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Author Topic: Dear Hatrack dieticians
Raia
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I am very confused.

My body doesn't seem to do things right.

I am currently in France, on a summer opera program. We are left to fend for ourselves, which means that most of us are eating primarily bread, cheese, and fruit. I don't eat enough of these things to justify a great weight gain, and I am walking up and down big hills, dancing in rehearsals and dance classes, and sweating through the summer heat here every single day. Everyone on my program is losing weight from this combination except me. I am somehow getting bigger around the waistline.

I don't know why this is. I'm doing everything right. Not eating too much, exercising like crazy... and I'm still gaining weight while everyone else (who, incidentally, drinks every night) loses it. I have had two drops of alcohol since I've been here, and I have never missed a dance class.

There's one other aspect to the story that I should probably share. It may be relevant, I'm not sure, so I will go ahead and fill you in. Last fall, I went through a particularly hideous break-up that lasted around three months, and I pretty much stopped eating (not intentionally). I lost 20 lbs over that period of time. Then, after January, when my life got back on track, I gained it all back (and then some, I think). I gained it very quickly, and it kind of gave me a complex, even though I know that I'm a lot more healthy now than when I was forcing down a small meal a day. But I still didn't really know how to deal with it.

I don't know if that messed my body up, but now the right, healthy combinations of food and exercise don't seem to work right. I know it's a petty, superficial thing to be upset about, but there you go. I would appreciate some advice/information about this issue.

Thanks.

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Shanna
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Not a dietician per say, but my body is going through something very similar and everyone keeps telling me that my metabolism is screwed up from the break-up starvation.

Could also be that your body is just naturally more sensitive to carbs and sugars. Maybe try getting more protein and vegetables into your diet. With all the work-outs that you're doing, you may not be getting the right nutrition to build muscle and burn fat.

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Raia
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*nod* that makes sense... I'll try doing more of that. Although getting a hold of protein when I have no means of cooking anything is hard. :/

Thanks, though.

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Jamio
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IANAD, but a psychiatrist my husband spoke to told him that that levels of insulin and cortisol, a hormone triggered by stress, rise and fall together, so stress can lead to weight gain even if you are eating right and exercising.
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Orincoro
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Could you be pregnant?

PS. I'm in Paris until the 26th-ish- I forgot you were in France this summer. Yay- we had a lightning storm tonight, it was cool.

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Juxtapose
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If you lost 20 lbs really quickly relatively recently, your muscles probably atrophied quite a bit.

I'd bet you're simply putting on muscle, Raia. Between walking those hills and dancing, I'd be surprised if you weren't.

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breyerchic04
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You've been there less than two weeks, how big is this change?
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Sterling
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Given the many sensible things that have been suggested, I would combine somewhat and suggest: especially if you had recently lost weight (through self-induced starvation) a combination of change of diet, metabolism, and exercise (building muscle) means that you should see if your weight levels off before you become overly worried.

It may well be your body is returning to a weight that's healthier to you; not all weight gain is bad.

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scholarette
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How are your clothes fitting you? Weight really is not that good of an indicator of what is going on in your body. I was so frustrated because when I started dieting and working out, my pants size dropped, but my weight refused to budge. Watch other indicators as well as weight. How do you feel?
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Raia
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Orincoro: No.

And what are your plans while you're still here?

As for everyone else's advice, I haven't actually stepped on a scale... I don't know if "formally" I have gained weight. I just know that my waist looks bigger than it did. That's why it feels more like fat than muscle. I'm sure I'm getting muscles in my legs and such, but my flab is decidedly more pronounced.

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Sphinx
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I'm certainly not a dietitian or medical professional, so take this for what it's worth.

If I had to guess, I'd say that what's happening is that you're putting on muscle on your hips that either wasn't there before or was atrophied, but you haven't worked out enough to burn the fat from those areas.

From what I understand, men tend to store fat around the mid-section (the beer-belly), while women tend to store fat around the pelvis (hips, thighs, etc.). That's where we generally put on weight first, and that's the last place our bodies will want to take it from--they're the go-to areas for fat storage.

So, I'd guess that all of the exercise you were doing has been building up the muscles in your hips and thighs, making them bigger. Since muscles underlie fat (for the purposes of this conversation, anyways), this would push the fat outwards, making it more pronounced.

I suppose the question to ask would be: Do you think you're losing excess fat in other body parts? For example, in your face, or feet, or arms? If so, you should probably just keep doing what you're doing; once there's no other option, your body will start pulling from the fat around the hips/thighs.

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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by Raia:
Orincoro: No.

And what are your plans while you're still here?

Well I was planning on staying in the city until the end of next week. I'm waiting on my new passport to be delivered in another week, and until then I can't leave the country.
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Traceria
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As Shanna mentioned, it may be the carb/sugar thing and your body reacting differently than the others'. I can only speak from experience when I say that my own is more sensitive to those than other women I've met (particularly the one in my office who was trying to GAIN weight and could eat anything and everything and yet couldn't seem to add any significant amount). Metabolism change is also another possibility, also experienced personally.

If possible, I'd try to get more veggies in as well as protein, at least as much as you are able without the means to cook. Your body might react better to more of those foods and less of the bread and cheese.

Good luck!!

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Omega M.
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Can I ask a general weight question? Someone on another site has been claiming that, as long as you're not gaining or losing weight rapidly, you can't be "over-" or "underweight"; your body is just becoming its genetically predetermined weight. Now, I know that fat does not equal unhealthy, nor does skinny equal healthy, but doesn't that claim seem like a cop-out? I highly doubt that if I sat around all the time eating Twinkies and McDonald's food, any weight I gained would be simply the result of genetics, even if I gained it slowly.
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katharina
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Yes, that is a cop out. It isn't true.
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scholarette
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Omega, I think that depends on other circumstances. I know that as an adult, my body fights to be a specific weight, BMI around 25-26. When I go over that, dieting and working out drops it back with very little work. Going under that though is extremely difficult. If I do manage to go below it, as soon as I forget to exercise once or break my diet, I jump back up. So, based on my lifestyle, I think that I will probably be stuck with that weight and it is genetic. My brother, firefighter who is always working out and is on a strict diet, complains about the same problem.

However, if I were not working out and eating junk food, even if my weight was stable, I would not blame it on genetics.

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The Rabbit
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Raia, I'm not sure how to phrase this with out squicking people out. If you aren't accustomed to a diet of french bread, cheeses and fruit, the problem might be that you have upset your digestive system and what you see as flab has nothing to do with actual fat. Have you had any digestive problems? If you are constipated, gassy, or having looser than usual bowels, that can cause your abdomen to swell, which can look a lot like you're putting on belly fat even though you aren't. If the symptoms aren't severe, you might not have even really thought about it. I just thought I'd mention this because the diet your on does cause these symptoms in a lot of people and its worth considering.
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Xavier
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quote:
We are left to fend for ourselves, which means that most of us are eating primarily bread, cheese, and fruit.
I wonder how I'd do on such a diet. Sounds yummy.
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PSI Teleport
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This is pretty much what I do eat. I'm convinced I need more carbs than other people.
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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by Omega M.:
Can I ask a general weight question? Someone on another site has been claiming that, as long as you're not gaining or losing weight rapidly, you can't be "over-" or "underweight"; your body is just becoming its genetically predetermined weight. Now, I know that fat does not equal unhealthy, nor does skinny equal healthy, but doesn't that claim seem like a cop-out? I highly doubt that if I sat around all the time eating Twinkies and McDonald's food, any weight I gained would be simply the result of genetics, even if I gained it slowly.

Though I agree in part, I think you're misrepresenting the particular claim, or at least claims like it, because I haven't seen that one particularly. It is true that the idea of "optimum health" and its relationship to weight is kind of a new concept, and the fact is that some people are genetically prone to a different body shape than others- the idea is that you *can* be just as healthy as someone with less body fat, just as a person with less body fat can be less healthy than you. Since every person's body chemistry and metabolism is a variation on a theme, there is no exact right answer for every person's health. What makes things worse in regards to the medical community is that they still employ the Body Mass Index, which is somewhat unreliable in judging a person's actual health or ideal weight, especially since it doesn't take into account your actual physical fitness or muscle density, nor your frame size. For me, with a frame size significantly wider than the average, with much more muscle, my "healthy" BMI is something like 30-40 pounds lighter than I was when I was at my peak physical condition. I'm still over my ideal weight now, but I'm not 60 pounds over it- maybe more like 25.
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Christine
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Losing 20 lbs due to not eating, whether intentional or not, will turn your metabolism on its head. Then, when you do start eating again, you will gain it back twice as fast and end up heavier than you were in the first place. This is well-documented and in fact, it is the way your body is supposed to work. As far as your body is concerned, you've come out of a period of starvation and now it needs to stock up during this time of plenty.

Add to that an exercise program, which is probably causing you to bulk up -- muscle weighs more than fat.

As far as alcohol, you may be interested in reading this. Alcohol is not altogether bad. It gets a lot of flack because of misuse or overuse, but in moderation, many studies have shown positive health effects.

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King of Men
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I lost 4 kgs the other week, when I had the flu. [/totally unrelated]
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Christine
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One other possibility that occurred to me this morning is that you may not be eating enough calories. It's hard to say from what you've said, but bear in mind that relatively INACTIVE adult women need about 1500-1800 calories a day. On top of that, you need calories for your exercise. A good aerobic exercise burns a lot of calories. I can burn 200-250 doing DDR for half an hour (it keeps track for me).

If you eat too few calories your metabolism will remain low, and it is already low because you starved yourself recently. If your body feels this is still a time of scarcity it will cling to everything you give it and you will GAIN weight. So even if this seems counter-intuitive, there are times when eating more calories will help you maintain or lose.

As a personal example, since I've dieted off and on most of my life -- I have twice gone into the Christmas holiday after having dieted hard for months. It seems that mid-summer is my preferred time to start dieting and by sometime in October I reach an unshakable plateau because I've lowered my metabolism and my body won't let go of any more pounds. Twice I have given up for about two weeks over Christmas, eating what I liked and not weighing myself, preparing to cringe at the numbers on the scale when I do -- the first time I went back for my after-Christmas weigh-in I'd dropped EIGHT pounds. The second time, five.

The best thing to do is to listen to your body. If you're hungry, eat. It won't steer you wrong.

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Christine
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Oh, and make sure you get all five food groups into your diet -- if you're only eating bread, cheese, and fruit, that's 3. The other 2 are vegetables (high in fiber and essential for healthy weight loss and regularity) and meat (or another protein source like nuts if you're vegetarian).
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The Pixiest
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Bread, Cheese and Fruit are all healthy foods, but they're also high in calories.

Fill yourself up with salad or something else that has a high Bulk/Calorie ratio.

(I've lost 25lbs by just filling up with salad (no dressing) and eating smaller portions of other things.)

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Orincoro
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Why not just eat shredded cork? No calories, and you can really fill up on the stuff.
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