• Metabollic damage – The road to recovery

    The journey to weight loss has never been an easy one for me; changing the bad habits of a life time have proven to be a struggle yet now I am still faced with the consequences of the actions I have taken to reach my goals. This blog is to try and help educate people as to why fad diets and quick fixes may give you quick results but in the long term it has nothing but a negative effect on your body.

    I’ve tried every diet out there: atkins, weight watchers, slim fast you name it I’ve tried it and don’t get me wrong I have revelled in the results I have had but I’ve also been left miserable and depressed by inevitable weight gain and negative effects of the aftermath of such diets. The horrible truth is that these diets are designed exactly for this purpose, for people like me and you to buy into the process, to get results, to return to normal life thinking we’ve reached our goal only to gain all the weight back and have to buy into it all again. The process I have gone through to lose weight from my teens has been a bumpy road. I’ve battled through bullying and depression and although it was hard its made me learn so much about myself and how I have inevitably damaged my body by crash dieting and over exercising.

    As a result of being force fed the wrong manufactured information about ‘healthy eating’ I came to believe that as long as calories in were less than calories out I would always lose weight….WRONG!! Since working at Winners 2000 I have learnt a great deal about nutrition and exercise and everything I thought was right has been proven wrong through my own experience. Upon joining Winners I was teaching 14 classes a week, attending Crossfit 3 times a week and training in the gym. I lived on salads, chicken and protein shakes and gained weight!! I couldn’t fathom how or why this had happened? Surely with the amount of training I was doing and clean food I was eating I was in a huge calorie deficit and therefore should have been losing weight?? The fact is over training and under eating has nothing but a negative effect on your body. There are many complex and complicated ways I could explain the process your body goes through to get to this stage but in simple terms:

    Survival mode: as a result of not feeding my body enough calories to fuel everyday life let alone my workouts my body was in survival mode. This basically means that when a person cuts their calorie intake down to less than their body would normally burn in a day (BMR – basal metabolic rate) their metabolism slows down to such an extent that the person then begins to gain weight. In survival mode your body will lay down fat for future use as it has adapted to the fact that that it is not going to receive enough calories. An even simpler way of explaining it is that your body needs fuel (food) to burn for energy. If you then reduce the amount of fuel you are putting into your body, every time you refuel (eat more food) your body will naturally hold onto it for as long as possible (in the form of bodyfat).

    Stress: We always hear that you should get 8 hours sleep a day and that rest is essential. I always thought this was just an excuse for people to not exercise or take a day off but the truth is not allowing my body to rest had a dramatic effect on my life and body. I spent so many months trying to cram in as many training sessions as possible I never realised the damage I was doing until it was too late. Recovery is essential when working towards a goal of being lean, if you are looking to build muscle anywhere on your body you need to allow them time to recover and grow after a gruelling workout. I however ignored this fact and thought that if I was constantly sore and knackered then that meant I was working hard and would eventually get the results I wanted. The fact is lack of sleep and recovery time just ended in the worse result….. weight gain. The most predominant reason was down to my cortisol levels. Cortisol is also known as the stress hormone and when you workout you produce a certain amount of it in your body. So when someone like me may have a typical day of 2 classes and a crossfit session my cortisol levels were through the roof. The effects of elevated cortisol levels include lower immune function, slower brain responses such as memory and the dreaded weight gain!

    Appetite: A great indicator of how your metabolism is working is your appetite. Basic human function requires food for energy therefore the body produces a hormone called leptin that plays a key role in the regulation of food intake and appetite. If you have a normal functioning metabolism and thyroid you will have a healthy appetite, this proves you are metabolising food and your body is using the food you are giving it rather than storing it. This would explain why I have never had much of an appetite, if my body isn’t metabolising the little food I am getting it won’t feel hungry. I never thought that feeding your body more clean calories would increase your appetite but its all about adapting your body to produce the results you want and ultimately get healthy.

    With all this knowledge being shown to me I went forward with a new approach. I backed off my training and increased my rest time. I upped my calorie intake and was given a nutrition programme that involved carb cycling. Within 2 months the excess body fat I was so depressed about came off. BUT a few weeks later the number on the scale began to creep up. As a yoyo dieter I know exactly how my clients feel when the number on the scale fluctuates, when you know you’ve done everything you had to do and still haven’t seen the results you want. The truth is the problem goes much deeper than maybe having one to many sweets on treat day. I started 2014 with a goal of doing a ’12 week challenge’ I thought it would be a great idea to have a goal that I could train for and with the right training plan and nutrition plan I could finally achieve my goals with the knowledge I had learnt. Beginning my challenge I was optimistic, I ate right, I trained right, and I gained weight?!? Where had this come from? Why had this happened? After convincing myself it was just the post Christmas binge catching up with me I went forward and completed another week. I ate right, I trained right, and I gained weight?!? Depressed, unmotivated and heart broken I lost the will to try. Since then I have learnt I have about a thing called metabolic damage.

    The role of the thyroid is to make, store and release hormones into your blood. These hormones affect every cell in your body and help control your body’s functions. So what does this have to do with my metabolism? As a result of restricting my calories my thyroid didn’t have to function at a normal rate as I was not fuelling my body enough; this caused my thyroid function to lower, this is otherwise know as hypothyroidism. The body is an amazing thing, it can adapt to almost anything like most living things but the thing it strives for most is balance (homeostasis) and it will do anything it has to in order to achieve this. In my case in order to balance itself out my body has begun to shut down and my thyroid has adapted to its lack of calories and excess exercise by effectively beginning to shut down in order to protect itself.

    I’ve heard the word ‘metabolism’ be thrown around for years and never really understood what it meant, what it was and how it worked. I always went along with thinking thin people had a fast metabolism and fat people had a slow one but it turns out its way more complicated than that. Not only had 10 years of restricting calories and over exercising slowed my metabolism down it has practically destroyed it altogether! The first I had heard about metabolic damage was last week after a depressing week of thinking I was just never going to achieve the look I wanted. This video explained my problem down to the very last detail:

    Before you see how long it is and decide you don’t want to waste your life watching it, think about how you maybe wasting your life dieting and never achieving the results you want because you’re going about it all wrong: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EY1DsZMNfNw

    After watching this video it suddenly dawned on me, losing weight is great but there is a right way to do it and a wrong way to do it and I had well and truly been doing it wrong for 10 years!! Now I have a long process of trying to re-educate my body into working correctly and get my metabolism working right in order to reduce my body fat and gain the physique I have always wanted. How long will it take? That’s the question everyone wants to know but the truth is probably months. After years of not fuelling my body and over working it, it has developed a pretty solid habit and breaking the cycle will be a tough one.

    The plan now is to attempt to raise my metabolic capacity, or in simple turns I must now increase my calorie intake gradually so that my body begins to adapt and can burn more calories without gaining weight. The hard thing about this process is that I might gain weight before I can lose it. The scales have always been my worse enemy but it’s the long term goal I have to remember. If I can re-educate my metabolism so that when I diet I can consume more calories and still lose weight then I will be a happy girl. At the end of the day who doesn’t want to be told eat more and lose weight? I burn a lot of calories on a weekly basis and when looking back on the amount of calories I was eating it was no way near enough. After a week of recording my calorie intake and calorie expenditure I realised I was causing more damage than good.

    For example: a standard Monday:
    Breakfast – protein shake and almonds
    10.30am – Zumba (burn 450 kcals)
    12pm – Crossfit training (burn 600 kcals)
    12.30pm – Chicken Salad
    4pm – Protein shake and 3 oatcakes
    6.30pm – Zumba (burn 500 kcals)
    8.30pm – Tuna and veg
    Total Calories eaten = 1200 kcals
    Calories burnt through exercise = 1550 kcals

    This means that I was -350 kcals before even considering how many calories my body burns naturally (BMR). It all began to make sense and I realised that maybe this was affecting me in more ways than just weight gain. I’ve never been a person who gets sick but I have been suffering with colds for the last 2 months, my skin has been terrible recently and I have really lacked energy. All of these are easily explainable when you look at the amount of energy I have been giving my body. With all this information in my brain I have had to take a step back and really look at the way I have been living. Now the journey to recovery starts. I am now on a programme designed to increase my calorie intake gradually.

    Week 1:
    My calories went up to 1700 a day from 1200. This may seem like a lot but given that some days I burn up to 1500 kcals just exercising I am still in a deficit.

    Results: 2lb gain – I am not going to lie this was tough, after tears and wondering why I remember the long term goal. I must go through this process in order to make my body a calorie burning machine and I need to feed my body the fuel it needs to build the muscle I want for a lean physique. On reflection the 500 kcal increase was to big of an increase in a small period of time so we went back to the drawing board and started with a smaller increase.

    Week 2:
    After such a quick gain in 7 days we have pulled my calorie intake back slightly to ensure we do not increase to quickly.

    I have made a jump this week to 1500 kcals a day spread over 5 meals:

    3 meals consisting of 30g protein and 15g of fat

    2 meals consisting of 30g protein, 15g fat and 28g carbs (pre and post workout)

    Results will be posted in my blog next week and I will keep you posted on my progress.

    As they say good things come to those who wait.