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Fat is [insert least offensive term here]

Posted on Sep 15, 2017 by in The Scrawl |

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I write about being fat. I write about it regularly. Today I want to write about the less spiritual and conceptual stuff and, more to the point, write about the purely practical things I have done to work on this and how my theories are coalescing towards a future goal.

First, what I have done in the past.

In August of 2010, I began this journey. Seven years ago, nearly to the day. I was, at that time ~380lbs. Yes, really. I use the tilde there because the scale was just not that accurate at that level. I began eating very low-carb. I also began cooking, in earnest, and learning how to maximize flavor and variety. I made some dumb choices in my eating, but I began to see the weight come off. After a year of that, I lost down to about ~300lbs.

Black, because no one knows how fat you are unless there is sufficient color.

After I lost down to 300 or so, we moved to Montgomery. Moving to Montgomery meant I had the opportunity to walk to and from work every day. It also meant me traveling and eating on the road. I attempted to stay disciplined in my carb cutting. I really was diligent in most things, but we also made some new friends and spent a good deal of time at Baptist pot-lucks and dinner parties. So with exercise in my pocket, I began losing but never broke through the plateau of 280. On the bright side of that, the scales were able to accurately tell me what was what.

This was a strange night and not just because of my mustache.

That pic was 2012. From 2012 to 2014, I hovered between 270-285 depending on what kind of week I was having. It was always a fight. In 2014, I began having health issues. Well, I began thinking I had health issues. Pastoring set off a really horrible bout of hypochondria in me. My blood pressure was always on the borderline. I was having really severe acid reflux. I was also experiencing strange pains in my arms that told me I was having a heart attack. (I wasn’t.)

So I changed my diet. I began examining my overall intake. I tried a different strategy because, essentially, I was eating very low-carb and little else. Each day my overall caloric intake was only about a thousand calories. And I wasn’t losing any weight. I was walking my neighborhood, usually about four miles a day. And. Wasn’t. Losing. Weight.

So I reversed course and strategy and began eating tons and tons of vegetables. I restricted myself to meat at night. I regularly ate carrots and humus and two bananas every day at lunch. This helped, a little, but the biggest thing that broke me through this plateau was that I began taking a staunch pro-biotic. As soon as I began taking this? Weight loss kicked back into gear.

I was able to go from ~275 down to my lowest record of 246. I was shocked when I saw that number. Flash forward two months and I had to begin taking a new medication for something else entirely. The indications and side effects of that medication said it could cause stomach distress. That was an understatement, but something even stranger occurred when I began taking that medicine: my weight-loss stopped. And then I began gaining. Same diet. Same exercise routine. I went up from 246 back to 275. I was able to stop the medication back in January of this year, but as I detailed in another post, Nashville has it’s own way of making me fat(ter).

Around my lowest weight.

So all that history to say where I am now, and what I am going to do going forward.

I believe that weight loss isn’t a one-size-fits-all fight. If I stepped into the ring with my two-year-old, there would be a clear winner. If I stepped into the ring with Connor McGregor, there would also be a clear winner.

So here’s my theory and I have a little experience to base it on: our weight gain and loss is more complex that caloric/carbohydrate/fat intake.

Low-fat diets are proven, pretty clearly, not to work. Low-calorie diets can work, but they often come roaring back at you after you have lost a little. Low-carb diets allow you to lose weight and keep it off, but are difficult to maintain over time.

So what gives? How did I stop losing on a strict low-carb diet? I mean, I was exercising. So much. I wasn’t eating sugar. I was measuring portions. Why? What? How?

I believe that the underlying reasoning for why low-carb diets can work and then can stop working, isn’t in carbs themselves.

This is important because you need to understand the difference between causation and correlation.

Cause: Striking a match creates a flame.
Correlation: Striking a match makes a firetruck appear.

The history that predated 2011? Well that was me as a child, teen, and young adult eating the most horrendous junk food all the time. Example: when I was a kid and poor, my family shopped at the discount bread store. I routinely ate a package of cinnamon rolls for a snack. Discount bread store is such a horrendous thought to me now.

So what was I doing as a child? I was developing and training my body for a way of living and behaving. I was cultivating gut bacteria in a way that forced my body to respond by storing fat for energy. I no-doubt killed off most of the beneficial flora there by flooding my system with as much sugar and processed junk as I could.

So then I go low-carb. It worked. Why? Well, I was obviously starving the bacteria that thrived on sugar. There have been studies that show how quickly your gut bacteria change when you switch to low-carb. It makes sense. And these new bacteria were doing a different job. And in so doing, I was losing weight.

Then I plateaued because I began loosening the reigns a little. I was letting life take the wheel a bit. When I broke through that plateau? It was because I changed the overall nature of what I was eating(plants) and introduced billions of new cultures of bacteria. When did the loss stop? When I took a medicine that had an extremely negative effect on those bacteria.

So now, do I believe that the key to all dieting is bacteria? No(ish). I believe that it’s much easier to point to the surface of something, switching to low-carb, than it is to understand what’s happening under the hood.

What am I trying now? Now I am trying to figure out how to maintain the health of my body, not just lose stored fat. I’m still not eating processed sugar, and I am cutting way back on all carbs. But I’m also considering eating in a way that is more rhythmic than constant. Part of my working theory is that our bacterial matrix is like soil and that a constancy of a single kind of input will eventually result in diminishing return. Variety is the spice of life(even bacterial life). Will it work? I have no idea.

If you have struggled with losing weight, my best advice to you is to think through what might be making an impact on the living things living inside of you and make wise choices. It might work for you. It might not. But that’s my story.

(Also? I’m measuring at 284lbs as of this writing; down from 296lbs two weeks ago.)