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Breaking The Low Carb Alcohol Stall - Week Two Report

Posted Sep 29 2008 5:54pm

Here are the basic details of my second week without drinking during this grand experiment  in my 11th week of induction:

Monday, March 10, 2008
5:30am - no color on ketostick; 218.6 lbs (0.2 lb loss), 34.5%BF (body fat), 47.0%BW (body water)
     Very odd; second day in a row with no color on the stick.  Had less than 13 net grams of carbs yesterday, so what gives?  Have to assume for the time being that I am still in ketosis but am burning my ketones so completely that there aren’t enough left over in my urine to color the stick.  And what’s with the body fat increase lately?  The more I lose, the “fatter” I get, according to the Tanita.  On the other hand, I hadn’t taken in as much water over the weekend as I typically do during the week.  Every time my body water reading goes down, my body fat reading goes up, and vice versa.  If I’m lowering my hydration as the scale indicates I am, and the lean muscle and bone masses aren’t changing, wouldn’t that necessarily require that the other side of the equation (body fat) balance it out?  
     20.5 net grams of carbs and 1923 calories for the day.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008
6:00am - trace ketostick; 219.2 lbs (0.6 lb gain), 33.0%BF, 47.5%BW
     Some sawtoothing has to be expected.  (Doesn’t it?)
     16.2 net grams of carbs and 1780 calories (even with chocolate ricotta dessert!)

Wednesday, March 12, 2008
5:00am - no color on ketostick; 219.8 lbs (0.6 lb gain), 32.5%BF, 48%BW
     My brain is saying, “Here we go again,” and expecting tomorrow’s reading to be back in the 220’s for some reason.  What reason?  I don’t know.  What do you do when you run out of reasons?  Way under 20 net grams of carbs but no color on stick.  Under 2000 daily calories but not too much under, yet gaining weight.  It’s like in The Blair Witch Project where they kept going in the same direction according to the map and the compass day after day after day, yet they kept winding up going in circles.  Maybe I should call this The Blair Weight Project.
    11.3 net grams of carbs and 2588 calories

Thursday, March 13, 2008
6:05am - no color on ketostick; 219.2 lbs (0.6 lb loss), 32.5%BF, 48%BW
     I was chanting internally as I approached the Tanita, “222.2, 222.2.”  It would have disgusted me, but certainly wouldn’t have shocked me.  Losing shocked me.  Why is that?  All my expectations have been of loss, maybe not rapid loss, but consistent loss.  Everything I’ve been reading has pointed to this fact as inevitable.  I really am expecting too much too soon.  I’m currently 3.8 pounds less than I was at the beginning of the experiment, that’s in less than 2 weeks, so why am I complaining?
    19.5 net grams of carbs and 2285 calories

Friday, March 14, 2008
6:00am - no color on ketostick; 219.8 lbs (0.6 lb gain), 31.5%BF, 48.5%BW
     Yawn.  As I was saying… historically speaking, there had often been periods of stabilization before I start losing more weight, so I’m just going to have to ride this out and hope it stays as insignificant as it has been the past few days.  The other odd thing, beside no color on the ketosticks, is that I have cut through my old graph line six times, count ‘em, six, in just this one week.  Back in 2003, I’d started a plateau about a week previous in time, so I’m hovering around the same weight I was then.  That old plateau stretches out to beyond the end of the month, so I’m anxious to break through and drop below, for good.
    19.7 net grams of carbs and 2350 calories

Saturday, March 15, 2008
5:30am - no ketone check; 219.6 lbs (0.2 lb loss), 31.0%BF, 48.5%BW
     This appears to have broken the “streak.”  The past two weekends, I’ve had a pound-plus loss on Saturday morning followed by an even larger loss on Sunday (last Sunday it was 2.4 pounds).  The trend I’m noticing, though, is the body fat reading.  It had been bouncing around before, up and down a point or two, but since Monday it’s been on a steady decline from 34.5% to 31.0% today.  Meaningful?  Maybe.  And maybe tomorrow it’ll shoot up to 35% for some reason.  Crazy carbon-based lifeforms!
     I’m going to drift off here a little to a related item.  I was just looking at my weight chart and graph and remembering how my old scale was off eight pounds.  Right now, I feel like I have this huge road ahead of me and I haven’t been making much progress in the last 11 weeks.  I’m a hair under 220 after having lost just over 10 pounds.  So why do I believe I would have felt better on the old scale?  At this time, that scale would be telling me I’m 211.6 pounds.  I liked being 211; it just seemed like 200 was so much easier to get to since it was only ten pounds or so away.  Now it’s 20 pounds away and with the way things have been going since week 3, it feels like it may as well be 50 pounds away.  My original Atkins loss was about 30 pounds, and I maintained around 200, or so I thought.  I was really maintaining around 208, and if I’d known that, would I have worked harder to lose another ten?  Why is 200 such an important number to me?  If anything, I should be 175 or less according to standard weight charts.  The only time I got that low was following a 500 calorie diet in the late 1970’s.  I was never that thin before.  People told me I looked downright sickly.  When I started to regain the weight, I was told I looked great at 185.  Even 190 was good.  And that’s another 10 pounds beyond 200.  Good thing this is a lifestyle and not a diet; if it was a diet, there would be some sort of end in sight, like there was on the 500 calorie diet, and look how that turned out.
     And now for tonight’s World’s Dumbest Low Carb Blunders report.  We were planning to have tacos for dinner and I’d had enough carbs during the day that I had to keep deducting elements of the upcoming dinner to make up for it; first the onion, then the salsa, then the lettuce.  I was down to a small low carb tortilla with guacamole, sour cream, cheddar cheese and taco meat, and that was going to be it for the evening.  Mrs. Megamas had hers as a salad in what I thought was the last remaining taco bowl shell I’d bought in December.  As I finished my meager soft taco, I went to get some more meat and cheese, and added some more guacamole and sour cream since they’re low carb too.  Here comes the stupid part, and I can’t believe I did this after all my talk about difficulty getting to goals and replying to the post about mistakes that goof you up on low carb.  There was a broken taco bowl left in the box, so I ate that as big taco chips to go with the rest of it.  And then, after I was done, I read the nutrition panel: serving size, 1 shell; calories, 180; total carbs, 23 grams; fiber, 4 grams.  So I had almost my daily limit of net carbs in that one single shell.  Did it taste good?  It was tolerable.  Was it worth it?  Absolutely NOT.  So I can sit here and punish myself mentally or I can accept that I did some stupid thing, one stupid thing, and move on. 
     41.6 net grams of carbs (I’m going to Atkins hell) and 2734 calories
     If I don’t weigh more tomorrow, there’s something not quite right in our section of the western spiral arm of the galaxy.

Sunday, March 16, 2008
5:15am - no color on ketostick; 220.2 lbs (0.6 lb gain), 31.5%BF, 48.5%BW
     Aaah, all is well here in the carbohydrate-reduced Milky Way.  The piper has been paid.  Today I will Atone because there is No Carbland For Old Men.  There Will Be Fat, however.  (Sorry if those sounded like something from the Oscarbs.)
     20.1 net grams of carbs and 1585 calories

Monday, March 17, 2008 (Happy St. Paddy’s Day!)
4:45am - no color on ketostick; 220.2 lbs (no change), 32.0%BF, 48.0%BW

That’s the end of week two off alcohol.  To recap, I started (re)induction Jan 2 following the rules to the letter; two weeks into it, I resumed my routine use of alcohol and, during the third week, the weight loss stopped after 8.5 pounds.  For the next six week period, during which other odd things were going on physiologically, my weight increased, decreased, and increased again, from 221 to 225 pounds in a wildly varying sawtooth pattern.  In week ten, I began this experiment of abstinence. 

During the experiment, the first week showed a dramatic net loss, 4.4 pounds.  I lost weight after consuming between 1421 and 2032 calories the day before, and I gained weight after taking in more than 2200 calories the prior day.  The second week, however, seemed to flip that pattern 180 degrees and turned the graph line in a basically upward trend again.  I showed a net gain of 1.6 pounds for the week, gaining the days after eating less than 2065 calories, and losing the days following consumption of  more than 2350 calories.  (The only day not consistent with this was Bonehead Error Saturday.)  Through the two week period (except the last Saturday), daily net carbs ranged between 11 and 22, averaging 16.7, but I cannot see any recognizable pattern in weight fluctuation with regard to this factor.

So what’s my analysis?  I don’t have one yet.  If the purpose of the experiment was to test whether cessation of alcohol consumption would indeed break a “stall” in weight loss, then I would say it indicated positively.  As to whether cessation of alcohol produces a change in the trend to lose weight over a period of time with all other factors being the same, I think two weeks is not a sufficient time-frame in which to measure this.  The aniticipated association of caloric decrease due to a decrease in alcohol intake does not seem to be a factor because I appear to have replaced those calories with other sources, for example, an increased consumption of hard cheeses and Italian deli meats.  If anything, I would assume I’ve increased the fat content of my diet in the last two weeks. 

I’m confused by the change in the second week, both in how the trends reversed and that I’m not showing color on the ketosticks.  If, as I’ve read elsewhere, I must be in ketosis due to severely restricted carb intake, regardless of the test strip indication, am I actually using the manufactured ketones that efficiently?  Have I increased my dietary fat content to the point that I’ve curtailed my need to draw fat from my adipose depots for fuel, and hence the change in weight management trends?  How does this correlate with the studies mentioned in Good Calories, Bad Calories, where subjects continued to lose weight no matter how many calories of fat were added to the diet as long as carbohydrates were severely limited? 

This all begs a third week of testing with a minor change: I’m going to abstain from high fat cured deli meats this week.  I do recall reading somewhere, possibly in other low carber’s comments, possibly in low carb plan advisements, to avoid eating a lot of processed meats like salami and sausage.  Let the new week begin, and I’ll report back next Monday.

Filed under: Atkins, Induction, Megamas, Mindset, Personal Journal, Starting on Low Carb, drink, general health | Tagged: alcohol, Atkins, body fat, insulin, ketosis, low carb, weight loss

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