T Nation

Wife Can't Lose an Ounce, Years of Trying

This is quite a desperate call out to anyone who can help on this subject.

I used to be a PT myself for a few years and had a quality teacher, but I’m posting in the beginner’s section because if I can’t get my wife to lose a single ounce of fat - I suck. That said, her body could be used by medical science as one that refuses to use fat as a fuel source.

She’s tried IF, fasted steady state, low carb, almost no carb, always lots of bodybuilding (so no treadmill worshipping).

So note that she is capable of growing muscle, especially upper body, while in a fairly steep calorie cut and no burning any fat whatsoever. Which to me defies biology.

She does squats and chins too. Big stuff. She’s 35, 5’3, 125-ish pounds, about 25% body fat.

Please help! I don’t think this can be solved with conventional means, something weird is going on.

Try this for a week:

Take measurements/ let her weigh herself before and after. She should at least lose water weight. After that… I don’t know. Maybe just accept her body? 25% isn’t terrible for a woman. Hey, you’re the professional…

My stats are the same as your wife’s. I’ve been trying to lower my bf% for years,too.

A few things to look into:

  1. You don’t suck! But maybe you are so used to obese or male clients that your meal plans are a little off.

  2. All the things you tried may impact her metabolism negatively, i.e. her cortisol levels rise so much she can’t shed the pounds. This has happened to me on a low-carb diet.

  3. I have a very stubborn “set point”. Even if I do water fasting for 10 days (I really tried just to be sure), I don’t lose more than 2 lbs total(!), which also defies biology.

  4. Just as there are skinny fat people, there are fat muscular people. This seems to throw off body composition tests.

  5. I build muscle very quickly for a woman, even on a deficit (~1000cals!). I have visible muscles and “tie-ins”, but my bf% has never been under 20%. Some people seem to have a very high tolerance for bad circumstances (bear in mind that a high amount of exercise and little food signals “famine” to your body).

  6. Is she relatively busty? That’s a lot of fat, you know! And you probably don’t want to reduce that.

  7. Is she really honestly following your advice to the letter? Are there any hidden calories?

  8. Medical issues: Low metabolism (testoterone/estrogen issues, PCOS, thyroid issues can be to blame), food intolerances (whenever I consume dairy, I gain up to 5 lbs in water weight) or similar things.

  9. Past troubles: Did she use to be obese or a competitive athlete or eating disordered (are you sure?)? These things can screw one’s metabolism permanently. That’s one of the reasons I struggle so much, I used to have severe issues with eating.

  10. Excess tissue: Especially after a pregnancy, there may be extra tissue in the stomach and thigh area (scar tissue, connective tissue, watery stuff).

Good luck to you!

Hmm, I’ll pass it along. She’s already on day one of the Dukan (spell) diet. So don’t want to try too many things at once. Thanks :slight_smile:

Edit: 25% isn’t terrible, but if she can’t ever lose fat then some day it will be 35%

My advice (not what you are looking for):
don’t be her food coach. It won’t work. Hire someone or get a friend or something. You don’t want to be the one “responsible” for limiting her calories or saying “yes, you are still fat dear.”

I guess this depends on your relationship with your wife, but it sounds like disaster waiting to happen to me.

The Chad Waterbury link is good. Pay particular attention to the comments and his replies.

Also, you might want to get a copy of “The Six Week Cure for the Middle Age Spread” and “Protein Power.” Both are by Drs. Michael and Mary Eades. These books will explain the science behind weight gain and loss. Turns out it is mostly insulin.

Here’s what happens. When we are young, our cells are very sensitive to insulin. So when we eat carbs, the insulin released from the pancreas is able to quickly and efficiently store the sugar in our cells for energy purposes. When we need the energy, our body uses glucagen to pull the sugar out of our cells and use it for energy. However, excessive carb intake, whether simple or complex, eventually burns out the insulin receptors on our cells. So the insulin can’t store the sugar in the cells easily, and so it converts the sugars to fat and stores them that way.

The books referenced above will instruct you to eat a lot of saturated fat rather than unsaturated fat. Turns out that the saturated fat will actually defat the liver. Most people that you see on the street will bellies, actually have what is known as fatty liver disease. This diet, as well as Chad’s, will bring the liver back to its normal state. So the key is to untax the liver so that it can do its thing. This means decaf coffee and no alcohol for the first two weeks. Also, you will have to cut down on any supplements or drugs that are processed through the liver. (No Tylenol, ibuprofen, birth control pills (?) etc., but aspirin is ok.)

Once your insulin receptors are burned out, there is no way to restore them. So if you want to keep weight off and stay lean and healthy, you are going to need to stay close to this diet for the rest of your life. And it really isn’t that hard. There are plenty of no-carb recipes on the internet. (Also, you will notice that your cholesterols and triglyceride levels will plumment.)

In the last year I have lost 38 lbs. It took me 11 months to lose the first 20 lbs., with heavy cardio 4 days a week. I found this diet program on line. I lost the last 18 lbs. in one month, with no gym days whatsoever. I lost 8 lbs of pure fat in the first week alone. Ditto for my girlfriend.

As a final note, let me relate the following. Last year I happened to be watching the Discovery Channel where they were interviewing people in Dallas in 1963. These people were in Dealy Plaza at the time of the Kennedy assassination. As the cameras interviewed these people (kids included) and panned the crowds, I noticed that none of them were fat. But scanning the crowds there today, most everyone was fat. In 1963 fast food joints and diets were not that prevalent…today they are. So there you have it.

[quote]threecoaching wrote:
She’s tried IF, fasted steady state, low carb, almost no carb, always lots of bodybuilding (so no treadmill worshipping).[/quote]
How long has she been trying to lose fat?

That’s quite a few different methods, so if you’ve gone through them each pretty quickly without giving them a chance to “kick in”, you can’t fairly say they were ineffective.

What does her current training look like (the days, exercises, sets, reps, and cardio)?

What makes you say this? How much muscle has she gained and over what period of time?

Has she had a basic check-up to make sure she’s functioning normally, physically and hormone-wise?

Also, x2 on what was said about the difficulty of training your significant other. It’s a big mental and emotional challenge being around your “client” (and “trainer”) 24/7.

Gambit, you nailed it on the head there! Gotta be SO careful.

Thanks everyone for their tips, I’ve carefully considered each point and will add to the info I’ve been collecting. Some of it might even be trying old stuff but being more thorough.

I think next up are blood tests: thyroid, cortisol etc. Just to rule things out.

[quote]threecoaching wrote:
She’s tried IF, fasted steady state, low carb, almost no carb, always lots of bodybuilding (so no treadmill worshipping).[/quote]
I have never seen someone try an “almost no carb” and not see some sort of progress. Even for those that don’t immediately start dropping pounds you will see them recomp, loose inches, or intestinal bloat decreased.

My mind is blown that someone can maintain body weight and composition on an Atkins style diet. Frankly I think she is going to work and eating bagels during break… :slight_smile:

[quote]tanxiaolian wrote:
3. I have a very stubborn “set point”. Even if I do water fasting for 10 days (I really tried just to be sure), I don’t lose more than 2 lbs total(!), which also defies biology.
[/quote]
You should make a thread about this. I don’t know if “Water Fast” is a trendy new diet or you were trying to make weight for a fight but if the latter is true I could help. When manipulating water retention people usually make about 1 of 4 common mistakes.

[quote]tanxiaolian wrote:
5. I build muscle very quickly for a woman, even on a deficit (~1000cals!).
[/quote]
The term deficit is thrown around so loosely. Strictly speaking if your body was at a true caloric deficit you couldn’t build muscle. On the other hand if you decrease your calories by 1000 and your body was using stored calories to build muscle the total sum of available calories was not a deficit.

[quote]JLone wrote:
My mind is blown that someone can maintain body weight and composition on an Atkins style diet. Frankly I think she is going to work and eating bagels during break… :)[/quote]

This. Get blood work done just in case, but most likely she is eating things off diet and not telling you. All the more reason to have her work with someone to follow her diet.

[quote]wramsey wrote:

[quote]JLone wrote:
My mind is blown that someone can maintain body weight and composition on an Atkins style diet. Frankly I think she is going to work and eating bagels during break… :)[/quote]
This. Get blood work done just in case, but most likely she is eating things off diet and not telling you. All the more reason to have her work with someone to follow her diet. [/quote]
I obviously don’t know the OP or his wife but I do have a personal story about this sort of thing happening.

Once upon a time… I worked with this girl in her mid twenty’s that graduated college and got a desk job at our company. Over a couple years of working there she had gained weight and tried “everything” to get it off with no luck. Finally she comes in one day very chipper and talks about her husband finally giving in and letting her go to a nutritionist/trainer. She does very well for a couple weeks then I see her eating fast food so I ask how everything is going and how she tracks fast food. She tells me it’s too much trouble to look up the fast food and weigh her stuff at work so if she does eat what she is craving she keeps the original journal entry. So she is at work eating fast food but her journal entry said, “tuna sandwich and carrots.”

Basically she complained about weight and she wanted the nutritionist but when it comes down to it she just wrote BS in the food journal and ate whatever she wanted. Whether her husband ever new about the junk food is anyone’s guess.

V-Diet.

-If followed to a T you can pretty much guarantee fat loss. I have a feeling she’s bullshitting you tho.

Also 125lbs with muscle is not bad at all. Post a pic (black out her face if want)

My wife had the same problem. At one point I had her training around 90 min a day and eating around 1800 kcal and she was barely making any progress. Turns out she was secretly binge-eating once or twice a week and had mild hypothyroidism.

I can absolutely assure you that she’s no bullshitting me. I know there are relationships out there where honesty is a low priority but we just don’t have that kind of thing going on. I mean, she really wishes it was secret binging because after several years of tearing her hair out and us having major arguments, one little solution like ‘secretly eating’ would be a GOD send.

But I posted this same issue on another forum and there is one caveat which is that, while she eats pretty much perfectly all the time (I’m talking never eating bread or wheat at all really, low carb, no sugar etc.) if there is a party - it’s game over. It’s like it’s the last party she’ll ever have. Then I step in and I’m like “you know dear…” and I get this glazed look of divorce in her stare. Combined with “do you have ANY idea how much hard core dieting I do all the time apart from this???”

Such events seem to occur every couple of weeks. But SOME times they sort of cluster. Her argument, still, is that it shouldn’t be enough to halt fat burning during all the rest of the time.

Our problem has been not counting though, of late. I think if we counted every single gram, every single day, I might be able to show her just what she’s doing on those party nights. But y’know I’m not talking about a Chinese take-away followed by a gallon of beer and a Kebab. I’m talking 1-2 bottles of wine and the odd handful of potato chips from a bowl on the table. Maybe a sandwich. Which I argue is BAD on a fat loss diet, but you could easily argue that it’s not enough to cease all fat loss completely.

Blood tests will be next. She did have a thyroid nodule a few years ago but this wasn’t hypothyroid related.

Look into Precision Nutrition’s ‘Lean Eating’ program. Starts next week I think. Can’t think of a better group of people to guarantee success.

[quote]threecoaching wrote:
I can absolutely assure you that she’s no bullshitting me. I know there are relationships out there where honesty is a low priority but we just don’t have that kind of thing going on.

… after several years of tearing her hair out and us having major arguments,

…Then I step in and I’m like “you know dear…” and I get this glazed look of divorce in her stare. Combined with “do you have ANY idea how much hard core dieting I do all the time apart from this???”

Such events seem to occur every couple of weeks. [/quote]

Well, this might be insensitive, but I saw this coming from your first post. YEARS of major arguments. “glazed look of divorce in her stare”… YOU are here on T-Nation, not her…
I would STOP trying to help her lose weight now.

My suggestion: try this instead, “Honey, I love you no matter what you look like. Of course, I fully support you whatever you want to do! Can I cook dinner a few nights a week?!?”


oh, and then there is this…

[quote]
…Our problem has been not counting though, of late. I think if we counted every single gram, every single day[/quote]

1st) That’s how it’s done around here, man. Most successful people on this site count “every single gram every single day.”

2nd) This shouldn’t be an “our” problem. In my opinion, You can be an example. You can help her figure out what macros are (if she asks). But in my opinion if she feels this is “coming” from you (even if she’s been talking about it/etc), it won’t work. She has to be the one to make the decision.

Good. “honey, what’s most important is your health.” sounds about perfect :wink:

Good luck man.

I agree. Getting your woman to do something because you want it >> trouble and lack of results.

It is admirable that you have so much faith in her honesty. That said…she is either one of the extremely rare people who have actual chemical issues that make weight/fat loss exceedingly difficult, or something is not on the level with her diet. If you are so adamant that it is not an honesty issue, then the next most likely thing is that the calorie counting is way off. Honestly, that she is misleading you or that she is mis-counting calories is probably a million times more likely to be the cause of your issues.

Still, get the tests done. You never know.

I have to agree with others who have suggested that you hire an outside physique nutritionist to help your wife with her goal of fat loss and stop trying to fill that role yourself. I too have had similar experiences with my wife and can relate to the tension it can cause between spouses. Also, she will probably be less apt to cheat if she is paying someone her hard earned money on a nutritionist.

Also, like others have said, she really NEEDS to be counting calories/weighing her food out all day every day. It’s impossible to figure out what she is doing wrong calorie wise if you don’t know for certain what she is actually eating.