New to trying to eat more and heavier lifting - What am I doing wrong?

JCE0129 Posts: 26 Member
edited May 2016 in Social Groups
I am hoping you all can provide some insight. I am 39, 5'3" and fluctuating between 135 and 140 lbs. Over the last 5 or 6 years I went from 150 lbs, down to 110 lbs, and now back up again. In the last year I have put on a little over 10 lbs and I feel miserable. I have 32% BF, so I feel like I have a long way to go. I stopped working out regularly due to a new job (for which I travel) and grad school....oh, and throw 3 kids into the mix.

I worked with a trainer about 5 yrs ago who put me on a strict 1200 cal, 20g fat, 120g protein diet and I was working out an average of 5 days a week. It worked, so my go to each time I have tried to lose weight has been 1200 calories and super low fat.

I have been "loosely" working out a few times a week for awhile. Usually a TBC class in the corporate gym or a body pump class using light weights. During that time I was tracking what I was eating half the time and eating poorly half the time. A few weeks ago I finally got disgusted with myself and decided to kick it up a notch. I joined a new gym and really started tracking my food and eating better. I have been working out about 5 times a week. I started researching heavier lifting for burning fat. I learned what a TDEE was and figured out mine was around 1980. All the while, trying to stick to my 1200 calories and feeling like crap. Not to mention, as of today, I am up 6 lbs from where I started.

After doing more research I decided that maybe I wasn't eating enough. I increased my calories to 1500 and started trying not to feel bad about going over 20ish g of fat. I dropped the amount of protein I was trying to force down and if I stay under 100g carbs I am happy. When I am not allowing my husband to talk me into beer and wings, I eat healthy. I have a lot of digestive issues (which is how I got down to 110 at one point, I was skinny fat). I do not eat pork or beef because I can't digest them, so my main proteins are chicken and fish. I am allergic to lactose and I have a gluten sensitivity (according to my dr - I try to stay away but I will eat bread and pay for it later at times).

In the gym I have lightened up on the cardio (former trainer used to tell me if I didn't burn 600 cal doing cardio I wasn't working hard enough) and increase my weight as well as focus on multi-joint movements....dead lifts, etc....and try to be less afraid of the squat bar instead of just sticking solely to machines. I am still trying to figure out how many days a week it is ok to lift, and what I should do on the days I am not supposed to lift.

And I am only gaining weight.....Any advice? What am I doing wrong? I don't expect instant results. I have worked out long enough in the past to know it takes time. I just hoped that, even if my muscles are retaining water, my pants might get a little looser by now. I would love to be about 120 lbs but, I will take a toned body that gives me some confidence over a particular number on the scale.


  • Raynn1
    Raynn1 Posts: 1,164 Member
    Hey, welcome aboard!
    Timely post! You just missed Kiki's scope this afternoon on why eating 1200 cals doesnt work for anyone. If you have the time in the next 24 hours, i highly suggest giving it a listen on Periscope. It might help to show you why 1200 cals is not helping you on the weight loss front and why you are gaining

    On top of that, you may want to get our free start guide to help you understand how this process works to "eat more" and not get sucked into the dieting mentality anymore. You can find that program here:

    Finally, you may want to grab the Starter Kit, which can explain everything more in depth for you and hopefully help you out as well:

    As for your questions, I would highly suggest a metabolism reset (explained in our guides). This means eating at your TDEE for a period of time. This gives your body a break from dieting, helps it to know how much fuel it actually does need to survive, and helps to build back muscle stores that have been depleted.

    As for how many days in the gym.. thats completely up to you. Myself, I tend to do 3-4 days in a given week, with maybe an hour at most for those days. Some weeks it might be 3-4 plus a cardio day if I feel like it. If you are lifting "full body" meaning every body part is being worked on in that day, then you should have at least 24 hours off before going back to the gym. Other times, you can do a Upper/lower split, which means one day upper body, next day lower.. and you can do that back to back if you like.
    Essentially the key is 24 hours or more for each muscle group, so for instance never do back to back leg days:)
    A lot of people do a "cardio" or active rest day inbetween. That means walking, yoga, swimming etc.. something to keep you moving, but not lifting weights. Completely personal though.

    What are you doing wrong? The only thing I can say at this point is your calorie level is too low for the work you are doing. I would encourage you to read the links and the scope from above, and hopefully they will help explain things better to you. Then I can help answer questions after.
    Hope this helps

    EM2WL Ambassador & Moderator
  • JCE0129
    JCE0129 Posts: 26 Member
    @Ryann1 Thanks for the links and the info, Kelly! I will give everything a good read. It may sound goofy, but I feel like this is how my body was meant to workout. I have always hated intense cardio and have a joke with friends that they'll only get me to run if something is chasing me. For once, I enjoy the gym. I just need to get my weight (BF) under control to really feel better.
  • TerezaToledo
    TerezaToledo Posts: 613 Member
    I agree with Kelly that the only thing that seems wrong is not eating enough calories. And yes, the scope on why 1200 calories do not work is excellent! No one deserves to eat that little while feeling lousy and gaining weight.

    Looks like you know what to expect with your workouts and you are in the right path. Certain cardio workouts can be fun, but weight lifting is what feels right for me as well. Go for the weights, you will never look back! If you feel like and have time, throw some cardio in the mix, just for fun.

    Make sure you take measurements and lots of pictures. The scale does not tell the whole story.

    EM2WL Ambassador and Team Member
  • GoKelsey
    GoKelsey Posts: 15 Member
    A few more tips:
    Drink LOTS of water. If you're working out a lot, you need to stay hydrated, or your body will try to store water (which leads to extra pounds).
    Make sure you are eating enough clean carbs (fruits, veggies, grains) to have energy throughout the day and throughout your workouts.
    Remember that muscle has weight to it! So as you continue your strength training, you may gain weight while losing fat. Because of this, I actually prefer to take body measurements over stepping on a scale. (In fact, I don't even own a scale.)
  • TerezaToledo
    TerezaToledo Posts: 613 Member
    Excellent reminder on the water ^^. When you increase your protein intake (which will help you feel fuller, built and keep muscle mass while burning more calories), you need more water to digest it. Also, when you increase the fiber (more fruits and veggies), more water is needed to keep things moving. Needless to say, more water is needed in the warmer weather.

    To help the muscle fibers healing process, the muscle cells will retain water, which gives that pumped look and which definitely shows increases on the scale. Therefore avoiding weigh ins until one or two days after a strength workout. That's just water weight and if you think that would bother you, just skip it.

    Team EM2WL