Thin Lizzie’s Diet Bloopers

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I’m a busy boy this month, but wanted to give you guys a little something.  Lizzie here has spent nearly two decades dieting and was very eager to share her experiences with the 180 community.  She sounds like a typical case – gained weight due to some law school stress on top of a teenage alcohol, nicotine, and junk food diet.  This she met with more stressful overexercising, undereating, and restricted dieting… One thing led to another and, voila!  Hypothyroidism and a cluster of health problems relating to it!  And this has led to the typical dieter’s predicament… She desperately needs real food, but her long chain of diet bloopers has caused her to gain weight eating well.  Some encouragement please? 

Guest post by Elizabeth “Lizzie” Jaeger

I am a 44-year old wife and mother of two boys and I am hoping one day soon to be a “recovered” diet-holic … still recovering !! Although I was never really fat, I dieted lamely off and on through HS and college, drinking and smoking and eating junky food for the most part. Not until law school in 1993 did I see a major increase in poundage, rising to 160 at 5’6″. Like most people, I decided the quickest way to get rid of this must be through exercise and so I did.

I began running, because that was easy, and soon I was running 2-3 miles a day during the week and 5-6 on weekends, maybe one day off. As if that weren’t bad enough, I added a super-low-fat vegan diet into the mix (think, Ornish, McDougall, Susan Powter) … now you start to cringe, or maybe eye-roll …. AND, the ubiquitous fat-free soymilk, of course! … Yep, dropped those pounds – about 40 or so… left some muscle mass along the way (I now know) and … lost some hormoes too, apparently, as my husband and I tried to start a family around 1998 …. funny, two years of tracking 38-46 day cycles did not seem strange to me then ! …. Two miscarriages and a bunch of progesterone later, I did have my beautiful first son.

But the joint pain and fatigue that had started during pregnancy never went away and I really felt awful and …could not drop the last 20 or so pounds … but I thought that if I could just run and get back on my now-vegetarian diet (decided that it was OK to eat cheese while I was pregnant!), I would be OK – but I could not run because of the joint pain. Off to the doc I went, hoping for a referral to an orthopedist. Sometimes, as they say here in Georgia, even a blind pig finds an acorn – I got lucky and got a great doctor who wanted to do blood work – well, ok, and then he referred me to a book about …you guessed it – hypothyroid disease!

Yes, I won the High TSH award that week – it was 82 :) …. so, on to the Synthroid and then later Armour and then, around 2002, I asked him what I could do to lose some more weight and he suggested …Atkins …. well, ok, for an ex-vegan that was pretty extreme so I found myself sitting at my desk at work eating bacon and hoping my coworkers did not see me !!! And lo and behold, I did lose some more weight. So I kept at the Atkins thing, kind of an “organic Atkins” if you will …. oh yeah, I had those Schwarzbein books too – I thought it made a lot of sense but, well, who could eat all those carbs ???????????

Eventually tried to have another baby – failed, even with drugs. Decided that if I could not be pregnant, I would be thin – errr, yeah, that makes sense (not) …And so I worked out some more, ate a lot of protein shakes and bars (eeewwwww!) and … got pregnant babahahahahaa! …

Umm… there is a reason that YOUNG people have babies …. elder folks like me are not really supposed to … it was a very rough pregnancy, full of high blood pressure, elevated liver enzymes, and a lot of carbs … lots …. and so, when my sweet second son was born after being induced 5 weeks early, and I had an extra 30 pounds to get rid of … you got it … drink lots of coffee and diet soda, eat protein bars and shakes … and work at a very high-stress job while husband is running another business …. I can tell you that cortisol is very real. And makes you skinny fat ….. but hey, I was losing weight .. but not enough !

And so, I felt I had gotten to the end of my Atkins rope (sorry this is so long but it actually gets more ridiculous) … and so I started doing Body for Life – ya know, egg whites and oatmeal and weight lifting and cardio – twice a day – and I kinda hung around that for …. several years ….. until it wasn’t really working so much for me anymore…. I had quit my high-stress lawyer job by then to try to reduce the stress in my life and be home with my kids – so, then I hooked up with this series of trainers who kindly (for a fee) gave me some very strict eating (1300- 1500 low-fat calories) and workout plans .. as if Body for Life was not bad enough ….

And then …. can you say crazy ….well, I had read Nourishing Traditions and Price’s book and a bunch of others, including Gary Taubes, and I got the raw milk and the grass-fed beef and all… and yeah, intellectually, I totally got it … and I tried it … and I kept freaking out at the instant weigh gain – so back to the low-fat / high-protein / low-calorie thing I would go, rationalizing that “real food is all very well and good for people who are not so SCREWED UP metabolically, but I am too far gone and I can’t do this!” …oh yeah, and last summer, I found Mark Sisson’s site (heheh) – instant weight GAIN – of course I panicked …. and just kinda milled around all this past fall and winter trying to decide how crazy I was going to let this all make me …. eating a lot of protein powder and egg whites and peanut butter (omega 6?????) … So, hypothyroid, burnt-out adrenals, elevated liver enzymes – yep !

It all sounds pretty crazy and stupid, for a woman with a law degree, and a certified personal trainer (DOH!) and a great family, who loves for me to cook ! So, this is my LONG and by-now rambling version of how I got here and hopefully it will help someone not make QUITE as many mistakes as I have – I think I have made them all and now I HAVE to do this. I just wanted to thank you for putting it in such a way that has made me realize that now. I can’t take a shortcut because there are no shortcuts. I have to do a 180 LOL!!!

Thanks Matt !!!

-Elizabeth Jaeger;
Fitness Outside the Box

Got More Diet Bloopers coming tomorrow (Monday at the latest)!


  1. Elizabeth, Interesting and familiar story. That is the highest TSH I have ever hear of, no wonder you couldn't lose weight! Are you sticking to the Schwarzbein ratios now?

  2. Matt,
    I think it is a good idea to post personal accounts like this so that people can understand what is going on.

    Just wondering, do you always get permission from the person before you post their story and name on your site?

  3. Haha girl I can relate to this so much and I am only 24 years old.. having been a “dieter since high school” I went off to college, learned to drink and was introduced to junkfood having never eaten it pre-college or even used a microwave, put on a good 30 lbs my freshmen semester, then developed anorexia for the past ohhh 5-6 years… I am FINALLY learning to eat again, to understand my body, and to HOPEFULLY regain my fertility… I have tried everything from all protein no fat diets to vegan to all meat diets (my poor parents had to watch all this) and as much as I cringe reading Matt’s posts and followers of HED (female) who have gained weight, I KNOW in my heart it is right and healthy. I am only 24 but have not had a period in some 5 years and the only thing I truly want out of life is a bigass family and lots of babies…so, it is up to me. I hear you on the cortisol too. Tied with the ridiculous serotonin problems I have it is a match for hell so a lot of this battle, for me personally, is mental. We have read the same books as well haha and tried about the same routines. I went from running 4 miles a day to about 15 getting off on the “runner’s high.” Now I do no exercise whatsoever.Congrats on finding and hopefully pursuing Matt’s logic!

  4. Depending on the degree to which you have arthritis and its impact on your lifestyle, you may need to take anti-inflammatory medications that your doctor will prescribe. Always follow the directions carefully and take the medication only as directed. Let your doctor know if you experience side effects or allergic reactions, which might include hives, itching, swelling, or difficulty breathing. Over-the-counter medications likewise may be prescribed so you can take them as needed for sporadic discomfort if the pain has not become chronic or severe.

  5. Dr Poppy here. Thanks for sharing your story here, I think it is a very common tale for us "educated" overachievers who think we're going to take matters into our own hands and beat our bodies into submission. It is no surprise that you had infertility and pregnancy complications with this approach…I have said many times on this forum that for those who have really disrupted their bodies through years of abuse, a wholistic approach of hormone balancing, vitamin deficiency treatment PLUS the dietary element will help you return to health quicker…and will stall that weight gain of the healing process.

  6. I've been a diet-holic too. Read all those books. Tried all those diets and workouts. I just had my second baby and truly feel that I am in the best shape of my life. I gauge this to be so because I FEEL good. I think I look pretty good too, but the main thing is that I refuse to weigh myself anymore. That arbitrary number causes me to freak too. Sure I want muscle and bone – but if that makes for a higher number on the scale I irrationally panic.

    Hang in there. Heal your body. STOP using the scale. Do some full body workouts and limit them to 45 minutes – no crazy oveexercising – and your body will NOT betray you.

    Thanks for sharing your story.

  7. Yes JT. I'm usually told to use their name and info. If they don't want me to, then I keep it anonymous. I'll keep these coming from time to time to. I make lots of human physiology generalizations, but it's always powerful to see it really working that way.

  8. Thanks so much Elizabeth. You could have been writing about me! I am so happy to read this, as I am on a similar journey. I now have a dairy goat and am milking 2L a day. I must remember to drink the raw milk daily too though :-s

    I am Elizabeth as well lol!

  9. "I now have a dairy goat and am milking 2L a day."
    I am so fricking jealous! There's absolutely no place where I can buy raw goat or sheep milk where I live. Such a shame.

  10. Shame you do not live near me, as I have plenty to share ;-) I am in Australia, so too far to ship :p

  11. baringapark: Do you have any tips for a dairy goat beginner? We're thinking about getting a dairy goat (or two) sometime this year. We buy a ton of raw cow's milk right now and I'd rather be a little more self-sufficient/economical and go ahead and milk our own. But I'm a little apprehensive since I've never done it before!

    Elizabeth: Thanks so much for sharing your story! It's amazing how many of us have been down the same dieting path, and we're just left a body riddled with health problems and brains riddled with question marks!

  12. Wow, that was quite the story. Much more in-depth and longer than mine for sure.

    I think some people think of true health as like this "get thinner, fart less (or more, who knows), build muscle" mantra, but that isn't what true health is.

    True health is obtained when you put some simple logic together and think that *maybe*, just maybe, you can't run a good body on less calories than are needed. The body is brilliant, it will do anything to survive and give you a bunch of cravings that will be ignored. We have been the stupid ones who think that stress doesn't matter, that some protein/vitamin/soy mix is healthier than real food, and that we have to whip ourselves into shape to look more than just a blob of fat. True health is when you avoid awful bouts of misery from dieting, gaining weight, killing your thyroid, and turn into someone who can eat any amount of real food, can get pregnant (or make someone pregnant) in an instant, who feels "stable" and secure, and feels confident that they have one heck of a body, not some fragile muscles/fat/bones/organs combination.

    Matt, I think you are going to change far more lives than any doctor will save. I don't know why so few others have looked outside the box and seen the simple logic. I really appreciate that someone out there (well, lots of others, but yours seems to make the most sense) is making an honest open attempt at cracking the health puzzle.

    As far as my own experiences with (mostly) 180, I'm not health problem free yet, but my body is so much more better off than it was before. I'm not ripped, but I have a far better muscle/fat balance than I did before. I can have 8 ounces of cream cheese or hideous amounts of properly buttered mashed potatoes with no digestive issues at all. I now feel like I have a body that "can", rather than something I have to endlessly pamper to live with.

    On another note, I haven't been in the loop much lately but I do know that you are now against excessive omega-6. I'm not sure how that ties into the Hunza's and their huge omega-6 intake, but personally I have found that I find animal sources with high omega 6 to be repulsive. I was trying some Walmart-grade salami the other day and couldn't eat it, but I'm fine with certain brands it seems. Also, chicken and turkey fat is generally repulsive for me, especially certain kinds. I don't think I'm playing tricks on my mind to get this, just that my body naturally senses something it can't handle or that is already rancid.

    Elizabeth: I hope you recover well. It'll probably take a while, but I'm sure after a few weeks you will start feeling better.


  13. Thank you so much, Lizzy, for sharing your story!…I can totally relate and am in the process of dumping 60 pounds of fat thanks to the ridiculous time I've wasted on the diet see saw…out of all the volumes of 'expert' stuff I've read and experimented with, I'm pretty sure I win the clusterfuck of the year award for royally screwing up my body…and at 48, the weight doesn't come off as fast as when I was in my 20s and 30s…thank god I found the 180 website, 'cuz it's the only thing that finally makes any sense…wish I had a cow to get my raw milk!…oh, and if I could give one piece of advice to anyone out there…THROW OUT THAT DAMN SCALE!…it mentally messed me up too much…I now go by how my clothes feel and I use a tape measure…so hang in there to everyone who has royally f**ked up our bodies…there is a light at the end of the tunnel…but the work involved must be done CORRECTLY…thanks, again, Lizzy!

  14. @ Elizabeth Walling
    (apologies Matt for hijacking this post!)

    I only recently acquired our goat Judith! Previously I had been milking a very cranky cow and the entire experience was very traumatic for all involved. I highly recommend keeping dairy goats! The main thing to remember is that they are not grazers – they do not eat much grass at all, but are browsers, so require branches and leaves and roughage! I am happy to chat about goats, you can email me erbehrendt at bigpond dot com dot au

  15. Good post and this post helped me alot in my college assignement. Thanks you seeking your information.

  16. Great write up. These are always useful and stir up good debate, plus give many of us that have been on a similar path some hope.

    My temps have only just started rising consistently after about 6 weeks of eating a good diet, with starches back in. Only now have some of the low carb symptoms like a racing mind, anxiety and intolerance to cold started to subside. So slowly does it when it comes to our body healing.

    What is great is how much my addiction/cravings for things like coffee and gum have disappeared. as well as obsession with food.

    One thing that is slightly disheartening is the amount of fat gained especially on my butt and tummy, also on thighs which can make wearing jeans pretty uncomfortable…. What is funny though is that weight gain has been minimal (4-6lbs) and I have definitely gained muscle.

    This is to be expected but Hopefully not long until my body starts shedding a bit of this excess flub :-)

    Matt: I would also like to get your view on the importance of an alkalizing diet? maybe a potential blog post topic….

  17. Teran-
    Thanks buddy. Yes the omega 6 thing is front and center right now, and you'll see over the coming months more and more reasons why that is. As for the Hunzas, apricot oil is high in omega 6, but they ate a low-calorie, low-fat, and very nutritious diet – with goats milk too :). If one had to guess, I'd say they probably got around 10% of calories from apricot oil, which is probably 5-6 grams of omega 6… within the threshold, especially when other sources of oxidation are so low that health can be maintained… not to mention the high vitamin E content of their diets (fresh-ground wheat) – and no hyperinsulinemia to convert that omega 6 to cellular AA.

    Right on. That's just been my experience. You gain, but at the same time you become extremely proficient at losing fat. If anything, it's looking like step 1 is eating well and step 2 is losing any fat gained in the process. Healthy and lean is the ultimate goal, and I think we'll get there, but in the reverse order of how it's typically pursued.

    As for alkalinizing, there are a lot of myths surrounding eating alkaline-forming foods. Sure, your pH is an important biomarker of homeostasis, and I see no reason not to eat leafy vegetables and other alkalinizing foods, but I've seen a low-carber with a much higher pH than a raw vegan, so I know the pH thing is not as simple as it's made out to be.

  18. Matt why is it do you think some of us only gain fat+water and others seem to gain some muscle with the weight gain? If anything I have lost muscle with stopping serious weight training. I also seem to have gained the most for the least amount of calories, which is strange

  19. Weight training allows you to build lots of lean muscle – moreso than anyone could ever build through eating alone. So if you are already well-built, cutting out weight training is likely to result in a drop in muscle no matter how you eat.

    In general, I'd say the more someone is starving from many years of overexercising and undereating, the more fat and less lean mass they are likely to gain in the short-term. Anabolic hormones are unlikely to rise and assure preferential use of ingested energy for muscle and energy over fat until temps. have been well-restored.

    In general, the younger you are the more rapid you should, in theory, recuperate temperature and lean body mass-wise.

    But it has everything to do with triggering muscle-building and fat-burning hormones as the metabolism rises to maximum. And we all have individual differences there.

  20. Well said Matt.

    I am willing to bet that those individuals who gained as much as 30 pounds in Sims famous overfeeding (HED)experiment probably added 10 pounds of lean bodyweight. Cannot remember where I saw it, but someone somewhere found that as obese people got even fatter (from doing it all wrong in the first place)they added lean bodyweight, without any resistance training at all, in a ratio of about 30/70 lean/fat.

    As someone who is "well built", and now in his mid-40's, no way on earth am I going to stop my strenght training as I heal. Although I am not an metabolic mess, per se, I still want to hang on to everything I have built as I work towards ultimately dropping the fat. So far, so good with HED, now up 4 pounds on the scale (weigh myself once a week), and all of my pants, be it jeans or dress, fit the exact same.

  21. On a fairly unrelated note: I've been doing some research into the Victorian Poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning who was an "invalid" almost her entire adult life. In trying to figure out what the heck was actually wrong with her, I found out that she was an opium addict (prescribed for her by doctors for her "nervous" condition, i.e. being a normal teenager) and also probably anorexic. In her letters she describes regularly feeding her meals to her dog so her family won't know how little she actually eats. All of her symptoms: light-headedness, no tolerance to cold or any kind, weak heart and lungs could probably be familiar to those with eating disorders. She also had four miscarriages, one near fatal, before she finally manged to carry one to term.

    So I guess screwing up our health with diet isn't anything new…

  22. Matt I'm not so sure the Hunza ate a low fat diet as you claim…

    this website maybe biased but its worth a read about the hunza.

  23. A. That site is retarded.

    B. To think that the Hunzas dried all those apricots and grew all that wheat and then lived without those over the winter is dumb.


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