Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Passing Through Calgary, Thinking That I Might Have Made A Big Breakthrough

Well, the Cross Canada Challenge continues.  This week I've made it to Calgary, which is the equivalent of the straight line distance from Halifax of 3754 kilometers. That's a lot of walking, more than 90 kilometers per week.  In short, I've already surpassed the number of kilometers that I walked all of last year.  I anticipate to finish the Challenge, barring injury or sickness, by the first week in December.  Yahoo!

Now, the big question: has all this effort made a significant difference in my quest to become lean and fit?  To be honest, not really.

If I look at my weight loss through 2014 and through the first eight months of 2015, it appears that my results have been meagre.  At the end of 2013, I weighed 263 lbs.  At the end of 2014, I weighed 260, and this was after walking and cycling a little more than 5000 kilometers during the year.  Talk about being stuck on a plateau.

At the beginning of 2015, I decided to take it up a notch, limiting my alcohol consumption to about a glass of wine per week, and increasing my non-exercise physical activity: working from a standing desk and increasing the number of kilometers I walked each week.  Again, not much in the way of results.  During the first six months of the year, I lost a grand total of three pounds to get to 257 lbs.

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Realizing that I was not getting the results I wanted, I decided to concentrate on my diet.  I went clean, meaning I cut out completely all fast carbs, no bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, pastry, and processed food with the exception of one cheat meal per week, while maintaining the same exercise regime and level of non-exercise physical activity.  After two months of having gone clean, I lost a grand total of one pound to get down to 256, a grand total of four pounds for the first eight months of the year.

Maybe, there is something to be said about the theory of body set weight, meaning that your body will accept some initial weight loss, but then go through a phase of metabolic adaptation to maintain a new weight, hanging onto the existing fat stores by lowering the basal metabolic rate, which is responsible for about 70% of our daily caloric output, while increasing production of the hunger hormone ghrelin.  

Not to be out done, I decided to tackle the phenomenon of metabolic adaptation head on.  To do so, it is no longer a simple question of calories in and calories out.  In fact, some would argue that calorie ingest and expenditure are the dependent variables that depend on the state of your endocrine system. From this point of view, the focus becomes on the manner in which you eat and move and how this affects the master hormone with regard to regulating metabolism, leptin.

After reading up on the subject, I deduced that my hormones were out of balance and that in addition to being insulin resistant, I was also leptin resistant, meaning that I had lost the ability to have my endocrine system effectively regulate my weight.  In other words, I have more than enough adipose tissue to produce enough leptin that should tell my brain that there is enough body fat stored away and, as a result, turn up the thermostat to burn off the extra fat that is accumulating.

But, if you are leptin resistant, your brain does not receive the message, and, instead of turning up the thermostat, mistakenly turns it down, believing that the body is in starvation mode, and thus bringing about metabolic hibernation.  Keeping in mind that the basal metabolic rate is responsible for 70% of daily calorie expenditure, the turning down of the thermostat effectively cancels the benefits of the calories burned from physical activity, which represent only 20% of daily calorie expenditure.  That explains why I couldn't get off the weight loss plateau simply by increasing my physical activity.

At this point, the key to further weight loss became increasing my leptin sensitivity, in other words, a hormonal reset.  Fortunately, I had just finished two months of eating clean, so it wasn't a big reach to go that one step further to bring my leptin levels back to normal.  All I had to do was to stop snacking between meals (even my healthy snacks of fruit or nuts) and not to eat after my evening meal.  No more grazing, just three healthy, well-balanced meals.

The results speak for themselves.  After one month of following this regime, I dropped 11 pounds, almost triple the weight loss I had experienced over the first eight months of the year.

 I think I might be onto something.  What remains to be seen is whether or not the weight loss is sustainable over then long-term.  Perhaps, I have just moved down from one plateau to another and my metabolism will simply adapt to my new lifestyle.  Nevertheless, I am very much encouraged to continue the experiment and you know that I will let you know how this all turns out before the end of the year.

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