Waiting for Better Days

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking this weekend. I weighed in on Saturday, after a perfect week of following my program – netting about 900 calories a day, and found I’d gained 2 pounds.

This is not normal. This is almost mathematically impossible. I’ve controlled for all variables and this should not be happening.

First of all, let me tell you what it’s NOT. It’s not that I’m “not eating enough calories so your body is hanging onto weight!” as some very helpful persons who overheard me at a party last night talking with some friends who understand my story advised me. (I absolutely love getting pop-diet bullshit packaged as helpful advice from the morbidly obese.) It was about all I could do to NOT whip out some reality and smash these people into the floor verbally, but I like the hosts so I abstained as best I could to not create a scene. I was giving both of these people the benefit of the doubt in that perhaps they are simply stupid and didn’t understand what the word “netting” means, in that it means that the amount I totaled after the amount I burned through exercise was taken out – meaning I actually consumed about 1200 calories a day and burned about ~300 through exercise, but whatever, I digress.Ā  Or, that they honestly believe that the less you eat the fatter you get and that’s why, for example, people who get gastric bypass gain so much weight right after the surgery, and why the survivors of concentration camps are so darned FAT.


I was talking with a mental health professional on Friday afternoon about some anxiety problems I’ve been having due to my very stressful job, and he mentioned that stress has been shown to have very strong effects on weight, particularly in women, and he’s seen cases where women in very stressful work situations have lost 20 pounds, changing nothing in their diet, when removed from the work environment, and it’s due to cortisol, one of the stress hormones. And you know what? I don’t have a better working theory for what’s going on with my body. I picked up about 15 pounds on this job and haven’t been able to shake them no matter what I’ve done – starving myself, high-protein, low-cal, running excessively – nothing works. Cortisol is my new theory. My body is hoarding fat due to stress hormones, because I am constantly feeling a “fight-or-flight” rush of adrenaline on the job, every day here. It sucks.

Anyway, the long-term plan is for me to get out of my job, but my husband needs to graduate from his BA program and get a job himself first, so I just need to hang on for a few more months (hopefully). I can make it…I can make it. So I’m back to normal eating. If the drastic diet isn’t going to do anything for me, because of the high stress environment I’m unable to leave, then I’m not going to kill myself with hunger. I’ll eat sensibly, and wait for better days.


21 Responses to “Waiting for Better Days”

  1. John R. Schmidt Says:

    Hormones. Stress. Illness. All affect us, but how do they work on our weight?

    It’s interesting how little we know about our bodies.

    On the other hand, you looked FANTASTIC Saturday.

    • Laina Says:

      It’s true – and when it comes to weight loss, it seems every body responds slightly differently at the “daily living” end of the spectrum. I mean – big changes, yeah, eat less, exercise works, but on the “maintain, making small changes” end of things, it seems like every body has it’s own set of rules that require lifelong science experiments to figure out!

  2. Tracy Pierce Says:

    Hang in there Laina!!

    I’ll be rooting for you.

  3. Tracy Renae Cote Serros Says:

    NO!!! How frustrating!!! šŸ˜¦

    Could you have a thyroid problem? Maybe worth a test just to check. I had mine tested after the baby, pretty sure it was just a blood test.

    Really sorry about the stress at work. Keeping my fingers crossed that things work out sooner than later!!

    • Laina Says:

      Well, I had bloodwork done in January and everything was fine, I’m supposed to go in for fasting bloodwork for some other stuff (health issues due to anxiety and stress, go figure) in about 3 weeks, so I’ll know soon if anything’s amiss, but I’ve never had any thyroid issues surface before…
      Thanks Tracy!

  4. santiagosgrimoire Says:

    Realizing that you have been exercising, what other things have you been doing that might help with stress management? I know exercise is supposed to be a good stress reliever (it seems to be for me), but if your normal exercise isn’t giving you the stress relief you need is there anything else you’ve done or looked into that might be a useful stress management tool?

    I’m curious because my work stress levels have gone up lately and I’m wondering if I’m not having more or less the same issues as my weight has been coming back on.

  5. Caron Says:

    I know that I had the stress problem on my last job. For two years I plugged along with an extra five to ten pounds on my short frame that would NOT go away. When I was let go because of bad economy, I got back to goal in just a few weeks. If that job had been essential to my well being, I’m sure I would still be carrying those pounds because I would still have stress because of money issues.

    I hope things work out great for you and soon. šŸ™‚

  6. Amy Says:

    Cortisol weight gain is real. And sadly it makes fat stick to the worst places, like around the belly and buffalo hump, instead of say, making your boobs ginormous or something. F%*#er.

  7. Laura Langford Says:

    Ergh. Me too. Although I think my issue has more to do with self-medicating via wine and fat food, plus not working out enough due to job. I can’t get a disciplined routine going, because ‘I let stuff get in the way.’ I’ll hit the gym AND eat and hope everything finally balances out.


    On another note, maybe change your exercise routine? The horses keep me busy 5+ days per week, but I’m used to it, so I don’t burn calories and I have to hit the gym if I want to get fitter. Maybe switch it up

  8. Trystan Says:

    From what I recall, there have been some significant studies about the harmful effects of cortisol on the body re: weight gain, also heart problems, immune system deficiencies, chronic pain, etc. Nasty business, stress! I first learned about this when I took a course on mindfulness-based stress reduction based on the work of Jon Kabat-Zinn, essentially non-woo-woo, more clinically-proven meditation. I have a really excellent book & meditation CDs & even a tai-chi vid, that, if I actually followed them regularly, would surely bring down my own stress levels & improve my life (there’s data behind it! honest!). It’s that whole “doing it regularly” that I have trouble with…

  9. Elizabeth Says:

    That explains so well why it’s more difficult to maintain my weight when I’m going to school AND working. If it’s just school, seems to be okay; add work into the mix, all hell breaks loose around my midsection o_O Hopefully hubby will be finished with school soon so you can concentrate on your stress situation. You can do it!

    • Laina Says:

      Well, it’s a possibility if you’ve controlled for all other variables. I’m very hesitant to use it as an excuse, myself, and I really had to prove it to myself with cold hard math because I really hate excuses! But this…I can’t really find any other reason…
      Thanks for your well wishes. We’re both hoping he can find something soon so I can get some relief from being the breadwinner for a while.

  10. Jane Says:

    I think you would be interested to read “The Smarter Science of Slim,” by Jonathan Bailor, which describes a number of studies showing the effects of “set point” in sabotaging efforts to lose weight by low-calorie dieting. Body chemistry is obviously more complex than just calories in/calories out.

    I do so admire your tremendous accomplishment. At age 77, I’ve struggled with weight issues all my adult life. Currently around 168, I’m 100 pounds less than my highest weight (20 years ago), but not without a lot of yo-yoing along the way.

  11. Yoko Olsgaard Says:

    Oh Laina, I know just how you feel. I’m plateaued but I know it’s because I’ve been self-medicating with carbs. I’m hoping a nice long vacation will get me back on track. Courage, my friend, and know that we are all behind you. I’ve been hearing a lot about cortisol too. I think there’s some merit to what they are saying. Have a great time this weekend. I can’t go, cuz I’m packing for Down Under, but I’ll be thinking of you all. A big hug to you. Hang in there, Laina. Eventually, your body will give in. You ARE the boss!

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