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13 Weeks: And the Envelope Please

It's the end of the second season of the experiment. What did I learn this time and what's coming next?

by
Charlie Martin

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May 11, 2013 - 12:12 pm
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The end of my second 13 week season: low-carb diet and more exercise, tracking my weight, blood glucose, and body fat. You can follow me at my 13 Weeks Facebook page for daily updates, and you can join Fitocracy (free!) and follow my daily exercise, and maybe even start tracking your own.  A new 13 week experiment starts June 1 2013. Join in!

So this is the end of the second 13 week season. That’s 26 weeks, six months, on this attempt to get my heath and weight under control. It seems like an appropriate time to summarize what has happened and think about what happens next. I started the first 13 weeks insisting it was an experiment; I think I lost track of that for a bit. Evaluated dispassionately, as an experiment, what we’ve learned so far is that the low-carb diet, in me, is very successful at controlling blood sugar. It doesn’t turn out to have resulted in continuous weight loss, although it did result in significant weight loss. (Charts and tables are at the end of this article.)

  • First of all, I’ve lost significant weight, about 10 percent of my body weight. On the other hand, my weight loss has plateaued fairly dramatically.
  • My blood sugar has been a definite success: my average blood sugar has been right around 110 mg/dL. Maybe too much of a success, since I’ve been having trouble with hypoglycemic episodes.
  • Cutting out wheat has certainly appeared to help my really life-long stomach troubles.
  • The intention to get more exercise hasn’t worked out as well so far; in fact, after my accident a few weeks ago, I slacked off pretty well completely.
  • Measuring body fat flat out doesn’t work, at least for me and at least on a time scale of 13 weeks. Basically, no two methods have agreed within 5 percentage points, and the range has gone from 26 to 42 percent. This is just nuts; you can’t do anything useful with those numbers.

But what about the experience itself? I’ve been following a pretty radical carb restriction regime for six months now. As a diet, it’s not been particularly difficult. I’ve had few lapses and only rare cravings, usually for chocolate. Even so, most cravings for sweet things have been easily satisfied with sugar-free gelatin. Cutting out wheat has been harder, not because I craved it so much as because it’s freaking everywhere: noodles, bread, soups, sauces, I’m not nearly as sensitive to wheat as a real celiac sufferer, so it doesn’t make as much difference to me if I get exposed to a bit of flour used to thicken a sauce, but it’s given me new sympathy for a friend who really does have all-out celiac disease.

The exercise thing — well, look, I’ve never enjoyed exercise. Long walks bore me, and my knees are too bad for running. Riding a bike makes my, er, man-bits go to sleep. My exercise bike and kettlebells watch reproachfully from the corner of my bedroom to which they’ve been assigned. At least I don’t have clothes hanging on my exercise bike. And frankly, exercise enthusiasts don’t seem to be able to stir any matching enthusiasm in me. Mostly, personal trainers make me want to turn a hose on them.

Still, damn it, I know exercise has good effects and know it makes me feel better when I’m doing it. The Crossfit enthusiasts, like David Steinberg, have what seems to me a basically good basic approach: do things that correspond to real tasks faced in real life. Measure power output — weight moved times distance over duration. (A little algebra tells us that this is basically saying how many calories are expended per unit time, and God this is one of those times I wish we just used metric.) So far, I just don’t think I’ve got a good handle on the exercise thing.

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All Comments   (13)
All Comments   (13)
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CHarlie,
Re the calories in/calories out comment, I refer people to "The Four Hour Body" and the change in fat from White Adipose to Brown Adipose Tissue This can be seen by using meds that boost adiponectin. If you don't on the next cycle, I will. I'm pretty sure (about 100 %) I can't use anyone I'm using in a clinical trial.Still, I had some extra VZ and thought , "Who deserves to look young and thin as much as I ?
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
Don't know why the gibberish was included in my post
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
charlie,
If you're having trouble with your sugar,decrease one cinnamon/day.And,have you started on the GLPs?
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
Ten percent! Congrats and kudos to you, Charlie!
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
Unless you've managed to repeal the First Law of Thermodynamics (calories in - calories out)/(9 calories/g) is going to give you your change in weight. The problem is that calories out depends on calories in (and several other factors) in ways that are complex, poorly understood, and highly non-linear. Just like the relationship between tax rates and tax receipts.

I've just started my own 13 week program, inspired by you and the weight loss I've seen since starting to walk the 1.5 miles to work every day (not sure how much, I don't have a scale, but the box scale at work says I've lost 10 pounds. Of course it only reads in 5 pound increments). I'm working on upper body strength and endurance with body weight exercises: push-ups, pull-ups, sit-ups, etc-ups.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
Well, something like that. Calories out aren't that simple either. For example, the Pina Indian experiments showed that the basal metabolic rate can be down-regulated dramatically, so two people of the same mass and activity level may have very different caloric expenditures. Also, the calorie content of food isn't determined metabolically -- which would admittedly be hard -- but instead my literally burning the various foods in a calorimeter. So the input isn't as well understood as it might be.

I'm glad to hear about your program; I'd really like to know more about it. Also, what would you want to use to track what you're doing? Do you have a spreadsheet or anything like that?
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
That was kind of my point, that we simply don't know enough about metabolism to say how many calories will result in weight loss. Any attempt at a "balanced approach" to weight loss is going to run into nonlinear responses.

I use Fitocracy to track, I'm not as data-oriented as you. The routine is just what came on the DVD with the door-frame pull-up bar (wide grip pull-ups, push-ups, narrow grip pull-ups, hanging leg lifts, tricep dips, and sit-ups for 1 minute or until exhaustion with 1 minute rest between each activity) every MWF. Right now I'm doing one set with bands supporting about half my body weight on the pull-ups. I've been noticing improvement of about 1 rep per session. When and how to decrease the assist and add sets is something I've been thinking about.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
Hm. I'd love to see how you do the bands thing. I aspire to do at least one pull up.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
The aforementioned box scale says I weigh 260. I've got about 135lbs of assistance and I'm able to do 8-9 pull-ups. I do most of them in one push, then rest for a few seconds before knocking out the last 1-2 before time runs out. Right now my plan is to drop the assistance one level, to about 120lbs, once I can do 10 pull-up in a set. I'll probably get there in a couple of weeks. Lather, rinse, repeat until I'm pulling my own weight.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
Good job. In 6 months you'll be at 240.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
Well, thank you for what you are doing so very publicly. I sent my dad the books you recommended. I described a bit of your experiences. I didn't send him links, since he's so leftist that he thinks communism is a good idea wrecked by naughty Russians. He'd have spent 26 weeks sending me books about heroic social workers and Studs Terkel interview books. Don't laugh- he's done it before.

So, really, thank you, you're helping people that you would never have a chance to meet or help, otherwise. I am very grateful to you.

Pretty skin is a function of vitamins: Vitamin D, vitamin K, and magnesium and some vitamin C, at least as far as I can piece together Mr Instapundit's advice. And carrots. Spousal unit's skin changes according to his nutrition and sleep levels. You can google Kassy's Kickass Vitamin C cream, if you want the sturdiest DIY skin serum. I've never tried it, but I'm impressed that at the makeup store, the manager gets kind of googley-eyed talking about her customers that use it. Apparently, it really works.

I think you are lovely and smart and funny, so I'm glad that that part of you is showing through in your body, these past six months, rather than your pain and grief.

48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
Thanks, Ari. It's not so much pretty skin I'm worried about -- my skin is holding up very well, possibly because I refuse to be exposed to natural light and that strange unnatural 3 dimensional real world -- as it is I still want to look like Tom Selleck during Magnum PI days.

I really do appreciate the kind words.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
Congratulations Charlie! You've done so well! My second 13 weeks thing about publicly advocating for Staplehouse won't last 13 weeks. It stops at the end of May so I'll be thinking of another experiment. My hope for you is that you continue to grow in your self-acceptance. None of us see you in those derogatory terms, but I know that doesn't matter in the internal workings of the mind. Looking forward to June 1.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
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