Why Losing Weight Gets Harder as You Get Thinner

When someone starts a new diet and workout routine they often feel the have a disadvantage but, when someone is overweight, they have more going for them than they think. On the flips side, thinner people actually tend to struggle with weight loss as the get closer to their goal weight. Here are 4 things you need to know about calories and weight loss.

1. Heavy People Burn MORE Calories at Rest 
Many people who are overweight think their metabolism is slower than skinny people. The truth is, it takes more energy to run a heavier person. The more you weigh, the more muscle your body needs to carry you around. This is why heavier people typically have more muscle mass and burn more calories. You may feel sluggish, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you have a lower metabolism or are burning fewer calories than a thin person.

NOTE:  250LB person that is lightly active with a slow metabolism burns approximately 3,500 calories a day. 

2. Heavier People Burn MORE Calories During Exercise
Heavy people burn more calories while exercising because it takes more force, yielding more work, to cover the same amount of distance in the same amount of time, than someone smaller. For example, if a 250lb person runs 1 mile at the same speed as their skinny 150lb friend, the 250lb friend would burn more calories because they had to apply more force to move their heavier mass. However, if the 250lb friend ran a mile with their thin friend, who wore a 100lb backpack, the amount of work completed would be similar, as they are now carried the same mass across the same distance at the same speed. So for those of you who feel defeated while exercising with your skinny friend, know you are most likely burning more calories than they are!

NOTE: Work = Force X Distance (any movement = jumping in the air, moving up/down, etc)

3. Heavier People Can Eat More and Still Lose Weight
Here’s the key tip in this blog. When someone is starting a diet, they actually have a larger margin for error than someone who is closer to their goal. Here’s why: If a 250lb person burns 3,500 calories per day, and is trying to eat 1,500 calories a day (but probably really eating 2,000 a day) they are losing a WHOPPING 4lbs of fat per week. [HOW I GOT THIS NUMBER: 2,000 calorie defecit x 7 days = 14,000 calories divided by 3,500 calories (# of calories in one pound of fat) = 4] HOWEVER, a smaller 160lb person burns closer to only 2,640 calories a day, which is much fewer calories burned than the 250lb person. This means, if they eat the same amount of calories the 160lb person is only at a 600 calorie daily deficit, meaning they’re only losing 1.2LBS a week. This is also why men can eat more than women, most men weigh more than women, carrying more muscle mass than women do.

NOTE:  160LB person that is moderately active with a normal metabolism burns approximately 2,640 calories a day.

4. Thinner People Have to Crack Down on Their Diet
People who were able to be lose weight pretty fast during the first part of their weight loss will likely need to crack down on their diet as they get closer to their goal. Someone who once was a little slack on tracking calories, or just lost weight by applying a few tips like cutting portions, etc., will do better when counting calories and accounting for everything they eat since their margin of error gets smaller as they get smaller. The 160LB person who burns 2,640 calories a day will lose 2.88LBS a week if they stick to eating 1,200 calories a day, putting them in a 1,440 caloric deficit a day. (TIP: Weight loss based on losing only fat – not muscle. Suggested amount of protein is .5-.75gms of protein per pound of ideal body weight to prevent muscle loss)

NOTE: It takes 3,500 calories to burn 1LB of fat. In order to lose 2LBS a week, you need to be in a 7,000 calorie weekly deficit. 

Estimate how many calories you burn using this formula:

A. Choose Your Activity:
1.3 – sedentary, sitting most of the day, light housework/work
1.4 – light activity, work, housework, exercise 2-3 X a week, stand or walk at work 
1.5-1.6 – moderately active, all the above activities, exercise 1 hour 3-4 X a week 
1.7 – very active, all the above daily activities, exercise 1-2 hours every day

B. Choose Your Metabolism: 
10 – Slow (Sleepy after a meal)
11 – Normal (normal or feel the same after a meal)
12 – Fast (Fidgety or hyper after a meal) 

C. Apply the Above Numbers in this Simple Formula:

Weight X Activity = _______________ X Metabolism = Approximate Calories Burned Per Day


Forecast Your Weight Loss

Calories Burned a Day# Caloric Intake (how many calories you eat per day) = Daily Caloric Deficit.

Daily Caloric Deficit  X  7  ÷  3,500  =  Weight Loss Per Week.

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About Bonnie Pfiester

Fitness Columnist and Lifestyle Coach, Resident Trainer for Designer Whey, Fitness Advisor for FitStudio, powered by Sears, FitFluential Ambassador and Owner of Max Fitness Club, home of BCx Boot Camp in Vero Beach, Florida.

Posted on April 12, 2013, in Diet & Nutrition Tips, Encouragement, Goals and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Thanks for the suggestions shared on the blog. Another thing I would like to state is that weight-loss is not supposed to be about going on a dietary fads and trying to reduce as much weight as possible in a couple of weeks. The most effective way in losing weight is by having it slowly and right after some basic guidelines which can enable you to make the most from your attempt to lose fat. You may know and be following a few of these tips, yet reinforcing know-how never affects.

  2. This is so true, I have lost 30 to 40 lbs on Weight Watchers a couple of times and put it right back on once i hit my goal weight. I am a rockstar at losing, but once I hit my goal, I just go lax. I am at goal currently, so my big focus now is staying there or a little below to be safe. I am still counting my calories (in point form of course) and I try to exercise everyday. I have made strength training a focus and i think it is making a big difference this time. For me, it’s a daily thing, not something I can just let go, because if I do, I will gain, and I hate being heavy, I hate it. I was never happy when I was, nor could I be….. Thanks for this interesting and informative article. It makes a lot of sense. Sadly, it’s almost like you get punished for being at a good weight. I need to think of it a different way.

  3. Ah, the old “it takes a 3500 calorie deficit to burn 1lb of fat per week” myth!

    Not entirely true, there’s far more variables to it than that.

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