This will take a month to read, so grab a sandwich. If you are needing moral support with a weight loss plan because it sucks plugging in numbers, here you go. I'm your tour guide through what went wrong (for me, that is).
Last month I started a loseit account. I have spent the last 41 days figuring out how to make it work (better phrase- how to correctly use it) and I think I have finally got the numbers set right. One good thing came out of it even though my net loss this morning is only 1 pound- I haven't gained any new weight, yay!
I originally lost 50 pounds in 2011 very simply by stopping at 1500 calories every day and avoiding everything bread, rice, and potatoes, like my doctor told me. Back then I had lots of incentive- I was so disabled I could barely walk across my own house. let alone get out and do anything on my own. You might get the idea from this that I was absolutely huge, but not so, just simply so ketoned up from diabetes that my fibromyalgia locked up like cement and pain and meds finished me off. All it took was cutting the carbs way down and stopping at 1500 calories to change my life. People hate hearing "changed my life" from enthusiastic newly emerged butterflies, but when it's your turn to hover close to death, let me know how it goes with hating everything instead of fighting to survive.
My problem with a weight loss plan is numbers, forms, and way too much information. You guys have heard me mention my glitchy brain, well, it was so bad last week that I had to call an 800 number for help filling out simple personal info for a billing problem. I explained that part of my disability is cognitive and that I am easily confused with forms and manage to answer the simplest questions wrong. I know that's hard to believe given how I never stop typing, but it's true. I've even written about how the publishing forms for the book I still haven't submitted yet freak me out to no end, which is hellishly ironic.
Ketones have a way of stacking up so that your body can't take out the trash very well, as it were. Diabetics who don't or can't control well always have ketones in the way of everything they do. One of my doctors made a note about my ketone level in 2008 but waved off a diabetes diagnosis. Another doctor in 2011 turned my life around with a diagnosis, but by then my brain fog was so bad that I was a goofball. Even though my blood sugars were never officially caught above 200, I'd already had the breathlessness and fruity breath for a couple of years, to the point of needing a daily inhaler just to breathe, so I personally don't think a low level ketone problem isn't diagnostically assumable to not affect whole body function. The doctor who waved me off just kept throwing prescriptions at me while I felt mired and sinking in tar.
Brains function on glucose. How does the brain use food as energy? Counterintuitively, this doesn't mean that the more sugary soda pop you drink, the smarter you get, as we read in that article.
The brain is an energy-hungry organ. Despite comprising only 2 percent of the body’s weight, the brain gobbles up more than 20 percent of daily energy intake. Because the brain demands such high amounts of energy, the foods we consume greatly affect brain function, including everything from learning and memory to emotions.
Just like other cells in the body, brain cells use a form of sugar called glucose to fuel cellular activities. This energy comes from the foods we consume daily and is regularly delivered to brain cells (called neurons) through the blood.
Studies suggest the quality of the foods consumed over the lifetime affects the structure and function of the brain. For instance, the consumption of omega-3 fatty acids found in fish provides structural material to maintain neurons. Studies also suggest omega-3 fatty acids are essential for the transmission of information between brain cells. In contrast, foods that are rich in sugars and saturated fats have been found to promote oxidative stress, which leads to damage of cell membranes.
The food you eat also affects molecules in the brain that support cognition. Some foods, such as those with turmeric, support cognition by helping to maintain molecular events related to energy metabolism.
Recent studies suggest lifestyle choices that affect the metabolism of nerve cells, such as diet and exercise, may in some cases provide a noninvasive and effective strategy to counteract neurological and cognitive disorders.
Brain fog is a real thing, and although not medically diagnostic, has crept into a number of medical observation articles related to chronic illnesses. A diabetes diagnosis carries more weight than chronic illness. Is Diabetes Treated as an Acute or Chronic Illness in Community Family Practice? Some of you with diabetes might not be aware that a rapid very high spike or very low drop in your blood sugar is life threatening. It is sensible to assume that diabetics live with some pretty hefty brain fog and have difficulty managing their lives. I know I sure did. Even when we have a healthy day or week and are able to fool the world and pass for normal, we can experience 'brain fail' in the middle of being our brilliant selves, suddenly our thoughts wink out and we stumble over what we were saying, we must follow a list, and once in awhile wonder how in the world we didn't just have a nasty traffic accident. Diabetes is a big deal on a daily basis because a crippled metabolic process logically cripples a brain completely reliant on smooth metabolic processing.
That's a lot of stuff I've just written to explain this- Plugging numbers into weight loss plans on the internet is hard. Looking up every jot and tittle for calories and carbs is hard. Forcing eyes to work that much harder, doing simple math, keeping track of what we were thinking and doing while we work on the end goal of plugging in a variable IS HARD.
I aced my way through a college algebra class on my first try. If I say using an online weight loss program is hard because of chronic illness brain fog, it's hard.
The people who need help the most must work the hardest to achieve what other people take for granted. It's not fair, no. It sucks, yes. Is it worth it? I can say honestly that any blinking in the light is definitely worth it.
Here's the thing. My first mistake was feeling frustrated with the built in calorie counter and guesstimating my caloric intake because it was easier and faster on my eyes and my brain. My second mistake was feeling frustrated with the built in exercise calculator and, again, guesstimating. My third mistake was assuming I was getting enough nutrients every day and I doubled my original workout schedule. I had originally been walking 30 minutes every other day with occasional stretchy band and other core strength maintenance. When I joined loseit, I started exercising every day.
I lost 2 pounds. Then I went up one pound. Then down one pound. Then back up one pound. Then down 2 pounds, Then up one pound.... I basically got caught in a loop, and nothing I did changed it. After 4 weeks of laughing about being caught in the same 3 pound revolving door I got a little angry and started snooping around the groups yapping and even contacted a moderator. He told me to adjust my calorie calculator and linked me to a BMR calculator. I adjusted. No change. By the end of 4 weeks everything stopped and I laid in bed for 3 days.
I was lucky. As I laid there I realized 1- this didn't feel like the old depression from several years ago where all function stopped and I took to my bed for weeks, 2- my brain is working even better than ever, what is going on???, and 3- it's making me cranky to lay here and I don't seem to be sick, so something must actually be going on. I have many years of experience with chronic illness, and this didn't feel like that. What did it feel like? After some thought I decided it felt like I had very simply just run out of energy.
My beginning plan with loseit was for around 1200 calories. That is what their calculator gave me when I plugged in my height and weight and how quickly I wanted to lose X amount of pounds. I was obviously way under the 1500 calorie plan my doctor gave me in 2011, and this time I was exercising. A lot. Way more than I used to, which I find thrilling after so many years of being a super wimp. Anyway, obviously something was way off if I wasn't losing weight.
I found a better BMR calculator. I noticed that it linked to a really good BMI calculator. And that led to this-
Once you know the number of calories needed to maintain your weight, you can easily calculate the number of calories you need to eat in order to gain or lose weight:
Calorie intake to gain weight
Calorie intake to lose weight
AND the number of calories we need to eat doing all that exercise without killing ourselves...
Do all of those in the same order that I linked them. After I discovered I needed more than 1200 calories just to sit around and watch TV all day, I also ran into articles that talked about how when we don't eat enough, our bodies get really good at hanging onto every shred of stuff it gets, so I'm pretty amazed that 3 1/2 weeks of double my workout on way too few calories didn't budge my weight down more than 3 pounds the whole time. That means my body is incredibly efficient. Our bodies are wondrous things, even when we're chronic.
So I went back to loseit and adjusted my plan again, and I noticed this time there there was a tiny embedded link (squint squint) that lets you set your own daily calorie budget after you've set your time schedule, assuming you know your BMR requirements. The inbuilt calculator then automatically adjusts your daily log and from there...
Ug. From there, the only way the calculator can work correctly is if I stop guesstimating. Especially when I find atrocious mistakes in their calorie catalog. Don't know who input this particular data, but evaporated milk does NOT have 150 calories in 2 T, good grief. Time to pull my brain out of my pocket and read labels and create my own calorie catalog, which loseit allows, thank goodness. That actually makes it easier later because it keeps track of the foods you like to eat, and if you eat the same things over and over, just point and click once you've got the numbers set correctly.
But that wasn't enough. Loseit also calculates nutrients, and you can pick and choose which ones you'd like to keep track of. Like protein. It occurred to me that 3+ weeks of heavier exercise on fewer calories probably put me in a severe protein deficit, and I was right. I found an awesome protein calculator and found out I needed way more than I thought, so I started changing some of the things I was eating. Reaching a protein goal without going over a calorie goal is harder than you think, and I learned real fast that even as an aware carb counting diabetic, I was still eating way too many carbs and sacrificing other nutrients at the calorie line. My old habits had snuck back in. Carb calories are harder to lose than any other kind, which is why the South Beach diet is such a success.
So on top of counting my own carbs and calories, now I had to start counting my protein. It's really hard to create your own calorie catalog when the weight loss plan's built in calorie catalog isn't very helpful, but I found this super awesome nutrient catalog site that makes it way easier.
I'm only a couple of days into all this new more correct stuff, but I've already got my energy back. I've been eating my calorie budget and my body is so relieved to be getting more food, especially now that I've added more protein. All systems are going back to normal, my nerves are calming down, and I feel more capable of handling the holidays coming up.
One question- if I was so worn out from a calorie deficit, why was my brain working well enough to puzzle this stuff out when I hit my lowest point? I was very surprised by this. I'm going to guess it's because I had managed to get my ketones down lower than I've had them in a very long time between restricting calories and extra exercise, which made what glucose I did eat go straight to my brain. Ok, truth- I don't know. I've lived with brain fog so long, I'm just really surprised I was able to plug my brain in and think my way through this jam. And now I'm sharing it because I know some of you need a more step by step moral support to stay plugged into a program that isn't making any sense, right?
It's possible to do a weight loss program all wrong and actually hurt yourself, like I was doing. I was getting warning signs galore, like anxiety attacks out of nowhere, blood pressure surges, skippy heartbeats, and weird charley horses moving around all over my body. If I'd gone to a doctor for that stuff I'd have been handed more pills, which would've only masked them without solving anything. I'm lucky my body finally just said stop and I laid in bed for 3 days resting. If your body is STOPPING, that's a pretty big sign that you need to stop doing something you're doing or that something else is going on that needs attention, like illness.
I know people say drinking more water helps prevent charley horses or working out more keeps you from getting sick so much, but these things don't help if you're not getting enough protein to stay healthy or enough calories to even be a couch potato. If you are diabetic and feeling frustrated with an online weight loss program, take a break and spend some time digging a little deeper. If 'normal' people are also frustrated and inputting data wrong, you know it's going to be even harder for us. It's ok. Main thing is that we're all still learning and you're not alone feeling frustrated!