By Chris Sandel, author of The Health Trap
Losing weight doesn’t necessarily lead to better looks. Likewise, gaining weight doesn’t necessarily make you look worse. The look of your body is more about changes in the relative proportions of muscle and fat. The number on the scale is almost completely irrelevant in most cases, and many people are making their body composition worse by trying to lose weight. On this basis, the scale is already a poor tool at best. But before we dig our heels into this topic, let’s first talk about what is an even bigger reason to stop hopping on a scale…
We are emotional creatures. Most of our choices are not made with our rational brain, although this is how we justify it to ourselves. Instead, our decisions and emotions are determined by our reptilian brain, that part of our brains that we have in common with all other animals, and, from an evolutionary perspective, was the first region to develop.
If there’s one instrument that has the most power over the reptilian brain I would speculate that it’s a set of scales. Stepping on a scale can determine whether it is going to be a good day or a bad day. In our rational mind it seems silly that some?hunk of metal and?plastic that lights up with numbers can have so much power, but for so many you know it to be true.
The bizarre thing is, for most people, no matter what the scale says, it’s going to be a bad day. You have decided to go on a diet (whichever one is in vogue this month) and have been doing it for a little while. You have noticed some changes but know that the only true way to know if things are really working is to step on the scale. So you take the plunge, step on, and see how your work has paid off.
This can go?one or more of several different?ways…
- You notice that you have lost weight. This leads to positive emotions and you feel like your hard work has made a difference. But this often comes at a price. If you have been really hammering it with the exercise and cutting calories, then there is the realisation that this is your new reality. Yeah you have lost weight, but at what price? You are already hungry all the time and are feeling tired. You now have to keep up this new routine to keep losing this weight and you start to wonder how long you can keep it up for.
- Or, it could induce fear. You have always wanted to lose this weight and now you start to worry about what happens if it doesn’t stay off. You’ve been on diets before and they have never lasted, why is this time going to be any different? So you make a pledge to work harder, to eat less and to make this one count. Today you are going to skip lunch and have a snack for dinner so you can really keep this up.
- If you stand on the scale and weight has actually increased, you are faced with a different dilemma and it normally goes one of two ways. You decide that you haven’t been strict enough and you just need to work harder. You decide to eat less, cut out more of some macronutrient (either carbs or fat) or up the exercise routine.
- The other option is deciding that your attempt to lose weight is a failure, and so you throw in the towel. You now allow yourself to eat all those foods on your banned list. Rather than just eating them normally, you gorge like a competitive eater at a?buffet–going through a rollercoaster of emotions that starts high but ends in the dumps. In a couple weeks time when you stand on the scales again you will make a decision to start a new diet and swear that this time will be different. And so the pattern starts all over again.
In truth, these patterns happen whether someone is on a diet or not. Someone could have not been on a diet in years (or ever), but standing on a set of scales is the impetus that gets them thinking that maybe it is time to start thinking about one.
When I work with clients it is common for them to put on weight in the beginning. We live in a society where calorie restriction is cherished and lots of people are under the assumption that they should be eating 1,200 calories a day. Even when this is not a conscious decision, eating often ranks low on the list of important tasks when someone is busy and this busyness means they go long periods between meals and miss out on taking in adequate calories.
When we start working together, I encourage them to be eating more and in a short space of time symptoms start to improve. This could be anything from sleeping more soundly, increased energy, improved mood, better digestion and so on. But at some point I will get an email with a subject line like “Help! I have put on weight!!” It will state that’she stood on the scale and has noticed that’she has?put on an extra 2kg and want to be “losing weight, not putting it on!”
There is an assumption that increased weight means that what you are doing is wrong. If we are gaining weight the diet mustn’t be working, if we are losing weight then we are onto a winner. When weight increases, the tendency is to think that this weight is all fat. “I have put on 2kg, so I have put on 2kg of fat.” Well this really isn’t the case. Let’s look at the different options of what this new weight could be:
- Fat… Yes some of the new weight will be fat. This is part of the healing process, and if you have been under eating (whether intentionally or unintentionally) your body will be storing some of this increased food as fat. Your body is being sensible, as after years of struggling to have enough to get by, it is storing some of this increased food for a rainy day. In the beginning, more of this extra food is stored as fat, but as time goes on your body shifts. It no longer feels the need to hoard for a rainy day. Instead, more is used for energy and other body functions. Unfortunately this stage really can’t be avoided and is a process the body needs to go through on its way to increasing health.
- Glycogen… Some of the extra weight is due to increased glycogen storage. When you eat carbohydrates some is used for energy immediately, and some is stored for quick energy later on (which is known as glycogen). This is stored in your muscles and your liver to be called on between meals and in an emergency. If you are under eating, your ability to store glycogen is limited, but as you start eating more, this increases. This is really important as it leads to more stable energy, mood, and an increased ability to handle stress.
- Water… Some of the new weight is stored?water. This increased water weight is partly due to the process of muscle glycogen described above but also part of cellular repair. This oedema usually sorts itself out in a couple of weeks, but if there are other hormonal issues going on it can take longer.
- Organs… Some of the increased weight will be due to the body rebuilding organ tissue. When you are under eating the body has to make up the energy shortage somehow. It becomes catabolic and will start to break down your own organs to be used for energy. This especially affects the thymus gland, the master controller of your immune system, and is part of the reason under eating can lead to autoimmune diseases, food intolerances, and general immune issues. By increasing your food intake your body starts to rebuild these organs, which increases their weight.
- Lean tissue and muscle… In’the same way your body breaks down organs in an emergency, it does so to your lean tissues and muscles. When you begin taking in adequate calories, the lost tissue can be rebuilt and adds weight to the scale.
So when you step on the scale and notice a bump in the weight this shouldn’t immediately be thought about as a bad thing. Often it is actually a sign of improved health and your body starting to heal and repair. Even people who already consider themselves overweight can look?and feel considerably better by gaining weight, like this?woman who went through rest and?refeeding after finding 180DegreeHealth. According to Matt, her body temperature/metabolism?increased from low 96’s F’to low 99’s F, and she reports “This has been life changing both physically and mentally for me. I can have normal food in my house without bingeing anymore (thank you feedbag method), I have energy to move and can barely stand to sit for more than 15 minutes or so, my sleep is great, I finally started exercising even though I kept promising myself I’d do it for the 2 1/2 years I was on Paleo, no more dry mouth or, ahem, other areas, hair looks thicker, and my mood is soooo upbeat. I think I’d lost my sense of humor to a certain extent.”
Raw weight is such a poor indicator of whether or not a?diet is working, especially in the early stages. Noticing if symptoms are improving is a much better gauge, but this is also not always true. Sometimes during the early healing stages people can feel pretty rotten. Understanding that this is a natural part of the process is important, as it stops a knee jerk reaction to go back to what you have always been doing when you aren’t getting results after a couple of weeks. Healing takes time (anywhere from months to years), and learning to be patient is key to long-term success.
Raw weight means even less when the body really starts to improve. It is very common for weight to increase at the same time that body composition gets better (less fat in proportion to lean mass). If you are just looking at the scale weight you will think things aren’t working when in fact they really are. The pictures in this post demonstrate it well.
If you know that standing on a set of scales causes an emotional surge of irrationality,’then avoid doing it. In so many cases it sabotages the hard work you are putting in, as it becomes the only measurement you care about in determining if what?you are doing is working. In time, standing on a scale shouldn’t send you into a frenzy. But for now if it does, rather than fighting it, put the scales in a cupboard and walk away. Or just smash the thing.
Chris Sandel, author of The Health Trap,?is a London-based nutritional therapist, consultant to individuals and corporations, and blogger at www.seven-health.com. You can read his articles at 180DegreeHealth HERE.
I needed to hear this today. I’ve been trying this and although I had never had troubles with weight until after I had children, I went from a very steady 115 pounds where I never had to even think about what I ate to 170 pounds during the 10 years afterward. And struggled the entire time trying to lose it all. When I finally gave up after reading Diet Recovery, I immediately started gaining weight–nearly 35 pounds in 3 months. Lately, I’ve been on the verge of freaking out. I’m getting my scale out of my bathroom asap and vowing to be more patient.
Are your temps up? Rate of weight gain slowing down? Appetite stabilizing? Feeling warm and seeing lots of signs of your metabolic rate improving? Feeling the weight going into breast/buttocks and less into the belly now? If your answers to those questions are mostly “no” you should probably make a few changes. I just want to make sure you aren’t stuffing yourself silly with no signs of improvement thinking a miracle awaits you at some magical weight.
I quit monitoring the temperature a while back but when I was, yes, it had started to go up from about 97ish to 98-99. I write for a living so I do still get cold hands and feet sometimes because I have to stay still a lot at the computer, but in general, yes, I feel plenty warm if I move around at all. I’d love to say I’m stuffing myself silly but the fact is, I’m really not. I’m very short though at 5″1′ so I probably don’t eat as much as some people even gaining weight. :) The gain leveled for a week about a month ago, and I actually dropped a couple of pounds without noticeably changing a thing, but one week later I’d put on 5 more. I’m really not sure what’s going on to be honest. I try to remember to take a nap each day (I don’t, but I try) and to get plenty of sleep. I went through a terribly stressful time a few years ago and just finally started to really relax earlier this year. But I still have no energy. Doesn’t matter how much I eat or how much sleep I get. I’m tired all the time. The way I’ve always lost weight in the past was to go on a 1400-1600 calorie diet but about 5 years ago, 1400 quit being low enough to lose and I refused to eat less than that. I was literally thinking about food all the time, making meal plans, obsessing over when I could have desert–if I’d saved enough calories, etc. I cannot stomach the idea of spending the rest of my life logging my calories in a damned spreadsheet (I did that for years) just to keep from dying fat.
5 years ago I was well on my way to my ideal physique. Then I lost my ability to support myself and had to move back home into a very stressful situation. I tried getting out of it several times, which included getting certification for a job I ended up hating in a city that I despised and putting myself deeply in debt, while uncovering childhood traumas and trying to deal with them.
In all that time I never weighed myself. Exercise was on-and-off. In the year that I did the crap job in the crap place, I was eating lots of Skor bars and ice cream and Chinese food to cope with the stress. Got weighed at the doctor last week and I have gained 30 pounds, and it’s not nice.
I guess the results of unrestrained eating depend on how stressed you are.
It’s ultimately about fuel partitioning. Where does the food you eat go? Is it allocated to muscle, bone, organs, heat, and energy? Or fat, fat, fat, and fat? Stress, sleep, diet, metabolic rate, physical activity, medications, and much more are all powerful determining factors in that equation.
Thanks…a good article :-) Scales or no scales though, am still freaking out! It’s been 8 months of eating 3000 cals per day, I still have really bad oedema and by the evening time my tummy feels like alien babies are gonna pop out it’s that stretched! When, oh when, will this oedema go away? I also have a big belly which is most disconcerting! When will this finally go away? I have put 60 pounds on during this time but I think the weight stopped increasing a couple of months ago – don’t know as haven’t weighed myself lately – but I haven’t had to replace the last set of clothes I bought yet! My ankles and legs still really hurt and I can’t even consider doing any exercise yet :-(. On the plus side though, in the last couple of weeks my sleep has really started to improve – waking only once in the night instead of every hour or two! I appreciate it’s hard to put a time limit on things but surely the oedema will go away soon??? Pretty please?!
The edema for me took a long time, too. Be patient.
Ah, ok, so this is not unusual then? If you don’t mind me asking, how long did it take for the edema to go away? Does it just all go away at once or gradually? I can’t wait to feel normal again and not all bloated up! Thank you for your reply, it’s nice to hear from others. Although I’m sorry that any one suffers with this – it sucks!
I’ve thrown out my scales, but then I don’t need scales to remind me that I gained 100lbs in 3 years and another 40 or so since, ugh.
Scales make good door stops.
To the credit of the women I know and from what I read, most women in fact don’t really go by the scale but more by their measurements (mostly waist size), proportion and how their clothes fit If they do grumble about how much they weigh or have gained, they understand too that their clothes don’t fit anymore or properly fit or that they are getting a big gut. I don’t know any woman who would freak out about looking like the after pictures but weighing more…. we aren’t that dumb.
Most people, women especially would never get to the point of looking like the after pictures because they would weigh themselves and do what causes the scale number to decrease. What makes scale weight drop the fastest is losing lean tissue, as you can lose healthy tissue much more quickly than fat, which takes much longer to burn off. Low-calorie vegan diets and juice fasting are probably the best for losing “weight.” Eating lots of calories, carbs, and protein and getting in exceptional physical condition through exercise is the way to undergo the kind of body changes seen in the photos.
What exercise would you recommend for a 25 year old woman who hates exercise? I just had a baby so I’m not going to start yet, but maybe in a month or so. Is there something I can do that isn’t too time consuming but effective? I don’t belong to a gym, I hate them also haha.
Make it authentic to you. There’s no better form of exercise than the one that is in flow with your preferences and lifestyle. If it’s not, you simply won’t keep doing it, and you need to keep exercising to get much from it.
In defense of this article, I can mark the beginning of my ED as when I bought a scale and started using it obsessively. And I really did worship that number; I still remember perfectly when I reached my lowest weight I was thrilled…and I still thought I looked fat that day (looking back at pictures from that time I want to punch myself- holy crap was I skinny!) So even when my clothes were fitting just fine, if the scale said I gained weight I went with it.
I’ve gained weight and I FEEL better in many ways after a year away from diets……unfortunately I’m just plain fat now. I’ve stopped gaining, I think, as the clothes I bought 6 months ago still fit (I don’t use the scales as it is a bastard of the highest proportion and tortured me for decades. My mother says I need to diet as I’ve never been so big (225lbs) and she’s worried about my health (high blood pressure) but I can’t go back to that. I don’t know how much I eat but I would reckon around 2200 cals. I would love to lose some of this fat but what’s the point going back to restriction when it’ll just come back again to torture me. I think I’m just worried re this set point thing and that my new set point is now 16stone….it does get me down at times
JAX I want to reply to you because this is painful to read and I have a somewhat similar story. I quit dieting in 2010 following this blog, through it’s various incarnations. I went through a whole cook every single thing I eat myself and no sugar phase. Then I relaxed about sugar and that was when I started really gaining weight. That was also the time that my temps finally started to go up. I did manage to heal a lot of symptoms (seasonal allergies pwned, teeth best they’ve been in a decade including reversing periodontal problems, skin improved), learn to cook like a BAMF and have generally embraced a healthier attitude about food. However I was really sick of being fat. And I’m not a size 4 fretting about being a 6 or an 8, I’m talking going from a 10-12 to a size 16 in about three years. And I gained a lot of belly fat with this as well. I’m lucky in that my body packs it around pretty evenly but still, my waist went from 33 to 38 inches in that time. During this period I had almost no energy to exercise. NONE. I went to the doc and had my thyroid and my iron tested. Everything was fine. It was like torture to me and even walking to and from my car to my building (about ten minutes was something I dreaded) and I had been an exercise fanatic. I made a few attempts to force myself. I would go to the gym and get so stiff and sore for days that I couldn’t force myself back. I hired a personal trainer which worked great until I got really sick with the flu and let that slide. Last summer on vacation I did some hill walking in England and enjoyed it, but sprained my ankle. I tried swimming and that was ok in the summer but in winter I would get sick and quit. This Spring when I was on vacation I suddenly started feeling like exercising again. It was really weird, but just felt energized and like movement wasn’t something to dread. Then I started craving salads. That is crazy because I have never liked salads and certainly didn’t crave them. I started to loose weight spontaneously. I stepped on the scale for the first time in six months and was surprised to find I weighed five pounds less. Thinking it was a fluke, I kept checking for a few days and saw the downward trend continue, a few ounces every day. To take advantage of this momentum, I started getting up 15 minutes early to exercise. I do tabatas three days a week and pilates two days, and on the week-ends I do yardwork, but it’s always straight away in the morning before I eat. It works for me. The weight has been coming off steadily and I’m not dieting. I’ve been tracking my food and if anything I’m eating slightly more calories, but not much, since I was eating so much processed food. I’ve been sticking to protein/carbs in the a.m. with little fat. BIG Salads for lunch (I ate a fucking trough of salad at lunch today) using Matt’s Caesar dressing recipe and a dinner with protein and starchy carbs. I’ve been cutting out softdrinks and booze because I haven’t wanted them. I don’t know how long this will last, but I think that FINALLY, FINALLY at 205 pounds (ten pounds heavier than 9 months pregnant) started to lower my set point. So far I’ve only lost 10 pounds, but I’ve lost an inch an half off my waist and I’m down to a size 14, wearing clothes I haven’t fit into into two years.
All I’m saying Jax is don’t give up. Don’t get discouraged and give yourself lots and lots of slack because your body will eventually sort itself out.
Not gaining weight anymore…after the first 8 months. Now on month 13. Not losing any. Just recently discovered real food (perimeter shopping with bakery minimal) in good quantities creates better digestion…less or no reflux. And better sleep….that my body gets sleepy after eating is not a bad thing, but an indicator that my body can now rest properly.
AND the hair on top of my head is still growing in, or I’m imagining things. Told myself when I started refeeding that excess fat would probably not come off until the hair was all back (indicator that internal healing was complete…or nearly so), so I recently reminded myself to be patient. And to move more when I get antsy….don’t wait for it to go away. Temps must come up too. Will monitor that instead of scales.
Me too, Anne…..not counting calories and just eating intuitively but not stuffing myself. My temps around the same as yours sometimes a bit higher. Hoping that now I’m eating ok that my psoriasis will eventually go and that the fat might start reducing. Can’t see me restricting again even if it does mean I have to stay obese. I couldn’t go through that again.
My wife watched this documentary on netflix yesterday and it finally drove home to her that fat does not automatically mean unhealthy:
America the Beautiful 2: The Thin Commandments
2 minute preview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=drpvF7gszOU
Matt, what kind of changes? I’m not seeing much improvement after 8 months. Still have a very flabby belly, morning temps stuck at 97.7. Not stuffing myself, but eating what I want. Walk every day tho it doesn’t seem to make any difference.
Nothing specific, just “changes” as in doing something a little differently. One of the first things I usually have people try if they are a little bit stuck is to eat a lot more carbohydrates from root vegetables and fruits in particular, tilting the overall balance of the diet more towards carbohydrates than fats. And then progressive increases in exercise.
Do you favor higher carbs because dietary fat contributes to greater fat gain, or just because less fat means more carbs automatically?
For many, carbs do more to stimulate the metabolism and shut down the stress response. Seems the thyroid is more stimulated by carbs (starches help) and the brain is very sensitive to changes in liver glycogen (sugar helps). I’ve been focusing more on the brains role as it can stimulate the stress response if it doesn’t feel liver glycogen is full and you need fructose to fill liver glycogen. I think this is part of the reason Matt has changed his tune on sugar from a few years ago. As long as saturated fat and protein intake are adequate, starch and sugar are gasoline to throw on the metabolic fire but for people with metabolic problems, this is like building a fire with wet wood. It can take a while but throwing gasoline on it still helps.
Sorry, meant to use David199 as my user ID.
Less fat means more carbs. And also weight distribution is usually far superior with a diet that strongly emphasizes carbs over fat as a primary source of dietary energy.
Thank you Matt. I felt that I need to change something with my diet. I just didn’t know what.
Why is my post at the top? it was supposed to be right under Matt’s?
I dont like the order of the comments. Matt, is there any way you can go back to the old style?
I don’t think so. The comments were supposedly one of the reasons for the big site shutdown last week. Trimming them in this fashion apparently helps.
I needed to read this today because I was really getting down about the weight gain. I haven’t weighed this much in 14 years and I was beginning to wonder if the weight gain was worth it, even though deep down I know it is.
That woman in the last 3 photos at the end looks better in the FIRST picture! She has less belly fat! Sorry but refeeding doesn’t work for everyone! Myself and many other I know can attest. It’s still “find the diet/way of eating/lifestlye that fits you” where you can stick to it, like it, and lose weight and get healthy. Someone who is like 227 lbs, 52% fat, has OA in both knees and ankles and border line HTN does NOT need to gain more weight! Many are happy with low calories and do excellent with it, lose wt if need be and is easily maintained. One plan doesn’t fit all. I write this for any who have tried refeeding and overeating and is worse off for it – and after giving it a long time trial.
Regardless of what Marion thinks, body composition is obviously improved in terms of body fat percentage and fat distribution. More important were the health and metabolism improvements, all with less effort to be healthy, not more. Like it or not, a person with low muscle mass and a very low metabolic rate doesn’t just cut out a few calories and see magic happen. In fact, building back the metabolism and the healthy tissue is the first, mandatory step in achieving better aesthetics in the long-run if one hopes to avoid further metabolic damage and further loss of lean tissue.
i agree. The first photo looks deflated. Like perhaps she could lose fat nearest the skin but wasn’t able to lose all the visceral fat. That’s a true sign of stress. Her organs were still needing protection. I think if she were to lose any fat naturally, she would lose the visceral fat slowly over time, and there wouldn’t be the weak tissue left remaining.
Hi Marion, I totally agree with you. My impression is that the emphasis of this site is for people who have a history of disordered eating, something that was not so clear to me at first. Refeeding can have its own risks, especially for people who do not assimilate energy efficiently or who have other health issues exacerbated by extra weight. Eating too much can be just as stressful as eating insufficiently.
Also, there are some people who do not have the genetics for finding their weight set point and will simply gain weight.
can you please cite your last comment? I’d be interested to see the studies on that.
so what do u recommend for exercise? I’m 5″1 115lb and really want to improve muscle but have a hard time eating more than two small meals a day without getting sick.
I do not buy the numbers in the pic in the middle. I know that muscle is denser than fat but that girl doesn’t only look leaner but smaller overall while having gained 6 kilos. Even dense mass is mass and needs to be visible in some places of her body. She needs to have lost at least 10 kilos of fat while adding 6 kilos of pure muscle which is not realistic for the average female even when lifting body-building-style during the refeed let a lone when lifting only moderately…
I think this is a fitspo image, not a refeeding image which would explain the drop in body fat.
Um okay so I’m 18 and I did refeeding for two years before I improved.
I wouldn’t expect much to change after under a year.
Sure, there are people out there that have fixed their metabolism in under a year, that doesn’t automatically mean it will happen to you, especially if you’ve been dieting or overexercising for a large portion of your life.
By the ways, to anyone exercising while in your miserable and totally necessary refeeding phase, I’d take a look at giving it up, Whenever I stopped walking so much because I was on school vacation (usually have to walk to school) I instantly went down a couple sizes. Opposite goes for after I went on high-energy demand bivouac camps.
Matt, I can’t believe it, my chronic yeast infection is gone after 3 years of constant hell.. Thank you for your work, man!!!
Don’t get rid of you scale……the airlines are fussy about 50lb bags. I feel better not stepping onthem myself.
I have my serious concerns with the authenticity of the numbers in the pic series in the middle. I think it i not a case study performed by you as it has been floating around the internet. However, I am aware that muscle is denser than fat but it is still 6 kg extra which is mass however dense snd the girl does not only look leaner but smaller. She must have lost a whole lot of belly and thigh fat while gaining morr than those 6 kg of pure muscle which is, even while weight lifting aggressively, isn’ t realistic in most females. This is not what happens during a sedantary…The numbers are most likely not correct so let us keep it real ( unless you can verify it from the source you took the picture from)
I’m not sure where two of the images came from. You’ll have to ask Chris. The black and white came from someone I communicate with via email who sent it to me.
Sorry, I double-posted, could not find m comment…
I’m a 120 lb female and would actually not mind gaining some weight, I wish more of it would go on my skinny arms and legs and less on the belly but I am learning to be happy with the body I’ve got. I’ve made a start by feeding it enough for the first time probably since I was a teenager! (I’m now 34).
After just a week of rest and refeeding my body looks a bit more solid and less jiggly, so definitely a step in the right direction.
I believe the top pic is from the site http://eatmore2weighless.com/ – which focuses on body recomposition
So true. Actual weight means nothing sometimes! It’s a lot more to do with composition and health.
I’m 6 months pregnant and my legs/arms have become un-toned & skinny. What I call “skinny fat”. Flabby but thin. No condition left in them thanks to 6 months of fatigue, vomiting & nausea. Can’t exercise. Weight gained so far is a basically one big baby, blood, placenta and water.
I very much look forward to building up muscle and weight again after he’s born. If that means a rise in scale reading post-birth, then good!!! Bring it on.
I used to be on Atkins diet for around 3 months, lost around 10 kilos. Then at some point I started to have some eating disorders because some stress I was living in during that time and went from 67 I weighted in the beginning to 47 kg. After a month of that, I realised to take control of my life and also knew about your site searching for answers.
Now I eat everything (trying to avoid pufas and refined sugars, but also not extremely strict about it, if a friend invite me a slice of cake, I take it, for example) and I haven’t gained any more weight in 6 months, I weight around 53 but I am no longer a psycho over the scale, I am just glad that I eat whatever I want in moderation but I don’t gain any more weight. I also excercise frequently with yoga and swimming.
My problem is like I tend to be super skinny on my legs and arms, but since all my eating problems started, I noticed that I just got a terrible flabby belly (which obviously doesn’t look very appealing) and I don’t know how to change it.
I’ve noticed thr appearance have improved a little bit with excercise, but I don’t know if I am eating something I have maybe to decrease in consumption or what should I do.
What do you recommend me? Should I take some consultation with you or is not necessary?
I hope you could reply my message.
This type of body pattern was seen in every starvation subject during refeeding. Weight regained in the midsection surpassed the original waist measurement, while thickness in the arms and legs was the last weight to be restored. Eventually, the midsection started to trim out, and was almost back to normal after a year of eating normally.
Ooohh, only a year?! Yay!
I heard about your site through Danny Roddy and am so glad I did!
I started eating in line with the advice in your Diet Recovery book and now my butt is BIG (I’ve always had difficulty adding fat from the hips down) and my waist has tapered in a bit. In the span of a couple months!
Which I am VERY happy about… Can’t look good bellydancing with android body fat! :) But yeah, I’ve now got a more feminine shape that people have commented on.
Its to bad you can’t just smash the mirror also. In the last 6 months of refeeding I have gained 40 lbs – from 140 to 180, I’m afraid it has not stopped yet. I am 5’7″ it is not horrible but very uncomfortable and there is the not knowing when and where it is going to stop. To top it off it is all cellulite. My husband read me an internet story about a women who got to 1,000 lbs then back went to eating protein and vegetables and lost 600 lbs. Now my lower mind, (referring to Emma’s post) is pretty much freaking out. I wish I had attempted to put the carbs back slowly, as I was very low carb for a long period. I think the author of this article hasn’t experienced the weight gain himself, it is not trivial. Anyway I venting here and am going to go try to apply my higher conscious. There have definitely been some positives but I have not been able to embrace the weight gain.
I think the problem can be adding carbs back in slowly. I like to see people go to a high-carb low-fat diet for a while after coming out of long-term low-carb. Until glucose metabolism starts to work properly and the body gets re-accustomed to running on glucose.
I’m just thinking it may be easier on the body to build up to a higher carb diet more slowly as in Coldmember’s story which was posted a few months ago. I went from 5% carbs to 75% in a day. It sounds like I may need another good six months for things to start to straighten out.
Hi, Just thought I’d share my story as it sounds quite similar. I was also v low carb for 3 years until things went v wrong 8 months ago. Panic attacks, hair loss, v cold, no sleep etc etc. So, as Matt recommends, I added carbs back quickly. I went from 124 lbs to 185 lbs (am 5 ft 4) in about 6 months and I am horribly uncomfortable. My shape is weird (like a duck!) – big tummy and big bottom – so hard to find clothes to fit. I still have horrible edema which makes all of me look horribly swollen and nobody seems to want to give me any advice about when this might go. I try to be patient but some days it is so horribly frustrating, mainly because I still get aches and pains in my back, lower legs and ankles and doing anything is such a big effort. I have just starting sleeping better in the last few weeks and I have realised that better sleep comes with more sugar. My body seems to love sugar! My appetite still barely shows itself so mostly I make myself eat regular meals but because my stomach is so swollen it’s sometimes v difficult. Grrrrrrr! Anyway I try to remain positive and tell myself it wont always be like this. I’d love to hear more success stories from people about how long they took to get better and long the various phases can last. Just sharing things on this blog can help though :-) I hope that your body starts to sort itself out soon and you start to feel better.
What exersize are you getting? A person can’t just eat and eat and not use their body for extended periods of time. I don’t mean try to burn off what you eat, I mean trigger your body to use calories towards maintaining and building muscles, joints and bone desntity. If its been 8 months, you ought to be ready unless you haven’t truly been eating enough. Have you logged your food? At your weight you should be eating like 2,400 calories or more a day depending on your age. If you’re not excersizing, I would start walking, not far just get in the habit, and start weight training, start with low weights and work up slowly. I believe the body requires both exersize and sufficient nutrition to have normal metabolic function. It’s just that coming out of starvation, a period of rest may well be needed.
The exersize may also be what you need to normalize your appetite.
And after walking two or four weeks depending, start throwing in a little jogging here and there. This is to strengthen your ligaments and tendons so you can do a little sprinting on down the road. A few uphill sprints every few days can be quite beneficial. But work your way up always.
“My body seems to love sugar!”
I think one of the biggest advantages of sugar is that it tastes good without accompanying fat. Mashed potatoes with no fat added are gross. Fruit and juice? Tastes great as is. Sometimes with more sugar displacing starch, people end up eating a lot less fat. And that can be a difference maker for some.
Maybe that is what I need to do then – eat less fat. It’s not the weight, per se (although I am not that happy with it!) it’s more the not feeling any better. I have tried short 10 minute walks in the woods (which I love) but all that ends up happening is my back aches and my feet and ankles hurt. I tried these walks over a period of a couple of weeks and they never got easier. Maybe my body is still healing as I am still puffed up to the hilt with edema- you can even squidge the water around on my fingers!! Weird!! Also, I have to say that nothing tastes particularly good, even after 8 months. I have reverted to lots of sweets though coz I remember as a kid I craved them all the time and I was always skinny and very active :-) I miss being active – that’s what is the most upsetting I think. That, and my boyfriend being horrified about the weight I’ve put on – but that’s a whole other story!!
In all my time on this site (which I think started around 2010), I have observed several themes from people’s stories, and my #1 observation is that low-carb diets mess up the metabolism (and whole system) like nothing else. Unfortunately, 3 years on low-carb can do a lot of damage. I would be interested to know what exactly causes the damage. I’m not sure if it’s the increased cortisol or the lowered metabolism/thyroid issues, or something else. Maybe there is a specific nutrient deprivation that develops, or maybe it’s all hormonal.
If it were me, I would feel more confident adding carbs in slowly and allowing the body to adapt because it seems like huge weight gain results when people start overfeeding after low-carb. It seems like going from low-carb to a high-carb/high-fat diet is the worst. From what I can recall, people have done better adding the carbs in more slowly, and also minimizing fat over time, but that is just recollection on my part. And I imagine that sleep and meditation and things like that are even more important, but I don’t really know.
Well, I can certainly testify that my whole system has been very messed up and this has been a horrendous year! I think the final nail in the coffin was doing circuit training twice a week during the last 6 months of my v low carb diet :-(. I think it’s a combination of things that cause the damage. Certainly my stress hormones must have been extremely high as I was having panic attacks all the time. Also my hormones were very out of whack and I completely lost my sex drive at some point last year too. How bizarre that that did not signal something very wrong. How very deep in dietary dogma we get. Maybe I would have been better adding in carbs slowly, I just don’t know. I did put a lot of weight on, but then again my metabolism was in the basement so that was always going to happen. It’s this damn edema which is still causing problems but I believe that doesn’t sort itself out whilst hormonal problems are still an issue? Which I definitely think they are as my periods are still all over the place. Last month I got it after 30 days and I was elated, thinking I was finally on the mend, but this month it’s been 44 days and it still hasn’t arrived yet :-( Just in the last couple of week sleep has improved though, which makes me think that something is turning a corner… please, please!!
I hope so! Sleep does some AMAZING things for the body, so that could make all the difference.
Thanks for sharing all of your experiences!
I’ve been trying refeeding and gained some weight, but it evened out and I lost some. I’m much more overweight than I was two years ago thanks to low calorie or low carb diets. My waking temperature is around 97.5 and doesn’t seem to be rising. I’m super warm after I eat and never cold now, but I’m concerned that it is not 98.6 in the morning. Any suggestions? Maybe I don’t eat enough during the day?
I wouldn’t drive yourself mad trying to reach 98.6. The goal, after all, is to feel and function well, not necessarily hit a number on a cheap, plastic gadget. But I would play around with some different macronutrient ratios to see what you find. Better results are likely to come with a higher ratio of carbohydrates to other fuel sources, but that’s not necessarily a universal truth.
Thanks. I’m feeling much better these days. Currently maintaining weight and size. Eating a whole lot. I do exercise, but I’m just worried because I don’t seem to be looking much better. Maybe that’ll come later once I shed some fat layers.
I have been wanting some additional advice, so I’ll just jump in here.
I have been trying to follow Matt’s advice for probaby about four months or so now. I have not seen any improvement in temperatures or anything else, really, and I really want to get my body stronger and more resilient, as I feel like it is just too sensitive and doesn’t work right a lot of the time – light headedness, low BP, low blood sugar, migraines, extreme heat sensitivity – which is really debilitating for someone who likes to hike and farm! I also have two young children and will almost undoubtedly be having more, and I want my body to be strong enough to handle it. My oldest is four and she nursed until she was three (though only at night toward the end). My youngest is almost eight months now. Pregnancy weight (and size) has come off more slowly this time than with my first pregnancy. First time I was below my prepregnancy weight by six and a half months; now I am still ten to fifteen pounds over. I say this not because the weight is a big concern, but just as info. I am 5’3″ and 130# right now. I can live with that, I just wish my clothes would grow, too :-) Haven’t been exercising, though moving my body would probably feel good with these aches and pains!
I have charted my cycle for years off and on for the purposes of Natural Family Planning, and I have always had low temps – 96.7 to 97.5 ish. That is about where they are holding now. It has been years since I have been on a restrictive diet (most were low fat in high school, and then some crazy veg/raw phases, with a couple months of low carbs thrown in), but I have never really embraced sugar. I am a baker and have been eating baked goods the last few years but not candy until recently. Not a soda drinker.
Baby’s waking up so I’ll just start there. Thanks!!!
This is just a test – I wrote a novel before and it told me, “you’ve said that before!” I have never commented before…if this works I’ll try again.
I’m fine with weight gain as long as I look and feel better. But is it normal to experience muscle tightness to the point of developing new knots while RRARFing??
I’m gaining like .3 lbs a week, but people think I’m losing weight (and getting taller?). My main focus is to measure my HRV night and morning. If it’s lower in the morning I know I haven’t eaten enough. I do better without sugar though. My only exercise is walking and yoga (which can be intense sometimes).