Rapid weight gain, unable to lose it
Hi, all. I'm not new to FitDay, but I'm new to the forums. Hope I posted this in the right section. I'm hoping someone can give me some insight or suggestions or something... I'm really struggling.
In the past few months, I have been gaining weight very rapidly. I have no idea why and I cannot lose it.
Around early November, I weighed 135 pounds. I'm 25 years old, 5'8", female.
I was in the middle of a grueling two-month road tour, driving 400 miles or more every day, and obviously not getting a lot of exercise, eating a bunch of crap food, under a ton of stress, and not getting enough sleep. I've done these trips before, so I know the drill and on past trips, I always kept my weight under control- no more than a four pound gain, all told.
However, after spending the previous 5 weeks on the road and not gaining any weight, I suddenly packed on EIGHT POUNDS in the month of November! I chalked it up the road lifestyle and figured I'd lose it pretty quickly upon getting home and being healthy again.
By the end of December, I had gained another five pounds. I told myself it must have just been too many holiday cookies and I would have to spend more time at the gym.
During January and February, I got pretty strict with myself. I started using FitDay to count all my calories (approx 1800 a day) and I was spending upwards of two hours a day at the gym, working out at literally heart bursting levels.
In those two months, I gained a whopping additional seven pounds. It was not muscle weight. I could barely lift at all anymore, which one of the regular gym guys ever so kindly pointed out to me. (Actually, the weight gain has not been evenly distributed- it is almost exclusively in my midsection.)
I went to the doctor. She told me I definitely wasn't pregnant. We tested my thyroid. She said it was only slightly underactive and put me on a 25mcg dosage of Synthroid.
At least during the month of March, I didn't gain anything more, but I also did not lose anything. I spent all of March in the UK for business and the lifestyle there is very sedentary with not a lot of opportunities to have healthy food. But I certainly wasn't pigging out and in the past I have often lost weight in the UK just because there is no food there that I like.
After three weeks on the Synthroid, I doubled the dosage because it was not doing anything for any of my symptoms. I've had another blood test a week ago and was told my levels are right where they should be and that I could stay on the 50mcg dosage.
I'm back in the US, working out every day, gradually trying to get back to my pre-November fitness level and eating healthy again. No weight gain, but also no weight loss. According to FitDay, I have a 1000 calorie deficit every day, which ought to translate into weight loss of about two pounds per week.
I am absolutely devastated by this whole thing. I do not like being 152 pounds. None of my clothes fit anymore and I just generally feel gross and uncomfortable. I also feel like it's not really fair that I go and work out as hard as I do and not see any result from it. I am sick of my boss's comments that if I get any fatter he'll have to fire me. I just want to get back to my old weight. My doctor seems largely unconcerned. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. (And if you read this to the end, I thank you.)
Id get a second opinion if I were you on your thyroid. It sounds exactly like what was happening to me when I first started gaining weight (10yrs ago). I finally found a doctor that new alot about thyroid and ran a large thyroid panel which i wasnt getting done before. The other docs had just tested t4 and t3 but you also need a thyroid antibody test and i believe something else. its been a while since i read up:) anyways, your thyroid can also ping-pong back and forth to where you'll be low and then normal and then high for a little while before it settles on one thing which wreaks havoc on the way you feel, depression, weight gains and losses, skin, hair, just hormones in general. Thyroid is a very frustrating thing to deal with. Also, doctors that dont deal alot with thyroid issues dont know much about sub-clinical hypo/hyperthyroid. Basically you are on the low or high end of what the "normal" range is but that is NOT where your specific body needs to be. 50mcg seems low to me even for subclinical. also, you may do better with something like armour thyroid which is a more natural easier absorbed thyroid meds. The only other thing it sounds like to me (and im no expert!) is I wondered if you had started taking a antidepressant or changed to a different one when all this started? Doctors will tell you that they dont effect your weight which is totally ridiculous. it does. everyone is different but ive yet to meet anybody that hasnt started having trouble with their weight after starting one. Im sorry your having so much trouble. I really feel for you. It can be very frustrating and depressing when your body isnt working the way that you want it to! hang in there!
If you can manage it, I'd ask for a referral to an endocrinologist, which is a specialist in human hormonal function/disease. They can do the more extensive thyriod testing the above poster mentioned, and also test you for other endocrine disorders such as Cushing's disease, which is another one that can cause a lot of weight gain around the midsection in spite of diet and exercise. Also, I don't know where you are from, but in the US an employer cannot fire you due to a medical illness, something else to look into. Sometimes you have to go through several doctors to find a good match to your needs and personality, that doesn't mean one doc is better than another necessarily.
I coach tennis and have had students go through the same thing. Working out, watching what they eat and still gaining weight. Found out that most of them were not metabolizing carbohydrates. The bagel they had before they worked out was turning to sugar instead of energy. they stopped eating anything white. White pasta, bread, rice, etc... Got off Juice.
Could be hormones but check your carb intake.
Gluten can do that to someone also.
Are you Moody?
If so, your blood sugar could be going up and down because of the carbs.
Definitely get your thyroid under control or this will go on forever as it did for me. An endocrinologist is not necessarily better than a GP, in fact, sometimes worse. There is a thyroid advocate who has a website that gives recommendations from patients who are happy with their docs. Google Mary Shomon - top doc list. From there, keep trying till you find a doc that treats you and your body and not the damn thyroid panels. Also they should check your adrenal function in conjunction with the thyroid. Any doc who does not check both- move on as they don't know what they are doing. Adrenals have to be treated first if there is a problem there or the thyroid meds won't work.
Also due to this weight being on your tummy, I would also suspect a blood sugar problem that is probably being exacerbated by the thyroid or vice versa. Most thyroid patients find that they have to eat low carb all the time and that will solve the blood sugar/insulin problem - usually.
Additionally, none of this will help unless you make exercise a priority, even on the road.
Well, I still have not lost weight. Not even a half a pound. Since I got home from my last trip almost four weeks ago, I have been exercising six days a week- cycling, tennis, walking, ellipticals, aerobic DVDs, hiking, hand weights, etc. I try to switch things up so I'm not doing the same exercise every day, as well as varying the intensity. If I go for a hard bike ride one day, the next day I might just go for a long walk and do one of my DVDs or something.
I've been very careful with what I'm eating. I haven't "cheated" on my diet. Still doing around 1800 calories a day, though I do aim for less on days when I do a lighter workout. I've been trying to get more protein, which is hard for me because I don't like most things that have protein in them.
I don't think I am trading fat for muscle mass, either. I am still flabby. I am not losing inches. My clothes still do not fit any better than they did before. I don't have any more strength than before, either. The weight is still all in my stomach area.
I am very skeptical that a thyroid issue is really the problem, especially when my numbers are allegedly right where they should be. The Synthroid does absolutely nothing for me. I don't see my doctor again for another week.
But it seems a bit strange to me that I could maintain 152 pounds in England eating junk and not exercising and then I come home, eat pretty well, exercise like mad and not drop a single pound.
I do eat a lot of carbs, but it tends to be whole grain bread or pasta. Sometimes cereal, but I have cut way, way back on cereal consumption and I usually only have it as a low-cal, low-fat snack without milk after a very hard cardio workout.
How would I find out if it is a blood sugar problem? And does that really come out of nowhere, almost overnight like my weight gain did? As said, it was not a gradual creep of weight, but more like I woke up one morning and couldn't zip the same pants I wore comfortably the day before.
also- have a food allergy test done. You might be allergic to gluten. In that case, it doesn't matter that your carbs are whole grain, it would still be a problem. Another way, outside of doctors, to see if it's a type of food is to avoid gluten for a couple of weeks, see how you feel, then add it back in, see how you feel. Do a low carb, then high carb- cut out certain foods. etc. keep experimenting.
Just doing a quick calculation - your Basal Metabolic Rate is around 1500 calories per day. You are eating 1800 calories per day. If you subtract the excercise calories from your calories consumed, you are probably at or near the breakeven point, hence no weight loss.
You can do one of 2 things (or even both):
Reduce your calorie intake. (I am a 38 year old male who weighs 35 pounds more than you and I eat 300-350 calories less than you each day - my BMR is ~1900). In your shoes, I would be aiming for 1400 calories per day and expect to lose around a pound a week.
Introduce High Intensity cardio and resistance to your excercise routine. This means replacing walking with some interval training (hard sprints followed by rest - can also be done on a bike/elliptical etc.) and introducing more weight training - many HIRT training routines can be found on the web.
BTW - I live in England and I can easily find healthy food to eat and there are plenty of nice outdoor spaces to excercise and most hotels have a gym of some kind. I am not sure where you are visiting in my fine country but I am sure a little local research would help you to have a more enjoyable and rewarding time. I wonder if your lack of weight gain in England is that your assumptions of the calorie content of what you are eating are not correct.
I don't think I have a gluten allergy. I looked it up and didn't think any of the symptoms fit.
Basal metabolic rate assumes one does nothing but lie in bed all day. I do sit for most of the day, either driving or at a desk, but I do run errands and move about some. A year ago, I could eat 2200 calories a day with less exercise and I maintained a weight of 135 without any trouble. And as I said, when I started gaining weight, I hadn't really changed anything about my lifestyle. I didn't suddenly start pigging out on candy or anything.
I do engage in high intensity cardio. My boyfriend is a hardcore cyclist (racing and stuff like that) and I am not as good as he is, but I do ride with him and can keep up over distances of 20 miles or fewer and I also do interval training with him a couple days a week (we do either 10 second sprints, 90 second intervals, or 5 minute intervals). I don't do any long rides or races, but I would imagine that riding 20 miles in just over an hour burns a fair number of calories.
I also alternate my elliptical routines between intervals (1 minute intervals, usually) and steady state, depending how I feel that day and what exercise I did the day before. A lot of times I combine elliptical days with an hour long walk outside.
When in the UK, I live out in the country near Windsor. I don't stay at a hotel and the nearest fitness center to me wants a yearly membership, which is quite expensive and frankly not justifiable if I am only there for a maximum of six months out of the year.
And I'm sure there is healthy food to be had in England, but I can't find hardly anything that I am used to eating and that I like and the diet dinners, while technically healthy, taste like crap compared to American ones. And I'm pretty much limited to things I can heat up or that don't need a lot of prep because I don't really have a means to cook. The kitchen is perpetually taken over by my boss (I stay at his house) and the countertops and stove are usually completely buried under his papers and other junk. He also refuses to buy any pots and pans (because what would he use them for?) and insists on eating out about four times a week. And really, eating out is about the only chance I get to have something healthy and real.
So I just end up not really eating anything of substance. Maybe frosted mini-wheats or eggs for breakfast, toast for lunch, hot chocolate around mid afternoon and then either a crappy heat up dinner for supper or going out to eat. I do try to pay attention to calories, though. I like the little red, orange, and green pie charts on all the food in the store and once I figured out what they meant, I stopped buying stuff with too much red or orange on it.
So it sounds like you are doing the right kind of things (I guess you are doing the exercises you describe regularly?) to keep you burning calories.
One thing that come through in your writing seems to be that you are not really sure what you are burning in calories. This site (and plenty of others) have ways of calculating the calories you actually burn in each of your activities. Just like you might keep a food diary, you should keep an exercise diary too, just to make sure you know all calories in and out. Be really strict about counting everything in and out for 2-3 weeks. If you are still not losing anything (assuming a calorie deficit), take this information to your doctor because at that point you are breaking the laws of thermodynamics.
Sure, BMR is only calculating what you need to lie in bed all day. What you describe as your typical activity level would typically be equated with a 1.2x multiple (look up the Harris Benedict Equation) so you would need to consume 1800 calories to maintain the same weight. Adding your activities to this should result in weight loss but only if:
You are accurate about your calorie counting (50% of people underestimate).
You are exercising regularly (doing the things you describe)
The fact that you are not continuing to gain weight does not suggest a medical issue (but you should not rule it out). Did this new weight gain happen on your abdomen only and do you have any abdominal discomfort/bloating?
17 pounds of fat cannot happen overnight - it would break the laws of physics (it would require 59,500 calories to create that much fat - weight can be gained quickly through water retention though.
This next paragraph is going to sound harsh and you might decide to never respond to me again... but here goes anyway...
Your comments about the being unable to live a healthy lifestyle in the UK are frankly just excuses. If you really wanted to, you would find foods you can eat - there are fresh vegetables and fruit, eggs, milk and other goods that can be bought just as you can in the US. If you only ever eat pre-packaged/processed foods and cannot find them in the UK - perhaps this is the issue. Your boss's kitchen is not the issue - you can make space if you really wanted too. There are a thousand exercises that need no equipment - just body weight and a pair of sneakers. The area around Windsor is a great place to get outside and run! The weather is getting better and the evenings are getting longer.
That was meant as a helpful reflection - please don't be offended, just take it as a different point of view.
In order for me to lose weight, I have had to buy different things in the supermarket, things I had not previously tried, some I liked some I didn't. I will not resort to frosted cereals, hot chocolate and snacks - they don't fit into my calorie limits. I find other things, I experiment, I throw stuff away that I hate and keep the stuff I like. You seem determined to lose this weight, you should apply that determination to making your time away from home happy and healthy rather than depressing.
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