Why dieting's the best way to gain weight
Monday, December 31, 2012
Here's another gem from The Compassionate Mind Approach to Beating Overeating that I didn't have space to post about before.
I already knew that quick/dramatic changes in weight are more likely to be water than fat, but here's what I didn't know:
"What happens when we lose weight rapidly, through dieting or a lot of activity, is that we lose water and glycogen. Glycogen is starch, and we store 1-3 lb of it in our liver and muscles. It is the body's equivalent to rocket fuel, an easily accessible source of energy. Understandably, the body does not like running out of this handy resource, and if it runs low, we are evolved to snatch it back as soon as some carbohydrate is eaten. Glycogen needs to be stored in solution, and we need 1-3 lb of water to store 1 lb of glycogen. So if you use up 1 lb of glycogen you will actually lose 2-4 lb total weight. Conversely, if you put back 1 lb of glycogen, you will gain 2-3 lb total weight.
Suppose, for example, that you go on a strict diet for a week before your holiday ... Perhaps by the end of the week ... you've lost 8 lb ... On holiday you eat normally - not excessively - and do a fair bit of walking and swimming ... You get home and ... are horrified to discover that not only have you put that 8 lb back on, you've put another 2 lb as well! All that has happened in fact is that you lost 2 lb of glycogen in that week of near-starvation, which took another 6 lb of water with it. This sudden depletion of your glycogen stores rang warning bells in your body, so as soon as you started eating some carbohydrates again on holiday it made sure to get back all the glycogen it could, replacing a bit more than the 2 lb you lost so that, with the extra water needed to store it, you gained a little more weight than you'd lost in the first place." (Goss 34-35).
This makes me feel much better about losing weight very slowly. I haven't read enough yet to discover whether there's a way to lose weight without losing glycogen/water, but if there is I imagine mindful eating is it.
Of course, eating mindfully is also better for my mental, emotional, and physical health, regardless of any weight I do or don't lose. I must keep in mind that I'm doing this for more than one reason.
(I hope I haven't offended any dieters. There are many roads to follow and this is the one I've chosen... after taking the diet superhighway more times than I can count and getting stuck in traffic and rerouted back to the beginning every time. But along my scenic route there are flashing signs everywhere, encouraging me to take an exit toward a superhighway. It's important that I keep reminding myself why I chose this road and stick to it. You might have better luck with the superhighway, but I'm more interested in making friends with those taking the scenic route with me.)