Whether or not it’s an easy thing to do, the generally accepted theory of weight loss is that the calculations are simple: eat less than you burn and you’ll lose. Calories in vs calories out and all that jazz. While actual numbers are disputed, you commonly find the equation of 3500 calories = one pound, so to lose one pound per week, you want a deficit of 500 calories per day. A simple equation that is often difficult to follow through due to many factors (often attributed to personal willpower). Setting aside that the whole willpower argument is complete bunk and that hormones, quality of food, and many other factors will influence how well a person can maintain a deficit, the equation is equally bunk. At least for some of us.
My weight loss journey began in 2009 but didn’t really get started until 2011. Something clicked that year. At first I fumbled around while still managing a little loss, and then I stumbled onto Sparkpeople and calorie ranges. I began counting calories for the first time in my life. (Well, except for counting “points” like on Weight Watchers.) For months, the equations and calculations all worked. I was never a fast loser, but I dropped 4-6 lbs per month for the first 8-9 months of 2011. Then I hit a wall.
Two things happened around that time. One of my stupid feet started acting up constantly, so my body began to deal with injury. I also developed severe insomnia. It’s impossible to say if either of these factors or if something else entirely caused my wall. But all of a sudden, despite continuing with deficits and healthy eating and the same amount/kind of exercise, my weight loss cut in half. My loss slowed to 2-3 lbs per month. (Note that this wasn’t because I’d dropped weight and so my deficits were suddenly less than before. My daily burn had been consistently updated to reflect my new weight.) This slow loss persisted for well over another year and another 40 lbs, until I hit the 100 lbs lost line. Then I hit another wall, and bam, no more weight loss, period.
Some might think that I’d hit my body’s ideal weight, but the truth was, by BMI scales, I was still overweight. Not by much, and I had enough muscle mass that I don’t really think I was overweight. But I still had a good 30% body fat. I was not overly thin. None of that mattered, though. I started tracking data very carefully, and while I was logging a weekly calorie deficit of 2500-4000, I could only maintain. I experimented – maybe I was eating too much and needed a push to get my body going, or maybe I was eating too little. When I ate less for a few weeks in a row, I gained weight. When I ate more for a few weeks, I maintained. My body simply said nope, not going to budge no matter what you do to me!
Fast forward to today. It’s been 3.5 years since back then, and I currently weigh 70 lbs more than I did then. I’m well back into the range of weight where I was losing easily. But my body hasn’t changed the way it reacts to calorie deficits. I’ve been trying to go slow, very very slow, and I’ve kept careful track for the last few months. In October and November, I had a total deficit equaling about 5 lbs of weight loss. You know how much I’ve lost? Nothing. I keep fluctuating within the same three pounds I’ve been at for the last nine months. I’d have to be off in my calculations by 300 calories per day – every day for two months – in order to explain the lack of change, and I know that’s wrong. I’m very, very good at tracking when I actually do it. Obviously, this calories in vs calories out thing just doesn’t work for my body.
So I’m back to the drawing board. I’m taking this data to my doctor (I think next week?) to see what he says. Maybe he can figure out what’s wrong or what needs to change in order to get me to lose. Honestly, I can imagine that there won’t be much – this is how PCOS works. But I’m not willing to give up. I’ll have to find some way to eat better for my body, and feel better when I eat.