Losing 20 Pounds in 30 Days: Part 3 — Earliest Indicators of Weight Gain to Come: Diet & Exercise Add Weight
Continued from Losing 20 Pounds in 30 Days: Part 2 — Earliest Indicators of Weight Gain to Come: Intense Hunger
In the previous article, I talked about how I went through episodes of intense hunger, a side effect of a drop in my blood sugar that sent me into a food-focused ravenous mindset where getting to eat again became more important than the subject of the meetings I sat through. This article focuses on the second clue I had that something wasn’t quite right.
2. WTF? Diets and exercise have the opposite effect?
The second big clue that something was amiss came from unexpected results of a doctor-approved diet and frequent exercise. The unexpected result? Weight GAIN.
I’ll be honest–I haven’t always eaten “right” or “well.” I have been eating far healthier in my 40’s than I ever did in my 20’s, for example, and definitely healthier than I ate as a child. I’ve not always been athletic either, but since my late 20’s, I’ve been a regular exerciser and at times a real gym rat. I was in the best shape of my life in my early 30’s (see pic). I had two little girls, a high-stress career, and a regular workout schedule, 3 times a week, weights for 30 minutes. I was 113 pounds and rrrrrrrripped. That was a couple of years before I had a back injury that sidelined my gym work for years and before I headed off to an assignment where I sat in 9-hour meetings without food breaks.
My then-husband never hit the gym and ate whatever he wanted while I, like many women of my age, struggled to be the perfect Superwoman. I got little to no support for my diet or exercise regimen because it just wasn’t something that mattered to him at the time. And frankly, I think he preferred I be a little overweight to keep the guys from paying me too much attention…even though I was far too busy in those days to notice other men’s attentions. I would forgo a dessert with dinner or a glass of wine and he would take it personally that I didnt’ want to enjoy those things with him, not understanding that I was concerned if I gained 5 pounds. Like a lot of husbands tend to do to their wives, he often seemed to sabotage my attempts with too many sugary temptations.
Then, in my late 30’s, everything changed. I still remember going home from work early to plant herbs in my garden and sitting there praying that my husband would be more supportive of my attempts to eat healthy foods and maybe even go to the gym or take up fencing with me. Then a miracle happened: he came home from a doctor’s appointment and joined me in the back yard where he announced that he was turning over a new leaf–a new diet from his doctor and regular forays into team sports.
His metabolism was very different from mine, and so were–looking back–his food needs. The diet his doctor put him on became the diet for the entire family: low protein, low to no fat, and high carb. That was also the prevailing “healthy” diet of that time. Low-fat and no-fat products were all over the grocery stores…except that they were extremely high in carbs. For the next year, he changed his diet and exercise routines and lost 30 pounds. For that year, I changed only my diet to match his–and I gained 30 pounds. For him, the fats were a huge issue. For me, it was the carbs.
Working a little harder at the gym didn’t budge the weight, either. One night, my husband and I went for our usual 1-hour powerwalk (powerwalk for me, a breeze for a tall guy!) and I complained to him that for the first time in my life, I couldn’t manage my weight. It had been a year and all I could do was continue to gain so I needed to change what I was eating. His response was identical to what my doctor had said as well as other people who really didn’t know what I did in my daily life: “You just need to exercise more!” I was exasperated. More? I was taking a 1-hour powerwalk every evening and spending 1.5 hours in the gym 3-5 days a week. More?
When I defied him and my doctor to try a different diet, I started dropping weight, immediately. Initially, I had to defend my food choices almost every day, but within a few months, it was obvious that a low-carb diet was producing results. I stuck to it for almost a year before my diet became a casualty of my divorce. Big mistake on my part.
Since then, I’ve kept a steady exercise regimen and eaten mostly clean, with a few cheat days, and eaten around 1500 calories a day. But not a lot has changed. When I started P90X, I became a very strong, durable machine over the next 3 months, but not a lean machine. I gained lots of muscle, flexibility, endurance, stamina–which had been my goals…but I lost only a few pounds. Even the current man in my life, who is a very supportive friend and health nut, believed that more exercise was the simplest answer to my quest. When I doubled up, adding an hour of cardio 6 days a week to an already strenuous P90X of 1 to 1.5 hours a day, 6 days a week, I actually gained weight. Fat, not muscle. Okay, big clue that something wasn’t right.
So using the WTF-am-I-gaining-weight-while-exercising-like-a-mad-woman-and-eating-clean indicator, I decided to visit my current family doctor and ask him to run a few tests.
It took less than 5 minutes for me to decide to fire that doctor.