The Rules and Not the Rules of Weight and Weight Loss

Calories in, calories out, right? Eat less and move more. Those are the two foundational rules of weight loss and weight management. There really can be no argument, they are true. But why do our bodies seem to defy them?

I’ve had a fever for four days. Picked up some viral thing I guess, very odd for summertime. I woke up this morning with that fever headache and body aches finally gone. I’ve really felt awful; I’ve had zero appetite and just sipped tea the last few days. Fever usually causes weight loss due to the elevated internal body temperature. Energy expense is the production of heat and while being sick is not the way you’d want to do it, your metabolism will be higher while your body is fighting sickness. We’ve all had the experience of losing weight when we’ve been ill.

I’m quite judicious about using the scale. I do not weigh on any particular schedule, just when I think I should check in and see where I am. So I was interested today to see the effects of four days with a body temperature above 100°.

No change. Nope, my weight is still where it’s been! And yes, I do think that’s rather confounding!

If you’re a regular reader you know what’s been going on for the past year. I am approaching the one year anniversary of the publication of my book. While I was writing it, I went through a period of time when I worked very obsessively. I became extremely sedentary for an extended period of time and I indulged in eating convenience foods. By the time I was done with the book, I had GAINED 20lbs from writing a weight loss book! The first regain I’d ever experienced!!!

Since 2006, my weight has been absolutely stable in the 170s. I gained up to the 190s. Returning to a regular routine, I went back to my very simple, primarily vegetarian diet and I attempted to modify my exercise. My weight didn’t budge! I spent a month with my parents in Florida and I had the opportunity to ride a bike at a high intensity for 20 miles every day. By the time I was back in Chicago, I’d dropped down to the 180s. OK, nice improvement.

Here’s where we find ourselves questioning what are supposed to be those “rules” of weight management and weight loss. As always, I’m handy to use as my own example but I’m sure many of you are going to relate! There’s no question I put weight on during that period due to inactivity and poor eating. That’s definite! But afterward, a return to my regular routine maintained my weight and even changes to my exercise routine were not sufficient to achieve a calorie deficit to result in weight loss. It took an EXTREME change in my activity level to get the scale to budge! And now we can take that a step further. Since I’ve been home, my usual routine has continued to maintain my current weight! I must admit I’ve been very relieved by that. I was very concerned the weight would pop right back on as soon as I stopped tearing around my parent’s gated community on my mom’s one-speed bike.

Why do we become convinced that “calories in, calories out” and all the various other “rules” of weight management and weight loss don’t really work? Because these Black Boxes we call our bodies can make it so difficult for us to figure out how to reach that point of calorie deficit! How many times have you felt you’d made significant changes in your diet and activity level but the scale gave you unexpected news? I once GAINED a pound on a week-long liquid diet.

I have to be aware of my particular situation. Weight loss has ALWAYS been a struggle for me, for various reasons. Now I am a 53-year-old, peri-menopausal female whose body experienced a significant physical change about eight years ago. My calorie needs appear to be rather low at this time so I need to be extra sure I’m choosing highly nutrient-dense foods. I know from using the Body Bugg that even with a workout, it can be tough for me to reach a 2000 calorie burn in a day. I’m also reminded of what happened when I undertook an extreme diet and exercise regimen back in 2009. I wrote a blog post about it recently. Read it here.

I am relieved to know that I do know what diet and exercise routine will maintain my weight, even after a loss. But it is daunting to know that it will take an aggressive exercise regimen to get that next 10 pounds off. It’s hard to duplicate a couple hours of intense cycling every day so I have to figure something out. I’ll keep you updated!

Have you found yourself confounded by your body’s response to diet, exercise, or other factors you think should have affected your weight?