Thursday, November 20

The Long and Winding Road

In the late 1990s I lived in a tiny town an hour North of Fort Worth Texas. I worked hours after work on my own time teaching myself web-stuff where I had access to the database and middleware. I would drive home around 10pm most nights, on the small two lane roads that wound around a slightly hilly terrain. And sometimes, there would be fog. The kind of fog where, with your brights on, with squinting and leaning forward, you are just barely able to see about one inch of the white line on the right side of the road, immediately off the edge of the right front corner of your truck.

It starts to seem like purgatory. You're just driving this endless, winding road, in the dark, in the quiet, and the only thing that keeps you from dying any moment now is your faith-fixation on that one tiny little piece of evidence of road.

That's how I've felt about lowcarb much of the last year, particular the last several months. There was a time when I could see the road clearly. I could see for miles. Very-Low-Carb ketogenic diet was my dream come true. Weight fell off me. I lost a ton of medical symptoms. I'd not felt so good since I was 21.

Then I 'sort of' quit losing weight. Or maybe I quiet eating as well plus got more impatient or something. But in the end it did seem to amount to at the least, a great slowdown in weight loss. Perhaps it had been too easy before, because it completely demoralized me when it happened. When I not only couldn't see fast results, but I'd do everything right and my weight would stay around one level on my weight chart--and then start creeping up!--I felt helpless. Angry. Embarrassed.

And I started getting worried about my blood sugar. I could eat sausage and eggs, a meal I've had often on LC, and get a serious headrush-dizzy from a blood sugar crash a little while later. I went out and bought a blood glucose meter etc. so I could try and figure out what was going on. On the bright side, my glucose was not way too high too long. On the down side, my fasting bg was 60-70 and it went to a normal place after eating but then it fell and KEPT falling. The numbers don't lie: I had insulin resistance to a good degree. I knew I'd started with it and it had improved. But I never got that with protein meals before. What changed? Did weight loss trigger something else in my body?

And I worried about lowcarb. Here I'm trying to blog like the poster child for it because it "saved me" and I'm loyal. But I felt like hell. Not until I added carbs -- I started eating more fruit (mostly berries but occasionally a small gala apple), and legumes like peas and beans, and now and then even a corn tortilla, and all the sudden, I felt SO much better. I was eating 40-70 carbs a day but I felt like a new person. That was the good part. The bad part was I didn't seem to be losing any more weight on that approach than the ketogenic approach. And I felt like I was 'betraying' ketogenic-lowcarb because it quit working for me. Didn't I just spend two years talking online about LC? OK now a big chunk of what I thought I knew, apparently I don't.

I thought I had replaced the rules of calories with the rules of carbs. I was willing to pick up that different belief system. But it wasn't really a different belief system. Same plot, different characters. This time the bad guys are South Americans instead of 1940s Nazis but it's the plot we all know. X is good. Y is bad. Do it right and all will be well.

But it turns out we don't really know what causes weight loss for supersized people. We know from empirical evidence that a lot of really fat people do ketogenic lowcarb and lose a lot of weight and often fast. And then somewhere around 100-150 pounds later, some of them stop losing weight. Their body has changed in some way. VLC feels bad. More carbs feel good. But neither are pouring the fat off like previously.

I used to feel like I was on my path. Like I knew the road ahead of me and I walked it confidently. Like I had faith that I could see that winding road way off into the sunset, to that ineffably blurry time when "I would be ... ok". It might take a long time to walk, but I had found the road, now it was just doing it. I felt confident about my positive future.

But lately I feel like I have lost my way. The road has vanished in a fog. Even the experts can't help much if at all; metabolism of the supersized has no decent research; it's clearly different somehow but who knows how. My friends have often run into the same issues I have, and they don't have any answers either.

"Why try?", I wondered. "Day after day after day and weeks later I'm a pound heavier instead of lighter." I got anger. I got despair. And then I got offplan in a big way, and for two months ate utter crap. Leaving me profoundly bloated, so asthmatic I couldn't breathe, I gained some weight, and other issues. It was like an attack against myself.

And then I got my act together again. Regardless of weight loss, I know what I need to be healthy. I'm eating meat. Caul & Brocc. Peppers & onions. Berries and avocados. Pecans. And because I have NO IDEA what I'm doing, where I'm going, how to get there, or if I'll ever get there, the best I can do "wild guess."

I'm now taking so many supplements you'd just laugh if you saw. I'm off all diet soda. I'm greatly reducing dairy esp. cheese. Is this my plan because it's a great idea? Well, it closely mirrors the "Regina's good sense" approach with the eating plan she outlined for me back in... March? Which I was unable to stay with because it was so rational and healthy. So if I do ok at this for a few months I'll be closer to succeeding with her advice than I ever have been.

But I'm not doing it because I have big hopes. I'm doing it because I'm lost. So why not. It's a path. I might as well take it. Frankly I am not overly hopeful. I feel like I lost my faith, lost my lock on thinking I had some idea how my body worked, thinking I could trust that if I ate lowcarb and didn't eat massive calories than I would naturally lose weight, especially with a BMR as high as mine. When this ceased to work anymore, it's like my whole edifice of beliefs about everything lowcarb just came crashing down.

I don't know what makes me have more issues with not-eating and then over-eating than ever in my life; I didn't have them until I lost a ton of weight. Like the protein-reaction, could this be something actually triggered by a sudden high weight loss? It took awhile to kick in, if so.

I'm doing lowcarb in the flesh right now, but not much in spirit. I'm only barely with it mentally. I know it's better for my health anyway. But I feel slightly betrayed. By lowcarb. By my body. That what worked initially has not continued to work. That I have no clear idea on what else to do. And no idea what will work.

I'm only barely on the lowcarb road. It's dark. It's quiet. It's foggy. And I'm just riding that inch of white line with little but desperate faith, because it's all I can see.



Chiara said...

Great post. I don't have anything helpful to add because that eerie glow in the rearview is actually my car on the same road.

I'm currently taking a 'vacation'. Not high carb, but much higer, and plenty of slack. And I'm not gaining. Not losing. Just getting on with life.

But I feel completely betrayed that I put so much energy and time into a plan that abandoned me half way.


KMG said...

PJ, the eating plan you're describing sounds a lot like how I eat. It's hard, but I'm happy to share recipes and tips if you think of anything you'd like to know.

I wonder what would happen if you amped up your exercise. Perhaps ... and this is just my uninformed speculation ... your body has adjusted to the dietary changes and now also needs some more weight-lifting or cardio?

Anonymous said...

You touched on one of the reasons I've been conflicted about starting blogging - it can be a little too out there. I change my ideas & theories as easily as the wind blows sometimes, and I don't want to feel like I'm boxing myself in by blogging about something.

I'm glad you are onto something that feels good for you. It sounds like a solid plan.


Vikki said...

We do seem to travel the same roads, maybe because we began our journey in mirrored circumstances.

Living just east of Dallas, I think you description of the fog and losing sight of the road accurately describes the reality of both the weather and my lc experience. Ever new strategy seems to work for a few days and then I'm right back where I began. Bouncing up and down with this same 5lbs.

I wish you much luck, I pray you find clarity and a path that works for you. Thank you for sharing, while I hate your in the same boat it does help to know I'm not alone.


Anonymous said...

I can say that its not just alot of weight that it happens to. I am wondering if there isnt some "better" way but with the blood sugar problems and the fact that low carb helps that, but then there is the rebound effect you spoke of, but but but, oh my what to do. If you figure it out please let me know

Anonymous said...

I lost 13 lbs in only two weeks by obeying this one easy rule

Anonymous said...

I lost 13 lbs in only two weeks by obeying this one easy rule

Anonymous said...

Hi, I just discovered your blog and read a few posts. I've been researching low-carb dieting for health and weight loss. The Taubes book was particularly compelling. The only thing I'm worried about is that I will 'break' my metabolism even more than it already is. There are many people like yourself who lose a lot of weight at first and then no matter what they do, the weight creeps up again. I'm researching because I don't want to be end up even more sensitive to carbs than I already am.

I'm sorry, I know you probably get a lot of suggestions like the following blog post but I just want there to be an answer!!

The gist is that consumption of omega-6 vegetable oils are a strong contributor to weight gain.

Excerpts from the post:
Add gluten-induced autoimmune hypothyroidism, goitrogens (thyroid inhibitors) in soy, and endocrine disruptors from plastic like bispheonl-A, and you have potent brew that may strongly promote obesity in Western industrial nations.

The treatment? Dump the vegetable oil, wheat, soy, sugar and processed food in favor of the things the human body is equipped to handle: animal fats, root vegetables, vegetables, fruit, meats, organs, seafood, eggs, nuts and soaked or fermented non-gluten grains and legumes. Throw in some bugs if you're feeling adventurous.
End of excerpt.

Best wishes,

Anonymous said...

Hey, blessings to you. I can really relate to how you're feeling. I don't have an answer, but I thought I should share something.
This afternoon I was in the library looking for low carb recipes and came across a book that I ended up checking out. It seems like the antichrist, as far as low carb suggests that serotonin helps make you feel full, and protein doesn't support that chemistry very well. They suggest some sugar (pretty small amounts) a few times a day, especially before meals. I'm going to try it--I keep falling off low carb, and I'm really hopeful.

Anonymous said...

I think there are just points where your body needs time to catch up before it can lose more again. I didn't lose nearly as much weight, but nonetheless I had points where for a whole year I couldn't get below a certain number until my body was ready. Assuming your calories have been lowered along the way as you got smaller maybe you just need to wait it out for a while until your body decides it's ready to give up some more weight.

Hungry Girl said...

Have you ever tried intermittent fasting? I'm not advocating my own eating lifestyle, which is a little on the weird side/slightly disordered, but many people have success with weight loss by eating all their calories in an "eating window" of 1-6 hours a day. Others do 24 hours eating and 24 hours fasting.

If you've got the willpower to do low carb, you could manage intermittent fasting (even though it sounds crazy at first).