Hello, blog… it’s been a while. I’d like to start this off by saying, if the month of May 2011 decided to go away, I wouldn’t be too upset (so long as Danny gets credit for his birthday, other than that it was just rubbish…).
Lots of things were happening, work was stressful (self-inflicted procrastination wound), which made me feel depressed (perhaps another self-inflicted not-eating-enough wound) and then I didn’t handle either of those issues well which pretty much spiraled everything out of control. What’s funny is looking back at all the data I’ve been keeping on my weight-loss it’s pretty easy to spot when things started heading south, and part of it was a problem going back a few months that I didn’t understand and didn’t realize what I was doing.
So I’ll need to digress a bit to deconstruct what was happening. I’m writing this post-mortem so I have something to remember if I ever get back into this situation again.
So, let’s remember that dieting is basically slowly starving yourself. The trick is to make it so that you aren’t actually starving yourself. It’s the tricky middle, eating enough to support your normal bodily functions, but not too much that your body takes the excess and adds to your fat stores. Add in an increase in exercise (and the requirements that come with that, repairing muscles after training, etc…) and it’s a complex multi-variable problem.
If you’ve read my blog back into last year when I moved from Weight-Watchers to LoseIt! I struggled through the summer with whether to eat back my exercise calories or not. Finally in the fall I determined that eating them back for me wasn’t helping my losing goals, but that struck me as odd, because by the math I should be able to eat back my exercise calories and still lose weight on plan. I couldn’t reconcile the conundrum, and instead just went with what apparently worked. And I had good results through the majority of the fall and winter. I had a couple of pauses, and figured it was just a periodic adjustment my body was making, and usually within a few days to a week, all was okay and normal.
Then came spring, and everything just went wacky in late April through the month of May. I tried eating more, I tried eating less, I slacked on training, I trained harder. Finally the end of May I just gave up and set my calories to maintenance and took a week off and ate a lot of cheeseburgers.
Then on June 1st, I went back on plan but at a slower rate. Got into a good schedule at work, which relieved the stress I was feeling from procrastination. I also signed up for an ran another 5k and completed my first 10k in the first couple weeks of June. Slowly the numbers what were going wacky started falling in line, and I started losing what I had gained in May.
So which of the variables was the kicker? Stress? Not eating enough? over-training? More than likely all three. But one thing I really wanted to get a handle on was the not-eating enough. How much is enough? How much is too little? If this was part of the problem, how can I make adjustments to not make the same mistake again.
It’s a little thing called BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate) or RMR (Resting Metabolic Rate). The terms are used interchangeably in many places. What that means is how much you can consume and keep your body working (breathing, metabolizing food, waste management, etc…) without breaking down your lean body mass as your body tries to find the raw materials to keep your engine running. If you don’t consume enough calories, the body starts to react strangely and holds onto what it has, and instead of burning just fat, it might scavenge lean muscle to get the fuel it needs to keep the lights on. The problem is, lean muscle itself needs fuel, and it the primary engine we use to burn calories and lose weight. So for someone on a diet to lose weight, preserving lean body mass is something we want to maximize, just to keep the calories burning.
My issue was I was playing right along that line of not eating enough to maintain my basic metabolism. Some of the symptoms of going below that point for an extended period of time are: depression, calorie seeking (binging on sweets or cheap calories, constipation, feeling cold all the time, decreased concentration, apathy, anxiety. Basically that sums up May of this year. And the fix was to eat more, and when I did, I felt better and my body went back to normal.
I’ve since looked back at the numbers, and I’ve been playing on that line since I’ve tracked things carefully (November) and could probably say the little mini-plateaus I had regularly could be attributed to an extended dip below my BMR. So I’m working on how to correct that. Which I’ll opine about in another post.
Anyways, here is an entirely too complex chart that sums up graphically if you can interpret the hieroglyphics.