Then I hit 40 and menopause early. I gained 20 pounds. I was tall and full busted, and I'd been really skinny before so I carried it well. Then I was on prednisone for a while for irritable bowel which packed on another 30 pounds as it made me constantly hungry. OK, I'm starting to get a bit round here. That was about 8 years ago. Then I blew out the knee in a fall with a 100 pound lab walking on ice, and getting the weight off was even more of a struggle.
First I got off the prednisone before Green Peace showed up to roll me back in the water. I weaned off it gradually under a doctor's supervision adding, turmeric, ginger, and licorice root to my diet as an anti-inflammatory. I quit eating white flour except for my cheat day and switched to limited amounts of whole grain (Einkorn flouror gluten-free), and I cut back on caffeine and sugar. That helped both the gut and also immensely in not gaining MORE weight, but didn't make me lose any.
I was back to a healthy weight before our wedding simply by changing not just WHAT I ate but HOW I ate.
Instead of a sweet roll for breakfast or worse, skipping breakfast, I had Greek yogurt sprinkled with a tablespoon of gluten free granola and some chopped almonds or Kefir with a small slice of gluten free high protein bread. The key was protein, not simple carbs in the morning (carbs are great if you are a runner - but if I was a dog I'd be a Setter).
Making sure I ate something every 3-4 hours, I'd get a Quest or RX protein bar, and cut it into halves or fourths and have one morning and afternoon with a large water or unsweetened herb iced tea which satisfied my sweet cravings.
On Faturdays (yes, our eat what we want day) I use a small salad plate. This looks like a mound of pancakes, but they are only a bit bigger that silver dollar sized and mentally I felt full though I'd eaten a total of probably only a single restaurant pancake and even then didn't finish them.
Then if you're going to have a higher cal dinner (yes, we're doing pizza and Caesar salad), juice or smoothie your lunch and snack just on some dry roasted almonds.
Today's juice - four carrots, two granny smith's, half a cucumber, and some ginger, made enough for husband and I.
Instead of fast food for lunch at work, I'd go to Panera and get a half salad with lean protein and unsweetened tea, or Chick-Fil-A for a grilled chicken salad nd diet lemonade Instead of a small portion of high-fat food, I was eating a big portion of low-fat food and was actually FULL, not getting into the chips at 4 o'clock because my Filet O'Fish, small coke, and child -sized fries had worn off. Unfortunately,Panera changed the two salads I loved:the Caesar and the Asian Chicken Salad (seriously powdered Parmesan on the salad and mandarin oranges and cashews on your previously low sugar/ low-calorie salad - EWWWW!) and I haven't eaten there in a year but that year, I was eating there for lunch four out of five work days.
My afternoon snack was sometimes in place of the protein bar a low fat Vega protein shake and dinner was mostly vegetarian unless cooking for my sweetie, usually half a baked potato or sweet potato and lots of veggies or some Thai, heavy on the veggies and very lean on the rice. On the weekend I ate what I wanted, but made sure to have five servings of veggies a day and two pieces of low sugar fruit and I drank lots of water.
Without counting calories or exercising (other than walking the dog), I lost over 40 pounds in a year.
Then I added some serious strength and weight training.
What surprised me was not just the effects that healthier eating had, as it certainly made me feel better. It was adding strength training and cardio. In six months, eating quite well, with the occasional dessert and wine (Store Clerk: "So how much do you spend on your wine? Me: "Oh, about 30 minutes"), I lost another 20 pounds that I had figured were a permanent part of us after we turn 50.
I got a personal trainer for the first six months until I could maintain on my own. It was hard, I had no muscle tone and no endurance, but she paced me so I would be slightly sore the next day but not so much I wasn't active and walking and moving. Having her pace and structure made a tremendous difference in not giving up and her verbal encouragement as I started out kept me from just throwing in the towel. It wasn't cheap at $50 an hour but it was an investment in my health that will more than pay for itself in health care costs as I age.
Essentially we do a warm up, then five different exercises (all using weights), each for 1 minute. As she said "you can do ANYTHING for one minute" so even if I felt I was going to fall over or drop the weight I could do it one minute. Then we'd do a minute of cardio and two minutes of rest with water. Then 2 more sets of those exercises, following by two sets of some different strength exercises with cardio and then a short rest in between reps, followed by 15 minutes with the punching back downstairs after she was done with me. We focused a LOT on the core (planks are NOT my friend, but we do it anyway).
We tripled the weight I could lift in just four months of working out 1 hour per week with her and doing a 30-minute walk with hand weights on 5 other days a week.
After three months I had muscle definition. After six months I had the arms of my 30's and I never thought that would happen. My heart health was better as I wasn't getting "out of breath"winded during the workout, just sweating a lot and I was sleeping better. Plus after a stressful day I can come home and beat the heck out of the bag which is much better for me than opening a pint of ice cream.
Now I work out for either 45 minutes a day five days a week or do an hour and fifteen minutes three days a week, depending on my work hours and what writing and marketing is going on. When I'm out and about I park my car further away from the store in the daytime, take the stairs instead of the elevator and such. Anything to keep MOVING and if the weather is good, I'll grab some hand weights and go do a power walk. I have added some heavy duty military style exercises as well, and found that I can actually do "non girl" pushups and sit ups, and even with the bad knee, I can run fast if I need to get out of danger in a hurry.
I know I built muscle which adds weight but still lost another 20 pounds in these six months of the training while eating normal sized meals, heavy on fruits and veggies and still having the occasional bread and butter and bacon and brownie and a glass or two of wine a few days a week.
So - if you are still struggling, even if you are active, consider strength training. Cardio is great, but I didn't see a huge difference until I started building muscle mass and thereby burning more calories.
I will never be super model "skinny" and I'm fine with that, but I'm leaner and I'm stronger.
I wish I had done this 10 years ago.