Limit Break

I want to talk today about limits.

As I was about to go under 200lbs, I stalled for a week and a half. In the grand scheme of things, not long at all. I know of many people who’ve hit plateaus lasting MONTHS. Still, it was interesting to see a big drop down to 196 after that. I have a graph. It was a “falling straight off the cliff” drop – 1 to 3 lbs per day. Now, for those of you without an old-school analogue scale, 196lbs = 14 stone. That big, thick, heavy line with a number 14 (and “thou shalt not pass”) written above it. The line that, once I get past, signals a return to the weight I was throughout most of my 20s – approximately 175lbs (about 12.5 stone). The weight where most of my clothes fit. The weight where I’m not small, but not big either. The weight I hated being when I was there last. The weight where my BMI no longer classes me as obese. The weight where I can go back on the pill. The almost-half-way point of my entire journey. My next big mini-goal. The point where I declare *** VICTORY MODE ***

Once I pass that point, I’m on the home straight back to where I was. My pre-triple-job-loss weight. My pre-nervous-breakdown weight. My “I used to have a permanent place to live” weight. My “I used to have a social life” weight. My before all the **** happened weight. Once I pass the 14-stone gateway, I am no longer any more than ONE TINY STONE away from being 12-stone-something.

So, I had the “onederland” limit at 201/202. Then, I made it! I got down to 14 stone! *unicorns farting rainbows* But the next day… 197. Then 198. And today, 200! Where, exactly, am I at?

For starters, contrary to something I’d written in a previous post, I started intermittently logging my food in My Fitness Pal. Though, in the spirit of IE, not to “keep myself in line”. Completely out of curiosity. I felt like I was hardly eating – I was hardly ever hungry. I’d regulated my hunger mechanism for the most part, so bye bye empty hunger! My logging experiment yielded somewhat unexpected results. Here are some of them:

Thursday, 31st Jan: 1 veggie quarter pounder, 1 fried egg, 2 rashers of bacon & 2 bits of wholemeal bread topped with a can of baked beans and melted cheese. I thought I’d had a binge. 1505 calories.

Saturday, 2nd Feb: cheese omelette & wholewheat pasta with pesto sauce. I forgot to eat lunch. 815 calories.

Tuesday, 5th Feb: 1 Starbucks Seattle latte, 1 family sized bar of galaxy and 2 iced donuts. Severely depressed “gimme all the sugar” day. 1374 calories.

Saturday, 9th Feb: 1 bowl of home made wholegrain mushroom risotto. Seriously. THAT’S IT. 535 calories.

Sunday, 10th Feb: 4 veg samosas with home made tzatziki & a salmon fillet, chilled with lemon juice. 588 calories.

Sunday, 16th Feb: 1 wispa bar & 2 egg mayo rolls. 813 calories.

Allow me to accompany you in asking “what in the ****?!”. Most days under 1000 calories, completely by accident?! That would explain the super-rapid weight loss. But does it explain the following rapid regain? I was doing strength training, but I’m hardly at the point of dead lifting my body weight (YET). What gives?

I have 4lbs unaccounted for. Suggestion 1: muscle. Sure, I build up easily. My arms right now look like I could put someone through a wall. But, you can’t build muscle on a calorie deficit, and absolutely not without more protein than I was getting. A salmon fillet here and a pork chop there does NOT make 4lbs of muscle appear virtually overnight. Next! Fat? 1lb=3500 cals. 4lbs=14000 cals. I probably went through 3000 cals in 3 days, so even if you double that in case I put away a few cheesecakes and forgot all about it… AND add the BMR of a roughly 200lb woman, it’d still be defying the second law of thermodynamics. This leaves only one option:


Strength training causes tiny muscle tears. These cause an immune response in the body. The muscles swell with water to aid the transport of nutrients to the area. Fair enough. And regarding the low-calorie “starvation mode”, I still don’t know if I believe in it, but… Let’s say it’s true. My body is hanging onto what it can in case of famine. And if it hasn’t gained fat, it’s gained water to, once again, help bodily processes work more efficiently. When in danger, puff yourself out. Or something. Perhaps there is another reason (potentially): evacuated fat cells being refilled with water. Really. Check the link. Read the page. It may or may not be true, but I’ve heard this phenomenon being spoken of on every weight loss forum I looked at. What’s more, the fat on my arms (and sadly, ONLY my arms) has the weird “marbles” feeling.

The essential fact is: large calorie deficit + strength training + period of rapid weight loss = stressful physical environment. I suspect my body is having one big WTF moment. I had no idea, as I wasn’t especially hungry, I wasn’t uncomfortably full, I was feeling good from lifting manageable weights with adequate rest (2-3 days), getting enough sleep… I was just… happy. Physically comfortable with the process (if mentally impatient).

Well, once again, in the spirit of IE… It’s “listen to your body” time again.

I am doing a Limit Break. As my beloved hero & role model Lightning (the badass chick in the picture) would say: Keep the enemy off balance.

So, switch it up time! I am writing this while uncomfortably full. I have, today, eaten things I don’t want when I’m not hungry. I have broken my rules by following the rules. I have eaten whole carbs, refined carbs, sugar, healthy fat, unhealthy fat, vegetables, protein, the works. Here are today’s force-feed stats:

Bit of a white baguette with olive oil. 2 snickers bars. 2 galaxy chocolate mochas. King prawns with baby new potatoes fried in olive oil with chilli, garlic, sweet pointed peppers & onion, 4 coffees and a quarter of a packet of Spanish chorizo sausage. Party like it’s 1999 calories, because according to MFP, it is.

I feel decidedly dodgy! I will be eating the prawn thing again but wish I’d skipped the potatoes. I feel a bit sick from the chocolate. I ate about 4 hours ago and still feel stuffed. I am fully aware I’m p*ssing in the wind here with no scientific evidence this is gonna work. But hey… that’s what experiments are for, right?

Either way, I will get my Limit Break. Through this method or whatever else. And the next time my body hits me with a plateau, no matter how short, I will hit it right back! And if the look of my arms are anything to go by, knock it straight into the middle of next week.

(Image from Final Fantasy: Lightning Returns – Developer: Square Enix)

3 Comments so far

  1. Amanda on February 20th, 2013

    Hi there – like how you show eating doesn’t have to be binging. I’ve been eating fairly intuitively for a while and decided to check myself on MFP. I too was surprised that I ate less than I’d assumed. 1800 is a fairly typical day. But my TDEE is more like 3000, so that’s a large deficit, and i also am inconsistent. I am now trying to eat more calories, more regularly. Aiming for 2500 as that’s much closer to what I use each day. The first couple weeks was an effort to eat that much, but then my hunger kicked is and I think that before my hunger was blunted due to low calories. 1200 for someone your size sounds very much too low. Best wishes to you.

  2. theshiv on February 20th, 2013

    Hi, thanks for commenting! 🙂

    That’s interesting you got similar results – I’ve heard the same from others doing IE too. I think part of my problem is affording food. If I could eat salmon and steak and veggies all day I probably would (usually!). So I find myself thinking I’d rather buy something a little more pricey and make it last longer – as all the cheap foods are frozen **** and make me so hungry and unhealthy anyway!

    It’s a learning process. I recently started learning how to cook clean foods while saving money too. I have a few things I like now, like healthy burgers and brown rice risotto, wholegrain pasta with chilli & pine nuts etc… I’m hoping I can get my calories up cheaply & healthily to supplement the strength training I’ve started. You just can’t learn to lift heavy by accidentally eating 800 calories a day. I had no idea it was that low, and it’s a bit scary!

  3. Amanda on February 21st, 2013

    Thanks for your reply too. I guess while I agree that “clean” eating is overall a good thing, I think we get too obsessed with it. Since you do eat sugar and candy and donuts anyway, why not add some cheap calories to your diet through potatoes or white rice – it makes a little salmon or steak and veggies go a lot farther. If you have no gluten issues, sourdough bread is a nice addition too. Another thing I really enjoy is sauteing some onion/peppers/and/or mushrooms and putting on corn or flour tortillas with some avocado and salsa or hot sauce plus my protein. Much more filling and really tasty. I’ve read it’s a lot harder for our bodies to process certain “clean” foods, so the calories we get from them is even lower than the number you see in MFP. Plus the volume is more filling than processed foods so it’s hard to eat as much.

    I haven’t done this yet, but have you ever tried planning the next day’s food in advance in MFP to see if you can evenly space your calories into your meals and snacks? Lastly, though not encouraging about weight loss, the website of The Fat Nutritionist has a great series on learning how to feed yourself. Really awesome information there.

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