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I've been doing it perfectly, but wrong!

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!!
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    I am going to re-read this because I've ALWAYS lost weight faster/easier on higher calories (1700-1800) but didn't know why. I am an apple that has suffered from irregular periods most of my life (until I gave up sugar and simple carbs, at which I suddenly became "normal" for the first time ever.)

    Most importantly, I am SO HAPPY that you found this information. I hated that you were working SO HARD and being continually frustrated. I was afraid you were going to "give up" although with your tenacious personality, I can't really imagine you giving up on anything.

    I hope you're cruise was wonderful!!!!!!!!

    Renee :)
    2481 days ago
    How the heck did I miss this when you first posted it last week?! THANK YOU for sharing what you've learned! I'm another one who wants to know the WHY behind things before I just jump in and try something; it all makes so much sense and may explain some things in my history too (like a long history of amenhorrea that the doctors could never explain). I hope the cruise is absolutely fabulous and you enjoy yourself thoroughly on it, and you come back reset and rested!
    2484 days ago
  • JEN021072
    This is sooooo me!!
    I haven't been able to lose anything in oh geez.... roughly a year or so??
    I'm at the gym 4-6 days a week, sometimes for upwards of 4 hours at a time. It's how I reduce stress.... something that I have a great deal of lately.
    On top of that, when I get stressed I also can't eat. I get this huge knot in my stomach and I can't eat. Double whammy when it comes to trying to lose weight.
    My trainer has me cut back to only an hour at the gym, and he's making me force myself to eat when I get stressed. It's really difficult for me, but I'm trying.
    Maybe I really do need to "lighten up" by not being so strick with myself and allow myself to eat a little more.

    Thanks so much for the info!!
    2484 days ago
    OMG This could be me!!! I haven't lost a pound since last year! I need to go do some research and see where I can get this test done ...
    2488 days ago
    Yes, giving yourself a break will do wonders for the body & mind. I am loving eating more calories & currently have NO desire to go back to low calorie. I probably will one day but right now I'm going to continue with the "no pressure" plan.

    Maybe you can start practicing this upcoming week for relaxing on your cruise? You'll want to be prepared. emoticon
    2488 days ago
    Great blog. Thank you for sharing all your findings. I should be in good shape as I have "0" fitness minutes in the last 4 weeks and have eaten the entire kitchen. So... thinking I should have my cortisol levels reset at this time and be ready to go!

    Enjoy your cruise!! Can't wait to hear all about it. Thanks again for the great blog.
    2489 days ago
  • SUSAN09131
    MCLAFLIN sent me this link. (Thanks!)

    I am plateauing as we speak. Funny thing is, I was cutting back on exercise due to the heat AND cutting back on what I ate - also due to the heat. (Just not hungry) This week I'm going to eat !! Good stuff, but more. Also keep walking, but not to the extent I had been doing. Will let you know.

    This sort of reminds me of doing the rotation diet. It was a "shock your system" diet, followed by a normal week. Seems the two had to both happen. My husband and I lost weight doing it, but only for the first two rotations. You had to give it up for awhile in between so it would be effective. Your blog makes all of ^ that make sense.
    2489 days ago
    Oh boy, did I need to read this!!! THANK YOU! I'm going to do exactly what you are going to do during these next two weeks. I won't be out of control, but I am going to try to increase my calories (smartly).

    I need the break from being 'perfect' anyway - I'm mentally exhausted so this is perfect timing now with the trip to Alaska looming so near!

    PERFECT PERFECT PERFECT! Thanks for doing the research and sharing all your knowledge. It explains my recent struggles... well, PERFECTLY!

    2489 days ago
  • TERESA159
    I am so happy that you've seemed to find your answers. Good detective work! Enjoy the cruise and eat so much people wonder how you stay in such good shape. lol
    2489 days ago
    I'm thrilled to hear that binging is a good thing since I ate FOUR no bake cookies today! LOL.

    Seriously, though, thanks for sharing all of this information with us. I will be coming back to read it again. And have a wonderful time on your cruise!
    2489 days ago
    I knew you wouldn't stop until you found out what was wrong with you (at least why you stopped losing regularly, I'm sure there's more wrong than just that! jk).

    So, YOU were one of those kids who wanted to know WHY! I was, too! (And that helped me so much when I was teaching math!) Hooray for your determination! You had so many puzzle pieces missing, and I think you just found them! When you get back from vacay, you will probably be able to start running again, you will have all the NewLeaf info loaded into that Garmin, and your metabolism will be fixed! emoticon I cannot wait!
    2489 days ago
    Amen sister!!!! It should not be this hard when it was so easy in the beginning.

    Like I said on another blog, you should look at becoming a personal trainer or something like that. With all of you experience and knowledge you would be a real asset to anyone you work with :)

    Hope the vacation "resets" you and try not to count calories while there. I agree not to go overboard and I would not weigh in right after you get back (I did last weekend and it was not good but TOM was also here).

    Good luck on the eating. I am really struggling with that. If I had to have a zero deficit day on a workout day I would be eating all day and don't think I could do it eating clean. My saving grace may be that I already had a diet higher in good proteins.

    Thanks for all of the information.

    2489 days ago
    Makes a lot of sense! Girl, just go enjoy yourself on that cruise!!
    2489 days ago
    I completely agree with what you all said. In fact, that's what I used to do - increase exercise and decrease calories because I just wasn't losing. Then I started eating more and the scale started moving. And it's interesting to read about periods because, as you know, the last few months I haven't been eating and exercising like I should and the last few months my period has been exceptionally heavy and miserable. I just got TOM this morning and I was feeling so miserable and I was commenting to my mom how much it has changed these last few months and it makes me wonder if it is because I've taken a break. Otherwise some months when I was heavily exercising and eating less it was really light as if I didn't even notice I had it. Hmmmm....interesting!
    2489 days ago
    I like how you explained this! Have fun on your cruise!
    2489 days ago
    Great blog!!! Lots of great info and you explained it very well!!! Thanks for being such a great friend and sharing this!!! I can totally get it!! Perfect timing for your cruise!!! Enjoy and ear well!!! ;)
    2489 days ago
    Wow... I mean Wow.... That just explains a lot...
    2489 days ago
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