Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Two Years Later And Fifty Pounds Lighter

On the weekend, I had my official weigh in and I came in under 240 lbs for the first time in longer than I can remember.  So far this year, I have dropped 20 lbs, and since I began on this journey in October 2013, I have now lost 50 lbs. Not too shabby, especially for someone in their fifties!

Certainly, determination and perseverance have paid off, but without having the necessary information at the right time, I would have probably abandoned this project some time ago and joined the ranks of the 95% of the people who set out to lose weight but fail.

It is extremely interesting to note that during the last 24 months, 90% of my weight loss occurred during the first two and the last two months.  In other words, for an excruciatingly long time, 20 months to be exact, I experienced very meager results, losing only about five pounds.  Keep in mind that I biked and hiked more than 5000 km in 2014 and set out to walk across Canada in 2015.

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I understand why people get discouraged and throw in the towel.  In my opinion, the loss of the first 10% of body mass is relatively easy: reduce calorie intake and increase calorie expenditure and you'll get there fairly quickly.  In my case, it took me about two months.  Afterwards, metabolic adaptation sets in and what worked previous no longer brings in the same results.  In short, the thyroid turns down the thermostat so we burn less calories throughout the day and the hypothalamus increases production of the hunger hormone ghrelin so that we eat more.  Moreover, the reward of seeing the pounds drop off is lost, replaced by the sense of futility of seeing no progress for months on end.  In the vast majority of cases, the hormones win and the person returns to their previous weight, most often with a few extra pounds of fat tacked on for good measure.

In my case, I had read enough to know that the hormone leptin is responsible for energy intake and expenditure and that the problem of trying to use the calorie in, calorie out approach is doomed to fail in most cases.  Unless a person addresses what is the most likely gain of excessive weight in the first place, a combination of insulin and leptin resistance, the existing hormonal imbalance will thwart attempts of further weight loss.

Having lost only one pound after two months of eating clean, being very active, and working out two to three times a week, I knew I was fighting a losing battle.  So, I decided that if I wanted to continue with my weight loss, I needed to change my strategy.  Rather than focusing on energy expenditure and the right ratio of macronutrients (fat, protein, and carbohydrates), I focused on trying to regain my leptin sensitivity.

So far so good: I have escaped my previous weight loss plateau and am getting slimmer each week.  To date, in 8 weeks, I have lost 16 lbs!

Needless to say, I will forge on for the last two months of the calendar year and will give you a summary of my results and lessons learned to ring in the New Year.



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