I do not understand at all. Recently I took a trip to Southern Asia, and lost 7 pounds over 2 weeks (but did go up 2% bf according to my scale - I look good though...).
I was eating almost no protein, lots of grains, and curries with minimal amounts of coconut milk in them. I think most of it was broth and spices. It was a classic low-fat, high-carb diet, and I was lucky if I got one egg a day. Meals were generally rice and curry or noodles and curry or bread and curry, 3 times a day. I had 3 milky teas a day also.
Exercise-wise, all I did was walk around a little (probably less than I do at home) and lots of bending over to pick up leaves and things and throw them into a truck, for 90 minutes 5 days a week.
I only slept around 7 hours a day because the sun would come up super early and things would get noisy.
Were my losses all muscle? I don't understand how I could have lost any fat but I do notice smaller thighs and upper-arms. The weird thing is that I also lost weight on vacation a few months back on a similar diet, with lots of milky tea/coffee and Middle Eastern fare (more meat, but still a lot of bread and hummus, plus alcohol mixed with sugary drinks).
I don't know if this is a sign that a higher carb diet works for me, or if it's just because of the increase of Vit D from being outside way more coupled with the extremely low cortisol and high contentment of being on vacation that caused me to lose a few pounds. I did sleep less but I woke up better rested. I certainly don't see though how results were coming slow with my IF, weight-training, hot yoga, 9-10 hour sleep a night routine but with vacations weight just drops off. Do you think the conditions of my vacation (mood, sunlight, and lack of stress&technology in particular) made a large difference?
How should I use these experiences to hack my current routine, if at all?
I think vacation has a big impact psychologically. No matter how energised and well I'm feeling normally, the release when I'm formally off work is still massive. Your body may have been enjoying some proper recovery time. It's likely to be almost all water anyway, which can swing all over the place with a change in diet. High-carb isn't necessarily bad either, if you're coming at it from a functioning metabolism.
In general, I'd hesitate to call any traditional diet 'crap food'. It's typically real food, and with millenia of wisdom behind the combination of foods and spices etc. and is likelt to be quite sustainable. The agriculturalists survived after all, if not at the peak of human potential. Conventional wisdom only really went wrong when we tried to retrofit foods to what we thought our bodies needed by reductionism, looking at the individual biological processes rather than judging by the overall effect on the body.
If you've lost weight and your body fat percentage really has gone up then I wouldn't say the diet worked for you. That would be body decomposition. I don't think you would of just lost muscle, but both fat and muscle, though you may have lost more muscle than fat.
Did you need or did you want to lose weight?
There are a lot of factors to consider, total calorie intake as well as your calorie expenditure. How well do you tolerate bread/gluten? If it irritates your gut wall enough it will stop you absorbing everything you're eating, so you might be putting the normal amount of food in your mouth not absorbing the normal amount.
You can lose muscle from a lack of use as well as a lack of protein, do you usually do some resistance exercise that you didn't do on vacation? You may have just experienced some de-training, which can be exacerbated on a low protein diet.
Did you experience any gastro like symptoms?
I've traveled a lot through Asia, and I typically lose weight as well, though I put it down to a highly irritated gut (I do a whole lot better without grains) and walking all day most days.
I'm with the others in wondering whether or not this was a good change. It may have been if you in fact lost some fat and the rest of the change was water. It could also have been dehydration from your intestinal issues. Let's assume good things happened.
For many people, the protective responses of the body to everyday stresses and strains can get in the way of weight loss, particularly if you don't have that much to lose.
As AndyM said, the release from that when you're on vacation should not be underestimated. I was under treatment for gum disease once and it was improving but very slowly. I went on vacation and it improved by leaps and bounds. The funny part was that the periodontist told me that would happen; he said any patients who went on vacation always came back much improved.
When I was still working, we all noticed that people who came back to visit a few months after their retirement always looked younger. I'm not sure I did THAT but I certainly noticed a lessening of daily stress.