The Broken Regulator

 

Credit: New York Times

 

In my wanderings across the Internet yesterday, I came across a very interesting article on the New York Times website. It seems a study was performed for the Obesity Society Research Journal involving the cast of Season 8 of The Biggest Loser to determine long-term effects of “crash” weight loss programs. Perhaps unsurprisingly, each of the contestants, even the winner, suffered from setbacks and weight regain. What is interesting is the apparent reason for these setbacks: in each case, the contestant’s resting metabolism shut way down, so their bodies were no longer burning the same amount of calories to lose weight as before their involvement with the show.

Now, the slowing of metabolism during high-speed weight loss is not a surprise to anyone: it is part of our defense mechanism against starvation. The interesting part is that these metabolisms never “re-regulated.” Their bodies, it seems, were fighting to be returned to what had been their previous maximum weights. The metabolic system never got a grip on the fact that they were no longer “starving”, and never came out of starvation self-defense mode.

Of course, this brought the whiners out of the woodwork across the ‘Net. “Of course, they are broken. They went on Biggest Loser.” was the main one I saw. Another favorite was “There is something wrong with this science. The Amount of Calories required by Body Weight – Amount of Calories Ingested = caloric excess or deficit. It is simple math.” Yes, but the whole point of the study is that the equation is no longer working for these people that have gone through massive weight loss – even years later. And if you want to call these doctors “bad scientists”: here is a link to the paper, published yesterday. Feel free to read it, then email me with whatever problems you found in their premise, methodology or conclusions.

This certainly would explain a phenomenon I have seen for years – I would go on a diet, work out, lose some weight. I would fall into bad habits and regain. But, the next time I tried to diet, reducing my caloric load no longer worked with the previous amount of calories. If I had once reduced to 1800, I now had to reduce to 1500 to see any results. And so on and so on. But, have one bad food day, and I would suddenly gain 5 pounds. It always felt like my body was working against me. According to the premise of this study, it totally was.

Now, buried in the details of the article is the following nugget: those of us who go through bariatric surgery seem to break this cycle – probably due to the radical revisions that take place when undergoing surgery. Here the body is no longer attempting to move the dial “up to 11” on hunger and metabolic function – instead, it is trying to make reduced demands due to the trauma of a large portion of our dietary tract being removed. However, once that healing process ends, it seems we get plugged right back into the same old “losing twice is 4 times as hard” cycle as the rest of the world. Falling back into bad habits post surgery could conceivably result in the ultimate regain of all our lost weight, even with the removal of 80% or more of our stomach. Danger, Will Robinson.

I strongly suggest you take a few minutes and go read the article. It can be a little discouraging, but it highlights one point that is super important to all of us: don’t allow yourself to fall back into bad habits, or revisiting the weight loss mountain will only grow more difficult with each ascent.

I Suppose The Weight Loss Mountain Is Really A “Descent”,

– Hawkwind

Not Statistically Significant

Sad to think I am hitting 285 pounds on the way DOWN.

 

Despite my dislike for “pounds lost” as the only factor of interest to many people who are going through the Gastric Sleeve, weekly logging is a required part of the whole process. And there was a whole lot of interest in what my numbers were for yesterday’s weigh-in after my disaster of a week last week. But the numbers don’t lie – yesterday I was at 285 again, representing a loss of 1.6 pounds from the previous week.

The Facts Are In The Numbers

The odd thing is, I was at 285 and some change three weeks ago, too. Last week’s weigh-in (without any major dietary disasters preceding it) I had gained a pound, and was up to 286! I was very disgusted with myself and happened to mention it to my father. Wise retired biologist that he is, he told me to dismiss the week’s weight gain entirely: “Starting from over 300 pounds, son, 1 pound is about a third of a percent. It is not statistically significant.”

I knew I should’ve paid more attention in biology class back in high school.

So, another not statistically significant weight loss for this week, then. Even my total weight loss since the start of this process is just on the edge of “real”, with our diet changes having resulted in just over a 5% change in my weight since we started (285/302 = .943). Now, 17 pounds is nothing to sneeze at, admittedly – I have basically reduced the load on my body by the weight of a bowling ball or so. But my body still hurts, it is still really easy to re-injure my bad knee (they are both bad, but the one I had surgery on can go out at a moment’s notice), and I look like crap. What once was a solid mass of fat all over my body has collapsed – I no longer look like I am carrying a beach ball under my shirt, I instead look like a candle that has been put in a hot oven for a few minutes. Not pretty.

Looking On The Bright Side

It isn’t all bad, of course. On Sunday, I was able to get into (and wear comfortably) a pair of 46-inch jeans that my mother-in-law bought me years ago, my first new jeans in years, and my first time in a 46-inch waistline since 2005 or so. I can now walk a whole mile without being ready to die. I even managed to get through 50 ounces of water yesterday, which may not sound like a mighty achievement to many of you, but my fellow bariatric patients are all nodding at the significance. Drinking that much fluid while only taking single sips at a time is amazingly difficult. Try it some day, if you are curious.  We should all be drinking 64 ounces a day anyway, right?

The struggle continues. This is the final week of relative calm, then the weeks of April 3 through the 23rd are filled with surgery-related appointments, 2 – 3 a week for 3 weeks straight. We are only 6 weeks out from Lor’s final dietary consult at this point, where her surgery will be submitted to insurance, then scheduled. We do not have far to go here if we can just stay sane, keep encouraging each other, and keep moving forward. By Labor Day, this should all be over.

Well, except for the weight loss part.

Visualizing No Longer Shopping in Fatlandia,

– Hawkwind

Some feedback and questions

Since I have converted Misdirected over to talking about our upcoming weight-loss surgeries, the response has been tremendous. I’ve received comments, advice, feedback, emails, text messages, etc. all supportive of and enthusiastic about the changes here – and our visitor numbers show the difference. Apparently I have struck a nerve here, talking about obesity and “big-gun” surgical methods in dealing with it. A few questions have come up that I thought could be addressed to the rest of our readership, rather than just the initial questioner:
1. “So, is Misdirected no longer a gaming site?”
The short answer is no, we are not. I have added more followers and fielded more feedback in the last 2 weeks dealing with issues pertaining to weight loss than I did in the previous 3 years talking about gaming. Now, I am still a gamer, and it remains a major part of my life. Accordingly, I will (finally) commit to streaming 5 days a week, about 3-4 hours a day at my Twitch channel. I intend right now for this to take place from 2pm-ish to 6pm-ish (MST). Since Real Life Happens, I am not committing to which 5 days every week – could be Mon – Fri, could be something else.. Inaugural stream will be later today. I need an outlet for my gaming habit, and maintaining two different blogs just did not seem like an effective way to go. Thanks to everyone who was concerned about this.
2. “What the heck blender is that you are using?”
It is part of the Ninja Kitchen System 1100 package, the latest and greatest version of which can be found here:
The pricing on Amazon isn’t quite as good as the older one we found on clearance, but still the best price around. The system itself is very nice – it includes both blender and food processor pitchers that can be used on a 1500-watt base. It creates very nice smoothies out of raw vegetables and fruits, with blend times under the magical 60 second mark. (Blending over 60 seconds begins to seriously impact the nutritional value of your raw materials, due to oxidation apparently. I am no scientist, and don’t even play one on TV.)
3. “What are you doing for nutritional supplementation?”
Many well-meaning people have been concerned about the pre-surgery diet creating some major holes in our day-to-day nutrition. I may not have mentioned this in enough detail before, but the major reason that it is going to take us almost 4 months to get through the process is that first we have to go through 3 months worth of work with a real  nutritionist, with letters after her name and everything. The first month of the diet involves adding a daily multivitamin and reducing our previous meals to meals with less than 45 grams of Carbs and with 20 (or more) grams of protein with every serving. The carb reduction has not been much of a problem, but we’ve had a rocky road trying to get up to the required protein amounts, especially in our once-a-day smoothies. Our financial status has pretty much prevented us from spending tons of money on Whey Protein supplements or anything like that, so we have been making do with high-protein vegetables, greek yogurt, and adding PB2 (aka Powdered Peanut Butter) to our smoothies. A family member found out about this, and decided to give us a hand, and last night a box full of “Love and Peas” Protein-Rich Meal replacement showed up at our door, courtesy of June Baker at The Health ConneXion. We’re very excited to try this stuff out – it has a whopping 20 grams of protein per serving, Dairy-free, lactose-free, gluten-free, Vegan-certified – I don’t know what all that means, but Lor informs me that this is top-of the line stuff. Thanks, June!
Lastly, you will be seeing some changes to the site here as I tailor more towards our new arrivals – people who are wanting to hear about one person’s journey from obesity to weight-loss surgery. I appreciate all the interest we have had here at Misdirected, and look forward to sharing my good, bad, and ugly experiences with you all!
In Transition,
– Hawkwind

Man Up And Eat Your Veggies

24 ounces of Spinachy Carroty Strawberryish Goodness

When Lor and I decided to start looking into more drastic weight loss solutions initially, she had me watch Joe Cross‘ excellent documentary “Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead”, chronicling his weight loss journey performing a 60-day “juice fast” and losing over 100 pounds in the process. While “juicing” didn’t really sound like my thing, I had to agree with the tons of nutritional advice in the documentary focusing on one major dietary problem in our lives: instead of a diet made up of 33% (or so) Fruits and Vegetables, our diet was nearly entirely made up of meats and processed foods. We made the decision that, when we could afford it, we would get a juicer or a blender and start making the necessary changes in our diets. Oddly enough, we found a normally $200 blender/food processor combination in the Clearance section of our local mega-mart for 75% off within 48 hours of making this decision. Almost instantly, fruit and vegetable smoothies entered our daily diet, taking the place of our normal lunch routine.
Yesterday, given all the pet-centric chaos and commotion around here, we skipped our daily smoothies. Lor had some canned fruit, I had some leftovers from dinner the night before. I felt completely drained of energy by 8 last night, and woke up this morning with all the symptoms of a good, old-fashioned hangover. The lack of plant-based nutrients yesterday had me paying a serious price today. I told Lor this morning: “I should’ve just manned up and made our smoothies yesterday.”
We both chuckled at the idea that “manning up” equated to eating plants. And I have been thinking about that laughter ever since. Why is it, I wonder, that we look at eating veggies as un-masculine? It can’t really have anything to do with the work involved in raising plant-based foods: any farmer will tell you that farming is anything but a weakling’s profession. It is work made up of days filled with long, arduous labor. We’ll have to look elsewhere for where meat = man.
There is an inherently combative element to the idea of eating meat, I suppose – “Nature, red in tooth and claw”, and all that. But talk to any professional athlete about the idea of eating an all-meat diet and you will be laughed out of the clubhouse. Whole, plant-based foods contain nearly all the nutrients a human needs to survive and thrive. (Some vitamins can be an exception.) What the heck is so manly about being nutrient-deficient?
But, the myth persists. We know a family where the wife attempted to start she and her husband on a daily regimen of plant-based smoothies, only to have the husband reject the idea. Why? Because it wasn’t “real food”. I, myself, have frequently mocked the people I know who prefer salads over steaks, calling them “tree-huggers”, and saying they are eating “bunny food.” Now, at 150 pounds overweight, I wish I had eaten more salads and otherwise kept my mouth shut.
There is nothing manly about gasping for air after a walk around the block. Embrace your inner bunny, and start making decisions based on what your body needs, instead of the foods that you think of as masculine. Your six-pack will never be visible if it is hidden beneath a beer keg, like mine.
Drinking My Lunch (And I Don’t Mean Budweiser).
– Hawkwind