A month ago, I increased the percentage of carbohydrates in my diet, and the results have been fantastic. And as I mentioned, I gained some glycogen weight because my body could finally replenish its stores. I also gained a pound from some overindulgence over the last month, as I got used to this new way of eating and began to experiment with different things. One of the big things I’ve learned is that I need to question every single thing my body has done for the last seven years. For example, in all these years, any alcohol consumption (even a single small glass of wine) would lead to a 3-4 pound increase on the scale that wouldn’t go away until I had no alcohol for several weeks. I would also become ravenously hungry for carbs. Not for junk food, just for carb-heavy foods like rice or pasta. Now, neither of those symptoms appear. No carb-cravings while I drink alcohol, no bump on the scale unless I also overeat (and those bumps don’t take weeks to disappear). In this situation – and others – it feels like my body is finally responding normally to food and drink. Which leads me to question my body’s non-response to the calories-in-vs-calories-out theory.
Back when I first started counting calories, after discovering Sparkpeople in February 2011, I lost weight evenly and according to my particular calorie deficit, set to lose a pound per week. I discovered quickly that my body won’t lose faster than that, and if I cut my calories further, I’d hold onto weight or even gain. But a pound per week is a very reasonable rate of weight loss, and I was fine with that. When my insomnia appeared nine months later, the rate of loss slowed, but I was still losing at about 75% of what my calorie tracker said I should be losing. Lack of sleep IS a contributing factor in not losing, so it made sense. The loss only dropped to ridiculous levels after the two months where I was lowering my carbs (March and April 2012). I was so close to my goal weight at that point – only 15-20 lbs off – that people said it was because I didn’t have much to lose. However, I was barely out of the obese range, so that definitely wasn’t the case. The scale crawled and crawled and crawled, and I finally hit my goal in Feb 2013, but then I came to a full stop. In May 2013, I spent four weeks religiously counting every single calorie (including weighing all my food to the gram) and tracked it all publicly each day, as an experiment. In those four weeks, I had a calorie deficit of 3000-4000 each week, and my weight stayed the same. As any of my longtime readers will know, that is a trend that has continued to this day.
But. What if it’s different now? What if the reason calories weren’t a factor before was that my body was clinging to every ounce of nutrients it could get? My doctor has suggested that the reason other people can do well on low-carb diets is that their bodies adapt to using other sources of energy, and mine doesn’t. (Probably because of the way I was fed growing up, and the way I ate while I was a competitive swimmer doing 12+ hours of exercise each week.) Maybe now that my body has a proper source of nutrition again, I can rely on calorie-counting to help me lose weight and get healthy. I mean, for the last month, I’ve been eating far more than I used to (not just more carbs, but more food generally), and I’ve been maintaining. If I’d eaten this quantity in January or February, I would have gained ten pounds!
Which means it’s experiment time! First, I have to let go of seven years’ worth of preconceptions and decide to trust both my calorie trackers and my body’s hunger cues. I need to start 100% from scratch. Second, I need to finish my current steroid treatment, since the steroid causes me to lose several pounds of water. When I took the same treatment in Feb, I gained the weight right back after it was done, and I don’t know what will happen this time. I’ll be done with the current treatment on Monday, and I’ll need the rest of that week to let my post-steroid weight stabilize. Then on Sunday – yes, Easter Sunday – I’ll start counting again. And we’ll see how my body reacts. Perhaps I can pick up where I left off so many years ago.