I've been guilty of it and now I realize it was just plain wrong.
Here's the scenario: somebody sends me an e-mail and says, "Jimmy, I'm doing everything exactly as I am supposed to on my low-carb lifestyle and I'm just not losing weight." Okay, the first inclination that most of us, myself included, have is to suggest that person seriously evaluate what they are eating to look for hidden carbs and sugars, reminding them to follow their chosen low-carb plan exactly as the author prescribes, and then to determine if they are doing anything differently since the scale stopped moving downward. This should do the trick.
It certainly sounds like good advice, right? Well, maybe not.
Certainly, there are people who allow some old habits to slip back into their routine again and they experience the dreaded "carb creep" that has haunted many an unsuspecting low-carber as they live this lifestyle over the long-term. It's usually easily remedied simply by bringing your carbohydrate intake back down again to a level where you can still maintain or lose weight. I went through this myself a couple of years ago and it happens. But you get right back on plan again and all is well.
So, let's say you are low-carbing perfectly and yet you are producing no weight loss . Aside from the occasional weight loss stall that can hit anyone at anytime, I have told people that the absence of weight loss while livin' la vida low-carb should make you very suspicious . You just never know what's going on inside your body that could be related to your weight refusing to go down or, worse yet, going up despite being on a low-carb diet . Even when you have that steadfast resolve to make better choices for your health , this can easily befall you.
And I should know. It's exactly what's been going on with me this year and I'm baffled as to why it is happening. As my regular readers are already aware, I started lifting weights for the first time in my life beginning in December 2007 and was excited about getting stronger and firming up areas of my body that were still plagued by loose skin from my 180-pound weight loss . A trainer friend of mine suggested I start taking creatine to supplement my resistance training in the first couple of months to help get me going. He warned me that I'd gain some weight taking it, but that the weight would come back down again after I come off of it.
After loading up for a few days on the creatine, I religiously took that stuff daily for about six weeks. When I started working with my personal trainer in mid-December, my weight was 235 pounds. Six weeks later, I weighed 260 pounds--A 25-POUND INCREASE! Holy cow! My trainer friend sure wasn't kidding when he said I'd gain weight on creatine. It was at this point that I decided to come off of the creatine in early February since that weight gain was sorta freakin' me out a bit. I fully expected the weight to come back down some (but not all since I was building up some good muscles especially in my upper body ).
But it didn't happen and it hasn't happened. In fact, although my diet didn't really change from what I was doing before I started lifting weights (except for maybe a little more protein since I was trying to grow muscle mass), I have been hovering around 265 pounds for nearly four months in a row. It has been so disconcerting to me that I went to see a low-carb doctor earlier this month about it to see what was going on. What was I doing wrong, if anything, and how can we get the weight to come back down again? I was adding muscle to my body, yes, but my waist has also increased by a few inches. What gives?
Of course, when I started sharing about this recent weight gain at my forum and at my menus blog , the typical responses started pouring in from people trying to offer their own guidance about what I should do: you're eating too much food, your calories are way too high, you consume too many low-carb "products," you aren't eating often enough, you don't exercise enough, yadda yadda yadda! I know everyone means well and I sincerely appreciate their suggestions for my diet. But I wasn't convinced I was doing anything at all wrong with my low-carb lifestyle and I still don't. Nevertheless, I'm stuck.
That's why I went to see this low-carb doctor. Perhaps he could pinpoint exactly what's going on with my weight. He ran a series of tests on me, examined my dietary choices, looked at the supplements I am taking, and asked me about any changes I have made since the weight gain took place. I told him about the weight lifting and adding more protein to my diet. I also switched brands of fish oil since then as well as adding cinnamon to my daily vitamins.
His proposal for me was to put me back on a very strict Induction diet for two weeks and to cut out all of my supplements as a temporary measure of seeing if they are the reason for my inability to lose these 30 pounds. Additionally, I reduced my diet soda consumption voluntarily to make sure that wasn't a culprit as well. The two-week Induction period began on May 7th and ends today. Wanna know the grand total of the amount of weight loss I've experienced since cutting out all the low-carb "Frankenfoods" (which have never been a MAJOR part of my diet, just some chocolate and the occasional treat), eating strictly low-carb Induction for the past two weeks, and never wavering or cheating at all during that time? Zip, zero, nada! That's right--NOTHING!
And, in case you are wondering what I ate these past two weeks, see for yourself:
May 7, 2008
May 8, 2008
May 9, 2008
May 10, 2008
May 11, 2008
May 12, 2008
May 13, 2008
May 14, 2008
May 15, 2008
May 16, 2008
May 17, 2008
May 18, 2008
May 19, 2008
My diet could not have been more perfect following strict Atkins Induction. I did it even more strict this time around than I did in 2004 when I lost my weight the first time. I checked my ketosis levels using Ketostix every single day and I was DEFINITELY excreting ketone bodies. My carbohydrate intake remained at or below 20g daily and I basically did everything exactly right. I didn't even have any one bite of my low-carb chocolates during this time which was a BIG sacrifice for me. The net result of this effort was NO weight loss. COME ON!!!
It's at this point that most people would be ready to just throw their hands up and give up on this stupid low-carb diet thing. I mean, you follow it like you are supposed to and this is the reward you get for that dedication?! AAACK! But I'm not looking at it that way. The way I see it, even if for some odd reason the weight NEVER comes back down again (I know it will, but let's just pretend it won't), the low-carb way of eating is so incredibly healthy that I wouldn't dare think of eating any other way.
Remember, even if the scale isn't moving, your healthy is still improving. I'll be sharing some exciting numbers with you about my health soon that will both shock and inspire you as you continue down this journey to better health the low-carb way. Even my low-carb doctor was amazed at my numbers, but he said I am exactly where I need to be to keep my risk factors for cardiovascular disease at bay. That's a sweet sound to hear especially in light of my weight concerns! :)
So what now? Beginning this afternoon at 6pm, I will begin something that I swore I'd never do again--the intermittent fast . If for some reason I am consuming too many calories even on my low-carb lifestyle as some have proposed, then this should do the trick. The last time I did it, I lost 4 1/2 pounds in a week although I hated it. But if we can get those few stubborn pounds to start moving again, then it'll be worth it. I'm ready to figure out what's going on and I'm certainly doing everything I can in my diet to make that happen.
My doctor says there may even be a non-diet related reason for my weight gain which intrigued me. Yes, some of the weight is indeed muscle as my biceps, triceps, shoulders, neck, chest and legs are all noticeably bigger now five months after beginning my weight lifting, the fact my stomach has gotten bigger is the greatest concern. There may be an underlying internal issue going on that could be the culprit in my abdominal weight gain.
Even before my low-carb lifestyle began in 2004, I have had trace amounts of blood in my urine during routine physical exams. I've been to see a urologist before, they've performed an IVP (shooting dye through me) as well as a very expensive 30-second cystoscopy test only to be told there is nothing wrong with me, and to take an antibiotic. After I take the antibodies, the blood goes away for about six months and then it comes back. When I go back to the urologist, they want to do another IVP and cystocopy followed by antibiotics again. UGH! Obviously, something is going on, but heretofore nobody can tell me what it is.
That blood in my urine may indeed be the reason why my weight is increasing. I'm aware of two other prominent low-carbers who have been through similar strange and unexpected weight gains over the past couple of years. I won't share their names because of privacy concerns, but one gained about 50 pounds and ended up eating just chicken and pickles for a year trying to get the weight back down again. It turns out, there was a cyst pressing up against the pancreas causing constant insulin to be released. And we know what that does! Since the cyst has been removed, the weight has come back down again in short order.
The other person had another strange issue with the development of a fibroid in the stomach. Although the body was normal elsewhere, this person's belly was protruding out. When the doctors found the fibroid, this person was relieved that nothing was seriously wrong. Of course, the naysayers pointed to this well-known low-carber and claimed that they can't seem to follow their own advice. You get that when you put yourself out there, so you learn to ignore it. This person now faces a pretty major surgery to remove the fibroid and is putting it off until the end of the year.
And that's the other issue with all that's going on with my weight right now. I've become more self-conscious about how I look again. Are people looking at me judging that I must be letting myself go again since I've gained weight? Do people nervously say to my face that they're happy to see I'm still keeping the weight off after all these years while simultaneously thinking, "Oh boy, here he goes gaining it all back again! I knew it would happen eventually!" These psychological games are virtually impossible to ignore, although I'm trying very hard to do just that--IGNORE THEM! It just adds another layer to this developing story.
What exactly is happening to me right now, I don't know. I wish I did so I could help others going through similar circumstances. We're getting closer to knowing than we did before and that's a good thing. Rest assured you will know when I know and I covet your thoughts and prayers as we try to figure this all out. I'm not worried at all because I know I have a plan of action that will put me in position to lose the weight I've put on since December.
I am very pleased that my weight has NOT increased since February. I've been right around 265 for the past three months although my muscles continue to get bigger and bigger. So, in essence, I have been losing some weight while gaining the muscle, but it has been offset. That's encouraging and I wouldn't mind seeing my muscles continue to grow in size as long as my weight remains where it is. A 6'3" man with big muscles could easily weigh 265 pounds, right? :D
Let this be a gentle reminder that low-carb living is always a work in progress and we should assume anything about anyone who is following this lifestyle. There are just too many underlying issues at work to make judgments about someone who is not losing weight while following low-carb. Yes, some are preventable...but others like me are not. This has opened my eyes to a new level of appreciation and compassion for anyone who is struggling with their weight and health and concerned about what to do. You are NOT alone.
THANK YOU again to everyone who has offered advice and support during this time and I will report back to you my progress on my intermittent fasting experiment for the next two weeks. It certainly can't be worse than what I've experienced the past two weeks on strict Atkins Induction. You can see what I'm eating at my menus blog and provide your continued feedback. I will likely add back in some low-carb chocolate again on the days I'm not fasting and staying low-carb the rest of the time. Let's see what happens!