Thursday, July 28, 2011
**Note to any guys that may drop in, there is some female stuff in this blog. Retreat now.
My brain is probably close to overload as much as I have been reading the last few days. My head is swimming with scientific terms and study data that's really over my head but I can't stop reading it because it's so interesting. Here's an underlying shocker for you... you know how I continuously wring my hands and say "I don't get it! I don't have cheat days, I don't binge, I workout with intensity. I do everything right! And the scale won't budge."?? Turns out that's where I messed up. Doing everything right.
On a search for more information about resetting your metabolism after a stall, I found a wealth of information regarding how one gets to a stall, what can cause it, how to get out of it and how to avoid it altogether. Granted, I have previously read articles about breaking a plateau, but it didn't give ME what I needed to get it. I'm not one of those that just blindly follows directions. I have to understand and buy into it. Jillian Michaels says to eat at least 1800-2000 calories or your maintenance level for a week to reset your metabolism from a plateau caused by undereating. Ok I did that and it didn't work. But according to the massive amount of knowledge I just gained that included the scientific reasoning and the details of exactly how and why.... I didn't do it right. I needed the full 2000, not the 1800 I ate. And I should have kept my exercise moderate instead of increasing it at the same time to off-set most of my calorie increase. I also should have increased my carbs. I don't eat low carb, but carbs regulate your leptin and hormone levels. Leptin keeps your cortisol in check. Overtraining and undereating causes your cortisol to soar (due to the stress on the body) and over time becomes chronically high. I imagine that's where I am now.
Not to send y'all into info overload with all of this stuff, but I found all of this so informative. I will definitely have my cortisol,leptin and thyroid levels checked on my next dr visit. I have a long history of amenhorrea (lack of menstruation). This was thought to affect athletes with low body fat -that the lack of enough BF would cause periods to cease. I wasn't always a low BF athlete, as evidenced by my former 242# self, LOL. None of my gynecologists ever bothered to find the cause of it despite my asking each new dr. Usually I would have 2 periods a year and sometimes I would have them a few months in a row, then nothing for months. About 2 yrs ago I started having monthly periods like clockwork. My gyn said I am probably pre-menopause and my hormones changed enough to fix it. Now I think this has everything to do with my stress level and cortisol. My stress level dropped significantly when my twins went to college (shocker, 2 yrs ago). No more PTA President, Athletic Club fundraiser, constant running in different directions for all of their activities. I love my kids dearly. I'm not going to lie. I've been on vacation since they went to college. I've told friends that has been the secret to my weight loss. (jokingly) Maybe there is truth to it!! Anyway, my periods have been noticeably lighter and shorter since the beginning of this year. The same time my weight loss plateaued, I was training for a half marathon and (as I have learned) waaay undereating. So I'm reading this article about chronic cortisol levels and what does it say... amenorrhea was considered female athlete low bodyfat syndrome is now known to be caused by high levels of cortisol. According to a few articles on the subject, female athletes are notorious undereaters. The reason their periods come back when put on a higher calorie diet is not due to increase in bodyfat, it is due to decrease in cortisol. Cortisol is your starvation mode controller.
How does this apply to me doing it perfectly wrong? Another thing I read is that hitting starvation mode is most common in overachieving women and particularly apples who tend to have naturally higher cortisol levels anyway. Men do it too so it isn't just a woman issue. Here's how it works... when you are obese, you have a window of time (roughly 6 months) where you will lose 1-2 pounds a week without fail on regular exercise and calorie restriction. At that point you are more fit, you have a new lifestyle as your norm and you start to push your fitness level. You burn more calories. And you don't increase what you eat. Your leptin level drops, your cortisol level goes up and you stop losing weight. So you eat less. And you workout more. Yeah, you get the picture now. That's what the overachiever perfectionist does ("I must make my goal!"). The alternative is what normal people do. They put the effort in for 6 months with a weekly treat day or occasional binge, losing well until they hit the timed plateau, they throw in the towel out of frustration, they may gain a few pounds then they get back on the wagon a few weeks later and they are back to losing again. Why? Because they gave their body breaks with binges, missed workouts and the fall off the wagon dropped their cortisol level back to normal with the return to maintenance eating and not killing themselves in the gym.
There was another Jillian Michaels article that I read that said to take a diet break every six weeks ..take a step back on exercise and eat at maintenance level for a week. I wish it would have explained why because I blew it off. Now I know there is science behind that break. I also realize I'm different in that regard. I have always had to know how the clock works, not just the time. As a kid I nortoriously took things apart and put them back together just to see how they worked. Most people don't care about the how and why - just that it works. SP provides a calorie range and even a menu if you want and it works - as long as you stay within the realm of average. If you exercise at a higher intensity then you need more calories than SP gives (and especially more protein). Even though I kept my SP goal and trackers accurate, I was eating at the bottom of my range while physically stressing my body by training for a half marathon. As the article so clearly stated it "that's a straight path to cortisol induced starvation mode that will take some time to repair".
My metabolism is within reason for my size. It's low, but not drastically so. My vacation couldn't have come at a better time! To get back on track I need to eat for 10-14 days. I can't think of an easier way to force me to do that than going on a cruise! When I'm at home I'm in full-on Spark mode. Stepping on board I will eat their food. I'm not going to throw caution to the wind and roll out of the dining room every night, but eat until I am satisfied. I can still exercise, but the point is to not out-exercise the increase in calories. I need a zero deficit for at least a week. I'll do a slow increase in calories for the next week until we depart and hopefully by the time I get back it will be enough to put me back on track.
This may or may not apply to those of you reading this. I'm sure your head is spinning, too and it's not my intent to panic anyone further with stalled weight loss and starvation stuff. I went looking for answers on how to fix myself and found the science behind it. That's what I wanted to share in this blog. It isn't just calories in vs calories out = weight loss. And you can be entirely too perfect and screw yourself in the process. Just goes to show it pays to binge once in a while and take a few days off!!