Regain. It is a word that strikes terror into the hearts of bariatric patients. An admission that things have not gone as planned, regain means that the changes after surgery have gone off the rails. Regain feels like a failure, and it carries the bitter taste of defeat.
Oh, How Dramatic
All this introduction to explain what flashed through my mind yesterday morning, when I stepped on my scale for my weekly weigh-in, and saw the numbers “179.4” flash up at me. Alarmed, I stepped off the scale. I moved the scale, made sure it was level. Gingerly, I tried again. “179.6.” Yikes! Maybe I wasn’t stepping on the scale exactly in the center. I tried a third time, carefully placing my feet this time. “179.3.”
Thank goodness I wasn’t using the logging feature built into the scale. It would have thought I had weighed in for 3 separate weeks in less than 60 seconds.
Then again…there was a reason I wasn’t using the logging feature, wasn’t there? All week long I had been feeling the malaise. I knew I didn’t feel right. All my shiny new clothes were just a bit too snug. My suspicion was that I was moving backwards, and now here was proof, glaring at me from the bathroom floor.
Drama. I am making a mountain out of a molehill here, right? Compared to my all-time low a few weeks back of 174 pounds, 179 isn’t that bad, is it?
Yes…and no. The problem is that last week I was at 177, a gain of two pounds from the previous weigh-in. That number I wrote off as statistical variance – you can gain and lose a couple pounds over the course of a day easily. (And this is why it is important to do weekly weigh-ins at the same time every day. Preferably immediately after you wake up.)
But two weeks in a row, both edging upward by a couple pounds? This isn’t statistical variance. This, my friends, is the beginning of a trend.
The Cold Equations
By now, we all know the numbers, right? It all comes back to Resting Metabolic Rate, the number of calories your body burns while sitting around doing not much of anything. If you ingest less than the amount your body needs, you lose weight. If you take in more than your body needs, it gleefully stores the excess as fat.
Diet and exercise, then, are two sides of a balancing act: the weight loss teeter-totter if you will. We eat all day, every day, to provide our bodies with enough energy to keep the vital organs working, to stay upright and moving. But any extra whatsoever will be taken by our treacherous metabolism and stored as fat.
So, we try to go to the gym, to walk, to keep moving somehow to place our bodies into a caloric deficit so that more of that stubborn fat will come off. The body eventually gives up and adjusts, raising the metabolic rate to reflect all this activity.
But, what happens when you slack off at the gym for a couple of weeks because your schedule goes crazy? Without changing your diet to reflect the drop in physical activity?
One-seventy-nine. That’s what happens.
The Non-Alarmist Solution
I freely admit I am being paranoid about this. But I’ve worked pretty darn hard to get here. I’ve had 80% of one of my major organs lopped off, for goodness sake. From walking to running to jumping to lifting heavy objects and putting them down, I have pushed pretty darn hard to get from 302 to 174.
I am not interested in moving backwards.
Now, the last two weeks have been insane, I grant you. My PT certification exam. The publication of my first book. The weekend-long science fiction conference I just attended. I skipped maybe half my gym days. I took some shortcuts in my diet, especially during the Con.
So, now, I get to repair the damage.
This is the point where many of us panic. We freak out over our regain and hit the Big Red Button of diet and exercise changes. We switch to an all protein shake diet. Maybe we try a juice cleanse. We commit to stupid amounts of work at the gym, hoping to undo weeks or months worth of neglect in a few days.
Sadly, it doesn’t work that way. In my case the numbers here are pretty small: I’ve gained about 2.5 pounds a week for two weeks in a row. Happily, I can work on safely losing that amount every week. I can repair the damage in two weeks or so.
Not in a day via a marathon session at the gym. Not in a week by a juice fast. But by taking a safe, methodical approach.
I already know how to exercise every day – I just haven’t done it for two weeks or so. I already know the secret to a healthy diet: buy non-processed foods at a grocery store and prepare them at home. For the next two weeks, if it doesn’t come out of my fridge or my pantry, I don’t eat it. As simple as that.
Resuming The Journey
Success tends to be followed by a downturn of some kind. This is because success requires effort, and effort is tiring. There is nothing wrong with the fact that I have “rested” for a couple of weeks after one of the most stressful periods of my life.
However, I am reminded of a man I know who went through bariatric surgery, trained for a year or so, then ran his first marathon. Six months after the marathon he had regained 30 pounds.
Why? Simple. He took some time off after the marathon (which was fine) and then never started running again (which was NOT fine.)
All backsliding starts with a single step backwards.
Bad habits and lifestyle choices are always waiting for us, at every turn. This is just as true for those who have never had bariatric surgery as for those who have. What you choose to do every morning will determine your success for the weeks and months to come.
And I have another conference coming in only 3 weeks. I’ve got only that long to get my head back in the game. I need to re-develop my discipline, and make sure that the next time I am away from my normal routine for several days that I find ways to incorporate healthy choices.
After all, I don’t want to come back in a month and write an article titled “One-Eighty-Nine.”
I Shudder At The Thought,