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Ask Dr. Gourmet

How can I lose weight faster?

I am 5 foot 5 and 58 years old. After topping the scales at 178 pounds, I finally got serious about getting into shape and losing weight, about two months ago. I work out vigorously five to six days a week for an average of one and a half hours to burn off 500 calories per session, cut an average of 400 calories a day from my diet, and am living a more active life in general. After two months, I expected to have at least lost the ten pounds I'd gained over the past year, but although I have firmed up and built muscle, I'm disheartened that I've lost only five pounds. It seems that for all my work I should have had better results.

I do a weight circuit three days a week at the gym plus elliptical/treadmill/bike to get my heart rate up to 75 percent (for optimum fat-burning). My diet is based on vegetables and (mostly) complex carbs with small amounts of fruit, low fat protein and limited heart-healthy fats. I eat breakfast, dinner and two small meals in between. Occasional treats like birthday cake or dining out are planned for by cutting other calories and working out more. I can't have my bloodwork done for two more months, so what can I do in the mean time to improve my weight loss?

Dr. Gourmet Says...

a group of people using free weights in an exercise class

This is fantastic and you should not do anything different that you have done. We know that long term, sustained, healthy weight loss should be a slow, steady process and the 5 pounds you have lost in two months is perfect (yes, really!). There's great research to show that optimal weight loss should be in the two to four pound per month range, so at 5 pounds you are right on target.

Note that you may have lost more stored fat weight by burning the fat and gaining denser muscle (See also: Does muscle weigh more than fat?). Consequently, you might not have lost "mass" but your weight is better and toning up is great for you. We know that combining aerobic exercise with resistance training is the best combination for long term weight loss and long term health.

It sounds like you have found a great balance in your life of great food with the occasional treat and quality exercise. If you were my patient, I would be ecstatic! Keep up the fantastic work!

Thanks for writing,

Timothy S. Harlan, MD, FACP, CCMS
Dr. Gourmet