(picture from two years ago at 220 lbs.)
The 10 Day Plateau – Then Success
10 days ago, I was so close to breaking 200 lbs. in body weight, something I haven’t done in over seven years. Then I got stuck in a plateau for 10 days. My weight had been bouncing around between 200 and 202 lbs. I thought I was due for a drop that would get be past the milestone. But it just wouldn’t budge. Even worse, one day I got kind of hungry and ate a jar of pickles. I thought this was great. Pickles have no calories and they are very filling. I hadn’t counted on all the salt. Overnight, my weight shot up 4.5 lbs. And stayed there for two days. I panicked. My progress was not only stalled, it was now reversed. Discouraged I skipped my fast that day and ate normally. I considered dropping the whole fasting thing entirely. What’s the point? I slept on it.
The next day I got it together and resolved to water fast instead of eating the fast-mimicking 500 calories. I figured that there was no way I could gain any weight if I didn’t eat anything at all especially anything with any salt in it. My weight dropped back down 3.8 lbs. overnight. It stayed there through the next feast day. Then after fasting on 350 calories the next day, boom! 198.6 lbs. I hit my first milestone.
Full Water Fast
Full water fast sucks. I took for granted how much more bearable eating 500 calories is versus nothing. 36 hours of just coffee and water is a rough ride. I found myself distracted often by thought of food. Some people describe being very cranky on a fast. I didn’t get that, but I had a hard time not obsessing about food. I found myself ready for the sweet release of sleep. I went to sleep at the early hour of 9 PM and woke up before dawn the next day. One thing I have noticed is that I am not compelled to break my fast first thing. I could eat, but felt none of that desperate wanting that I remembered from the day before. I have no trouble waiting until 10 or 11 AM to break the fast.
Estimating Body Fat
After panicking over my plateau and sudden weight gain, I realized that body weight was not the only measure of progress. If I had some other measures of progress towards my goals I might be able to maintain a more even keel regarding the day-to-day progress. I have been measuring body fat using two methods. The first is by body electrical impedence using the Omron HBF-306c. The second is by using body calipers and a lookup table. These measuring techniques do not agree. Even if they did, the resolution of the caliper table is such that the jump in steps between each band of millimeter measurements is 1.4% whereas the BIE device has a resolution of .1%. For daily changes they are hard to reconcile. The caliper table is so coarse that I decided not to include it in my table at all at this point, just the caliper reading. I wanted a another way of estimating body fat that promises the same resolution as BIE.
A 3rd Method of Measuring Body Fat Percentage
The Navy estimate of body fat with a formula that uses your height, neck circumference and waist circumference. I was already tracking these, so it was easy to include the formula in my spreadsheet and add another metric. You can see the updated table below. As you can see there isn’t renough data to feel confident of the trends. I must do some more statistical analysis before I can put much confidence in the meaning of these stats but you can see the idea. One benefit of tracking the body fat percentage is that I can also track the percentage of fat free mass that I have lost vs. the fat mass.
Fat Free Mass
By tracking my weight and the body fat percentage, I can calculate the amount of fat free mass I have lost along with the fat. By simply multiplying the weight lost by the body fat percentage I can find the fat lost. By subtracting the fat lost from the total weight lost, I can see the fat free mass. Whether this fat free mass is muscle, bone, water, or undigested food, I can’t really say. I hope by looking at this number over time, the noise from changes in water content and food will even out and I can get some insight as to how much muscle I am gaining or losing along with the fat.
Five weeks in and 15 workouts later, I have been making stready progress with the Stonglifts 5×5 program. Have yet to fail a rep and have been feeling pretty good about it. I am at a large caloric deficit of over 1000 calories , however, and I believe at some point this will impinge on strength gains. I’ll need to reconsider whether I want to be at such a steep deficit. I’m feeling very encouraged by reaching my first milestone, so backing off to a more modest caloric deficit and and having some patience in the weight loss is more acceptable to me.
The next milestone is a normal BMI of 25 which corresponds to a body weight of 188 lbs. At my current rate, that should be accomplished in about three weeks. I am hoping that reaching this next milestone will have more salubrious benefits than just the psychological boost of meeting a goal and looking better. A major impetus for starting this alternate day fasting program in the first place was to relieve the pain in my knees from running. It is estimated that a force of nearly three to six times one’s body weight is exerted across the knee while walking; an increase in body weight increases the force by this amount. If I reduce my body weight by 30 lbs. I reduce the load on my knees by 90-180 lbs. which should make running a lot more pain-free. If I can get it down 40 lbs. to 180, that means a reduction in stress of 120-240 lbs. which would be even better.
At the same time, I am building up my hip, hamstring and quadricepts so that they are more balanced in strength. This should help to balance out the knee joint and for me to maintain better form while running. I am very much looking forward to experiencing this situation and hopeful of the improvements in pain. If I can run, which I love to do, I will be able to maintain a much more consistence cardio workout program.