13 Weeks: Week Five -- In Which We Slog

In Our Last Episode: Our Hero — having dived into a 13 Week Experiment with a high-protein, high-fat, low carb di… eating plan inspired by Gary Taubes, and high-intensity training inspired by Tabata Izumi’s Tabata Protocol and the high intensity weight-lifting described in The Power of Ten and Body by Science — was confronted by the Thanksgiving Monster on the Weight-Loss Plateau. Now, we find him crossing the Slough of Despond pursued by ghosts from his past and burdened by excessive baggage.

Yeah, I’m not having as good a time.

It’s predictable: any time you do something like this, there’s initial excitement and enthusiasm, but eventually you’re in the middle of it and the excitement abates. This week the excitement has definitely abated. A lot of that has to do with things outside of the experiment itself: as we said in grad school, life is something that happens when you’re just trying to do your damned research. I had a programming project with a hard deadline for a demo; it wasn’t working and I got stubborn, resulting in my working from 9:30AM on Wednesday to 11:30AM on Thursday — 26 hours straight. And I can tell you, I’m getting too old for this crap. Adding insult to injury, I’d hit 276 pounds on Wednesday morning, and was back up to 278 when I got home on Thursday, even though I’d actually not had much to eat over that 26 hours. I then had some unhappy news on another issue that was stressing me when I got to work on Friday morning.

By Friday afternoon I was not a happy man.  (This, by the way, is a cliffhanger to remind you to follow to the next page.)

Then Saturday, I woke up with a cold.  And I was constipated. I was beginning to feel like a Hee-Haw bit:

Yes, I watched Hee Haw. Whaddaya want, I grew up on a cattle ranch.

At a request on the 13 Weeks Facebook page, I took an “in progress” picture on Tuesday the 4th.

Compare that to a similarly posed “before” picture:

That’s pretty close to a 15 pound difference. Most everyone said they saw dramatic differences, and people in real life were saying it too. Me, not so much. Oh, I guess I see the difference, but in my current mood, the “in progress” picture is still a picture of a 276 pound fat guy instead of a 290 pound fat guy.

Honestly, I’ve never had a good ability to “see” myself. As a little boy, I had a bunch of the little mishaps that every little boy has, and as a result I had accumulated some scars on my face — under my chin and in my left eyebrow. When I was six or seven, my mother managed a couple of deep hits on me — first, she looked at me with my shirt off, running around the house, and yelled at me to put on a shirt, I was too fat, it was disgusting.  Then she started talking about my facial scars, telling her friends how she’d decided to pay for my plastic surgery when I turned 18, but that after that I was on my own. Those are just examples, hardly the whole history, but the net effect is that I’ve never felt particularly good about the way I look, and I see myself as fat and ugly.

So this week, I felt bad about myself, I felt bad about the eating plan, I just plain felt bad. And now I’m in the middle of this whole process — the big losses of the first couple weeks are past; now it’s more like just day to day life. As sick as I felt after eating some wheat after Thanksgiving, I’m not tempted to go completely off the wagon, but with the cold and all what I really want is hot tea with honey and lemon and a large amount of rum, and then ice cream, and oatmeal with lots of sugar and cream.

Now is the time I’m glad I’m keeping records.  I have a graph of my weekly weights, taken every Sunday morning.

Well, now, that’s a bit more reassuring, isn’t it? Definitely going down. In fact, since I’ve included the equation for the linear-best-fit line, we know how much: plateaus and all, even with the post-Thanksgiving bump, it’s still a pound every four days. Total loss from when I actually started avoiding carbs on 19 October is close to 25 pounds, which is getting close to the 10 percent loss that is said to provide significant health benefits. What’s more, I can extract just my daily glucose from the data, and while it’s got a pretty high variance — a subject I’m going to research more — it also has a clear trend:

That’s about 1 mg/dL a week, but the lows are getting very low, down close to normal.

So today’s lesson, once again, is the trend is your friend.  And maybe I shouldn’t fret about things that happened 50 years ago.

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