I have observed the last few months that I can eat really well, and I'm not losing weight. Or when I do, it's a very small amount over a rather long period of time. I can eat badly, and gain water weight, or actually lose weight on the scale, which is unintuitive, seems quite unfair, is even maddening. Long-term, yes, eating too many carbs drives my weight up, through the water/glycol storage if nothing else. But short term, it often drops the weight several pounds. Maybe because less protein means degraded LBM? God only knows. I can only tell you that the scale does not seem to adequately reflect my eating behavior in the short term. This is the case for other people I know who are about the same size as me, coming from a similar high weight as me.
And for the long term, eating badly will see the numbers rise, but eating well is not seeing them fall. Low calorie. High calorie. Moderate calorie. Low carb. High carb. Moderate carb. Vegetables. No vegetables. High fat. Low fat. With Gluten. Without it. With dairy. Without it. I admit I have not obsessively pursued every one of these, but there should be some vicarious experience here: I have friends online who have pursued many things I haven't, are about the same size with the same history, and facing the same issues.
Now, as a friend recently pointed out, lowcarb has its own near-religious devotion. People will insist that since lowcarb is The Answer™, surely you must be doing something "wrong". You must be having too many carbs... too many calories... you should be doing Intermittant Fasting (IF)... you should be doing High-Fat... you should be doing Low-Fat... you should be adding in Coconut Oil... you should be avoiding dairy... the list goes on.
When I see someone suggest that gosh, maybe "carbs are creeping," I swear I want to punch them in the head. What kind of arrogant denial-of-my-reality crap is that? Put this in the category of "you're fat so you must be retarded." YES it's one of MANY possibilities for people not paying attention, but if I were not paying attention to what the hell I was eating, why would I be complaining that I'm living on X or Z and not losing weight? Or not at any speed that verges on 'reasonable' given the levels of restriction on food intake?
I think this is denying reality. The reality is that there is not much research on morbidly obese people who lose weight via lowcarb. We don't actually KNOW what is "supposed" to happen, what can, what should, what will, or what factors might affect bodies with this history much moreso than bodies which have had "lesser degrees" of it.
It is entirely possible that peoples' bodies vary in terms of what amount of weight they are willing to lose -- or at what rate, with what 'rest for homeostasis' periods in between -- just like metabolism varies. And it is entirely possible that when you start out 500 pounds, you are never going to be thin. BUT: most of us already accept this. "Maybe I'll never be thin again," but most of us do NOT accept that the weight we WILL be, will be 350 pounds. I mean that sounds completely unreasonable right? How could that possibly be a 'proper' weight?
Surely if you just did X, or Y, or Z, the weight would come off until some number we "like better" arrives, e.g., ok maybe you'll never be thin but you might be 30-40 lbs above your ideal weight. What if that is Just. Not. True. ?? What if the body EVER getting to 500# means that it is going to willingly go to around 350-380 and then "sit there" in homeostasis for eons, no matter WHAT you do, and then gradually get a LITTLE bit lower later? What if 300# is your 'thin weight'?
My point is, nobody knows! We act like it's a known, but it's not. There just isn't really research on this stuff. Most the people who've lost "a lot" of weight have lost like 100-150#. We know people can do this and at the end of that be a 'reasonable' weight, but they still have a lot of issues related to their former obesity, from vastly lower metabolism, lower leptin levels, higher hunger compared to people the same weight, need to eat fewer calories to stay the same weight as other people who didn't used to be fat, and so on.
Well, me and friends have lost that much weight, but some of us at the other end of that are still fat. And the 'additional' weight, unlike the first 100-150 lbs, is simply not coming off in any mathematically reasonable way. Not that any of it is mathematically reasonable--because metabolism is chemistry, not math--but it's really quite unreasonable according to our belief systems.
In a previous blog post I quoted Dr. Jeffrey M. Friedman, head of the Laboratory of Molecular Genetics at Rockefeller University. Here's a couple of 'reminder' quotes:
So let me put a finer point on this. Imagine you’re 250 pounds. and you lose 100 lbs. to 150 lbs. Now you ask how many calories does that person burn compared to someone who started out at 150 pounds.They burn like 300 or 400 calories fewer per day when they’re at that reduced weight. Now think about it. That person is hungry and now can only eat fewer calories than the equal weight person to maintain that weight, despite the fact that they weigh the same amount.
Dr. Jeffrey Friedman (regarding post-weight loss surgery): …there’s another feature of this surgery that people, I think, ignore, and it’s this: when you do this procedure you limit the intake of a person to about 700 calories a day. Just so you know, none of you could consume 700 calories a day for very long; it is a very small number of calories. Despite that fact, these people still end up being clinically obese at the other end of the procedure. They lose a lot of weight but they would still on average be definable as significantly obese on average after the procedure.
Now think about it, they’re eating 700 calories a day and they’re still obese. I mean if that doesn’t say that there’s something metabolically different about the obese than the lean, I don’t know what does.
Maybe the reality is that I need to live on green veggies and meat and nothing else for about 3 months, for every 1-5 lbs of weight I want to lose. Maybe this is just the way it is. Do I want to lose 1-5 lbs? Sure. Do I think that losing 12-60# in a year would still be worth it? I sure do. Do I think that I can live on an insanely restrictive eating plan for the next several years in the hope that I might someday, and this even assumes the current trend doesn't get worse, I might someday get somewhere NEAR a normal weight? Or maybe only get 100# lower, which would be awesome, but I'd still be morbidly obese?
I'm not sure. In all honesty, I am not sure. I am sure that I can eat generally low-carb -- if we consider ~100 or less carbs a day to be lowcarb, no problem. I can eat gluten-free, that's a bigger problem but do-able. I can avoid junkfood, processed foods, for the most part, that's not that big a deal. But I am not sure that I can avoid every molecule of less than perfect food forever while "waiting for" my body to decide to lose a little more weight.
It is ticking me off that when I eat well, the scale isn't really moving. One reason is because some people look at me as an example, since I'm a blogger so in public. They might be obese too, and see my success so far with weight loss as inspiration. So what the hell do I say now? Why have I stayed in the 350-380 zone (varying) for so long? Why does eating well not seem to drop my weight? When I began lowcarb, even accounting for water/glycol loss, merely keeping my carbs fairly low resulted in super rapid weight loss. Now it seems like very little works to bring about weight loss at ANY speed let alone 'rapidly'.
Now as a caveat to all this I will make one admission: I have not eaten, for "the long term" (meaning a solid 40+ days), according to the "nutritionally complete" eating plan that Regina Wilshire would recommend. In other words I have not gone greatly out of my way to get every vitamin and mineral and nutrient that the body probably thinks it needs, as part of my eating plan. It IS possible that the body is refusing to lose weight that it might agree to, with a more nutritionally complete eating plan.
So far, I have simply been incompetent on this issue. My eating habits have changed so radically the last two years it's absolutely amazing. I eat better than most of planet earth, most of the time anyway. I am on the verge of being a 'whole foods' person (not raw, not vegetarian, but not processed either), with a couple of condiment/sauce exceptions. I eat fewer carbs AND calories than people 1/3 my size. I don't lose weight.
If I up my calories and make SURE I am getting at least 2000 per day, I may lose weight verrrrrrrrry slowly. If I up my protein, I can stay with that. If my protein is not at least 100+g per day, I will eventually be driven by biology to eat higher carbs because my body isn't getting enough protein/amino. So that makes eating ~120g protein/2000cal per day absolutely required. Yet even when I succeed at that (I chronically fall short; I seldom go over--it's just not easy to eat that much protein and still be high-calorie frankly), the weight loss is amazingly slow.
Some bodybuilders think that you cannot deprive your body of more than 300-500 calories MAX a day from whatever your BMR--and it might vary per day and depending on nutrients--and lose weight. They think if you go below that number your body shifts into starvation mode instead of weight loss. The exception being some very obese people and only initially. This would suggest that the only way to lose 'additional' per-day would be to add weightlifting, so the body was reducing insulin resistance, and adding lean muscle mass. Of course when you are body building you generally need to add a few more carbs and calories for other reasons.
But I will admit, that along with Regina's nutrient-dense approach, weightlifting with calorie observation has not been something I have seriously done for 40+ days in order to carefully measure the results.
So I haven't tried 'everything'. Maybe this means I have no right to complain.
But you know what--I'm not alone. Lots of people I know are in a similar situation to me. Some are much smaller. Some larger. All have tried a LOT of different options food-wise. And the fact seems to be that eating plan alone, AFTER a certain amount of weight loss, is simply not the 'solution' to obesity.
Maybe it requires hard core nutrition too. Maybe it requires weight lifting too. Maybe it requires prayer and work on 'belief systems'. Who knows.
I only know that what I have been doing IS NOT WORKING.
So until I get to the point of doing one of the two things I have not yet successfully maintained for any length of time, I feel like I have no real point to blogging about progress.
I feel guilty for not losing weight more rapidly. Like I am letting down people who are watching me. Like people might suspect I'm lying about something. Like it might make lowcarb, which I genuinely believe in particularly for my body, look bad.
What I don't know is if maybe I'm wasting my time. Maybe my body is always going to be enormous. Maybe if we had research it would say, "You screwed it up, it is never getting much better." If I knew that, at least I wouldn't feel so guilty about it!