naturally exert more energy without necessarily having to do a lot of work.

Our bodies really are like machines and as we lose weight and adapt to a certain level of fitness, our bodies become more efficient at doing the same job. This means that to get the same results as before you have to work even harder, which can be frustrating at times when you realize that 45 minute run you just completed only earned you 9 APs whereas a few months ago it was 12.

Fact is, the same amount of effort (ie: water) isn't going to fill the glass as it once did, so to earn those 12 APs or burn those 400 calories, you're going to have to put in more work and time and energy than was once required.

(Speaking of water, you guys drink it, right? Like, a lot of it. Because, you know, a lot of the times when we think we're hungry, it's really just thirst. So make sure you stay hydrated.)

This is why as you continue to lose weight, it gets that much harder to keep losing weight. See, there's this thing called your Basal Metabolic Rate, which is the number of calories your body would  burn even if you stayed in bed all day. Heavier people have a naturally higher calorie output. They also require a higher calorie input to function. Food is fuel, so just like a bigger car needs more gasoline to make it run, so does a bigger person. Plus, as you continue to exercise and workout you should be building muscle mass, which is going to have affect on your weight as well. (That's why you shouldn't use The Number on the scale as your only measure of progress.)

Ultimately, a larger person also has a slightly larger buffer zone: Let's say they were eating 3500 calories a day and they reduce it by 1000-1500, so they are now eating 2000-2500 a day. With that big of a gap, they have the flexibility to maybe "forget" to track that second or third cookie after dinner, yet in the grand scheme of things those 200 calories are negligible and chances are they'll still see results. For the rest of us, as we lose weight and our BMR decreases and body starts to become more efficient, proper calorie control and food and exercise accountability becomes even more important. We don't have the option of a 1000 calorie deficit,  our margin of error has decreased and those extra 200 calories I don't track can close the gap very quickly. Daily food and fitness tracking can be tedious enough as it is, but now I have to be even more on top of it if I want to see progress. That's the main reason I am getting a Polar Heart Rate Monitor: I want to be as precise as possible with the calories I take inand put out.

Quick and dirty version: The smaller you are, the less calories you are naturally burning through your BMR, which means you need to work out that much harder to make them up. The longer you've been on your journey, the more time your body has had to adapt to burning calories and they now burn them far more efficiently, which means you need to work out that much harder to make them up. The smaller you are, the less calories your body needs to function, which means you don't have the luxury or flexibility in getting lazy with tracking because you have a much narrower margin of calorie deficit to work with.

Those pesky "last ten pounds" you always hear about? This is when they make their grand entrance.

Is it a little annoying that after putting in all of this hard work over the past two years I have to now put in even more work just to get the same results which means I have to put even more work on top of that to see better results? Maybe. Will it be worth it? Abso-fucking-lutely.

It is what it is. Plain and simple. It Is. What. It Is. When I talked about the mental game of weight loss and accepting that I have to make these choices for the rest of my life, this is what I'm talking about. Annoying, maybe. But what's the alternative?

Nobody said this was going to be easy. In fact, I've always known that it was, if anything, going to get more difficult as time went on. And maybe that's why I don't get frustrated by this reality, because I've seen it coming. Not only saw it coming, I accepted it before I started. Maintenance is probably going to be even more difficult, but I'm prepared for that, too.

It's going to take time. And effort. And with more time it's going to take more effort. Suddenly your standard half hour on the elliptical just isn't going to cut it anymore. But y'know what? Nobody is going to hand us our goal weight on a silver platter. Nobody owes us that lost pound week after week or the PR at our next race. We have to earn them and the only way to do that is by putting in the extra work required.

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