After spending almost 4/5 of my life overweight or obese, I must admit that I STILL don't understand the mechanics of weight loss.
After seeing people rave about them, I finally broke down and bought a Fitbit . I'm not a big gadget chick, and this one is pretty pricey, but I'm at the point that I really need to pay closer attention to what I'm eating and how much activity I'm doing. So, I bought one.
This puppy is awesome. I can link it to myfitnesspal.com , and whenever I get within 15 feet of my computer, the Fitbit uploads its data to a dashboard. It also synchs with myfitnesspal, so that my food intake is logged. (It also logs how much sleep I'm getting. Pretty cool.)
Anyway, yesterday was a strange, crappy day, and I still suffer occasionally from a common weakness.You know the one. "I've had a ________ day, so I'm going to have _______." Fill in the first blank with any adjective you'd like, and the second with the crutch of your choice: Booze, chocolate, ice cream, etc. (Why isn't it ever exercise?) For me, it's usually carbishness. Crunchy carbishness. I got home, planted my butt in front of the TV, and ate an entire bag of sweet potato-flavored Popchips (3 oz., 360 calories, 60 grams of carb). I also polished off the last bit of Blue Bunny Sugar-free Banana Split ice cream . Then, I had fresh blueberries with some half and half. Granted, earlier in the day, my calorie/carb intake was low. But this morning, on my trusty Weight Watchers digital scale, courtesy of Costco, I weighed in at...wait for it...(or is that "weight" for it?)...166.6, a drop of almost half a pound. WTFoof? How could that be possible? Then it hit me. I don't eat enough.
Ah, I just heard some of you laugh. According to the ubiquitous Body Mass Index (BMI) charts , I have a BMI of 26, which still puts me in the "overweight" category. How can an overweight broad be accused of not eating enough? It's simple. It takes fuel to burn fuel. But it takes the right type of fuel.
One of my all-time favorite short stories is To Build a Fire, by Jack London. A young know-it-all, against the wise advice of those in the know, tries to travel by foot in the Yukon, with the temperature about 70 degrees below zero. In the course of his terminal mistake, he finally gets a fire going. But he builds it in the wrong place. Under a snow-covered evergreen, at a pivotal moment, a load of snow dumps on him and his fire, sealing his fate.
Low-carbers already burn fat by virtue of that's what we give our bodies as fuel. This is a good thing. As the brain needs glucose, its favorite fuel, the liver makes glucose on demand. The body and heart hum along on ketone bodies (by-products of fat-burning), the brain smiles as it gulps glucose, and all's right with the world. But two things can happen.
One, a massive sugar binge is like that boat-load of snow. It puts out the metabolic fire, sending the body into a type of shock. Fat-burning stops, fat-storage begins, blood sugar becomes unstable, dementia-causing glucose levels rise and affect the brain, the pancreas gets cranky ("you won't like me when I'm cranky"), blood vessels become inflamed so that plaques start forming, blood pressure goes up, HDL plummets, LDL and triglycerides rise, and sugar cravings hit like a tidal wave. Those cravings start the tsunami all over again, only making the aforementioned results even worse.
Or, we can eat less than we need to function. A man freezing to death is going to need a fire bigger than one that he could build with one or two sticks. So what happens? The tiny fire stops putting out flames, and banks its embers, waiting for the next log to be added to the fire. While it's waiting, it's not actively burning. This is what causes many weight-loss plateaus. We aren't eating enough to keep the fire burning.
This is very counter-intuitive for the overweight/obese person. We've been criticized all our lives about how much we eat. People watch us in restaurants, and make fun of us whenever they have an opportunity. But the truth is, if we eat too much of the bad fuel (sugar/carb), or not enough of the good fuel (fat/protein), we're not going to end up where we want to be: Healthy, slim, moving easily, buying clothing off the rack, and liking what we see in the mirror, instead of calling ourselves names under our breath every morning.
I don't lose weight unless I eat. Up to the Popchips episode, I was eating about 900 calories a day, and the scale went back and forth between 167 and 169. Like Tigger, I bounced up and down between those two weights. Last night, my calorie intake was closer to 1500. I finally went below 167 pounds. Yes, I work out, but not like a crazy person. I have a desk (sedentary) job. As I said at the beginning of this entry, it all seems to go against what we've been told all of our lives: Just push away from the table, Fatso!
Weight loss is like rock climbing: Inch by inch, find a handhold, slip, get the foot into that space, pull up, and, eventually, hopefully, get to where I'm going without giving up. My Fitbit and I are moving slowly up that rock face. Just don't look down.