Mar 032015
 

I haven’t updated my weight loss progress in a bit. There are a few reasons for that but the main one is that the progress was not happening. Last I mentioned I’d lost 2 pounds and things were moving along nicely.

Then I stopped taking my acne medication. For a second time. And immediately gained 4 pounds. WTF. This actually happened the last time I stopped taking the medication and I was so frustrated that I started taking the acne meds again. This time around, I was determined to stop taking it for several reasons and I was going to just get over it if I gained weight as a result. But I tell you, seeing that immediate 4 pound gain on the scale SUCKED. For nearly 2 months I’d been abstaining from alcohol (except for a few weekends here and there when there were events), eating tons of veggies, counting my calories, working out … basically doing everything “right.”

I hate these meds! Sure, they fix my acne for the most part, but the side effects suck (low blood pressure, dizziness, having to pee all the effing time) and honestly I’ve been on the meds for a long time and I hate that I take them. Also, I have to get my kidneys checked every 6 months to check for damage as a result of the medication. That can’t be good and while my kidneys have been fine, it still creeped me out that I had to get them tested so often.

So logically I know that the 4 pounds was water weight from stopping the meds but dammit it sucked. It deflated me. It made me angry. Like, “I’ve been doing everything RIGHT WTF” angry. I felt discouraged. I started to feel like giving up. I didn’t, but I wanted to.

I talked to my doctor and he said, yeah that’s normal. Okay. The gain might be normal but it still sucks. He said to give it time for my body to figure out the water retention, avoid salty foods, etc. Ugh. There is nothing worse than feeling like your good work is doing nothing positive.

Recently, a friend of mine got her cortisol levels tested and they were pretty high. She told me about it and suggested I see if I could get my levels tested. I didn’t know much about it but I asked my doctor and he ordered the tests.

I knew very little about cortisol before this. I knew it had something to do with stress hormones and weight gain. WebMD said: “Cortisol has many functions. It helps the body use sugar (glucose) and fat for energy (metabolism), and it helps the body manage stress. Cortisol levels can be affected by many conditions, such as physical or emotional stress, strenuous activity, infection, or injury.”

I had to get my blood work done at 8am and then again at 4pm to compare the levels. From what I read, the levels were usually higher in the morning and lower in the afternoon. I went in and got the first test done, then went to the gym afterward.

blood

Later that day I went back to the doctor to get my second test done. Bella came with me in the car (she loves car rides and adventures) and we drove to the doc. (She was giving me kisses as we waited in the parking lot for 4pm.)

blood3

It was a simple blood test and I had asked the doctor if I needed to fast for it or anything and he said no. Easy peasy.

blood2

I guess part of me was hoping there was something up with my levels just so I would have an answer as to why it’s so hard this time around to lose weight. And despite the pat answer from my doctor “you’re getting older” I don’t think that’s the full story. Sure I understand metabolism changes as you age and it might get harder to lose weight but I don’t think that’s it.

Here are the standards for cortisol:

Cortisol 
Adult/Child Morning

5–23 micrograms per deciliter (mcg/dL) or 138–635 nanomoles per liter (nmol/L)

Afternoon

3–16 mcg/dL or 83–441 nmol/L

     

I got the results pretty quickly (same day). The test results for the morning blood draw:

Component Standard Range Your Value Flag
Cortisol 7.0 – 23.0 mcg/dL 20.0

It seemed a little high to me but it fell in the normal range so I guess it was okay. The test results for the afternoon draw:

Component Standard Range Your Value Flag
Cortisol 7.0 – 23.0 mcg/dL 8.2

Again, normal range. Again, no definitive answers. Aw well, I tried. At least it’s something to cross off the list of “what can it be”? The next step was my doctor putting in a referral for the nutrition department/health coach. It’s free with my insurance and they have a bunch of different programs, including a medically supervised diet.

I spoke to a health coach and explained my history and the problem. I already kind of felt like none of the programs were REALLY going to be helpful for me. I know how to lose weight. I did it. And kept it off for 6+ years. I don’t feel like I need the online or in-person support group (like Weight Watchers) and I don’t need motivation. I have motivation. It’s just not working the same way it used to.

The health coach did say that sleep deprivation and stress can effect weight gain and loss. Which I agree with. In times of stress I tend to stress eat. While that hasn’t been out of control lately, it’s still an occasional issue I struggle with. And I told the coach that when I “stress eat” it’s not a binge. It may be an extra 500-1000 calories for the day but it’s not like a full-out binge. I choose poorly for food. I also told him what my exercise regiment was and that there was no way I could add MORE exercise and he agreed.

One recommendation was that I talk to the sleep specialists about trying to fix my insomnia issues naturally (I don’t want Ambien). I agreed to that. And he’s going to hook me up with the nutritionist health coach who will take a look at what I’m doing with food and see if there’s anything I can change up. We’ll see!

Share
Oct 012014
 

My brother recently sent me this New York Times article, Always Hungry? Here’s Why. While the article in itself wasn’t new information, I really liked the way they broke down the science and explained it for the readers.

“Since fewer calories are available to fuel metabolism, the brain tells the body to increase calorie intake (we feel hungry) and save energy (our metabolism slows down). Eating more solves this problem temporarily but also accelerates weight gain. Cutting calories reverses the weight gain for a short while, making us think we have control over our body weight, but predictably increases hunger and slows metabolism even more.”

Yes! This makes so much sense to me. I’ve always wondered why I could be SO GOOD with my calories and yet I don’t see a change on the scale and I feel hungrier than normal. I chalked it up to hormones but really it’s probably WHAT I am eating, when I’m eating it as well as genetics. This became most evident recently when I realized that I have crashes on my rest days.

While this isn’t a new thing for me, I just started making the connection in relation to my rest days. I wondered why some days I felt hungrier–like an insane hunger I couldn’t satisfy–and why some days I had crashes in blood sugar and energy and ended up eating junk. I do not eat enough calories on my rest days. Historically I’ve used exercise as a way to eat more. This makes sense; I burn 500 calories in the gym, that means I’m going to be hungrier and will need to eat more calories to fuel my body. Weight loss/maintenance means I need to create a calorie deficit (at least a few hundred calories a day). So when the rest day comes around and I’m not “earning” those extra calories, I do not eat more.

It sounds logical and correct. But the reality is, I’m eating around 1600-1700 calories on rest days and that isn’t enough for the body to REPAIR itself from my hard workout the day before. So I’m not eating enough and then mid-afternoon I get the blood sugar crash and feel hungry and cranky and I end up eating candy. For some reason when I get that crash it’s sugar I reach for. Then I regret eating the sugar and while it makes me feel a little better, it certainly doesn’t solve the hunger issue.

“The more calories we lock away in fat tissue, the fewer there are circulating in the bloodstream to satisfy the body’s requirements. If we look at it this way, it’s a distribution problem: We have an abundance of calories, but they’re in the wrong place. As a result, the body needs to increase its intake. We get hungrier because we’re getting fatter.”

The solution to this is to eat more calories on my rest days to avoid that crash. But it needs to be the right kind of calories. A few summers ago I realized that eating avocado satisfied that hunger in a way no other foods have really done for me. I’m guess it’s because of the healthy fats:

“One reason we consume so many refined carbohydrates today is because they have been added to processed foods in place of fats — which have been the main target of calorie reduction efforts since the 1970s. Fat has about twice the calories of carbohydrates, but low-fat diets are the least effective of comparable interventions…”

This makes so much sense! The “non-fat” and “low-fat” diet fads may seem healthy on the surface but they really aren’t because the low-fat foods were just pumped with sugar as a substitute. Which probably triggers the blood sugar issues. When I started having a snack of avocado and gluten free toast or avocado and crackers, I saw a huge change. I didn’t need to eat very much–just 1/4 of an avocado would do it for me–and I’d feel full and satisfied for so much longer than any other foods I eat. It’s the fat! It satisfies the body. (This was a great article: 6 Signs You Need to Eat More Fat.)
healthy-fats

There’s hidden sugars in so much of the food we eat. It’s no wonder we’re always hungry. That trigger is sabotaging us. So I eat avocado and eggs and salmon on a fairly regular basis. I feel healthier, I feel fuller longer. It’s good stuff. I can’t remember the last time I ate a white potato. If we do eat potatoes, it’s sweet potatoes and even that isn’t very often. I can’t remember the last time I ate pasta, and even that is gluten-free these days. Finding what works for your body is so crucial.

Now I know that I need to eat more on rest days, and I need to be smarter about what I eat, I need to figure out what that number looks like. The fact is, people who were obese and lost the weight will always have to be more mindful of the food they eat. Check out this article:  Why is it so Hard to Maintain a Reduced Body Weight? for an interesting perspective.

“A full year after significant weight loss, these men and women remained in what could be described as a biologically altered state. Their still-plump bodies were acting as if they were starving and were working overtime to regain the pounds they lost.

After you’ve lost weight, your brain has a greater emotional response to food,” Rosenbaum says. “You want it more, but the areas of the brain involved in restraint are less active.” Combine that with a body that is now burning fewer calories than expected, he says, “and you’ve created the perfect storm for weight regain. (source)”

I recently got an email from a reader asking me: “Hi! Saw your blog for the first time – WOW! Very inspiring! I need to lose 110 lbs too! Question: How did you break your sugar addiction? That stuff is killing me!” I wasn’t sure how to answer her question honestly. I don’t know that I HAVE overcome my sugar addiction. I find ways to manage it (by not completely denying myself things, but eating it in moderation) but I still struggle. It’s a hard habit to break.

It’s not all bad news, though. I think with trial and error (and perhaps assistance from a registered dietitian) we can figure out what that happy medium is for weight maintenance when your body is fighting against you. What worked before may not work now. I might need to re-evaluate my own diet.

Share