Andrea Engel, RN, LMT, CPT

Aesthetic RN, Ashiatus massage therapist, health coach near Rhinelander, Wisconsin.


When You Can’t Lose Weight

Let me start by saying this is my own personal experience. I was obese in my 20’s, skinny fat in my 30’s and fit in my late 40’s. I’ve been through several difficult physical and emotional experiences, including multiple sclerosis, Lyme disease, and fibromyalgia.

This photo prompted a conversation on my Facebook recently, and I want to give my experience in case it resonates with anyone. It’s showing essentially the 250lb person on the left and 120lb person on the right, and discussing the health concerns of obesity.

20somethingWhen I was in my 20’s, I was fairly active. At this point I had a little hobby farm, a home business sewing baby carriers, and 3 little kids to chase around. I did my best to provide “healthy” food to my family in the way of whole wheat bread and homemade foods. What stands out to me the most about this time is how tired I felt. How unmotivated I was to exercise. I didn’t have the energy to move my body beyond the day-to-day. I felt out of control around food, and if I baked a pan of brownies, for example, they’d be gone by the end of the day. It wasn’t until the MS experience that I decided to try to lose some weight. I went on the Atkins diet and did Tae Bo in my living room. That’s how I lost the initial weight.

skinnyfatShortly after my divorce around 31 years of age, I got in to bicycling. I was hooked! I rode, and rode, and rode my bike. I fell in love with the feeling and found it very therapeutic as I went through relationship challenges and worked on finding myself. This was my “skinny fat” stage. I raced mountain bikes, dabbled in a short stint of strength training, and ate the paleo style diet. I was riddled with digestive issues and this is around when the random, long-lasting connective tissue pains were at their worst.

Throughout my journey, I’ve kept moving. How that looks at any given time has changed. I no longer do long endurance activities. I’m glad to know what I’m capable of, but my body did not appreciate the hours of repetitive motion. What I have found over the decades is that my symptoms and how I feel in general will be 10x worse without exercise. These days it looks like heavy lifting in my home gym 3-5x/week, taking a walk most days and aiming for 10,000 steps, and riding my fat tire bike for fun. The past 6+ months I’ve been dealing with a new health challenge that is yet undiagnosed, where I get low-grade fevers most days and accompanying fatigue. Yet I still stick to my exercise schedule the best I can, even if it means I go to the gym to lift light and stretch. It’s good for my mental health to keep a routine, and control what I can in the midst of things that are out of my control. No, it’s not always easy. Yes, I’d rather be on the couch many days. And somehow just the tiniest of steps for my health make my mental state exponentially better. Every time.

MFP Weight Graph

In 2015 I started using My Fitness Pal. This is how my weight has gone since then. You see, it has not been linear. The low point is from last fall when I did my first bodybuilding show. I’m at a comfortable, healthy weight right now.

Here’s where I’m going to talk about the thing that I find very few people actually want to do. It’s tracking food intake. I do use a kitchen scale and measuring cups to monitor what I’m putting in. I had an experience a few years back where I was eating VERY healthy. Nothing at all processed, almost entirely vegetables and some fruit, with healthy fats via nuts and seeds. I was still overweight. I decided to take a peek at my caloric intake and found I was eating an excess of about 1000 calories per day! I was shocked and then also it dawned on me that the reason I couldn’t drop the weight was overeating. I can put away a massive amount of calories! This has been the key to changing my body, regardless of my level of exercise. Even post-surgery when I could not exercise at all, just monitoring my food intake kept me from regaining weight. I personally need the guard rails that tracking gives me. I don’t find it overly time-consuming at all. In fact, I’ve gone through periods of time where I quit tracking because I was doing this:


Guess what happened?? Oh yeah, the weight came back on. Lickety-split. The reason I didn’t want to track is because I simply wanted to eat what/how much I felt like without thinking about it. That, for me, is a slippery slope. I have not once been successful without tracking. Your mileage may vary, but I’m telling you what works/doesn’t work for me. Plain and simple. When I stop tracking, it’s too easy to eat another protein bar or another handful of nuts. Those things really add up! To keep my tracking easy, I plan a breakfast, lunch and snacks for a week at a time and just make different dinners most evenings. I only track the things that matter, omitting herbs and spices.

FitbitTo determine my daily intake, I use the Fitbit app and the Sense smartwatch to get an idea what I’m expending the previous week. I average it out and shoot for that as number. I eat a gram of protein per pound of target body weight, at least, and often go over. Yes, even as a vegan!

Here’s the data from my Fitbit…

If I was going to work on losing fat, I’d start by deducting 250 calories from that average. That would put me at about 1750 cal/day. I don’t monitor carbs and fat at this time. I consume both and let them fall where they may. Some call this “mini macros”.

My main takeaway from this post is… if you think you’ve tried everything and have stubborn weight, maybe put on your detective hat and check out what you’re actually taking in + putting out. I truly thought I had done it all, but I had not tracked, and that has been the key. Like the most important thing! I’d suggest giving it a month. Take photos, measure your waist, step on the scale when you start and after a month. Then tell me whether you still can’t lose weight.



I am truly happy with my body appearance now. I know that I’m doing everything I can even in the face of health challenges, to support my body. I know it would be worse if I added the 50# back that I used to carry! It’s very important to me to do what I can with what I have. The power of taking any action at all towards good health and taking control over the things that I can actually control has given me tremendous mental health benefits.

In my opinion, planning and preparing my food and lifting weights are the ultimate act of self-love. It’s the active thing that I do on a regular basis and while it’s not glamorous or exciting, it works!

My Fitness Pal

Fitbit Sense

If you want personalized direction, I do offer health coaching, so feel free to reach out! I love to help!

In good health,


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