Losing a Lot of Weight


I am a 27 year old female interested in losing a lot of weight. Here's some demographic information. I am 5'9, 293.6 lbs, with 42.7 % body fat, and I have an 8.0% bone density according to my new digital scale.

I have a mesomorph body type; an hourglass figure even at 293 lbs; a large frame and carry my weight evenly distributed all over my body with an unusually flat abdomen for my weight. I have a prominent chest and very full hips.

I was a swimmer in high school, and a discus, shot put and hammer thrower in both high school and college, so I have experience with weightlifting. But I have tendonitis in my right knee from overuse as a thrower. I also have never really been fond of running or other types of cardio outside of swimming.

I would love advice on how someone with my body type and background should attack this weight loss process. I have favored weightlifting, since I did it so much to train as a thrower.

But, now that I am not a student-athlete, what type of balance can I strike between cardio and weightlifting? I obviously want to burn lot and lots of fat.

The other question is about nutrition. I am at a loss for what combinations of food work best for weight loss. What should I eat to maximize my workouts?

I don't want to just calorie count, I want to get the best return for the food I eat. I am concerned that I have damaged my metabolism by not distributing my caloric intake properly throughout the day. I tend to feel hungry in the morning and early afternoon, but then gorge on all the wrong things in the evening.

Answered By:

Mike Behnken, MS, CSCS ANswers the Fitness Question

Qualifications of Mike Behnken


The BasicsCaloric Balance

As you probably know, weight loss will always boil down to caloric balance.

If you burn more calories than you consume daily, weekly and monthly your body will use your stored body fat for energy causing you to lose body weight.

This can be accomplished by counting the amount of calories you consume and making sure it is less than the amount you estimate you burn.

The best way to lose weight and burn fat for most people is a combination of resistance training and cardiovascular exercise along with a hypocaloric (eating less calories than you consume) diet.


Adaptive Motion Trainer

Even though weight training is often an integral part of weight loss programs along with cardio in your case it may be a little different. At this point with your body fat levels weight training should be put on the back burner for cardiovascular exercise.

It's not that you cannot not weight train at this point but spending the time you would be weight training doing cardio is making the most out of your time as your focus should be doing the activities that burn the most calories.

If you want to start making progress you're looking at performing 30-60 minutes of cardio 5-6 days per week. In addition to not leaving much time for weight training, you want to devote your full energy to your primary calorie burning exercise.

Another drawback to weight training is it causes some people to become hungrier than usual which often leads to overeating. If you decide to keep weight training you should spend your time performing exercises which stress multiple muscle groups. See this post for more info on the subject.

If you feel like you're missing out on weight training you can use high intensity interval cardio. You will want to begin your program with longer duration (30-60 minute) cardio sessions but should eventually work in higher intensity interval programs.

You mention swimming is your favorite form of cardio which is good, but no matter how much you dislike or are bored with cardio machines, it is time to find one you like. Preferably you should use a cardio machine with both upper and lower body components. Using these machines you should set the resistance up to a point where you feel your upper body working to keep your lower body moving.

Cardio machines such as elliptical trainers, arc trainers and the brand new adaptive motion trainers are non-impact and should not bother your knee.  To further avoid injury always remember to stretch, warm-up and cool down for every workout session.


You mentioned you do not want to rely solely on calorie count for diet control. Some people like to count calories but for those that do not, it's often pointless to even bother with it.

It is always highly recommended you go to a dietitian or nutritionist and it that is not an option Weight Watchers is an excellent program.

Dietitians attempt to figure out your macronutrient ratios (the amount of protein, carbohydrate and fat) in your diet but it is always just an educated guess. What works for most people may not work for you and vice versa. The zone diet (40% carbohydrate, 30% protein, & 30% fat) may be a good place to start if you decide to go the calorie counting route.

The best option for diet is often to eat balanced small meals evenly spaced throughout the day. Balance usually means a protein source, complex carbohydrate (with fiber), a fiber rich (preferably green) vegetable and maybe some healthy fats (i.e. a few seeds or nuts, or salmon/fatty fish for protein, or omega 3 supplement).

Start out increasing how much you eat for breakfast and lunch until you don't feel the urge to binge at dinner time. Then, over time you can add a small snack after lunch in the mid-afternoon with the hopes of being satisfied with all small meals/snacks in a day.

More General Nutrition Tips

  • Avoid fried foods
  • Include fiber rich foods foods in all meals
  • Drink only tea water (no juices, sugary beverages)
  • Always eat breakfast
  • Take a good multivitamin

Final Words

Don't think about the past if you want to make progress towards you goals. Change is almost always good in an exercise program and if you want to change your body the first step in your case is to begin doing cardio as much as possible. Weight training is always going to be there and it is much more satisfying if you can actually see your muscles that aren't covered with thick layers of fat.

Your nutrition is going to be a work in progress so make sure you write everything down in a nutrition diary. Especially write down how you feel after the meals as well as the quantity of each food item.

Use the technology available to make your long, likely monotonous cardio workouts enjoyable whether it be getting a music play list you like or even watching your favorite DVDs while working out. Set goals, focus on them so you will be able to set new exciting goals after you accomplish the original ones.

Good Luck!

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