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13 Weeks: Season 2, Week 3 — Homo What?

Homeostasis. Sometimes homeostasis is not your friend.

by
Charlie Martin

Bio

February 23, 2013 - 10:00 am

Homeostasis.  This is our vocabulary word for today.

Homeostasis is “[t]he ability of the body or a cell to seek and maintain a condition of equilibrium or stability within its internal environment when dealing with external changes” (via Biology Online.) On any diet or exercise program, homeostatis may not seem to be your friend.

7-day weight 7-day glucose 7 day bodyfat Weekly Fitocracy Points
Start 272.50 116.00 33.10%
2013-02-21 273.79 115.29 29.16% 1169
Delta 1.29 -0.71 -3.94% 1169

Certainly, for the last six weeks it hasn’t seemed to be mine. Above is a table of the current results of this second season (I’ll be running similar tables for comparison for the rest of this 13 week season.) I’ve been keeping to the diet pretty religiously, with a very few days in excess of my 30g carbs target. According to LoseIt!, I’ve run a total calorie deficit in the previous six weeks of roughly 42,000 kcals (Calories), or on average about 7000 kcals a week. It only requires the tiniest application of higher math to see that at 3500 kcal/pound, I should have lost 12 pounds, or should have been losing 2 pounds a week.  While I’ve hit several new lows, including breaking 270 about ten days ago, I haven’t lost any weight, according to the 7-day running average, since the second season started. In fact, what has really happened in  is that I’ve actually gained something like 1.3 pounds.

This could be depressing. Believe me. What this is, is a demonstration of my body trying to preserve homeostasis. Basically, bodies don’t want to change, and they have mechanisms to prevent it.

Luckily, this isn’t a weight-loss experiment, this is a better-health and better-glucose experiment. (Repeat after me….) And I’m doing much better there — my cholesterol is now great, my glucose is near normal (and it’s been ten days or so since I cut my metformin dose in half, with no apparent damage to the glucose level), and — here’s the kicker — my body fat has dropped from around 33 percent to just over 29 percent — which means I’ve changed my body composition fairly radically in these three weeks.

Now, part of this is another demonstration that the naive “calories out minus calories in” model of weight loss is once again breaking down.  Of course, since that model is so entrenched in so many people’s minds, the usual doctor’s explanation would be “you must be cheating”, as I talked about in an earlier episode; presenting the food diary and such wouldn’t deter them.

Another possible explanation is that it’s water — just as when they tell you rapid weight loss early in a low-carb diet is “only water”. But just as when I was dropping weight quickly, we’re talking about a lot of water. “A pint’s a pound the world round”, and that means we’re talking about 12 pints, 6 quarts, a gallon and a half of water.  Call me crazy, but I’m thinking an additional gallon and a half of water would be pretty obvious in edema and puffiness and heart failure and such.

But the body composition — and one other thing — are hints at what I think is actually happening. That other thing is that after weeks of little change, I’ve begun to have measurements changing. Specifically, I’ve lost 2 inches around my neck and 5 (!!) inches around my waist from when I started the first 13 weeks.

The third favorite explanation of this would be that I’m gaining muscle as well as losing fat, and that one I think is plausible. What’s more, you can do that even when you’re running a big calorie deficit, as I have been, because a pound of fat contains about twice as many calories as a pound of muscle. The explanation that makes sense is that I’ve lost fat at 3500 kcals a pound, and gained muscle at 1800-odd kcals a pound, leaving me slightly heavier, and a good bit skinnier.

I can live with that.

****

Related at PJ Lifestyle:

13 Weeks: The Thirteen Weeks Method

Charlie Martin writes on science, health, culture and technology for PJ Media. Follow his 13 week diet and exercise experiment on Facebook and at PJ Lifestyle

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All Comments   (19)
All Comments   (19)
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Sorry if this comment goes through twice, but I think there was an error on the last one so I'm going to post it again.

If I understand your numbers correctly, you body fat % has decreased by 4 points in six weeks. Given that your weight was basically stable, that means you have, in fact, lost 11 pounds of fat, very close to what your caloric deficit would predict. Weight change is much more complicated than just fat loss or gain, so probably everything you described has happened - fat loss, muscle gain, changes in water composition.

There are also many variables to body composition and weight, macronutrient intake being one of them. But that doesn't mean "calories in calories out" is not valid. It is another important variable in the equation. Since you have changed both variables, it is impossible to conclude which one has had the intended effect just from your own experience.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
You are getting into some areas that may be hard to decipher with certainty. Here is another take on some factors that may be involved: http://abenewjourney.com/2013/02/18/real-time-information-about-benew/
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Measure waist not weight. This can be done with your belt notches.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Great Work Charlie, this is so inspiring.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Keep up the hard work. You have people who are cheering for you!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Charlie, it seems to me that all of this is good news. If you've lost five inches around your waist, don't put too much store value in what the darned scale tells you. Stick to your pledge that this about health, not about weight loss.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
There would seemingly be a business opportunity for small walk-in facilities that would measure body dimensions -- but NOT weight.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Charlie, what you may be experiencing is gaining positive muscle mass while you are losing body fat. A cubic inch of muscle weighs more than a cubic inch of fat so while you may lose 2 pounds of fat and gain 3 pounds of muscle distributed over your body, you will show a weight GAIN. My wife and I have been treating eating disorders for years and with many bulimics and other EDs this presents a problem until they understand that this is a positive thing. My beloved is both a counselor and a dietitian. She is also a Certified Eating Disorder Specialist (I'm not, I've just been doing it for one hell of a long time) and in her practice she deals with this on a fairly regular basis. She also teaches Dietetics at our local university as an Assistant Clinical Professor and stresses this to her students so that they will know how to work with their patients when/if this issue comes up. Keep up the good work my friend, it will pay off in dividends far beyond what you expect.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
George, I agree; I was too stooopid on Friday to posy the graphs, but it's very clear: glucose and body fat are dropping, weight is going slightly up. Notice also that it takes 3600 kcal to put on a pound of fat, but only about 1800 kcal to put on a pound of muscle. So I'l eating plenty of protein, so hypothetically I could be losing 1 lb fat, building 2 lbs muscle, which would mean gaining a pound and decreasing my body fat percentage by 1 percent.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Excellent point.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
That's a tremendous shift in body composition in one week, Charlie. I was curious: are you experiencing hunger/cravings during your experiment? 30g of carbs a day is a high standard. I suppose you know that Westman (a Dookie) is the principal author of the latest Atkins book -- although I personally am a much bigger fan of the two low-carb books that Volek and Phinney published in 2011 and 2012.

I recently ran across Paul Jaminet's great blog; he noted that glucose does pay a role in the creation of some structures: collagen, mucus, etc. While glucose is available through glucogenesis, this is a more difficult (i.e., stressful) way to acquire this molecule in our cells.

I am amused by the "calorie is a calorie" conversation -- and how the Coca Cola company is valiantly striving to promote this disinformation. Their "Be OK" and "Coming Together" videos on YouTube are clearly targeted along these lines; they are not getting a favorable response in the comment chains of those videos. I'm surprised they didn't disable comments...
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Sorry, that was misleading, my fault: that's the change between the seven day average body fat on the first day of second second, compared to the seven day average as of the end of the THIRD week. But a 12 percent decrease in bodyfat in 3 weeks is still pretty cool.

Anyway, cravings have been very rare. I crave chocolate every now and then, but something like a dozen peanut M&Ms will satisfy that at a cost of about 10g net carbs. I sort of "pseudo-crave" bread because sandwiches are so convenient.

I've finally gotten the Jaminets' book after ridiculous struggles with Amazon.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
second season. More coffee clearly needed.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Chris M.'s paltry carb intake shows adipocyte "fat" loss very complicated. Eat fat & intestine absorbs "fat". On location, there in intestine, "fat" up-regulates the purely local expression of the HDL protein apoA-IV protein. HDL in our intestinal cells are involved in moving a dietary loading episode of "fat" in chylo-microns for circulation.
An excess stash of "fat" in short-lived chylo-microns is often taken up by the tissue macrophages. Regular exercise knocks down the number of macrophages in muscle tissue so here it is primarly adipose tissue macrophages that internalize post-prandial chylo-micron "fat". (Macrophage immunological complications detailed previously.)
ApoA-IV (even more so than liver generated apoA-I in HDL) stimulates the secretion of insulin. Look at the sharp post-prandial insulin spike from butter. ApoA-IV is the only lipo-protein increased specifically in response to dietary fat - it is our natural "Homo what" gives response to eating a big fat portion.
Insulin acts to stop (inhibit) lipo-lysis from breaking out "fat" from an adipocyte; which means eating fat is not the same as losing "fat". Obese/MetS/Type 2 diabetics often lack the 1st phase insulin release, so for them high fat's engendered apoA-IV triggered post-prandial insulin spike is about more than just how it inhibits lipo-lysis.
High fat diet does limit the dynamic arising from carb based diet's post-prandial high blood sugar state (ie: excess carbs induces liver to make extra triglycerides, liver makes more VLDL cholesterol to carry all those triglycerides out, more VLDL leads to HDL coming back with so much triglycerides that HDL degrades too quickly, amount of HDL becomes low & carb engendered triglycerides begin to stay out of the liver to be stored as "fat"). The chylo-micron "fat" implications are a bit different; but an incident of big fat intake can post-prandially also lead to stashing excess "fat" in the liver.
Chris M.'s lab work (fasting insulin also decreased ?) is showing good changes, yet has some weight gain/stalls despite very low carb & calorie cut back. Proteo-lysis (protein cleaving) in body is apparently elevated in obesity & Type 2 diabetes. Adipose tissue that is putting out pro-inflammatory molecules stimulates the production of anti-bodies which activate matrix metallo-proteinase (MMP) enzymes that add to proteo-lysis. Some of these type of enzymes (MMPs) increase the degradation of the protein-ase inhibitor anti-trypsin; this lets level of serine proteinase rise, which in turn degrades the protein components of insulin receptors showing on cells' membranes (ie: worsens insulin resistance). The same auto-immune glitch of MMP's dynamic also degrades collagen & shows up in joint problems associated with obesity. Similarly the destructive MMP-9 proteinase is relevant to cardio-vascular disease progression.

Subjectively, if one had joint pains & rheumatic arthritic symptoms that have completely disappeared on a high fat diet then that indication is one's adipose tissue macrophage pheno-type population is also shifting to a more normal "resident" profile (less pro-inflammatory with less MMP). In which case the "fat" weight is becoming more benign - one just can't see the beneficial changes going on in all the "fat" tissue by looking at the scale's weight records. A significant decrease in HbA1c is more indicative of less MMP proteinases' activity than fasting glucose.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I'm curious who this Chris M is.... :-)
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Chris M.'s paltry carb intake shows adipocyte "fat" loss very complicated. Eat fat & intestine absorbs "fat". On location, there in intestine, "fat" up-regulates the purely local expression of the HDL protein apoA-IV protein. HDL in our intestinal cells are involved in moving a dietary loading episode of "fat" in chylo-microns for circulation.
An excess stash of "fat" in short-lived chylo-microns is often taken up by the tissue macrophages. Regular exercise knocks down the number of macrophages in muscle tissue so here it is primarly adipose tissue macrophages that internalize post-prandial chylo-micron "fat". (Macrophage immunological complications detailed previously.)
ApoA-IV (even more so than liver generated apoA-I in HDL) stimulates the secretion of insulin. Look at the sharp post-prandial insulin spike from butter. ApoA-IV is the only lipo-protein increased specifically in response to dietary fat - it is our natural "Homo what" gives response to eating a big fat portion.
Insulin acts to stop (inhibit) lipo-lysis from breaking out "fat" from an adipocyte; which means eating fat is not the same as losing "fat". Obese/MetS/Type 2 diabetics often lack the 1st phase insulin release, so for them high fat's engendered apoA-IV triggered post-prandial insulin spike is about more than just how it inhibits lipo-lysis.
High fat diet does limit the dynamic arising from carb based diet's post-prandial high blood sugar state (ie: excess carbs induces liver to make extra triglycerides, liver makes more VLDL cholesterol to carry all those triglycerides out, more VLDL leads to HDL coming back with so much triglycerides that HDL degrades too quickly, amount of HDL becomes low & carb engendered triglycerides begin to stay out of the liver to be stored as "fat"). The chylo-micron "fat" implications are a bit different; but an incident of big fat intake can post-prandially also lead to stashing excess "fat" in the liver.
Chris M.'s lab work (fasting insulin also decreased ?) is showing good changes, yet has some weight gain/stalls despite very low carb & calorie cut back. Proteo-lysis (protein cleaving) in body is apparently elevated in obesity & Type 2 diabetes. Adipose tissue that is putting out pro-inflammatory molecules stimulates the production of anti-bodies which activate matrix metallo-proteinase (MMP) enzymes that add to proteo-lysis. Some of these type of enzymes (MMPs) increase the degradation of the protein-ase inhibitor anti-trypsin; this lets level of serine proteinase rise, which in turn degrades the protein components of insulin receptors showing on cells' membranes (ie: worsens insulin resistance). The same auto-immune glitch of MMP's dynamic also degrades collagen & shows up in joint problems associated with obesity. Similarly the destructive MMP-9 proteinase is relevant to cardio-vascular disease progression.

Subjectively, if one had joint pains & rheumatic arthritic symptoms that have completely disappeared on a high fat diet then that indication is one's adipose tissue macrophage pheno-type population is also shifting to a more normal "resident" profile (less pro-inflammatory with less MMP). In which case the "fat" weight is becoming more benign - one just can't see the beneficial changes going on in all the "fat" tissue by looking at the scale's weight records. A significant decrease in HbA1c is more indicative of less MMP proteinases' activity than fasting glucose.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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