I hope I can get some answers here. I'm sorry if this is on the long-ish side.
I'm 36, female, 5'5". In September 2010 I was at a healthy weight, 135 lbs with 23-24% bodyfat. I felt I could stand to lose some more BF, but I knew the low-fat, high-carb, always-hungry, always-tired nonsense wasn't working. So I turned to Paleo. To make a long story short, over the course of this year I noticed my clothing getting tighter. My weight is currently fluctuating between 140-143 lbs, which may not seem like much. It's not the weight that's freaking me out, it's my BF. I measured it for the first time in a while last month, and it was 36% - that's 12% higher, and well above the healthy level. I'm shocked, confused, and don't know what to do.
Over the last 4 weeks I've tried cutting out ALL sugar, dairy, rice, and potatoes, limiting fruits and nuts to once or twice a week and cutting them out completely, exercising less, intermittent fasting, eating more, eating more carbs, eating less carbs, eating more protein... No effect.
Right now I eat about 1200-1500 cal a day, 60-30-10% fat-protein-carb. Most days my carbs are under 50g. My protein is 60-70g. Staples are eggs, avocados, beef, chicken, pork, lamb, salmon, cod, tuna, shrimp, crab, bacon and other cured meats now and then, cabbage, zucchini, mushrooms, tomatoes, peppers, carrots, spinach, greens, cucumbers, radishes, broccoli, cauliflower, olive oil, butter, ghee, heavy cream. Some honey in my homemade salad dressing. I try to go for organic/grass-fed/pastured whenever I can. I typically eat between 12 pm and 8 pm, usually two large meals or three small ones. I do interval training twice a week and high-impact cardio once a week. I walk a lot. To supplement I take B12 complex and just started to take cod liver oil.
I have at least 2 cups of coffee a day, and I put a 1/2 tsp of sugar in it, and I also love wine with my dinner (I figure if Mark Sisson does those things, I can too). I admit that I do have stress in my life, and occasionally don't get enough sleep. I'm a workaholic, and a mom of two very active young boys, so most days stress just happens. Could these things have caused my fat gain? If so, why didn't they affect me before now? Or do I possibly have a condition? I had my thyroid tested in March 2010 and it was fine, could paleo have caused it to act up?
I LOVE paleo, feel great on it and would want to continue, but this BF gain is freaking me out. Any answers/theories are appreciated. Thanks!
Your BF measurements are off, of that I am sure. Some rough, back of the envelope math:
At 135 lbs, 23% BF - you had 31.05 lbs of fat mass.
Now at 142 lbs, 36% BF - you have (ostensibly) have 51.12 lbs of fat mass
51.12 - 31.05 = 20.07 lb gain
This implies that you have actually not only gained absolute weight (7 lbs = 142 - 135) -- but actually existing displaced lean body mass and bone mass with fat -- to the tune of 13 lbs or so.
I doubt that this actually happened - so don't stress about it.
I think you answered your questions: workaholic, stress, refined sugar. I'm your age and noticed in the last two years stress has a profound impact on my weight. Just stressing about stress puts a pound on me :)
First off, take a deeeeep breath and stop beating yourself up. Start experimenting. I did a 30 day experiment where I took out almost everything then re-entered one thing each week to see what happened to my mind/body. I found a lot about what I can/can't tolerate this way. I lost weight and gained muscle and went from a size 4 to a size 1 in record time. It was all about being mindful of what I was putting into my body and WHEN I put it into my body. I found out I do much better eating in the evening. I never would have known that if I didn't take the time to slow down and think.
I'm NOT a big into meditation and suck at it but taking 5 minutes to breath deeply and turn off my mind has big a huge help for me. I'm a single mom with 2 kids so believe me, I totally relate.
You didn't mention exercise. Personally, 15 minutes/day is essential for me. Even if I'm simply doing body weight exercises or walking with the kids. Shoot - go across the monkey bars when the kids are at the park. Chase their little butts through the jungle gym and up and down the slides! Little bits here and there make a difference.
Leaving aside all the biological factors it might be, how was the bodyfat measured? Either the former or latter measurements might have been off. Most ways of evaluating are very inexact, is my understanding.
First thing comes to mind that that kind of BF gain is impossible given you've only gained 7 pounds. Unless you were completely skinny fat your BF shouldn't be that high at your weight. One of your measurements (likely the second one) is wrong. Get another measurement. Pronto, cos you are way stressed out.
It's mysterious! I don't have a definitive Answer like the many excellent ones here already (it sounds like you've nailed the diet really well), but just a couple thoughts:
How much cabbage are you eating, and is it uncooked? Most other Brassicas are rarely eaten raw, but cabbage is often made into sauerkraut. Uncooked Brassicas are goitergenic - in large quantities can cause hypothyroidism.
Speaking of thyroid, have you had the full panel done? Not just TSH but T3, T4, TPO - you can go further but those are considered minimal - and most doctors don't order them all! I developed a minor goiter (I don't know if paleo had a role - probably it just became noticeable when I lost weight) and while my TSH was normal, further tests (gotten at my own expense) indicated hypothyroidism after all.
I found that my own wine consumption went way up after I went 'low carb'. I drink it dry, but my understanding is that it's metabolized like a fatty acid not like a sugar, and that it is 'preferentially' consumed ahead of fats. This implies that, while it doesn't do the sugar/insulin bad thing, it will stall weight loss by getting in the way of fat metabolism. Can anyone confirm this? I've found remarkably little good info on this subject...
My scale measures body fat (though not with the handheld part) but I don't trust it at all. I've lost over 30 lbs, yet it says my fat and water are exactly where they were six months ago. I don't think I lost much or any muscle, but if I did it's not 30 lbs! My theory is that my body composition (skinny legs - the Family Curse) is just not well measured by that device. Your body shape might be shifting the percentages way off.
Good luck - let us know how it goes!
Those scales are 100% bullshit. Zero evidence that they are accurate. If you would like to know your actual body fat percentage, please get tested with calipers, BodPod, DEXA scan, or hydrostatic weighing. I would bet you $100 it's nowhere near 36% body fat!
I have heard of a lot of people having worsening or developing hypothyroid due to a low-carb, unprocessed 'paleo' diet with no sources of iodine, so I would get that checked out as well. Also, you say you have two young boys - if one was recently born/weaned, that's often a trigger for hypo stuff as well.
You might also be one of those women who has more success with maintaining a good weight/leanness with a higher proportion of carbs on a paleo-style diet. They are out there! My body comp personally does not change much no matter what I eat, but I feel physically and emotionally SO much better eating moderate carbs. Since you were fit, lean and thin before on a high-carb low-fat diet (although with other issues), maybe the middle ground would work better for you. Say 50/20/30 F/P/C.
I agree with the comments about the accuracy of the body fat % measurements. I have one of those Tanita scales, and years ago I lost about 30 pounds (from about 220 to 190) while working out every day, went down 3 inches on my waist size, and it said my body fat percentage never changed from 26% (I am 41 y.o. male, 6' tall). I really don't think that was physically possible.
I would, however, use the "how do my pants fit" metric, in fact that is the primary way that I measure my progress. If you are putting on weight around your waist, that is probably not a good thing, there is pretty much no way to put on muscle weight around your waist... I wouldn't freak out, but look at making some changes in your diet.
It sounds like your Paleo diet from Sept 2010 up until a month ago was different than your diet of the past 4 weeks. I have been strict Paleo for a couple of months, and your diet of the past 4 weeks sounds very close to mine (including a penchant for wine!). For me, the starchy carbs (rice, potatoes, grains) are like an on/off switch for weight. When I have even a little of them (small portion 3x per week), the weight stays on or goes up. When I give them up, I drop 5+ pounds pretty quickly. I have learned that I just can't have them, and am strict about it.
When I first started Paleo, I lost about 7-8 pounds quickly and then nothing more. It was kind of frustrating because I knew I wasn't eating a lot, including some fasting, I was exercising more than previously, and thought I'd lose weight, but I didn't. But I felt so much better I didn't care much.
Then one day at around week 7, I stepped on the scale and was 3 pounds lighter. So I dug through the closet and pulled out some old jeans that I hadn't worn in almost 10 years, and they fit, in fact some of them were loose. I have heard this from other people too. I think it can take a while to adapt to a new diet, stick to it strictly for 2-3 months before you decide it isn't working.
Also, ironically, I have found that cheating about once every week or two actually takes the weight off. A few times I got stuck eating non-Paleo food (i.e. staying with friends or family and just going with the flow), and to my surprise a few days later I was lighter and the pants were looser. Haven't figured that out completely, but it sure helps the diet to feel that you can eat anything you want once every couple of weeks.
Finally, when I first started, my main form of exercise was running about 3 miles 3-4x per week, i.e. almost all cardio. I don't like lifting weights so have always had a bias towards cardio. Even though I had more energy with Paleo, I was not increasing my running distance and was not losing any more weight.
After some discussion here, I decided to switch to high-intensity strength training. I like kettlebells, so I do a combination of kettlebells, push-ups, and Burpees for about 30 minutes every other day, a very intense workout with no breaks. This too was like flipping a switch -- after just a few weeks, I put on noticeable muscle in my arms and lost another inch from my waist.
So after working on it for a while I found two things that make a huge difference for me -- dropping grains and starchy carbs completely, and changing the exercise regimen. Keep at it and you'll find the right combination for you. Good luck, and post back here after a while and let us know how you're doing.
"I do interval training twice a week and high-impact cardio once a week."
You NEED to lift weights.
If you are doing HIIT intervals right, you probably should not be doing them twice a week. And the "high impact cardio" is likely worsening your body's cortisol response (not sure what you mean by that but it doesn't sound good...).
As Mark S says "lift heavy things", it's a fundamental principle of his philosophy. You can't replace it with intervals, they are not the same.
I recommend "stronglifts 5x5" (Google it) or something like that which has you do full-body weights like squats (an ESSENTIAL ingredient in any good lifting plan) which will get your body to start changing composition by increasing hgh and testosterone (or something, Sission and others have the details on why)
After a workout like this, I find it relaxes my mind and leads to better sleep as well, which could reduce your need for wine and help in that regard as well.
one more thing - take a look and read how your scale actually does the bodyfat calculation. I didn't look up Omcron, I have a Tanita and it turns out it really "measures" bodyfat by a calculation through water % since water/ muscle and bodyfat have much different electrical conductance.
I didn't read all the comments above - big list! : ) - however agree with the "don't stress about it" and also anyone who said to really take a hard look for all that hidden sugar - you 'fess up to the coffee but if anything is insidious in this society it's sugar, HFCS, etc. It's everywhere and so negative for the system.
I've had the same thing happen to me, hence the research on my scale, and still haven't cracked it. For me, it was dairy (half and half in coffee), which I've now severly limited and am trying to cut out altogether. I also was eating more cashews and other high omega-6 nuts and am trying fish oil capsules for a bit to get the ratio back.
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