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

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